I tossed the saddle back on Bentley, ready for another 6 miles of riding. That’s when Solstice asked me: You know how to pony right? Uhhh… I hadn’t realized that sponsoring Serina meant I was ponying. However, I am always game to try, and Bentley seemed to be calm and willing that day. We practiced a little bit in start area, and Bentley didn’t seem to notice or care.
Sue came over and told us that Serina had to be out front. This made Serina very nervous. Sue did confirm we were allowed to pony, and she didnt have to be in “front” so much as I was not allowed to pull her along. We agreed that it was Serena’s job to keep Liza forward and maintain a nice swing in the lead rope at all times, but it would stay there in case of emergency.
The trail opened and we picked our spot at the back of the pack. Liza wasn’t eager to trot along the road for the start of the trail, so we stayed back and walked gingerly. We started to trot once we hit the trail, and Serina did her best to kick Lazy Liza on.
We actually passed a horse on trail (which I don’t think Serina had done before) and were no longer in last place. We practiced letting Serina back behind on the single track trail, and bringing Liza back beside us on the double track trail. We practiced trotting down very subtle grade hill, and up the hills too. Serina said it was the most she had ever trotted at any ride.
At one point we came up behind Rob, who was running at a pace well suited to us and we continued on with him for a while. Then we came to a turn and saw them: four wheelers! Motorized vehicles are not allowed in the Dufferin forest, and Serina got pretty worried when she saw them. Rob ran ahead to give them a piece of his mind (to make matters worse, I had seen them in the Set Speed, then they later drove through camp, and had already been told once they were not welcome on the trails). I reminded Serina to stay calm, hoped for the best – not sure if I was prepared to handle both horses in the trees if they freaked out. Thankfully Rob, got them off trail and we didn’t have to pass them too closely. Crisis averted!
We rode into the vet check and Serina’s father rode his mandatory 2 steps before tying. Bentley actually took longer to pulse down than Liza. His trot is enormous, much larger than Liza’s, so through the whole 3.5 miles, I had been holding him in tight. He took that as a cue to ride in a nice round dressage frame and very collected… much harder than just letting him go!
We vetted through and continued on, passing Serina’s father early, and trotting on. Before the end of the ride, Serina was actually asking ME if we could trot (rather than me saying “ok, its trot time!”). We even tried a bit of canter when the trail opened up nicely. We crossed the finish line in her fastest time yet.
Very successful. She was so happy, and so was I to see how well Bentley took to the ponying. This opens up a lot of possibilities and gives me all sorts of fun ideas for training over the winter!
Bentley still felt nice and fresh too, so we decided to continue with plans to do the 50 the next day… to be continued in Part 3!