Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Our First Evening “Trail Ride” of the Year

Our First Evening “Trail Ride” of the Year

Day Light Savings is like a holiday for me. Finally, I have enough daylight after work to ride outside in the evening. To me, it is the beginning of trail riding season.

Not this year, though. The hill at the beginning of the trail is still a sheet of ice. Even if we could make it to the bottom, we can’t cross the river because huge chunks of ice are blocking the trail. We have never had this problem before. I don’t know when we will be able to cross the river. A huge rainstorm that raises the river to flood level may wash them away.

So my first evening trail ride meant riding the short loop on the property. I have ridden Cole on it a few times over the last few weeks. It has always been after working in the arena and with Ellen by my side. He has behaved well—mostly trying to get Ellen’s attention by doing his silly walk.

This time, I was on my own. The weather was warm, and I just didn’t feel like riding in the arena, first. The outside arena was very muddy with a lot of standing water. I could have turned him out to play, but Cole is such a prima donna that he won’t run around if it is too sloppy.

I just saddled up and headed outside. I thought I would start by leading to get a feel for his mood. I’m glad I did. It only took a couple of minutes for the fun to begin. Instead of walking, he decided prancing and trotting would be much more fun. I would circle him until he came back to a walk, stand a moment for him to calm down and try again. This happened over and over on the first loop. (Each loop takes about 5 minutes.)

He got very upset when we made the turn for the second loop—lunging forward and doing a little buck. He got 3 circles that time. After that, he was demoralized. He thought he was going back to the barn, and now he had to do the loop, again. He had a couple small outbursts, but he behaved well enough that I was able to start clicking him for good behavior. Once he started to get his carrots, he improved very quickly. Clicker can’t make a horse behave properly, but when they do, it will encourage them to keep behaving.

On the third lap, he had only one small outburst and lots of clicks and verbal praise.

The fourth lap was perfect. It was time to ride him. I planned to mount right after we went around the bend. Literally moments before I was going to ask him for a halt, he went airborne—throwing a huge temper tantrum. Once I got some sense of control over him, I saw what the problem was—two doors down, a couple of people were leading their horses around in their backyard. This shouldn’t have been a big deal—they weren’t even close to us—but it was.

It was time to take him back to the barn. It wasn’t an easy task. He was prancing, barging and totally focused on those other horses—instead of getting back to the barn. It was a long 100 foot walk. Once inside the arena, I closed the gate and climbed aboard. We mostly worked on quiet things to get him to settle down. I think I was in there about 15 minutes when a couple young ladies came in to ride. I knew it would get dusty and crowded, so I decided it was time to quit.

On impulse, I decided to try riding outside again. I checked and there were no horses in sight, so I mounted and rode to the back of the property. He was just fine. I gave him plenty of praise and clicks.

I now see that for the time being, he will need some work inside before going outside for a ride. As he gets more accustomed to being outside, I won’t have to worry about it anymore.

I then saddled up Cruiser and took him for a ride on the loop. He was just happy to be outside and walked fast—looking around. I know that Cruiser would have been just as silly as Cole when he was younger. Cole just needs to get a little bit more mature.

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