Thursday, December 5, 2013

trail twice traveled

glorious december at the lost lake

Major and I headed out for a weekend ride. We had already zoomed around the day before at the lake, with varying degrees of good behavior, so today was just a putz around in the forest day.

I took a slightly roundabout way out: there were some trail riders ahead of me, but they were moseying along. Even on a quiet day Major still wants to go, so we left the staging area on the straight trail, then veered right, crossed the canter road and up a steep unused trail. We've only done this trail a couple times (including the time I was handwalking and saw two baby bear cubs with no mama in sight, that was a quick trip that day!).

Inspiration Point: always lovely

We continued to meander the forest, ridiculously charging up Inspiration Point, Major always wanting to turn for home, me turning him the opposite direction. But he was good, and I let him pick the speed mostly.

Then we turned for home, and I let him pick the course. This is fascinating, if you haven't done this with your horse, do it. I did make him mostly maintain a trot, but we left Inspiration Point and took the trail back towards the cougar rock. That I expected. Then Major chose to cross the main wide trail, and keep going…did he want to keep riding? No, he went straight for about 300 yards, turned on a small offshoot we often take, and headed home. OK.

Then the next weird thing: we cantered the next corner and almost always turn right and down the hill. But Major turned left, down the opposite way of the shortest distance home, and found the tiny trail we'd come up the hill on! It is almost impossible to find the turnoff from this direction in the dry grass. We haven't gone down this trail, ever I don't think. But he brought us right back to it, though there were shorter options home.

unused trail, except now by us!

At the bottom he did make his usual odd decision: turn left and go up and down the butt burner hill instead of the shorter, straight trail directly back to the staging area. I did alter his decision-making a bit when he thought we should practice our downhill cantering skills. I was inclined to disagree, so after a little argument on the hill, (Yes, you can back up the hill. No? Yes! And then you CAN circle over rocks and bushes. Good boy!) we walked into the staging area quietly.

I was fascinated by Major's decisions. Not always the shortest route, definitely not the easiest route. He knows all the trails in the forest, so he was not confused or lost. He chose that unusual trail back, but then his favorite trail after that.

I think this is a fun experiment. I may try this winter to continue this test, on shorter rides pick an unusual trail out and see what happens. Anyone read the short Stephen King story Mrs. Todd's Shortcut? One of my favorites. Who knows where we will end up.


  1. I love your adventures with Major. He has such a personality that shines right through your writing. I hope someday we can ride together though I may have to bring Blaze to keep up! :-)

  2. That first photo is stunning.

  3. Major makes far better decisions than Q. She is always inclined to go straight through dense forest on a very steep slope, up or down. BARN. BOYS. NEED. Wish we could ride with you and Major!!