Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Persistence pays off

This morning I had plans to go on a trail ride with a couple of boarders who ride regularly once or twice a week during the nicer weather. Unfortunately, when I got there I discovered Panama was in a tizzy — someone was driving a tractor around on the road, right by the far end of Panama's corral, and apparently it had him all revved up. He was on high alert in the cross ties, pawing and pooping, I guess because he could still hear the tractor and it made him nervous. He even tried a couple of little half-rears, like he was going to try to break out of the cross ties, but I pitched my gloves at him and that ended that.

I decided to ride him in the outdoor arena a little while everyone else was still getting ready. My goal was to walk him in circles and give him something to do to calm him down, but it didn't work very well — at least not that I could tell at the time. In fact, he even bolted on me once when a truck came down the driveway — something that wouldn't normally bother him, but today sent him into a frenzy. He cantered for 2 or 3 strides before I was able to pull him up, and we went back to circling.

As the other riders got ready, they started to congregate in the field right behind the outdoor arena. Panama seemed to know we were going with them, or at least that he wanted to go with them, because he got upset every time it looked like they were going to ride away. I was having a hard time keeping him at a walk, and I think he tried a half-hearted buck once when I used a one-rein stop to keep him from running away again.

I was pretty close to not going on the ride after all, but part of me didn't want to give in. Plus, I was thinking he might be better on the trail, surrounded by other (calm) horses. So I opened the gate from horseback and rode out into the field to join the other boarders.

I can remember thinking as we left that I was going to regret my decision, but in actuality I ended up being really glad I'd stuck with it. Panama was tense for the first ten minutes or so, but he did calm down and was really good for the entire trail ride. He listened well and didn't spook once! He tiptoed around the junk pile and shied at a few rocks, and every time we came across one of the bright blue porta potties he stared hard at it as if trying to figure it out, but that was it.

Despite my initial misgivings, we arrived back at the barn without incident. The other boarders kept saying how wonderfully he did, and how well I handled it despite how revved up he was at first, which was good for me to hear — I am pretty skeptical of my ability to handle him when he starts dishing it out like that, but it seems like perhaps I'm better at it now than I think.

I would love to go out again soon, but unfortunately it is supposed to rain tomorrow, with perhaps a little bit of snow overnight. Not much, I hope, as we'll go out again next week if the trails are dry by then!



At April 1, 2010 at 4:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good deal - glad it all worked out!

At April 1, 2010 at 9:24 AM, Blogger Nuzzling Muzzles said...

That's one thing I've had to train myself over. A lot of times when I transport the horses somewhere, they are so hyped up that I can't get their attention on the task at hand and don't feel confident that I could stay in control. However, especially on trail rides, they do settle down eventually. It's as if nature calms them just as much as it calms us. Also, I used to dismount every time a big truck or tractor came by the arena while I was riding, which is probably a good idea for beginner riders for safety's sake, but now I try to ride it out and convince the horse that it is something to ignore.

At April 1, 2010 at 10:54 AM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...

Kate, I am too!

NM, it's a struggle for me too. My first instinct was not to go, but to stay home in the safe arena and work through his fits there. Although that also would have been an acceptable decision, it was a much more positive experience to get him to calm down doing something he enjoys, rather than through work and discipline. And it was a huge accomplishment for me to work through my fear and see that everything turned out all right, after all.


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