Wednesday, July 27, 2016

FCE Review: ContourROAM Hands-Free HD Camera

I've had my helmet camera for a year now and somehow never gave you all a formal review. Hillary's recent review jogged my memory tho and inspired me to put the proverbial pen to paper and expound on my thoughts.

After reaching out to Carly for recommendations, I purchased the following from Amazon:

i'll take any excuse to use this photo


  • Fool-proof On / Off slider switch, complete with a beep and red light when recording.
  • Lens spins 180* and has degree markers to true the horizon. This is particularly useful if you want to lay the camera on a surface to record without getting a tilted horizon.
  • Easy to use memory disc formatting button.
  • Water-resistant means it's safe to operate in rainy conditions.

HD Fish Eye Lens & Orientation

The camera's fish eye lens flattens the picture a bit. This reduces the appearance of hills and slopes (both uphill and downhill) and can make jumps look smaller than they are.

It also means, tho, that the lens captures a wider picture and is less sensitive to placement (ie, you don't have to be too precise in where, exactly, the lens points bc it's probably gonna catch the whole picture regardless).

I point mine down farther than one might think, to ensure it catches a lot of Izzy's head and neck. There's a laser test function so you can press a button once the camera is on to see where the laser is oriented with respect to the horizon and your sight line. 

big enough to know it's there (and remember to turn it ON), not so big that it's distracting 

Slide Mount & Safety Tether

  • The camera locks in to an adhesive-patch slide mount for shake-free recording. 
  • The adhesive mount affixes to the helmet, while the camera is removable. 
  • Pro tip: The folks at Contour will send extra patches and mounts gratis if you ask. 
  • For skull caps especially, the helmet cover hides the slide mount (about 2sq inches) completely when no camera is attached.
  •  A detachable rope tether connects the camera to the helmet mount in the event that the camera is knocked loose in a fall (the mount design allows for the camera to pop off with minimal crash force)
  • Since that has, in fact, happened to me - I can attest that the tether did its job and I didn't lose the camera (which dangled harmlessly and undamaged from the helmet until I could pull myself together).
  • Benefits of a removable camera are many - including using the camera as more than just a helmet mounted camera. Examples: I've set it in jump cups or laid it on fence lines / arena walls to film schooling sessions, lessons, and dressage clinics. 

Video / Battery Length 

  • Camera automatically shuts off after 45 min. 
  • However I usually turn it on and off as needed while riding (makes for easier video file management and editing anyway). 
  • The battery lasts longer than 45 min tho - I've used it to record multiple 45 minute sessions (dressage lessons, actually) without recharging and it's been fine.

adhesive slide mount and safety tether both visible here

Let's get to the real reason behind this review, tho. It's no secret: I LOVE media. Especially videos. And ESPECIALLY helmet cam videos. LOVE.

It's also no secret by now that I'm not riding Isabel seriously at present. And while we had some really awesome jumping experiences this year (like some fan-fucking-tastic lessons over the winter after my leg healed), we had some really bad times too.

It's been, honestly, a bit more than mildly depressing. I do not know when, or if, we will try to put the pieces back together.

But in the meantime, I've been revisiting my favorite memories often. Especially, unsurprisingly, those captured on video. And the videos that make me feel the most like maybe we could do it again, that bring me closest to wanting to keep trying, are the helmet cam videos.

So they're included here for two reasons. 1: these are some of my all-time favorites. I love watching them and hope you do too. And 2: they are all excellent examples of the ContourROAM's performance as a helmet camera.

The crisp, high-def picture is readily apparent in the video from running BN at Fair Hill earlier this year (it was actually at rainy Fair Hill last year when I decided I needed a helmet cam. and as a side note, this thing works equally well in the rain too):

Loch Moy is a great example bc we go into and out of the woods, from strong sun to shade - something that can be problematic for lower quality cameras as they adjust to different light settings. You can see in this video from earlier this year that the light poses no issues.

Same story running N at the same venue, Loch Moy, last year too. You can see that the camera does not have problems adjusting to the light, and that fences in shady spots are still equally crisp and visible even when the camera is still in direct sun. It works pretty darn well in the dark too.

Another important detail in helmet cam videos is the sound quality. I love listening to hoof beats and whipping wind and whatever random things I say to the horse. And ya know what else I like hearing? The actual instruction from my trainers haha (this especially proves useful in instances where the camera is resting on the rail rather than being worn on my helmet).

This following one from a lesson with Dan at AOPF last fall is a fantastic example bc you can pretty clearly hear much of what he has to say - especially when he's yelling at me about my loopy reins and shitty ditch jumps (oops) lol.

video here - xc lesson where you can hear much of the instruction pretty clearly 
(esp the part when i get yelled at lol)

But basically, my favorite thing about this helmet cam is that it immediately takes me back to that happy place of running cross country with the horse. That feeling like it's just the two of us - we're completely alone. Nobody can reach us, everything is just us as a unit, for better or worse. 

And when it involves galloping through wide open fields and over giant fences? What a feeling!

So long story short, I love this helmet camera for a lot of reasons. It's not as streamlined in appearances as the Cambox Isis, tho less visually imposing than the Go Pro by nature of being side-mounted on the helmet.

However in performance, it can't be beat. If your end objective is a crisp, clear video in any conditions that can be enjoyed again and again - this camera gets the job done.

It couldn't be easier to operate with a fool-proof slide on/off button and a lens that doesn't require much effort to get the right frame of horse ears + horizon.

The battery lasts forever, I haven't come anywhere close to filling up that memory card, and the camera casing is sturdy and weather-proof.

Most importantly tho? The HD audio / visual quality rivals or beats anything else on the market at a price that is highly affordable.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

beating the heat out in the woods

Lest she be forgotten, Isabel is still the leading lady around these parts. It just... doesn't really seem like it, does it. Oops.

I've written it out fairly explicitly already, but mostly in passing rather than as a main point. The gist is: Isabel is on vacation this month. I'm traveling and only putting in 1-2 weekly rides on any horse, let alone on Isabel. That's not really enough to justify putting her through the rigors of an intense lesson in 90* temperatures.

coolin down with a mouthful of greenery
The way it basically went down was, the last couple rides after our fantastic Stephen Birchall clinic last month were fractious and not enjoyable even in the slightest. Taken individually, there's nothing particularly meaningful there. I didn't ride super well, Isabel didn't give anything away. Ya know. Typical incremental steps towards something that will one day be nice.

Except. We had been having an awful lot of not nice lately, and the balance had tipped too far into the negative. So much so that I preferred not riding seriously at all. And so. We haven't schooled seriously since.

Nbd, tho, right? It's not like she's going to forget anything.

see the baby?
For all of July, we have only gone on trails. Or. Ya know. Done nothing at all. Doesn't really matter. And that's a pretty liberating feeling. The mare came out on that awesome paper chase in Fair Hill, then went feral and completely neglected for a couple weeks until I pulled her out for another quick trail ride last weekend.

"we're still friends tho, right?" - isabel
I think she legitimately was happy for the attention too - happy to get curried, and happy to do carrot stretches (obvi lol), and happy to wear the snackamore again and go out for a tasting tour of the woods.

good mare
I'm sure she would be equally happy to go back to work too. And maybe we will go there again next month. I'm frankly not too concerned about putting a timeline on it.

so hot out that the barn swallows actually sat still enough to get photographed
It just feels like a good moment for a rest, ya know? It's so hot out. And (not to beat the same drum again and again) I'm just not currently able to keep a horse in full work. Add in the fact that the arena at Isabel's barn is in a condition that I deem unrideable... and. Well. All signs point to not bothering with it for now.

hot cat is hot
Especially when I'm frankly enjoying riding other random horses so much. It's been SO LONG since I've been able to ride different things regularly and I'm REALLY enjoying it!

totally zonked
Plus, as has been made readily apparent by every one of them - there's sufficient work that needs doing on my own ride, without worrying deeply about the horse itself. So we'll see what happens. I'm not ending my lease on Isabel any time soon but I'm also open to playing the field.

Have you ever taken a little vacation from your horse? Sent it out to pasture for a season while you focus on other things? Did it work out for you and were you happy to get back to the horse and a routine? Or.... no?

Monday, July 25, 2016

leave it to an ottb

The trend continues of me catching a ride on basically whatever's available for my lessons. To date, this has been exclusively ponies. Until this weekend, that is.

this is more my style of ride!
Brita was out of town for the weekend and encouraged me to take Wick out for a spin at OF. How freakin generous. Of course I said yes and showered her profusely with thanks and gratitude!

wick was marginally confused about what i had done with his mother. but was a good sport anyway
Longtime readers may recall I've gotten on Wick once before, in February of last year. Brita had pretty much just started with him (as the greenest of green beans) and Wick was all aboard the struggle bus: no left lead, super one sided, faulty steering, and no go button.

I had been ringside coaching them (potentially unsolicited) through some left lead attempts and kept telling Brita to "just put him together!" After she heard that one too many times, she simply hopped off and told me to give it a try myself. And. Well. Long story short, I had zero success. Could actually not even really get the horse to WALK, let alone pick up that damn lead.

extremely handsome
I, er, learned an important lesson that day lol. Maybe a few, actually. One of which was that Wick is not as easy to ride as Brita makes him look lol.

But she's been putting in some serious hard work over the last year and a half, and you can really tell in watching them. So I was really eager to see how it felt under saddle!

werk it wick!
Verdict? HOLY HELL am I impressed! The horse I rode this weekend is an entirely different creature from two winters ago. Completely.

thinking cap firmly on
(meanwhile i'm leaving thoughts on my position for another day. glaring issues are pervasive. le sigh)
This horse is sensitive, soft, and looks for connection. Oh. And he GOES. Not only was he good off the legs - he was actually borderline hot to the touch. He's still slightly one-sided, but only if you're looking for it. He's learning to go straighter tho and it's CRAZY when he does finally get his butt directly under him bc there is a huge surge of power that just flows forward.

a million trotting pictures bc this is my blog and i do what i want
Tho he's still learning how to really harness that power. And is maybe a little cocky haha - esp given some of the crazy big stuff he and Brita school together.

loving the light in this pic
He was just fantastic on the flat to trot, tho I had a little trouble in the canter. Just tried to get him to rock back and sit a little more without just hurtling forward. We maybe kinda figured it out.

classic wick face
And kept on working on it through the jumps. It was balls hot out, even so early in the morning, so we kept the jumping short and sweet. And the jumps were all on the smaller side - esp for Wick man who is used to much bigger fences with Brita.

tidy tidy!
He was super good tho. I just LOVE the way TBs go. Love. We warmed up over a coupe fences where I got a taste for what it takes to actually get a half halt through to this guy, then went on directly to a course.

not much effort over these fences but who cares, i was in heaven all the same
He's got a big stride and carries you right up to the fence. He's a bit strong tho and will try to take over if you're not careful.

advance mid-air planning for the tricky left lead roll back
Really tho, I just had such a blast with him. He finds his spots, jumps and lands on both leads, will stay straight with minimal encouragement, and steers way better than I expected.

easy peasy end vertical
We had to have a couple discussions about pace in a few places (like down the looooong straightaway between end jumps) but once I got a feel for him, I could figure out how to sit him down a bit then soften and still ride forward to the fence.

such a good guy
Really Wick was right up my alley. I just LOVE a ride like this - would prefer a horse who's a little strong and cocky, and just love that TB way of going. He basically rode like a more schooled version of Bali, which obvi set my little heart strings ablaze.

It was maybe useful for trainer P to see me go with him too, as I think it gave her a little more insight into my kind of ride. Sure, she saw me on Bali that one time... but that was also the day I broke my leg so it ended up not being a source for much discussion.

So this ride ended up sparking a couple ideas in her mind, a few of which sounded mighty exciting. We will see what happens. In the meantime, tho, I'm just so grateful to have had this ride on Wick. It was honestly legitimately the most fun jumping I've had in a LONG time. Thank god for friends and their cool ottbs!

Friday, July 22, 2016

mysterious case of the ever-shrinking dressage ponies!

I'm about 93% positive that dressage trainer C thinks I've gone completely off the deep end. She's.... probably correct lol.

It's easy to see where C's coming from. I've got Isabel, right? A pretty fun and fancy dressage horse who can take pressure and will keep trying and has been incredible to learn on. Izzy is solid on all of first level and has some pieces from second well in hand.

But did I bring Isabel to my latest dressage lesson? Nope. Did not. Brought this ridiculously tiny 4-5yr old Welsh pony instead.

majesty, thy name is Krimpet!
You all remember Krimpet, right? She belongs to my barn mate friend C (let's try not to get confused with all the Cs now!), and is supposed to get used in the lesson program too as a means to supplement the board payment.

i like that she makes my trailer look so spacious
The problem is that... well, she's a baby pony mare. ALL of which are four letter words lol (BUCK is a four letter word too!). She's very smart and very athletic and very green. Kinda a tricky combination. She's a sweetie tho, and perhaps an anomaly among baby pony mares: she legitimately wants to be a good girl.

If you can put her in a nice place and tell her she is good there, she will go back to that place again and again. It's just that getting her to that place requires... a good deal of strength and timing. Not pro-levels obvi, and she's not exactly unwilling... but generally it takes a little more than the typical 12yr old lesson student can give.

Unfortunately, when Krimpet doesn't feel like she has that good place to go, she gets frustrated. And... erm... is adept at dismounting her riders. Usually with some fantastic bucks. She's also become a bit of a quitter, esp as she gets tired.

Krimpet can get a little herd bound (noisily so) but is actually pretty darn quiet at the trailer for a baby
So I've gotten on her a couple times to see what's what. And she's honestly not unpleasant to ride! And I figured she could probably benefit as much from a lesson with C as I could. My own agenda being the following:

I've never ridden dressage seriously on any horse beyond Isabel. Everything I know about dressage court-worthy contact, bend, balance, carriage, whatever, I've learned with Isabel. I've jumped literally dozens of horses and have a fairly clear sense for what's needed there (not that I'm always very good at it haha).

But dressage is more alien to me; I have less experience. Even when I've gotten on schooled horses (like Pig, Star, Rico....) I've felt tentative and like I didn't know where to go with the basics like contact. Noel is honestly the first horse not named Isabel that I could just get on her and put her on the bit.

Therefore I'd like to address this by trying my hand at legitimate flatwork on a greater variety of horses - both schooled and green.

i'm pretty sure she was either mid-whinny or immediately-pre-whinny in this pic tho haha
Krimpet was a convenient step 1 in this process, esp given barn mate C's recent very busy schedule. And so off to TM pony and I went to see how dressage trainer C might transform us!

The results? Actually pretty good! It took a while to get the pony straight (she's very wiggly, and pushy-barge-y with her shoulders) so we stayed about 2-3yards off the rail almost exclusively, even through the short ends. And didn't do an awful lot of circling - lots of long straight lines off the rail.

Trainer C reminded me not to let a green horse pull me out of my position, and basically wanted me giving Krimpet a clear channel through which she could travel.

but omg loooooook how tiiiiiiny!!!! (side note: can someone plz to find me a full sized horse to ride?!?)
Krimpet got praised for her regular gaits and actually pretty steady contact. She never really got round, but stayed very steady in the bridle and by the end of the ride had released her underneck completely. C encouraged me to play more, and reward even the slightest of gives from Krimpet.

The pony legitimately does not know what it means to go round - we first need to show her how to follow the contact. So whenever the pony would soften I had to be really quick to soften too. And every now and then C wanted me to push my hands forward just to see if Krimpet would follow.

FINALLY got to take advantage of the fancy wash stalls tho
For the trot work, C had me really pushing the pony forward. More. MORE. And then let her fade. Then push her forward again. Partly I think to sharpen her to the forward aids, and partly for her to learn (eventually) to stay in whatever gear I put her in. C wanted the trot to feel like we could move more forward or bring it back at any given moment.

It was most important that the pony felt even on both sides. She's not actually particularly strong on one side over the other, but she's never really been made to go straight or not motorcycle around turns so her balance is kinda crappy.

bc as you may or may not recall, Isabel simply does not do wash stalls. nope, no way, no how.
We only did a short bit of canter in each direction (mostly honestly just running into the canter bc.... pony lol) and the turns through the short end were particularly hard for her. Especially tracking left I really struggled to help her off that inside fore leg around the turns. The name of the game was just keeping her inside ear in front of her inside shoulder. She kept trying tho, never quit!!

Krimpet was just fine. obvi with her trademark hoof shaking tho lol
We took lots and LOTS of breaks, but then right back to work again. The benefits here are twofold: it was legit hot as balls out and I was basically dying riding this thing (omg she is so much more of a physical ride than Izzy!); but also, the mare is notorious for quitting when she's tired. Only one way to fix that!

We finished by playing a teensy bit with lengthening the trot down the diagonals - and lil' miss thang actually got a step or two on each diagonal in our first few attempts, then put together maybe 3-4 really nice feeling steps on our final attempt (before breaking to canter). I was really pleased with her effort!

And then some little baby leg yields from the quarter line. C said it was more important that Krimpet understand what I'm asking than that the leg yields were extremely correct. In other words, she didn't want me just getting stronger and muscling the pony over. Krimpet caught on really quickly tho - and actually got sharp enough to just do 3 steps sideways then immediately straighten again. Good pony!

good pony is tired pony back at the trailer
We called it a day after that. And I dismounted and immediately sank down lower than I thought I could physically go without toppling over bc my legs were absolute jelly lol. (And let's not even talk about how I was sore for three days afterwards...).

I honestly couldn't have been happier with the pony tho. She grunted and groaned through some of the work, and made some mistakes, and occasionally took a little extra encouragement via whip tickles. But she never EVER gave a single threat in the direction of naughtiness (even when another horse started schooling in the arena) and never quit.

These is all good signs for Ms Krimpet's future I think, very promising! Not sure whether I'll take her back to C's any time soon (tho I'm toying with the idea of taking her to a jumping lesson. maybe. haha. maybe not we will see) but would definitely not be opposed to hopping on her every now and again.

Tho. On the other hand. I really would not mind riding a full sized horse one of these days too lol....

Thursday, July 21, 2016

been around and everywhere

So I've basically been lost in the land of ponies lately. Well. Ponies and airplanes, if we're being honest haha. I'm on the road for most of this second half of the month. But when I *do* make it to the barn, it's all ponies all the time!

sometimes we do day trips to chicago tho. fuzzy blurry photo proof lol
It was HOT out last weekend (and will continue to be so through this weekend, blargh), so I went to the early early lesson at OF. Made even more convenient by asking to ride one of their schoolies again.

Noel says it's too hot and too early. can't pony.
Actually - I gotta admit, there's something to be said for acting the true amateur and just showing up to an already-saddled horse vs packing the trailers and hauling over and everything involved in that.

Obviously I believe there's more to riding than getting in and out of the saddle, and all the grooming and tacking and non-saddle time with horses is valuable and important to me... but damn. It's NICE to just show up and go, then pass the horse back over and leave afterward haha. (even if it was just to go back to Isabel's barn and do all the chores there... womp!)

Noel ears!
Anyway the lesson wasn't particularly different from when I rode this pony a couple weeks ago. Probably bc she's a basically finished pony (well, as finished as a pony mare can ever get haha) and you know what you're gonna get with her.

touching noses with her not-a-baby-anymore baby Nikki, another fancy fun schoolie at OF
She perhaps started off a little stiffer and tried again to say that she did not, in fact, know how to work.  And maybe even got a little mad lol. But not resistant.

no more pony pics, so take some boats in bangor!
But despite being mad that she had to work in the heat, she wasn't actually guarded. There's maybe some resistance in there, but it doesn't seem defensive or pissy or anything. Legitimately just stiffness. Like she's just totally honestly out of the habit of working. But will put forth the effort when she realizes I won't stop asking.

ducks are on the move!
The jumping was basically identical to my last ride with her. Except we maybe got there a little faster since I knew what to expect and how to go with her. We made our way through a couple grids, a few single jumps in warm up, a couple bending lines... A fun roll back where I actually got her to land the lead on landing.

Ya know. Just some basic, straight forward jumping. Exactly the type of jumping I need to keep building that confidence again.

the thing is legitimately making wake. must get bread crumbs!!!
Trainer P was pleased with the pony too. She's told me a lot about Noel's extreme one-sidedness and propensity for diving left then jumping right, with a not insignificant twist over the fences. I don't seem to notice it much tho, and actually down the grid (a one to two stride) Noel stayed quite straight (at least after the first fence haha).

P thinks it's bc she's been ridden almost exclusively by kids who couldn't truly get their legs down on her. Whereas, thanks to Dan lessons, my legs are basically on all the time, always and forever. So even if I'm not thinking specifically about correcting the drift (which I never really accomplished with Izzy either), Noel responded by straightening out anyway. She's just a good kinda pony like that.

ducks and ducklings!
We called it an early day all the same tho bc. Damn. It was hot. Fun tho, she's a good pony and it does me worlds of good to just get out there and bop around, focusing on myself and expecting the pony to hop to it (literally).

With my somewhat busy schedule these past and future couple weeks, Isabel has mostly been chillin in the field. Not the worst thing in the world for her. It's not like she's gonna forget anything, but maybe the break will be good for her.

dancing ducks lol
It does mean, tho, that she's not really in a state of fitness for any heavy-hitting lessons. The intensity of a Dan or dressage trainer C lesson doesn't quite seem fair for a pasture puff, esp if it ends up being her only ride a week.

So at least for the foreseeable future, I'm exploring other options to continue lessons that work on and improve me, while letting Izzy off the hook. And continuing the pony theme, I managed to have a little bit of a silly fun time over at C's last weekend too with our favorite little Welsh monster, Krimpet. Post to come haha.

Have you ever been in a position where you were seeking out different horses for lessons? Why? And how did you fill the gap - friends' horses? Schoolies? And did you love it? Or get sick of it and quickly switch back to your own horse?

Saturday, July 16, 2016

satin after all!

Turns out we actually did win ribbons for our so-slow-bc-we-were-lost-on-the-same-trail-forever paper chase last week!!! Yay Satin!!

any colored satin is fine by me. totally diggin this emerald too!

And I'm just gonna take it and run with it too. This is our first little win since the (admittedly very pretty) pity ribbons and handihorse prize swag from Jenny Camp.

Recall I withdrew after stadium bc .... reasons and such.... but they turned out to be technically running the show as a CT bc of the modified xc course. So I ultimately walked away with a very lovely last 8th place ribbon. And obviously have entered nothing competitive since.

Except for paper chases, that is, lol. Glad Isabel can still win ribbons by trail riding haha, bc she's basically not doing shit else for the foreseeable future!

Friday, July 15, 2016

getting lost @ fair hill in the name of charity

Fun times were had by all last weekend when our barn amassed a small team to go on a paper chase at Fair Hill!

This was actually the second paper chase we had been to in recent memory - there was one other at Tranquility last month that just barn mate (and lesson program director) R and I went to, as everyone else was either busy or scared off by the threat of rain. 

That ride was super fun tho, as it was basically an excuse for us to gallop and introduce R's baby ottb to her first taste of xc practice in a low-pressure setting. No ribbons tho bc we were MUCH TOO FAST. lol

This time around we had a larger group (obvi totally matchy matchy down to the bonnets) of a good mix of seasoned horses, green horses, and a little in between. You all have seen that welsh pony Krimpet on the far left before (and will see more of her yet, muahaha). Obvi Isabel was cheesin in her new bridle. The American Show Horse bay paint Little Foot in the center accompanied us on a paper chase last year at Tranquility, and has tried his hand at some LD rides in the past.

R and Birdie had their second paper chase outing - but now with a few starter events under their belts. And the group was rounded out by Brita on Oakie (bc Wick has a running history two years in a row of damaging himself jusssssst enough to get left behind). Oakie is an older former hunter eq horse who, despite his experience, is still learning the finer points of changeable terrain and stream crossings. 

And actually, unlike last month when folks chickened out bc of forecast rain - this time we were surprised but in a good way by the drizzle. Bc otherwise it was gonna be HOT and MUGGY. Yeesh.

Fair Hill is so pretty tho - we were super eager to get out and about on the trails. Well. All of us except for Oakie. He was a tad sluggish. At least to start haha, he caught up soon enough.

It was kinda a bizarrely organized event tho - I'm not even totally sure how we found about about it. There were no ride times and it was all very informal. Entry fees benefited a charity supporting children in Africa - but I am honestly not exactly sure which one. 

And we found out somewhat late in the game that there weren't any jumps (optional or otherwise) on the trail. Which was kinda a bummer for most involved, tho I honestly didn't particularly care one way or another.

It mostly started off with paved or gravel roads, or wide mowed lanes through fields, or narrow unmowed flattened tracks through fields haha.

There were all kinds of neat sights to see tho - like a covered bridge!!

All horses handled this very bravely - tho Isabel got a toooouch unnerved at the echoing reverberations of horses coming through behind her. 

It was still pretty cool tho. Actually there were a lot of neat bridges and such for the horses to cross on this ride - most of which didn't end up getting photographed.

This picture above is a pretty good example of a wide field with no actual mowed path. And also the picture I took right before the wheels fell off the bus.

See - any time our group sees a wide open space like this, our natural inclination is to gallop. Obviously. And we did so - going hell for leather as fast as we could - right up till that break in the tree line visible on the horizon. 

At which point.... we had somehow missed a turn somewhere. Ooops. Too busy galloping to pay attention to directions!

Thus commenced a slightly prolonged tour of a different trail. Well. It was a different trail once. Then it became the same trail. Over and over again. I swear we turned a different direction each time we came to the same crossing... but still ended up back on this perpetual loop lol. Fair Hill has 5,000 acres and we managed to get stuck on one damn trail.

Tho at one point we stumbled upon this crazy horse bridge crossing over a highway. And while we were pretty sure it was going in exactly the opposite direction, we took the horses back and forth over it just bc it was there. Horses were all quite fine. 

Finally - at about our 4th pass through this endless cycle of descent into trail loop purgatory, a mountain biker with time to spare came upon us and took pity - leading us (back down the same damn way we had just come) to the proper turning point. Thank goodness!!

Finally back on course - we encountered the big stream that I had kept seeing on my gps but that we couldn't seem to find. And naturally, again it became schooling / play time for the ponies.

Plus, ya know, they were all pretty hot anyway, what with all the galloping and endless circling lol.

And we got to go back through the covered bridge again!

It was good experience for the horses tho - both Oakie and Birdie had demonstrated some issues with water. Fairly dramatically. Oakie, being a seasoned and trained horse, got a stern talking to. Birdie, being somewhat green and young, threw off some more dynamic fireworks (like jumping the whole damn crossing a couple times) but then seemed to figure out that water wasn't actually so bad (see her nosing around in the earlier pics?)

Isabel, ever the quintessential trail pro, hadn't batted an eye at a single thing on the ride. OH. EXCEPT. Except this little narrow passage to get into the stream. Poor princes - she must still have nightmares from her obese days or something, bc she was not at ALL confident that she could squeeze through here.

It was actually kinda adorable. I just waited her out, let her process and understand and touch everything with her nose. Then she finally hesitantly stepped through with the front end, and jump-wiggled through with her hind (after literally every other horse had walked through completely normally). Lol. Oh Isabel. I guess she just had to have her one weird thing!

After that, tho, we were definitely in the home stretch. Back on familiar ground with the horses all striding out happily towards the direction of the trailers. 

Which, coincidentally, was also when the ride organizer called us slightly worried to figure out where we were. As we should most definitely have been back by now.... Oops!

I felt kinda bad bc we were her last riders out there and she was kinda waiting on us... but whatever. We weren't that late (finished around 12:30 - just over 2 hours) and all's well that ends well, right?

We were obviously very happy to see the trailers tho. And for the record - the trailers were at the Appleton Rd entrance to Fair Hill. The blue dot was us playing in the water on the way back. And the red star was that horse bridge over the highway. Safe to say we were a litttttle off course lol.

It was good times tho. Mare was definitely tired, but seemed to enjoy the excursion and group fun and galloping and trail riding and all. Oh. And one other bonus of getting lost? We actually ended up coming across some logs to jump after all. Doesn't quiiiiiiite beat getting a ribbon (we were alas much too slow for that) but maybe kinda makes up for it :)