Trail riding at Oologah Lake

After my disappointing vet visit on Tuesday, I met up with a couple of foxhunting friends at nearby Oologah Lake for some much-needed saddle time. I took Candy, as I’m pretty familiar with these trails and I thought it might be a good opportunity to get her exposed to water.

Candy loaded in the trailer better than she did for our trail ride last month- she’s still a little balky, but I’m confident she’ll keep improving as she learns my trailer is not a deathtrap and I am not the world’s worst driver. As soon as I got her unloaded and tied up, a herd of horses and mules pastured next to the trailer parking area galloped up to the fence to ogle her. Candy was pretty unfazed by them. She looked at them curiously, but was more interested in straining against her lead rope to lip at dead grass. She was quiet as I tacked her up and stood pretty well for mounting.

My friends were both mounted on experienced draft crosses; Fiona, a big spotted draft mare, and Jet, an enormous bay gelding, were perfect babysitters for a little green mare!

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Following the edge of the lake.

We took a slightly different route than usual and ended up skirting the edge of the lakeshore for half of the ride. Candy lagged behind at first, much like she did on our last ride. She quickly picked up more confidence and even led the little group for a bit! She wasn’t into plodding through fetlock-deep boggy mud, but followed our placid draft horse friends without much fuss. I expected her to be alarmed by the lake; it’s a huge body of water, and the constant wind in Oklahoma means there are always little waves lapping at the rocky shore. Candy gave it the side eye at first, but her suspicion turned into interest when she followed Fiona into shallow water. Candy pawed and splashed and ducked her muzzle into the water. Once she realized it was cool and wet, she gleefully waded deeper.

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Splashing around.
Splashing around.

I dragged Candy back toward shore to give my phone to my friend; I was afraid Candy would roll and soak us both. When my phone was safe, I let Candy go where she wanted. She went further and further into the lake, until she was in from the chest down and her legs were just barely touching the bottom! She made little whinny and grunting noises, and dunked the bottom half of her head up to her eyeballs into the lake over and over. I sat in the saddle with water over my tall boots, doubled over laughing as she played.

Fiona's view!
Fiona’s view!

When we finally emerged to rejoin our friends, we began to wind our way back to the trailhead. Fiona led the way on a very narrow trail that curved through the dense forest that grows near the lake. I was grateful for her big draft body- she knocked down plenty of saplings and tree limbs for us! At one point, we had to pick our way through the forest because a huge tree had fallen over the trail; Candy was miffed at getting whacked in the face with springy branches, but plowed on while I hunched over her neck and covered my face.

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Confident enough to lead the way for a while!

We found the trail again and were soon back to the main loop. Candy didn’t hesitate through the mud on the way back, and even picked up a trot as she splashed through. I let her trot on for a few minutes- she was quietly interested in her surroundings without being nervous or worrying about where her draft friends had gone. She came back to a walk without any problems and waited fairly patiently for them to catch up. When we got back to the trailer, she happily munched on alfalfa cube treats and loaded back in the trailer without much of an issue.

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Just eating directly out of the treat container, whatever.

I am so impressed with how she handled this ride! For her second trail ride, she conquered a lot of stuff: squelchy, sticky mud, swimming, changing terrain, horses she hadn’t met before (she did squeal at Jet once, but was otherwise fine), claustrophobic narrow trails, very dense brush, and a totally new place! As she gets out more, I’m certain her confidence will grow. Maybe she’ll be ready for hunt season after all!

Author: Stephanie

Equestrian, amateur cook, people person.

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