Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Trail ride firsts

Yesterday morning, V. and I went out on a very short trail ride -- V. rode Panama, and I rode Rondo.  It was my first time out on Rondo, although he'd gone half as far with my trainer a couple weeks ago; and it was V.'s first time out there on Panama, if you don't count the other day when she just went a very short distance with one of the trail riders.

I wish I had gotten some pictures, which I could have since I was behind V. and Panama for most of the ride, but since Rondo is such an unknown out there right now I didn't want to be fiddling with my phone if he reacted to something.  As it turned out, though, Rondo did wonderful: He was stepping out uncharacteristically quickly for about half of the way out, but after a while he figured out that I didn't want him crawling up Panama's butt.  He did have a tendency to drift off the trail occasionally, which I think had mostly to do with the belly-high grass on either side.

The boarders I ride with are all pretty laid-back about letting the horses graze on the trail, but they are only allowed to graze when we say it's okay.  A few summers ago, I established the rules with Panama: He wasn't allowed to reach for grass until he came to a full halt (on my command), and he had to stop grazing immediately when I said "Head" and pulled on the reins.  Early on we had some discussion about how much I was willing to give on those rules (I wasn't), and he went through a phase where he tried to back up instead of going forward when I asked for his head back (it didn't work).  But we worked through it and now I can let him graze without worrying that he'll be naughty during the rest of the ride.

I'll have to work through the same stuff with Rondo now, it seems.  He is, of course, excellent at coming to a full stop before he grazes -- halting is never Rondo's problem!  He even gives me his head back right away when I ask.  But he did try the backing up trick a few times yesterday, despite the "reminder stick" (crop) I was carrying.  And Rondo doesn't have the incentive Panama had -- Panama wanted to lead all the time, so once the other horses started moving, he would abandon his efforts at passive resistance and hustle to get in front of the line.  Rondo doesn't care about being first, so the other horses leaving made only a very minor impression on him.

But I'm sure we'll be able to work through it.  Otherwise, the ride went well.  We spotted several cyclists, two joggers, and a car that passed us on the road while we were letting the horses graze, and Rondo lifted his head halfway and watched them with his ears on alert, but no signs of concern -- just curiosity.  I may want to wait a little while before I ride him by the stables out in the park (when I hand-walked him past on that "trail walk" a couple of weeks ago, he was pretty reactive about the other horses, especially when they all ran up to the fence to see him), but I think I can probably start taking him on longer rides as my schedule permits.

Hopefully V. and I will be able to tag along with the group again at some point.  She did great on Panama -- of course, he didn't give her any trouble, other than some general excitement and anticipation as we were leaving, but even that was minor.  I worry a little about how she'll handle it if he spooks in the park, but he's becoming a really solid trail horse, so hopefully it won't be a problem.

Overall a great ride, and a huge milestone for all of us!

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