Tuesday, February 21, 2017
Dante’s First Time Out
Dante’s First Time Out
Dante is a strange horse. He is very quiet and safe to ride on the trail, but if he hasn’t been out in a while, he gets over excited and unpredictable. On a typical winter, we can have long spells where we are stuck inside the barn. Usually, it is extreme cold, an icy driveway and/or a frozen river.
This year has been an exceptionally good year. I have been able to get Cole out on the trail; even across the river at least once or twice every week or two. Ellen has opted to keep Dante inside the indoor arena. She doesn't’ see the sense of taking him out for a ride or two and having to deal with his “problems” only to be stuck inside for a week or so and have to start all over again the next time. She wants to bring him on the trail, get through those first few rides and be done with it.
The last few weeks have been very, very mild. We have made a concentrated effort to turn Dante out, outside as much as we can. After Ellen rides him in the arena, she brings him outside, too. In the beginning, it was just to stand and look around, but this last week, she has ridden him around the driveway.
I have been able to ride Cole on the trail, a lot, with either Shari or Kevin, and he is finally settling down and becoming reliable, again.
The long term forecast still looks good, and we are entering the time of year where we can ride on the trail regularly. Ellen decided it was time.
I didn’t know it ahead of time. She didn’t even ask me to come out and ride with her in the morning. Lately, I have been going out to ride in the afternoon in the heat of the day. It was going to be a warm morning, so I just showed up. She had decided that if I showed up, she would take Dante on the trail.
She wanted me to lead him on the street since he is not always that good with traffic if he is excited. The night before, I played “bus stop” with him, and he didn’t flinch at any of the vehicles, so I figured he would be good for the street--and he was.
We mounted up at the trailhead and rode down the hill. Ellen was nervous about the river, as always, but to complicate things even more, there is now some very deep mud on the riverbanks on both sides. Earlier in the week, a woman from our barn was riding through it and her horse panicked and went sideways, off the trail where the mud was up to his knees. He panicked and started bucking. Eventually, he calmed down and everything was okay, but it demonstrated what deep mud can do to a horse’s mind.
Dante is a mudder, though. He has never been troubled by mud. (Cole has--he hates mud.) I told her he would be fine, and he was. He walked down the mud, crossed the river slowly and walked up the mud on the other side.
On the other side, we tried to trot, but he started tossing his head all around and getting agitated. Okay, so maybe that wasn’t a good idea. We opted to walk. Cole was in the lead, and at one point, Dante threw his head up in the air and charged past him. That was a first. He doesn’t like passing other horses--they make him nervous, but he evidently wanted to lead. He must of figured that Cole couldn’t attack him this way. (Cole has never, ever attacked him, but Dante always acts like he will.)
We let him stay in the lead, after that. Ellen wanted to know if it would be all right if she turned around early. She was getting nervous. I told her it was. She still rode on. After a while, she decided to try trotting again, but wanted me to hold Cole back a bit. That way, he would be trotting all by himself, basically. I stopped Cole and let her trot. I then walked until she stopped and then I trotted to catch up. We had success! We did this for short stretches all the way down the trail. Each time she went a little longer. Cole was a perfect gentleman, of course. It seems he always knows what Ellen needs.
We made it to our destination--the next river crossing. We turned there, put Cole in the lead and walked home. Ellen still worried about the mud and river on the way home, but there was no need to, Dante was great. What she should have worried about was turkeys. On the way up the hill--nearly to the top, he did a big spook. She circled him about and he quieted down. It was at that time that she noticed the turkeys on the other side of the ravine. They weren’t close, but they may have been shuffling about, making noises.
I led Dante on the street, and the horse gods were smiling upon us. No cars passed us.
Was it a perfect ride? For Cole, it was, but Dante got a “B-.” Still, that wasn’t bad for the first time--and he was great for the things that Ellen is the most nervous about--the street, the river and the mud. The rest of it was him being very, very excited about being on the trail for the first time since some time in December.
Great job, Ellen and Dante.