Toughing the Trails

Hi there! Okay, the title of this blog makes it sound much more exciting that it really is…but go with it. Lol. The other day Cash and I saddled up and went exploring. Lately, Cash has been extremely buddy sour to our steer, Itty Bit. The rain has definitely not helped! For almost a week he’s been confined to the barn with his buddy. So as you can imagine, he’s hesitant to leave, even when I promise him a trail ride will be fun! 

I had my mom feed Cash that morning so I could catch an extra few hours of sleep and get a head start on housework. After getting laundry and dishes started, I headed over to my parent’s barn around 11am. It wasn’t really as sunny and beautiful as I had hoped, but it wasn’t raining so I was thrilled! 

After arriving, I gathered what I needed and put Cash in the cross ties. I went through our routine, taking extra care when saddling up. He’s been fussy and cranky during saddling, but I’ve decided it’s behavioral. I’ve assessed him for pain and discomfort multiple times and have found nothing. 

After successfully tacking up, I led him out of the barn and into the yard. I usually wait to tighten my cinch until I’m ready to mount. I pride myself in being able to mount from the ground, but I took the easy route and hopped up from a bucket. I’m getting back to my resourceful roots after leaving a fully equipped boarding barn! 

Cash started out pretty good, but refused to cross the creek on the first attempt. I’m learning that he usually tries this to see if I’ll let him go a different way. As soon as he realizes I’m not changing our route, he gives in. 

Once we were across I pushed him to the right with my outside leg. He was unsure at first as we usually go to the left. I took him around the woods and down the grassy path to the field. There were a couple low spots that were flooded and he didn’t blink an eye! Cash doesn’t refuse crossing the creek because of the water, it’s because he is going away from the barn. 

We followed the field along the woods until it ended. Next up was the grassy trail separating the field from creek. This is where Cash usually begins the tantrum throwing. Today I decided to push him further than we’ve gone before. Rather than returning home the way we came, I wanted to make a complete loop. 

Cash often stops to stare at everything. If I let him stand still too long, he’ll suddenly turn on a dime and book it back towards the barn. This time, he flipped his head up with his sudden spin, almost causing my rein to flip over his head. He’s definitely getting better at his attempts to get his way. Luckily, I’m usually able to hide my nerves and regain control quickly. I first asked him to stop and think about what I’m asking, then cued him to turn back around. He reluctantly complied. After that, he walked along calmy until we reached the road. 

There’s a small bridge on this country road that I’ve taken Cash once across a long time ago. He was unsure of it because he could hear the water rushing underneath. He jumped to the left when he heard a rock clink that must have been tossed up by the water. The bridge also makes me nervous because I always imagine my horse flinging me over the side…as soon as he spooked I pushed him to get across the bridge quickly. 

We followed the road around the corner and towards home. Cash soon realized where we were and started to pick up the pace. He followed that with lots of head tossing when I asked him to slow down. After working through a tantrum, I took him through the treelines next to the field so he wouldn’t focus on “home”.

He settled down more once he had something else to focus on. Just before we reached the back pasture a deer jumped out, causing another spook. I calmed him down and made him walk back to where the deer had jumped from. I didn’t want him to be nervous in that area the next time. Cash has gotten spookier lately, but I feel like it has helped improve my skills and ability to stay calm. It’s been so long since I’ve had to deal with a spooky horse that I’m out of practice. My childhood horse was bombproof, and Cash has never been spooky until recently. 

We followed the pasture around and finally reached home. I dismounted before walking him into the barn and untacked him in the cross ties. He stood quietly and behaved the best he’s been! 

I use the Equilab app to track all of my rides! I love looking at our route on the satellite map afterwards.

I hope one day he’ll learn to enjoy our trail rides, rather than dreading them. I’ve been pushing myself to ride on the days that I haven’t felt like it. Sometimes I just don’t want to go fight my horse for an hour. I know that if I start avoiding it the issue will only worsen. So, each day a ride is possible, I saddle up and mentally prepare myself for spooking and tantrums, but envision a perfect ride. Usually, the experience falls somewhere in the middle. It’s been a while since I’ve been challenged this much by a horse, but it will only make me a better rider and horsewoman. 

Every day is a good day when you ride.

views from the back yard

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