Monday, June 1, 2015

Midland Outlaws Ride

You may remember that I rode with the Midland Outlaws last year at a trail ride hosted by a gentleman who lives just a few minutes away from the barn where I board.  I really liked being able to go on the ride, partly because I met a lot of friendly horse people, but also because I could just ride Nimo over instead of having to trailer.

I convinced a couple of other boarders at my barn to join me this year, and the three of us headed over a little before 11 am.  Like last year, the start time of the ride was a bit fluid, so we ended up getting out on the trail at around 11:30.  Unlike last year, the footing was fairly firm, so our pace was a little faster.  We still mostly walked, but we did get a few good solid trot/canter sections in, which I was happy about.  I only let Nimo canter in one section for a short time because I was still a little gun shy after The Incident a few weeks ago, which resulted in me parting company with my horse at a speed other than zero miles per hour.  Nimo did well at the canter, though, with no sign of wanting to crow-hop or buck.

There was one section of the trail where we went through a small ditch (no water) while turning a corner where Nimo would normally have slowed from our brisk trot to a careful walk, but he decided to keep moving through it, and he did give a little hop coming up from the ditch.  I was expecting that, though, because it was a new-to-him maneuver, and I suspected he would be a little uncomfortable.  He did just fine with his balance and I stayed on too, so that ended up working out well.  I'm trying to get in the habit of letting him choose his pace whenever possible, unless it feels unsafe to me or I think he's rushing because he's anxious about being left behind.  In this case, he was motivated (but not out of control) to keep up with the 5 or 6 horses in front of us, but I felt like that motivation was a good thing and helped him get through an obstacle that normally would have intimidated him a bit.  He didn't feel panicked, just determined, so I wanted to let him move out.

About 3 miles in to the ride, the trail went not only through a creek, but stayed in the creek for about 100 feet.  The creek wasn't too deep, although it probably did get to about 3 feet deep at one point.  Last year, I was pretty sure Nimo was going to roll in it, although I got him through it without ending up in the water.  This year, he did still paw a bit, but his desire to lay down was much more muted and he seemed happy to just slowly wander through it.  It was a nice way to cool the horses down because the temperature was probably at about 90 by that point and the humidity wasn't doing us any favors either.  We stopped just after the creek in a lovely little meadow to wait for our 4-wheeler escort to get in front of us to open a gate.  (We were riding through many different pieces of private property with permission, and part of the coordination of the ride involved sending people ahead to open and close gates.)

Grassy/shady field where we stopped for a break
After maybe a 10-minute rest, we headed out again, with the trail covering some paved road, forest paths, and the edges of planted fields.  After about another 3 miles, we got to The Water Obstacle.  Last year, I admit to being mostly horrified as what appeared to be dozens of riders took their horses through what I considered a booby-trapped and unfair water obstacle.  There was a giant pond, maybe 2-3 feet deep, and just before a steep, muddy, short hill that the horses had to struggle up to get out of the pond, there was maybe a 2 foot drop-off that the horses had no way of knowing was there.  I saw some pretty scary riding and I gratefully took the go-around to avoid what I knew would be an obstacle that Nimo would never forgive me for.  This year, the pond water level was much lower, and the drop-off happened to coincide with a sand bar, so the horses knew they were going into water, just not how deep it was.  I still didn't take Nimo through it, but I could see how someone with a brave and adventurous horse would probably see it has a reasonable path.  Interestingly, out of the dozen or so horses that did the obstacle while I was there, two of them lost their riders and a third gave a rodeo performance worth paying for (his rider stayed on...barely).  I still maintain that this particular part of the trail is best reserved for experienced horses who can cope with unknown footing without panicking and it's not something that I would voluntarily ask Nimo to do at this point.  He is just too worried about where his feet are to think that kind of riding is fun.  Maybe someday, but for now, we are sticking to the go-around.

At this point, we were about halfway through the ride, and there were volunteers with water, soda, Gatorade, and snacks.  We took about a 15 minute break, and then headed out.  I should mention that I found the two breaks we took completely unnecessary, and the endurance rider in me was chafing at waiting, but it was good to teach Nimo to wait and many of the horses on the trail were not endurance horses and probably needed a short rest, particularly because of the heat.

The rest of the ride went faster, particularly when Nimo took the lead.  We'd been trotting down a private driveway and approached a small, regional airport.  Last year, Nimo really took off at this point in the ride (perhaps sensing we were nearing the end and also he was desperate to catch the 4-wheeler in the lead).  This year, the ladies I was riding with actually slowed to a walk.  Nimo wanted to keep trotting, though, so I let him.  I knew the way from that point and Nimo was asking to trot, not pulling or demanding it, so I wanted to see what he would do.

He trotted slowly (for him, anyway), and after being well in front for several minutes, a couple of other riders cantered/galloped up and past us.  Their horses couldn't handle being behind, I guess.  I loved that Nimo let himself be passed by a galloping horse without any change in pace.  I realize that passing like that is poor trail etiquette, but I welcomed the opportunity to test Nimo, and he did great.  Ideally, I want Nimo to be the kind of horse who can handle any terrain and any pace and any ill-mannered idiots out on the trail because it is going to happen.  He's still not there yet, but it is moments like this one where I couldn't be happier with how he is doing.

We did a couple more trot sets, including one that was on a wide, mowed path through a field with woods on one side.  The path wound around, so there were blind corners, which made it seem more challenging (and more fun!).  And there were 2-3 horses in front of and next to or just behind us, but Nimo kept a nice steady, brisk trot through the whole trotting session, again even as other horses changed position around us and cantered or even galloped.  It was a nice way to finish the ride.  The group I was with ended up cutting off the last 2 miles of the ride because no one wanted to wait for a gate to be opened, and honestly, it was just plain hot and miserable outside.  We certainly could have done the extra 2 miles, but finishing up with 10 miles was fine with me because I was done with being outside.  We've been having unusually hot and humid weather almost all of May and my body is completely rejecting acclimating to it.

So Nimo redeemed himself after our last organized ride and behaved just like I expected and hoped for.  He was motivated to keep up with the group, but not out of control, and he handled the change of position and pace of the horses around us very well.  I don't think we've ever been passed by a galloping horse before, and it happened maybe 3 times on this ride, with Nimo never batting an eye, so I'm thrilled with that response.

What I'm not thrilled about is the heat.  I'll admit that I haven't been riding as much as I should have been because of the heat these past few weeks.  I just wasn't prepared for the 90 plus degree days and increase in humidity.  We've been having July/August weather, and I don't like it.  In fact, I ended up feeling pretty ill for several hours after this ride, despite drinking even more water than I usually would.  It looks like temps are going to cool down a bit this week, but otherwise I may have to get some kind of portable AC unit in order to keep riding this summer...or possibly I am going to move some place cooler, like the equator...


  1. We have been having unusually hot, humid weather here...and a lot less rain than usual. It's going to be a funky year for weather, and I am absolutely dreading August...

    But, I'm so glad that Nimo behaved so well. Besides the heat it sounds like it was a great ride!

    1. The heat and humidity should be classified as a Biblical plague, I think:) I will have to be cryogenically frozen and thawed in October if this weather keeps up!

  2. I REALLY wanted to go to this, but you know my stallion drama...:/ We went for a short ride in the river and packed our stuff for the barn move: I had this irrational fear that if we trailered anywhere before the move something would happen and then we would be stuck at that place!

    I'm glad you had a good time and that Nimo did so well!

    This year I'm really feeling the fact that we've acclimated, so you will find me agreeing with everyone that says, "Man it's HOT! And HUMID!" This kind of weather used to be nothing for me and now it's something. Lily is in the same boat too, which makes me kind of happy that we didn't sign up for the OD LD this year!

    1. I totally get your worry about something happening to prevent you from leaving your old barn - I wouldn't have wanted anything to mess that up either! And I agree on not doing the OD this year (although hopefully we'll get to do it anyway in Oct!) - it would have been brutal doing the conditioning in the weather we've had!