I, however, like to hack.
And so you see where our interests clash.
I decided that last night was a lovely evening for a hack. The sun was shining, the temperature perfect, and the grassy hills and forests were calling my name.
When I got to the barn, I was greeted by this shining face...
We all talk to our horses like idiots. Amirite?
I kitted Riley out in his hacking "outfit" - lots of fly spray, a running martingale for double use (its intended purpose, since Riley will occasionally try to turn into an equine UFO, as well as a handy grab strap for me!) and a fly bonnet. Then we were ready to hit the trails!
Riley is very dubious.
We headed out the back of the indoor ring, which leads to a wide gravel road that eventually takes you to the outdoor sand ring, but first takes you past most of the paddocks. Today, Riley strolled along happily on a loose rein.
The sun took this opportunity to go behind a giant cloud.
Eventually, you turn off the road and head into the woods, which brings you to the grass Grand Prix field. It's just lovely back there, but as previously noted, full of killer squirrels.
On the lookout for those very shifty squirrels.
After about a seven minute walk through this forest utopia, the trail opens up to the grass ring. You have the option of going into the ring, or hacking around it in any direction. I went to the right, which puts you in a nice grassy lane, and sort of eases a suspicious pony into the proper hacking experience.
Off to the left is the grass Grand Prix field which was worth a photo.
Not picturesque at all.
At the very end of the field - still sort of within fence lines - is a lovely hilly area where I like to flat Riley several times a week. This area also contains a couple of apple trees, and is an opportune place for a quick break and a reminder to Riley that hacking is fun and involves apples.
Even if I know you're just bribing me.
From there we toddled our way on. The fence is the property line for the farm, and the conservation area, which contains thousands of acres of trails, extends beyond.
Next up was a break for some super tasty grass before we took the plunge and crossed the property line.
World's hungriest equine.
From there I marched Riley purposefully (martingale strap in hand) toward the entrance to the trails. About three steps in, he decided that was far enough, thank you VERY much, and thus began the Thursday night rodeo.
I coaxed him down the path, step by step, and used a few apple shards to try and convince him that hacking is fun and that paying attention and doing what I ask him is definitely in his interest. Spoiler alert: Riley disagrees with my assessment.
We spent an excessive amount of time standing here.
Which beats flying backward at the speed of light, let me tell you.
Interested parties will note we are not actually *on* the path...
While it's hard to see in the above photo, the ground on the right slopes up quite steeply, but lands you back on flat ground about 10 feet up. The ground on the left swoops off and is pretty much a cliff.
View from the top of the cliff.
The straight ahead in this photo is the off to the left in the above photo.
Riley decided he was seriously disinterested in going past a certain point, and went out of his way to inform me that this was, simply, far enough. He started by rather politely backing up (me pony kicking all the way) and then escalating into march forward, slam on brakes, spin in whichever direction he felt like spinning, and go galloping up to the top of the path. There was much in between of, oh good pony, went forward! Good BOY! <extreme petting and calming down before trying to move forward again>
Once I finally foiled his backing up and galloping off plans by pulling him around in a tight circle, he decided to try backing UP the hill to the right. I pulled him out of this pattern of destruction twice, but the end came when he managed to get himself (and me!) practically vertical and still going backward. Seeing our lives flash before my eyes, I gave him a "stop doing that NOW!" swat with my stick, which led to him squealing, kicking out, bucking and leaping, then tripping because he was in such a precariously balanced position, picking himself up and attempting to lightly gallop off the top of aforementioned cliff. My life really DID flash before my eyes for a moment before I managed to tug him around and, still on a fully freaking out horse, did an emergency dismount and grimly held on while he bounced around. Falling off a cliff? Not on my list of priorities.
Since I was already off, and had a very tense horse, I thought it wise to stay off and just lead him down the scary, scary path after he chilled out for a moment. Interestingly enough this worked pretty well, and he was calm and relaxed a few minutes later. I decided to hop back on and see if we couldn't continue the hacking experience. I figured he lost his mind again, I could just hop off and lead him home.
But, surprise of surprises! He was very jaunty, and definitely more up than he usually is, but he really held himself together and behaved nicely. We hacked all over hill and dale, through the grass and through the forest, and I managed to get totally lost.
Where are we?
I don't know, but it's pretty.
It seems to be getting kind of dark.
We did accidentally stumble across a river crossing, and to his credit, little Riley tremblingly walked up to it and almost dipped his toe in. But I figured he had had enough challenges, and was being a total star, so I left that one for another day!
Once I figured out I had absolutely no idea where I was, I gave Riley his head and told him to go find home. Which he was, of course, very keen to do, and he knew exactly where he was going.
Eventually we popped out back at the top of the grass ring, just in time for a beautiful cloudy sunset.
Of course, no post is complete without a totally dorky selfie: