Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Yesterday’s trail ride with Deli leaves me happy.

No, I didn’t get to attend the Mt. Adams endurance ride this past weekend. And what a bummer that was. But I’m living vicariously thorough friends’ photos, videos, and stories right now. My fingers are crossed that I will be riding in an LD sometime soon. I have the endurance bug. Bad.

However, I did have a great ride on Deli yesterday. When I said she has matured mentally in the past year or two, I wasn’t kidding. She still has her naughty moments – for example, refusing to cross the tiniest little ditch with the smallest trickle of water in it. Which caused a whole heap of drama (of course) despite my trying to convince her that stepping calmly over the tiny "dip"would have been the far less scary option. That, and being slightly barn & buddy sour. Just slightly though. Just enough for me to roll my eyes and remind her that she knows that is not okay.

From another recent ride: Deli with my husband.

But when I compare these things to how she was in our early days, when she would lose her mind with anxious fits and back into brambles or run sideways to avoid going forward into something she was uncertain about, or spook so violently I was often lucky to stay topside... I’m very happy with how far she’s come. She is pretty darn reliable and never mean. We confidently ride out alone 99% of the time and she has saved my butt on several occasions. It's pretty rare now for her to have a large spook, and even then her worst is usually jumping forward a couple strides when something startles her from behind.

Part of it has to do with how my philosophy and approach to riding and horse ownership has changed over the years. Admittedly, I still have to contend with my longing to compete in endurance events and am looking for catch-rides (like I had for my first LD) for this season.  I also want to prepare Deli for and attempt some LD rides. I think if my various concerns could be dealt with (will her soundness hold up to mileage? Will her allergies allow for long hours in the saddle?) she could really rock and even enjoy the 25 mile distance. She loves being out on trails more than anything else I do with her that constitutes “work”. Of course she would rather sit in her pasture with her buddies and get fat (trust me, she has no issues with the fat part right now even in work). She's always happy to get out on the trails. It's entertaining for her and her active mind.

Yesterday we chased a loose cow, which was exciting. Deli is uncertain about big critters coming toward her, but when I asked her to keep marching toward it and it moved away she perked up. When I asked her to trot toward it, she did so willingly. It was as if she realized: I’m big and bad and things are scared of ME?! Yes Deli, you are soooo big and scary. She really is the gentlest creampuff of a horse I have ever known, but whatever works to boost her self-esteem, right?

Look! Cow!

The cow-herding instilled some confidence in her that later showed itself in her being a bit more stubborn. But with some mild correction ended up with us power trotting around some recently tilled fields with a willing forward mare. And then she asked to canter and so we cantered around the field, looping to turn around without breaking stride. I even got a flying lead change from her on purpose, something we never really trained for and never get in the arena. She also picks up her leads better on the trail.

Trail bliss, or close to it. In an ideal world we would have access to real trails and a trailer rig to go ride with my endurance friends (and reliably GET to endurance rides!), but my life is hardly ideal right now. Basically, everything – even our dressage work – is better on the trail. 

Next time: An update on Deli's tack and allergies.

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