Today I took my horse out for the first trail ride of the year!! Yesterday I prepped him a bit by hand walking him down the trails, checking them for footing quality, and making sure he was confident and sure-footed enough to have a good time. Spent about 20 minutes out yesterday hand walking, and boy were my legs tired! My mind immediately thought "wow, this is gonna be a great workout for his back!"
So today I rode him in the arena, then hand walked him on the trail for about 5 minutes, and then got on. Since I was already out on the trail I had to find a suitable mounting point. I decided to walk out to the Cross Country course and use a jump as a mounting block! That worked okay... But then I realized I had made a mistake and set my horse up for too big of a challenge: 1. the only way to head was home and 2. it was uphill from there. Since he wasn't completely sure of himself yet, he wanted to rush up the hill, which made him slip a little here and there and that made him (and me) nervous. So I found a flat spot to get his brain back to me, and hopped off. Hand walked up to the barn and grabbed the mounting block. Let's try this again, shall we?
We walked on the trail for ... maybe 30 minutes. Long enough for him to feel the burn, but not long enough that he got bored. First obstacle we were met with was some cinder blocks. He pricked his ears at them, but didn't shy. Next was a bit of a tight squeeze through some thorn bushes. He was not nervous until some hit the side of my insulated winter boots with a scritchy scratchy noise. One nervous step and he was easily reassured "You're fine big boy, walk on."
We continued in this manner snaking around the flat trails, making lots of nice hoof prints in the snow. It was so nice to just walk around outside, listen to nature, really connect with my horse, hear his breath, feel his thoughts. It will get better also, when we don't have snowmobiles to occupy the back burner of my brain. :)
Next Step: hills.