It’s been about ten years since I’ve had the chance to ride at the Green Mountain Horse Association (GMHA). The last time I was here, I’d just gotten Freedom and still had my Trakehner, Kroni. I remembered endless miles of beautiful trails with incredible views. And I remembered the hills.
Riding in Vermont is not like riding in Lincoln or Concord. Sure, I have some great loop rides that cover a reasonable amount of territory — six, eight, even ten miles. But those are flat miles! Six miles here is a completely different experience. And they are tough going up and coming down.
This year I brought Zelda. I don’t think she’d ever seen trails like these. She’s a pretty good sport about going up the hills, but going down has caused her some concern. I’ve tried to keep her off of the really steep hills until she learns to balance herself better. The first time I took Freedom down a pretty technical trail he got so flummoxed that he literally sat down and I had to get off and lead him. Poor boy, all he knew was racing and this just blew his mind. Zelda has questioned my wisdom a few times, but generally she’s been game. A few times she’s looked longingly at the barns we ride by, perhaps hoping that one of them has an empty stall or tried to turn around and go back — not realizing we are on a loop trail — but she’s been generally brave and willing. Even when we passed the cows yesterday (the horses were all fine until one of the calves stood up) she’s been a good girl. I am grateful to have a horse that I can take out alone or with a group and have her truck along in good humor and bring me home in one piece.
I’ve tried to build the work up slowly. There’s no point in making her sore after the first rides. After all, I’m sore after the rides! My knees don’t work as well as they used to and I’ve felt quite stiff when I’ve gotten off. (Zelda says that stiff knees are nothing to complain about since she’s been hauling my butt up those hills).
Yesterday, we did quite a long ride — it was 11.6 miles in total, although I forgot to turn my tracker on right away. The loop was mostly on the trails (very little road riding) and took us through some magical woods, lovely open meadows and up into the clouds.
The ride took us about three hours. We saw several endurance horse/rider teams out riding the trails and they probably could have covered that ground considerably faster, but we were all smiling when we got back and the horses were in good shape. We were very lucky that it was a cool day. After the weeks of hot weather back at home, this was a relief.
I also love the fact that there are water troughs out along the different routes. If you’re out riding for a long time it’s really important to keep your horse hydrated. We came across one of the troughs about half way through our ride. After initially thinking the self-filling trough was too scary to approach, Zelda took the lead from her new trail friends and took a good long drink. She drank another bucket full when we got back to GMHA. And when we got back to the barn where she’s staying she drank even more!