Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Turkeys? Didn't plan on that!

One of my goals this year has been to ride Lady by myself on the trail behind the stable’s pasture back to the woods. Doesn’t sound like much, but Lady is not comfortable being ridden alone. When my husband and I rode together (before he gave his mare away last December), we often rode into those five acres of woods, enjoying the nice trail inside. This spring’s rains kept the wooded trail underwater for way too long, until the hot summer temperatures made riding less enjoyable. Now, the trail is dry and I can’t wait to enjoy it once again! That is, if I can get Lady to go there!
I remember riding Lady alone into those woods once, maybe two years ago. The further we went, the more nervous she seemed and I decided to go just a bit further than where she wanted to stop, then go around some trees before turning back for the barn. Didn’t want her to think I turned back because of her!
After riding the half mile trail to the edge of the woods several times this year, I recently felt it was time to expand our comfort zone. A mound of dirt at the entrance to the wooded area adds to the feeling of stepping into some mysterious darkness. Just at the precise moment Lady reached the top of that mound, ready to step down from openness into the darker wooded section, two big turkeys noisily lifted up from the brush about 15 feet ahead of us and took off flying. Needless to say, we hadn’t expected that! But as I thought about it later, Lady did not turn and run. She jumped in place and stood there, waiting for my cue, it seemed. Was she really waiting for me to direct her? When the turkeys had gone out of sight, and all was quiet, I decided I’d come too far to turn around now. I asked Lady to go forward, and she did, even though I could tell she didn’t really want to go. I guided her around the first curve of the trail, just far enough to feel the atmosphere of the peaceful wooded area, to give us both time to relax, and then turned onto another section that curved back to the entrance. We didn’t go far that day, but I felt Lady had responded to the turkeys in a positive manner, and I was elated at the way she did what I asked of her. Each ride seems to confirm her acceptance of my braver leadership. It is a humbling and glorious feeling!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Toilet Paper doesn't scare Lady!

I went to the stable planning to ride Lady. When I arrived, I saw that the trees in the front yard had been decorated with toilet paper flowing from every branch. Since the owner’s son just turned 17, his friends apparently wanted to celebrate. If I rode past that yard, I was sure that Lady would freak out!
I decided to test her from the ground first. I led her from her stall and walked her where she could see the yard without feeling threatened. We walked closer, and I watched for Lady’s reaction. She looked, but no sign of wanting to turn and run. I talked to her, telling her it was just paper and nothing would hurt her. We walked past the yard with no problem. I decided to go a step further and I led her onto the yard. We walked between the trees, and she looked with interest. A breeze lifted one long strand of white toward her and she stopped and backed up one step. I took the strand in my hand and held it toward her. She reached out with her nose, and then took a bite of leaves from the tree! Oops. Not a good idea. She didn’t seem frightened to me, so I took her back to the barn and brushed her and saddled her for our ride.
I was surprised by Lady’s calmness, and I was pleased. I rode her past the yard with its unusual decorations, and she didn’t spook. She has also walked quietly between piles of hay bales covered with tarps. Lady has some great strengths and an enjoyable smooth gait. She would be close to perfect, if she wasn’t afraid of big trucks and tractors. Perhaps, as I conquer my fears of what Lady might do, she will conquer her own fears.