Sunday, July 19, 2009

Training and trail riding do go together

As I said last night, we had a great ride yesterday. It made up for a little frustration I had with Bar earlier in the week (which I will post about separately), and proved to us that the patience training we did the other day was a really good plan.

Ike sent me a training tip through Katie - "Go for 1% improvement every day and in 100 days, Bar will be perfect." I'm not sure about perfect, ever, but it's a good, realistic way to look at horses and their timelines--which may not always coincide with our timelines. Horses are an investment, and the financial part is really the minor piece of the pie. What I tell people when they ask about having horses is that it is a time and energy commitment you have to be willing to make if you want a good experience. Just showing up now and then to ride may work with some horses, but ours need a little more than that.

Yesterday gave us all some tangible results from the work we've been doing, though Lena made us wonder right after we loaded her yesterday. We got her in, then loaded Bar, and suddenly she was scrambling in her compartment. She had her right rear leg at a weird angle, presumably because she had begun to push her hip into the divider and lost her balance. It was loud and scary, and I started to back Bar out--who was being absolutely calm and wonderful, I might add--but Steve held the door closed behind us and told me to wait a second and be patient (!) and sure enough, she got herself steadied. Luckily, we had used the fly boots Cheri suggested and they kept Lena from banging up her fetlocks like she's done before. Those will become a permanent item in the trailer.

Then we were off! She pawed once or twice, but settled down as we got rolling. But we only rolled as far as the hardware store as you approach Guerneville before traffic stopped. Uh oh. Summer traffic through Guerneville is always bad and had we left earlier, we would probably have been okay. But at noon, it was stop and go for at least a half an hour. I started to get antsy, couldn't think that all this stillness was good with our two horses back there, but.. there was hardly a shuffle.

We got to the park, pulled in and parked in the picnic area and unloaded the horses, tacked them up, and headed up the trail. Bar was more nervous about Lena getting out of site than he has been recently, but it was a new place for him and there was a lot going on with picnickers, Frisbee games, and lots and lots of cars and humans. He actually mellowed quite a bit once we got on the trail. He took the lead going uphill, but preferred her in front going downhill.

We had hesitation from Lena going over the bridges, but she did eventually go, lifting up her big feet ever so daintily at the hollow sound underneath her. Then there was the scary turkey making rustling noises in the bushes. I assured them that if it really was a mountain lion, we wouldn't hear it. Both horses were really paying attention and being careful with their footing, through some very tricky terrain.

Then the big test. Stopping for lunch, which meant tying them up and not hovering. Bar was himself for a little while--my apologies to the tree:

Amazingly,he did eventually settle down:

Lena settled down almost immediately and just watched the hikers come down the hill. Even I settled down long enough to eat, which is a minor miracle.

So all in all, an awesome day. I even left Bar tied up alone to the truck and trailer while I took the saddles and tack back up to our barn after we got home. Not sure if that's a bigger milestone for him or for me, but I'll take it either way.

Might have even gotten 3% yesterday, if I were to call it.

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