I know you don't know where that is, but it's our go-to spot on hottish summer days or foggy winter days. It's a wide, dirt road that climbs out of the valley up to 4,000ish feet. It's lined with oak trees and later, fir and pine. On hot days the temperatures are slightly cooler, and in the winter, the road takes us up out of the dense valley fog for sunshine and blue sky. The footing is excellent, especially in the winter months when the valley floor can get a bit soggy. It had been at least a year since last we made the trek.
Things didn't go quite the way we planned, but it was a lovely ride anyway. You see, after schooling Speedy G the day before, I pulled his saddle in the arena and turned him loose. I do this all the time and he knows the drill. He waits quietly as I pull the saddle, and later the bridle. He ambles to his roll spot, does his thing, and IF he feels like it, he gets out some bucks and wiggles. He has a bad habit of overreaching with his hinds when he does a full gallop and tends to nick his coronet bands in front if I don't add bell boots. Didn't add the bell boots. Coronet band got nicked. Except it's worse than a nick. It's actually a pretty good slice. I scrubbed it clean, added some scarlet oil, and put him in his stall. NOTE TO SELF: Do not forget bell boots EVER again!
I looked it over before riding, and thought it looked fine. He was walking out happily and nothing seemed amiss. After a nice long warm up, he came up a bit ouchy at the trot. He would trot with some wincey steps, then trot on nicely for a bit, but every time we stopped to walk he gave some clear OUCH steps, especially on the downhill. When we got back to the trailer, I scrubbed it again and saw that the slice actually goes behind the very tippy-top of the hoof wall. The skin was bulging ever so slightly, and it was tender to the touch (sorry no photo). Even so, he did an amazing job the two hours we rode and had a lovely, long-strided walk that covered a ton of ground. He wasn't too sore to walk, and he actually seemed to quite enjoy the change of scenery.
But how is this dressage on the trail? With nowhere to go but forward, it's easy to work on leg yielding, softening, etc. And that's what we did. I was riding in my endurance saddle and Mikmar combination bit, which looks NOTHING like an approved dressage bit, but that didn't stop us. As we ambled up the road, I got a good rhythm going in my legs and sent him forward at a nice marching walk. Once we passed Taz, he dropped his neck low, and REALLY started reaching under himself to power walk. And when Taz would pass us, Speedy would tuck in behind and let Taz try to pull him along. Nope, no can do.
I put my leg on and gave him a push, push, push all the way across the road to the other side. When he tried to drift back, I just legged him again. And since we were always heading forward along the road, it was all about staying straight. Taz's mom gave an approving nod at how round he was as he marched along. He was genuinely reaching for the contact and working from his rear end over his back. I think it's been a while since we've done so much walking.
And so even though he had an ouchy wound, it didn't preclude him from some excellent power walking. We did some slow trot work and even some canter stretches until he said ouch one too many times. After that it was all walk.
It was a great day for working on the free walk. Dressage on the trail ... fun and practical.