Saturday, September 20, 2008

We Did It!

Of course, I remembered to bring my new birthday binoculars, but forgot to bring my camera. Those of you who have been reading a while know that all this desensitization work and equitation lessons I've been doing all summer have been small steps toward a bigger goal. I wanted to get my horses, who have rarely been off my property for the past nine years, out on the trails. I led Bombay with a lead rope up a trail a couple of months ago, but felt that he was still too nervous and flighty to ride there, so I started riding him and Lostine on my neighbor's property and at the Fairgrounds in various arenas.

This morning my husband and I trailered Lostine to the canyon. She loaded in immediately with no balking and backed out like a pro. This time when we drove into the trail-head parking area, there wasn't an organized bicycle race going on. In fact, there were very few cars and only one other horse trailer. I tacked up Lostine while she calmly looked around with interest. I was relieved that she wasn't all snorty and prancy like Bombay was. He had been so excited the day that we took him to this canyon that he accidentally kicked me while kicking away a fly. I swear he didn't even realize that he kicked me afterwards because he was so frightened and distracted by all the bicycles whizzing in and out.

Once Lostine was ready to go, I had a bit of a conundrum. I needed the step stool to mount, but she always bloats her belly when I first tighten the cinch. I have to walk her or lunge her a while to get the cinch properly adjusted. My husband said he would give me a boost up once she relaxed her belly.

We began leading her across the parking lot and of course, she had to take a dump. The rules state that horse owners have to clean up manure in the parking lot, but not on the trail, while dog owners have to clean up no matter what. I looked at my husband in exasperation. We were just a few yards away from the trail-head and Lostine couldn't hold it. He told me to go ahead and he would clean it up. That meant unlocking the truck, getting the keys to the trailer tack room out, unlocking the tack room, getting the fork, cleaning up the mess, and putting everything back the way it was.

I got Lostine up to the top of the first hill and looked back to see that my husband was having trouble unlocking the trailer. The trailer key chain has about 8 keys on it, and the tack room has multiple keyholes. I yelled out which key and which hole he needed to use, and once I saw that he got the door open, I continued up the mountain with Lostine. By the time he caught up with me, I had been able to tighten the cinch to a safe pressure. My riding instructor wants it slightly loose since the cinch is over the horse's heart, but not so loose that the saddle will slide down the horse's side. The thing about Lostine is that she will not totally relax her very intentional bloating until I have actually mounted her in the saddle. Then she relaxes completely, and the cinch gets really loose.

It took two attempts to mount, because on the first attempt my husband grabbed the leg I needed to swing over, and Lostine moved away, then spun around. We tried again with me just stepping into my husband's hands as if they were a step stool. That did the trick. Just to be safe, I had my husband hold the lead rope while I rode up the mountain. My husband was there for the hike anyways. He's not interested in riding any kind of animal.

We approached two runners who were coming down the mountain. They stopped when they saw us. I figured we would simply pass them, and Lostine might get a little snorty, but they were just people so she had no reason to freak out. They walked toward us nervously, and I wondered what was up. Suddenly, the woman yelled, "WE HAVE DOGS!"

Right then two dogs came bounding out of the brush straight for Lostine. She freaked -- started snorting and doing a dance. The dogs went right for her hind legs, and she tucked them way underneath her. The man came running forward and called the dogs to follow him further down the hill. Just when we thought we were done, another dog leaped out of the brush and the woman chased it off away from Lostine. She apologized and said that her dogs had never seen a horse before and they were just learning how to be off leash. I told her that my horse was just learning how to take me on a trail ride.

We continued up the mountain and around a bend where we met up with another man who had a big black, hairy dog. He led it off the trail to give us the right of way, only to Lostine it looked like they had gone behind a tree so that they could jump out at her. I had to squeeze and cluck and encourage to get her to move forward. She jumped when she saw the dog, but it just sat there, so she relaxed and walked past.

We made it to the river and looked down over the valley with my birthday binoculars. Then my husband handed me the lead rope and asked if I could ride down by myself. I said I would and wrapped the rope around the horn. It was very relaxing. We had no more incidents on the way down. We were able to talk without worrying about what Lostine might spook over. When we got within sight of the trailer, I did have to start setting my horse's head and keep a tighter rein on her, because she wanted to go faster. We made it back to the trailer and all the way home without any problems. Oh, except for one little faupa in which my husband forgot to close the door of the truck when he cleaned up the manure. He locked it, but just forgot to close it. It had been wide open the entire time we were gone. Fortunately, my purse, C.D.s, and tennis rackets were still in there.

When my daughter was a toddler, anytime that she tried something new and succeeded, we always said in an enthusiastic voice, "YOU DID IT!" That's a line from, and probably the title of, a Sesame Street book we always read to her. I patted Lostine, kissed her nose, and happily said, "WE DID IT!"


ranchette said...

YEAH! Good job you guys.

Flying Lily said...

Sitting in a coffee shop reading this post and I almost shouted out with joy - woohoo NM all your hard work pays off. What a joy! You have soooo many happy trails ahead of you now, thanks to your dedication and rational gentle training plan. And your husband is a complete sweetheart too. What a completely happy event!

Jenn said...

Congratulations! Sounds like Lostine handled herself very well, especially with those horse-eating dogs around. It's quite an accomplishment for her to listen to you and respond in a scary, new situation.

Just a quick side on your cinch near the heart comment: A correctly placed cinch goes around the horse's sternum and ribcage. The heart is safely encased in this cage of bone. If you are tightening up your cinch hard enough to break through the sternum AND crush the ribcage to affect the heart, you should try out for the Olympic weight-lifting team!

Laughing Orca Ranch said...


I am so incredibly thrilled for you and Lostine. I bet that Bombay and Gabbrielle will eventually come through for you one day, but I just had a really good feeling about Lostine being your 'Tried and True Trail Horse".
She just seems more level headed and respectful of your leadership.

I'm very proud of you, NM.
It's great that your hubby is so supportive of your riding and was there to clean up the manure, so you didn't have to.
It was also great that he was your beginning life-line, until you realized that you didn't even need that lead rope connected to him.
Sometimes that's just a great way to help build up that confidance...sort of like a proverbial umbilical cord.

Now you know you can breath (and ride) without it! :)
You two did just great!


IamRockinHorse said...

Way to go! I'm glad hubby went along with you. I used to ride while my husband biked on trails. It's good to include those "non-horse" men in our horse outings! Keeps them more supportive of the horse habit.

coymackerel said...

Congratulations on achieving one of your goals! You have opened up a whole new world for yourself and your horses. What fun!

Andrea said...

I love how you tell your stories!! I am so glad that you had a good trail ride. Even with scary dogs and all. It sounded nice.

I am always a ball of nerves when I take my horse out of their "comfort" zone for the first time. It sounded like you did a great job!!

Shirley said...

Bravo! I hope you get to ride the trails many more times before it gets too cold and slippery to hit the trails. Great that your husband supports you by hiking with you, I'm sure that eases your mind. Too funny about the truck door!

Momma / Cowgirl said...

WOOHOO! Sounds like a great outing. Makes me want to get out there and do the same. My hubby wants to take the horses off property soon to ride, I love doing it, but it is hard to go with the skiddos here now.

I am so glad you had such a good time!!