Monday, September 14, 2009

The Eastern Shore Trail Ride: or how I learned to love my pony and fell into the Chesapeake

So okay, the title is misleading. I already really <3 Kieran but this past weekend? Pretty much clinched it for me. This past weekend, I went with some of the folks from Gentle Giants to the Eastern Shore Trail Ride down near Machipongo, VA.

Weekend recap, going to be long:

So Friday, some of our group left at like, 9am for the four hour drive down there to stake our claim on a spot (we were given to understand it was mostly a field so there were spaces for lots of temporary corrals but our horses high line and we needed good trees to put them on and...we had nine horses, mostly drafts, to do it with) and set up the high lines and stuff. The rest of us couldn't leave till later because Christine was working the night before (she's a paramedic in her "day job") and wouldn't be home till nearly 8am anyway and because the kid going along with us had to go to part of a day of school first. ;) The original plan was to leave at about 11am but uh....I can't think of one time we've EVER gone on a camping trip and left as early as we said we would. After packing up everything took longer than expected and we had a last minute change of plans with how we were hauling the horses and one of the horses had a bit of meltdown getting on the trailer and picking up said kid from school....we left around 2:30 in the afternoon. We then proceeded to hit gobs of Bay Bridge traffic. Long story, but the short of it is a trip that took the other group exactly 4 hours took us nearly 6 and we didn't get there till after dark. Luckily, like I said, high lines were already ready and we had a nice spot to camp and get the two big trailers into so no big deal, get the horses off, set up our tents in the dark, and so on.

We were told for Saturday morning originally, we had to be out on the trail by 8:30 if we wanted to get to the beach before the tide was too high (I think that's the way it worked) then someone came around and told us 9:30 would be okay. We told them we were still going to pretend we had to be out by 8:30 so we'd actually get out on time. =P We probably would've been out that early but one of the other folks with us got a call that morning from her farmsitter that one of her horses' legs was all swollen up and stuff and I guess she was afraid he'd fractured something. So then she had to decide if she was going to stay and ride (and have the farmsitter deal with the vet and wait to see what the vet said before deciding whether to make the long drive back, just in case it was something actually much more superficial than a fracture) or pack up her stuff right then and head back to MD. Well, she ended up deciding to drive back home, just in case, because she knew she wouldn't actually be able to relax and enjoy the ride if she was worried about the horse back home. Which, we told her we could pack up most of her stuff so she just took what she needed, loaded her horse up, and got on the road. Apparently that drive actually took longer than she expected because got a flat on her trailer. There is a story in there about how she got to the Wal-Mart tire and lube place and they said something about how they could sell her a tire for the trailer (or something) but they couldn't put it on for her. So she unloaded Chessie (big Belgian mare, used to do weight pulling contests. I'll never forget hearing someone at the York County fair last year say "that's one big bitch" when she walked by) and said, "fine, here hold my horse while I do it." They put the tire on for her.

So by the time all that happened, we didn't get out of camp till like 9:15. I have to say at this point I was concerned as Kieran was not the same horse I rode earlier in the week out in the trails by the farm. Of course, he was in a new place and with a new group of horses and everybody was excited so it made sense that he would be too but still! Not that he did anything bad, he was just a lot more "up" than I was expecting and of course if he was behind another horse, he had to be right on their ass and trying to go fasterfaster. So then I stick him in the front and OMG I can't go fasterfaster anymore because I have to look at everything. *facedesk* Still, he stayed in front pretty well until one point where another group of horses passed us (and once they got past, they went cantering/gaiting off into the distance). He did not like that and I ended up having to stick him behind another one of the horses for a while.

Then there came a point where we had to cross a road and ride alongside a soybean field for a while. Three of us crossed the road, the other five got stopped when a car that was passing by turned out to have someone in it who knew Christine (had actually adopted a horse from her a while back) and they got to chatting. Unfortunately, the two of us in front had two now-impatient horses who wanted to walk on down (after another group we could see in front of us) and the person behind us had a horse who wasn't a fan of being stuck in the middle. And the two of us in front were all annoyed that the jackass in the car was holding things up (we didn't realize at the time he was somebody they knew, just that he'd stopped and was talking to everybody back there) but even then....seriously? Uh, anyway, we got moving again finally. And I have to say, this was about the only thing that really disappointed me with this trail ride: the pictures on the site only show the beach part, really, so you think most of it is beach, but you actually have to ride seven miles before you get to the beach which...if you're just walking, which we were, that's like at least 2 hours before you get there.

By the time we got to the beach, Kieran had ended up back in front again, and it was interesting to see him when the footing suddenly changed to sand and then to actually get him down to where the water was. I know he was thinking, "wtf is this?" But he did it! And then we all went wading a bit in the water and trotting along the beach (there are pictures at the end!) and had a pretty good time. Unfortunately, because it took us so long to get there, the tide was fairly high which meant that though most people who got there earlier were able to wade out to some sandbars and stuff like that, there wasn't much of that for us to do, but it was still neat!

Then it was an hour or so to the lunch site where we got to get off and stretch our legs and give the horses a break. I was really glad of this because my stirrups were all discombobulated (I was riding in a borrowed treeless saddle with my own stirrups so I hadn't adjusted them before I got on and got moving and didn't realize until we'd tried trotting on the beach just how discombobulated my stirrups were because the stirrup bars on treeless were lower than "normal" and somehow they were uneven and anyway, my right one was much longer than the left and my left leg had been aching the whole time). So I got a chance to fix them better and that helped.

On the way back, we came to a really nice flat, open spot (bordered on two sides by tomato fields) where we actually let the horses open up a bit and tried a canter. It didn't last long but it was a hell of a lot of fun. I remember thinking, "okay, the trainer told me he has a nice canter, but I've never cantered him before. OMG. What if he does a happy 'weeee!' buck when we go? OMG, sit back sit back sit back!!!". He was fine and he does have a nice canter. I was ridiculously pleased. The rest of the way was a pretty nice leisurely walk back and I rode a lot of it with my feet out of the stirrups on a long rein. A nice change from the morning!

I was also really happy to see that Kieran didn't seem overly winded by all the riding nor did he get sore . He was tired enough, even, that night to lay down (I know because of the manure stains that were on his butt in the morning) while on the picket line which led me to state he had become a real high lining trail horse now. :)

The next day we planned on leaving earlier didn't happen. We still left about 9:15, hah! But we found a better order for the horses to go in, it seems (one of the horses had been jigging in the back most of the way on Saturday but stick him in the front and suddenly we had a nice pace that everyone kept with instead of bunching and spreading out and stopping and starting to wait on folks and stuff). Kieran stayed near the front of the line most of the way (I did stick him all the way in the back for the last leg of the trip home on Sunday, just to see what he'd do. He was fine). Anyway, this meant it definitely seemed like we got to the beach faster (which, with less stopping and starting and all, we likely did). This time, we spent more time out on the water and actually went cantering along in the waves and waded out to a couple of sandbars and trotted was really a lot of fun. And then the group split in half, some went back to the beach, and a few of us stayed out on a sandbar, intending to canter along it and then join up with the rest of the group. Well, we did start cantering but the horses veered shoreward (to get back to the rest of the group of course *facedesk*) a little too much and ended up plunging into deeper water (not deep water, I could stand up in it without it coming much over my stomach, as I, uh, found out). Which led to some interesting acrobatics that had me come off into the water (best. fall. ever.) as well as one of the other riders (who unfortunately lost her glasses). Horses were okay, riders were okay. And we waded back to the shore, got our wits back together, got back on, and all rode back home. No lunch break after the beach this time but we just moseyed on back. I actually once again rode Kieran without my feet in the stirrups and on a really loose rein.

Once back and after lunch there and taking care of horses, a couple of us packed up and went ahead and came on home (the others were staying till today just so they could take their time but kid that was with us needed to be in school today and I wanted to get in to work for at least part of the day so I didn't use up all my leave).

And that's the story, in a nutshell, though I'm sure I left stuff out (like one of the horses slipping off the high line twice to go grazing elsewhere, or everyone's agreement that Caladhin's canter is horrendous, or how we kept trying to figure out what the two Swedish girls were saying when they weren't talking in English...). So anyway, Kieran was amazing and took to the whole thing like he'd been born to it. :) It got brought up several times over the weekend, "aren't you glad you bought him? Do you think his former owner would be kicking herself is she saw this?"

But here, have pics! You deserve it, making it this far.

These were taken by the professional photographer they had there at the beach on Saturday. So yeah, they're watermarked. Some of the others also took pictures but I don't have them yet (as they haven't even gotten home yet by this time. :) ) so those'll have to come later.

Christine said I was humiliating Kieran by putting that fly bonnet on him. :) (there were, actually, far less bugs than we were expecting there to be)

Anyway, I was kinda disappointed professional guy didn't get any good ones of me and Kieran but oh well, some of the other folks' look to have turned out pretty well.

These are ones I took at lunch on Saturday.

Yes, I put the bit keepers on, then realized I had them up too high, then didn't have an easy way to get the screws off the bridle to fix them so I just slipped them off the bit for now. This will be fixed.

So there you go, should be more pics later, but hopefully this will suffice for now. :)

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