Thursday, March 21, 2013

Our First Solo Trail Ride of the Year

Our First Solo Trail Ride of the Year

Not only was it Cole’s first solo trail ride this year, but he hadn’t been ridden the day before, it was very chilly (below freezing with snow falling) and it was in the evening. Our horses are always more fractious in the evening. In fact, it was the first evening that I could cross the river. It was a recipe for disaster.

Needless to say, I wasn’t expecting much. This wasn’t the plan. I was hoping to get my first evening ride with Kevin and Starry, but there was some big basketball game on TV. Yes, I am a basketball widow of sorts. So Cole and I went out on our own. My gut said it was a dumb thing to do, but I just so wanted to go on a trail ride.

I led him down the hill to the river so I would get a little warmer. He behaved lovely, but we have been practicing hill work the last couple of weeks while we waited for the river to be crossable. I mounted to cross the river. On the other side, I decided I might as well get him moving sooner than later. I cued him for a trot. It was a very enthusiastic trot. His little legs were going so fast—very unlike his long-strided arena trot that I am accustomed to. I think it was just excitement.

After about 20 steps, I asked him to stop because he was building momentum, and I was having trouble getting the posting rhythm right. I sit the trot on our arena work. We then started to trot again—only to stop a short distance later. That’s pretty much how the ride went. I did click him on the good stops. Some of them were very reluctant stops—no clicks for them. I tried to click him for steady trotting, but he didn’t want to stop for his treats.

I had to be very, very careful in the spots that I cantered a lot last year. Each spring, I pay the price for the sins of the year before. I know I shouldn’t canter in the same spot all the time, but there are some places that are so perfect for cantering that I can’t resist. There are spots on the trail that we call “trigger points” where our horses anticipate cantering. I made sure I walked through all the “trigger points.” I was very careful my legs didn’t touch his sides, too. He was so ready to go, it wouldn’t have taken much—just a light brush of the leg...

In no time at all, I arrived at the spot that I planned to turn around. Cole was eager to keep going, but I knew it would be a long walk home if I did—and we didn’t have that much daylight.

As soon as I turned him towards home, he wanted to prance and trot. I made him stop and then decided to dismount and lead. Alas, my first horse was a barnsour runaway, and I get nervous when horses rush towards home. I always say that each time we ride, we are riding all the horses we ever rode before.

On the ground, I am not nervous at all, so rather than letting my nerves compound the problem, I led him. Besides, did I mention it was cold? I would have been an icicle in no time at all.

Cole walked fast, and every minute or so he would break into a trot. I would then have him walk a tight circle around me and then stand for a few moments. After 15 minutes of walking, he started to figure it out and stayed at a walk for the last 5 minutes to the river. That’s when I started to click him for walking like a gentleman.

I mounted so I could cross the river. The bank is very steep and muddy. Cole wanted to rush down it and go around the mud at the same time. I circled him back up the bank and tried it again. This time, he was more careful. I clicked him for it. After his treat, he just plowed through the mud into the water.

He crossed well, and I dismounted on the other side. The hill is where he is typically the worst, but he only tried to trot once. I think he learned.

Well, he actually learned to walk towards home a long time ago, but the first rides in the spring bring out the colts in our horses. It takes a dozen or so rides until they settle down. that means—I have 11 to go!


Nuzzling Muzzles said...

A dozen or so? Sigh. Someone else said about 4 rides and then they settle down. That gave me hope, but I'm past that and still waiting for the settle.

Judi said...

I'm sure it depends on the horse. My horses are part Arab--it takes longer. They just have so much energy. I love that energy, but I pay for it in the spring. My Paint used to take just a couple rides. Hot weather helps.

achieve1dream said...

Go Cole!! I'm with you on the dismounting and walking if they get rushy back toward home, especially a green horse. :)