Dancer (my horse/avatar) and I were invited to ride along as well. I was pleased that we were invited, but if most of you remember our story, I've been half afraid to ride Dancer because I am so large - I don't want to hurt her!) so I was at the point of declining when the trainer said she thought Dancer had gained enough weight and muscle (long story, there) for a short ride. I decided to accept, and even with all that went wrong, I really do NOT regret it!
We rode at Prague Lake's equestrian trails. Daughter had told me they were nice and level. I thought she meant flat, straight riding...boy was I wrong! The trails were lovely, and the morning was relatively cool for late June in Oklahoma (hottest June EVER!). Dancer hopped right up in the trailer when we got ready to head over, so I took it as a good sign (when we first got her she was a bugger to load, but I don't stand for that nonsense, and now she loads like an angel...most of the time). I know her previous owner said Dancer had never been ridden anywhere but in her pasture, so I was a little concerned about how she would handle a crowd. Our original small group blossomed into 15 riders by the time we were all ready to ride. Dancer took a little pursuading to line up at the mounting block for me, but with daughter's help, we got Dancer positioned without any fuss and she stood like a rock for me to mount. Daughter figured I would chicken out at the mounting block, but I proved her wrong!
Dancer and I stood at the trail head and watched the horses walking past us. Daughter road with the front riders, leaving Dancer and I to figure out whether we would actually follow or not. Dancer decided it looked like fun I guess, because it didn't take any urging to get her on the trail - we were in the middle of the pack. Dancer behaved herself - walkiing along at a perfect pace - not too fast (the lead riders were on Paso Finos, and we managed not to fall behind too much) and not so slow that the riders behind us got impatient. She walked along with her head up - looking around - didn't even flinch when some birds flew right in front of us (missed us by a couple of inches - the birds were fighting/argueing with each other). She did watch a deer standing off in the woods, but she kept on moving.
Some of the horses in the group were not behaving well at all - all but three of the horses in our group were mares, and I swear most of the mares were in heat! There was a lot of nipping and kicking going on. Fortunately for me, Dancer didn't take part in that! Daughter's mare kicked the snot out of another horse that kept bumping into her rump. Under trail riding etiquette, I don't know which was worse, the kicking or the constant bumping from the horse behind her. Nutmeg kept flattening her ears at the other mare, then turned her head and "snapped" at her, but when those warnings didn't work, she let fly with both heels. The other horse caught one in the nose, but wasn't seriously hurt - just a scrape on her nose. I told daughter we need to braid a red ribbon into her tail on the next ride. Maybe a green one, too?
The trails at this lake have "obstacles" scattered along the trail. They are set back from the trail so you don't have to mess with them if you don't want to. (The obstacles are in addition to the ravines and creek crossings that daughter deliberately failed to mention.) I figured I'd see if Dancer would go over/through the obstacles without any fuss. If she really didn't want to, I wouldn't push the issue. She was being really game about the whole ride - the ravines weren't particularly steep, but Dancer was carrying easily twice as much as the other horses, and she is FAR from young, and still needs to build up more muscle and strength.
The first obstacle was a wooden bridge, complete with railings. In a normal year, there would be a little bit of water running under the bridge, but it's been horribly dry. The bridge was deliberatly built to maximize the noise a wooden bridge would normally make. Some of the horses spooked and refused to cross, but my Dancer walked right over it with no hesitation!
The second obstacle was a set of "steps" that the horses walke up and down. They are horse sized and made of earth, and not very tall. Again, some horses refused it, but Dancer and I crossed with no issues.
Dancer and I on 06-25-11 trail ride at Prague Lake.jpg
The third obstacle was a "teeter totter." I didn't try to ride Dancer over the teeter totter - I wasn't comfortable with that one myself, and Dancer was starting to show her butt about that time. I should have listened to her - she was getting tired (we'd ridden about two miles by then) and with the extra weight she was carrying, we should have turned back. Our rest point was only a little further, so I thought we'd try to get there, but Dancer didn't know that her chance at rest was only a little further, and she wanted to turn around.
After she really started getting fussy (she sure has reverse down pat - but I don't think she could have bucked if she had to!), I decided to dismount and lead her for a while. Note to self: Short fat women who ride fairly tall (15HH) horses should never dismount on a slope - especially on the downhill side of the horse. My left ankle buckled and I twisted my right knee. Not a huge deal - I could walk with minimal pain, so we started off - going the wrong way, of course. I should have headed back, but stupidly thought I'd press on to the rest area. (I do need to mention that daughter stayed behind with me - I'm so glad she didn't get mad that I couldn't make the whole ride!)
We decided to turn around and head back before long, though. After we had walked about 1/2 mile, I thought we'd stop to rest (note to self - do NOT trust that daughter will remember to pick up the saddle bags with water in them!) While resting, I thought I'd try to get Dancer to flex a little for me. She did okay, but I wasn't paying enough attention, and when she stepped backward a bit, she stepped on top of my left foot. Ouch! Again, not a major injury. After walking a few steps, the pain subsided to a dull throb and we walked on back the trail a ways.