Cold Weather Riding
It seems like just yesterday. Ellen and I would saddle up Ranger and Cruiser on a brisk fall day and head out for the trails. They could be very difficult when the weather cooled off. They wanted to fly down the trail, and we were young and wanted to fly with them. It would be a blast—and then we would turn around to go home.
All summer, we would trot much of the way home on our trail rides. The horses would get a little fast—Cruiser was constantly challenging Ranger for a race. Ranger would accept the challenge—and we would have to intercede. Cruiser often broke into a canter, and I would have to struggle to bring him back to a trot. On some stretches of the trail, we would canter instead of trotting—making them all the more enthusiastic.
When the weather got cold and they would get hyper, we had problems. I guess we made the problems all summer long with our fun, fast rides. In the cooler weather, trotting towards home became very difficult; and sometimes even impossible.
We would trot a few hundred feet, and when they either got out of control, or ideally only felt like they might get out of control, we would bring them back to a walk until they settled down. After a few minutes, we would try again. When it was really cold and they were super wound up, we ended up walking all the way home.
The big problem with that? It is hard to stay warm on a cold day when all you are doing is walking. It is even harder if you broke a sweat on the way out and then had to walk home. We would often have to lead our horses if we got too cold.
For years, Ellen and I thought this was normal horse behavior. We figured all horses were that way—until I started riding Mingo. Then, I thought Mingo was the exception—so quiet. In the cold weather, he was a lot of fun to ride because he finally woke up and would go fairly fast.
We now know that Cruiser and Ranger were exceptionally spirited and Mingo was exceptionally quiet. We had both sides of the spectrum, and most other horses fall in the middle.
Fast forward to the present, and we are living in the world of normal horses. Sure, sometimes Cole can get a little carried away and Dante‘s default trot is very slow, but they are both fairly normal horses. Starry can move out when he wants to, but he never gets very carried away with excitement like Cruiser and Ranger did. In fact, he prefers to just follow whoever he is with and seldom challenges our horses to a race.
Going out on a ride and a brisk morning with Cole and Dante means they walk down the hill to the river just as slowly as they did all summer long. Once we cross the river, Cole wants Dante to go first. Dante trots too slow for Cole and he has to keep dropping to a walk when he gets too close to Dante. He doesn’t want to pass—he just wants Dante to go faster.
Eventually, I convince Cole to take the lead. He goes at a moderate speed—and we end up waiting for Dante to catch up. When we get to our favorite section to canter, they both wake up and Ellen and I get a glimpse into the world we used to enjoy so much with Ranger and Cruiser.
If we have any regrets about having normal horses, now, they go away when we turn around to go home. We can trot safely. They go faster on the way home, of course, but they seldom get out of control like Ranger and Cruiser did all the time when the weather was cool. We go fast and steady—and stay warm. If we are walking for a while and want to get warmed up, we trot a bit. The closer we are to home, the trickier it can be, but not anything like our other horses.
Yes, we miss those days. I talk to Ranger about them as we do our nightly constitutional on the loop. I think he might miss them, too. Cruiser and Ranger together were a force to be reckoned with. But we are all older now, and honestly, this is so much easier. We can ride in cold weather—even snow—and our horses stay sane and we stay warm.
Still, it is fun to reminisce…I sure do miss my Cruiser.