I am sunburnt. Gabe is sleepy and as of this morning, is not body sore.
By my best guess, we rode about 12 miles yesterday, all told in just around 3.5 hours. My friend Jaquie brought her delightful pony gelding, Teddy, over to the farm Sunday morning and out we went to see what we could see.
It is by far the longest ride I've had him out on and I truly think he enjoyed all the sights and sounds.
We took a route I've never been down before, roads I've never even driven and discovered some absolutely delightful back roads that were very isolated and not busy at all. The horses were very good and although we had a few moments, Gabe was wonderful.
At first we did have some lack of desire to go forward issues and he'd dribble slower and slower until almost a halt. I tried squeezing him forward and got no response and (failing to bring with me a whip), I had to come up with some other way to convince him to step up the pace. So, I imagined having on a pair of rowel spurs and I "rolled" my heel up his side. Oh, did THAT ever surprise him the first time I did it and he SHOT forward! So I stayed on it, every time he dribbled, I rolled, and he picked up the pace immediately. It didn't take long for him to figure out that it was just easier to keep on marching forward instead of slowing slowing slowing into a halt.
As is typical of most farms, dogs ran out barking at us (there were a good number of hounds!), hackles high, appearing out of nowhere from nearly every house we passed. The first 3 or 4 times it happened Gabe was pretty darn sure they were going to gnaw his legs off at the pasterns and gave them the hairy eyeball while skittering across the road away from them.
By the end of the ride he didn't give the approaching barking (or baying) dogs a second glance while we marched along on the buckle. He also figured out by the end of the ride that I don't care if he wants to turn his head to look at something as long as he keeps walking forward.
We had a few very, very nice canters and he was popping over ditches and water-filled culverts like an old pro without even a second glance at them.
He saw his first herd of donkeys and quite frankly, I think he was more worried about those long-eared beasts than he was about the dogs! I told those donkeys as we walked by and they all ran up to the fence to see us that they were allowed to watch, but none of them was allowed to speak! I just knew that if one of them opened up and let loose a bray, it would be all over for Gabe's mostly-calm and collected self. We passed a herd of Belgian mares with a couple of foals that thought we were just awesome and came galloping up to the fence to see us. A galloping herd of Belgian's makes A LOT of noise! Those hooves surely do thunder and shake the ground. After we passed the herd decided to gallop to catch up to us and Gabe wasn't quite sure what to think about that. His tail curled up over his back (imagine Arab), and he started prancing and blowing hard (trumpeting like a stallion!) at that thundering herd of drafts. Such a silly boy, but even with those crazy antics he continued to listen to me and never did I feel like he had tuned me out and stopped listening, a HUGE step forward for both of us.
All in all, a long but fantastic ride and I'm looking forward to many, many more.
Jaquie is planning to move Teddy out to our place in two weeks and we're all pretty excited about it. Teddy is great little horse and I really look forward to having an adult around to go riding with and help build my cross-country course and add a few more trails around the place.