I’ve had so many bad rides in a row lately I’ve lost count.

I’m not sure what’s going on, but we’re definitely in a funk. After a successful jumper show in mid-December, I’ve started switching gears and riding mostly on the flat with my Hanoverian mare, Belinda. She’s already well-schooled in dressage and usually enjoys the time we spend with flat work.

But not lately.

Belinda has been a monster to deal with under saddle. Her usual upbeat demeanor has transpired into something more agitated. Instead of listening to my aids, she been barreling through them. We never seem to be on the same page anymore.

At first I was worried that she wasn’t feeling well. So out came the vet and the chiropractor and then later the saddle fitter. She got the all-clear from the entire team.

So what’s the problem?

I decided to give her some extra time off. But that didn’t improve her mood when we got back to work after a short break, either.

I had marked the date of the first Hunter Pace of the new year on my calendar months ago. We’d never been to one, but seeing how well Belinda had been jumping lately, I thought it would a be fun change of pace. But as the date loomed closer, I began to second guess if it was still a good idea.

In the end, I decided to go. If Belinda wasn’t feeling up to it, I was sure she would tell me (as she had told me many, many times in the weeks leading up to the event). So we loaded the trailer that Saturday and off we went.

I’m so glad we did.

I think the change of scenery was just what we needed.

Belinda and I rode out with a team of experienced fox hunters on the 9-mile pace. We galloped through orange groves, trotted past several herds of cattle. We jumped fence-line coups and crossed multiple creeks. Belinda was willing and attentive to my aids. We had a blast.

There’s something to be said about taking a break from the arena and just doing something fun. There was no pressure out here in the wilderness park. We cantered across open prairies and jumped a few logs when we felt like it. I’ve noticed our rides in the arena since the hunter pace have improved ten-fold.

Clearly all my mare needed was a mental recharge. Maybe so did I.