Friday, June 9, 2017
Lisa, at our barn, got a new horse last July named Ice. He is a huge gray Quarter Horse with a lot of Appendix breeding. When I look at him, I see Thoroughbred before I see the Quarter Horse. At 14 years old, I've lived a sheltered life. He never went off the property at his previous owner’s place, so he isn’t used to the variety of things we see out on the trail. Lisa only took him on about 4 trail rides last year, and she wanted to take him out for the first time this year with a quiet horse. I volunteered Cole Train.
Our goal was to ride him down the hill to the river. If he did that well, we would cross and go just a short distance. The river is really low, right now, so it would be a good time to cross for the first time of the year.
Traffic makes him nervous, so Lisa decided to lead him on the street. When a car passed us, he did take a side step, but that was all.
Lisa mounted on the trail, and we headed down the hill. Cole reluctantly took the lead to give Ice courage. It must have helped, because Ice was flawless on the way down. It was a no-brainer to try to cross the river.
Cole went first, and Ice walked right in! Kevin had given Lisa some horse cookies, so she gave one to Ice when they got to the other side.
At the beginning of our ride, we have to go along a fence that separates us from the paved bike trail and the street. It is actually a good place to let horses get accustomed to both traffic and bikes.
Some cars came, and Ice slowed down, stopped and then turned around to go home. Lisa struggled to prevent him from turning, but Ice simply powered through her. When she got to a wider spot of the trail, she was able to turn him back around, but when she asked him to go forward, he just wanted to back up. She did get him to walk, but as he went along the fence, he repeated the whole behaviour. And then it happened again, and again. He wasn’t doing anything dangerous, but Lisa wasn’t getting anywhere. By Ice’s body language I would say he wasn’t afraid, but just uneasy with going on the trail. He thought home would be a better place.
I suggested that Lisa try leading so we could make this a positive experience rather than an unhappy one with a lot of conflicts. She agreed and dismounted. When she was trying to lead him, he kept swinging his head in front of her and then would cuth her off, so he could turn around and go home. She turned him back--and then he would do it again. She was getting frustrated, so I got off Cole and showed her how she could lead him with a hand on each rein--with the right rein under his neck on the other side of his head. That way, when he tried his little trick, she would have the leverage to keep him from succeeding. He still was able to bend his head a little towards her, but he was no longer able to cut him off.
We got past the fence and went into the woods a little bit. We then turned around. Ice immediately walked like a gentleman with much enthusiasm--but he didn’t prance, dance or rush like a barn sour horse. He just walked faster.
There is a good log for mounting right by the river crossing, so Lisa was able to mount and ride across the river. Ice went right in and walked up the hill without a single problem.
Overall, I think it was a good ride. Ice used to do things like that to Lisa when she rode him on the property, and she was able to work it out with him. At no time did he seem overly nervous or excited. He spooked at nothing--unless you count that side step when the car passed.
Lisa was nervous, but she kept her cool and did everything right. I showed her how next time when he tries to turn around to go home she could keep him turning in a small circle with a leading rein to get him facing the direction she wants. The only problem is he is such a big horse that it won’t work where the trail is very narrow with a drop off on one side--like on the hill in places. She will have to use her judgement in those cases.
I think he has the potential to make a fine trail horse. Dante was worse on his first ride of the year than Ice--and Ellen has ridden him hundreds of miles on our trails over the years. If she keeps up with him, not only will he keep improving, he will probably start to enjoy it.
By the way, Cole was a superstar. He waited patiently when he needed to and did everything I wanted of him. And he sure was surprised when we turned back early!