Friday, July 15, 2011

A trail ride and a temper tantrum

Today would have been a great ride... except that he decided to be a complete dick and throw a temper tantrum about a horse getting too close behind him.  Remember when he double-barreled the horse behind him last summer, and threw me off?  Well, now he's done it again.  I hate having "that horse," the one that'll kick if another horse gets too close, but I guess I can no longer pretend otherwise.

Aside from that incident, it was a great trail ride.  There were five of us: Zans and his owner (as always), Savvy (Panama's pasturemate) and her owner, Spaghetti and his owner, and Tiny and his teenage owner.  We haven't ridden with Tiny before, and he's the one Panama kicked at.  I would have felt so bad if he'd kicked his rider — a kid, for heaven's sake! — but thankfully, he did not.  She didn't think he got Tiny, either, because Tiny got out of the way pretty quickly — and kept a close eye on Panama's butt whenever it came into view for the rest of the ride.

(Tiny, by the way, is a HUGE black Thoroughbred.  He's got to be 17 hands and has a head as long as my arm.  Yes, his name is a joke.)

Spaghetti's owner was a little nervous about it being their first time out since Panama and Spaghetti ditched us and ran home.  He was also a little revved up at first, but she hung out in back with slow and steady Zans, and Spaghetti calmed down.  I think a confident horse is exactly who Panama needed to buddy up with his first time back.  Panama and I were in front or right behind Savvy almost the entire time, of course, and that was what he needed, too.

Panama definitely hadn't forgotten how busy the park was on our last time.  When we came up over the hill above the yurt, he was looking for the multitude of kids that we saw there last time.  He remained alert all the way past the archery range, which had been hopping last week but was almost dead today.  Then we took a slightly different, quieter route, and he calmed down nicely.  We went down a somewhat steep, rocky hill, and I was pleased to feel him collecting and shifting his weight to his rear as we descended — he tends to want to rush and run down hills, so I'm always pleased when I can get him to take it slow and steady.

Then we passed the public arena, which was full of people and horses, just like last week.  I wonder if some pony club is meeting there, or if the riding stables is giving lessons or something (the public arena is right behind the stables).  Savvy was in front, but Panama was getting looky, so I asked her owner if we could pass.  Panama does much better if he's in front, maybe because then he feels he has a job and has less attention to spare for interesting things like the crowd at the arena.

The halfway point of our "land loop," as we call it (because we don't go down the hill to the streams), comes back to the side of the road, and sometimes that can be a little nervewracking for new horses.  Tiny definitely thought it was.  He was in the lead very briefly, until he spooked at nothing and Panama took over.  Then we came across a large group of children on bikes, probably a daycare class out with their teachers, and Tiny was visibly considered running away from that.  (We pulled over to let the horses graze while they passed, but Tiny was too scared even to eat.)

When we kept going, Savvy took the lead and Panama fell in behind her, with Tiny following.  A couple of young guys on bikes flew past, without slowing or going to the other side of the road as most cyclists do, and that scared the crap out of Tiny.  He started jigging behind us, which made Panama tense.  I thought Panama was feeding off of Tiny's anxiety, but it was actually quite the opposite — Panama was pissed off at Tiny for getting too close behind us as he jigged. Suddenly Panama planted his front feet and bucked hard, twice, screaming in anger the whole time.  I could practically hear him saying, "Get a hold of yourself!"

Luckily it all went about as well as a situation like that can go.  Tiny got out of the way, and I stayed in the saddle.  When I felt Panama start bucking, I rose out of the saddle and slightly forward, to stay out of his way; I could feel that my weight was in my stirrups, but my heels must have been down, because his bucking didn't unseat me, and Spaghetti's owner (who was behind Tiny) said they were pretty big bucks.  When Panama was finished, I just sat back down.  It hardly ruffled me at all — it was afterward that my legs turned to jelly, and I had to sing for a little bit to calm myself (and Panama) again.

Unfortunately, I didn't think until several seconds had passed that I should have gotten Panama into trouble for that.  My mind was a jumble, and I just wasn't thinking straight.  I turned him in a tight circle (he knows that means he's in trouble), and figured that would have to do, as I think too much time had passed to really give it to him.  Hopefully there won't be a next time, but if there is, hopefully I'll have a little more presence of mind to deal with it then.

Panama was still tense and angry with Tiny, so Savvy's owner let us pass, and fell in behind us as a buffer between Panama and Tiny.  I sang about six verses of "You Are My Sunshine" (that's my riding song, as I can sing it nice and slow) but the tension was slow to leave Panama.  Once he calmed down, though, we were able to get right back to our nice, easy ride.

Panama never stopped paying attention to where Tiny was, though.  When we got back to the property, I took Panama straight back, because he was being a little pushy any time we stopped to graze, but Savvy's and Zans's owners stayed out a bit longer to let their horses munch.  As soon as Tiny passed Savvy, Panama was instantly alert, knowing he was behind us again.  He continued to give Tiny the evil eye — or should I say, the evil ear, since it was pointed at Tiny the entire time — until we parted ways at the outdoor arena (Tiny's owner wanted to ride a little more).

It's really too bad about Panama's little temper tantrum, because if it hadn't been for that, the ride would have been downright perfect!



At July 15, 2011 at 7:49 PM, Blogger Nuzzling Muzzles said...

I wish horses would leave the herd dynamic and personality conflicts back at the barn when they go on trail rides.

At July 15, 2011 at 8:42 PM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...

I think it just takes maturity, experience, and training before they can put aside their instincts while they are working. And even then, the instincts still get through sometimes. Trail riding is difficult, because you are riding in a group, and often the horses are unfamiliar with one another. If you think about it, it's a tribute to how willing they are to work that herd dynamics don't crop up during trail rides more often.


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