Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Down the Trail with the Horse Guru

On Monday I again rode with Charles, he on the filly Margo, I on Peaches. Going beyond the confines of the farm and surrounding lanes, we climbed the big hill into the forest, Peaches in the lead. Margo followed behind, gently urged on with small bumps from Charles. When she seemed able to lead, Margo was put in front to give her experience in finding her way, learning to set her feet and balance her weight while going uphill. Both horses worked well, Peaches ever sure and competent if also forever on the lookout for the tasty bit of grass or weed which she tried to snatch in passing. I kept her bumped up to set aside the bad behavior.

Stopping to let the horses blow out halfway up, the Charles gave me more instruction in working with legs and seat, keeping a loose rein to allow the horse to choose her path while reminding her that we're working together. Concentrating on applying his suggestions, I had no time for worry about falling and was pleased that Peaches and I worked so well together.

We rode to the old homeplace at the top of the ridge, encountered a pile of old trash and let Margo take a good look at it before going on. She was interested, body tense, ears alert, eyes wide open, but didn't spook, and Peaches, as always, was mildly interested but much too experienced in the ways of the trail to do anything more than look. We also found some large mud puddles in boggy ground that had Margo arching her neck and starting to prance a bit. I rode Peaches between the puddles, and Margo, after a long look and with urging from Charles, followed with no jumping or untoward head tossing. Having her pasture pal take the lead and showing no fear gave Margo confidence she needs to deal with water.

As we left the homeplace, an ATV came down the dirt road. Happily, it was a relatively quiet vehicle, the rider respectful of our horses, and we went right up to the road, avoiding the entrance trail, both horses aware of the ATV but not overly concerned with it. As we ride more together, Margo will become more desensitized to strange objects and people, while Peaches is nearly bombproof, despite not having been ridden at all since I was injured some 4 months ago.

I'm feeling strong and much more confident, my body's healing continuing apace. As Spring comes along, we'll ride more, and someday soon I shall hope to mount Margo again.

As we made our way back to the farm, the horse guru chose to use the trail where I was hurt, and I became understandably anxious at the prospect of going down it again. All went well, Peaches in the lead and the horse guru giving me instructions about sitting back, legs extended, bumping slightly on the reins to remind the horse to take it slow. As we approached the bottom, Peaches wanted to run, knowing that we were on the way home, but I helped her slow down and stay at a quick walk, her usual pace unless she knows that food and water are coming.

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