Saturday, May 16, 2009

Trails on a leash

Because of my Nebraska trail ride, I want to ride my own horses more.

Annie is on maternity leave right now; she's so pregnant that I feel sorry for her. Lately, she tends to stand apart from my other two horses, Scout and Nadia. Annie's still leader of the herd but Scout and Nadia act like shadows of each other.

I took Nadia out a few days ago for a two hour trail ride. We rode along the highway for a bit and then down some side roads. Dogs barked, children played and shouted, motorcycles roared, and all other sorts of distractions occurred but Nadia was a trooper. I love riding her out. She keeps her tiny little ears pricked forward, watching with interest wherever we venture. She has a nice, brisk little walk so we can really cover ground, especially when we are heading for home. teehee.

The other day I rode Scout out for about an hour. We rode up a rocky hill and my saddle slipped back a bit. I debated stopping and fixing it but just decided to ride on. It wasn't hurting him or anything but I must remember to put on a breast plate next time. The main problem was that the girth was too loose. I forgot to check and tighten it before mounting.

He's funny to ride out because he is always on alert. He turns his head side to side looking around and tends to walk 'wonky' because of it. Sometimes he gets reluctant to move on although I don't think I'd classify this as balky, just unsure. He doesn't spook much but when he does he usually jumps in place. He doesn't like traffic to come up behind him and dogs make him nervous but, overall, he's well behaved. His biggest problem is herd anxiety. I don't think I could trailer him to trails without him freaking out from being alone.

Last night, I decided to ride Scout and pony Nadia.

I've done it before and it is such a perfect solution for me. I can work two horses at once and Scout has the company he craves. I like riding Scout because I think he is the more "difficult" horse and Nadia ponies so well. They get along great too. Their stride is pretty well matched so even when I trot and canter they stay together.

Nadia is so easy to pony. She never pulls and readily moves out when I speed up Scout. They enjoy each other's company and I feel that the spook factor is reduced by half. Sometimes she walks ahead to where she is nose to nose with Scout, sometimes she falls behind when we need to walk single file, but usually, she is right next to me so I can pet her as we walk along.

We rode for over an hour around the neighboring roads and fields and I managed a few good working trots. Nadia even got to huffing and puffing on one loooong hill. I was riding English and posting so it felt really good to trot out for a change. The horses were so well behaved! I had loose reins on Scout almost the whole time and Nadia's lead rope was always slack. I was so happy with their quick, easy responses to my hands and voice. I could have had broken arms they were responding to me so well. I felt so good inside knowing that it's my training on them that makes them such a joy to ride.

A long time ago, I used to pony my yearling/two year old filly, Sandee, when I rode Alfie. I was so anxious to start riding her that I'd just bring her along with us. She became so bombproof that when I did break her to ride, I immediately hit the trails with her.

I forgot how much I enjoyed ponying until now. In the movie, Appaloosa, Viggo Mortensen always rides and ponies along a pack horse. I thought it was interesting that he was ALWAYS filmed ponying the extra horse, especially for Hollywood. I mean they could have shown it once or twice and then not included the pack horse in other scenes. Anyway, my point is, ponying can be really easy and good because you get twice the companionship of your horses. They feel more confident because of that old horse rule, "safety in numbers" and it's surprisingly not difficult. You can even hold the reins two handed with the lead in one of them, if you wish. Now, I am thinking about an honest to goodness, trailer away from home, trail ride with my two steeds. I can always switch the saddle over to the other horse, if I want.

Am I crazy to want to take both horses on a real trail ride by myself? Comments?

Trails on a leash - song: Sweet Thing, artist: David Bowie, album: Diamond Dogs


Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Why not? It sounds to me like you are already doing it, minus the trailer.
Only you know what your horses and yourself are ready for. And it sounds as if you believe you and your horses are ready. :)


Fantastyk Voyager said...

That is, until you're ready to ride and occupy Nadia's saddle, of course. ;) I miss my riding buddy.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Awwww....I hear ya...loud and clear, my friend :)


Carolynn said...

I wouldn't do it, but I don't have that kind of experience either. You know your own horses best.

That sounds like some awesome rides, though. I hope everything goes smoothly for Annie. Are you planning on keeping the foal?

Tammy said...

I pony our horses quite a bit around here. I know if I drop a lead or run into trouble, the horse will just go home. I haven't taken them anywhere very far, but while conditioning for this CTR, I wanted to. Always afraid if I got too far and something would happen, what would I do.... But I think itsa great way of getting more than one horse out and about & they feel confident together. Blue is a ponying fool. He used to pony horses at the track before we got him. Ginger ponied whatever horse the kids were struggling with when they were younger. I've started ponying off Windy now. For the horse doing the ponying, I think it is a great exercise for them. Teaches them patience and tolerance.

Glad to hear you've been out riding!

cdncowgirl said...

My plan this year is to ride Applejack and pony Cessa a few times a week.
I figure its a good way to keep the old girl in shape (she's 28) without too much stress and strain on her.