|photo courtesy of Bob Zimmerman|
Lynne & Niso in the lead, Jutta & Gandolph as "buffer," and me on Rolex bringing up the rear
A little walking to stretch their trailer legs, a nice big drink for both of them, and we were ready to vet in. Rolex has actually done a couple of novice fun rides, so it wasn't his very first time through the vetting process - but you sure couldn't tell by his behavior. He though vet Nicole was entirely out of line wanting to look at his gums and check anal tone, but mostly he was completely distracted by the other horses; just in case there were girls in the melee, he made sure to announce his studliness repeatedly and vociferously.
Mr. Stud Muffin got a few lessons in backing and ground manners on our walk back to camp, which didn't actually seem to make much difference in his behavior, although he is a quick learner and started to back up as soon as he screamed after the first two times I backed him when he did it. He didn't stop screaming, but he was nimble on his feet, hitting reverse every time before I could ask. Given his behavior, he got tied to the trailer within the electric pen, and continued to scream periodically *all night long* -- many apologies to everyone camped near us; we didn't get any sleep either!
Tacking up, booting, and getting ready went smoothly...until I realized how far out of my foot-stretch range my stirrup was on this 16 hand monster. I found something to clamber upon to get up on the beast, and then started getting the feel for him. He was still screaming, by the way, but was responsive to cues and walked or trotted as I asked to warm up. The ground was pretty far away compared to what I am used to, but he felt really controllable and safe and I wasn't really concerned at all, despite his atrocious behavior in camp and his less-than-stellar ground manners. Lynne, Jutta, and I were planning to ride together for the day - so my concern was his ongoing stud behavior and riding with a mare. We let everyone get down the trail before setting off, earning ourselves some cushion space, and headed off with Mr. Stud Muffin in the rear, his buddy Gandolph in the middle, and Niso in the lead. Neither Niso nor Gandolph seemed to have much interest in leading, so we switched up with Rolex in the lead. This worked great! He had no concerns about the mare being behind him, but was entirely focused on the trail ahead. This continued for the rest of the ride - Rolex leading with Niso behind or beside was fine, but anytime we tried to put Niso in front of Mr. Stud Muffin, I had 1200 pounds of studly, bit-chomping action beneath me. Not good!
|Gandolph & Niso at a water stop|
The trail was beautiful, as usual, winding up and down hills continuously through mixed hardwood forest with some leaves just beginning to turn color. We passed numerous small lakes and ponds, several of which we have horse access to for drinking and sponging. Rolex was a great drinker, walking out knee deep (or probably deeper if I'd let him) at every water stop and taking great gulps. He wasn't fazed at all by my sponge dropping into his field of vision, then being hoisted back up and the refreshing water being squeezed all over his neck. I have to say, my experienced endurance Arabs are both still a little freaked out by the sponge when it is in the water with them or going up & down within their field of vision (I guess I don't do it enough!) - but only while I am sponging from their backs - and I was very impressed all day by Rolex's calm, cool, & collected behavior on trail. He did absolutely great at trail stuff, and never spooked the entire ride. He was easy to rate, responsive and light. As long as he wasn't looking directly at a pretty mare posterior, he was perfect.
|Lynne & Niso|
Both Jutta and I started the ride with front boots on our horses; both boys wore Easy Boot Gloves with Powerstraps. Both Jutta and I had booting issues, destroying our right front boots within a few miles of each other on the first loop. I think Rolex stepped on himself, which tore the gaiter completely off the boot (it was brand new, just purchased from Silver's Equestrian Outfitters' mobile tack store at the ride!), and we're not sure exactly what happened with Gandolph's boot. Luckily we didn't lose either boot, and were able to take the damaged boots with us for replacement. Both horses continued with just one boot on; this is always a debate, as they were now uneven in the front. However, the thickness of the boot was very minimal and we both decided that having one foot protected from the ample supply of rocks on the trail was better than having neither foot protected. Both horses did just fine with this arrangement, but at the hold we put both boots on Gandolph and let Rolex do the second loop entirely barefoot. Neither horse had any foot-related issues, so we were relieved.
|Lynne & Niso|
|Jutta & Gandolph lead the way in off the first loop along a section of single-track trail|
|Lynne & Niso in the lead near the end of the 2nd loop.|
|A rare moment of peace & quiet with Rolex - I think he had the collar on here.|
|He's a handsome guy, but camping with him was a nightmare! You can see the strap of the bark collar up near his throatlatch.|
|Rolex is still whinnying as Jutta finishes packing up to head home.|