Saturday, February 20, 2010

Trail Horse

This afternoon, I did something really stupid with Guinness - and we lived! Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger, right?

Let me back up. Yesterday, the following was posted to the PNH Clicker email list, in response to a lady who was having some emotional issues with her mare. (The person was repeating advice that she had been given that really helped her):

1. The first thing she said to me was, "Tempo sounds like a horse who is not yet self-actualized". In other words, she is not yet able (maybe physically, maybe emotionally or maybe because I'm not allowing her or maybe all this and more) to be the horse she KNOWS she is supposed to be.

2. The second thing she said to me was, "Maybe Tempo is not able to be the horse you want her to be because you, yourself, have not decided what kind of horse you want her to be. If you are consistent about what you want her to be maybe she can finally find a way to become that for you."

For some reason these statements really hit home with me. Guinness isn't having any emotional issues, but I sure have been beating myself up irrationally about not having more "leadership" and failing to progress through L2 fast enough. Really, I suspect that the issue for me is more about my own LBI need for purpose. (I'm an RBE when on adrenaline, but LBI when not.)

Yesterday evening, I attended a lecture about NATRC's Competitive Trail program. It got me really fired up. I could totally see Guinness & myself riding off into the sunset (or more likely, the crack of dawn)! Our purpose is to trail ride.

This afternoon, I decided to head out to play with the horses in the 50 degree sunshine!! I was recently reminded of a method that I used to use consistently with Smokey & Bandit, but had sort of forgotten. I would take my grooming stuff and tools out to the middle of the roundpen and then invite a horse to be with me. When they accept, I offer to groom them, however if they get fidgety or mouthy, I send away and give them a task at Liberty. This is a stress-free way for both horse and human to transition into a play session.

So, I headed into the roundpen and Guinness immediately followed. He was in a snuggly, warm mood and I only sent him away a couple of times. After a bit, we started to get bored with the gushy snow-covered roundpen, so I decided to take him for a walk in the woods. He followed me at Liberty back to the barn to get his saddle.

Although he hasn't even seen a saddle since I last rode him in it 3 months ago, he was a champ about tacking up. I used his "park" cue to my advantage. It gives him a task and keeps him still. My intent was to give him practice wearing the saddle as we hiked the snowy trails.

We exited the pasture through a small side gate and his eyes lit up! He seemed to be saying, "Now that's what I've been waiting for!" After all, his last excursion away from his pasture was over 2 months ago and our last trail walk was on November 15th. He has been BORED.

He eagerly put me in Zone 5 and headed down the trail away from his buddies. I started to get offended, and then realized that we often hiked this way so he was doing what he thought that I expected. He wasn't pulling, even though we were only using a 12' rope to keep from dragging it through the snow.

Even with his buddies calling, he disregarded them and explored the trail. When we got to the back gate, he looked both ways and then offered to go UP THE MOUNTAIN rather than back to the pasture. I just had to laugh and try to keep up in the 2' smooshy snow.

I did my best, but had to stop for breath several times. Guinness looked disappointed each time we stopped and kept glancing up the trail. Eventually, out of sight of his buddies (but not out of earshot) we came upon a large boulder next to the path.

Here is where I was stupid:

A little voice in my head said, "Wouldn't it be easier on us both if you would just hop up? What could it hurt? The snow is deep and soft and you could leap off if anything went wrong.." Hmm.

I decided to ignore the facts that I wasn't wearing a helmet, the girth was as tight as it would go and slightly loose, I was wearing
snowboots, and that I haven't even sat on him in a few weeks. So, I hopped up on the boulder and asked him to come to pick me up. I swung over and realized that the stirrups were about 3" too long and that my toes could barely reach them. And, I totally forgot that no one knew where I was and that I didn't have my cell phone.. But did I get off? Nope.

Guinness was still very interested in walking up the mountain path through the snow, so off we went. He didn't seem at all wobbly, which was reassuring. I let my legs hang, and kept telling myself to breath and that I could leap off into the snow at any moment!

A bit further up the trail, he glanced back down toward the pasture so I encouraged him to turn about and proceed carefully down the path. I did shorten the reins to help him balance and to discourage him speeding up. He did gait for several steps (our first faster than a walk!) but slowed when I asked him to. I kept asking for one rein stops (punctuated by treats) just to be sure that we had brakes.

He willingly passed the back gate entrance into the pasture and kept following the tractor tire track thru the snow. At one point, I reached up to block a low branch and had a flashback of a serious accident a fellow rider had when reaching above his horse's head to snap a branch. However, G. didn't bat an eye. We walked a little bit further and I dismounted and led him around to our parking area.

I invited him to explore the driveway, but he indicated that he'd had enough so I untacked him and turned him back out. Everyone hung around for a while, but eventually only Cody was left so I grabbed a rubber curry and gave him scratches. Surprisingly, he is already shedding. Spring must be coming. :-)

I finished the day by taking a nap on the roundbale, in the sun, as the boys munched around me. It was glorious. What a day!!


Lisa said...

I'm not sure why you think you did something stupid. Stupid would have been talking yourself into getting on when the little voice said, "not a good idea, honey." I think you made a rational decision with calculated risk. That's just about every ride we ever make!

I don't know much about the trail association you mentioned, but another is ACTHA ( I did a competitive trail challege with Cricket last fall and it was a wonderful atmosphere.

Congrats on the ride!

inchwormwv said...

Lucky girl! Sounds like a fun day.

Juliet said...

Sounds like FUN!!!

Tina said...

ps~ My son has the horse in your picture and out horses all whinny back to it! LOL

Tina said...

Roundbale naps are the best!