After a super hot Summer, I recently got to get out on the trails again. Bear and Piper kept each other company at home while Shiloh and I met friends for a trail ride at a local multi-use trail.
I used to enjoy riding my gaited ponies, Bear and Spice, on these same trails back in the day. In fact, if you read my Riding With The Rain post, you will already have seen photos of the trail and of my friend, Vicki, and her Appaloosa mare, Warsong.
I had not ridden with them since that rainy ride back in 2014, so it was a real treat to hit the trails together once again.
I was actually supposed to meet with them the week before, but a stomach ache (perhaps brought on by nerves?) kept me from joining them. Ever the experienced trail rider, Vicki took her horse on a successful solo jaunt around the park!
I was nervous the second week, but didn’t feel ill, so I actually made it to the trailhead this time. Per my request, we kept the ride short. Maybe 40 minutes or so, traveling about a third of the trail.
Shiloh loaded well and traveled pretty quietly. I only heard him whiny once from the trailer. I’ve noticed he’s talkative when we travel without Bear, wanting to make contact with any horses he sees or gets the scent of.
At the park, Shiloh unloaded well. He stood well at the trailer and was still for me to mount. We then took the lead position out of the parking lot and onto the trail. Shiloh was tense and “looky” as we headed out, but didn’t do anything dramatic.
I got to practice my deep breathing, being conscious not to strangle Shiloh with the reins. I also tried to envision how I wanted him to go (back relaxed, head down and in front of shoulders), rather than imagining disaster scenarios. It’s unfortunately my default thinking pattern when I am nervous. Something I constantly fight to one degree or another.
At certain points, Shiloh relaxed quite nicely, and I took the opportunity to get some video clips like the one below.
The part of the trail we rode is flanked by woods and a river on one side with open prairie on the other. At my favorite part, the trail snakes and winds through woods. As I mentioned, it is a multi-use trail, so you never quite know who or what you will encounter.
Shiloh gave some things the side eye but walked pasted it all. I know from previous experience that the information posts (describing animals and fauna) and standing swing sets along the trails (for hikers to rest) can be frightening for some horses. You can see the edge of the info post in the photo here. Shiloh’s ears are pointed right at it.
We briefly chatted with a walker on foot as she kindly moved over to let us pass. We saw a large family with children playing in a tree. Shiloh had to raise his head to get a gander.
We managed to bypass confronting a large group of walkers by taking a path around them. Vicki had encountered this same group of young students the week before while she ventured out alone. I’m guessing the group consisted of at least twenty. They took up the full trail width as they walked along. Vicki told me Warsong didn’t mind the swarm of people and acted as a wonderful horse ambassador as they came up to pet her.
I, however, wasn’t confident about Shiloh’s ability (or mine) to stay calm in that situation. So when we started to come around the corner and saw the group, I also noticed a little side trail that would allow us to avoid a head-on collision. I sent up a grateful prayer, thankful for this detour opportunity presenting itself at just the right time.
The only real bobble came on the trail bridge. Shiloh was still leading at that point and stepped onto the wooden bridge beautifully. I had a big smile on my face and was about to pour gator aid all over myself for being such a spectacular horseman, navigating this potentially tricky obstacle. Shiloh then quickly came to an abrupt halt and froze.
I suddenly saw that he and I were making a huge shadow across the bridge. I think he decided a big black hole had appeared in the bridge out of no where. He was now concerned about his footing. But who knows?
Actually, the shadow would have made a really cool photo as you could see our outlines perfectly straight in front of us. But this was no time to whip out my phone.
I asked Shiloh to go forward again. His answer was to back up. Vicki had already entered the bridge behind us and had to hustle back as well. A tense moment, but it didn’t get any worse than that. We were all able to get off the bridge safely, if somewhat awkwardly.
Vicki and Warsong immediately took the lead and Shiloh followed her horse over the bridge like he does it every day. Picture me breathing a sigh of relief. Thanks, Vicki!
Since I didn’t get a photo of Shiloh and I on the bridge, here’s a photo of that same bridge, taken over 10 years ago. I had to dig through my ancient scrapbooks to find it. That’s me and my old pony, Pumpkin Spice.
You can see how narrow the bridge is. What you can’t see very well is how high it is raised up off the ground. Since I am not an eventer and Shiloh is not used to negotiating drops, I am happy we avoided jumping off the side!
After the bridge, Warsong and Vicki continued to lead us safely back to the trailhead. Here’s a little video clip of what the trail looks like as you move further away from the woods and back towards the parking lot.
Many thanks to my friend Vicki and her trusty trail mount, Warsong, for allowing me to get in some more trail time with Shiloh. Can you believe Warsong is 23-y-o? What a wonderful job Vicki has done of caring for her all these years and developing a great partnership. And isn’t her coat pattern spectacular? I think Warsong and Shiloh make a fun, colorful pair.
Thank you also to my husband for tagging along for moral support. He drove separately and hiked on foot in a different section while Vicki and I rode, but I appreciated having him as a nearby safety blanket in case I needed help.
Last but certainly not least, thank you to Shiloh. Hopefully the 101 horse cookies he got made the point that I was grateful for the opportunity to safely travel the trails with him once more.