Clydesdale Rides Trail! Putting the Natural in Horsemanship

Clydesdale Rides Trail! Putting the Natural in Horsemanship

Yesterday was a story of turning bad happenings into good results. A bit of background: Much to both mine and Dolly’s chagrin, after spending the afternoon on Tuesday last week mowing the trails through and around the Grove, I took the saddle up to grab Dolly and go enjoy them with Kirsten. Dolly, unfortunately, had limped up to me with an injured hoof, trail ride was over, and now she’s getting treated like the queen she is while we wait for time to do its healing work. Every day she gets a little better, and she’ll come out of it just fine, but it will take time.

That said, time is a fickle master, and Siege of Glengary is approaching. Rapidly. It’s a hit and miss situation, and my warhorse is, for the moment, out of commission. She may be ready in time, but it’s equally like that she won’t. We’re holding out hope, but one advantage of being at Almost Heaven Horse Source is… well… lots of horses to choose from… although not all of them are in -my- skill set yet! We’re working on that!

Let’s face it: given the choice between riding my horse at Glengary and riding my horse for many years afterwards: she can sit it out if she’s not healed. Yes, it stinks. And we’re going to try to make it happen… but not at her expense. If the hoof’s not sound, she won’t even go on the trailer.

So Kirsten set about getting me on Ally’s back as our fallback plan, as much to reassure us we’ll be ready in three week’s time, as to expand and refine my horsemanship while helping to bring along another fine Destrier. Kirsten had already had her out a few times, after dark, prepping her for her new role. Riding around at sunset, making sure the cues were in place, and making sure there were no cobwebs needing to be brushed off; provided an immeasureable foundation for this author to build on. With our dear friend’s beloved Shire hobbling around on a hoof abcess of her own, Ally the Clydesdale might just end up being -both- our steeds for Glengary. Which come to think of it is singularly appropriate; A Scot horse for a Scottish event!

Now, on to the challenge. Let’s face it… I came to horsemanship late in life. The odds of me sailing over 5 foot jumps and turning times in a cross country event are pretty slim… and really not on my radar. But the ability to get on a horse I don’t ride, earn its respect, and develop a working partnership? Absolutely vital!

With Pete no longer in the picture (Graze well, old friend!), the rock-solid steady fallback I could turn to was gone. So day before yesterday, I started to work with Ally in the arena…. moving her through and around the games course, slowly working on our turns and brakes, stops, gaits, and speeds. We went down the row of reeds, started working on the heads row, did command turns round the barrel circle weaving in and out to develop steering communications. We had some false starts, but we patiently worked them through and got to the other side of the ride with a great sense of communication.

I’ve gotta say, it’s really hard to see your horse standing injured in the roundpen while you get on another horse and ride off. She’s my first horse, my partner, and my destrier. And I think almost as much as Kirsten, she taught me how to ride. Leaving her behind was tough.

Yesterday’s goal was a bit sad at first, but turned out really well. Myself on Ally, and Kirsten on Lucy, went up finally to explore the trails I had cut.  After we got out of the barnyard, and we had made our way up to the entrance to the trails, K and Lucy circled around behind us and Ally and I led the trail ride! Ally bravely ventured forth into the woods and calmly ignored the cars buzzing by on Bower Rd, the fawns jumping out of the brush, and all the other manner of natural and mysterious happenings so far away from the barn. What few areas she had issues with were worked through calmly and instantly and on our merry way we went…

…which is rather the point: Every single lesson I had learned from Kirsten on Dolly carried directly over to working with Ally through fundamental trust, confidence, and communications issues; developing a working partnership in effectively two days of rides. With a lot of patient teaching, Kirsten has provided me with an incredible tool kit with which to build a relationship with horses; to guide them through their fears; and to teach them how to do new and exciting things….Naturally!

One way or another, we’ll be riding at Glengary….

Mark

Family Trail Ride: Horse Dreams Come True II

The family was finally ready to live their dream of a family trail ride. I trailered the ever-dependable Lucy over to join them. While the family was tacking up, Lucy and I fully enjoyed playing in an actual ARENA. Our grassy riding area at home has lots of obstacles and natural challenges, but the consistent sand footing and an actual “rail” were a nice change.

 

Laura was ready first. we played a couple of games with bending poles and pick-up cones waiting for the others. Lucy settled right in with the strange horses to give her nicest canters ever and even show off a little in the games. At around 16.2 hands, Lucy towers over the family’s Quarter Horses. Her long and floating strides made the arena seem small.

 

Everyone assembled, made sure their breaks and steering worked, and checked their girths a final time. I hung the camera off my saddle.

 

Love, dedication and natural horsemanship laid the foundation. Autumn’s glory set the stage. Let the Dream unfold!

 

 

 

Dream come true:  ready for a family trail ride on horseback

“Ready to Ride!” The Knock family and Lucy. I’m on Lucy’s back, shooting the picture.

 

 

 

The old man in the oak, a burl in an ancient tree looks decidedly Entish

Straight from Lord of the Rings,”The Old Man in the Tree” looks like one of Tolkein’s Ents

 

 

Shed building

We pass the guys assembling a new chicken coop in the back field- and see another kind of Deere.

 

Horse supervises shed project

“Do they know what they’re doing?” June seems to ask.

 

 

 

…Now to find a husband horse for Dad!

Horse Dreams Come True

I started teaching the Knock’s several years ago.  Their dream was to trail ride as a family.  When we started, they had one young, barely broke, extremely fearful Quarter Horse.  Hardly material for group pleasure ride success!

Stormy the been-there-done-that school horse joined the family.  The flashy but fiery Tommy “followed them home” from a horse sale and left later, much better behaved but still too exuberent to trust to a family trail ride.  Saintly Molly the Mule looked to be the perfect husband horse but a vicious, aggressive tumor took her all too soon.

Through it all, Christa persevered with Ebony, the original QH filly.  Natural horsemanship techniques built her confidence and her skills in both the English and Western disciplines.  Clicker training gave her a “why” (release of pressure, “good girl” and a scritch weren’t motivation enough for her deeply introverted personality).  Christa’s horsemanship and equitation blossomed.  When we realized according to an arbitrary rule that Ebony would need to wear a curb bit and do flying lead changes (neither of which she was ready for) to show in the next Western division, we quickly taught both horse and teenager the basics of hunt seat and jumping and sent them to clean up in the English arena.

Christa and the younger Laura (matched with ever-reliable Stormy) dominated the local show circuit.  Mom Kathy tested and expanded her horsemanship with Tommy  and Molly.  Dad joined in for field trips to horse expos and Parelli Tour Stops, but “Family trail ride” lingered untouched on the goal list.

June joined the family this summer.  Not the perfect pleasure mount, but she and Kathy clicked. Extra training sessions brought her along quickly.  Most importantly, Kathy’s confidence soared.  After all this time supporting her daughters and diligently taking lessons, she had a trustworthy horse “of her own!”

At last, the stage was set for the dream to come true.

Antietam Battlefield Ride

I had the horse trailer hooked up and loaded by the time Mark got home from work. We grabbed the horses and a chilled bottle of Monavie and headed down the road to meet Scott and Noel at the Antietam battlefield for an afternoon trail ride.

I brought Lucy. We believe so firmly in building a solid foundation in our horses through a variety of cross-training. Even though this phenomenal Thoroughbred mare has the mind, talent and movement for the show hunter arena, she needs to be a horse first and foremost. I looked forward to seeing how she would handle the traffic, pedestrians, and ever-present monuments, placards and cannons around the battlefield.

What an amazing trail ride! The reality of the bloodiest battle of the civil war entwined with the sun-soaked afternoon and the joy of riding wonderful horses with great friends. The horses were champs. Lucy soaked in all the new sights like a sponge. She has such an incredible mind!

We explored a corner of Antietam we’d never seen. The wide, well-kept verges welcomed long, fitness-building trots. Dolly the Belgian even gave Mark his first triumphant steps of canter! Our loop covered paved roads, grassy verges and mown paths. The battlefield monuments provided plenty of fodder for creative training challenges.

The four humans joined in a refreshing Monavie toast as the sun set and horses happily munched hay. That Lucy just impresses me more and more all the time!

Thanks, Scott, for this great shot of Mark, Dolly, Lucy and I!

Trail Ride at Antietam Battlefield