Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve trail ride

After Panama did so well on Wednesday's trail ride, I decided to try to go the next time our trail buddies went out again.  They have kept up a pretty regular Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule since the spring, so the next time was today!  And when I was talking to Spaghetti's owner about it, she decided to go too — she'd only had him out once, earlier in the summer, and was interested in doing a little more of that kind of thing with him.

I was a little worried that it would be only the two of us — with Spaghetti's lack of experience and not knowing how Panama would do, I didn't think that was a good idea — but luckily Zans's owner showed up as usual.  In addition, Lady (one of Panama's girlfriends) and her owner just happened to be tacking up at the same time, and decided to come, too.

I was a bit concerned when Lady joined us, because I suspect the presence of mares may have had something to do with why Panama kicked Voodoo on the trail many months ago.  Luckily, Panama did not act at all protective.  It may have something to do with the fact that Panama and Spaghetti ride together quite often in the arenas, and since Spaghetti really likes to follow Panama pretty closely, he is accustomed to having Spaghetti behind him.

The problem, as it turned out, was having three inexperienced babies on the same trail ride.  Lady hadn't been out on the trail in months, either, and though her owner had her in the lead in the beginning, she was extremely unsure and kept balking at various "scary" things (a hawk in the grass staring at her, the junk pile, passing through the gate to leave the property, etc.).  Panama usually likes to lead, but her uncertainty had him convinced that there was something there to be worried about, and I couldn't get him to pass her.  And of course, Spaghetti, for whom this was his second trail ride ever, would just crowd in with Lady and Panama, and wouldn't go, either.

Luckily, we had the experienced trail warrior Zans along to babysit... literally.  He tends to poke along in the rear, 20 or 30 feet behind the rest of the horses, so while we were trying to get our babies to walk past the scary bush or gate or whatever, he would finally catch up and plod right past our little cluster of babies.  Then all three of the young ones would realize there was nothing to be scared of (since Zans didn't care), and jockey to get back in front of him (which was fine with him) and back into their order.

Panama always wants to be first or second in the line, and there was no way he was gonna let Spaghetti be in front of him (he's like that in the arena, too, and even when they play together his goal seems to be to be in the lead as much as possible).  For about half of the ride, Panama led and Spaghetti followed close behind us, while Lady and Zans stayed some distance back.  The other half, Lady led and Panama followed, with Spaghetti going third and Zans bringing up the rear.  Panama seemed to be fine with either way, but he was noticeably distressed the couple of (brief) times where Spaghetti fell in behind Lady.

Unfortunately, whether because of Lady's and Spaghetti's uncertainty or because he hadn't been turned out that morning, Panama was on high alert the entire ride.  In retrospect he was still very good, even if he was carrying his head in the air like a giraffe, but at the time I was unable to relax, worried that he would bolt.  I had to remind myself constantly to sit back and put my heels down.  But, to be fair, he handled everything very well.  Lady crowhopped once and Spaghetti spooked twice, and both times Panama responded with a similar initial reaction; but as if it was instinct and not genuine fear driving him, each time he very quickly came back under control.

Although it was a tense ride, I'm glad we went out.  It's good to get Panama out on the trail again, and reintroduce him to the many stimuli we encounter on the trail.  I also think the experience is good for Spaghetti, and since his owner and I would like to be able to trail ride together — just the two of us — in the near future, it was good to see that the two of them did well together.  Hopefully next time Panama will be more relaxed and confident — and hopefully I will be, too!



At December 26, 2010 at 11:45 AM, Anonymous Melody said...

Sounds like quite an adventure! What do you carry things like treats and such in? I have a backpack purse from Tim's Boots that a friend got me, and she swears it's better to use that to carry water bottles, treats, etc than to use bags on the saddle. Just took her word for it - she's got horses.

At December 29, 2010 at 8:56 PM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...

I don't actually carry treats... He likes to stop and graze occasionally (though it has to be my decision, not his), so why carry treats when they grow on the ground? LOL

But I do have a very nice English saddle pad with pockets behind the flaps on each side. Very easy to reach, and you can fit a smallish water bottle in each one, if you want. NO bouncing around -- it's great!


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