Thursday, August 16, 2012

Trail Stuff

Nothing super exciting happening over here. I am in between shows, and this Friday had been eagerly planning on attending an extreme trail clinic and competition, but the plans with my ride fell through, disappointingly. I was really looking forward to going.

But I have been going on the trail a lot with some girlfriends, enjoying the weather and my horse. Last week Milo was really acting up on the trail - being herdbound to Middy, and not paying attention to simple cues. I could tell it had been coming though on the last trail ride, so after this one I decided I needed to go out alone a few times and set some things straight. Thats not to imply that I dont correct behavior when riding with others, oh I do, but some of it just doesnt seem to get through to Milo - like he gets so fretted that he stops thinking. And its usually fretting over Middy not being right by his side.

So yesterday I headed out with Milo and my dog Angie. I picked a nice loop on the trail that would offer some good spots to trot and lope, a little shade cover, and some obstacles. When we first came around the corner to the head of the trail, I heard bells clinging on the other side. Angie shot ahead and the noise increased until two goats ran right out in front of us and barrel down the driveway away. Milo stared at them, but we had seen these goats before. They seem to be able to just wander around the area as they please. Angie was onto something else now, and as we came around the corner saw two sweet little kids (goat kids) watching us, then taking off at Angie's advances. I called her back but they kept running up the road. Milo and I got to the beginning of the trail head when the other two "parent" goats came back out, bleating to their kids. It was awful cute.

We headed down the trail and got into a nice trot. Milo trotted confidently, just as I knew he was capable without a trail mate. When we got to a nice long stretch we lope up it, increasing to a faster lope, then coming back to a slow one at a hum, a couple of times. We walked down through a usual spot where in the wet months water accumulates at one point giving us a nice small water jump. But with it being dry, Milo simply stepped through it. Around to another favorite spot we hadnt gone up in a while was a steep short incline through some brush on the side. It really looks like an animal trail, but it brings you to the top of a hill with a nice lookout, and still loops back to another trail head. We began the hill at a trot, but Milo stepped into a needed canter to charge his way up it.

Not going up this way in a while, once at top it was quite overgrown. Milo took the opportunity to grab at some greens that were mouth-high for him. I still encouraged him not to go it, although it was rather hard with his efforts made so easy. When we can to the end of the hilltop flat, back to where we could now enter another trail head, I decided to loop our way back. But first, there was a log down. One that had been down all the while, but with such a nice cleared path around it, the path we usually take. I decided I might as well try this obstacle. After all, if I couldnt go to an extreme trail clinic, I would find those extreme trail obstacles right on the trail. So I walked him over the log a few times, and he did well.

Then I walked him down a long gradual hill, once we frequently lope up. To get to the trailhead I the ignored, you could either go up the steep incline like Milo and I did, or take this longer hill to it as well. Essentially, everything all loops together. I walked him down the hill, looking for more things to call trail obstacles. Nothing here, but we did walk by a long line of mailboxes, but that is common now. We looped back to the spot where the water usually is, and there are a few stumps sticking out and such. We always have to walk around one to get by, which Milo has gotten used to (its a narrow spot), but this time I wondered if I could walk Milo through the small ditch where the water usually flows. About two and a half feet wide, it was certainly tight, but wide enough. About the same depth deep too, but since it was dry it should be easy for Milo to walk along.

Initially getting him to step into the ditch was harder, but where we usually walk over is super shallow, and it gets deeper as we follow it (but no deeper then about two and a half feet). Once Milo put his front feet into the ditch and not the sides, it clicked to him that all was ok, and he confidently walked along the path of the ditch for a short ways. Once past the large stump we usually walk around, there was a perfect spot to get back out of the ditch, so we did, then trotted up a short hill. Once at top, there were a few large boulders and man-made pipes and a water hydrant. Never giving them a thought before, but this time I decided we could weave through and around them. It was a good exercise to keep Milo between my reins. A few narrow spots I needed to control his hip independently from his shoulder, and at one point he nearly stood directly over the hydrant, which sort of freaked me out, but we got around it well.

We continued along the trail and there was a perfectly sized downed log, with clear and good footing around it. So I used it to sidepass over each way. More good practice! We finally made it back to the road though, and calmly walked our way back home, no more obstacles to find. But then we came around the corner and two new goats were out, ones that werent wearing bells. They spooked when seeing them, and Milo just raised his head but kept walking towards them. Then they ran a little towards us, to get to their driveway, which made Milo start a side-stepping spook, but I kept him going forward fine and he got over it. As soon as the goats left down their drive, Milo was quiet and we walked back home in the shade.

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