lately, auto and i have been logging many road miles. in an effort to get him legged up, reacquaint ourselves to a partnership under saddle, and just get the hell out of the barn, we’ve taken to exploring the paved roads around NSCS. by my estimation, we traveled 30 miles (!) in may, mostly on our own, but sometimes with company.
our road hacking adventures have been mostly happy, but we have had a few harrowing moments involving four-wheeled autos. sunday’s hack was our longest distance to date at 5.63 miles, and i found myself reflecting on the virtues of the humble road hack.
- texas is gorgeous right now. the fields are green, the air temperature is moderate, and the wildlife is thriving. on our hack yesterday, i saw a black-tailed hare, a water moccasin, frogs, and a few scissor-tailed fly catchers. thankfully the water moccasin returned to his watery depths before we had to cross the bridge he was using to sunbathe. i really need to gopro my helmet to record more pics and vids.
- paved roads are such a great option for getting out. our arenas are quicksand, and any long stretches of ground are still too soft for auto’s rehab. and, since the grass along the road shoulder is knee-high (not joking) and literally littered with aluminum cans and glass bottles (what the hell is wrong with people?), i’m unwilling to walk on the shoulder. that’s OK, though, the pavement is perfect–level, solid, and dry.
- most drivers are thoughtful, some are decidedly not. our roads are two lane country roads with ample room for swinging wide to a pass a horse or cyclist. most drivers have been very considerate, but there have certainly been a handful of assholes. accelerating to 45 mph (or more) while passing a horse is not a kind way to share the road. and cyclists: please announce yourselves if you come up from behind. it’s not always possible to hear your approach. auto was weirdly spooking at oncoming cars, but not cars passing from behind. on sunday’s hack, his reactions were much quieter than they had been, and i was very pleased.
- effective and engaged riding at the walk is toning my core. auto has a really nice, big walk. i can visibly see (and feel) the difference in his gait in response to an active, following hip rather than a still and unmoving body. on sunday i started to think of riding the walk as akin to belly dancing. during these walks i’ve also been able to concentrate on the positioning of my upper body (~10 degrees behind the vertical, please) and maintaining my upper arm parallel to my side and following elbow.
- auto is learning to stretch his neck forward and down, rather than giraffe. in addition to getting him legged up, these long walks (including up and down hills of varying grade) are really encouraging and reinforcing his stretching. i’m most pleased to see that even when he’s a bit fatigued and climbing the steepest hill, he’s still reaching forward through his neck and covering ground. i’m not sure if i see any difference in his back musculature yet, but i’m hopeful that his strength is increasing and we can carry the stretch into our trot work.
- let’s be honest, i’m too apprehensive to trot. we have been cleared for trotting for a few weeks now, but i’m too apprehensive. other than his dramatics in reaction to leg pressure at the girth, i never felt him take an off-step. so, at this moment, i’m not willing to trot without “eyes on the ground” and perfect footing. i expect perfect footing is a long way off, so i’m happy to keep on keepin’ on at the walk.