Sunday, October 4, 2009
This afternoon, Sierra & her mom, Julie, and I met up at the local National Forest recreational trail hub. Sierra brought her 12 hh, 12(?) year old Amish-raised Haflinger mare, Persimmon. I brought Guinness. And, Julie brought her 6 hh black Newfoundland dog, Yona.
Honestly, I was running late and didn't play with Guinness before inviting him out of the paddock where he was watching me. I sent him on to the trailer from Zone 4. I took a moment to adjust his leg wraps, and in that time he decided to hop off of the trailer and wander off to see his buddies (who were calling to him). Whoops..
I retrieved him and then allowed him to mosey back while munching grass. Then I re-sent him and quickly ran around to tie him in. No problem, except that he is a bit silly about stepping onto the trailer with his back legs and kinda leaps on board.
Sierra & Julie were already at the park when we arrived. (Fortunately, we all agree that we have fun throughout the entire process of loading, traveling, unloaded and prepping our horses, and are in no great rush to hit the trails.) We unloaded and followed them down the main trail with me leading Guinness on the 22' line.
Our little "herd" traveled along together. Sometimes, Yona was off-leash and sometime on. Sometimes, Sierra rode and sometimes walked. We rotated who was in the lead and who was behind. I started off leading Guinness and he obediently stayed behind me. Later, I drove him from Zone 5 - mostly with one rein, but sometimes two. We also practiced stick-to-me from Zone 3.
We stopped at a creek crossing to allow everyone to drink and play in the water. Persimmon was a wonderful influence and really helped Guinness to feel confident about exploring the water and rocks. (He had been somewhat unconfident about this during our last visit.)
The best part about this excursion was that Julie took us down a trail that was new to me! She had been researching the trails on a map, and this, in conjunction with some new trail signs, allowed us to go *completely* around the pond on horse trails. Some of the footing was rocky, steep, and narrow. It was an excellent opportunity to improve our skills.
The most hair-raising part of the trip was when two mountain bikers came racing around a curve heading down the mountain straight toward us. Persimmon was in front and braced herself, but didn't jump - which was a blessing since Sierra was mounted and one side of the trail dropped steeply away. Fortunately, the biker glanced up in time to keep from wrecking into the horse. He was as shocked by the near miss as Sierra was!! A second biker almost repeated the scene. Through it all, Guinness watched with big eyes and planted feet.
During our approximately 6 mile trek, Guinness and I played with many obstacles such as the creek, and downed logs. He did traveling circles, sideways, and backing from Zone 5 (via both tail and rope). At times, the horses were out of sight of each other and didn't even seem to notice.
Guinness and I managed our 22' line in many ways including: draping it over his back, under his tail and around his body, between his front legs, wrapping it around trees, and often stepping on and getting tangled in it. The good news is that it gave purpose to my many small gestures as I helped him to figure his way out of the entanglements. He thinks that I'm a genious. ;-)
When we arrived back at the parking area, most everyone else was gone. Both horses loaded right up and stood peering at each other through their respective windows across the parking lot. No calling or being silly. Guinness was excited to discover chopped apples in his manger.
Everyone had a safe trip home. We are all blissfully tired. What a great afternoon.
I know that I'm always raving about Guinness, but he continually amazes me. If I'd had a blog prior to having him, it would have been full of complaints and whining about making no progress and feeling inadequate. This little guy is proving to me once more that horses can be FUN. Having the right partner makes the total difference.
PS - I'm sorry that I forgot my camera.