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“Gas has to be pretty darned expensive before I’ll even consider conditioning in open fi elds. I have a theory about horse’s brains and wide-open territory. I believe there is something about a one-lane trail that keeps a horse’s brain compact, centered and focused in a forward direction with neurons following established pathways to deliver directions from the rider’s hands to the horse’s feet. But once you enter a 40-acre open fi eld, the neurons in that nice compact brain just scatter in every direction like the little twinkling lights from fi reworks exploding in the sky, and every foot tries to take off in a different direction. Suddenly I’m steering the front half while the rear half is trying to gallop in an entirely different direction. If I concentrate on the rear the front may suddenly slam on the brakes and break right or left.”


My fi nal option for saving gas and keeping my rig safe is riding around


my home. T ough my home trail system seems pret y redundant to me, I try not to complain because I know there are trail riders in Atlanta who are starving for fi ve miles of open spaces they could ride to straight from their back yard. I actually had a pret y good fi gure-8 wooded trail that was around a mile, then it had a branch where you turned through the woods, stepped through the gap in the fence that said, “No Trespassing” onto the property that is in a dispute where the cousins who have inherited it are threatening to shoot each other if they’re spot ed on the property. Next I can gallop up a lit le lane to an old cemetery, where visitors now


have the sheriff escort them through the disputed property to visit, turn down a four-wheeler path to skirt the edge of the “crazy old woman’s” fi elds. It was an OK weekday workout until the big tornadoes of 2011 cut straight through it and turned my fi gure 8 into nothing short of a Rolex jump course on steroids. T at part is still impassable since it’s not easy to clear a trail with a chainsaw when you’re trespassing. T at’s not to say we


haven’t done it numerous times...simply that it’s not easy. Until someone invents a silencer for a chainsaw, my only home option is now to cross the road and ride the open farms. Gas has to be pret y darned expensive before I’ll even consider condi-


tioning in open fi elds. I have a theory about horses’ brains and wide-open territory. I believe there is something about a one-lane trail that keeps a horse’s brain compact, centered and focused in a forward direction with neurons following established pathways to deliver directions from the rider’s hands to the horse’s feet. But once you enter a 40-acre open fi eld, the neurons in that nice compact brain just scat er in every direction like the lit le twinkling lights from fi reworks exploding in the sky, and every foot tries to take off in a diff erent direction. Suddenly I’m steering the front half while the rear half is trying to gallop in an entirely diff erent direction. If I concentrate on the rear the front may suddenly slam on the brakes and break right or leſt . If I ever do get the horse lined out in a somewhat linear manner I remem-


ber the other problem with riding in fi elds: they aren’t level. Around here EVERYTHING has a tilt, so if you cut across a pasture you WILL have one leg long and one short. It’s not as bad if you have an Etny Mountain rope- walking horse, since they travel a very straight line and feel less like they have a fl at tire when trot ing across the slope. If you’re not on a rope walker, the next best thing is to canter since it lines the hooves up bet er, but it’s hard to dodge holes (another peril of grassy fi elds) when your horse’s brain is exploding and his feet are trying to bolt in several directions at once. It almost makes me want to ride at Etny...if it weren’t for the busy train track RIGHT next to where I’d have to unload. T e more I think about having to ride Etny, the more I ponder ways to


aff ord traveling to the good trailheads. Aſt er much thought, it occurred to me that the trip home costs just as much as the trip to the trailhead. I can take what I need from home to the trail, but I can’t take the trail back home with me. Maybe instead of cut ing out trips to the trail, I can solve my problem by cut ing down on trips home. If you happen to notice a trailer at your trailhead that has added a patio and a clothesline, stop by and say hello. Drastic times call for drastic measures.


Angie and her husband Bill defi nitely live their lives on the “lighter side” of the trail in Wildwood, Georgia. Contact Angie at rides2far@gmail.com to order her book, T e Lighter Side of Endurance.


WWW.TRAILBLAZERMAGAZINE.US • June 2012 | 11


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