If you don't like reading about the horse stuff, skip this one!
Today was the big ride, Shylah's first trail ride. I went with W and K, riding Missy and Shailah. How totally weird is it that there where two "Shylahs"?! The other one, a big black TB, is spelled different, but it was confusing so we just called them Big Shailah and Little Shylah... mine of course being the little one, at only about 14.2 hands.
We got out to the American River Parkway near Cal Expo and were saddled and up shortly before 11. The horse trail, for some places, is a dirt trail, but in other places (either because it's overgrown or because of construction) it shares the bike trail. So this was heavy duty bike exposure, which was a little overwhelming. Shylah was fairly concerned about them at first, and we did have a few incidents of ending up sideways across the trail with cyclists skidding to a stop on either side. I apologized profusely and nobody seemed too terribly irritated, but I'm sure they were miffed. By the end she was relatively okay with bikes, though she seemed to want to watch them all, whereas the other horses paid no attention, having done this before. She was definitely better with bikes approaching from the front versus coming up from behind. Note to cyclists, if you are approaching a horse from behind, SAY SOMETHING. Your stealth-bikes are very silent, and my fruitcake horse may be daydreaming about carrots and not know you are there until you are right on top of her. All you gotta do is yell out "bike! On your left!" and the horse will know you are there be much less inclined to end up half way across the path having a heart attack. Everybody starts with training wheels... even a perfect trail horse starts somewhere, and the first ride might not be perfect.
She's really not a spooky horse though, and it was pretty easy to handle the things that did scare her. There were some logs that might have been bears, and a couple of dogs that could have been lions. She got quite a workout. We went 6 miles, some dirt, some paved, some up hill, some down hill (hill? What's a hill? We don't have those here!) and also out in the water, which she went into without any hesitation. She liked the water, it was fun to play with. We stopped there and tied the horses to trees and ate a picnic lunch and watched the kayakers go by (hmm, would have been odd to run into one of them while out in the water!). Something bad was going on across the river though, because right then an ambulance and fire trucks arrived, and there was a very low flying helicopter overhead. I was concerned she would freak out about the helicopter but she was too busy grazing.
She was kind of embarrasingly slower than the other horses, and I felt bad that they kept having to stop and wait. I didn't want to rush her when she was being relaxed and leisurely though, and it's hardly her fault that her legs are only like half the length of those big tall horses! ;-) She was noticeably tired by the end and really moving slowly. That's her longest ride, and the longest I've done since many years ago. So overall I think she really did well, considering her age and level of green-ness, I think she did a lot better than other horses at that level would do. She would need a lot more rides to convince her that the bikes are really okay, but it all just takes time. I'd like to be able to ride on the roads here, but I'm not sure how to approach that.. cars are big and scary and if I end up in the middle of the road they can't stop fast like the cyclists can! W and K were really impressed with her, and I had a lot of fun (though I think I'm going to be pretty sore tomorrow). She's a good kid, and I'm looking forward to the week of trail adventures up north! Probably not going to run into a lot of bikes up there. Bears, perhaps...
Anyway, wish I had pics but nobody brought a camera and it would have been hard anyway, I had two hands on the reins at all times!
I have to get up in 5 hours to take 59 birds to auction, so I'd better hit the hay. Stupid spell check isn't working, I'll proof read as best I can...