Thursday, August 7, 2014
Sarah’s First Ride on Dante
Sarah’s First Ride on Dante
My older niece, Sarah, came home from college for just a few weeks. She has been riding with me during the summer for years. For the last few years, she has ridden Ranger. In the past, she rode Mingo, Starry and one time she rode Cole, but she never rode Dante. This would be a first for her.
I was on Cole, and Kevin joined us on Starry. I briefed her on all the possible problems that she might encounter and how she should handle them. One of the reasons both of my nieces are easy to ride with is because they listen to what we say, and they are great in following directions.
There was a lot of traffic on the street, and we had to wait what seemed like forever to cross, but Dante didn’t care at all. What a difference from a few months ago when I started his intensive traffic training. It really paid off.
The next potential problem was the river. Sometimes Dante needs a little coaxing to make that first step into the water. No problem for Sarah. I had asked her to click him when he got all four feet in to encourage him to readily step into the water. This is what Ellen has been doing, and it appears it helped.
We got across the river with no issues at all and started trotting down the trail. Starry saw some logs on the other side of the street that weren’t there before and slammed on the brakes. He didn’t want to go by them. Cole took the lead, but eyed them suspiciously. Dante didn’t care at all.
We walked and trotted along. When we got to the spot where we often canter, the horses started to trot a bit faster. I told Sarah that if Dante tried to canter, she could let him—or stop him if she got nervous. He did try, and she did get nervous and let us know, so we all stopped. Still, she enjoyed her few strides, and said she liked his canter.
We turned around at the next river crossing, put Dante in the lead and trotted a bit on the way home. Dante is the slowest of the three horses, so this way Sarah could regulate the speed. Starry has a tough time going slower. Cole can do it well, and he is happy to follow another horse, but Starry’s antics behind him made him nervous. I could feel him bunching up and finally he burst out of line and tried to canter to the front. I stopped him before he could pass Dante, and then we walked for a while. Dante didn’t care at all.
Our next big obstacle was home. We wanted to pass up the riverbank that we ride down when we go home and proceed to the access trail. It is a dead end trail that we like to use to lengthen our ride.
Dante likes to zip down the riverbank instead of passing it. Sarah’s sister had a very difficult time with him the first time she tried it. To help Sarah out, we positioned Cole and Starry between Dante and the river and walked him right through. He did half heartedly try to turn down the bank, but Sarah blocked his maneuver.
We then trotted out to the street. There was a lot traffic at the road, but Dante waited patiently and then followed us across. We then go up a short, steep hill and down a longer, less steep hill that ends with the access trail. We trotted down it, but Dante got very excited and Sarah was having some problems controlling him, so at the halfway point, we started walking. At the end, we turned around and walked back home.
When we went up the hill, Dante was in the lead. Cole had a Cole burst and tried to run up the hill. I spun him to stop, and I heard Starry react to Cole’s misbehavior. Kevin got Starry quickly in control. I asked how Dante responded to the ruckus—he ignored them. Is this horse for real?
When we got back to the riverbank that we needed to go down to go home, we saw a horse from our barn crossing the river—coming toward us. It was Hillary. I have ridden with Hillary before, and she can sometimes be a problem. Cole is very afraid of other horses when they act out. He will be startled if Starry simply swishes his tail hard.
We waited for Hillary to cross and then Dante and Starry headed down the bank. I started to follow, but that is when Hillary decided she would rather go home, too. She started to fight her rider. Cole tried to bolt down the bank. I automatically circled him back up. He gave a huge buck and tried to get away from Hillary. This started 5 minutes of terror for him. I yelled across to Kevin to go on home with Sarah. I didn’t want Dante to get riled up with what was going on.
Hillary was fighting her rider like her life depended on crossing the river and going home. I tried to ride Cole down the bank, but he tried to bolt. I was able to get him to stand quietly. Every time I tried to move Cole, he tried to take off. I stood him and thought we could wait it out. Whenever Hillary got close to him, he tried to get away. At one point, she nearly sidepassed right into him. This caused him to panic—big time. He flew sideways as fast as his legs could carry him.
Hillary ended up in a precarious position in the woods and would only move backwards or sideways. At that point, I realized that waiting it out was a bad strategy—I had to get out of there. I tried to ride Cole down the trail, but he tried to bolt, again. I got him to stand still, so I knew what I needed to do.
I dismounted and immediately asked him to put his head down and do his “silly walk.” That is his version of a Spanish walk. He forgot all about Hillary and marched down the trail. I clicked him and asked for more. When we got far enough away, I stopped him, and he parked out. Hillary no longer had a horse to follow home, so she reluctantly went the way her rider wanted—away from us.
I got back on Cole and tried to go home. He got nervous when he got back to the spot where he thought Hillary was going to kill him, but I did a series of walk-whoas to focus him. We made it down the bank and across the water. He then realized that Starry and Dante were gone and was in a hurry to go up the hill. I decided I would have more control on the ground—and I did. He refocused on me because you never know when I may ask for the “silly walk.”
Back to my niece and Dante. Kevin told me that when they were on the road, and very loud and scary hotrod passed them and Dante didn’t care. Yes, he is a superstar.
Cole is a super star, too. He may have gotten very frightened, but we worked it through. I was pleased that he stood for my while Hillary was doing her gyrations—even though he was so afraid—and only moved when it looked like she was going to barge into him. I don’t know why other horses scare him so much, since he is generally a very bold horse, but now I know what I need to do if we end up in a situation like this again—the “silly walk.”