I had been riding the woods loop regularly with my Fell Pony mare Willowtrail Wild Rose, but we still managed two first experiences on one ride. The woods loop is a half mile trail ride beginning and ending at the house and traveling through our lodgepole pine forest in its various conditions. Some of the forest is regenerating since being harvested after the mountain pine beetle epidemic, and some is still standing mostly green where the beetles didn’t find the trees to their liking. The picture here shows Rose on the edge of the harvested area.
It was in the green and standing portion of the forest where Rose and I, and my six-month old Australian Shepherd Tika, encountered our first new experience. A cow moose with her calf were browsing just off the trail. I’ve encountered moose on rides with other ponies but never with Rose, though I know she’s seen them often enough. Rose stopped, her head went up, and her ears went as far forward as she could prick them. Moose can be unpredictable, especially cows with calves and especially with a dog present. We stood and watched the moose pair for a few minutes, and when they didn’t seem inclined to yield their position, I elected to dismount. I wasn’t sure how Rose would react if the cow decided to charge the dog. I walked Rose and Tika off the trail in the opposite direction and around the moose location. Rose relaxed upon this suggestion, and when we regained the trail and I remounted, she continued to be a relaxed partner. Next time I’ll try staying mounted and talking Rose through the encounter. I’m sure there will be a next time since those two moose are hanging around, likely because it’s hunting season and our place is a bit of a refuge. The second pictures was taken at the house.
I did stay mounted for our second new experience. When we got to the gate to Rose’s home paddock, I opened the gate from Rose’s back. The paddock opening has two ten foot gates latched together with a chain. Even when I’m on the ground, it’s a bit of a chore to free the chain from the slots on each gate and free one gate for opening. Plus I always loop the chain in a way that discourages agile pony lips from freeing it from its locking position. It took several tries and re-positioning Rose, but I eventually got the gate open and we rode through. When I swung it shut behind us, though, we had company, so I dismounted to secure the gate shut to avoid having to round up Rose’s friends. There’s opportunity for improvement here, too!
After these firsts, I’m looking forward to doing the woods loop with Rose again. I’ll stay mounted if we see a moose, and I’ll see if I can get Rose to relax while riding away and around. And I’ll see if I can do my part on gate management a little more efficiently!
© Jenifer Morrissey, 2016