About two weeks ago my uncle called me up and asked if I wanted to go on a trail ride. Now, you have to understand, he does this about once a week, and I normally have to turn him down because I am a) out of town, b) busy, or c) just don’t feel like it. Well this particular Tuesday that he called I had already made up my mind that I was going to ride after work, so when he asked if I wanted to meet him over there I said “I’ll start getting ready!”
I hooked up the trailer (made easier by my parents’ new truck with the back-up camera…), packed it with my tack, and went out in sandals (!!!! right??) to grab my horse. Did I mention he is a spunky three year old? My mom happened to be around, so she decided to help me by grabbing some feed to coax him in. Also in her sandals. It only took a few minutes of shaking feed, and Norman was in! I was super proud, because if I hadn’t been in a trailer in a month, and didn’t feel like going in, I am pretty sure I would use my 1,000 lb body weight to get myself back to the pasture.
I pulled into Harry Hughes and upon noticing a few trailers and people in the arena I thought maybe there was a high school practice. They didn’t have practices back in my day, but things change, right? As I am saddling up my uncle rides over with a big smile on his face, and proceeds to tell me they are having a mounted shooting practice. Of course they are. I hop on, and as we ride towards the arena to check it out, one of the shooters starts going down the line. Norman put his tail up so fast and started snorting, just like when he was a baby. He got used to it after a few minutes. Once again, so proud.
Then we headed to the trails, which Norman is actually great on. There are still a lot of downed trees and cut up logs from the 2010 tornadoes, which brings me to our next adventure. My uncle makes his horse jump everything in its path. And then tells me I have to jump the same things. I got used to this a long time ago, so I am always prepared. Well I trotted Norman up to this huge log, probably 5 feet in diameter, and he did exactly what I knew he would–stopped in his tracks. I kept pushing and kicking and he just pressed his legs up against the log, so when I felt him start to jump I knew he could only go one place–straight up. I grabbed the horn and told my uncle to watch out. He cleared it, and it was so much fun.
After a while my uncle wanted to wake his horse up and asked him to trot, then canter. Norman gets nervous being alone on the trail or at shows, especially if we show up with a buddy. When my uncle took off, Norman was not about to be left behind. I held him back the first time, but the second time my uncle tried this he told me to just let him go, and that he would catch me if Norman decided to take off. Most people may not trust a statement like this, but I know my uncle and have heard numerous hard-to-believe stories about his riding adventures. So when he told me he would catch me, I believed him completely. Luckily even after letting Norman fly around corners and through winding trails, he never actually took off on me. Once again, so much fun.
Then we saw a doe and her fawn. He/she was covered in white spots and was absolutely the most precious thing. Didn’t have my phone on me to take a picture though! I know, can you believe it? I have learned to leave technology in the truck when riding. 🙂
I truly believe that exposing horses, especially young and impressionable ones, to trail riding (log jumping and racing included) is great for training and gaining trust. Horses are flight animals and need to know that things will be A-OK after being forced to jump logs and run through trails and share space with other animals, when the rider is in control. The other reason I believe this? Because the horse my uncle brings on these trail rides is a four year old paint horse with the calmest disposition I have seen in a long time. I know every horse’s demeanor is naturally different, but how many four year olds do you see mosey through parades?