Saturday, September 15, 2012

On the Trail with the Kid

Today we wanted to take Laredo for his first trail ride. Hunting season isn't all that far off, and we want to make sure we get him out soon enough that we have time to get a good number of rides in before we are limited to closer ground where we feel safe riding. And we decided Brian would be the pilot, which meant me and Steen would be his other companions. We also thought it would be good to have a third horse along, so we invited Kat to join us. She rode Kafteinn.

Things started out very quietly. Steen was just about the mellowest he's ever been on the trail for the first half of the ride. He was the slowest walker of the three, content to even lag behind a little. This is a far cry from his usual power walk, and Laredo actually led the ride for quite a while.

We left Cathi's land and turned left to head to the trail we like, and when we got to a long, flat open stretch we trotted. This was also the most mellow Steen has ever been trotting on the trail, and Laredo was great too.

It's a long stretch, and we like to trot them the whole way. After we came back to the walk Laredo's energy level shifted. He was starting to get tired, and his walk slowed down considerably. Kafteinn moved into the lead.

We went over the rolling double-track, and on the way back in we encountered our first excitement of the ride. We trotted up one hill and Laredo decided to shift into the lope. Steen was right next to him, so when I saw Brian looked like he was going to ride the lope for a minute, I let Steen picked it up too. Steen woke right up, and gave me a little more enthusiasm than was ideal. I ended up doubling him pretty firmly three or four times to force him to break at the poll and slow down.


But after the spurt everyone calmed right back down. We continued quietly until we passed some black drainage pipes stacked near the road. Steen had eye-balled these on the way out, but was more bothered by them on the way back. Laredo also shied at some of them, so we all stopped to work the horses a bit. I did short-serpentines until Steen was able to stand quietly next to the stack of pipes. Brian rode Laredo back and forth in front of the stack he found scary until he was over his issue with them.

We headed onto the lower part of the trail and encountered a woman walking a dog. The dog was off the leash and when the woman saw us she turned and started walking fast in the same direction we were going. Presumably she did this to keep the dog from getting interested in the horses. But Steen is weird in that if he can see something moving off in the distance he gets obsessed with it. He started with his chargey walk.

I'm never quite sure what to do when he does this. On the one hand, he's not necessarily misbehaving. He's walking, and going where I tell him. But on the other hand, I am clearly not the first thing on his mind. I responded this time with a shallow double every few steps. This often works with smaller distractions, but the woman and the dog were out in front of us for a good long while, and that whole time Steen was so intent on them, any part of his mind he gave me was an afterthought. I tried whilygigs and short-serpentines and while he would do all of this for me, he was also super busy with the bit and every time I wasn't bending his head he was staring at the dog.


Finally the dog and walker turned off and went in another direction, and Steen calmed back down immediately, though his emotions stayed closer to the surface for the rest of the ride. Later on, I tried to fall back to take some photos, and when Kafteinn pulled ahead Steen started getting agitated again.


But luckily Laredo was unaffected by Steen's behavior, and other than that one little stretch Steen was quite good. We took it slow, and covered seven miles in two hours and fifteen minutes. It was fun and relaxing, and things with Laredo really couldn't have gone much better.

Ride Time: 2:15
Horseback hours YTD: 115:25

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