Around my barn, Memorial Day weekend doubles as one of the weekends with gunfire and cannons. Civil War reenactment battles are held very close by, with 6-10 cannons and all the lovely cannon BOOMs to go with!
Friday, we went for a two-hour walking ride with a friend. Lazy ride, loose rein, barely flicking an ear at the occasionally cannon-y noises (quieter ones, thank goodness). Horse: reasonably cannonproof for the time being. Human: jumpy!
Saturday, we opted to leave the barn after the day’s two battles had finished. I rode with some other friends and ended up doing a moderate-paced nine miles with rather a lot of horse left. Upon our return to the barn, it was discovered that we’d lost an item from a saddlebag.. somewhere on the 7-mile trail loop. Yikes! Naturally, two of us headed back out on the trail, jog-trotting along or walking as we scanned the trail and brush in hopes of finding it. I’m guessing we made it three miles out before turning around due to impending darkness. Our ride home was dark, dark, and darker to the point where the last half-mile was occasionally blind faith in Fetti’s trail skills and my knowledge of every single step on that trail. Home safe, but we’d prefer not to repeat that again! (Item was eventually found – another rider had picked it up and brought it over to our barn the next day.)
Sunday, we headed out between battles. The goal: to be substantially far away by the time of the second battle. The mares were actually quite good for most of the ride out and really didn’t care about battle noises – four days of listening will do that to them! I opted to point the two of us on a relatively new trail in Pogonip, knowing we had time, and my riding partner didn’t object 🙂 It’s a multi-use trail, but we discovered quickly that it was heavily influenced by mountain bikers. Lots of switchbacks, lots of ups and immediate downs, not an awful lot of flat or even gradually sloping sections. I noted as we were most of the way out that we’d been parallel to the trail tracks for a while. How bad can it be, right?
I’m pretty open about this – there are lots of things I think Fetti should be able to deal with. Trains are not on the list. We have Issues with trains. She thinks they’re big, scary dragons and wants nothing to do with them. However, I have come to learn that if I’m off and keep her on a line, she will stick with me (or at least won’t leave) while making it very clear she wants to get as far away as possible, please.
|Doing her best high-strung Arabian impression.|
The other horse we were riding with is less experienced on trails. Her rider has less experience dealing with the horse and trains. I made the mistake of thinking that the horse would stick with us, between the rider and Fetti. We were both off when the train came by, making Big Train Noises, with Fetti going in fairly polite panicked circles around me. The other mare seemed okay at first, then crashed through the brush with little warning and.. left. Lucky for us, she redirected to the first visible trail and stopped waaaaaay off at the top of a hill with a handful of hikers. Her rider was able to hike up after her and retrieve her, no harm done except for the emotional trauma to the four of us!
I normally make a point of not bringing others into the blog. In this particular case, Fetti’s reaction made it very much My Problem, too. First we thought that perhaps I could hop on and go after the other mare, but a quick half-second evaluation of the horse I had made it a very, very bad idea. Pony was convinced that her friend had been eaten by the dragon-train. Train was past. Pony had maybe 5% of her brain, and that 5% was keeping her going in panicked circles around me. She would have happily bolted off after her friend, something I have not experienced while on the ground.
|Other horse is about halfway down the hill.. walking towards us. Embiggening suggested.|
It is not thrilling to discover that a problem I thought primarily existed under saddle does, in fact, present itself on the ground in extreme situations as well. That said, it was absolutely an extreme situation with some extraordinary circumstances I don’t care to repeat. She needs to be able to cope with other horses leaving her – and we absolutely have to work on that. Looking at it a week later, I think the other mare’s bolt reinforced Fetti’s train-fear. Things might have been very different had she bolted for no apparent reason rather than doing what Fetti would have really liked to do.
Sunday ride total: 17 miles in 5h20min. For a mostly-walking ride, not too bad.
|Photo proof! I thought once we’d never be able to do this.|
Monday and Tuesday I was not feeling very motivated, so all we ended up doing was walking around the barn. But one major accomplishment nonetheless: bareback in a halter! It’s not something I’d do if she’s at all up or we’re going at speed, but for barn-meandering I’m happy to find that it is a viable option.
|Heading home. This section of trail was cleared in the past six months; I’m still not used to the view!|