Our inaugural beach ride was fantastic. I started out the day running late, groggy and stressed trying to get myself out the door. We were meeting at Salinas River State Park and as always, I was running behind from the start. Then I had to stop and get Starbucks. Then I got lost. When I finally arrived, the group(Liz, Shawn, Megan and another couple of women that are in training with Shawn) had already been out for their initial ride and had come back for me. Apollo was kicking the shit out of the trailer and acting like a hell-horse in there apparently. Poor guy was wondering why his herd left him behind and why his mama wasn't there to take him out like the rest of the ponies.
Tacked up and borrowed a neighboring trailer's step stool to hop onto Apollo. Let's just note here for the record- I ride in a Niedersuss Symphony dressage saddle. It's got a very comfy, deep seat and I ride with my stirrups quite long (just to give you an idea, when jumping- I would take my stirrups up about 3 holes so I could get up out of my tack over jumps- and I would not jump in a dressage saddle since jumping requires you to get up off the horse so as to keep in balance and not interfere with his back)(just to give you another idea- jockeys ride on those little saddles with their legs all scrunched up high so as to not interfere with the horse). So, our line heads down to the beach. One of the horses(big spotty brown horse named Outlaw who is Shawn's horse and I covet greatly because he is an absolute dream to ride AND he racks AND he's spotty) gets into the soft, deep, warm sand and tries to lay down and roll! We followed the sandy trail down to the beach. Apollo got onto the wide open beach and is a little nervous- he spooks at a wave coming in and crashing on the sand, he spooks at some scrub brush on the land side... each time it is a little like being on a roller coaster- he drops and skitters to the side. Thankfully, we've been riding in the park so much lately, I'm feeling very confident- not stupid-confident but relaxed-confident- and Apollo settles down pretty quickly. Liz is riding nearby on Power who looks like a young, shiny, show-horse- the black in his coat glinting in the sun. This is Liz's first time to the beach but she and Power are, as always, riding like they've been there a hundred times before. The horses all had that little extra spark to them, probably because they love the sun and the sand and the water and getting out somewhere new and different, just like we do. We headed down the beach- lots of new, fun stuff to encounter- other horses, bright balls being tossed about by children, kites with long, flashy tails- all this with waves crashing and the surf creeping up to 'get us'. It was faulous weather and eventually, we let the horses out to run. It was absolutely fabulous with Apollo. Our first run was actually a nicely controlled canter and it felt just amazing with salty air blowing through my hair and the sensation of running through the sand is very different than any other. It seems like I can feel the power of my horse so much more.
We got a little further down the beach and decided to go for another run. This is when things got little wild with Apollo, he was apparently transported back to his track days because I lost complete control and he was galloping top-speed. Come to find out, Outlaw was right on our tail and Apollo was NOT going to let that horse 'win'. Unfortunately, we were running out of beach, coming up on a little ravine with an inlet/river running down to the ocean from the land. I was pushing my seat down as hard as I could trying to bring Apollo back in. I ride him with a french snaffle which, with him, I might as well be using a halter. Usually, he's a very sensitive horse, but when he gets out of his head a little- tough to bring him back. Luckily, Megan managed to stop Outlaw and I turned Apollo before we came to the edge. Lost him again on the way back- he took off after Outlaw yet again and I was trying to get up out of the saddle and was instead getting my crotch slammed against the pommel with every stride. OW! At one point I just gave up and let him go, I was simply hanging on. Bailing out when you're galloping at 30 mph- not so smart but for some reason, always seems like the knee-jerk reaction.(Huh, I do that with skiiing, too.) So yeah, tried to stay with the horse and eventually we won our race. Of course, Apollo never really settled down after that and jogged and pranced the rest of the way in. He was all lathered up when we got back and I felt sorry for the guy but he does it to himself. He sure looks pretty when he's doing his show-pony prance and is all collected and 'up' looking.
Everyone else had packed a lunch- Liz and I ate our Starbucks muffins. We hung out around the trailer for a bit and chatted. Outlaw relieved himself:
We took pictures with our fabulous steeds:
Foxy was absolutely awesome today... I think in some respects she was easier and more relaxed than Apollo. Do love this pic of Power and Apollo- chillin' out after a hard ride on the beach. I do love our boys.
After the beach ride, we loaded back up to drive up into the Redwoods to ride. At first, I was feeling alot more relaxed because we were out in a setting more like the park that we usually ride in... more familiar territory. Of course, right off we head out and start up this big hill. Well, of course the idea is the run and apparently Power and Apollo thought we were being chased by mountain lions. Plural- because we know if it was only one, Power and Apollo would totally faced it down, kicked it's ass and Liz and I would have new hats(I'm sure Shawn would make steaks out of the rest of it). Sorry, I digress. But anyhow, comparing notes today- the horses were way out of control. I pretty much just stood in my stirrups, grabbed a fistful of mane and gave Apollo his head. He must have been a teensy bit tired because when I heard Liz holler "Hold Up!!", we were actually able to stop. What a sight, to be up front seeing all those horses racing toward us- Apollo skittering to the side, wanting to take off again since he is a born and bred racehorse.
The park was amazing and beautiful- we had to climb a bit to get up where the redwoods were but man, what a vision to be out in the forest with the sunlight filtering through the canopy ... There is Shawn on Foxy and she was cool as a cucumber- I actually can't wait to get out and ride her about. You can see some of the redwoods behind us- the trail we wanted to go on was closed to equestrians- maybe due to rain? So we stuck to the larger trails. It was an incredible ride.
Here I am being jostled about as Apollo trots back *down* the trail on our way in. Yes, right up until the very last he was trotting when everyone else was walking, prancing up a storm. One of the other women riding with us was like, "Is that a special gait of his? Did you train him to do that?" Uh, yeah, reminds me of a time when we were in Sunol and Apollo had is neck all arched because he was getting ready to either try and buck me off or bolt up Flag Hill and one of the girls on the ride I was wrangling asked, "Is he a show horse?" Yes, yes- a show horse with specially trained gaits. He pirouettes, too.. want to see his arabesque? Can we wait until I'm off him first?
Listened to some great music driving the scenic route home. Had a good conversation with a friend of mine on the drive. Always feels good to connect with people... sometimes it is in a weird horse-person triangle and sometimes it is just being open and honest and yourself. One thing that is oh-so-clear to me after riding with a group of people on the beach- it would be nice if our actions only ever affected ourselves, if what we did right or what we did wrong came back to just us as our due rewards or consequences. Unfortunately and maybe just as fortunately, we are all in this together and sometimes we need to look our for each other while still remembering we're on our own horse and have to take care of ourselves, too. Like in riding, in life- balance is everything.
You can read Liz's take on events at her blog: Um... This is my life...
Apollo says: "Hey bitch, where's my carrot?"