Monday, August 23, 2010

Trail Ride - A new test for Smokey Part 2

TR and Woody

When I first stepped into the stirrup, Smokey began to move. Darn it!

I stepped down, relaxed my mind, and moved his feet quickly. Then I came back and asked him again to stand.

He stood still and I mounted. He took a step - but that's something we are still working on, so I turned him and he settled.

I flexed him twice, and he did so willingly. It was then I really let go of what happened in the parking lot. That was over. I was riding this horse, the one in my hands NOW.

I trust you. You can trust me.

At the start of the trail there are two poles, meant to discourage vehicular traffic. However their placement and height can discourage equine traffic as well. Smokey and I let Woody lead through (Cibolo never would go through that opening either, we always had to send Lily through first), and fell into the middle slot. Lola is a little touchy so I didn't want to take a chance getting kicked, especially since my foot is starting to finally heel (I'm still in das boot).

Don't-Sniff-My-Butt-Lola and former barrel racer, H.

The trails at the lake are not for the weak at heart. You are going to ride through all kinds of terrain. And we did. We rode through everything. Tall weeds. Open fields. We trotted. We walked.

There was even a moment when Woody, the best trail horse I know, spooked. Smokey stood calmly by, waiting for whatever the next step was. (Woody eventually got over the puma-like-bush, with a little urging from TR. In fact, it made us all laugh, Woody is so good we all figured something HAD to be in there.)

Smokey and I led in some spots with no trouble. We tried finding a trail I hadn't been on much, but I couldn't figure out where to turn off, so we doubled back. We went to the trail end and cantered in the open area.

And for a moment, we galloped. Woody's pretty fast with his lope, so it was really the only option. Then Smokey rated down nicely. Then we left the herd and cantered on our own.

Several times TR commented that he liked Smokey, liked him for me, that we fit well together, he liked his temperament, his kind eye.

Was Smokey winning over his greatest skeptic?

As we left the field and headed for the loop back, we heard someone calling. It was D, who had ridden her Arab Amigo down from the barn (along a busy street no less) in hopes of joining up with us! What great timing!

On the way back we headed for that 'off the beaten path' trail that I didn't find but that D knows, but even D missed the trail somewhere. We bushwacked through hills and rocks and fallen branches. Smokey handled the terrain well, working over rocks easily, never tenderfooted (although I did work to keep him out of the worst of it).

Here we are, backing up for our photo.
I had left Smokey's bridle on in case I needed to lead him.

Nope. He's also wearing a cambon which D has had him in,
and which I continue to ride in most of the time.

Smokey had one spook with a deer, but again, it was rideable. Not like my vulture experience, which was an "out of saddle" experience. And better yet, Smokey came right back together, as if nothing had happened. Most horses I've gone through a serious spook with will jig or dance for a mile until they recover their brain...

D and I talked about what happened in the parking lot and she reminded me that as good as Smokey is, he's still a young horse. He's going to get worried. It's okay. As our bond grows, he will be more comfortable facing such situations with me and won't get as worried. He'll gain confidence in my leadership - over time.

I asked if there was anything else I should have done, but she didn't have any other suggestions (anyone? anyone? Bueller?).

Then it was time for swimming in the lake, which felt exactly like you'd imagine it would feel to be riding in 95 degree heat then swimming with your horse in a beautiful lake, the water cooling you off until you don't feel the heat anymore and your horse is groaning with pleasure and blowing bubbles in the water.


At the end of the swim and as we were loading up I asked TR what he thought, and if I could "keep" Smokey.

He said no, HE wanted to buy him.

We laughed and he asked for "right of first refusal" our little joke I used to have about Woody - if he was ever for sale, he'd have to offer him to me first.

I'd say that Smokey won him over - with fair caution about the nervousness without other horses. We'll work on that. I'm not worried.

Smokey and I have nothing but time ahead of us.


morningbrayfarm said...

Sounds like an AWESOME ride!!! :D

Paint Girl said...

I knew it!! I knew everything was going to go okay, Smokey seems like he has an excellent mind and even though young, he could handle the it. I am so proud of you and Smokey, you go girl!

Jeni said...

What a great ride and way to go to you for coming back to HIM ! I mean gettng focus, dropping your baggage left from other horses and trusting.

jane augenstein said...

Sounds like a fun ride, the swimming in the lake great on a hot day! I don't know how Gilly would do with a swim, we've never been in deep water.

Kate said...

Very cool - you've really clicked with him and that will make all the difference as you work through whatever comes up - and stuff will!

BrownEyed Cowgirls said...

Glad to hear it turned out.

I missed out on all of the Cibola drama, but it must have been tough.

Just remember that Smokey is NOT Cibola. For a young horse, who is just learning to go places, it sounds like he reacted perfectly normal.

I've had to haul some horses for an entire summer before they quit acting goofy. It's particularly tough when you are hauling a young horse alone. Seems to take longer for them to learn to settle.

jill said...

About him stepping off when you mounted...I had this issue with Scout when he was young. When you mount, you pull the horse off balance, just happens, until the horse learns to plant the front leg to brace his wight against yours swinging up to mount. Try this, before you mount, grab the saddle horn and gently rock it back and forth towards you as syou stand at his side. This will give the heads up that you're coming up and let him shift his weight to compensate. I am not saying that you mount like a sack of potatoes! This is just something that a young horse has to learn, and this techinique helped Scout tremdously with standing still. Hope it helps.
Nowadays, Scout should know better than to walk off, so if he does, I hang until he stops walking, as I pull him in a small circle around my leg. Then I dismount and start over until he remembers to just calmly stand there. It usually doesn't take much time and you don't want to teach him that it's ok to walk off. Consistency is key. Another great lesson learned by Mark Rashid....

Crystal said...

sounds like a great time! he sounds like a good horse and really good for you to get confidence back.

Grey Horse Matters said...

It certainly sounds like you and Smokey are going to be a great team. For a young horse he's terrific! He seems basically unflappable on the trails. Glad you both got to cool off in the lake. If you ever get tired of him, give me a jingle. He's wonderful.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Hah! Just like the comment I left in your previous cliff hangar post, I knew the ride went smoothly. If it hadn't you'd have spilled the beans right off the bat. lol!

The two of you look great together. And he is such a handsome horse. Truly beautiful.

But what is a camdon (sp?) and what does it do?


Trailrider said...

I strongly agree with what Jill said about mounting. Smokey is young, but the sooner you teach him he needs to stand still for mounting, the better. He should stand still for mounting NOW and EVERY TIME. I didn't care to see him dance around while you mounted him, especially since he was already nervous. Remember, the first 10 minutes set the tone to your horse of what kind of leader you are going to be. That was a real opportunity to send him a message that his foolishness, while understood, was NOT ACCEPTABLE. If you had followed some of what Jill said about mounting, and doing things I know you already know how to do during mounting, that could have helped bring him back from that super-anxious place where he was. I was very nervous watching you mount him while he danced around and kept his head high. I personally would not have mounted him in that condition. I would have brought him down and completed mounting only when he was relaxed and aware of me as leader. (Sometimes I have to get up and down in my stirrup 4 or 5 times with vaquero, my paso fino, until I feel certain he is honoring my role as leader and isn't too freaked out watching other horses!)

Having said that, I think he did very well and he has a lot of promise. But like Kate said, he's young, and so stuff is going to come up.

I look forward to riding him and feeling his gaits that you describe as so smooth. With my back, I can appreciate any horse that is back friendly!

Once Upon an Equine said...

I'm just catching up. Congratulation on purchasing Smokey and I'm so glad you had a nice trail ride. Wow! Swimming! I haven't gone swimming on horseback in over 40 years.

Fantastyk Voyager said...

Wow, sounds like you had a great time! Nobody is perfect all of the time but he sounds pretty darn close.
Enjoy him.

Melanie said...

What can I say??? I has already been said. You have got yourself a good one. : )

allhorsestuff said...

He really is such a nice horse. I think that everyone hit the points about mounting and his age and such. But, dobyou ever give him a break, and mount from the opposite side or from a higher position to save his back?
I always look forward to mounting now. I taught Wa to sidestep Over or walk up to -whatever I get up.on. She really must
apprciate it..she always stands!

I love hearing of this new journey; you and your steed.