This past weekend Owen and I took Rizzo and Note to Jack's Gulch up in Poudre Canyon for a long weekend of trail riding. As usual Owen ran on foot, and I rode. Rizzo stuck right with us for all 26 miles over the weekend!
Thursday we arrived and got settled in, and Note had a wild temper tantrum in his stall/paddock because he thought this was the strangest horse race to which he'd ever been hauled. He eventually gave it up and decided to eat his hay bag instead. The next morning we got up early and I tacked Note for the day's ride. He began the ride doing airs above ground, excited and cantankerous and ready to argue with me over every shadow and small puddle he needed to pass. This included rearing up, spinning around, and double-barrel kicking at nothing in particular.
Due to a small error on my part where we went right instead of left at one of the intersections after the trailhead, our first day trip ended up being much longer than we had planned. It consisted of extremely rocky terrain with steep hills, drop-offs, water crossings, bridges, and excessive mud (I dismounted to get Note through it and sunk up to my knee!). However, by the end of the nearly three hour ride over thirteen miles Note was truly mentally and physically tired. He would casually glance at a shadow and walk past. He'd notice a puddle and avoid it. He actually stood, tired, and ate his mash and hay quietly once we returned to camp!
Saturday we did a shorter, six mile, ride to the three main water crossings through the river which was quite low. I practiced going in and out of the water with Note, as well as walking around in the water. The first dozen or so attempts at water I ended up backing him in because he had decided that he would refuse to go in the normal way. This meant I backed him down banks, over rocks, down stairs made of tree roots, over all kinds of odd entries. The hikers watching gave me odd looks, and Owen explained to them that he didn't want to go in forwards, so I took him in backwards. Backwards wasn't as scary for him since his "guns" went into the water first. After repeatedly entering and exiting the river from all angles and directions Note finally just gave it up and walked in and out like a civilized creature.
Luckily we had Rizzo to show us how it was done.
On Sunday we did one last ride in the morning before we had to leave the campsite. This one was the trail I'd originally intended to do as our first go. It had a long stretch of good footing, where we could trot and canter with logs down all over the trail. It essentially looked like one of the complicated gymnastics I set up in the arena at home, with logs shaped like ground poles and small jumps at all angles. Note had some really nice footwork, trotting through some and bouncing through at the canter at others. He seemed relieved to have something familiar to do! There was one other spot with a larger fallen tree across the trail, which required Note to actually canter and jump it. He seemed so pleased and confident going over something he'd seen before at home. As a bonus, this last ride also went through all the same water crossings we'd done the previous days, so he had another chance to do it forwards.
This trip was a blast. Note really needed the long trail with extreme technicality to realize that he should ration his energy and skip the temper tantrums. I wouldn't usually ride a horse this hard when they are new to trail riding, but Note has never been a usual horse. This worked out really well and now I can officially say Note is another Mountain Thoroughbred!