Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Water Crossing & Barn Sour Work Before the Big Vacation

The sun is shining, the weather is finally dry, and I've been getting a lot of trail time--between house chores.  (Oh, and for those of you who read the blog regularly, the basement is almost fully back in order--walls, tape, texture and paint--all done. My husband is quite the worker bee. Did it all himself.)

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.


  1. Looks and sounds like Leah was a handful in the beginning. I'm glad she made progress. My husband is half Czech too. In fact, just yesterday someone was inquiring about the nationality of my last name, which is Czech. I myself am English and Welsh. His other half is Sicilian. My daughter's boyfriend is Italian, so the two of them took a trip last summer to meet distant relatives and see about their heritage. They did go to Prague. The place they liked the most on their European tour was a small town in Italy where his cousins lived, and the place they liked the least was London. Prague came in second as their favorite. Have fun!

    1. Nice. I'm also English and Welsh. Funny! Yes, I love Italy. It would be hard to beat. I'm really looking forward to the Czech country side...and Prague won't be half bad either, I'm sure!

  2. Water crossings, sigh. We struggle with them too. Great hill lesson, it surely resonated with Leah. Glad you find it fun. I am just always happy to come home alive, in one piece. Oh wow, that's an exciting trip! Enjoy, safe travels!!

    1. Yeah, the hill worked well for her because it kept her from getting the ride over--which is her deepest desire, I'm sure. LOL. I kind of know what you mean about feeling happy to return safe. Anything can happen. I feel that way with Leah, but it's getting better each time. I'm learning to trust in her and in myself.

  3. Such great work you are doing with her!

    1. Thank you. I'm going to miss it for the next two weeks. WAA WAA!

  4. Great work. I'll bet by the end of the summer she'll be loving crossing the water and going up and down hills one step at at time.

    Have fun on your trip it sounds wonderful. You'll have a great time everywhere. I'd love to go to Norway sometime.

    1. Thank you. I agree with you! I'm quite hopeful. I hate to leave her for two weeks because I think consistency really helps. :( But either way, I do plan on having a great trail horse by end of summer! Hell or high water.

  5. Have a wonderful time. Prague has always fascinated me -- it looks so beautiful. Let us know if it is as beautiful in person as it is in pictures. Excellent work with Leah -- what a gorgeous setting for a ride!

    1. Can't wait to see Prague and the surrounding towns! I will bring back photos. :)

  6. You are doing great! And so is Leah :-)
    Have a wonderful time on vaca and safe travels!

  7. Leah sure has come a long way- and your confidence in her too. It's been fun following your journey with her, and funny that we are having similar problems.
    Nothing unfortunate about a trip to Europe! What a great adventure that will be. I will never go but one of the things that I find wonderful is the sense of history there, especially considering that the oldest things in our country are only a couple of centuries old.


Please feel welcome to join our discussion by telling us about your own thoughts and experiences.