Monday, November 16, 2015

Trail Milestone: Galloping!

I got together with Saiph and her husband Charles last Sunday for a ride at the barn where they keep their horses.  I always enjoy riding with them, partly because they tend to ride at a little faster pace, so it helps us work harder out on the trails, but mostly because they are both such fun to be around and it always seems like the ride is too short.

We rode about 8 miles of the trails in the rural Maryland countryside - I'm so jealous of how beautiful it is there!  Lots of trees and hills and fields that make me feel like I could be in another time.

View from the barn
We ended up crossing the railroad tracks several times, which was great for Nimo, because while he has crossed them before, he was a little reluctant about it on this ride and was convinced that if he just kept walking next to them, eventually they would end and he wouldn't have to climb over them.

Nimo very carefully planning his steps - photo by Charles
The highlight of the ride for me, though, was when we were riding on a wide trail through the woods.  We were trotting and Charles was out in front on Gracie and Saiph was behind us on Lily.  Charles asked Gracie to canter and Nimo trotted faster to keep up, but at one point he decided to canter and then he went faster and faster until I'm pretty sure he was galloping.  I admit to a small amount of anxiety because Nimo used to start bucking whenever I would push him in the canter, particularly going up hills.  I think it was a balance thing rather than disobedience.  He's always had trouble balancing at the canter and getting him to feel comfortable in the arena has been a long haul.  Cantering outside of the arena is still difficult for him, so I was excited that he initiated the canter, especially because he was wearing hoof boots on his front feet, and I often wonder if they interfere with his ability to canter.  It was an awesome feeling to be galloping through the woods, although we did have to pull up a little before we wanted to because the gaiter on one of the Easyboot Epics failed and I saw the boot go flying.  I'm actually not that upset about it because 1) the gallop was so awesome, it was totally worth the price of a replacement gaiter and 2) I'm pretty sure Easycare did not test their hoof boots on big, galloping Friesians, and that has got to place a lot of stress on the boot.

Nimo actually did a couple of other short canters up hills, and each time went very well.  I'm pretty sure he's been watching Lily do it on our other rides, because I could literally feel him thinking through how he was going to move his body so he could canter.

I should probably mention that I give Nimo a lot of autonomy out on the trails.  I feel like it is a good counterpart to the micro-managing I do in our dressage work.  And to manage every step for 25, or 50, or 100 miles seems like insanity to me.  We're supposed to be partners out on the trail, and I think it is important for our relationship that I let him make as many decisions as he can with the understanding that I will step in if I think something is unsafe or somehow not appropriate.  Pace is typically a decision that I give to him whenever possible.  He rarely does more than he can for the footing and he's really honest about how tired (or not) he is feeling.  Because he has lacked confidence out on the trails, I think giving him some responsibility is necessary to building his confidence.  That he is now feeling comfortable doing some cantering out on the trail is a great sign because I think it means that not only is his fitness improving, but so is his balance and confidence.

It was a great ride, and I can't wait to share how Nimo continued to improve at the Glenmore Hunter Pace in my next post:)


  1. Hi Gail! I love to read about your adventures, especially as winter is shutting us down here in Montana. The pictures of the places you guys get to ride are like a storybook from the past. I have to admit being quite jealous. The cantering you're doing with Nimo is so fabulous-good for you. Plus I know you're doing it in a dinky English saddle. I wish I had that confidence. In case it's of any value, when I first started on the trails with my gelding, Ranger, he was very trippy and unsure. He took a few falls along the way. I let him figure out things on his own, resisting my own inner control freak desire to micro manage every step. Even though it was rough at first, he figured out what *he* needed to do to get through the craziest stuff-and now he's a pro. Now he spools himself up, puts his head way down to study the trail, and gets himself through. Then he gets a pat and away we go. I'm such a control freak-it was hard to give that up. Once again, horses as metaphors for life! Keep the posts coming! They are a bright spot out here! :-)

    1. Thanks, Jo:) I do love how mild the winters are here, especially when compared to places like Montana! And I still love imagining how things must have been hundreds of years ago. I do ride in an endurance saddle for our trail work - I used to ride in my dressage saddle and I did feel insecure on tougher terrain, so I decided the investment in a sturdier saddle was worth it:) I can't wait for Nimo to be as confident as your Ranger sounds. It's been years in the making but we are making progress:)

  2. So jealous you live close enough to other bloggers to ride together- now I feel so isolated in my lonely corner here in North NJ! I've noticed the same thing about Quest with moving out on the trails too- increase in confidence has her opening up and giving me some lovely canter sets when the terrain allows and it is an absolute joy to ride. Ah the need for speed.

    Hope to meet you and Nimo at a ride sometime next season (:

    1. It would be wonderful to meet you, Grace! I am tentatively putting Mustang Memorial on my ride list for next year - do you ever do that ride?

  3. I completely agree with your view of autonomy on the trails, and do something similar with Ruby. She seems to enjoy having some 'say' in things, and as time goes on she seems to be making better choices so I am correcting her much less often. As for galloping on the trail - I can't wait to do the same someday myself!