Friday, July 26, 2013

Swimming with the horses

My trainer trailered my horses over to a nearby lake so that the kids and I could have a day swimming with the ponies.

I really thought that Rondo would be the braver one in the water, but Panama surprised me.  Granted, we went swimming at a lake near my barn twice a couple of years ago, but he wasn't terribly interested in the water then -- and less interested the second time we went to the lake.  However, I've always wondered if it had to do with the water being colder the second time -- it was late in the summer, almost fall, and we had some cold nights between the first and second trips to the lake.

In any case, it turned out that Panama was much more willing than Rondo.  Rondo was mostly just interested in doing this:

I think he would have rolled in the water too, if he could have figured out how to do so with me on the other end of the lead rope.  He tried to spin around in the shallows several times, and I think that's what he wanted to do, but it would always put me behind his butt so I'd stop him, and by the time I got back to his head he was back to splashing again.

Panama did great with V.  She was afraid to go very deep with him at first, so we have a lot of pictures of her like this:

Once the horses seemed more comfortable with the water, we got on.

Rondo still mostly wanted to do this:

And when I tried to stop him, he threw a little stiff-legged buck in to demonstrate that he didn't want to stop playing in the water.  At the time I thought, "Oh, I'm still on, he must have just kicked," because surely I couldn't stay on for a buck while bareback.  My trainer said however that it was a buck, just a baby buck, and he didn't kick his heels up.  There was another instance where I was trying to urge him forward, and he didn't want to go, and suddenly my trainer said, "Don't let him rear on you!  That's what he's thinking about doing."  I didn't realize that's where his fussing was headed, but I immediately turned him sharply (can't rear if he's bent into a turn) and then got him going.  I walked him back and forth in the shallows a little while longer, and then hopped down.

Panama, on the other hand, did a bit better for V.  We did use a bareback pad with him, since -- as I discovered during that second swim two years ago -- he doesn't particularly like a cold, wet person on his back.  My silly, thin-skinned Arab!

A., V.'s little brother, had been asking for his turn almost since the beginning, so V. hopped down and gave him a turn.  I led him into the water but allowed him to hold onto the reins, with the stipulation that if he felt off-balance, he was to hold onto the handle on the bareback pad, not pull on the reins.  The first time we did a little circle in the water, Panama did a quick series of side-steps to get back into the shallow water.  Arjun hung on and didn't so much as wobble, but yelled "Ahhhhhhh!" the entire time.  Once Pan stopped and he realized he was fine, though, he started smiling again right away, and insisted he wanted to try it again.

There was a very shallow grade initially, but there was a shelf 10 or 20 feet out, after which the lake bottom dropped away much more steeply.  You can see how steep it gets here in the angle of Rondo's back:

So when I was leading Panama in with A. on his back, I was circling him around me closer and closer to the edge of the shelf.  It ended up that I was standing on the edge of the shelf, about as deep as I could go and still have very much control over my footing, and Pan was getting closer and closer to swimming as he circled me.

Eventually we got to this point:

Pretty sure he was swimming a little bit there!  I think he even started liking it!  So my trainer suggested I try to get on him and get him in.  I took him over to the other side of the lake, though, where he wasn't as sure about where the edge of the shelf was, which in retrospect wasn't the best idea.  He was being very good for me, but then he stumbled in the deep sand at the edge of the shelf and almost went down, but caught himself.  I stayed on but then he started rushing back to the shore, slightly panicked -- "classic Panama," as my trainer later said -- got his feet stuck again in the sand, and just FELL OVER.  I, of course, went flying into the shallows, and he went completely down, head under and everything.  I was unhurt, and my trainer was able to catch Panama's reins as he emerged, but we were all laughing.  My trainer said it was like watching one of those videos of fainting goats.

I didn't get back on after that, which is probably my biggest regret -- and it wasn't because I was scared, but because both kids were harassing me for another turn the minute I was back on my feet.  If I had it to do over I would have told them they had to let me finish my turn first.

While I was taking A. in on Panama and riding Panama myself, my trainer and V. took turns lunging Rondo over the shelf, getting him more used to the water.

The first time he went over the shelf, he was bunny hopping through the water, and basically did a cannonball right over the shelf -- it wasn't deep enough to submerge him, but deep enough to make him reconsider that approach.  By the time I had a turn to lunge him, he was taking it one step at a time, and was actually getting pretty deep.  I'm on the shelf here, and although he is trying to stay close to me, he is not on it.  This part of the lake was also a bit steeper of a drop-off than where I was taking A.

All in all, it was a fun and successful day.  Hopefully next time we go (whenever that will be) Rondo will be better about going into the water, just like Pan was today!



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