Sunday I opted for a day of simplicity with Cricket. On Saturday, as I was wrapping things up and chatting with a friend, we hit upon an impromptu plan to go trail riding on Sunday. The plan was to go for a long walk - Cricket is still green when it comes to trail riding and she hasn't ridden her horse in about a month.
We decided to head to the local Rails to Trails. This is Cricket's third "official" trail ride. I'd love to get her out more but I have neither a trailer nor a truck with which to pull one so we don't get out nearly as much as I would like.
My friend arrived at noon and we loaded Cricket and headed off. As we were saddling the horses, I reminded my friend that the most important thing to me was my horse's confidence and my own. Though not a PNH student, my friend was very respectful and agreed the ride was just for fun, no goals and we'd stay out as long (or as little) as necessary.
We headed out. Her horse is a half-Arab and while he's older, he's much more "nervous" than Cricket. He had a lot of "what was that?" starts and Cricket would react to him with "huh?" It was good, in a way, because I got to ride lots of mini-startles and develop a feel for what happens before what happens happens.
We encountered two kids on bikes. They were so polite and followed our directions so we could safely familiarize the horses with these strange beings. Later, another cyclist came up behind us and before he could announce his presence, my friend's horse spooked into Cricket which caused her to spook. The cyclist was apologetic and was really good at picking a slow but steady pace and talking to the horses as he went by. We also came across some folks walking dogs and they were polite and courteous towards the horses. We only passed two other groups riding and Cricket was calm but a little disconcerted by the wonky-walking horses. She seemed convinced something was wrong with their legs.
The trail is marked every half mile with distance markers. It's so funny - this is the third time we've been on this trail and every time we pass a mile marker, Cricket turns as if to read it. I know she's saying, "Dammit, we've only gone half a mile. How much further is this place?"
We only rode about 2 miles. Cricket was getting a little nervous and at one point she refused to go forward. I turned her around and she was more relaxed. We decided that was good enough and by the time we were back at the trailer, both horses were soft and relaxed.
When we returned to the barn, I decided to let Cricket graze and I laid in the sun for about an hour just enjoying my horse. We ended the day with some ground driving on the neighbor's property. She is so much more responsive when we are out "going somewhere."
All and all, a very good day!