Thursday, October 20, 2011

Training to drag!

Lady and I have completed our first ACTHA ride! I’m working on my November column, and you can read all about it soon! ACTHA is the American Competitive Trail Horse Association. Their Competitive Trail Challenge events are growing in popularity all over the country. Each ride is six miles with six obstacles, and each obstacle is judged, giving horse and rider separate scores. I worked with Lady for several weeks, maybe five sessions or more, to get ready for this event. After looking over the possible obstacles on the ACTHA website, I decided to teach Lady to drag a log. Or something like a log. I started by walking around her in the paddock, dragging a long rope. Then I attached a piece of wood and dragged it around her. After a time, I dragged the rope and then the piece of wood while leading her. I also laid the rope over her back and walked her around, and touched her all over with the rope. Then I rode her and dragged the rope and flicked it all around her. It was a moment of elation for me as I dared to flick the rope beside her on both sides, then over her head while she stood quietly. Finally, I attached the piece of wood and dragged it around and around, letting the rope touch her rump and letting her feel the pull of dragging. One day, after she had been in the round pen awhile, I brought her back to her stall and since I didn’t want to make two trips, I also dragged the empty muck bucket from the round pen to the barn while leading her. That was much noisier than the piece of wood, but Lady was good. I knew then we were ready to drag something. I just didn’t know it would be a “body!” Be sure to read my November column for the rest of the story!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Twice this past week, Lady has been exposed to a big truck in close proximity without bolting! I'm still pondering the meaning of this; I know it isn't a total cure, but her calmness is a place we have reached after many rides and experiences over the past seven years.

I remember coming to the barn one fall morning a year ago, to see Lady standing at the back fence of her paddock watching a combine going back and forth in the adjoining soybean field. I took a photo to record the momentous event! She seemed more curious than frightened, which was so different from her usual excited run to the other end of the paddock.

On Monday this past week, as I unsaddled her at the edge of the road and the big truck was coming down the street, I thought at first it would turn in a few doors away. When it kept coming, I quickly led Lady off the road to a safer distance, and turned her to let her watch it go by. She stood very alert, but didn't move. We were probably fifteen feet from it as it passed.

Then, on Thursday, after I had ridden and put her back in her stall, a load of sawdust arrived for the barn. She probably watched it arrive from her stall, as the big double truck backed into the driveway and dumped its load. It comes in a double truck rig, two loads of sawdust in one trip. Our barn gets the load in the rear truckbed, and the main truckload goes elsewhere. Lady probably saw the dumping of the sawdust and probably heard the airbrakes. The driver parked the rig on the roadway, right in front of the driveway to Lady's stall, and I decided to take advantage of this opportunity. I led Lady out to eat grass between her stall and the truck. She did not seem at all spooked by the truck, still running, though she looked at it now and then as she grazed closer and closer to the road where it was parked. She was almost to the edge of the road when the driver got back in the truck and drove away. Lady and I followed it for a short distance. I'm not sure where this new courage is coming from, but I am overjoyed! Lady just turned 14 a few weeks ago. Some of us do get better with age.