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Part II - Off the Beaten Path
Fri Feb 9, 2007 14:35 (XFF:

After their rounds in the arena at first a walk, and then a trot and canter, Tsuga felt varying degrees of disgust and pride. Some of the students had actually fallen off while still walking. Others hadn’t been able to get on in the first place. A few of them had nearly bounced their teeth from their heads even after she had explained and repeatedly demonstrated how to keep from being jarred too terribly during a trot. One of the horses had been kicking all day, and another had successfully bucked his rider. But they had all gotten back up, gotten back on, straightened their filthy clothes, and kept trying. She was proud that even the Novices, who weren’t used to such physical exertion, were being good sports and not storming off when they grew tired.

Finally, she called them all to a stop and reined her horse around to look at them, each one sitting with some measure of confidence astride their saddles. “Very good. You’re staying on, and so far no one has gotten seriously hurt. That’s saying something for your common sense. Now that you’ve got the idea of how to control your horses, we’re going to try something new. Horses are pack animals. That means that as long as they’re all going in the same direction, or all following one another, they’re pretty agreeable. But if you try to get them to do something on their own, it’s harder to make them do what you want. Most horses will move away from their friends slowly and want to run back. For now, we’re just going to try a simple exercise in exerting your control over your mount. I want everyone to ride their horses out of the arena, all except for Novice Dendri.” As she spoke, she dismounted and led her horse to the gate, which she opened and held for the students as they filed through. “Now, Miss Dendri, since all of the horses are at this end of the arena, I want you to get that gelding to canter away from them all the way to the other end down there. When you get there, I want you to stop your horse, turn him around, and make him walk all the way back here. This is simply serving the purpose of making you control your horses, rather than letting them do as they wish, and showing you the difference in how you must ride when you’re not just going in circles.”

Tsuga watched as first one student, and then the next went through this little task, calling out advice and occasionally telling them to do it over. Many of these horses were buddy-sour, and didn’t like to be away from the rest of the horses. But eventually, everyone had managed a more-or-less successful trip, and she was ready to move them on to the next step. “All right, now that you have an idea of what some different riding situations are, we’re going to go out into the ‘real world.’” Actually, they were just going to ride around on the trails here at the Tower, but compared to circling a patch of dirt, it was a big, scary world out there. She stifled the urge to grin and went on. “This is essentially a trail ride. You’re welcome to wander off the trails I pick if you don’t feel that I’m challenging you enough, but you will still have to overcome the same obstacles as everyone else. Now, we’re going to be riding through some pretty narrow places, so get single-file like we were in the arena and follow me.”

After about a quarter of a mark riding along contorted paths and winding between bushes and under trees, every one of them was scratched, bleeding, and she had heard no few complaints. Although this was hardly a walk in the park, this was also nowhere near as bad as what they might have to do if they were on the road and decided they needed to hide for some reason. At last, they came to their first official obstacle – she hadn’t really planed anything about this little trail ride, save that they would follow some circuitous route and end up back near the barn, and she had pretty much been riding randomly hoping to stumble across something. And, lo and behold, here it was.

“Everybody stop.” She called out the warning so that there would be no bumping of horses and then twisted in her saddle to grin at her class. “There is some debris over the path up ahead, but we can’t get around it easily and there’s no room to turn around. Welcome to Obstacle Number One. Your horses are able to find their own footing here if you let them. Just hold your reins loosely and give them their head – as long as they’re going in the right direction. Some of them may not want to go, but you should know by now that you have to be able to control your horses, so I want to see how you handle this. The path widens a bit up ahead, so I’m going to move aside and watch you each come across. Watch how the person in front of you goes and see if you can improve on their technique if anything goes wrong. First person, watch me.”

That said, she turned herself back around and nudged her horse into motion, letting him pick his way through the fallen tree limbs blown down in the last storm. When she had made it to the other side, she pulled her horse off the main path and stood to the side where she could watch properly. “All right, come on.”

OOC: Alright, go ahead and do like she said. This is the Trail Ride portion. Feel free to elaborate on other Obstacles you encounter and how you manage to get through/over/under/around them. Since this is covering quite a bit and I’m leaving you so much of an opening, I’d like to see at least 500 words. Next section will be up in a week.

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