Trail. Hell.

Or, remember that time I rode my horse for about four hours?  And occasionally it was raining?

It started out so peacefully.  There were four other riders.  Then we picked up two more.  And somehow, within the first five minutes, I mutually offended and was offended by this man toting a gun and making jokes about shooting my "mule".  And I'm pretty sure it all went downhill from there.

There were three gaited horses and they took the lead, racking off into the distance.  The other five of us paced, occasionally trotting and catching up.  And then we got to the wooden bridge.

Archie was a freaking champ crossing this bridge.  I've never taken him over one, I've never ridden over one.  We get to the other side, where wood meets gravel, and I hear the other TB rider (she needs a nickname) coming behind me.  We are, of course, bringing up the rear and everyone else is around a bend.  And then Archie starts to spin and I see her getting up out of the gravel (OUCH!).  I yell a "HOLD HARD!" to the rest of the riders and immediately dismount.  This is what you do, right?  You dismount and you check the person getting up from the ground to make sure they are alright.  She doesn't immediately remount and I don't take the time to, either.  We just walk and I make sure she's okay and we catch up with the group.

That dude I mentioned earlier?  "Why'd you even tack them up?  You should have just brought leashes."  Yeah.  Way to get a full understanding of the situation before you made someone feel like shit.  I ignored him, we mounted, we kept going.  He tried to make nice and I continued to try to ignore him.  I think it was mostly ignorance that he couldn't understand a horse that was solely a lesson/training/show horse not being completely trail-sound.  Oh, and did I mention?  By this point, we were at a sports field and there were at least two games going on.

The rest of the ride sort of blends together.  We got left a lot.  We went for a really, really long fucking time.  I asked prior to the ride how long the BM thought we would be out and she wasn't sure, but thought it would be like last time (2 hours).  When we hit the two hour mark, I asked her how far we were from the barn.  Answer:  very far.

We made it to the destination (?) and turned around.  This required that we traverse a parking lot/road with limited place to ride off the road.  The rest of the group hits this asphalt and racks/trots/canters off, leaving the other TB rider and I in the back, by our lonesome.  At this point, Archie's brain is completely fried.  He can't handle walking, he can't handle straight, and he can't handle the herd being broken.  In lieu of walking like a sane gentleman, we are doing the tightest collected trot, haunches out, next to the other horse.  If I straighten him, he turns his ass to the other horse.  And then goes back to crooked.

I thought he would be better when we got to the woods again.  He wasn't.  I finally told the other TB rider that I felt like I was going to be bucked off, so I dismounted and let Archie just jig next to me.  This went on for about a half mile, until I felt comfortable getting back on.  We finally caught up with the rest of the group and it.. uh.  Didn't get any better.  If we caught up with the gaited horses, they did their little smarmy speed-walking thing off into the distance.  And, fresh from trotting, we would trot to catch up.

At one point, it became a group run.  The other TB rider and I started cantering.  I called to the guy that I was passing him and I let Archie open up.  It was amazing.  It wasn't the fastest gallop, but it was a hell of a lot faster than I think I've ever gone on him.  I could hear the other TB rider on my left and we quickly caught up with the gaited horses, whose riders looked shocked to see us.  That little bit was the best part of the ride and still not enough to redeem it.

After that, unfortunately, I had a really hard time keeping Archie calm.  He wanted to be in the front, I guess, but isn't conditioned enough to keep up with horses that ride that far regularly.  Or rack.  He was drenched from head to toe.  There was lather on his neck, on his chin, and the other TB rider told me that his butt was completely foamed.  The gaiting horses had ridden off in to the sunset (seriously, I never saw them again) and we didn't know how far behind us the rest of the group was.  So I looked at this foaming, jigging beast beneath me that couldn't comprehend what the fuck was going on, and I dismounted.  And I promptly walked him in hand the last half hour/mile plus.  Does it suck that I returned on hand?  Yes.  Was my horse cooled and relaxed by the time I returned to the barn?  Yes.  So was it worth it?  Absolutely.

If it wasn't raining, it was really, really hot.  I was dehydrated when I got back to the barn.  I sent D a text that the ride had gone long and begging him to have some water in the fridge for me.  I hosed Archie off, felt him for heat, checked his soundness, linimented the fuck out of him, beet pulped him, and turned him out.  He promptly trotted off to the brand-new round bale.  And then he rolled.  So, I figure that he's fine, but I'm going to give him tomorrow off.

We rode for four hours and ten minutes and covered 14.81 miles.  Our fastest pace was 21.97 miles per hour.  That would be that gallop.  I think every single horse was sweaty and we were all a little bit sore.

See how things were escalating until I dismounted around mile 13?
D and I talked about it a little bit when I got home and recovered (I showered, walking gingerly on my bruised feet, drank a gallon and napped for an hour).  While I think that these rides in new places are good for Archie, I don't think that the format is beneficial for us.  He isn't learning that it's okay to be away from the other horses, he's just getting more and more worked up.  Moving in a group is awesome, but I would like a group that hung together a little bit more.  So, yeah, I'm going to ask the other TB rider if maybe she'd like to go out on Sundays or something and just trail ride together.  She's completely accommodating to my crazy beast and we walk at the same pace.  Also, she doesn't enjoy being out for so long.

Dom, I have so much more freaking respect for your endurance rides.  Thank you, no.

Photo dump:

The other TB rider and me.



Not the bad bridge.

Random and really pretty.


Parking lot.

Car in the parking lot.

On the way to pick up the other two.

Very start.

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30 comments

  1. Sounds like you are being uber responsible and I agree I don't think the format is beneficial to you and I find the other riders to be kinda rude. I know I just have your perspective but I respect your perspective so yeah, form your own group lady.

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    1. I don't think they are necessarily rude, I just think the culture is different. Maybe I just didn't get the memo that if you're ballsy enough to come out, you're ballsy enough to go the distance. I mean, everyone else seemed pretty fine - just me and the other TB rider were the outliers.

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  2. Four hours is a crazy long trail ride for a horse who doesn't have a lot of experience on trails! I definitely agree - start your own group. The group you're with has no consideration for you or your horse.

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    1. I will say that I'm glad I had this experience, that I did something completely new and different with my horse. His brain exploded, but now I know the point at which we have brain explosion. I guess we'll start riding more trails by ourselves and occasionally with the other TB rider until I catch up with this group, mentally and physically.

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  3. Yeah, no. The number one rule in group trail riding is only go as fast as your slowest rider, and I want to punch people who don't follow it. Trail riding is supposed to be fun and relaxing, not infuriating.

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    1. It was fun and relaxing until we picked up the two new riders. And then it was a perpetual chase.

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  4. Ok.. First, as a seasoned trail rider, you never, NEVER separate the group. Horses are HERD animals and when you take them into a new environment, you don't separate the herd. Second, that is a long ass ride for someone new to trail riding. I've been riding trail consistently for over a year and I haven't done that many hours in that amount of time. Third, what a freaking asshole that guy was. Good thing you weren't the one carrying the gun.

    I think finding someone who 1) is willing to travel at the same pace, 2) wait while you work through issues, 3) is willing to accommodate a green horse, and 4) will turn around when you are ready to go back (or establishes in advance how far you will be riding), and 5) can hold their own in conversation with you, is a priceless riding partner. If the TB rider is someone who meets those those criteria, then you will have a great time, otherwise you are going to hate trail riding.

    And your pony might be a tad bit sore the next day.

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    1. *that many miles in that amount of time*

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    2. When I talked to the other TB rider about going out on our own, she agreed. But she's also going to continue riding with this group, because her horse handled it a million times better than Archie.

      I'm not actually that new to trail riding, but I've never done it in a group like this before. Archie and I walk out by ourselves all the time and make small little loops through the woods. I used to fox hunt (a million and seven years ago), but Archie has only ever been out in the woods by himself or with a buddy. For what little he knows, he did really, really well initially. Two hours is just his max right now. I'm hoping that the other TB rider and I can work on his issues over time and I can join this group again with a stronger horse - mentally and physically.

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  5. What Karen said ^ exactly. It takes a village to raise a trail horse. ;D

    You did a great job - took care of your horse and yourself. Too bad most of your companions had no class.

    You've exactly described why me and my lone tb haven't conquered trail riding around here. Finding trustworthy riders willing to ride at our level and willing while we work out issues has been super hard. Our third ride out someone cantered off and left us behind - hello disaster train. Having no trail experiences has been better than terrible ones.

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    1. Yeah, I was walking our little quarter-mile loop at the old barn with another boarder once. She did that shit to me. "Oh, I really want to canter, but I should be cooling him out." Poof. Canters off and Archie lost his shit.

      I think I'm expecting too much assistance and accommodation from this group. They're just out there to have fun and if they want to run off, why should I hold them back? I just need to take myself and my little over-thinking OTTB out of the equation until he can handle it better.

      And thanks about the great job bit. I worry about everything and part of me wonders if they think I baby him or that I can't handle him. I just want the best for him. One of the girls on a gaited horse was beside us at one point and commented that he looked like he wanted to run and that I should just let him go. He was lathered and foaming at this point and I had to explain that he wasn't conditioned for this, that he had already gone out twice as far as he ever had.

      Thoroughbreds: run until their hearts explode.

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  6. Ummm, there was a man with a gun on your trail ride?

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    1. Haha. I'm glad someone commented on that! He brought it to shoot snakes. I asked him to give us a head's up before firing it and somehow that escalated to my horse being a mule and needing a bullet to the brain. He said he was joking, later, but I said that wasn't something to joke about. Maybe he has a herd of horses that he loves equally, but I just have the Archer and he's my heart.

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    2. He's going to shoot snakes with a gun? There's some crazies out there

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  7. Holy Heck....
    Thank goodness you got back in one piece! I would have been absolutely furious.

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    1. Yeah, I'm really thankful that everyone returned safely. The other TB rider and I did leave two riders behind and I still feel like shit about that, but I couldn't hold him to wait. I texted one of them to let her know when we got back to the barn, but she showed up a few minutes later. Somehow.

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  8. That sounds like an awful group to go with! I love to trail ride and since starting endurance, we go alone a lot so that we can go at our own pace. But if we go with people, we go only the pace that they're comfortable with, so if that means they want to walk the whole way, that's what we're going to do! So I can't believe as horse people and as you being someone new to trail riding, they wouldn't be more considerate... And also, crazy long trail rides on horses that aren't physically/mentally ready is no fun at all. Hope you figure out a better situation!

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    1. I think the group is just used to going like this. I'd heard that they took a marathon ride a month or so ago, but I didn't think that was the norm. Maybe it is.

      Yeah, I'm going to sit out until I feel comfortable that my horse can handle that distance/speed without hurting himself. We're good by ourselves and now I know more trails!

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  9. I would be so livid at the end of that ride. You absolutely did the best thing for your horse. Seriously, that would give me several anxiety attacks. Plus, I can't believe that guy was so rude!

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    1. He was really rude. I didn't say shit about his horse, so I don't understand why he felt like he needed to say crap about mine. My grandpa used to call Teddy Bear a mule and it really hurt my childhood feelings. In lieu of having my feelings hurt as an adult, I just wanted to get away from the guy. Isn't silence the nicest way to say STFU?

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  10. The other riders sound like absolute jerks. I ride like that pretty much 90% of the time, but I have a huge footed, bombproof, sturdy and sound horse that isn't bothered with wacky formatting and etc, but you did what was best for your horse which is the right thing to do. I think you'd have more fun if you went with a better group. You aren't used to trail riding and it doesn't seem like Archie is mentally ready for a long one like that, maybe you could find some people to go with on shorter rides.

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    1. Rather than "better", I think I need "slower". I mean, they were nice enough and they occasionally waited up for us. But yeah, horse has no brains after two hours. The other TB was perfectly fine riding out, so it's just my Kid. We'll slowly start introducing this stuff back so we can both have a better time and be fitter mentally and physically for the group.

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    2. The one thing that irks me out on the trail is people that just want to run the whole time. I mean, I LOVE to go fast and have fun and gallop and stuff but not 24/7, I like to go slow sometimes, especially if it's a long ride. Give him a few times out on the trail and I'm sure you'll see a difference!

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  11. Wow, that sounds just awful and so happy you both made it back in one piece.

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    1. Thanks. :) I'm glad we did, too. I've seriously never seen my horse worked up that much and that freaked me out.

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    1. I agree with everyone above. That group has AWFUL trail etiquette. Karen and Carly are 100% right: you ride as slowly as the slowest person/horse in the group! You absolutely do NOT leave others behind!
      I lead whenever we go on the trails because I'm the most experienced rider and Lily is now the calmest horse. Just because we can trot and canter for 7 miles straight if we want to, doesn't mean we're going to if our most timid rider in the group feels safer walking. If that's the case, we walk. It's just basic trail riding etiquette.

      I'm glad both you and Archie made it back in one piece, but I could feel my pulse accelerating just reading your post. Wow. That could have ended so, so badly; you could have both been hurt. I would have been LIVID at the end of that ride. Agree with the others: form your own group, especially while Archie develops more endurance/becomes more experienced on the trail. I'm glad the other TB rider is willing to go out with you on a one-on-one basis.

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  13. Sounds like the trail from hell- but makes for a great story! I giggled when the gaited horses rode off into the sunset never to be seen again.

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  14. Yeah...piss poor etiquette. Kudos to your kid for keeping up as well as he did though! That's quite the lengthy ride for a newbie on the trails!

    Riding with gaited horses is difficult unless you have a horse that is conditioned well that has a big trot. If you ride often with gaited horses, an ungaited horse will sometimes teach himself to gait (I have a lot of friends in TN/NC that experience this). The whole gaited/racking community on the trails is a different culture, you got that right in comments above! There are the mosey along-ers and those who love the thrill of speed (which it sounds like you have these). I'm always baffled at how zippy they get on the trails. I guess if I had a horse that I trusted that much that could move out like they do I'd like it, too!

    And omg >20mph. I can't remember the last time I did that on a horse. Its been so long since I've TRUSTED a horse to let them do that! Crazzzzzzzzy awesome.

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