Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Why your super sensitive and athletic horse isn't going to be your best trail horse.

I love my Moony horse.  He's a kick in the pants.  So talented and athletic and I've cultivated his responsiveness so he is feather light and able to respond to the lightest cue.  He's like a ferrari in the arena. 

However, I don't ride in the arena all the time.  I enjoy pleasure trail riding alot and believe that every horse should be able to at least handle a trail ride even if they don't necessarily excel at it.  Well, Moony definitely doesn't excel at it.

First of all water.  Water is the devil in Moony's little Morgan mind.  He has an unrational fear (well, unrational to me, anyway) of water and seems to have always had it.  I've gone from thinking he would grow out of it, to he would get over it in time to believing this will always be a bit of a hang up for him.  He'll go in.  Eventually.  But never without cooersion and him expressing his opinion that going the opposite direction, and quickly would be a better course of action. 

He also believes the woods are inhabited by goblins.  Maybe it's orcs.  Whatever is hiding behind each and every log he is very ready to get us the heck out of there should it become necessary.  While I appreciate his extra high alert and readiness to get us both to safety at the slightest provocation, it doesn't make for a very relaxing trail ride when your horse is thinking that he's going to have to vacate the premesis at any moment.  It's like taking a cruise with somebody that walks around sounding the ship and wearing a life jacket.  Not terribly reassuring.

He doesn't really like to lead (though he will) and he doesn't really like to be in the back (those are the horses that the orcs take out first, obviously!). I can and do trail ride him frequently, but the more we do it, the more I realize he'll probably never be 100% good at it or enjoy it. He is just one of those OCD type personalities that doesn't do leisure activity very well.

Case in point. This past weekend we did a ride at a very wet trail with lots of water crossings.  Always looking for an opportunity to help Moony conquer his irrational fear of water I figured this would be good for him.  He put up his token, let's get out of Dodge arguement at the first crossing and then he was pretty willing for the rest.  He certainly jumped what he was capable of jumping and never went through the water first (better to send the royal water testers first) but all in all I was feeling pretty good about things.

We were on the way back when the fracus occured.  Since I was a participant and not an observer I can only tell you what I think happened.  We were the last in line (otherwise known as the orc bait position) and our dog, Larry was right on our heels.  Something spooked Larry into the back of Moony causing Moony to stand on his head and kick his back feet out in a super defensive orc killing move that I'm sure he has perfected after lots of time in the pasture kicking at raindrops, birds and other things really high up in the air.  I wasn't at all prepared for this defensive move and it popped me out of the saddle and onto his neck.  When all 4 feet hit the ground again he jumped forward incase the orc was still on his tail.  Unfortunately there was another horse right in front of him so his only recourse was to jump into the dense forest on the side of the trail.  We were momentarily caught in lots of branches before he realized this was compromising his defense and he jumped back down onto the trail.  I was attempting to levitate myself back into the saddle without success.  So I reached down between my legs to put my hands on his poll and push myself backwards.  Of cousre, being trained to give to pressure he lowered his head obligingly and I tumbled gracefully right off onto the ground.

After much regrouping we discovered that the orc in the woods was a cyclist that had come swooping down the heavily wooded trail behind us.  I think he had his cloaking device activated and it was only at the last minute that Larry saw him and jumped forward startling Moony. 

Had I been on a dull non-responsive horse, none of this would have happened.  First of all, Larry hitting the heels of a quiet dull horse wouldn't have provided much reaction.  If it had caused a reaction it wouldn't have been so enthusiastic and popped me out of my seat.  And even if I had been popped out of my seat if I'd been sitting on the neck of a dull horse, no amount of pushing would have gotten that head down.  Likely he would have reacted the other way and braced and I would have ended up back in the saddle.

So, if you are a trail rider that enjoys leisurely quiet rides in the woods I encourage you to take the dull quiet horse and leave the super sensitive athletic one at home.  It'd be like taking your ferrari mudding instead of your jeep.  It's possible, and doable, but why would you do such a thing?!

1 comment:

  1. My I hear you about riding a sensitive, athletic horse on the trail! Not sure who is more nervous then, me or the horse...not a great combination! So am working with a trainer on teaching my Morgan to not move his feet unless asked...and on my confidence level! Love your blog!!