Red exploring the temporary fencing paddock at Gesa's, post-Moose Mountain hill work.
Friday afternoon Gesa & I took Red to her house, and proceeded to make our way over to Moose Mountain for a little hill work. Red was bold & happy to lead down the shoulder of the paved road, but had to skitter away from the terrifying cracks in the pavement, which were filled with black tar, and the random bits of trash here & there. He is perfectly road safe in terms of the traffic but I worry that he may jump in front of a car someday to avoid a light patch of grass, or a kleenex, or something equally horse-eating.
We surprised many deer on the way up the hill, including a doe with two little spotted fawns. It is a thrill to feel Red's big engine kick in going up a hill, and we just glide on up. I think he even enjoys it - he is definitely a hill horse. At the top, we turned left to explore the power line in the opposite direction that we usually go. We had some 4 wheeler tracks to follow, but also lots of rocks strewn about & hidden in the long grass and weeds, so the footing was a challenge. We were rewarded for our efforts with some spectacular views of Lake Superior.
The horses did great with the challenging terrain, and got a good strength training workout. Back at Gesa's, we settled the boys in together in a grassy paddock and I left Red for a "sleepover."
Saturday morning, we loaded up for a trip to Dago Lake. The forecast was for warm & humid weather, and we hoped for minimal bugs. Upon arrival, we were the only rig there, but by the time we were tacked up, 2 more rigs had pulled in to ride. We did find a lot of blueberry pickers parked willy-nilly along all the roads and I spent a lot of time drooling over the edge of my saddle as we trotted by laden bushes.
We put heart rate monitors on both horses, and Gesa tried my black Synergist (Rhio's old saddle), which fit Paco really well but she didn't like the seat too well. We did about 9 miles on our first trek, mostly with Red leading at his big trot, and only encountered a few, very courteous ATVers. I wonder what the traffic flying along I-35 at 75 - 80 mph thought about the two horses & riders trotting along the clear cut area right next to the highway? There was actually a woven wire fence and occasionally a few trees between us and the grassy shoulder, but the horses didn't even bat an eyelash at the traffic.
We saw bluebirds and Monarch butterflies, and thoroughly enjoyed the narrower, more winding paths which cut across the grid pattern of off-road trails. The sand footing was nearly perfect, pretty well packed and with frequent puddles for drinking. We may have given some frogs the scare of their lives when we walked through a large one and the little guys went swimming every which direction (oops, sorry little froggies!).
Back at the trailer, we took a snack break (hay for the boys and strawberries for us) and Gesa switched to the other Synergist that she has on trial right now. It was interesting but not surprising to note that it took about 3 -4 minutes more for Red to pulse down than for Paco; both horses were very hot and had been sweating a lot but also drinking well from ponds & puddles, and they had essentially the same working heart rates in the 120 - 140 range. With Red's heavier muscling and less conditioning this year, it was completely expected for him to hang with a higher heart rate for a few more minutes than Paco.
Red drinking from a pond.
As we finished up our rest stop, the clouds rolled in and thunder boomed in the not-too-far distance. We debated, not wanting to ride in lightning, but also not wanting to stop short of our planned long ride. So we decided to do a short loop that would bring us near to the parking area, and make another decision at that point. It began to sprinkle, and then to rain, but the thunder & lightning held off and we did another 8 + miles looping around the same general area we'd ridden earlier but without repeating much trail. We figured once we were wet, we might as well keep riding!
Both boys did great all day, although Red did get muscle-tired in the last few miles and took a big stumble in a deeper section of sand, which I thought was going to result in one or both of us hitting the dirt, but I managed to stay balanced and out of his way and he recovered his footing. We have some work to do to be ready for a potential 25 miler by August 14!