We have mostly road work on this long training loop - crossing over a busy two-lane road and down a stretch of narrow-shouldered road then we typically cut through the gravel pit to hit the ski & snowmobile trail. The gravel pits were very busy today, with at least 6 trucks passing us in 1/4 mile, so we continued down the road to the water stop at the public access (Rhio didn't want to drink as we were only about 4 miles in to our ride), then crossed over to hit the snowmobile trail. Many of our snowmobile trails are swampy or otherwise impassable for horses, but this section is about 2 miles of good footing, rolling hills, and so much fun to ride!
The view at the water stop
Fern-covered ski trail
(Rhio is wearing a fine mesh fly mask for the bugs, hence the dark color of his ears)
The bugs were pretty ferocious, especially in the woods, but we travelled at a fast enough pace to outrun them most of the time. We looped around the ski trail and did a portion of the snowmobile trail twice, although when we got to the deer trail that we take as a short cut through the gravel pit, Rhio took a hard left and I was barely able to correct back onto the trail before we had an up-close and personal encounter with a tree. The trail is hard to spot, and I am not often able to anticipate where we cut through the woods, but Rhio knows *exactly* where it is and takes the turn on his own initiative every time. Too bad sometimes we're not going that way!
I am so grateful to have the opportunity to spend this time with such a beautiful, athletic, and willing partner. These long solo rides are a very Zen-like experience for me; I live completely in the moment for the length of the ride, my mind is totally focused on the now, and we just go. When we get back to the barn, I feel like I've been on vacation. I am mentally relaxed and physically tired, and just feel so centered. It's a definite cup-filler, Qi-booster, rejuvenate-the-soul kind of thing. And I thank my ponies for the opportunity to experience this with them.