Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Farting is NOT Allowed! (Part 2: Solo Ride)

After a long morning of work at a friend's place, I was invited to go on a trail ride on one of her horses at Taylor Mt. that afternoon. This was very exciting because I have never had the opportunity to ride there, even though I live 10 minutes away. I just don't like exploring unfamiliar trails that can be ridden across state- too many places and turns to get lost in. I had a great ride! It was sunny out and after making it to the top of the mountain, I remembered that I had left my camera in the trailer. Boo.

Coming down from the top was a little challenging. My friend has reiners, still in slid plates, and the ground was rain soaked clay. We slipped and slid all the way down. Thank goodness I trust the gelding I was riding. He is such a fun ride!

I got home with just enough daylight to jump on Mercy for a short ride. I grabbed Star on the way out and we headed out for the short loop. It was kinda windy, so we took it easy walking through the clear-cut, but we managed to stay spook free.

The next morning it was brisk and clear. A storm was just off the WA coast and steaming our way quickly, so I wanted to head out for another ride as soon as possible. I wanted to really ride Mercy, so Star got left at home. I headed off to the left and up the rocky hill. I should have know this was going to be another challenging ride because when she climbed the hill, she loped. As you probably remember I have been having issues getting Mercy to move out on the trail recently. Nope. Not now. She blasted off up the hill! Usually at the top she walks really slow. Nope Not now. She continued to lope down the trail. I let her keep going for a ways before I asked her to slow.

Then, to my shock and amazement, she willingly turned and carried on down the hill once in the woods. This NEVER happens. She hates going down this trail because once you start down, you can hear people on the trails above us. She has to see who's up there, always. Nope. Not today. We got to the bottom in record time. We stopped by the apple tree, where the last apple was still hanging. I grabbed the trunk and shook it. The apple dropped to the ground and rolled a ways off, so I had to help Mercy find it.

After Mercy's tasty snack, we headed for the train track. This is where all hell *almost* broke loose. Mercy took off without me being ready. Well, I was ready for her to lope, but she lunged at the hill. I lost my seat and couldn't gather my reins quick enough, and Mercy knew it. She hadn't even finished the turn on the hill when she took off bucking. It wasn't a really serious bucking fit, more of a 'it feels cold out and I feel frisky,' but it wasn't acceptable. Once she hit the flat, straight track I had time to regain my seat and suck the reins back up to stop her. Even once she was stopped, she felt like she could shoot off again. I insisted she walk straight and brisk. When she wigged out, we backed up on a loose rein, then continued. Grrr...

From that moment on, I insisted she control her own speed or pace. If she took off without me cuing her, I hauled her ass down. Then we started over again. If she stopped without me sitting or reining her down, she got her sides kicked into a new gear. I had finally come to the realization that allowing her to choose her own pace was the worst thing I could let her do. She is the kind of horse that will take advantage of anything, any mistake or unseen opportunity. I have to control every movement she makes. If she doesn't listen, there will be consequences, no exception.

For the remainder of the ride I practiced my new epiphany. Guess what? By the end of the ride (which was just taking switchbacks home, at a walk) she was listening and reacting to every cue I made. She no longer took off at the bottom of a hill, assuming we lope on every hill. She also waited until I decided which trail to follow. It is no longer her idea.

Even with the rough start, I am glad it happened. I finally figured something else out about Mercy. I NEED to be her leader. She needs to rely on me for everything. I can't wait to see how this translates to the show ring.

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