Adventures at the trail challenge course
Ok. today I took Z down to participate in a trail obstacle challenge put on by our saddle club. we get down there and there's only about 4 or 5 horses there, but z is fascintated by all the 'stuff' in the arena. I took off his bridle and put on his rope halter and lead line and started taking him around to get him used to the stuff. chicken rider that I am, I think it best to do this first on line , then remount. all is going well when a mini horse and cart shows up. Z is suddenly very alive. He wants to move his feet, big time. so, i walk him around and keep him moving , and he is just mesmerized, fearful and excited by the mini/cart. Once the fear is mostly curiosity, we walk over near it and I go pet the mini, and invite him to come closer and sniff. He is just agog, but he comes closer and sniffs and the driver gives him a carrot, which cements the deal in his mind: carts are ok.
(once when we came across one at a fork in the trail, he nearly bolted on me, so he has a lot of fear of them).
then, anotehr cart comes, behind an adorable haflinger mare. Z is fascintated, and more curious than fearful this time. go over, sniff, sniff, and the driver invited me to ride on the back of her cart (one designed for driving competitions, with a place for the "balancer" (I don't know the correct term" on the back. I get on the cart,. and we proceed to pony Z all around the arena. I wasn't sure how it would go, but by golly, he went right along. when the mare trotted, he was a bit worried and tried to zoom ahead, but he respected the line and did not go beyond where I asked with a firm wiggle to stop, back off. eventually, we were going so much, figure eights and such, he was bored and ready to rest. Huge smile on my face, huge success.
then I work with dragging a noisy plastic bag filled with crinkly plastic bottles behind me (on the ground leading Z), and behind us and I get him to tolerate it but not really accept it. he is obviously not secure. this lady who works with horses and dogs offers to help. she gets things working much better and I realize that I am often too forceful for Z. he needs some time to decide that things are ok, then he is fine.
From there we go to the Carwash. where they have made an arch out of plastic piping duct taped to the fence and a jump standard. from the arch hang strips of clear plastic and blue tarp. it wiggles freely in the breeze. it only hangs down half way, but it looks imposing to horses. Mac will go through without a second glance, but Z had trouble with this last year, and this year he also is very worried.
So, this lady works with him, and I work with him, for like at least half an hour. he goes through but we are looking for him to feel so ok with this that he'll stop part way through and be willing to stand with the things brushing his flanks. So, we finally get a pretty good response. and silly me , I say "one more time, and then I have to ride home" (like 3 hours have transpired since I left the barn and it's a half hour ride home).
We start through and z goes too close to the jump standard, and the stirrup snags on the side, so he jumps forward in a panic. I get out of the way and watch as he literally pulls the whole thing off the supporting sides, and the top (with the hanging shreds) and the side poles pull away from the fence, ripping open the duct tape (a really dumb way to secure this) and it falls ON the saddle. Z leaps forward, and since it is stuck on the saddle., it "follows" him. OMG! a monster is now on his back, dragging tentacles behind him! he panics and starts running for the gate (having ripped the rope out of my hand, and pulling a muscle in my palm hard to type this now). I see him going for the open gate, which leads to picnic tables, people, and a parking lot. I see a possible disaster, but in about 4 or 5 panicked strides, he is at the gate, and cutting the corner dangerously close brings the "monster" against the pole and pulls it off his back. He continues a few strides, but is more than willing to come to a stop when folks approach with calm "whoa boy's. AS soon as the panic was gone, he went looking for a human to give security, stopped and was easily caught.
the miracle is that we put it back up (after untangling it) and had a human hold each side, and he went through it again with only minor concern, twice. what a horse!
I rode him home but dared not allow him out of a walk as he was SO anxious to be home that he would have exploded if I'd opened that door.
What a day!
Last edited by tinyliny; 07-22-2013 at 01:30 AM.