Friday, July 12, 2013

Trailing riding: Back for more

The people I work for have been gone all week, so today I managed to get out to the barn to join the morning trail riding group.  It was a big group today, as it sometimes is on Fridays: with Panama and I, there were six horses and riders.  This group goes out every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning, but because of a variety of reasons -- because I'm trying to work on my novel as much as possible during my week off, and because I'm also puppy sitting for the people I work for, and I didn't want to leave the puppy too much the first few days -- I wasn't able to get out there for a ride earlier in the week.

It took the riders a little while today to get organized -- we had a couple riders join us late, so we waited for them to get tacked and ready to go.  While we were waiting, I took Panama all around the trail course and the field behind the outdoor arena.  We were alone -- a big deal because he used to act kind of nervous and spooky out in the field, and in fact one of his worst bolts (and one of my worst falls) happened in an area where we rode today.  Today, however, he did great -- in fact, I think he would have been just fine going a short ways down the trail all by himself, as he seemed disappointed when I turned him and wouldn't let him keep going in that direction.  That's also a big deal because I never would have thought he'd be comfortable on the trail alone, judging by the rough time we went through a couple of years ago.

When we finally got going, I arranged to be squarely in the middle of the pack.  Part of my planning was because one of the horses we were going with was a high-strung Paint that Panama disliked the last time we rode with him -- that horse's first trail ride at our barn, incidentally.  Panama, I've discovered, has little patience for other horses' meltdowns on the trail, and he went through a period where his response was always to kick out at the horse having the meltdown.  Twice he's kicked out at horses who were running up his butt, and that day a couple years ago when we went out with this Paint, he kept trying to back into the Paint so he could kick him, too.  I kept him from doing so, of course, but to avoid any such problems today, we kept the two horses well separated.

Panama used to get upset if he was any farther back in the line than about the first or second horse, but today he wasn't fazed by it at all, even when the two horses bring up the tail end fell so far behind that he might have felt like he was last.  We even fell behind at one point, so that we were all by ourselves with three horses grouped together way up in front, and two more way behind us.  That didn't bother him either.  Next time -- with a smaller group -- I intend to make him go dead last for a little bit and see how he does, but judging by today's behavior I'm guessing that it is no longer an issue for him.

Of course, the high-strung Paint did have to have a meltdown at some point -- the spinning, wanting-to-bolt kind, even.  I was impressed with his rider, a leaser who doesn't seem terribly confident, because she just kept turning him and riding through it.  It was a group of riders in the public arena in the park that set him off.  The rest of us stopped to give him space, but then had to hurry up and go forward so that he didn't end up all alone as he carried his rider off down the trail!  Panama wasn't too bothered by his meltdown at first, but as it went on and on (and we were just standing there watching) his head started popping up more and more.  Possibly he was feeling my own anxiety, as I was pretty certain the other rider was going to get dumped (which she didn't, thankfully).  That was the only hint of nerves that I saw from him the entire ride -- the rest of the time he was steady as could be.  He really has matured into a great trail horse -- now if only my schedule permitted me to go out with these ladies more often!

Interestingly, my trainer took Rondo out on the trail yesterday, after she rode him without me (I got tied up with family responsibilities and wasn't able to get to the barn in time).  It was after a full workout, and it was extra hot yesterday, so he was extra lazy -- probably too lazy to put up much of a fuss -- but apparently he did great.  She took him a little ways out, alone even, and said that the only issue she noticed was that he doesn't get yet the concept of staying on the trail!  He also isn't very good about picking up his feet, so she asked me to ride him in the field, on the trail course, and on the trail more often -- we think the soft arena sand is disguising a lazy tendency to drag his feet a bit.

Unexpectedly, I have the weekend off (as well as the past week), so I'm hoping to make lots of time for riding this weekend!



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