We headed out down the back "forest" and everyone was a fresh but not stupid. We were happily stalked for a good 1/4 mile by a coyote (in broad daylight...it was 1 pm!) and got turned about in a boggy section (frozen solid but the reeds and snow masked the fact we sunk a good knee deep within it).
Moon decided, in his pure wit and charm, to take a bite of one of these:
That's a bull-rush that went to seed. And my pony thought "Hey, that looks mighty tasty" (keep in mind, this same horse ate large quantities of thistles last fall...).
He quickly discovered, after it stuck to the roof his mouth in all of its seedy glory, that they are neither yummy nor palatable. And, you can't really spit them out. It literally stuck there and my pony stood, mouth agap, seed puff across his mouth like a fuzzy bone in a dog's mouth.
I kindly removed it for him and he seemed much relieved. All I can think was thank the horse-lords it didn't explode in his mouth...based on the mess of seedlings drifting across his hinny...
We eventually found the correct path and headed across a field. My companion (we'll call her J) is married to an animal guy (works in the field of...conservation?) and taught me all about animal tracks. Like the fact that wolves paths run in straight lines because they stalk their prey. Dog, foxes and coyotes track their prey and thus, their paths waver. And slow moving deer (and slow moving horses ; ) ) drag their feet when they walk. Too cool!
She was happily game for a good long ride (I wasn't sure at first if it was going to be one of those 4 mile loop sort of rides) and we made it all the way into the park. I have to admit, I sure got more then I thought I would out of this ride!
For starters, she's spent a lot of time working at the park and was an awesome guide. Every path, every trail. "Turn left here". "Oh, right up that hill...". I can NOW navigate through the park from W's and actually find INTERESTING trails.
We climbed up a hill where kids and their dad were tobogganing and visited the sites of Folk Fest, including all the outcroppings and stage sites. The best?
The wide open Folk Fest (it's a local "hippy" festival, complete with outdoor stages, dope and dancing in the mud...I say that with kindness : ) ) field. This "field" is really a huge expanse of grass with small rolling hills, which at this point is a great big field of virgin white snow.
I've been trail riding with a fair number of folks and it tends to be a nice slow walk over many miles. Fine for chatting but my pony and I love a good run. We do. But would someone on their first "true" trail ride on a leased horse feel like a run??
And the horses rolled out, perfectly side-by-side, paces matched in the most lovely canter. The snow was deep enough to both keep them from rushing as well as forcing them to have large, uphill movements. Oh and they moved!
We cantered like that for a good long time across that beautiful white field, both smiling from ear to ear. THAT is the REASON I trail ride.
HAD either of us been the other's spouse, it surely would have been something out of a romantic soddy movie. Well, minus the lack of a sunset ; )
We headed back down a trail made for horse-driving and back down the road towards W's, leaving the park behind us. It was already getting later and with the overcast that rolled in, it would be best to start on the 3.5 miles to home.
The horses were both lightly sweated, but we'd been free of any major mishaps (just one spook that didn't leave anyone on the ground). So we walked along in the wide ditch following the snowmobile paths.
At one point, Mr. Moon got into a deep patch and sunk up to his knees.
And kinda leaned over to one side, like he was laying down. And just stayed like that.
I was TERRIFIED.
I thought maybe his leg had caught on something and broke. Or there was a hidden culvert that had debrided his legs. Or he had colic'd and gone down right there on the trail. Maybe it was exhaustion or a heart attack?!
So I stepped off him (my saddle was right at snow level so it was hardly any effort) and held the reins.
And Moon gave himself a good rub against the snow.
"Come-on. Get up boy" I said to him, holding the reins.
And he popped back up and walked over onto the harder pack. Not sore, not showing any apparent signs of anything.
My best guess, he was hot and itchy and just wanted a good rub. And since he'd already sunk to the perfect rolling level, he might as well ask me to step off and have his scratch and rub right there.
What was so strange was how he literally just paused right there and waited for me to get off. I wasn't half-pinned beneath him or anything. He didn't even rub my saddle, just his lower belly and side of his head and face. Weird.
The rest of the ride home was uneventful, minus a light rain rolling in and a cold wind.
Three and a half hours of trail riding awesomeness.
Hopefully Moon isn't suffering any sort of illness or malaise (he DID try to eat a bull rush...and THAT can't be easy on the system), and we can say we had an trail ride with a new barn-buddy. Maybe we'll even get to go again!
8 and a bit miles...
Wonder if he'll be wanting to ride much tomorrow... ; )