After a summer of staying on property and plodding around the outdoor, I was super excited to join a group of riders that were attending a fall hunter pace right around the corner from the barn. Sadly, my enthusiasm was short-lived.
The day started out normal and Ax thankfully didn’t trot away with me upon mounting this time, though he was a bit up-y and raring to go. The ride began by heading us down a wide dirt road before turning into the woods—and that is where the good footing ended. The remainder of the 6.4 mile ride consisted of haphazardly marked, rocky and tree root strewn hiking and four-wheeler paths in the woods. We spent the majority of the ride at a walk, aside from one short area that was flat for cantering and two hay fields that we edged at a trot. To add to it, the only jumps we encountered were set in two fields at opposite ends of the ride—one was the host’s designated cross-country field and the other was a clearing on the side of a steep hill.
Previous paces I went on had rocky portions similar to this, but they lasted for short sections of the ride and the entry form made note of this. Maybe I’ve just been lucky with those outings. The whole thing was Ax Tripping Central. With no exaggeration, he tripped up and down the hills for the entirety of the pace. While I don’t expect a hunter pace to have immaculate footing because DUH, you’re in the woods, I do expect the paths to be relatively safe. To me, this wasn’t safe for anything but a walk, and definitely not for six miles of it. Call me a princess.
The single highlight of the ride was a small dam that we rode across that featured beautiful scenery and serene pond. In our adventures of getting lost due to poor trail markings, we encountered this pretty area twice.
In all, Ax and I came home frustrated, fried, and sore from slipping and tripping for miles—and we were missing one shoe, which we presumedly lost toward the end of the ride as we had it while on a road crossing. After some poultice, leg wrapping, hoof wrapping, linimenting, and a bit of bute for his sore muscles, Ax was no worse for wear. I, however, was super salty about the whole thing and will now be much more selective about hunter paces from now.
You live and you learn.