This week my steady eddy Dove & I have been enjoying the nearby trails. We took a much needed break from practising our Freestyle audition routine. All work and no play makes for dull partners. So last Sunday a small group from our barn took a walk together down the little bridle trail while I took video from atop my horse...... for the FIRST time! That was so much fun that I was giggly and silly most of the way. My horse realized quickly that her job was to focus on the trail because I was focused on figuring out how to hold the camera, get a good shot and still be attentive to my horse. By the end of the ride my shoulder and arm muscles were a bit tired and mind you I have a very small camera. LOL.
Here's a small clip of the pretty trail just down the lane.
On Monday Dove & I tried the same trail by ourselves. This is another FIRST and one I have prepared us for over several years. At times I thought perhaps it would be too much to even think of riding alone. The trail is short, safe and beautiful, however the canopy of trees makes it feel more like a tunnel. So for Dove it was a big confidence threshold. As I felt her relax more each trip with our friends, I realized she was ready to "try" going it just us two. My plan was to see how far she wanted to go and then turn around. Well folks we made it to the end of this little 1 mile trail. AWESOME! I really enjoy riding with friends, but there is something very special when it is just me and my horse. Something intimate and peaceful. Along the way we'd stop, relax, look around and take the trail in small sections. You know- eat the elephant one bite at at time. When a jogger and her dog came along, Dove sighed and wanted to move forward and follow them. Ah so that is what she was worried about.... something coming up from behind her. Her Zone 5 is very important to her. :) Now that it was over she could relax. How interesting!
Yesterday we rode the same trail with some friends (creating a nice trail pattern) and again my horse was very alert and aware but responsive and felt like a partner. There was alot of activity along the trail this day. Tractors moving big mounds of dirt, helicopters flying overhead, deer running about, and even men using saws to cut boards behind a large green container smack dab in the middle of the trail end. Bring it on! After reading Linda Parelli's lastest blog about how she helps her new horse West Point when he spooks, I did the same with Dove. Thank you Linda for this timely post!! Staying very present in the moment, doing what my horse needed me to do, give her nothing to brace against and spook with her. It became an Oh Boy moment for me.... oh boy I can help you. Empowering really. We all felt so good that my friend & I continued across the street to the regional park and rode the Orchard Trail loop. Again more helicopters, birds, deer, oh and this big wind had come up causing the trees to come alive. Dove was nervous and kept looking toward home, but she was responding to me and able to stand still and nibble the grass now and then. My athletic rockstar was still with me.
As we parted with our friend to head home Dove wanted to jog so we circled the orchard trees, practised our backup and sideways and soon she could walk home. I was thinking "You want to move your feet- me too! Let me help you move your feet more creatively Miss Dove." Again thank you Linda Parelli for the great post and ideas. Dove's walk was still lively, but once we crossed the road she relaxed. Nice! As we approached the barn there were about 1 dozen deer in the neighbors yard behind the slatted fence. Really I am not exaggerating I could not count all the deer. I thought perhaps the neighbor was getting into the deer rescue business. LOL. With the fence obscuring the view Dove was a bit jumpy so together we practised our herding patterns to move those deer who were hiding behind the fence. A little arc toward their Zone 1 and they'd stop. A little more toward Zone 1 and they'd turn. This little game helped Dove relax and soon she lowered her head and was ready to pass them and go home. Sweet! As part of our trail ride pattern we do a few minutes of precision work in the arena before unsaddling. This time Dove pushed the gate open! WOW she usually balks and braces as she'd rather get to her pen and eat some hay. Inside we played with a bit of shoulder-in along the fence and upon leaving once again Dove was helping me by pushing the gate. The really cool part was that this time as we were closing it she side passed back to it herself! She even waited for me to "pet the gate" which is part of our gate pattern. WOW this response from my horse was incredible. I felt like I had a glimpse of understanding what her idea was in that moment. This was the highlight of my day.
This morning my friend & I will hit the trails again with our pretty ponies. Mother Nature held back the showers and is affording us one more play day in her back yard.