Leah, I Brought the Posse!
After Easter dinner & egg hunt, I had a date with my trainer, Rebecca, to take Leah to the state park and practice water crossings. Like Superman, I ducked into the bathroom and changed wardrobe from Easter mommy to bad-ass trail boss. 😂 I texted Rebecca--"done early--ready anytime." And, she texted back, "putting up my trailer and will be right over."
Soon, we were loaded up and hauling Cowgirl (Shiloh's palomino horse) and Leah down to the trail head. There was a significance in Rebecca riding Cowgirl--our alpha mare--which you will soon discover if you choose to read further.
The big, bad water puddles.
Saddled up and heading down the trail, Leah saw a long, skinny bit of standing water, aka teeny puddle, in the far-off eastern distance. Leah began to veer off the path and drift southward, through the stands of trees, to avoid it. I directed her back. Here is what we did.
1. Approach water. (Leah wanted to bolt away.)
2. Approach long, skinny puddle from the side and try to go over. (Leah would bolt away.)
3. Approach long skinny puddle from side, crop in hand, Cowgirl (alpha horse) blocking her bolting path. (Leah bolts other way.)
4. Repeat above items. (Leah finally steps through.)
5. Immediately praise and move forward.
Quite quickly, we were upon the 2nd and much bigger puddle. This one was wide and long and, apparently, an incubator for viscous little bugs. Here is what went down at puddle #2.
1. Approach water (Leah veers away.)
2. Approach water from side with two trees in order to block her in. (Leah makes way around trees.)
3. Park alpha mare to the side of Leah, hold crop in other hand, ask Leah to approach and stand at puddle's edge. (Leah approaches and stands. Tries to bolt, but can't. I praise her. She starts to relax.)
4. Approach and stand again. (Leah is happy and relaxed again.)
5. Ask for a step into the water. (Leah gives it.)
6. Ask her to cross water. (Leah bolts to the left again.)
At this point, we're starting to get the picture that Leah won't be pressured across the water. The only clear success we had was getting her to approach it and rest--which was a big step up from seeing water in the distance and trying to avoid it. The approach and rest became our main goal.
1. Approach and rest. (Cowgirl--alpha mare-- is sick of the bugs and Leah not going over the water. By this time, she has shown her how it's done a million times (Leah doesn't care) and she has blocked her path about the same amount of times. Cowgirl is at the end of her rope. Leah, however, is perfectly content to rest at the puddle's edge with bugs swarming her legs and belly.)
2. I stand up a bit in my saddle and free up Leah's back, then ask her for a step. (Leah, for some reason, decides it is time, and she crosses the water. (Yay, Leah! I praise her to high-heaven, not knowing what encouraged her to finally make that decision for herself.)
3. We move on to next puddle.
The last few puddles, one rather large, were much easier to cross. In fact, Leah crossed the largest one immediately. The last couple were small puddles and she gave me a bit of guff--but not near as much as when we started out.
We have a plan.
Leah learned an important lesson last night. She learned that she cannot avoid puddles and, if she wants to save time and get back home to her food, she needs to confront them sooner rather than later. If she doesn't confront the puddles, her partner (me) will stay at the puddle until it's done.
And that is my plan for the future. I don't believe Leah is scared of water, I think she has chosen it as the newest thing on which to disagree. She has to learn that if she does a good job, that is the surest way to end the trail ride. I have to always be prepared to spend the time to get her through it. I will not use high pressure, I will use patience, and I will wait for Leah to make the choice to cross.