Saturday, July 12, 2008

Saving horses from the arena

After two weeks of boring (at least to them) arena work, we rescued the horses from one more day of big and small circles and took them out on the trail today.

Both horses loaded pretty easily, though as usual, Lena fussed a bit about being in front. We had decided to go out to Shiloh Regional Park--which is right by the barn Katie D. keeps Bee and Willoughby--just to try somewhere new. I'd called Katie to see if she wanted to go with us, but Bee hadn't been out for awhile, and she wasn't sure about Willoughby being ready, yet, so she said she'd just see us off on her way to the barn instead.

She got quite a show.

We got to the parking lot and there were several trucks and trailers already parked there, plus a kid's birthday party starting, complete with a big, blow-up Jumpy-Jump.

Oh, boy.

Bar started acting a lot like it was race day, dancing and looking around with big, wide eyes. I barely got him to stand still long enough to get on! Then, when we actually headed up the trail, neither he or Lena would go past who-knows-what they thought was going to eat them. Bar spun around several times, and we couldn't get Lena to take the lead, which usually gets him to settle out long enough to get us rolling.

I am pleased to say I kept my head--and my seat--and didn't panic. I just kept circling him and correcting him and trying again. Steve finally suggested we walk them around the parking lot a few times, though it was really more like dancing around the parking lot, and that finally got them calm enough to start up the trail.

About 100 feet up the trail, I heard voices coming down the trail towards us fast enough I was pretty sure it was mountain bikers. I shouted out a warning and the rider in front skidded to a stop a few feet in front of Lena. Some weird and unfathomable (at least by me) horse logic prevailed and neither horse budged an inch and we walked past the two bike riders without incident. Human head-scratching is still going on, however.

We traveled uphill and downhill, past scary tree limbs and truly terrifying park benches, on wide trails and narrow trails, and past a lake. We stopped at the top to have lunch and I noticed a lot of Yellow Starthistle, so wouldn't let them graze at all, much to their dismay. Steve and I switched horses after lunch, too, like we normally do. It seems to be good for both horses to work with different riders, and trail riding is no exception to that rule.

One of our biggest hurdles was the BRIDGE. Lena took one look at it and tried to turn around and go back the other way--about 4 times, actually. I nudged her forward and we clattered across it, her snorting and blowing the whole time. Steve, behind me on Bar, said she had her legs spread out and her head down, reminding him of a cat stepping in something unpleasant. Bar was acting a lot like he wished Lena would get out of the way so he could get across the darn bridge, already.

We ended the day with Lena slopping around in the trough and both horses refusing to get in the trailer. We obviously got them into the trailer again and all of us ended up at home, a little weary, but safe.

We did a lot of good work with ourselves and with the horses today, both training and trust-building. It was also a good day for me, dealing with Bar in a volatile situation, not having it escalate, and even working through it in a way that gained us a lot of ground.

In other words, as tired as I am after waking up at 4:30 a.m., running coffee up and down stairs for O'Reilly's annual Foo camp event, wrestling with horses and actually getting them to cooperate, I'm feelin' pretty darn good at the moment. Yahoo!

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