Zephyr and I did ~22 miles today, out-and-back on a trail that goes from our backyard to the General Store in the next town over. The Exeter General Store is very very old... dates from back when there were only two places for anyone in Exeter/Corinth to shop. You could buy your groceries, fabric for clothes, and supplies to build a house all in one place. Note the tie rings and bucket ring along the rail at the bottom right corner. Still a favorite stop today for horseback riders!
We'd ridden the first half of the trail last week, and the second half yesterday. Today we put the two halves together.
This photo makes the sky look a lot more dramatic than it was. Today's weather was perfect for riding. 70s, and blue skies except for right between us and the sun. Most of the time we were riding in cloud-shade. Very very nice.
The best thing about this trail is that it only contains 1000' of paved road! We leave from our backyard and ride a couple miles through the woods, first on our own private trails and then on the historic road that used to carry horses and wagons across town. There's a nice stream crossing.
At the other end of the woods road we come to a paved road, which we follow for 300' before hitting an ATV trail network. This trail consists of potato and corn fields connected by short lengths of woods trails.
There are a couple of bridges that aren't passable by horses, but there are easy go-rounds. This one takes you right through a lovely little stream.
There's a second section of paved road, about 700' this time, but the shoulders are wide, sandy, and level, and the traffic isn't bad.
The trail beyond this blockage is another bridge go-round for horses. This particular bridge is VERY scary looking and I was thrilled to find the alternate trail.
The bridge... I told you it was scary!!!!!
These potato fields are ready to harvest. Nice view too!
There are a TON of corn fields along this trail, and if you pay attention the views are great!
This bridge is actually horse safe. There are 3-4 supports underneath, and the center planks are plenty wide enough for a horse to walk on.
Then there's a section where you can either ride dirt road if you want to move out a little, or you can wind around the edge of the field next to it on the trail. Don't know if you can see him but I snapped a picture of a fox as he crossed the road ahead of us.
We were riding through a potato field when we came to a corner where, yesterday, there had been a pile of logs and a pickup truck on the other side of the corner. We were trotting along nicely when he started to slow to a walk because he remembered that yesterday there had been something scary around the corner. I urged him back into a trot.
Unfortunately, when we came around the corner, there was a DIFFERENT something-scary.
He spooked sideways away from it, and VERY unfortunately the trail on that corner was worn down, leaving a rutted edge that caught his feet. Over he went onto his left side, and off I came. I rolled clear, and both of us got up right away. Both of us were dirty but there were no obvious injuries to either of us. I walked him on foot for quite a ways, then got on and walked a while longer. Finally trotted ... he was fine. If he hadn't been, I was prepared to walk him all the way home along pavement, as we were essentially right around the corner from home (and only 5mi by pavement). It was 10 miles home by trail. I had one other opportunity to decide to walk him home by pavement, at the 5mi mark... but he was still fine so we continued on trail.
About 3 miles from home, I just decided to let him walk unless he offered to do more. He didn't offer. I know I was getting stiff from the fall so maybe he was too.
After the Northeast Challenge 30, I had thought I might take Zephyr to the Maynesboro Stud 50 on next Saturday September 15. But today I decided not to. I could take him and he might be fine. But he might not. Even before we fell he wasn't acting like a horse who wanted to go run 50 miles in the mountains of New Hampshire. The final decision came when I asked myself... if this wasn't a one-time-only ride, would I even consider taking him?
The answer is no, I don't feel in my heart that either of us is ready for a 50 right now.
Maybe next year, IF I'm able to start fitting him up in the early spring (or better yet, ride all winter to keep him fit).
Or, maybe not. He's 16 this year and we've been out of distance riding for 3 years. I'm at a time and place in my life when I want to be home more than I ever have before. I honestly think that I could be OK with him never doing another 50- or 100-mile ride. He's got nothing left to prove to me, or even to the world. He's an amazing, once-in a lifetime horse, and his health is way more important than any event that I might ever take him to. If we go to some distance rides now and then, great. If not, we can keep doing mounted search and rescue, parades, pleasure rides, a show now and then, and maybe even try a little team penning just for fun.
We'll just have to wait and see.