By this afternoon, I was crabby and out-of-sorts, for no big reason, and many small ones, all of which will look inconsequential in hindsight but at the time were looming large and irritating. It was also the warmest, most pleasant day we've had since October, so despite the quickly waning daylight, I tacked Rhio up quickly (bareback pad, not saddle) and we headed down the lane between pastures toward the woods & freedom. Kelso & Killian tagged along, and Rhio seemed eager.
The landowner here has a new snow toy to play with, and has been plowing tracks all over the place. Each of the pastures has a big loop, which is great to spread the hay out very sparsely (a flake here, a flake there) and make the horses "graze" their way through their hay ration rather than standing in one place with a heaping pile of hay in front of them. He's also plowed the trail out to the hay field in back, and the untouched snow is about mid-cannon deep so definitely still passable (and it's still soft) - so we went merrily around the field and through the trees until we reached Red's barn's land, where they've been gathering down trees for firewood with the tractor. Tractor tire ruts are well-packed and just the right width for trotting! Yay! We had to skip a few of our favorite little loops due to down trees, but had a grand time motoring around the woods. On our way home, I followed another of the plowed tracks, and discovered it'd been cleared in a loop all the way around two pastures - and the footing was perfect for cantering! So, I asked Rhio to move out and off we went, flying around the corners and scooting along the fenceline (oh, did we get everyone all riled up!). It was so much fun, we just had to do it twice more - and I had a grin plastered to my face worthy of a denture commercial. The sun was setting behind the bare trees, painting the sky pink, purple, and orange, as we cantered up to the barn along the last straightaway and I slipped off Rhio's back to give him a big hug and a huge "Thank you!" The twinkle in his eye let me know that he had had as much fun as I had had, and magically my bad mood had simply evaporated.
He was wet & steaming from his exertions, and my legs were quivering with the effort of riding fast bareback, so I threw his cooler on him and we walked into the twilight with the dogs until he was dry and my legs were loose. I can think of nothing I'd rather do than this. Ride. Be. Breathe.