Saturday, June 19, 2010

Lostine Tackles the Trails

I got up at 6:00 AM on a Saturday morning to do some work for my boss, and right when I got down to the wire, almost completing my task around 9:00 AM, someone brought down the network at the office and I couldn't complete my assignment. I was so frustrated that I thought, "Hey, if management is going to ask me to work over the weekend and then do things to disrupt my ability to do my job, I may as well wrangle up a horse and hit the trails.

Bombay's cut is still healing, so I had to be sneaky about catching Lostine and getting her boots on. I couldn't put my purse in my truck or move the trailer. I had to pretend like we were going to ride at home. I fooled her. She held still while I prepped her for the trailer, because she didn't have a clue I was going to put her in the trailer. However, once I got her in the trailer, she did a lot of kicking. Look what she did to her hoof walls...

I found hoof chips all over on the inside of the trailer. These horses must have mighty brittle feet if they can break them on rubber matting.

Fortunately, I had Old Macs on her front feet, so they were protected. Perhaps it might be worth it to invest in some for her back hooves as well.

As I was heading up from the parking lot to the trail head, I ran into my favorite trail rider -- the man who tried to lead me and Bombay across the river with his black Tennessee Walking Horse. I finally got his name. It's funny how trail riders introduce their horses to each other, but forget to say, "Oh yeah, my name is..."

He got all excited over my Tucker Trail Saddle. He wants one, and he said he's surprised that not many people around here have them. I told him it's really comfortable and fits both me and Lostine well.

Really, really nice guy. I wish I could ride with him, but he likes to ride alone. I'm starting to enjoy riding alone myself. I'm learning that I can handle whatever my horses dish out. It would be nice to have some conversation during the ride, but I suppose I get enough of that with all the dog walkers I pass along the way.

I led Lostine up the half-mile hike to the bench under the tree. It gives me a chance to get some exercise, gives her a chance to get used the the surroundings and work out her spooks before I mount, and it allows for some time for her to relax her belly, so that I can tighten the cinch before I mount.

Mom! I've got sand in my shoes. I've got to stop to itch it...

Here we are under our favorite shade tree...

This is the bench I climb on to mount...

This is how high it boosts me up, so climbing into the saddle is pretty easy as you can see...

Of course, Lostine had to take off before I had my foot in the stirrup. I don't think we got twenty feet before she teleported sideways. In addition to all the new signs on the trail, the organization that maintains the trail placed triangular islands at the forks in the paths and surrounded them with tree branches. Lostine was so sure those tree branches on the ground were snakes, so after teleporting sideways without my foot in the stirrup, she started running backwards down the hill. Each time I tapped her with the riding crop to move her forward, she bucked!

The best I could do was to stop her from trying to spin, and then force her to face her fear. I didn't push her forward. I just made her look at it a while. Then when she sighed, I petted and praised her and moved her forward with my legs. She moved past it like it was never a concern.

I wanted to ride her to the river to see if she would cross it, but there were some people moving around in the shadows throwing rocks in the river. Just like when Bombay saw the horse in those shadows by the river, Lostine spun and tried to take off running down the mountain. I stopped her and made her face her fear for a while, and then I ASKED HER to turn and WALK down the mountain. It didn't look like those people were going to stop throwing rocks into the river any time soon and I needed the river to myself. Maybe next time.

Beautiful views on the way down. The colors literally change each weekend that I ride here.

I did let Lostine trot downhill on a few occasions because she was being pestered by horse flies, bumblebees and mosquitoes. Insects seem to be really attracted to her bright, flashy shade of chestnut. I'm sure they must think she's a rose... or a horse with blood. If I didn't let her trot off, she started kicking and bucking at the pests.

All was going well until we came upon that dreaded triangle of sticks again on the way down. Lostine jumped off trail and started running around in the sage brush. I was trying to guide her through it back to the sticks, but she was ready to blow. So, we just sat there while I took pictures of them...

This man came along and I had to apologize for going off trail. I explained that my horse is afraid of the sticks. He thought she should be more afraid of him, and I agreed. Earlier she spooked at a rock and these people grabbed their dog. I had to explain that she's okay with the dog. She's just finding that rock to be more threatening at the moment. I'm sure it must freak hikers out when they see my horses spook, because my horses spook big. If someone is standing too close, the horses could knock them down. In fact, last year Bombay ran backwards right into my husband, and my husband was smart enough to slap him hard on the rump to make him jump forward. So, I try to get past hikers as quickly as possible.

Eventually, I talked Lostine into moving back onto the trail and hanging a left to explore a new area with more pine trees. You can hear all the birds and squirrels moving about in the trees, so Lostine was on high alert. I had to push her past a few boulders and trees that a mountain lion might be hiding behind, and by the end of the ride she was doing a much better job trusting my judgment. This is the parking area at the trail head...

The man who owns that house next to the trail head has sheep and was out mowing with his rider mower today. The horses are much better now about not worrying as much about those things. The first time we brought them here, they didn't want to go within a mile of those sheep and any noise made them fractious.

It's so nice seeing them relax and mature. One of these days I might even get a trail ride with the horse's head down and ears floppy all the way. We are still in head up, ears forward, a few snorts here and there, and lots of spooks to the side mode. Lostine fared much better than Bombay on the trailer ride. I think since she is shorter than him, she has a lower center of gravity. Bombay is very lean and tall. It's like he's trying to keep his balance on stilts when I go around turns in the trailer. Well, I've got to get back to work. Bye for now.


Leah Fry said...

Beautiful scenery from your ride. Seems crazy sometimes that they are fine with dogs, diving birds, scampering squirrels, etc., then go cuckoo over a pile of sticks or a mailbox or something. Silly beasts.

Paint Girl said...

Lostine sounds so much like Brandy! She does the same thing, one day she'll spook at stumps, the next day she won't. I will never figure it out. She has gotten so much better though, and now most of my trail rides are pretty relaxing. But I am always prepared for a jump sideways!
I am so glad you got to get Lostine out for a trail ride. It is so beautiful there!

Katharine Swan said...

I think they spook when it's least expected. If I didn't know better I'd think they were doing it on purpose. It's funny because my trainer is always telling me to look ahead and not focus on something scary, yet it's always the stuff I'm not paying attention to that he spooks at.

Sounds like you and Lostine had a big day! So did Panama and I. Check out my blog!

Love the pictures, by the way. One of these days I have to get braver about taking pictures from Panama's back.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

I hate those awful teleportations!
It takesa mighty good seat and some great balance to stay on when a horse teleports.
And you did it. Way to go!
You are getting so much braver and courageous every time you head out with your horses on the trail. Seems like each time they learn to trust you a little bit more. One day you will reap the rewards with a relaxed horse who releases their fear and turns their control fully over to you. Won't that be wonderful?!


word verification: gumsta

A gangsta that chews gum...a lot.

Breathe said...

That was Cibolo - fine for dogs, the running colt, but that vine on the side of the trail! YIKES.

Sounds like you've got one heck of a seat to ride out all that. It's only going to get better the more they see all this stuff.

Those hooves do look brittle. I'm hoping to use boots all the way around on my horses. Cibolo loves them. Maybe Lostine should wear them IN the trailer...

Fantastyk Voyager said...

Remember to be VERY CAREFUL while you're riding so you don't get unseated! Otherwise, good for you and Lostine.

You want your horses calm and relaxed, but floppy ears? Even my Nadia keeps her ears pricked forward at attention when I trail ride. She loves to see what's up ahead.

Lulu said...

Go Nuz Go!!! I'm so proud to hear about you adventures out alone! Talk about building confidence in yourself, as well as your horses!

Laughing Orca Ranch said...


It's been 5 days since you last posted. This may be a record for you....and I hope it's just because you're taking a hiatus from blogging...and not because work is keeping you crazy busy...or something bad may have happened.

Now you've got me worried, my friend.

How are you?
Please post.


Jen said...

What a beautiful place to ride - wow! That "World's Greatest Hoof Oil" might be something to try for the feet...I rolled my eyes at the label when I bought it, but I have to admit it's awesome stuff :o)