Well, we had our first trail ride today. Talk about an EPIC WIN!!!! :-D
I just have to say that I have the most AMAZING horse, EVER!!! We went on a three hour trail ride (it wasn't anything too strenuous) and Aires did amazingly well. I hand-walked him across the highway when we started out because we were both a little nervous. When we got to the actual trail, he was a bit hesitant about his footing, but just kept plodding along. Anyway, we got to this one part where there's a rather large outcropping of granite in the middle of the trail. There's three ways to get up it and my friend, who we were riding with (she was riding CJ, her arab gelding, who is Aires' "best friend"), went up the middle way (the portion on the left used to be blocked by a downed tree and the portion on the right is bigger and steeper). Aires did NOT want to go up the way CJ went, so he decided he was going to turn around and go back. We argued about it for a few minutes, then finally my friend brought CJ back down when she realized the way on the left was open again (it's not as steep and the rocks aren't quite as big) and went up the way on the left ahead of us. Aires decided that it must be okay if CJ did it, so I won the argument and we followed CJ up, except Aires took a bit of a detour over a rather large bush. lol So, we kept going and Aires just kept getting more and more confident...and so did I! Anyway, we went as far as the trail split where it goes to a local lake, then turned around. On the way back, we encountered three other horses (one from our barn) and Aires was like "Meh. Whatever." We stopped for a few minutes at some corrals, which were about 1/3 of the way back, and stretched our legs. Scrambled back into the saddle and we were off again. Aires was walking out REALLY well and taking these HUGE ground-devouring strides, but it was funny 'cuz it made the ride a little "bumpy" (still smooth, but very up and down) when he went down hills. So, we got back to where the trail forks for the first time and decided to take the little bit longer way back. We were on the downhill, heading back toward the main trail and it got kinda rocky, which Aires didn't like. So, since I was letting him choose his own way, he decided to go off-roading...which ended up being a not-so-bright idea. lol He somehow managed to drag me through a juniper tree! Really, the only thing that kept me in the saddle was the poleys and the high cantle. lol Ended up with all sorts of branches and bits down my shirt.
Anywho, the rest of the ride was great, but my right stirrup was turned funny or something 'cuz by the time we were almost back to the barn my legs were NUMB! lol So, I dismounted and walked back to the barn 'cuz there was some serious numbness/pain going on.
Anyway, we had a blast and I rode Aires on a loose rein for the majority of the ride. Loose rein as in just holding it by the buckle (I ride with English reins). We even trotted a couple of times and he settled right back down into a walk when I asked him to.