After a busy holiday weekend of knocking tasks off my To Do List, I got a chance to go for a trail ride this afternoon. Every time I get busy or the weather gets bad, I stop exercising and instantly get out of shape, which makes the whole process of getting ready for a horseback ride to be laborious. The worst part is trying to get my boots on and off, and picking out the horse's hooves.
If you can't tell, I enjoy riding Rock. I think I'm a much better fit for a horse that needs to be more responsive than I am with a horse that needs to calm down.
He's easier to ride than to lead, which is why I rarely take him for hand-walks like I do with the other horses. It's not that he misbehaves on the lead rope. It's that he walks so slow that I feel like I'm dragging him along.
When we were approaching the gate to the trails, I spotted a hiker coming toward us. I hurried Rock up to get him through the gate because I hate it when my horse just slams on the brakes to stare at the person while we are so close to a street. I've had horses try to spin and run back across the street to the barn for safety when someone has been coming up the trail head toward us on foot or a bicycle. Fortunately, Rock didn't see the man, so I was able to get him through the gate and away from the traffic.
Apparently, the man wanted to be alone, because he spun around and headed away from us. Of course, the trail he took was the trail I intended to take myself, so I changed my route to give him his space.
Right about here in this picture is where Rock really got tested...
I was focusing on him, trying to keep his head straight so that he wouldn't gawk, and then I looked over to see that the lady had slowed her horse to a walk and was coming toward us with a dog. I said hello, and told her that I was working on getting my horse to pass running horses without turning to run with them.
She responded as if she was aware that this is a problem with some horses, and then she told me that she was getting her horse ready for a long-distance Pony Express race next week. I said, "Wow! Good luck."
It sounded interesting, so I looked up the race online when I got home. I'm always fascinated by these Pony Express events. Those horses have to be well conditioned, well trained, and be willing and able to deal with any terrain including racing down the shoulders of highways with traffic roaring past them.
Speaking of traffic, at the end of our ride I had to stop Rock before crossing the street, because one of my teenage neighbors was pulling out of his driveway and he's proven to be a problem in the past. He's not respectful of horseback riders. I waited for him to pass and he pulled over to the side of the road. I thought he was yielding for us to cross the street, so we started to cross, and then he stepped on the gas and roared up from behind us, while we were crossing on an angle.
Rock stopped and tried to turn toward the car, and I was like,"Nooooo! Get out of the road. Don't stop to gawk at a vehicle that's coming straight at you."
I got him off the road and onto our driveway, and the kid did slow down at that point. Rock was still trying to to turn around to look at the car. When I uploaded my heart rate information for the ride, I could see my heart rate doubling both when the lady came running toward us on her horse and when the teenager in the car came up from behind us. I really hope I can train myself to relax in those situations in the future. If I had been riding any other horse in those instances, the outcome would not have been good, but Rock is helping me to learn to trust that some horses can keep a level head.