I have been doing a lot of soul searching lately about my purpose for riding. I don't own my own horse, but do have a nice "free lease" situation for the time being. I have access to an indoor arena, I ride what you would probably call dressage (though very low level), and have no interest or desire for showing.
I've been thinking lately that while I love just being around horses generally, and almost always find my time at the barn refreshing, the actual hour or so I spend riding 4-5 times a week is getting pretty boring. I do lots of things to make riding in the indoor as interesting as possible, but I don't feel like I'm really improving that much and don't know what else to do to make things more interesting.
What I've really been wanting for the past year or so is access to a good system of trails, and I'm really intrigued by the idea of long-distance rides, though my only experience with that was a 3-day horse trekking trip through Ireland that I dragged my poor husband on when we got married 6 years ago.
After that long intro, I'm wondering if forum members, particularly those in the Northeastern US, might weigh in on the following:
1. Without my own horse, how would I go about finding barns/rides that focus on long-distance outings that are more than the dude ranch, walk-the-nice-horse-on-the-trail sort of situation?
2. Any advice on finding someone who has a horse for lease that could do this sort of work?
3. When you do this kind of riding, how important is it to always go out with companions? How have people made connections to other folks who want this kind of riding?
4. How does someone used to riding laps around an arena prepare/train for this type of riding?
5. Are there particular locations in the Northeast that are known for these kinds of experiences?
I really appreciate any and all advice. I'm here to learn what I can about shifting the way I think about riding and very open to your suggestions.