Monday, June 7, 2010

Exploring new trails

Yesterday Panama and I went on a trail ride with Windy and her owner, Pawnee (a new friend) and Windy's owner's husband (who is borrowing Pawnee), and Flash and her owner. To my excitement, when I got there I found out that they were planning a new, longer route, based on a ride they had taken on Saturday with another friend who trailered in.

The route we took snaked over part of the park. We started out like normal, until we passed the riding stables in the park; then we turned and went out past the public arena, where there was a water trough. I guess their other friend encouraged them all to get their horses to drink out of the trough while being ridden yesterday, and they all had to work for it because the horses were scared of the trough at first. I was rather amused that Panama walked right up, swished his nose around in the water a little bit, and took a drink without any alarm whatsoever.

(Of course, just moments before he had shied away from a couple of small, skinny white poles leaning up against the arena fence, so I suppose I shouldn't be too proud. But it just goes to show that my trainer is right, and Panama has it all backwards — what other horses normally fear, he is fine with, but he shies away from silly things that other horses would never even give a second look.)

From there we crossed the road and headed down the hillside to the trails along the creek, where we did our water crossing a couple of weeks ago. We spotted another group of horseback riders up ahead, and then we had a scary moment when the lead horse (Pawnee) started trotting and Panama did too, and I couldn't stop him because he was going to exactly what the lead horse did, gosh darn it... But Windy's owner yelled at her husband and that ended that.

After that we crossed the bridge, and this time Panama wasn't any more than a little concerned. Last time the water had really been rushing from the snowmelt, and Panama hugged the downstream side of the bridge like he thought the water was going to jump right up and grab him! No problems this time, though I'm glad we were second in line — Flash's owner, who was bringing up the rear, had to dismount and lead her horse.

When I crossed that bridge with Mozart's owner, we had doubled back and followed the creek back until we found a good water crossing, but this time we veered off to the right and followed a different trail up a hill and across a large field. The trail also passed through a prairie dog village — I was wondering if Panama would freak, since he used to be scared of rabbits, but he didn't pay them any mind.

We were quite a while on this trail, probably 20 or 30 minutes, before we turned and went down a hill to double back to the creek. Panama wouldn't go first across the creek, even though he'd wanted to lead most of the way — he stepped in, checked out the water, and took a drink, but didn't seem to understand that I wanted him to cross the water. So we climbed a little hill and circled around to the back of the line to let everyone else go first.

Unfortunately, that put us behind Flash, who had never crossed water before. She pranced a little bit on the bank, picking up her feet very daintily like a child who didn't want to get her toes wet, and then finally sprinted across the creek (I think she tried to jump the current). Panama followed along behind her at a walk, but halfway across decided he'd better run, too. He's not scared of water crossings, so I don't think he would have done that if Flash hadn't — I should have known better than to put him in the back behind the nervous newbie.

After following the creek a short distance, we suddenly plunged into a swarm of mosquitoes. They were so bad that I think Panama considered bucking, and possibly half-bucked: I saw his shoulders come up, and then felt his back end rise as the front went down. I don't know if he bucked or just kicked out a little, but I think he knew he wasn't supposed to, because it wasn't very pronounced.

He continued to hate those mosquitoes, though, and wormed his way back to the head of the line — he wanted to get OUT of there. He had fly spray on, but evidently not enough, so I kept brushing them off of his neck and shoulders (and mine too) every time they landed. Then we went through one more thick spot, and he started trotting. As a result, we got up the hill and away from the creek before anyone else, and had to wait at the top for our friends to catch up. (Flash's owner had to dismount again here, as Flash for some reason decided to buck and her owner decided the steep hill was better navigated on foot.)

From there it was just a short ride back to the barn. We circled around to the public arena again, got more drinks at the trough (Flash played in the water, and Panama watched her and then tried it himself), and then went into the arena to let them run a bit. Panama was a bit of a basket case at first, and his trot was totally out of control, so we walked a lot. As we got back to the gate, he spotted the big black plastic tensioners on the fence straps, and spun and bolted. (See what I mean about things that other horses would never even notice?) After a brief wrestling match over who was going to control the reins, I slowed him down and we circled past the gate several times in each direction, at both the walk and the trot.

Other than a spook on the way back over by the driveway signs Panama hates (Flash ran into one and crow hopped, sending Panama scooting forward to get away from the scary Thing that was going to eat his friend), we got back to the barn without any more excitement. The entire ride had taken nearly 2 hours, and it was a hot day so I got a bit burned. It was tons of fun, though — I'm going to really enjoy these longer rides!

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