Breaking Trail

Torrin and I breaking trail a few years ago

We had a foot of snow one day earlier this week, and today Torrin and I went out to break trail around the woods loop.  This twenty minute ride is a huge therapeutic one for me as it is relatively quick, but being in the woods we often see wildlife, and it feels like we are miles away from normal life.  I last rode it on Sunday.  My sister-in-law was on Mya, and I rode Torrin.  The going was easy with just four or five inches of snow.

Torrin, a Norwegian Fjord Horse gelding, is my choice for breaking trail for many reasons.  For one, he enjoys it.  He also has lots of bone in his legs and big feet so he has the power to push through drifts, and his wake is wide enough for others to pass easily behind him.  Today, the driveway was plowed, but the berms on each side were a foot and a half to two feet in height.  Fortunately, my husband plows ‘moose exits’ to give our winter companions places to get off the road when a vehicle approaches.  Today Torrin and I used one of these exits to head out on the woods loop so that we didn’t have to jump or climb the berm.  Then we traversed an open area where there was fourteen inches of snow.  I figured Torrin had his work cut out for him if the rest of the trail was similarly covered.  It wasn’t though, as in the trees, the snow had settled to about eight inches deep.  My Australian Shepherd Sadie eagerly took the lead, showing me that this trail didn’t require much breaking at all.  When the snow is deeper, Sadie will follow Torrin, letting him do the hard work.

My first pony was 11.2hh Mya, and for the first year she and I did everything together:  herding cows, riding or driving to the mailbox, hauling manure, skidding fencing materials.  I thought there was nothing we couldn’t do.  Then it snowed 18” one night.  When I checked on her first thing in the morning, she hadn’t even left her barn.  When we tried to ride later that day, it was clear it just wasn’t going to work.  The snow was nearly up to her belly, and my feet were dragging in it.  Torrin joined us soon thereafter.  He’s broken trail for Mya ever since.

The first domestic feature at the end of the woods loop is the pen in which Willowtrail Black Robin currently resides.  As we approached, I didn’t see Robin outside, so I mentioned to Torrin that he might be in the shed.  The shed has a wood floor, so footsteps are quite audible and can be surprising.  I still didn’t see Robin, so I said something louder, and sure enough, Robin bolted out of the shed, not expecting us.  Torrin didn’t flinch.  After Robin reached the far side of the pen, he remembered that he’s an aspiring stallion and started trotting toward Torrin with neck arched in challenge.  Torrin would gladly take him on but he obediently carried me past the pen to complete our ride.

Torrin and I will ride the woods loop as far into the winter as we can.  Normally about 18” of snow is our limit.  I try to keep track of how late in the year that ride is.  One year Mya and I were able to ride it at New Year’s.  Usually, though, by Christmas we are all confined to the driveway.  Thanks to Torrin breaking trail today, maybe Mya and I can ride the woods loop tomorrow!

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About workponies

Breeder of Fell Ponies, teamster of work ponies, and author of Feather Notes, Fell Pony News, and A Humbling Experience: My First Few Years with Fell Ponies. Distributor of Dynamite Specialty Products for the health of our planet and the beings I share it with.
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