Aug8Collage.jpgLate yesterday afternoon Kye was shipped to Canter Call for a jumping session with Sophie. I tagged along to film the session, but I had trouble focusing on the task. You see, Canter Call has access to hundreds of acres of hacking. The bonus is: there are no roads or vehicular traffic AT ALL!!!!

Instead of filming I wanted to ride each and every one of those trails. WHY was Kye the only horse we shipped? Why hadn’t we loaded Z and Z, too! Next time…

Which took my mind to the “last time” we went on a trail ride. It was in the autumn of 2007. The boys were three years old and we were going on our first REAL trail ride.

Here’s what happened.

Bill, Ciara and I went to Betsy and Torchy Millar’s farm (Ghostwood) in Hockley Valley. The weather was idyllic. The temperature was around 24 C and there was a slight breeze.

The boys had never been there and their previous trail riding experience was through one field at Laurene Winkler’s farm a few months ago.

At our farm Zelador loaded smoothly and quickly onto Mike Charter’s van. Zeloso hesitated, but when he was presented with a carrot Zeloso thought walking on the ramp was a good idea. Of course Zelador was moving around in his box stall in the trailer and caused the ramp to wiggle. But the carrot won out.

Mike drove a non-hilly way from our farm near Nobleton to Hockley Valley. This is a considerable achievement in itself.

When we arrived at Ghostwood we tacked up in the trailer, then unloaded. No problems. Ciara warmed up Zelador in a round pen with limestone footing while I got my boots on. Once he was ready I climbed a fence to mount ( it was not as acrobatic an ascent into the saddle as I thought it would be), I rode into the next paddock while Bill warmed-up Zeloso. There were two eventers jumping cross-country close by. They did get Zelador excited for a moment, but after the initial reaction, he was quiet.

We’d decided beforehand to go on trails that were in the forest so that the horses were confined. Ghostwood also has open spaces, but we figured they could get up a good head of steam and at our age, we weren’t too keen on learning just how fast these Lusitanos could go. What with Bill and my combined ages being over 120 years…

Our forest path plan proved to be a good thing, for the most part. We left the round pen and headed west.

Early on we came to an earth bridge over a very tiny stream. Zelador was leading and said, “No.” Zeloso stepped up to the plate, cased the joint and totally agreed with his brother. We let both boys look at the thing one more time and Bill decided he’d get off and lead Zeloso across. This worked perfectly. We figured the boys weren’t totally pleased with the long logs lining both sides of the earth bridge. I moved Zelador in front of Zeloso, creating a barrier to keep Zeloso from moving very much while Bill mounted.

We rode through the trails, came out near the stone house, walked around the lake by the house and into the woods. This is where Zelador (and the rest of us) heard some animal behind us and to the right (deep in the forest) sassing us. The animal was loud and Zelador totally lost faith in my ability to protect him. He took off. The trail was too narrow to turn him at that speed so I started evaluating trees. The first one to our left was a bit big. “Nope,” I thought, “not steering him into that one.” The next set of trees looked a bit uninviting. Passed them. The third set looked just right. He’d started to slow down a bit and Bill had total control over Zeloso. Zelador probably noticed that his brother wasn’t running with him, combine that with several loud “WHOA’s” from me and he decided to put an end to all this blindly bolting off stuff. He stopped with his nose against the maple saplings and his body perpendicular to the trail we’d been on.

I backed him onto the trail and we walked. Although the horses might have appeared calm on the outside, they were both still thinking about that horse-eating critter that sassed us. Within a hundred metres Bill announced that Zeloso was relaxed and striding out with his monster walk (a clear sign that all was right in Zeloso’s world). About ten minutes later Zelador vegged out, too. (Obviously he’s the “sensitive” sibling and needs a little extra time to recover.)

We looped back to the earth bridge. This time we were approaching it from another angle and “just because a horse crosses an obstacle going west, doesn’t mean he’ll cross it going east.”

Zelador was leading and he stopped. Zeloso stepped up and stopped. I placed Zelador in the lead and quietly sat there, relaxed and with a loose rein. I looked up and forward (not down at the obstacle). I just sat there. No one said anything. Within thirty seconds Zelador stepped forward and crossed the earth bridge at a quiet walk.

We returned to the big barn (the one in the photo, the small barn is about 100 metres to the west of it) and Ciara had a ride on Zeloso. Bill walked with us, leading the group. He knows the property and has this incredible ability to remember which trail leads where. With him leading Ciara and I could relax and enjoy the horses and not fret over getting lost…or at least seriously misplaced. Bill led us to the east and we went on new trails. After circling south and redoing the earth bridge we had the courage to leave our guide. We rode a loop on some new trails, with the main goal being: avoid any big ups and downs.

Back to the big barn. I dismounted and Bill rode Zelador. When Ciara and Bill returned they announced that Zeloso was DONE. He’d started to toss his head and do one or two hippity hops, indicating that his three-year-old brain had had enough. All-in-all the boys had been moving in the round pen and on the property for almost ninety minutes.

When it came time to head home, once again, Zelador loaded smoothly. Zeloso took a bit more time than he’d taken that morning. At one point Mike abandoned using the ramp and opened the step-up at the back of the trailer. That didn’t work and I led him to the ramp and the sweetie walked up without hesitation. Weird…because for the trip to Laurene Winkler’s he loaded there and back with no hesitation. Ah…trying to analyze the mind of a youngster…

As we were travelling home I remembered an interesting thing that happened earlier that day when I went to the paddock to fetch the boys. I got to the gate at 10:35. I arrived at an opportune moment and was able to solve a little mystery. You see, occasionally I’d notice quite a bit of wet ground to the northeast of the water trough. The water level would be quite low considering how recently it’d been filled. I was wondering if the almost brand new rubbermade trough had a leak in it. Well, there was Zelador with his front feet in the trough. He was pawing joyously with his right front leg, splashing his chest, his front legs and creating a huge wet spot to the northeast of the trough. Can’t remember how he got out of the thing, but he did.