Thursday, May 29, 2014

Dante Conquers the Lagoon

Dante Conquers the Lagoon

To get to the really good trails, you have to ride through the Lagoon—a very challenging half mile of trail. On one side of the trail is a 10-foot wall that drops down to the river. On the other side is the park street. Across the street is a busy picnic area. It is a wide out in the open, chaotic stretch of trail—particularly for a horse that has just gone through traffic desensitization. We decided to do it for the first time with Dante on Memorial Day weekend—it can’t get more busy than that. This would be baptism by fire.

We needed to get Ellen and Dante through this in order for us to go on those long, fast rides that we used to do before Cruiser and Ranger got too old. To get to the
Lagoon, we have to cross a river, but we decided not to even try it. The crossing is in bad shape after the big storm. Instead, we would lead the horses over the ford.

First, we went on a nice ride the other direction on the familiar trail to set the mood. We passed up home and headed to the Lagoon. At the ford, we dismounted and switched horses. Ellen was too anxious to be the first person to bring Dante to the new trail. He led just fine across the ford. Shortly after that, there is a pretty busy intersection. We had him stand until we could get through. We then led him to the Lagoon.

Little Dante acted like he had been there dozens of times. At the end of the trail, we crossed the street and looped around, crossed the street and we were back in the Lagoon heading towards home. When we came out of the woods, he got startled by suddenly seeing a car on his bad side and he surged forward. I made him stand and settle down. He was nervous for the next few cars that passed, but he finally relaxed and did well all the way home.

On Sunday, we repeated the process, but Ellen led after we crossed the ford. He did terrific on the way out, but on the way home, he started to act up. After the second episode, I saw the look on Ellen’s face and knew that she had had enough. We switched horses. Dante tried to surge forward once with me, but I circled him and made him stand. I determined the problem wasn’t fear but excitement about going towards home. After that, I worked on walking quietly with lots of whoas to keep him from rushing and focused on me. When he was good, he got clicked, of course. In less than 5 minutes, he was back to his old self.

On Monday, we had a special guest with us—Kevin. He was giving Starry a day off and decided to go walking with us. We repeated what we did the day before, but I immediately noticed a difference. Ellen had become chatty. She was talking to Dante, showing him things and quietly directing him down the trail. Once we made the turn towards home, he walked a little faster. At one point, he tried to dash by Cole and Ellen circled him. She said she thought the problem was him interacting with Cole, and it had nothing to do with the Lagoon. For that matter, we weren’t even out of the woods when it happened. Ellen took it in stride, but a few minutes later, she needed a break and I took over. Dante was perfect the rest of the way home.

Now, this follows Dante’s usual pattern when he is introduced to something very new. He is pretty good the first day, challenging the second and near perfect the third. He wasn’t the only one better on the third day—so was Ellen. She noticed the difference, too. Here is the email I got the next day:

“I think I learned an important thing the weekend. I can’t shut down and stop interaction with Dante when I'm nervous. He needs dialog. He's pretty sensitive and gets insecure when I'm not in the moment with him.”

I think she made a breakthrough.

1 comment:

achieve1dream said...

Aww that's awesome!! Way to go Ellen and Dante!