Sunday, March 18, 2018

Leah Has Heart


My goal this year was to get to Leah's heart, but until yesterday, I was discouraged.  Simple things, like asking her to let me pick up a cone from one barrel and walk over and set it on another barrel was a chore. I mean, really, Leah?  Really?

I was getting so desperate, I even reverted back to her old name, Cia, to see if that would touch something in her heart.

Then, Friday, I invited friends over to play, and they came for a few hours and rode horses with me.  Working the horses, then standing around talking, then working some more, seemed to agree with Leah.  By the end of the day, she showed some softness.  

Don't get me wrong, I have seen this softness before, it's just that it comes and goes.  Sometimes, it feels like she's a million miles away.  It's not an aloof, like Old Red used to be, but still did his job.  No, with her, it was a stubborness--basically, a withdrawal on two levels.

Have you ever seen a horse avoid looking at something it doesn't want to acknowledge?  That's what I'm talking about.  Or, at least, that's what it felt like.  To be fair, I do set a high bar because of Cowboy, Beautiful Girl and my first ever horse, Tanner--all of them heart horses.  I know what connection feels like...and what it doesn't feel like.

I even started to wonder if she would be better with someone else, but came back to the answer of no.  I figure not too many people would put the time and effort into her like I have.

If not me, no one.


Then, yesterday happened.  Our first trail ride of 2018, held at Palisades Park.  I won't lie--my expectations were low.  I mean, I've been riding her almost all winter and getting the bare minimum of effort.  

Leah all winter: Oh, you again. Are you going to feed me? Then go away.  What? The lead rope. Ick.  Okay, I'll stand here. I'll lead.  I'll let you groom me.  I'll walk over the bridge.  But. Not. That. Damn. Cone. 

Back to the trail ride. 

She wasn't perfect.  

I don't expect perfection.  

I do expect try.  

She  had LOTS of try.

1. 20 cross country runners came running at us in a full on pack.  It was definitely an OH CRAP! moment.  But Leah stood and looked at them like it was another obstacle I'd set up for her enjoyment.  Interesting, but kind of a yawner.

2. Walking out. Leah walked out with force and independence.  One of the thoroughbreds with us was prancing and dancing, but Leah again--yawn, yawn.  Ears on mom.  There were four other horses, some of them new to her, but she was with me.

3. The steep descent to the train tunnel and train tracks.  Usually, most horses, including Leah, try to escape this turn.  They know it's steep with lots of loose basalt--and its cavernous.  One of the new horses completely refused to turn into it. (It was his absolute first time on a trail after being on the track--and he did remarkable for the rest of the ride.)  Anyway, Leah turned right into it-knowing full well what was down there.

4. The train tunnel.  The train tunnel is full of graffiti and it's scary for all involved.  A train may go over it at anytime, their feet echo on the concrete, and all of the horses see, and react, to the colorful graffiti--the sight, the smell of paint.  Leah, again, did great.  I walked her through it first, then rode her through it. It was Leah's first time through the tunnel.

5. Walking back to the trailer. Walking back, the first day out, is always a challenge.  Some horses are wanting to run back, and they're all a bit hyped up and hungry.  It was no different yesterday.  Horses were anxious to get home.  One was way out in front of us.  Yet, Leah walked on a loose rein for 3/4's of the ride back.  She tried to trot when she was almost in sight of it, but would easily come back to the walk--then trot again--then come back to the walk.  I made her work for the trot though.  If she trotted, I collected her up and drove her from her hind.  She'd do it for a while, then choose the walk.

6. There were a lot of other things, for example, water--lots of water--and she crossed it without blinking.

The trail is the test. Everything we do is all, eventually, about riding out. Yesterday, Leah gave me her heart and her try.  She was as much a partner as any of my horses have ever been.

I'm getting ready to go out today, and I don't know what to expect, but at least I know it's possible.


  1. This is so lovely. I think Leah loves the trail but not so much games in the ring.

    1. Could be. It probably seems pointless to her. I was thinking yesterday, as we struggled yet again with the cone and barrel, that what we’re doing is very much like opening and closing a gate—and we have some baggage in that area because of her fall a year and a half ago. It’s the same side (right) that she doesn’t like to feel pinned in on—causing her to bolt left. She’s not bolting anymore, so I guess I should be happy for that.

  2. Sounds like you've made a real connection with Leah. Maybe she missed you while you were away.

    1. Could be. She’s probably happy for new stimulation out of the arena.

  3. This is wonderful. I understand completely. I have a little paint mare that I struggle with in the exact same way as you and Leah.

    1. I’m sure you know, it can be both frustrating and super rewarding! Connection is important to me, but I may be expecting too much of her too fast. I’m going to check out your blog. 😀

  4. That is wonderful :) I think Leah gets bored easily.

  5. Leah did a ton of difficult things for and with you on the trail, for a totally awesome trail ride!! You've invested a lot of yourself with her, and it's paying off. I do think you set a high bar, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Especially with a smart horse, like Leah.


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