I almost forgot that I hadn't posted about this yet, but just before we left on our vacation, I took Panama on another away trip with a bunch of friends from the barn. This time it wasn't to a show, though, but a trail course that one boarder's godmother has set up on her property.
Panama wasn't as well behaved as he was at the show. There were plenty of possible reasons why -- it was a bigger group from our barn than at the show, several horses were freaking out when we arrived, and also one of his corralmates was there -- which seems to be a greater source of anxiety for him than if he travels with horses from his barn that he doesn't know as well.
Even so, he was pretty good. He loaded onto the trailer right away in the morning, despite the fact that I put him in the second spot, so there wasn't as much room, visually, when first getting on. In fact, we were one of the first trailers loaded and ready to go. It was a nice -- and new -- feeling to have my horse get on at the first try, and stand there quietly while other horses fussed. Once upon a time, the one with the horse refusing to load would have been me.
One mare -- the one having a hard time loading -- was freaking out from the minute we unloaded. In fact, she did a backflip off the trailer -- rolled onto her back and right over her shoulder -- unloading, which was scary. Another young horse had to be lunged for a while because he was so ramped up -- he was a maniac on the lunge line, too. I think that atmosphere definitely contributed to Panama's initial mood, because he too was pretty fired up to begin with.
Although most people mounted their horses right away, I started out on the ground with Panama -- I just didn't trust him, as distracted as he was. Even on the ground, he was running through me a bit at first, though the trainer that had been hired to work with us gave me a few exercises to do with him to get his focus back on me. It helped, but it wasn't until I started actually doing the obstacles with him that he calmed down -- and, amusingly, it wasn't until I picked the hardest obstacle in the course, the noodle curtain!
It was like I had to present him with the biggest possible challenge before he actually started focusing on what he was supposed to do. I was pretty confident, though, that I could get him to go through the curtain if I went first, because I know he trusts me. I walked through, looked over my shoulder, and parted the curtain in the middle (the breeze was blowing it) to show him the opening. He did come through after a moment or so, purely (I think) because he wanted to be on the same side as me, and he did it as fast as possible. We went through it a few more times, until he did it a little more slowly and a little less panicked.
Next we did the cowboy curtain, which was a piece of cake after the plastic and pool noodles blowing in the wind. These were just ropes hanging, no big deal, as you can see:
He figured out pretty quickly that if he walked through in my wake, he could get his nose in where I had parted the curtain. He is one smart cookie! And after that, we went back and did the noodle curtain one more time. This time he was much more confident and didn't try to rush through it at all. (He wasn't about to stand still for a photo op on that one, though.)
Amusingly, although he quickly conquered both of the two scariest obstacles on the course, it was the easier obstacles that gave us the worst time, such as the fake bridge with the red silk flowers in pots on either side -- never mind that we do real
bridges on the trail all the time, and have a fake bridge at our own barn! I think it was the fake flowers that threw him, but he was consistently like that: The easiest obstacles (and to other horses, not just in a human's opinion) were the most difficult for him.
I deemed him calmed down enough to try riding him, and saddled him up in time to join the group photo on horseback.
And yes, I was the only person there riding in an English saddle. I was told how "brave" I was once or twice, which amused me, because they said it in the same tone that they would say "crazy."
Panama got a little distracted again once I was in the saddle, so I wasn't as brave with the obstacles as I had been from the ground. We crossed ground poles and tie rails, but didn't attempt any of the bridges or the curtains on horseback. I also found that I had to keep him moving: If we stood still for any amount of time, he started getting distracted and antsy.
Our big accomplishment on horseback was jumping a big log with a tire on either end. I initially intended to walk him over it, but he stopped and wouldn't step over it. I suspected he wanted to jump it, so I circled him around and pointed him at the log again. He started to trot, so I let him, and sure enough, he jumped the log! He hesitated ever so slightly before the jump, though, which made me think he wasn't going to do it, and resulted in me getting a little left behind. So we did it again, with much better results the second time.
Pretty soon it was lunch time, so I untacked Panama and tied him up at the trailer to enjoy a little lunch himself. A lot of people mounted back up again after lunch, but I decided I had had enough excitement and challenge for the day, although in the afternoon we did work on a few of the obstacles we had missed in the morning, just from the ground again. And soon after, it was time to go.
It was a great day, despite the rough start. I am really enjoying taking Panama places with my friends from the barn, and hope there will be a lot more shows and other "pony road trips" to look forward to next year!
Labels: horse training