But back to horses.
These last trail rides have had two themes:
1. Rushing home/trailer, aka, "Barn Sour"
2. Crossing Water
I was thinking, that even though these two sound like different subjects, they actually have very similar core themes:
1. Partnership & trust.
2. Directing the feet (which circles back to partnership & trust)
I love trail work because it really puts you and your horse into situations that demand partnership and trust. Communication. Togetherness. You also see who you are in those moments of stress. Do you get angry with your horse? Scared? Patient? Wise? Thoughtful? A mix of those things?
On my rides with Leah, we work on crossing water, but I wanted her to get a real solid foundation with real streams/creeks, so I asked my trainer, Rebecca, to ride with me through her first encounter at Palisades Park. Here are the photos of their work.
The approach. This was after Rebecca dismounted and worked her across from the ground. Pictures don't do this justice. There is a waterfall to her right and lots of foliage. It's loud. On Leah's first approach--from the ground--she jumped in and landed almost on the other side. After a little work, Rebecca remounted and rode in.
We don't want our horses to jump in--but sometimes, that's what happens anyway. Rebecca's advice, should that happen when I'm riding her, keep looking up and let her sort it out.
When Leah's nervous, she wants to bolt out of there. Rebecca had to hold her back.
Finally, she's walking through.
Here's a short clip of the finished product:
Lessons learned: 1. Getting off is okay in these early stages of water crossing. 2. Take the time to keep at it until they're able to think and not just react. 3. Be ready for the jump,but don't be scared of it, they will sort it out.
Leah likes to walk out fast, and I like her to do that, too, but sometimes it's dangerous. For example, going down rocky hills--you'd like for your horse to take the time and look where they're putting their feet. Leah, however, just books it down the hills and over rocks. She hasn't tripped....yet....but it's a matter of time.
Yesterday, I knew it was time to school her. We came to a steep hill with trails both up and down, in a loop. I asked her to walk down--foot by foot--me directing each foot--and, if she rushed, we went back up the hill, and tried again. All together, we probably went up and down 10 times, but by the end of the work, she was allowing me to direct each foot, back her up the hill, and listening for direction.
As the ride progressed, she intuited we were heading towards the trailer--cue the trotting.
To solve that problem we tried a couple of things: 1. We turned back and went the opposite direction, and 2, we trotted in lots and lots of circles and figure 8's.
We spent about a half hour on that work, until she could maintain her walk towards "home". When we finally arrived at the trailer, we circled back out onto the trail and practiced going over logs. I dismounted away from the trailer.
Leah had increased the work for herself and, in so doing, worked up a sweat. My hope is that she will soon realize that walking is the fastest way to end a ride!
All of this training is fun, fun, fun. I love every minute of it.
Unfortunately, I'm going to have to put it all on the back burner for a couple of weeks because I'm heading to Europe Wednesday.
And then the Czech Republic. (My husband is 1/2 Czech, and has always wanted to visit his family's ancestral hometown of Pilsen). We'll be in the countryside for half of the trip, and Prague, for the other half.
I'm heading out this morning to get one last ride in, but I'm taking Cowboy. I'm going to miss them all so much!
PS. The pony is doing great! She's sweeter than before she left. It's like she appreciates us more.
This concluded Day 68. Click on Day 68 in the keywords below, and it will take you to last year. Guess what? That was the day I CAME OFF!!! That day was one of the worst days of my horse life.