Monday, May 16, 2016

Crossing a Raging River

Crossing a Raging River

Cole is a very bold horse—one of the boldest I ever met.  Only two times has he told me he didn’t want to do something.  The first was when I first got him.  He didn’t like being led in the barn door past the evil mare that bears her teeth.  (Dante had the same problem.)  The second thing was crossing the river for the first time.  That’s a pretty normal thing to be worried about.

So it was a surprise when, years later, he found something he was afraid to do.  They recently repaired one of our trails that kept getting washed out.  Unfortunately, they just resurfaced it and didn’t fix the cause—a plugged culvert.  It was only a matter of time before that would cause problems.  Sure enough, heavy rains caused the little stream that is supposed to go under the trail to go over the trail.  There is now a stream that crosses the trail and travels parallel through the center of it until it finds its way into the woods.

I knew that walking over a small stream can be as scary as walking through a large stream for a lot of horses, but Cole?  Seriously?  The first time we saw it, Cole balked.  I didn’t make a big deal about it, I just kept gently urging Cole to step over it.  Eventually, Cole hopped over it.  He was better on the way home, of course.

This went on for a number of rides.  When he crossed it, I praised him and clicked when he got to the other side.  Eventually, things dried out, and he started to lose his fear.  I continued to click him when he would step over the foot wide indentation where the stream previously flowed and he kept getting better and better.  Eventually, he barely even looked at it.

And then it rained, again.  I thought the running water would bother him, but I wasn’t sure.  He walked up to it, I squeezed my legs and he went airborne.  He leapt over it—really high and caught me totally by surprise.  He was reluctant to cross it on the way home, but going home is always easier, so it only took a few seconds.

The next day, I had Ellen ride Dante over it, first.  Dante barely noticed it was even there, but that didn’t help Cole out one bit.  He simply refused to step over it.  I tried and tried and then gave up and dismounted. 

Cruiser was afraid of a lot of things, but would follow me anywhere if I dismounted.  I never had to dismount to lead Cole through or over something, so I didn’t know how he would be.  He was still afraid to cross but I showed him I could cross and asked him to follow me.  It only took 30 second and he cautiously stepped over.  Of course, he got clicked, but instead of a slice of carrot, he got a handful of carrots.  On the way back, he stepped over carefully.  I was glad that he trusted me, too.

The following week, it rained, again.  I was back on that trail with Kevin and Starry.  By now, I was hesitant to try.  This had been going on all spring, and he wasn’t getting better, he was getting worse.  That’s not how Cole is.  He is supposed to be the bold one.

Kevin wanted to put Starry in the lead to help, and I thought it was a great idea.  The only problem was that I had to move Cole over, and that involved stepping over the stream where it went parallel to the edge of the trail just to get out of the way.  Great.

To my utter astonishment, he stepped right over it and waited for Starry to pass.  Then he stepped back when I asked him to.  I was shocked.  I tried it again—success!  I was bewildered.  I rode him to the spot that we crossed last time and he didn’t even hesitate.  My bold Cole was back.  Of course he was clicked for it.  He was perfect when we crossed on the way home, too.

I don’t know if Cole was no longer afraid after I led him across, or if crossing it in a different spot at a different angle made him think it was safe to cross in any spot.  Regardless, I don’t think he will mind doing it anymore.  He’s such a good boy.

1 comment:

Susan Marko said...

Could it be the time of day with the sun reflecting off it from a different angle?