SUBSCRIBE TODAY Smiley face  Get updates via email! 

We Are Flying Solo

August 27, 2019

Echo's First Outing - Plus Bonus Solo

Last weekend, we had some really lovely weather with temps in the mid-70s, so I pounced on the opportunity to take Echo on his first real adventure.  Temperature was an important factor, because a critical component for success was Echo's Emotional Support Animal, heat-intolerant Solo.

Destination:  the multi-use trails of Umstead State Park in Raleigh

  • wide trails that are almost entirely wooded (so plenty of room to pony Baby Monster alongside)
  • rolling hills for excellent soft tissue strengthening
  • no additional fees for trail use
  • doesn't get muddy
  • great exposure to Weird Human Activities, as the trails are shared with lots of bikers, hikers, strollers, & all kinds of fascinating & oddly-shaped wardrobe items
  • Trails are shared (& heavily used) with lots of bikers, hikers, strollers, & all kinds of fascinating & oddly-shaped wardrobe items
  • Trails are now almost all gravel (were just screenings a decade ago when I started going there), like #57 road gravel, so can be challenging for barefoot horses (I put front hoof boots on both)
Prep Work

Echo didn't have a long racing career, having failed miserably in four puny races, but that DID mean he made it through training, probably without killing anyone, & broke from the gate & ran the races in the proper direction.  That means I feel comfortable assuming he has seen a number of Weird Human Activities & things which make odd noises.  Nonetheless, bicycles are the most frequent encounter on the Umstead trails & can be sensory twins to a horse-eating cheetah:  swift, nearly silent, & approaching with no warning from behind.  I wanted to be reasonably certain Echo wouldn't respond by trying to kick any heads off these spandex-clad cheetahs.
It's on the internet, therefore, it could happen...
I took my old bike out to the horses' paddock on Saturday & stuffed my pockets with treats.  I started out simply walking the bike next to me in the paddock while the horses were watching me.  Solo immediately pranced up with flaring nostrils & arched neck to inspect (like he hasn't seen it a million times), a cautious, but overwhelmingly curious Echo in tow.  I dispensed treats to both while they sniffed.

I soon graduated to riding the bike away from them (I felt this was least threatening).  They stood & watched with interest, but since they didn't startle, I turned around & rode towards them.  Echo jumped a bit then, not sure what to make of the fact that my motion had suddenly changed dramatically.  I stopped & held out treats in each hand, encouraging him to approach.  An inveterate food whore, he quickly did so.

It took him about four minutes to figure out that bike-mom was definitely not scary, rather she was AWESOME:  this mutant produced delicious noms (I almost never give him treats due to Young Horse World-Goes-In-Mouth Disease) & should be followed closely to ensure none were missed.  Success!

Ride Time   

Sunday morning, I loaded up the boys.  This also meant Echo got to practice wearing ALL FOUR shipping boots.  I know I owe you the story of Sacred Leg still, but short version is he HATES things touching Sacred Leg (right hind) & this has been an ongoing project.  He wanted to make sure I understood that this was definitely cruel & unusual punishment.
Protest noted.
The ride itself...was excellent.  The most exciting part of it -- well, aside from the fact that I can't remember the last time I got to take one of my horses somewhere for fun, that was pretty damn exciting -- but the OTHER most exciting part was that it was completely & totally uneventful.

Echo watched the humans & dogs & miniature humans & bikes & tiny human carriers with bright interest, but remained calm & self-assured.  He never flinched at any bikes whipping past, or coming towards him, he didn't even consider them particularly note-worthy.  It's not like I expected high drama from him, he's fairly sensible, but I hadn't dared to hope for complete acceptance of everything!  He didn't even have to wear his Horse-ibal Lecter muzzle (I brought it just in case, but there were enough interesting things to look at & Solo was walking fast enough to dissipate energy).
I still kept an eagle eye on that nose tho & it transgressed a couple times
I was so proud of him & I definitely think our regular ponying outings on our home trails paid off in spades.  Of course, it was a huge help having his (mostly) wise mentor demonstrate that everything was fine.  "Mostly" because Solo did decide at the very end that some decorative boulders were probably trolls lying in wait to eat him, in need of some very snorty eyeballing from a standstill.  Echo hilariously looked at boulders, looked at Solo, shrugged & just waited for said mentor to get over it.

Even better -- I know, I didn't think it could get better, I still feel a bit nervous over this many good things at once -- Solo was thrilled.  Like overjoyed, excited, soooo happy to be back out adventuring in the world with me.  My warm fuzzy cup runneth over.  It's been a long time since I felt that much bounce in his step.

It was certainly hard at times for him, especially on the steeper downhills, where I felt his shoulders mincing some (his right shoulder gets sore easily due to his old DDFT injury).  Fortunately, the hills aren't long.  I kept trying to get him to take little rest breaks, but he wasn't having it, he was enjoying it far to much to just stand around (his words, ha).
Even did "scary" bridge with wood decking
We ended up walking a little over 6 miles, more than I intended for Solo, but a loop I'd wanted to use was closed so we had to backtrack.  To my surprise, as I was sure he'd be beat, he still trotted out to his field after dinner when we got home & looked perky & fresh on Monday morning!

Walking 6 miles in two hours is not anything big in the grand scheme of things.  But this was the first trip I've gotten to do in several years.  Echo showed me he can take new things in stride & behave like a good citizen.  And I don't know how many rides Solo has left in him (we never really know with any of them), but after all we've been through, well, the value of each one is approximately invaluable.

All of which means that for me, those two hours were pretty darn huge. 

Thanks, guys.  


  1. I love Umstead! We lived about 10 minutes from it before we bought our house in January :) Glad both boys had a good time!

    1. Hello, "neighbour"! :) I like the trails, but I confess I hate the gravel -- it was so much nicer when it was just screenings. I understand why they use it (better erosion control & slightly less maintenance), but that's the reason I go there far less often than I used to.

    2. Hi, neighbor! :-D Totally agree, I find it's not great for human feet, never mind hooves.

    3. Walking on my own human feet? Why would I do that?? ;-P

  2. Awww, great post! So glad you had such a lovely outing with your two boys :)

  3. Such a fun outing!!! I never went to Umstead when I lived in Raleigh but a barn i boarded at briefly was close enough to the Tobacco Trail that if you knew the way you could ride there.

    1. I did go to the Tobacco Trail once a long time ago -- it was convenient, but it was too straight & flat to be interesting riding. However, as a hack from your home barn, it's a nice option!

  4. Sounds like a great outing! Fun that Solo has such a good time getting out and about.

    1. I'm hoping it convinced him to do a little less jealousy biting on Echo...

  5. Introducing horses to bikes and other modes of transportation is always pretty interesting. Habituation always seems to work though when Dante realized bikes came in smaller sizes for smaller people (and or possibly dogs, I'm pretty sure he thinks children are just other dogs) he about lost his mind. That was almost 2 years ago and now he doesn't even care. Silly ponies.