For a few months now, as Lilo's stamina has gotten better and better, I have been wanting to take her on this long ride (7.5km, about 4.6 miles) that cuts through the forest onto another dirt road and then loops back onto our road. I have been asking for another boarder to go with me, since I wasn't exactly sure if I could find my way. Also, more importantly, I was worried that it would be too much for Little Love if we didn't have another horse to accompany us, since she has never been very good in a strange environment by herself. After all,in the summer it took us weeks to venture alone down the dirt road that leads to the barn.
The other boarders have a very different schedule than I do, so arranging this long ride has proven to be nearly impossible. Today the barn owner was supposed to show us the loop, but she bailed out at the last minute. So, I decided to bite the bullet and take off with Lilo on my own. We could always turn back if the going got tough.
I took a map, to make sure we wouldn't get lost, tacked up Lilo and grabbed my dog Chai and off we went. We walked to the end of the dirt road, which took us about 20 minutes. This is where the official nature trails start and the dirt road narrows down to a pathway, just a bit wider than the forest paths. We dove into the forest. It was amazing! Little Love was alert, but calm. I climbed into the saddle and she offered me a bit of trot. I rode her for about 15 minutes and it was amazing, the forest was so silent, so still and it was as if we were the only creatures within miles (although who knows, there could have been a moose spying on us behind the trees :-) Suddenly Little Love stopped and I could see immediately why. There was a big, frozen puddle in the middle of the path (white large things have always scared her). Lilo spun around, ready to canter home. I managed to stop her and hopped off. She calmed down immediately and walked past the puddle. We ducked several other puddles as well, and it made Lilo a bit nervous, but she held it together. Twenty minutes in the forest and we were on the dirt road on the other side.
When we walked down the road, Little Love couldn't stop looking around. We passed houses, dogs, a man with a chainsaw, two hikers suspiciously wandering in the trees by the road, three horses in a pasture, scary mailboxes and two real life sized cement pigs (I know, weird!). Little Love managed all this like a pro. I was so proud of her. But it definitely took everything she had. At one point she broke into a bit of a sweat, probably because of the stress of it all, but also because of the exercise, even though we were just walking. By the time we were on our own, familiar road, she took a deep breath and sighed. And slowed down to a crawl.
It took us a bit over an hour and a half, but we made it all on our own. I was happy I had the sense to take the map, because it was a big help. And Little Love obviously can handle much more than what I give her credit for! I can't wait to explore some other routes around the barn!
PS. Tried to take a picture on our ride/walk, but they all turned out blurry. I guess my phone didn't like the fact that I was moving while taking pictures! Here is my favorite, it's like a painting :-)