Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Finally a (Brief) Trail Ride

Today Pie and I got in a quick trail ride - we didn't go far, only a couple of hundred yards from the barn and back again.  It was 11 days since we'd had a ride and 15 since our last solo outing.  The wind chill was  23F, so it didn't feel that bad after all the very cold weather we've had recently.  I'm fighting some sore of cold/respiratory thing but I was determined to ride if only briefly.  So I set a time of 2:00 p.m. and just did it.  Considering that it was cold and that we haven't been out much lately, Pie did well.  His walk was very forward, even away from the barn.  We had a momentary balk by the pond when he found the square ice skating area cleared on the ice somewhat alarming - or maybe it was the shovel sticking out of the snow.  He was reluctant to pass and would have preferred to turn back, but I just kept turning his head back in the direction I wanted to go and chirped to him and after a few minutes he made it by.  Our trip outward was uneventful, although he was very alert and occasionally would look around back towards the other horses and the barn.

On the way back, he was very interesting in moving quickly at the walk and was not responding well to my asks to slow with my seat and was head-shaking when we did serpentines.  So as soon as he started thinking about moving too fast - I didn't want any momentum building up - I turned him to face away from the barn and we just stood there for a moment on a loose rein.  It helped a lot that he already has done the just standing around exercise - he can stand still even if he's full of energy.  Then I ask him to back softly for a few steps - he does this well now - since that relaxation of the top line helps with emotional relaxation - and would then turn him back to the barn, and the moment he thought about going too fast, I turned him back away from the barn again and we stood.  All this work was done on a loose rein - I wanted him to choose to walk at a moderate pace and not rush, or else choose to walk too fast and have me do the resulting turn and stand - it was his call.  Generally, I follow the philosophy that I need to give the horse a real choice - I want the choice I'm looking for to be easier, but I also don't want to make the wrong choice so hard that it's impossible.  After a number of repetitions of this, he was able to walk back most of the way at an appropriate pace.  His head stayed high, but he held it together very well.  He shows very good signs of being able to develop good emotional self-control.

When we got back to the scary cleared ice square, it was right by a cut off back to the barn.  Pie was very interested in darting through that opening.  We did a bit more turning and circling and then I directed him down the path the long way round.  This resulted in more active head-shaking, and I just "grrred" at him and told him to cut it out.  We also did some more stopping and backing - one time I got some brief pawing when I asked him to back, but he didn't persist with that.  When we got back to the barn, we did a few minutes of cone work at the walk and with a little trotting - the footing wasn't great.  He was very good and relaxed for this, so I untacked and turned him back out with his friends.

Not too bad for a 4 year old horse who's rarely ridden out alone, in the middle of winter - I'll take that - it's a perfectly good foundation to build on.  If the weather holds we might get in a few more rides this week.


  1. Good for you. I like the idea of turning away from home and standing still then backing up. I'll try that some time.


  2. I'd say excellent behavior for a four year old that hasn't been ridden out in a good number of days. You should be quite pleased.

    Horses always amaze me when they react to something "new" or changed that just wasn't there the last time they passed a spot. They have an incredible memory of "what it should look like" and really notice even subtle changes.

  3. I agree, a great foundation for Mr Pie. :)

  4. I was just thinking ,not to bad for his age , then read that last line.Good Pie

  5. So happy Pie has a great foundation, is a good listener and is willing to communicate.

    I went to barn to ride before the weekend and it was still to icey. Then we got dumped on by a crap load of very wet snow, then very very cold (below freezing) so now I've got more ice =( spring must hurry!

  6. Sorry you aren't feeling well.

    Pie sure is good for a young boy in the wind and cold!
    I like your idea of giving choices and letting him decide. I am not nearly as organized as you. I try to decide how best to stay on and that is as far as I get! I need to work on my planning as these riding days progress, just as much, if not more than my horses need to work on their "lessons"!

  7. juliette - I wouldn't say that I'm organized - some of this stuff just happens during my rides, and I just respond - there isn't all that much thought behind it.

  8. I'd take that ride and behavior too from a young horse out solo in the cold with scary monsters to deal with. Good Pie!

  9. Sounds like a great little ride ending on a good note.

  10. Your method of turning him away when he tries to rush and just letting him stand there to calm down is really interesting.

    I'll definitely have to try that if I get into a similiar situation.

    It sounds like you had a really good ride!


  11. Good job Pie! Sounds like he's really thinking.

    I hope you feel better soon.

  12. Pie is such a good boy! I haven't ridden in longer than that. Hopefully this weekend.....

  13. GREAT subject!
    On a regular basis... I come across horse owners who complain about issues in the saddle, but whose horses have little to no ground manners and the simple act of leading them around is a dangerous activity. It's CRAZY that people climb aboard horses who blatantly display disrespect towards their handlers on the ground. This behavior will only transfer to work under saddle. And it's not the horses fault... but the fact that the owners are clueless when it comes to addressing issues on the ground. As far as I'm concerned... your ride begins with haltering.

  14. I'm so glad that you got that ride in Kate~! I know the winter there has been staying you off.

    Every ride does present itself with opportunites. Pie is so good, he willingly and actively accepts your leadership.You are wonderful for him, giving him fair and consistant choices.

    With my Wa she gets onto a certain way of dicipline and then starts to do it herself,that bugs me. She is soo strong willed and so darned smart! I have changed to many other attention getters and calming measures aside from the stop and turn...she began to stop and turn herself, when she got excited!
    I must change ALL-THE-TIME!Good thing there are tons of choices for us too!


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