One of my friends from the draft under saddle club that I am involved with contacted the group that had gone on OUR club's first trail ride a few weeks ago to see if we were interested on going on the "Fall Colours Classic Country Trail Ride"...
Let me say that I have no perception. I could be standing in line for something for an hour and think I have only been there ten minutes if I don't have a clock to look at or vice versa. I also have no concept of what a mile looks like or feels like to travel nor could I appropriately guesstimate something at an inch or a foot or a yard. So, being told that the ride was 18km meant little to nothing to me. There were no warning signs that said "Do not attempt this if your horse is not in top shape!" nor were there any "don't forget your seat saver!" memos sent out. What I read said it would take 2-3 hours.
I guess I wasn't sure what to expect - on our ride before, we had gone as a group (there were only nine of us) and with the exception of two who broke off and went ahead, we stayed together the whole time. The path was pretty obvious and we had someone leading who knew where they were going.
At this ride, we left in groups (it felt kind of like The Amazing Race) after being prepped in the house and given a map. As we tacked up and were ready, groups left together. I rode with the friend who had invited me, one of my mom's clients, and another girl that had come on our draft ride - there were a couple of others - we were six in all.
Bearing in mind that this was only Bronwyn's second group trail ride ever, we set off single file into some tight woods. It was all pretty good - helmets are good for things besides protecting your head in a fall - they are also very excellent protectors against bushes and branches whipping you in the head... if you can put your face down in time!
We were warned that there was 'some water' on the trail... there turned out to be quite a few large puddles (would have been perfect for mudding on an ATV!) and a wee bit of running water. If I had been riding any one of the many stock horses I grew up riding, I would have still been back at the beginning of the ride trying to work through them but fortunately, Bronwyn doesn't seem to have much of a problem with water so she plowed through - in fact, I am surprised she didn't have gills and flippers when we got back!
We were also told that the trail actually tracked out at 15km. Our small group of six were overtaken by another group that passed us and with them, we lost our other draft club girl and her friend she had brought along so it was just my mom's client on her QH, her sister also on a QH and my friend on her Newfoundland pony for the majority of the ride.
We took a wrong turn SOMEWHERE and ended up on trail for about 4 hours. I am willing to bet we traveled 18km (or more) and we were all so sore on our bums that we were riding in two point position or (my personal favourite and my invention) the "dead man carry" in which I basically laid over my horse's neck to relieve the pressure on my bum. I also went about 1/4 of the ride with my feet out of the stirrups because my knees hurt and at some points sitting with my bum tucked under and my knees up by the pommel of the saddle like a jockey just to get them moving. There were also a few one-handed back stretches to try and keep my body functioning.
Despite my best efforts, when I dismounted, I was in a permanent crouching position and straightening to walk was pretty painful. Fortunately, when we got back to the house, they had waited for us to eat and we were plied with delicious chilli, salad and CAKE!
(The frosting was delicious!)
Overall, it was great exposure for Bronwyn. We walked the entire trail so while I am sure it was a strain on her, she seemed fine this morning and I am reasonably sure that I am the one who got the majority of the stiffness this morning. She went through lots of water, into some tight spots, heard gunshots, traveled close with other horses, through varied terrain - up hills and down, and overall, despite a couple of I-can't-believe-you-can't-just-trot-and-still-pay-attention-to-me moments, we had a wonderful experience and will, no doubt, return for next year's rendition!