There was a local QSER club meeting/ride this weekend, and I am very pleased with Fetti.
Five mile ride over: generally uneventful, not quite a 5mph pace but I let her choose a lazy forwards speed and didn't ask for much.
Five-ish mile with another club member on her green horse: not logged, but Fetti was excellent and polite and mellow, winning herself a few more fans. It wasn't a hard or a fast ride, but given the plan to ride to the meeting and then home again after, I was happy enough to have a socializing ride while helping someone else's training.
The ride home got a bit more interesting.
We headed out around 7, much to the pony's dismay as we were leaving all the other horses and that couldn't possibly be right. She got over it; we've had worse discussions when leaving. We stayed lazily slow through the steep downhill steps to the river, then trucked along at a consistent-but-not-fast trot -- and it was quiet enough in the park we sustained that pace for the next 0.7 miles on a gradual uphill. Very pleased. We can't normally do that! Looking at the logs after, that 'not-fast' trot was a solid 7mph. Gooood mare.
Partway out, I got a text from a friend that she'd meet me partway home, and here's where she was now. Yay! We picked up the pace, flying up one hill, walking the really steep stuff down, and trotting most of the downhills towards her location. Good news: totally rideable, though I wouldn't want to make a habit of doing that all the time. Bad news: my iMessages never went through to her, and I got another Text that she was heading up the trail.. the other fork, not the one I'd just come down. Drat! She can't be that far away though, right? We're hauling ass, she's bareback and solo, she was *just* here I think.. so we turned around and flew a bit more sedately back up the other trail away from home.
Several missed calls and failed messages later, she finally got my 'turn around!' text message, but at that point was nearly to the center point; she called and said she'd wait there. Poor Confetti was not pleased with her human, but was still politely trotting along most of the time when asked. Mostly all uphill, and I kept thinking we'd catch up to them soon.. well.. no. We did not. Fetti was very happy to see her mother at the midway point, and I was very apologetic to my poor horse.
Off we headed for home, down the same trail Fetti and I had gone earlier heading home. I can't blame her for thinking badly of the humans! It was mostly downhill, with sunlight fading fast. We've ridden in the dark before and I figured we'd probably be fine. We did opt to take the (no horses allowed) main road through the park since slightly more light comes through and there are slightly fewer cliffs, rocks, and terrain changes to deal with. Confetti led through most of the unfamiliar road, her tail acting as a navigational beacon for our riding partner.
It was pretty freakin' dark by the time we got back onto our trails. We'd walked nearly all of the road - unfamiliar asphalt in the dark going downhill does not exactly scream 'trottable terrain'. The moon wasn't deigning to show itself. (And now that I've looked it up, gee, that makes sense: new moon tomorrow night. There was no moon this weekend.)
So Confetti stayed in front, and we just kept on walking. I pointed out landmarks periodically to reassure the four of us that we were in fact making progress towards home. The last mile home has a fair bit of tree cover and not an awful lot of clear spots. We hit our first 'totally dark' spot and Confetti promptly spooked in place, then carried on walking. Thank goodness. I don't know what it was, but I didn't fall off and she got herself over it with no help from me. Good pony! Our second spook came a few minutes later, as I slowed down her walk so our riding partners could stick right by her tail for visibility. The bushes by my left foot moved all of a sudden, and poor Fetti nearly jumped out of her skin going sideways to get away from.. whatever it was, perhaps a lizard? I couldn't fault her for that, either, and she got over it and carried on forwards right after.
My night vision is pretty good, and I know the trails well. It's not often that we hit areas of total darkness where I can't even see her mane in front of me. We did that a few times during this ride. I couldn't drop contact for fear she'd spook, but I rode a lot of it with one hand on the reins and one on the saddle. A glowstick on my crupper would have been very helpful for our partner. A few times I pulled my phone out and just let the ambient light hit her tail as we went through sections of dark, just to give her something to orient to. When we hit our usual 'very dark' spot almost all the way home, I gave in and used the flashlight ahead of us. I couldn't see anything, I was worried about deer, and I couldn't keep turning on the screen and holding it behind me.
I apologized profusely to the pony, thanked her, and gave her an extra flake of hay.