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!)


A little bit of This and That.

Reason and I on his second trail ride, in early August. He was such a champ!

I haven’t written in some time now.  (One day I may be doing something interesting to actually write a blog post that doesn’t consist of, ‘haven’t been doing much riding lately…’)

Reason is doing great and looks great too.  Both the horses have been a little less enthused about their dry grass pasture, missing the green lush one of the winter and spring, but as the winds change and the air gets colder yet again, the green will soon be here.  Just a little longer kids!  The horses did have a pasture guest for a short period of time, which they both loved.  Reason became quickly attached and took the 20 year old gelding under his 6 year old wings.  It was cute and we all miss the little horse!  The horses settled back into life with just the two of them just as quickly as they invited the other horse, so no stress or worries in that department.

Reason has been maturing so much and is such a different, but same, horse than he was 2 years ago.  He’s outgrown his baby face and his baby antics and is coming into quite the gentlemen.  He’s always had some great qualities, but also some challenging ones as well, that have made the journey a little tough a times.  He’s incredibly smart and can be liked to a genius child who could either do wonders for the world, or.. He was a horse who verged on the ‘maybe’ and ‘no’ category with hints of ‘YES!’ but things were not easy.  He is getting into the ‘YES’ horse I have known was always inside of him and to watch his expression change has been wonderful.

Unfortunately, as the usual theme, I have not been riding.  Again, no riding space with appropriate footing I’m comfortable working him on on a regular basis,the horses pasture has made our riding experiences low-key.  Very low-key.  It’s actually been nice in a way because what riding we do, is walking some trotting, bareback in a halter.  I play with him and just keep moving forward to help him ease into the horse I want him to become without any pressure or worries.  As the days go by, I keep thinking about all the fun things we could do and what I need to do to get us there (horse camping, getting into jumping and Dressage, take him neat places, teach him to do the Spanish walk under saddle, passage and piaffe.. Go to clinics in all different disciplines. So much!).  I want to take him to a low-key play day soon, just to be in a new place and do fun, simple things without putting him into a stressful environment I know he is not ready for at this point.  I want him to be confident and happy and once we get there, we can go anywhere!

Reason all buckled up for safety!



Two Good Things in Two Good Days.

Out for a canter

I spoke too soon.  My last post was basically my thoughts and feelings on the lack of my riding.  I do think technically I can be a good rider.  I’ve conquered some of my body and am able to ride without some of those limitations (those independent components; hand, seat etc) that take time to get away from, but mentally if you aren’t in the game, your body isn’t either.  My mind has been out and about for a little while.  Hey, when did riding become so much work?  Remember when you were little and rode and bounced around without a care in the world?  Some part of me misses that.  I don’t miss bouncing around or sometimes even the no fear consciousness, but the carefree.  It’s healthy to have some fear perspective.. Right? 

It just so happened that after I wrote my post on Thursday, I had a great ride that evening.  I mentioned cantering in the field.  Matt said go ahead, do it.  Like seriously, you’re having to think about it?  So I did.  Reason and I cantered in the field.  It was easy, carefree and relaxed.  Reason has such a lovely canter.  It’s smooth, floaty and has multiple speeds.  His default speed is a lovely cadenced canter that makes you wish there was a nice jump right ahead.  And it makes you see the potential for Dressage and doing collected work.  A couple laps of trotting and some cantering around the field and Reason was already sweating.  Oy.  Well to give him the benefit of the doubt, he does have his winter coat and it was warm and sunny out.  Conditioning and fitting both of us up will be fun.  I’m out of shape too.  I don’t have the control over my body like I used to when I rode a lot.  I lack a strong core, for sure.

On Friday I went to go walking at a park with Matt, my mom and my mom’s Lab puppy Triskit.  This was the same park Reason was to have his first trail ride at.  The trail (there is only one for horses) is wide, flat and definitely beginner friendly.  Since it was a weekday, it was quieter.  A few walkers but nothing else.  I wanted to go for a ride on Saturday, but the day was spent at home doing yard work.  On Sunday we headed out for an evening ride.

We arrived about 4:30 and the weather was perfect.  The sun was shinning, the sky only held a few minor remnants of past clouds and the temperature was short-sleeve worthy.  Reason came off the trailer sweaty.  Although he was riding with his faithful companion Errika, I think overall he’s a nervous traveler.  I let him have the whole back area of the trailer, but I think next time I may buckle him in the center between the dividers as that may make him feel more secure and safe.  He unloaded like a champ and once at location, he was calm, but curious.  I walked Reason around before tying him to try to help him cool down.  I waited and spent a little more time grooming to let him dry.  Once he was cooled down and had dried some, I began tacking up.  We headed to the trail and I opted to stay on foot and lead him down the road to the actual trail.  He was still calm, but curious.  Errika was a great, great help for Reason as she doesn’t normally bat an eyelash at anything.  She helped him understand that the weird new sights, sounds and smells are nothing to be worried about.  Just a casual walk in the park.  I mounted up on the trail, after offering the horses some water at the trough. 

The first real interesting encounter happened at this point.  A couple people were at the lake’s edge (the trail goes around a lovely small lake).  Reason could hear them, but barely make out them through the trees and brush.  His head went up and he went on alert trying to make sense of the noises.  He didn’t spook, but did a small but quick turn and looked on again.  It took him a couple more looks before he was prepared to move on.  I mounted up and off we went. 

Our next encounter was a child.  Reason is not too sure about kids, at a distance.  This particular little kid was fumbling on behind his mom, who was holding another child.  Reason thought that was weird, but we continued on and once we got closer, he relaxed a bit, although still intrigued.  The next site was only about 5 minutes later.  We came across a man pushing a stroller.  Strollers are especially interesting.  We asked the nice man if he could stop so we could pass.  I find it’s always best to make some verbal contact with the non-horsey public on the trail because they simply do not always know what to do or even know what they are doing could be scary to a horse.  The man seemed to wonder why he needed to stop at first.  But once Matt, explained we have a young horse or isn’t sure about strollers, he happily obliged.  Reason kept his ears on the stroller after we passed, wondering if at any point it might come sneaking back up behind him, but realized it was again, not threatening and proceeded on. 

The trail was beautiful and serene. 

On the last part of the trail we came across yet another little kid, who could have been no more than 2.  He was running towards us, picking up a stick and throwing it, with his mom tailing behind trying to herd him back towards the stroller.  Reason actually wasn’t worried about this.  I guess he had decided kids weren’t so bad after all.  We got up to where the little kid and his parents were.  The little boy wanted to pet the horses, so we stopped and he got to say hi to Errika.  The little boy cried out to the horses as we said our goodbye’s and headed back towards the trailer. 

Once back at the trailer both horses enjoyed some treats and kisses before loading up and heading home.  Reason had second thoughts about leaving the park, hopped on the trailer quickly thereafter.  Once in it was a smooth ride home. 

I have to say that Reason was a really good guy throughout the whole day.  It’s a lot to ask a horse who’s never been out to deal with all the events that go along with it.  He handled everything really well.  On top of that I felt it really helped his confidence and to just enjoy being ridden.