Wednesday, April 4, 2018
I don't try to build enough suspense at this blog, but I wish I could in order to express the suspense in myself--for my horses--every time I go out on the trail. How will they react to new horses? How will they handle the trailer ride? How will they do on the trails? On the obstacles? Will they be partners? Will they show heart?
I met four friends at Riverside State Park, a very large local park, for our first ride of the season. Riverside has 12,000 acres, 25 miles of horse trails, and 200,000 feet of shoreline trails. If you've followed this blog, you've heard a lot about it because it's about five miles from my house, and we go there a lot.
I took Leah, and she trailered like a pro. We unloaded and did some at-liberty work in the round-pen. She wanted to looky-loo at all the other horses, but I asked her to lope, then stop and face up, then stand and keep her attention on me as I walked up to her, then walk by my side. It didn't take her too long to do that, so we went out and did the obstacles in-hand. She did them all wonderfully, which meant it was time to saddle.
Since my back is healed, I used my old western saddle. (Oh, how I missed it!) The first obstacle we rode through was the labyrinth with SIX turns. I asked for each step going forward through it, and she was tuned into each placement. Then, I had to back her through it, which is much more stressful because she can't see where she's going and has to trust my direction. Leah is extremely emotional and you can see she is putting a lot of pressure on herself not to step out of the path, so I have to be really gentle in my asks, patient, and encouraging. For the first time ever, we did it without her getting panicked, and she did it very well.
From there we went through the all the other obstacles with no problem--except the mailbox. She still doesn't like the mailbox, which made me wonder how she'd do opening and closing the gate--since they're so similar. The gate was really the ultimate test for me of all that we've been working on this winter. Here we were at the park with lots of other horses she didn't know--a new round pen--lots of activity. Would she do it???
Yes! She both opened and closed, then opened and closed again, the round pen gate. Yay, Leah!! Woot! Woot!
We were off to the races--or rather, the trails.
During the trail ride, she led the pack at a brisk pace, but maintained her walk. Double yay! We asked a lot of them for their first ride, but she didn't balk. We went up and down steep trails along the water, over large logs, ran into dogs and people, and she did it all like a pro.
In fact, my friends all remarked on how far she'd come and how she was a different horse from last year.
For my part, you know how important togetherness is to me--heart--partnership. And, let me tell you--Leah tuned into me the whole time. She didn't give an iota about the other horses. Whenever we came to something scary, she'd check in with me, I'd tell her it was okay, and she'd pass over it. Sometimes, she'd look back at me for reassurance, and I'd reach down and rub her head. I rode on a loose rein for a lot of the ride, but there were times I picked it up and gently moved the reins with my pinkies to talk to her. She would talk back, too, if you know what I mean. This very gentle, I'm here, I'm here--tick, tick--of the rein on either side, and a gentle response, or movement, back from her--to tell me, I'm listening.
It makes me want to cry thinking about it. There is nothing more sweet or rewarding than when your horse gives you their trust.