Yesterday's ride was originally going to be a nice long ride at a moderate speed. I figured I would have plenty of time and daylight. This was rapidly aborted when I discovered I had maaaybe three hours of proper daylight by the time I arrived at the barn. Instead, we did intervals per Mel's suggestion, with a few modifications:
Pony is not allowed to trot down (most) hills. Exceptions are made if she's polite and collected, but presently, not often. Pony is instead asked to do a collected walk down hills, and speed is thus utterly appalling on any substantial downhill section.
We have approximately a mile of mostly-flat trail, and it is heavily populated by hikers and dogs. Generally, we walk past hikers; it's good basic trail etiquette, although terrible for our overall speed. Once there are hills and elevation gains, there are far fewer hikers - but far fewer flat sections of trail.
Yesterday's ride consisted of a fair bit of cantering, a lot of big trot, and interspersed walk breaks primarily on the really long/steep uphills or the downhills. I was particularly pleased with how willing she was to go, and how willing she was to leave other horses - we passed two familiar geldings as we were heading out, and there was absolutely no hesitation about doing a Big Trot once we were past. Good mare! Overall: 5.41 miles, 1h 14min. 4.38mph. I quit tracking prior to the last half-mile home; at that point we caught back up to the geldings again and settled for walking home with them. Given that's a nice flat section of trail, I think we likely would have averaged 4.5mph had we kept going alone.
I was not running a heart monitor on her for the ride. That's on my list to do for this upcoming week! Mostly, if she was willing to go, we went. Verbal or tiny leg cue would usually have her launching into a Big Trot or occasional canter. If it didn't, and I thought it should have, I'd ask with a little more leg. Wouldn't go still? We'd walk another 30 seconds. She's pretty honest about how well recovered she is.
Pace context: for Tuesday's ride, we had our running buddy with us for most of it. 6.71 miles. 3.2mph, 2 hours. Pretty much the same trail, minus an extra loop and the non-tracked part of Thursday's ride.
If we can get out tonight, the goal will be SLOW pony-jog speed for a short loop. Sometime this weekend, a longer ride where we aim for a moderate pace (and the pony learns how to do a normal trot for awhile by ourselves).
Other goal for the weekend: trail and pony photos!