|Oh boy - the open trail! He was so light and animated beneath me, ready to roll.|
|Safety first! Just call me the queen of visibility :)|
The trails have an incredible base on them this year, what with all the snow we've received. The conditions were perfect for horses: firm, packed snow with a slightly soft top layer for grip. I've ridden spring snowmobile trails often, usually in late March when they aren't in good enough shape for the machines anymore, and they vary from passable to frequently either ice/snow under a layer of frigid water to so soft that the horses sink as if in sand. Neither of the latter two are any good for moving out, and today was absolutely perfect.
I am very, very cautious around snowmobiles. When I did regular vet work, our practice had to euthanize a horse that had been hit by a snowmobile (on a road, not a trail) and had broken its femur. Not good. I really do try to only take minimal risks with my horses, despite what it may seem from the tales I tell! I know that the snowmobile folks do not expect to see horses on "their" trails, and that they are mostly traveling quite rapidly along them. Also, this trail is full of hills and turns, so there are not long sight distances. We have the advantage that they are noisy, so we know they're coming usually for quite a distance, though sometimes they are speeding along enough that even hearing them way off isn't enough time to locate a safe spot to stand where they will see us. Also, in this situation my white horse almost completely blends into the background, especially in the low light of late afternoon, so I outfitted him with his blaze rump rug just for visibility. And, I realized today, I have never had Rhio around snowmobiles. They make a distinctive high-pitched whine as they pass us, and I've seen several extremely road-safe/traffic-safe horses freak out over snowmobiles. Well, despite all this, I couldn't resist the opportunity to get my boy out and TROT!
|We're all loving it! Smiling Kelso with happy "up" tail, Paco & Gesa following along, and Rhio's wild windswept tail.|
So trot we did - we had about 50 minutes until sunset once we were both mounted, so I kept a close eye on my GPS for time, and we set off at a nice clip. The boys were extremely willing, to say the least! It is always exciting to let those hooves fly after a winter spent mostly hanging around in the boring pasture, or struggling through the snowbound farm trails. There is nothing quite like the exhilaration of the wind whipping my horse's mane & tail while our shadow tries in vain to catch us.
|The sun is near to setting at our turn-around point.|
At the 25 minute mark, we'd gone about 2 1/2 miles, and we turned around. Now the boys wanted to race, which added a little more "spice" to the return journey. Both boys behaved, and made their wishes to run all-out pretty clear. Rhio's MO is head tossing - so violent that he throws us off balance and veers off the trail. Paco's MO is bucking - luckily not major bucks, but, still, BAD HORSIES! We heard sleds on the return trip, but did not meet up with them on trail (whew!) - and hit the parking lot at 48 minutes ride time and 4.8 miles. Not bad for February 15 and the ever advancing dusk!
The sweaty ponies got to wear their fuzzy polarfleece coolers home, and after a little cool-down hand walking, Rhio spent an hour in a stall to finish drying before going out to his pasture buddies. I'd like to think he found today's ride as thrilling and wonderful as I did; if his luminous dark eyes tell me anything, it's that he loves it, too.