Bill and I set out with this plan of getting my horse Washoe 'legged up' for some upcoming tough rides. We borrowed GunDiva's horse Skeeter, to be a companion horse on longer rides. Neither Bill nor I ride alone in the national forest or park; not a good idea for a horse to come back sans rider and not be able to go find the missing party because you have people at the lodge, so our granddaughter, Autobot, serves as an extra rider.
In our last post, we had picked up the horse and transported her to our guest pen - which she now claims as her own. The following day served as a day off for the horses so we could get the weekly 'town chores' done.
This brings us to Thursday and the plan was to just pony Skeeter around town so she could get used to the sights and sounds of mountain living. We saddled up Ranger and Washoe and discovered Skeeter does NOT like standing patiently at the hitchrail when different stuff is happening, i.e., noisy trucks going by, bicycles, crazy people making strange noises, etc. Welcome to our life, Skeeter. She tried her hand (hooves) at taking down the rail, with no success. Finally decided to just watch and check-it out. Good horse. Then we got hit with large raindrops which quickly turned to hail.
We waited out the storm and when everyone was calm, we took her lead rope and started out. Hmmm. Ponying is not a natural thing for this horse. She had her own ideas of where she wanted to go and it certainly did NOT include being next to another horse. We learned many things about ponying that day - long, slippery lead ropes are not the way to go. The first time she yanked it out of Bill's hand before he could get a dally done; but to her favor, she didn't run off, just stopped to look at whatever took her interest. OK, next time he was prepared and got her dallied but she almost pulled poor Ranger over. He's just a little boy compared to her, so I took the rope as Washoe could compete with her size. I got it dallied in time, but Washoe did not approve of her behavior and gave her a major stinkeye, which she did not even notice.
Rethinking this whole plan, we decided to back up to Skeeter's comfort level. We dismounted and I walked the saddled horses back home - all of two blocks - then Bill led Skeeter around a couple blocks on foot. She got a few nasty reprimands about who was to do the leading, but came back doing pretty well.
Friday, I led Skeeter for a much longer walk through and about town, with a handy boundary stick and by the time we got back, she had figured out it was best to stay in the proper position. Then I hopped on Washoe and we walked and trotted the Ski Road loop just to loosen up. I had planned on two times around, but that didn't pan out either. By this time it was late evening and I was riding in a halter and short lead rope, so when Washoe was not in favor of another trip, we came home.
Saturday, Autobot and I led Skeeter on a longer and different route through town; she only needed a couple pops on the lead rope as a reminder. Much improved! I sent Autobot out on Washoe for an hour and half ride - I thought. They were back in minutes. "What's the matter?" A: "He won't go." Me: "You have long leather reins; insist." A: "I did but he only backs up." Well....I think that Washoe has decided (in his teeny middle-aged brain) that if I didn't go, he didn't have to go. I start walking down the road and sure enough, he follows along like a puppy on a string. It's a nice day and he needs to learn to trust Autobot, as she will be riding him a lot this summer, so I just keep walking toward the Allenspark trail head. Autobot rides part of the way, and leads him part of the way. When we get to the trail head, I tell her to just keep leading him up the trail until she can find a place to mount him easily. This time he followed her nicely and I sat at the trail head and waited for some hikers to get there. Once mounted, Autobot rode back to us very nicely, then right on past. She and Washoe came the 1.6 miles home on their own. (I can't blame my horse for this. I am constantly putting some non-rider on him and walking them around town. He just follows me and listens to voice commands, so it's not his fault.)
Sunday, we had thought we would try ponying Skeeter again, then decided maybe it would be easier for her to be ridden, since that was not 'new' to her. Bill opted to be the trial monkey, so Washoe and Skeeter got saddled. I had planned on going, but we had people we needed to wait for at the lodge, so I was to stay behind.
Bill took Skeeter to the small pen across the street to mount the first time.
We had a 'new bit to Skeeter' on her and wanted to see how she would respond; bits are not her favorite thing. She took to it like a fish to water and walked around the pen on a soft rein. So time to try going down the road.
Washoe was in the lead but that didn't last long. Again, he said, "wrong person on me" and came home. OK, fine. I threw a back-soon sign on the door, grabbed Ranger out of the pen and hopped on bareback.
We took the lead with Skeeter next and Washoe behind. We needed to keep Skeeter slowed down. Again, she took to the ride like an old pro, mostly just looking around.
We had cars passing us on both sides, dogs barking from cars, even a runner with earphones on who would not slow down or even acknowledge us as he ran up from behind. Skeeter only had one instance of belligerence; when one of the cars came up on us from behind and Bill asked her to move over to the side of the road, she didn't want to give up her spot. That driver was nice and stopped to wait until Bill turned her around to see the car and she moved over. Otherwise, she did really well paying attention to rein cues as well as she knew how. She is young and only has a very few hours of ride time, and has never been out on dirt roads like these before, so we couldn't have asked for more.
We finally let her take the lead and she slowed down on her own and led out very nicely. It was fun watching her want to smell the different trees and watch everything - all so different to her.