Finally, Sunday morning Mar. 22; a nice day breaking and we’re not chasing loose neighbor horses. It’s time to take our guys for a ride. I think they want to go as badly as we do, especially after watching us traipse up and down the mountainside leading all those other horses. Lots of hair flew as we were brushing them out (the second time today, even) and they patiently waited to be saddled. You wouldn’t know it had been 4 ½ months since they had been last ridden. We hopped on Ranger and Jesse, and ponied Washoe.
We headed out, got to the trailhead into Roosevelt National Forest and started up the steep part like champs, Jesse in the lead. Whoa! What’s that!?! Jesse had done an immediate ¼ spin to the right and was side-passing back down the trail while checking out “the thing” up ahead, obviously putting space between use and whatever IT was . I straightened her back out to look at “the thing” and her response, of course, was “must back away from here as fast as possible”, right into Ranger’s face, who also spun into Washoe’s startled face. Remember, we are halfway up a steep cliff face on a narrow rocky trail. Fortunately, our guys are really quite good trail mounts and realized quickly they were putting us all in jeopardy. When Bill and I just calmly sat in the saddle and spoke to them, they quickly stopped motion, took a deep breath and waited for further instruction. I stepped off, since Jesse will go near almost anything if I am leading from the ground. Bill rode Ranger ahead, and we ended up walking past “the thing” quite calmly, after letting them take a good look. By the way, “the thing” was in reality a blue realtor’s sign swinging in the wind that had just been put up right next to the trail, and a lot of downed barb wire fence from the previous day’s horse adventure. The rest of the ride was very pleasant and uneventful. We all enjoyed it.
OK, looking back on the trip (as we always try to do because every ride is a training experience) I see some things to work on with my horse. Startling at a new sight on a “regular” trail is a normal horse thing to do, but she really can’t be allowed to back into someone or something behind her. Part of the reaction was due to it being the first ride after many months and them still not being fully in “ride out” mode. Part of it was the familiarity of the trail; horses are actually much better on strange turf because everything is new. Part of it was the blue, swinging object; blue is a color horses can distinguish and inanimate objects should not move in the wind, injecting horses immediately into flight mode. In actuality, they all responded to us extremely well so nobody got hurt. None of this excuses Jesse’s behavior, though, so some training time is needed. Guess I will have to put “fun” training on hold and get a grip on this, to make her a safer group leader.