Thursday, April 9, 2009

Cause for Celebration!

Today was the first official after-work ride of 2009. I didn't leave work early to ride, I just came home at the regular time. I was saddled up and riding out of the driveway at 6:30 with the goal of getting home between 7 and 7:15... the earlier the better because it would be all road.

Just as I got out onto the main road, which can be fairly busy and is more hilly/curvy than I like, my cell phone rang. It was my best bud Steph, who I am visiting in MN two weeks from now. I had to tell her I'd call her later because it was time to boogie... like I said it's a busy road so I didn't want to be trotting while I talked on the phone. That's just too many things to concentrate on at once!

About a mile down the road we cut into the woods on a short trail that connects my road with an intersecting one. Picture a "P" turned counter-clockwise by 90°... we started at the bottom and were about to make a right turn up into the loopy part.

There was still snow on this trail and LOTS of water. We got almost all the way out to the other side, maybe .3 of a mile, when we came across a very large downed tree. Spruce, I think. It was lying diagonally into the trail, about waist/chest high, and its very tip was just inches from a tree standing on the right side of the trail. I felt in my packs and realized my tree-cutting tools were at home. There was no easy go-around either.

Turning around would have pretty much meant scrapping this ride, so I tentatively pulled on the top of the tree to see if I could bend it out of the way. No go. From the other side it would have been easy, I could have just pushed through it, but from this side it was pointed at us on the diagonal and there was nothing for it. I would have to get off, and even then I wasn't sure it would work.

I got off, disconnected one end of the reins, and stood with my back pressed against the top of the tree. I was able to bend it far enough back to make exactly enough room for Zephyr to pass between me and the upright tree on the other side of the trail. He would, in fact, have to step right over my feet, as they were in the middle of his path so I could brace myself. After some urging, he started to go through but stopped with his butt right in front of me. I pushed on it with my thumbs, telling him to walk on, but the rein must have gotten snagged and pulled on his head. He thought he had to turn around and come back. I truly do not know how he accomplished this, as he had to bend himself in half with the front half in the spruce tree. When he turned and squeezed back past me I saw lichen had gotten tangled all through his mane!

Let's try it again, I thought, and this time I'll use the lead rope. I have a thin rope halter under his new add-on bridle, and the rope was tied up onto my pack. I quickly unknotted it, pressed my back against the treetop again, and pointed him through. This time I was more insistent with my pounding on his butt and saying WALK ON! GO STRAIGHT! GO! and this time he went. For the third time in a row, he avoided stepping on my feet as he went by.

Cool, I thought, we're on our way with just a few moments wasted. Up I got, and down the trail we went. We came out onto the next road and turned left. This road is great for trotting and cantering; it has a wide dirt shoulder that is level and has very few mailboxes. There is a gradual uphill trend, not enough to really notice but it's there. He was very forward in this stretch, offering to canter most of it.

Another left and we were back on my road. He was really starting to pull now. I didn't want him to canter because the cars drive so much faster on my road, but he was really arguing with me about it. I was glad of it, though, when a car passed us just after the next turn. It was one of those little red hatchbacks with the really loud exhaust, and it roared past at about 60mph. Yes, it moved over, but it was so loud and moving so fast that it made Z jump. I was glad we were only trotting slowly when it passed.


The remainder of the ride went quickly and well. Here's a couple pictures from afterward. I am very pleased with his condition this spring, I don't think he's ever been in such optimum weight in April before. The small-mesh hay nets I used over the winter really helped... I was able to feed less hay because the mesh slowed him down.

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