Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Another ride in the field

Today (Monday) I took Panama on another ride in the field across the street from the barn. He did really well — so well, in fact, that I'm beginning to think he's more ready to hit the trail by ourselves than I am.

I took this picture the other day. In it you can just barely see the narrow road on the other side of the pasture fence, and the field beyond that.

The field across the street from the barn

We park in the field right off the road. In this picture you can see the soccer field and park that is on the other side of the field. The big trees just beyond that border the trail. Further to the right, the field meets up with the trail, so that's the way I'll ride when we get to that point. (We're not supposed to ride on the soccer field.)

The field I ride my horse in

This evening's ride started out a bit rough — the flies were really harassing him, and I'd run out of fly spray so he didn't have enough on him to keep them off. He kept whipping his head around to bite at flies on his shoulder, which would make him swerve to one side or the other as he was walking. Or he'd kick at his belly, which would hump his back up suddenly and cause me to pop up into the air. I felt like I was riding a drunk horse — or a pogo stick!

I had been trying to get him to walk and canter in a roughly arena-sized circle, but the flies — and his reaction — were making it so impossible that I gave up. Instead, I had him walk back and forth across the field, testing his comfort zone by making him go farther than before. Around this time, either the flies started leaving him alone, or he became so interested that he stopped bothering with them.

Since he was no longer fussing over the flies (which tends to make him really uptight when we're riding), I was able to see that he isn't nervous at all about riding in the field. Oh, sure, he pays close attention to everything, and tends to walk really quickly if I don't slow him down, but he's excited rather than nervous.

There were still a few things that gave him pause, but every time we ran across something like that I made him practice it until he got it right. For instance, crossing a set of tire tracks that are worn into the field concerned him at first. In one place he was actually thinking about jumping them, since they'd worn a little ditch into the ground, and I don't think he could gauge his footing very easily. But we went back and forth a few times, and he seemed to figure it out.

And then there was the funny moment when I realized we had passed near a plastic bag several times, and he hadn't noticed it any more than I did. It was a clear bag, just lying in the grass. I thought maybe he was only okay with it because it didn't move, so after our ride, I hand-grazed him in the field solely for the purpose of coming across that bag again. I deliberately kicked it, and he didn't so much as flinch. Then it got stuck on my toe for several steps (which I hadn't intended), and he still didn't seem bothered, even when I lifted my foot and shook the bag off.

I think we've got the plastic bag thing covered.

I really do think that Panama is ready to hit the trails by himself. In fact, I think he's been ready for a while, and I've just been missing the signs — or (more likely) I've just lacked the confidence to go through with it. It's a huge step, going out on the trails alone. It's going to require putting together a trail first aid kid and remembering to pack my diabetic supplies (primarily my blood glucose meter and some candy or glucose pills for an emergency). And it's also going to take a huge leap of faith that both Panama and I can handle being alone on the trail.

I'm not going to just ride into the sunset or anything. I plan to take this step by step. We still haven't made it all the way across the field to where we can pick up the trail — I think we'll do that next time. After that, we'll try going a little farther on the trail each time.

This is so exciting — much more interesting than riding in the pasture, and I can tell Panama feels the same way!

Hand grazing my horse



At July 21, 2009 at 5:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If they are confident enough, a lot of horses seem to enjoy the trail more than the arena - more interesting to them, I guess! Sounds like great progress!

At July 21, 2009 at 6:28 PM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...

You know, I can actually say with confidence that this is the case for Panama too. Last summer I was riding him both in the arena and on the trail with some other boarders at my old barn. It was quite obvious from his behavior that he loved the trail, and was quickly bored with the arena.

I'm already looking forward to our next ride in the field!


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