Posts Tagged With: trail riding

I love having two Appys – and declined a third, today

There’s an Appy at the pack station in Colorado who is for sale and the wrangler texted me today asking if I was interested.  I declined, of course, but I agreed with the cowboy: their Appy would look great next to mine. I wonder if they are related?


I had some time between meetings today so I went out and gave Rocky his injection, then took him out to graze. He was more interested in wandering though so I went with him, holding the line but letting him lead. He chose to go to the edge of my parking area and stare at the pot-bellied pigs. I draped the line over his back and stepped away to watch.

He watched intently, but he was blinking and swishing at flies, neither completely tense nor comatose. I’d have stayed with him until he decided to wander away (or toward!), except I had another phone meeting and had to put him away. I led up him up the drive past the pigs’ pen and he did not spook, although he did keep watching. So, progress there.

I love watching him explore. He climbed up a small mound of sharp gravel, sniffed all around a tree, sniffed all around the muck cart, nibbled on the one weed amidst a lawn full of otherwise acceptable grass, at least according to how the other equids here chow down.

We did another ride around the ranch today, this time with his boots on so we could expand our route to include more driveway and perhaps go in the ditch, both of which have sharpish drainage rocks. He stopped a lot, this time out of “gotcha” and not “eek,” and I kept laughing.

That was one of the awesome things about the Gold Summit at Parelli, that everyone just laughed when the horse would make a face or pull a gotcha, and then the person playing with the horse would respond per Linda or Pat or their own knowledge. It is so much more fun for horse and human to laugh and deal rather than get frustrated, angry, or annoyed.

I once saw a trainer beat a horse around the poll with the riding crop, wham wham wham on a constant rhythm for a long time, at least 15 minutes. The mare refused to go through a squeeze and consistently resisted going through that part of the driveway, day after day. The trainer’s intent was to make the horse more afraid (“respectful”) of the rider than of the squeeze. The trainer was not angry, was in fact pretending to be dispassionate but I think she enjoyed herself, believing she looked like the expert trainer dealing with this difficult horse without getting thrown or “letting the horse get away with it.”

I was very new to horse ownership and Parelli at that time, but even then I thought a) that mare barely feels it, she has so much adrenaline coursing through her, and b) not only is the area scary in itself but now she gets beaten about the head at the same spot. How on earth could anyone think that an effective system? And the owner was paying money to this trainer, for this, with the best of intentions — wanting a safe, reliable, and go-through-the-squeeze horse! How much more fun to laugh, to take the time it takes, to put the relationship first, to base everything on the rapport > respect > flexion > impulsion model!

Anyway. I made a figure 8 pattern out of the huge oak tree and the yard waste pile, and kept my focus on where we were going — and where we eventually would get, after some stopping, some wiggling, and one “but I absolutely have to sniff this bench right now!” I backed him a couple of times at these stops, but other times I just sat there, relaxing, wondering what he would do if I didn’t fight his idea.

Those times, he eventually lifted his head and took a step, at which point I encouraged his idea of walking, and steered us back on course. I don’t know if this inconsistency is a bad thing or not but as I am still working on building my confidence, I am okay with just sitting there sometimes. We both could use practice at just hanging out. I need to ride at a time when activity is going on, so I can stop him near some activity and chat with the humans.


I am playing Friendly Game with Salsa to get him used to having humans on his right side. Rocky is sly about putting you on his left, but Salsa just jams around until he’s got you where he wants you. I can’t halter from the right but I can unhalter from the right, so I’m doing that and sometimes following with a treat. I touched his legs and he picked up his feet, and I just admired them and put them back down as I had forgotten to take a hoof pick with me. I think I did pretty good on my timing this morning too, with my approach and retreat, my rhythm and relaxation, and my keeping the session short — about 12 minutes, not half an hour.

Later in the day I did another session, this time taking him into the barn to sniff around. I switched on some clippers and got very absorbed in “clipping” the wall, until he came up and noodged and stretched out his nose to touch the clippers. I left them on and sat with him and occasionally held them out for him to sniff. By the end, I clipped a little bit of the split ends off one little piece of mane, just to see how he would be about it. He was as fine with that as he is about getting brushed, which is to say, not scared but not exactly climbing in your lap begging for more either.

I had a realization today about thresholds and need to remember to write about it next time.

Categories: Freestyle, Language, Leadership, Love | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

What you gonna do with a cowboy when that ol’ rooster crows at dawn

This past weekend I went to Colorado for the Parelli Gold Summit and stuffed my head full of plans, programs, patterns, and play.

On Sunday, I took a two hour trail ride along the edge of the San Juan National Forest and ended up hanging out with the wrangler for a few hours afterward, as there were no others rides scheduled and I had some time before I had to drive to Durango and catch my plane. I booked the trip with Diamond Hitch Stables on Piedra Road, and every aspect of the experience was a delight.

The trail ride proved to me how far I have come. Twenty years ago, I thought I was supposed to ride with contact and micromanage, because that is what I had learned in my lessons, and it ruined every trail ride I attempted; I send apologies to every one of those horses now. Yesterday though I stayed fluid and balanced and out of Majestic’s way, and she went along and did her job.

The wrangler told me at one point that the mare often tried to eat or brush people against trees, but that she could tell that I was experienced and not going to let her get away with it. I smiled and thanked him for the compliment but inside I laughed, because leadership and confidence while riding have been the two biggest challenges for me since I started Parelli. Majestic was gentle and willing and gave me only one tiny challenge, which I easily handled.

Today here at home I tried several new tactics. When Rock got antsy and engaged in some displaced behavior, I matched his energy by rubbing him like crazy, then releasing as soon as he stopped swinging his head. One of my DVDs shows Linda doing the same thing but it has taken me this long to grok it and learn to do it. I’m still not consistent but hey even a horse gets seven sessions to learn a new pattern.

When he cantered around like a nutball I encouraged his direction changes with a “you want to go that way? okay! go that way faster!” until he asked nicely to come in and stick to me, even at the trot.

I opened gates at both ends of the arena and saddled up, then played on-line around the ranch before taking him to the tack trunk to mount up. There we had quite a while of spaz-rub-release before he stood close and still and ready for me to mount. I rode him into the arena for Follow the Rail, then out the west gate for a loop around the outside of the coverall, then another Follow the Rail (in the opposite direction), then out the back gate for a walk along the coverall and down the berm and across the grass and around the tree then back to the arena and so on.

I combined Point-to-Point on the “trail” with Follow the Rail in the arena, while resisting the temptation to over-explain to Jamie, our super-nice volunteer who works the relief shift on Leslie’s days off, why I was doing what I was doing rather than using a more common (normal) approach. (Jamie is the founder of the Back in the Saddle Project, a program that helps keep horses out of the rescue cycle.)

Rocky is feeling much better now that his feet are almost totally re-grown since his last shoe, and now that he’s on the loading dose of the Adequan. This is great for our ground work but kind of scary for riding. But I rode and trusted him and only once had the feeling of “I better get off!” which I obeyed. This was when he decided to shove his head through the top of the pipe fence and the bottom of the arch above, on the tractor gate that is too short to ride a horse through without lying flat. He extricated himself after I landed, and did not give me any trouble when I climbed the fence to get back on.

I rode for — well, as usual, I have no idea how long. About an hour, I think, which is three times our usual session. We did only one or two backups, but we hit a couple of thresholds, dealt with some wigglywobbly, worked on fluidity and balance, engaged the natural power of focus, did not get discouraged, and one time I even had to give him a thanks-I-needed-that reminder from his back. I didn’t even think about getting off to do it, I just did it, and he went “whew!” and continued on. In that moment, I was not thinking of Linda, but rather of the cowboy who gave me a wonderful day yesterday, and what he did in a similar situation with his horse.

As I write I am consumed by exhaustion, a combination of flight delays that had me driving home in the wee hours through a storm and the rebound fatigue from the motion sickness medicine (which is still way better than motion sickness!). I missed work this morning without realizing I had done so, including a phone meeting that I thought was scheduled for tomorrow, and I feel disoriented and vague.

But I rode my horse, and I saw with rare clarity how far I have come, and I believe that I will indeed make my way out of Level 2 jail. Eventually.

Categories: Freestyle, Leadership | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

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