Monday, November 14, 2011

Winter Wonderland Trail Ride

I have fallen behind on updates, mainly due to recently finishing up my novel (328 pages and three years later, it is done!), a huge accomplishment for me that will hopefully lead to very good things. With nothing too exciting happening in Sofieland, I focused my writing time on wrapping up that extensive project.

Winter has commenced here, and we’re holding up well. I was out at the barn on the day of the first snow storm, a truly nasty weather event. En route to the barn we began to see snow-covered vehicles and over the next hour the sleet snow fell harder and harder. Knowing we needed to get back on the road ASAP in order to hopefully make it home, I made it quick. Happily, Sofie was snug and happy in the back of the run-in shed, sharing a section of it with her buddy Nakota, who protected her from drafts. She seemed happy to see me but hated walking through the sleet, pinning her ears and tucking her head into her chest as it hit her in the face. We hurried to the barn.

Once there, I quickly threw on her cooler, picked out her feet and bridled her. I then went for a half-hour bareback ride in the indoor, just enough to get her moving. My bareback capabilities have definitely improved, and I was able to do my typical walk/trot work and feel quite secure. The only other souls at the barn that day were a rider with a horse at Fourth Level and her trainer who are preparing for a Steffen Peters symposium, which somewhat underscored our dedication to our pony.

Sofie has been a little off lately, somewhat stiff and maybe a little sore. No head-bobbing, real resistance or serious short-striding, so we’ve just kept bobbling along. It appears to be a left shoulder issue, which is unsurprising given her recent hematoma. When I stretched her front legs recently she had less range of motion on the left. Also, when I ride her she has been bending and going round better to the right. Tracking left, she wants to fall in off the rail and has a harder time relaxing and stretching. She seems to be doing better lately.

A few days after the snowstorm, it was beautiful, sunny and in the mid-fifties. There was a few inches of snow on the ground at the barn, making everything very pretty. We were fortunate enough to be able to ride with Cathy and Nakota and I looked forward to a pleasant ride. We started out in the indoor, and I slowly warmed up Sofie while Nakota moved around quite energetically. Sofie was still a bit off but she was willing and reasonably forward. After just a bit of trot work we ended with a nice, connected transition, and then we headed for the trails.

I took a moment to test our straightness in the fresh snow (confirming that yes, we do not have straightness), after which Cathy caught up to us and we rode over to her property. We were sure to encounter broken branches and keeled-over trees, which did not concern me at all since Sofie loves to bulldoze her way through trees. We soon came to a down branch on the trail. Psssh. We walked right through the thing.

I only had to dismount on the hill down into the valley. Sofie seemed to handle it fine when my additional weight was out of the saddle, and I remounted and we carried on. The valley was gorgeous as usual, but we had plans to check out a new trail, recently finished by Cathy’s husband, who is responsible for our awesome trails.

At the start of the new trail we passed a huge, lovely maple and continued on into the woods. The trail rose up and we rode along the slightly rolling terrain, looking all around at the surrounding forested peaks and valleys. It was really stunning, the perfect spot for such a trail. I absolutely loved it from the start. I was especially happy that there were no steep hills, and Sofie seemed happy too, given the many little trees that had bowed under the weight of the snow and were just waiting for her to walk through. We dislodged a lot of the trees, which popped right up, fortunately not striking Cathy or her horse (Sofie walks fast, so Nakota usually trails behind a bit).

At the end of the trail, with no leaves on the trees, Lake Superior is visible on the horizon. We took that sight in then backtracked to check out another new trail loop. Foiled by trees that were a little bigger than I wanted Sofie crashing through (though she undoubtedly would’ve done it anyway), we turned around and began to head home. In the valley, I could not resist doing a little dashing through the snow, and Cathy was not in a rush to end the ride so I trotted around for a bit. Sofie’s balance was decent, but I didn’t worry about doing any training. I just wanted to ride and enjoy myself. Trotting through a nice stretch of openness, I encouraged Sofie to pick up a canter, and she did. We enjoyed a lovely canter through the snow, and then, satisfied with the fun we’d had, we finished walking home. Once there, Sofie got an apple (definitely her favorite part of the day) and went back outside to enjoy the rest of the sunny weather. I’m so glad we got another trail ride in! It’s wonderful to get out there and ride, especially with friends.

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