Today was a more quiet day in Aiken, which was a nice change of pace from the action-packed weekend (though at the same time man, what an awesome first three days!).
Pa and I slept in (which for early birds like us meant 6am for Pa and 8:30 for me), loafed around the hotel room for a while, and then went out for another nice 3 mile run. It felt great to run before my legs got tired out from riding, and this was by far my best run in Aiken yet. I still haven't felt as fresh and bouncy as I have on a few runs as Oxford, but hopefully as I settle in I'll get that back. I also had a very sore left leg (I think from adjusting to running on the uneven dirt roads) the first two runs but thankfully it felt great today. I'm definitely still really enjoying running again, and having a partner (Pa) makes it extra nice!
After that, we went to lunch at our favorite sandwich place (New Moon Café, a beloved stop dating all the way back to our very first trip to Aiken back in 2003!) where I had a veggie wrap that I'm still salivating over, and then grabbed some riding clothes and headed over to Suzi's.
It was a busy day at Ledgefield so we got to watch a few lessons before riding, which I always enjoy immensely. Suzi helped one woman who has the same problem that I do with carrying her hands out in front of her, and so it was very helpful for me to watch her work to improve that.
Then, Papa and I tacked up Kiki and CB, a client horse of Suzi's, and took to the roads! One of the most special things about Aiken are the almost ubiquitous red clay roads that are wonderful for hacking out on at a walk and trot. It wasn't clear that Kiki had been out on the roads yet, but she was a total star back at Gina's (even walking up the river with me a few times!) and so I wasn't too worried.
(Kiki and I on a sand bar, about to wade back into the river near Gina's last spring - what a good little trail pony!)
Very sadly, my favorite road near Suzi's house has been paved (whhhhyyyyyy on earth would you destroy such a lovely thing??) but we were still able to head up John Scott, which is a nice, albeit more hilly, route. We walked up the steeper part of the hill (which someone had mystifyingly decided to cover in gravel that made it totally unsuitable for trotting - again, WHY) and then started trotting when we got to the flatter parts up top.
(Kiki is unenthusiastic about sharing the road with Pa and CB - also, can you say GORGEOUS DAY??? It was actually perfect)
And boy, they were both great! I always have a bit of a time getting Kiki to feel even in both reins, and this was a great time to practice as we were trotting in essentially a straight line for about 10 minutes. As soon as I got her straight her trot just ballooned into this marvelously swingy, fancy gait and I felt like we could be trotting down the centerline at Rolex any minute (a girl can dream, right??? =D). It's also just amazing to consider how good and rideable she was today, when a year ago I hated having to even trot her straight from one end of the ring to the other for fear of her locking her jaw and starting to run. We've come a long way, baby.
(Man, life is good!)
We did have one small 'situation' when we got up to the quarter horse farm about two miles up the road. Kiki was doing fine until two palominos came cantering playfully from behind a tree so that they popped very suddenly into our line of sight. Kiki had a serious HOLYCRAPTHAT'SREALLYSCARY!!!! moment that entailed her briefly flying to the other side of the road, nearly bowling CB over in the process and with me hanging on for dear life in the back seat. Fortunately, as soon as she got to the other side of the road she came to her senses and, besides being a little bit more on alert for the rest of the ride, was perfectly behaved. Whatta champ.
(Coming back to the farm with Pa and CB leading)
After that, it was a quick (but great!) ride on Ringo, and then before we knew it the day had slipped by again! It's incredible how quickly the time flies at the barn =)
Tomorrow we're up early to check out the sunrise workouts at the training track and then enjoy a massively filling breakfast at the track kitchen (easily Pa's favorite eatery in Aiken) before heading over to Suzi's. Kiki's getting her feet done, and I'm very excited to talk to Suzi's farrier (who's been doing an excellent job - her feet have never looked better). Should be another exciting one!
(Total non sequitur but I got a kick out of this - the Aiken town crest, which appears to be: a mansion, golfers, a horse, and... "progress." Awesome)