Tuesday, January 12, 2016
Everyone has a Bad Day, Sometimes
Everyone has a Bad Day, Sometimes
This weekend, the weather was mild and I wanted to go on a trail ride. Ellen thought the river would be too high, and it wasn’t worth the trouble to just go up and down the hill a few times. I just wanted to get out. She thought Dante would misbehave because he hadn’t been on trail in a while. I told her she could have Cole. Ellen relented, and I got to prove to her that Dante would be just fine, and that her worries were unwarranted.
We led the horses down the street to the trail. Once we got to the mounting block, we heard a chainsaw a few houses down. Dante tensed up. Ellen suggested leading a little ways and mounting further down the trail. I agreed. The chainsawing was intermittent, making it hard for Dante to get used to it and relax. Even when we got to the spot that we planned to mount, I could see that Dante still was very tense. No big deal—we would just lead to the bottom of the hill.
Before we got that far, a woman came up the hill on an unknown horse. Dante got more tense. He is very distrustful of other horses—and actually has trouble tolerating any horses that are too close to him. At his moment, 3 deer went dashing through the woods. Deer seldom bother our horses, but Dante was ready to burst, so he went flying backwards. That sent Cole dancing, too.
When we got to the bottom of the hill, we mounted and started walking back and forth on the flat part of the trail. I wanted to Dante to settle down. He wasn’t. He was tossing his head around and walking very impatiently. Cole was fine for Ellen, but Dante was still wound up and not unwinding.
As we were going back and forth at the bottom of the hill, I glanced up and saw the woman on the strange horse trotting down the hill in our direction. It looked like she had very little control. That was enough for me. I hopped off and waited for her to get to us. Dante stood still.
After she turned around to go back up the hill, I decided to lead Dante back and forth on the bottom of the hill to see if he would calm down because the riding didn’t work. The morning was very, very foggy, and at one point, the sun came out and lit up the fog among the trees. It looked very beautiful to me, but I think it looked threatening to Dante because he gave yet another big spook. Sigh. I was starting to get discouraged, but stuck to my plan. Back and forth we went—countless times.
Finally, I saw his head drop down and a quiet look came into his eyes. I did one more back and forth, and we headed up the hill. When we got to the spot that we like to turn around, it was time to add another dose of demoralization. When we turned, Dante threw a little temper tantrum. When he does this, he will bounce up and down, pounding his feet and try to go the direction he wants to go. I quietly circled him a few times until he gave up and followed me down the hill. After a minute or so, it looked like he gave up and was ready to cooperate.
When we got down to the bottom, I mounted and rode him back and forth a number of times. He was the old Dante, again. Not once did he misbehave or even feel tense.
We then rode up the hill and back home.
So much for showing Ellen that Dante would be just fine. Her hunch was correct—he hadn’t been out on the trail in a few weeks, and he would be over excited. I think that was only part of the problem. It put him in a mood that couldn’t tolerate the chainsaw, the strange horse, the deer and the fog that made everything look strange. He was over stimulated and that caused him to not be his calm, laid back self. Everybody has a bad day, sometimes.
I was very disappointed in him. He was acting like a baby horse—not a seasoned 9-year-old trail horse. Still, I felt good that we were able to work through the mood with no major drama or confrontations. In the end, Dante accepted that all we wanted to do was walk up and down the hill, quietly.
It was raining the next day, so we couldn’t repeat the lesson. From my experience with Dante—I am sure he would have been considerably better—if not perfect on day 2. That’s just how he is.