- Plan it for a quiet time of day when you have plenty of time
- Use the same secure saddle you've been using and are comfortable with
- Do your best to limit the number of distractions
- Rush out after work, which means you'll pretty much be returning to the trailer in the dark
- Use a different saddle, that's only done a couple of quick arena rides (and isn't as secure)
- Bring two dogs, one of which hasn't even been on a ride before
I took him out to Washoe after work last night (Thursday). They recently completed their arena, amongst other very nice improvements and additions to the equestrian area. I turned him loose and let him run around while I searched for an additional article of clothing since it was a bit windy and kind of cool. After running for a bit, we went back to the trailer and saddled up with my Solstice english saddle. I rode a TON of miles with this saddle on my other horse Sinatra, but haven't used it much on Diego. The Bob Marshall I've been using is *much, much* more secure, but it's a loaner and, even being treeless, not the perfect fit for either Diego or I. Thus I need to start giving MY saddle a more through trial so I can decide for sure if I'm going to sell it or not.
I also brought the dogs, Molly and Jess. Diego's not overly fond of the dogs, but they all hang out in the yard together every day, and frankly - he can just get used to them. Riding with dogs has helped him be less reactive to stuff. Molly's been going on rides with us off and on for the past year or so. Jess (aka Pea Brain or Franks & Beans - to give you an idea of her personality), hasn't been on a ride before. But she listens well and tends to hang around with me pretty naturally anyways, or she's attached to Molly, so I figured that she could come as well.
Once we were all tacked up, I led him over on foot around and through the gate to the trail. Debated for a bit on if I wanted to take the fun single track, or just stay on the road, and opted for the road due to time. You HAVE to go further down on the single track if you want to make a loop, while the road has a few shorter options. I actually walked on foot way less than normal, only a couple hundred yards before mounting up. Diego was very relaxed and calm and stayed that way even after mounting. He just put on his big walk and cruised on down the road. In only a couple of minutes, we were trotting down the trail, nice and forward on a loose rein. =)
Other than stopping to look at some of the signage and one sagebrush that looked odd in the falling light, he didn't even balk at anything. At one point, there were two very large puddles that some ducks where hanging out in next to the trail. The dogs were having a ton of fun dashing through the puddles sending up sparkles of light. Diego turned to watch them, and edged closer. He seemed to be enjoying watching them splash and play. I actually had to get off here and lead him away, because he kept trying to turn and go back. =) So I jogged on foot down the trail for a bit, then mounted up and rode the rest of the way back to the trailer with no issues. We finished just as it was getting to be truly dark.
It was an awesome ride on an awesome horse. Love my boy!