Monday, April 30, 2012

Spots First Trail Ride!

I was not sure how it would go on Spots first trail ride. He is young and other than going around the block he's never been out of an arena. He was great around the block, but sometimes woodsy nature is different. For some reason I let Annie talk me into doing this first ride myself instead of riding Marigold and putting her on Spots. I have done many first rides with young horses but not recently. It's probably been 4 years since I did one. I decided maybe this was what I needed to help deal with being stuck in a mom-rut and off we went. First we stopped at Red Barn and Annie had a lesson on her QH gelding, Beau, who is a few weeks older than Spots. Spots spent the lesson tied to the trailer. He was very well behaved. Then we loaded everybody back up and continued on to the lake. I was really nervous, but tried not to let it show. We tacked up and headed off down the trail. I walked him a little ways, more for me than him really. I made sure he was listening to me and not the voices of invisible people we could hear through the trees. He was alert, but listening and paying attention to me. I put him around me in small circles to make sure I had his attention. He was very responsive so I decided to get on. He stood quietly for me to mount. I looked back up the trail and I had only walked him about 20 feet.
We walked along, he wanted to jog a lot and I told him as long as he kept his head level and stayed in an actual jog, he could jog. He liked to be near Beau, but Beau was relaxed and walking out as he's been to the lake a lot. Spots jogs so slow he was getting further behind. If he walked out he would pass him, but jogging he kept falling farther behind. I told him this, but he did not believe me. So we jogged along and Annie just had to stop and wait a few times. I did get him to walk and when he walked out he had a nice ground-covering walk. We came to the reservoir crossing, which today had no water in it, at the same time two teens on bikes joined the scene from another trail. We let the horses watch as they approached and went on and Spots didn't do anything. I asked him to start down the bank to the concrete crossing and he hesitated. Annie brought Beau past us and Spots followed right along without a thought. He sniffed the concrete but walked right across. Up the other bank we went and chose a long winding trail that goes around the outer edge of the public property. I wanted to choose a trail with the least amount of people for the main part of the ride.
We went up and down hills, through the trees, next to fields, by trees full of bumble bees. Some of the trail is very rutted and Spots had to really think about where his feet were going. He got the hang of it pretty well and soon we were jogging along very nicely. On the down hills we worked on shifting his weight back and not rushing. I promised him I knew what I was talking about. It was starting to click by the end of the day. Up hills we worked on not trotting, which he was pretty sure was a silly idea. The outer trail joins up with a busy trail intersection and we met two more bikers and they stopped to talk so we let the horses watch them awhile, then passed them and went on a trail that went through denser trees. Spots was not bothered by that at all. He did not want to walk in mud we found in the trail, but was good about finding a safe way around it. I told him as long as he was heading where I pointed him I didn't care how he got there. We came to a long section of trail that was mud and puddles. I let him think about it. He watched Beau slog through it. I asked him what his plan was. He looked back up the trail we'd come from. He looked at the bushes. He looked at the mud. I said, "Okay buddy, pick your route, we need to get to Beau," and I bumped him and gave him loose rein. I expected him to run me into bushes or at least lunge through the mud. He carefully picked his way along the side of the trail where there was a 4 inch wide non-muddy ledge. He didn't rush at all. It was a little anticlimactic really.
That trail looped back to the busy spot and we took a gravel trail down to a trail that goes near the lake and in some trees. We walked over logs and through branches. By then he was getting pretty good about figuring out where to put his feet and he liked that pretty well. Then we decided to see if he would drink from the lake. There is a nice shore where you can get the horses to the water. Mr. Beau sloshed right into the water and started pawing happily and splashing Annie. Spots watched. I urged him forward. He would get close, but not go in. I urged and let him go to the side, then urged, let him move for a few minutes. It was clear he wasn't going to go in this way, so I hopped down and tossed Annie the lead-rope from his halter. I picked a long thistle and waved it behind Spots. He kept going back and forth, but started inching closer to the water. Finally he put in a foot and we cheered for him and I petted him and he sniffed the water. We let him stand a while, then I asked him to back out the water. Then asked him to go in again. He went back and forth a little, then stepped in. I backed him up again. Asked him in again. We did this about 4 times until he went in pretty easy and had all four feet in. Then I stretched my foot out and just reached the stirrup. He let me be crawl on from the bank. I asked him deeper into the water and he walked in a few feet until he was in up to his belly. We took lots of silly photos of whatever part of the horse we could. The horses watched the boats out in the water. Spots splashed with his nose and pawed and relaxed. We sat there for a long time.
Finally, we realized it must be getting late and climbed back onto land. The last leg of the trail is on a wide ledge trail with rocked on either side and bridge you can't go around. Beau went over the bridge, Spots took a deep breath and followed him over, jogging. I cheered and told him he was very good. We walked through the parking lot patting them and telling them what good boys they are. As we neared the trailer, I asked him to lope and we loped a few strides through the gravel to the trailer. He passed it and was headed back to the trail! I turned him around and we trotted towards the trailer and he passed it again. I decided he must not have had a bad ride or he wouldn't be so willing to head back out there, he would be glued to the trailer.
We brushed them down and took photos of the their cute faces and loaded up and brought them home. They ride very nicely in the trailer together. He and Beau seem to be nice buddies. I was so impressed with Spots, I expected him to startle at something, but he took took everything in stride like it wasn't his first time out. He just believed me when I said he was fine and not to worry. I can't wait to go back, I just need to find another sitter!

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