I saddled up and headed down the back driveway.
When we got to the end of the driveway, I opened the gate from Jackson's back while keeping one hand on the gate at all times. This is a common obstacle in trail competitions. He's got it down well. He stands with his withers at the latch, then side steps around his forehand while I swing it open. We rode through the gate and turned left.
At the stop sign we turned right. We were headed around the block.
As we rode down the bridle path, we had to pass all these neighbors busy with construction. Fences, walls, pipes, trucks, tractors, clueless construction workers... Jackson has seen so much of this in his time up here that he hardly blinks. Such a good boy. We walked by on the buckle.
I didn't have the camera with me on the ride and I didn't want to walk all the way around the block so you'll have to just picture the next bit. After rounding the bend to right and going further we reach another stop sign. Straight ahead takes us to the loop trail. We turned right. No loop today. The next stretch is easy and flat with the trail obstacle being barking dogs. In particular, the property near the next corner has two pit bulls who charge the fence and have been known to attack other dogs. We give them a wide berth. Sometimes they come charging out of nowhere and you don't see them until they are upon you. The property sits higher than the road and both Jackson and Flash aren't too keen on having dogs charge them from up above. We rode on the other side of the street. The dogs were out but they didn't charge. Jackson stayed relaxed.
We turned the pit bull corner and started a long gradual incline. I'm guessing it is between 1/4 and 1/3 mile. I asked Jackson to trot and he made it all the way to the top of the hill in a nice relaxed, connected frame.
The road bends right at the top, goes down a steep hill and then levels out going back to our street corner. We trotted again when we reached the level part. Again, he was relaxed and working over his back. We turned around and I asked him to canter that stretch. Nice, relaxed, ears happy, canter. We did that a few times. It was addicting...
Then it was around the corner, back in the gate, up the driveway, around the barn and into the arena. Before we left, I had set up this:
Jackson isn't a jumper and I'm not really either. I did jump logs when I was a kid and I took some lessons before discovering dressage, but I was never competitive. It is awfully fun though. Jackson lacks confidence with jumping. He's really not sure what to do and other than some cavelletti work, we haven't done much with it due to his arthritic hocks. However, the last competitive trail ride we did included a jump. It was very low, but he didn't know what to do. We were supposed to trot the jump. Jackson trotted up to the jump, stopped, stuck his nose out to investigate, tapped it with his hoof a few times, then stepped over carefully (he's always very careful about things). The judge, the photographer, the other contestants and I burst into laughter. Jackson looked pleased with himself:
So, today we worked on confidence and trust when jumping. He did great. He was already working in a nice relaxed stretchy frame so I kept him there as we approached and I stared as far forward into the distance as I could as we went over. After a few times, he was actually jumping. Good boy!
We called it a day, I iced his hocks, and put him back with the donkeys for lunch. Brett and Flash are gone this morning so we did all this great work solo. I love my horse. I love, love, love my horse.
...and Tuffy and Finessa too, of course.