The woods loop is a ½ mile route down the driveway then off onto a trail through the woods ending back up at the house. Because the mountain pine beetle has killed a substantial amount of our forest and we have logged some of the dead trees, the woods loop is now more than half out in the open rather than in the woods. The vistas are incredible, though, so while the experience is different than it used to be, it still makes for a pleasant outing.
A milestone in developing my ponies for riding is ‘doing’ the woods loop. Since I do nearly all my pony work solo, doing the woods loop alone is a common occurrence. Sometimes a pony’s first experience with the woods loop is scampering loose beside its dam, sometimes it’s being ponied. Riding the woods loop is one of my favorite things to do which is why it has become a milestone in developing my ponies for ridden work.
I’ve had Willowtrail Wild Rose, my seven year old mare, at home for the past several weeks. I had to bring her in off pasture because she was gaining weight so quickly. She’s in a paddock by herself, which is definitely not her favorite thing, so I’ve been doing things with her numerous times a day to take her mind off her solitary confinement.
I don’t remember ever taking Rose on the woods loop before, and we hadn’t ever progressed our ridden work enough to ride the woods loop. It therefore became a goal to do my favorite trail ride with Rose.
The woods loop has many opportunities for surprises. The dogs are the most likely sources of surprise: chasing squirrels, popping in and out of brush, and sometimes being in front and sometimes behind. Then there is always the possibility of seeing a deer or a moose, with a bovine cow or bull less likely.
Because I haven’t had Rose in many unusual situations, I worked to set her up for success by hand-walking her around the woods loop two days in a row at the same time of day. The third day, I mounted her and we headed down the driveway. I didn’t expect we’d ride the whole loop; my plan was to ride her as far as she was comfortable and then hand-walk her the rest of the way so that she understood my goal. To say I was thrilled when she took me the whole way that first time is an understatement!
We’ve now ridden the woods loop numerous times together, and it’s still a thrill each time. There is one place where the vista of mountain ridges to the west is particularly nice, and Rose makes me laugh because she always wants to stop and take in the view there. I’m so fortunate to share my life with Rose!
© Jenifer Morrissey, 2014
If you like stories like this one, you might also like A Humbling Experience, available internationally by clicking here.