I was very determined to ride bitless and be confident riding bitless and eventually bridleless. Another goal I had was to join a competition. More for fun than anything else. We started off bitless at a trot and canter around the farm. She did have a tendency to want to gallop off but for the most part, she was fairly kind enough to me but we were still building our relationship.
Dadz had a rodeo team and knew a lot of people who were interested in horses. He introduced me to a group that was going on a trail ride and told me about a small competition that was happening in a month or so. Dadz didn't ride much anymore so he wasn't going to be on the trail with us. They were all guys around my age so that was slightly awkward at first for me to be honest. My mom was skeptical about letting me go but she trusted Dadz who was going to chaperone us for the most part. I was just so excited to have riding buddies again.
The trail ride was an actual trail ride, like, in the forest and over hills. Not like the one I tried out with Clyde on paved wide roads or what I was used to at home. This was also Sahara's first trail and boy did this whole event take out relationship to the next level. Trust was built that day. Quickly.
It started out in the city and we were on top of a hill. We were all chatting. I remember them asking me if I was joining the upcoming barrel racing competition and if Sahara was the horse who was going to be my mount. I said yes. They all chuckled and said good luck. Hmph! We all went on walking for a bit.
At first, I thought, oh this is easy. Until I saw we had to go down a very very steep hill (the picture doesn't give it justice) into a forest. I followed them while someone was behind me. The trail was barely wide enough for us and it was freaking clay! A horse in front of us slipped and fell but was ok. The others were slipping and sliding. Sahara was doing her damn best not to slip. How in the world did we get into this situation?! The rider in front told us all to get off our horses. I stupidly got off in front of Sahara. *face palm*
We started walking but it was so slippery Sahara was sliding into me and I was sliding too. No room to turn around and head back at that point. Just imagine her front legs spread wide on either side of me to give me space and as to not take me out or squish me! Bless her. Me, leaned back against her chest with my legs together. We slid pretty much all the way down that damn hill together in that position with me saying "We are doing good, we are ok". We got to the bottom. All of us. Ok and unharmed. Just emotionally shaky haha.
The trail was fairly nice again until we had to cross a fairly dried-up creek with giant boulders. Were they trying to kill us? I don't know. After crossing that there was a fork in the path. One was nice soil but had a lot of brush that would swipe/scrape the riders and to the left was pretty rocky footing for horses but clear for the riders. The paths met up again not too far up. We all agreed to go left. I watched others go first and every horse went to the right and dragged all the riders through the branches and leaves. It didn't look fun. I was not the last to go but we went as I leaned low ready to be hit by some branches. Sahara on her own went to the left up the rocks. The horses behind us followed us and those riders laughed at the others. Thank you, Sahara! They all joked about putting Sahara in front since she made good decisions.
After that the trail was you know. What you would expect of a trail. Nice and fun. It was a pretty long trail (or seemed like it) and I could tell Sahara was dead tired but she was so determined. They all wanted to gallop the rest of the way back. Sahara was not thrilled but she wanted to keep up (note she hated being behind) so I let her set the pace. We lagged a bit behind but I was fine with that by me even though I swear Sahara was pissed that she couldn't keep up. It was a lot for both of us since we just never did anything like that. We got back and I gave Sahara a nice bath and she went straight to sleep.
Dadz asked how it went and they said good. The group did mention they were wondering why I would even join a competition because Sahara was so slow and unsure of everything and that maybe I should borrow one of their horses. I however was so proud of her and how she handled all of that! Heck, I was unsure of a lot of things we did that day. I had a new level of trust with her after that day and vice versa.
After that, we started practicing for the upcoming barrel race and galloping bitless because if we could slide down a slippery slope together we could do anything!