Education Odometer – First Outing

Reason enjoying breakfast before the day started at his first Play Day.

Reason hit his first, real trail ride Sunday.  Well first real one with some actual hills, rocky crossings and narrow paths.  I guess that’s what constitutes as a ‘real’ trail ride, anyway.  This was his 3rd time being out for this type of ride.  This particular park has Frisbee golf on a majority of it’s smaller property.  Being Sunday, I was expecting to see a lot more people than we’ve encountered before and some golfers.  Matt thought it was going to be interesting with that added element.  But I wasn’t worried about it and figured Reason was going to fare well.  Reason loves people and being around them and I think is more comforted by the sight of people just enjoying a good time, so the Frisbee was a second thought.  It was, no big deal.  We hit the trail with another couple.  Reason was in company, though the two guys rode ahead of us on their mares, leaving my friend and I riding together on our geldings for most of the ride.  Reason got nervous when Errika was too far ahead, but it was great for Reason to 1) ride with another horse, 2) trust me to get him through being some distance away from his mare.

During our short ride, Reason wasn’t exactly a calm cucumber, especially (and what I generally think it was) because Errika was lead horse and Reason was trailing behind.  He’s attached, really attached.  But his head was on straight, so I just sat up there and enjoyed the company and scenery giving him space and not crowd his already thinking brain.  He relaxed as the trail ride was coming to an end.  For his first time riding out with company and in a new place, I was proud of him and it’s just another trip we can add to his education odometer!

Reason and I on our Sunday trail ride with friends.
Me on Reason and Errika guarding one of his ribbons.

Last weekend Reason went to his first playday.  Like I wrote before, I thought this would be a great first outing to a kind-of show, type environment.  Some horses may need a buffer like this and others may not.  We aren’t in any rush to do anything or get anywhere, and I’d rather take my time to make sure he’s brought along with the wellness of his mind as top priority.  Reason does in fact need this buffer, although I think it’s most in part due to his attachment to Errika.  Actually I think Reason and I are being cheated out of seeing how things have changed because the focus is on not leaving his herd mate anywhere we go.  I don’t get a chance to see how he’s truly grown with that extra influence.  But I can see beyond that to a degree, and I do see a much more confident and stable horse than I’ve ever seen before and so, I will just go with the herd dynamic flow at this current point in time.

Reason and I head out to do his first ever [slow] pole bending pattern.
The playday went well.  It was a friend’s birthday so Reason was able to hang with a whole new group of horses he’d never seen before.  He was well-behaved and loved being in the sights of horse and human affection.  We had many compliments.  People loved the big dark horse!  We had adults and little girls coming up and asking about him.  I was proud to tell them he was in fact and off track Thoroughbred and this was his first ever ‘event.’  One of the ladies who put on the show said she was “impressed” with what I was doing with him.  I was thankful to just be there, on my horse and to let people get up close and personal with him.  We were a little bit out-of-place with all the western gear and looked more like we were ready to hit the jumper ring, but everyone was really nice and accepting.  I love being in a place with such nice people just wanting to have a good time!

The warm-up was slightly sketch.  I didn’t have a chance to lunge Reason.  It was a cool, brisk morning and he was a little fresh.  He was a little wondrous about the sudden ‘paddock’ we entered.  I felt him jolt a little underneath me as we made our way into the large outdoor.  The arena wasn’t bustling as your typical schooling ring would be.  Being that first time, in that new place, I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect nor wasn’t sure how Reason was going to react initially.  One of the reasons I think going to a lower-key event such as this one, was a perfect introduction to the new world of ‘paddocks’ and rings and the world of showing.  I felt Reason get light in front when I to asked him to go forward.  He was reluctant to leave his mare, Errika.  Although she stood calmly at the fence.  I wasn’t sure if he was going to hold it together completely.  When things aren’t always on his terms, especially in these situations, he has tendency to get frustrated and will try many tricks to get through it, in his own way.  I wasn’t sure if the rearing tendency was going to, rear its ugly head or not.  It didn’t, but Reason did scoot and hop about sometimes.  I used my little box of tools to deter it even though at first I was nervous about the possibility of having to school through rearing.

Another shot of Reason enjoying breakfast. Handsome guy!

I know I shouldn’t have been nervous, but I was and I couldn’t help it.  I tried really hard to buckle down and focus my attention to the sights and sounds around me. –  The noise of crunching as we trotted along, the sand footing beneath us.  The cool air.  The lofty and floating trot Reason was doing (boy did that feel great!  I can’t imagine how it looked.)  The reins resting on my pinkie finger.  My leg sitting quietly against Reason’s barrel.  Eventually as best I could, I just lulled myself into a rhythm and went along with the ride.  Nothing in particular was being asked, just that he travel forward and in a somewhat large circle at one end of the arena.  Periodic halting and other things to put some emphasis on the braking and steering system.  It wasn’t soon into the warm-up that Reason put on the ritz and just went.  And boy did he.  The trot I was feeling was something out of a fairy tale.  Probably the unrefined floating, free trot you like to see in an upper level Dressage test.  Man I want to relive that trot over and over.  It’s the same trot I’ve seen him do freely, showing off in the pasture, but have never gotten to ride.  Now I can say I’ve had a glimpse from in the saddle!

Reason going back up through the pattern.

We went around poles for the pole bending class.  Reason has never done this, but we walked and did some trotting through the pattern.  I was able to use this class to bounce him off different legs as the pattern required.  It was actually really neat to do that with him.  It will be definitely something I incorporate with his training here and there.  Nothing like adding in something totally from left field to keep things from becoming monotonous.

Reason and I also did barrel racing (without the racing).  This was totally weird to him, going around barrels and such.  But he looked once, and just went.  Most of his focus was on not leaving Errika.  The mere fact that he stayed with me through all this and didn’t throw me or just handle the situation his own way, was the most important thing to me though.  I felt like he was listening and trying really hard to be good in what was occasionally a stressful and confusing situation for him.  My job was just to sit there, put my heels down, stay relaxed and guide him along.

What’s he thinking?

It was a great experience for Reason.  I don’t think we could have started his future showing experience on a better foot.  It was a great test, a great schooling opportunity and he was set up well for it.  I was proud of him and thankful to have been apart of it.

We are planning on riding in a real arena a couple days a week now on a regular basis, trail riding and attending another playday at the end of the month.  More exposure and more fun!
Here is a video during the end of the day.  I was trying to get Reason to just chill some more and eventually walk without the need to break into the trot.  (Yes, I am on the wrong diagonal.  I rarely pick up the right one when I’m not paying attention to my equitation.  Sorry for the shaky video.   You have been warned if you get motion sickness!)

Move His Feet, Move His Mind.

Errika and I last Friday on a trail ride.

Within a matter of days the hooves beneath Reason were feeling better and better.  So much so that he began bouncing around with that spark in his eye again..  Little things would make him excited or frisky – I knew he was feeling better.  I knew my horse was back.

But as it happens, there was a learning curve just ahead.  Because of the recent holiday, Thanksgiving and the events surrounding it; dinner with familie(s), work right after and just the overall busyness that surrounds such times, I was unable to really hang with Reason or do much of anything with him.  I could tell he was getting a little ‘hot’ for his own good. The day after Thanksgiving, I finished working the evening shift at the barn, went and fetched Reason, to do something with him, finally.  He was good, a little hot, but good.  Each day there-after, got worse and worse, in regards to the hotness.  I can appreciate a hot horse, but there can’t be much good that comes from a hot AND rehabbing horse.

Each night I took him out... There is where I went wrong.  Nights are bad right now.  Nights are time for warm stalls and yummy grain.  NOT for working.  This is what Reason seems to think.  In his never to be humble opinion, he lets me know just that.

Each night his attitude grows, little by little.  He’s throwing baby horse tantrums.  I know that a good go in the round pen would help us come to a good meeting ground.  But he’s rehabbing.  Round-pens and lunging are places we should not be exploring.  (Although I am, just not in the typical sense.)  So, I just do in-hand work, within the indoor round pen.  I remember someone saying that a horse doesn’t care if you can move its head, but if you can move its body and feet, that’s where truth lies.  Something like that.  I figured since round-penning (at more than just a walk) was and will be out of the question for some time, if not almost ever, I have to be creative.  I decided in-hand work, moving his feet, experimenting with lighter and softer amounts of pressure, would be a good option.  Move his feet, move his mind.

That seemed to work, pretty well.  I mean I was not completely satisfied, like if I could have actually round-penned him.  But it did enough and I know it will get better.

The simple culprit to this new found; naughty, no-not-listening, I-don’t-wanna, horse?  Grain.  Oh so simple, but oh so trouble-some..  Reason gets rice bran at night.  I usually like to wait to bring him in until I bring all the other horses in at night.  He knows what awaits him once I do finally get him.  But when I crash the dark horses parade and want to work him instead, well that just doesn’t agree with him.  I need to work Reason mostly during the day and if I do work him at night I should probably let him eat first..

Despite being, not the easiest to be around these nights, Reason is doing really well.  I’m very pleased that he’s feeling better and in turn that makes me feel better.  I love seeing him everyday and wake-up to the excitement of the future ahead.  Even if it’s something small, like going on a walk around the property or the idea of where we’re going to be a year from now.  Whatever it is, I’m excited.  I love learning and have learned so much thanks to my four-hooved animals.

Before I end this post, I would like to give some updates on Errika.  She is doing really well, to put it simply!  She’s looking better all the time and is developing muscle again thanks to our weekly trail riding!  Yes, my horse trailer was finally finished and now Errika and I do what we love to do together and that’s hit the trails.  Shes such a good horse.  I can just sit up there and she’ll safely take us up and over rocks, hills and across creeks.  I love her.