Kristi & Cody entering the barn after our ride & a little cool-down walk
Heavenly bodies aligned to give us perfect weather and willing horses for a nice conditioning ride today. Barn buddies Christine & Tomas and Kristi & Cody came along for a 6 1/2 mile road ride. I was a little late for our arranged meeting time, as I had to take a detour on my way to the barn due to a house blocking the entire road on my usual route. That's not an everyday sight!
I really wasn't sure at all what sort of ride I was in for, as Red put on quite the show galloping to & fro in the mud before allowing me to catch him. He was huffing like a steam engine when I did catch him (really, I just wait for him to stop being silly - then he walks up to me) and completely splattered with the mud he'd been throwing up. What a mess! I just knocked the majority of the mud off the areas where tack goes and called it good - he was a very dirty boy today! Sometimes he's so wild after an episode like this that a ride becomes a unwelcome challenge, but luckily today wasn't one of those times. And I couldn't find my reins with the rings for his running martingale, so I didn't even have my extra insurance along in case I needed it. I find I need a running martingale in the spring and also for the start & first loop of an endurance ride. Red likes to throw his nose up when he's really amped up, evading the bit and taking control. The running martingale works perfectly to remind him that he can't do that.
Red & I quickly covered the mile to meet up with the others, and we set off down the road. Since we were all riding geldings, Red was happy to lead and only put his ears back once early on to remind Tomas that he was just a young pup along for his first long-trot road ride and he'd better defer to Red's supreme experience & control in this situation. Red is extremely deferential to mares and doesn't like to lead with mares behind him - one little mare glare and he's a puddle of apologies for deigning to invade her space or offend her in any way. He's quite happy to rule the geldings, however, and lead almost the whole ride.
We started with a few walk-trot transitions to get everybody comfortable and make sure Tomas in particular remembered that he had several gears & gaits and was quite capable of using them all. We settled in to a nice trot for the majority of this ride, with occasional breathers at the walk. Cody, especially, was pretty tired on the way home. Overall, we did the 6 1/2 miles in just under 1 1/2 hours, which was a nice pace for a first conditioning ride of the year. I used my GPS to keep track of our time, distance, & speed. It's remarkable how quickly our average speed dropped when we slowed to a walk. Our average trotting speed was about 8 mph, but our overall average speed was 4.3 mph. We walked in the last mile as cool down.
About 2 miles from home on the return trip
Red was very good, going a comfortable speed & easily rated the whole ride. He gave me a couple of decent spooks, including one where he was looking at a pink ribbon, tripped, and dropped to his knees. He popped right up & carried on trotting. What a silly horse! He's certainly seen tons of ribbons (not in that exact spot, though), as our endurance rides mark trail with ribbons. The most entertaining spook, according to C & K, was the spook at the culvert, while I was simultaneously chatting on my cell phone. I carried on my conversation after a brief exclamation and Red kept trotting, so it couldn't have been that serious :) I didn't have a heart rate monitor on him today, but these are the sorts of things that don't typically cause any change in his heart rate - so I know he's not really afraid of them.
Sweaty & hairy boy!
We hung out with the girls at the barn for a bit upon our return before carrying on and returning to Red's barn. It was such a fun ride on such a beautiful & extremely unseasonably warm March 15. I hope it bodes well for the rest of the spring & the whole riding season.
I was happy to note that Red didn't develop any girth rubs. He is prone to rubs only during the spring & fall, when he's shedding either his winter or summer coat. I use a fuzzy sheepskin girth during these times, but a braided mohair girth during the summer. The fuzzy girth sure does collect the shedding hair!
What he did develop, however, was squared-off toes from how he breaks over. Even though the gravel roads are soft currently, they are still abrasive enough to cause very noticeable wear to his toes. He breaks over just off of center on both front feet. My farrier won't be very happy with me, I expect! I'll have to start booting him up for our road rides.
Instead of being a nice arc, Red's worn his toe into his favored breakover position
I was unable to resist the temptation to get Rhio out for a spin today, as well. The weather was too enticing at 60 degrees in March in Duluth! I just know winter will have the last word, and we'll get hammered with something unpleasant. So Carpe Diem & make use of the opportunity when it presents itself! Rhio & I did a little speed work, 3 miles in about 25 minutes. He was very good working at speed with only minor headshaking.