Friday, August 21, 2009

A borrowed helmet and more trail ride practice

I blogged a while back about my decision to start wearing a helmet when I ride in more dangerous situations — out on the trail being one of them. I hadn't put my new policy into effect until Wednesday, though — all of my trail rides up until then were helmet-less.

On Wednesday I borrowed a helmet from the tack room — one that belongs to the girls who own the alpha, but never come anymore since he can't be ridden. I have pseudo-permission — that is, permission from the barn owner. Not quite correct (and it does eat at me that I don't have the owner's permission), but I guess since the barn owner is responsible for all of the alpha's care, he ought to have some authority over this, too.

In any case, it's just until I get my own. Here's a picture I took after today's trail practice. I was out there alone, as usual, so I set the camera's timer and put it on a fence post. The pictures turned out pretty good, considering:

My borrowed horseback riding helmet

The fact that it's really pink and girly will serve as incentive to get my own soon. It is comfortable, though. It's actually one of those really nice show helmets — the pink thing is just a cover, presumably to keep the black velvet clean — and is quite nicely padded inside. In fact, other than it making my head sweaty, I actually more or less forgot I had it on both times.

Today's ride was better than Wednesday's, but only just. Panama was a bit on edge again. (I hope he's not scared of the pink helmet... Heh.) I started out doing circles in the flat corner of the field, close to the barn. He kept wanting to go faster: trying to trot when it wasn't asked for, and when I did ask for it, lurching into it and continually speeding up. He was also reluctant to turn away from home, and over-turned when heading toward home. This was the most barn sour I've seen him, and I have no clue why.

In any case, I kept at it until he settled down a little, and then we headed across the field to the trail. Other than a couple of attempts to trot, he was pretty good the whole way there. He climbed the hill to the trail easily, and we started down it in the direction we normally go.

After a few minutes, when we were about halfway to the trash can, I saw something odd flash by behind the trees that line the trail as it curved away in front of us. A moment later, a truck came into view: a maintenance crew emptying the trash cans. I started to pull Panama off the trail into the grass alongside, but thought better of it. As edgy as he seemed, I didn't want to chance a bad encounter with a truck today.

The maintenance crew was taking their time with the trash can, so I turned Panama around and took him back to where we picked up the trail. In the field about 30 feet from the trail, I worked on standing and doing turns on the forehand — which he seemed to have forgotten completely (another clue that he wasn't himself, as he's usually quite responsive to those). We watched the truck pass without incident; the guys waved to me, and I waved back. Then I took Panama back up to the trail.

We worked a lot today on staying in a straight line. He's been all over the place on the trail, which is probably 6 feet wide to allow for passing. I'm working on getting him to stay as far to the right as possible with as few cues from me as possible.

We were making progress until we got to the trash can. At first he seemed to be even more scared of it than yesterday, and veered way to the left while walking diagonally to keep an eye on it as we passed. So I turned him around and we did it again. Each time he got a little better, until by the third or fifth time (I know it was an odd number) he walked right by it as if it were no longer there, close enough that I probably could have reached out and kicked it.

Horses are such funny creatures!

We continued on, and as we rounded the curve, we came into view of another white maintenance pickup, parked in the grassy area to the right of the trail. There was no one around, so I decided we could work with this one a little bit. I moved Panama off into the grass and kept him walking right toward the truck. He was snorting and blowing, but continued moving forward without any problem, albeit a bit slowly.

About ten or fifteen feet from the truck, I moved him back onto the path. He was still a bit wary of the truck, although he had stopped snorting at it, and veered a little ways away from it as he passed. I probably should have made him do it again, but this time I let it slide.

After the truck came the road crossing. We didn't cross today either, as I was still a bit concerned about Panama behaving unpredictably. He actually behaved himself very well — he didn't act concerned about the occasional passing car, and walked right by the manhole cover without flinching — but I felt like he and I were still too tense from earlier in the ride to risk it.

So after riding past the manhole and circling around several times, we headed back to the barn. Panama did try to speed up a bit, but in general wasn't too bad. Just to be sure, though, instead of taking him straight home, I trotted him up the hill away from the barn, did a few circles in the flat area there, then dismounted and led him home.

It was after taking off his bridle that I took the above picture. I took two pictures, actually, and each time when I ran back to him after setting up the camera, he nickered at me. And for the second picture, he actually put his head over my shoulder and snuggled with me!

Me and my horse after a trail ride in my borrowed horseback riding helmet

I often find that after a ride, Panama is much more talkative with me, and follows me around like a puppy even after I turn him loose again. Does anyone else find that their horse is so much more affectionate after a ride than before? Any ideas on why that is? I have my own theories, but I would be very interested to hear yours.



At August 21, 2009 at 10:30 PM, Blogger Reddunappy said...

Emma is the beta in our herd, only because Mickey the currant alpha is more stubborn! So she wants to do her own thing and when I turn her loose after riding she is gone. Big brat, but she is easy to catch and she has good manners otherwise. I dont think any of ours would stick with us in the field, in the pen yes, but not in the big field.

At August 21, 2009 at 11:45 PM, Blogger Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Wow! Only three passes and he lost all concern for that trash can. That's pretty good. You must have successfully communicated that it wasn't anything to worry about. The horses used to cut a wide wake around parked cars, but I've been parking my truck right outside their gate and have to walk them past it every time they go to pasture. Today while I was trying to put Bombay back in the paddock, he veered away from me in order to walk right up to my truck and peer into the window. It was pretty funny. Now I know he's at a point in his curiosity that I need to keep him away from my truck or he'll destroy it. Either that or he'll change my spark plugs.

I think my horses are more affectionate after I've tortured them -- I mean taken them for a ride, because they know the worst is over and now it's time for pets and treats.

At August 22, 2009 at 12:14 AM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...

Pam, I'm sure if there was grass around when I turned him loose, Panama would be gone too. :o) That horse is so belly driven!

NM, believe me, it doesn't mean he won't be scared of the trash can again next time! It'll probably be a while before we can ride past that trash can without making a few passes.

Interestingly, Panama is usually okay with cars -- at least some cars. I park in the field where I ride him, and I've walked him right up to the car and slammed the doors with him on the lead rope without much of a reaction out of him. And when we ride in the field, he'll usually watch the cars on the road with interest but not much concern. However, I think seeing a truck where he was pretty sure there shouldn't be one -- i.e., in his way -- made all the difference.

I've been thinking a lot about my theory of why Panama is so affectionate after a ride, and I'm going to post about it soon!


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