Monday, April 29, 2013

It Didn't Stop There!

Sandy with Allison Trimble, and myself on Oz.
Photo Courtesy Valarie Richey 

"Hey, wanna ride?"

"Uh, yeah!  But Darling won't be here and I'd like to make sure we've got someone to ride Sandy so Oz can follow."

"No problem, I'll find someone!"

Before long, Valarie, Allison and myself were heading up to the trail head.  I had my big cowgirl panties on and was planning on riding Oz on his first official ride.  Weeee!!!!!!!!!

Sandy had ponied Oz on this trail two weeks ago today.  Oz tried his best to walk as close as he could to Sandy, nearly pushing us off the trail a couple of times.  He was nervous and it came out in typical youngster fashion as he nibbled on Sandy's saddle blanket, nipped his shoulder, and when he had the chance, grabbing at the reins and trying to lead us off.

Being steady as Sandy is, I was comfortable riding Oz just so long as that steadfast bay was right in front of us.  And things went pretty well.  Yes, Oz was fidgety.  He was tense.  He tried trotting when we first started, but was easily pulled back.  He managed to negotiate the downhills relatively well, though his head was always tucked and low.  

After the first couple of hills, Oz settled into a nice walk, and even managed to pick his way carefully over a steep hill that had an exposed rock face at the top.  We made it down a muddy hill and across a wooden bridge.  Once out of the woods and into the clearing, he walked up alongside Sandy, but didn't try to pick his own way, rather just walked alongside, borrowing confidence from the older mustang.

And while his attitude was positive, there was still that underlying feeling that he was holding his least halfway.  Always tense and waiting for the unexpected.  

Oz makes his way gingerly into the water, fearful of being swept downstream.
Photo courtesy Valarie Richey

When we got to the creek, he was totally unsure that it was in his best interest to cross.  Sandy went first.  Two weeks ago, Oz jumped it while being ponied.  I half expected him to try it again, but instead he simply refused, backing away, doing tiny half hearted rears, turning and trying anything he could to avoid getting his pretty white toes wet.  It took a few minutes, but when Sandy walked back into the water, Oz finally decided he'd give it a try.  Amazingly enough, the water didn't sweep him downstream, and we managed to make it back to the trailer in one piece. 

We came home and Oz went out into a grassy paddock.  I came inside and was happy to see that my riding buddies already had photos up on facebook.  While I used to pack my camera on all my trail rides, I felt it was a bit big and cumbersome when riding such a greenie as Oz, and I've not got one of those new fangled 'smart' phones.  I felt pretty good about our ride, but now I was itching for more.  I couldn't stand it, I had to go back outside and saddle him up again!

Oz is always nervous out behind the house.  Darling's former jump course has been transformed into a trail course, but Oz struggles to get beyond the step down log.  He's very insecure, and wants his herd, so a small loop around the trees and back up to the barn is about all we manage to get done (mostly because there's never anyone around to realize I'm down in the dirt should he happen to uncork!)  

Today was no exception.  Though the earlier ride may have burned off a little bit of his apprehensiveness, he was still on edge.  I rode a couple circles up near the barn, then headed out behind the house.  I didn't even recognize that he had a 'do not cross this line' spot picked out in his mind.  Just stepped right on past it!  He wasn't sure what to do.  I rode an extra five feet and then turned back to safety.  He breathed a sigh of relief and carried me up over the log and back to the barn.

Now, Oz was quite content with leaving, but the fact of the matter is, it was my choice, and we'd gone past the point where he was comfortable before turning back.  So another circle up near the barn, and back down the path we went.  This time, we went a little further.  Oz had a panic attack.  He tried to stop.  He rocked back over his hocks just a bit.  But I urged him to take a few extra steps, and then we again turned and went back to where he was comfortable.

We did this two or three times, taking in an extra ten feet on each trip, or turning a different direction, or crossing a log rather than stepping around it.  Oz began to focus on where we were walking, knowing that he'd head back to the barn.

And then it happened.  Rather than turning from the barn back down the same trail, I headed straight back to the creek.  Oz put up his ears.  He was curious, and didn't hesitate to head down the new path.  His step was relaxed and light.  We turned a corner and walked back onto the trail that went behind the house.  No hesitation.  No tense body.  Ears up, easy steps.  We stepped down over the log, crossed a couple more, walked over the bridge that's sitting out among the trees.  I tried to get him to cross some mud, but he sank a few inches, so we backed up and turned around and went somewhere else.

Oz didn't bat an eye.  We walked past the old dog kennel where the ducks and turkeys had lived the past couple of years.  Robins were flitting in and out, and he did a double take, but continued on.  He began searching out pathways to explore in his big backyard.  I was wishing the backyard were bigger!  Finally, Oz wasn't worried about trying to protect himself, and allowing me to simply drop the reins and trust that I wasn't going to send him into some place scary where he'd need to use his fight or flight instincts.

It was, in a word, glorious.  A huge weight slid from both of our shoulders this afternoon, and we're both a little more prepared to conquer the world!


Anonymous said...

Really marvelous to hear about all your work and progress - those small steps really do build into something bigger!

Cindy D. said...

What a great confidence building exercise. I could really feel your excitement as I read along. Very cool!

GunDiva said...

What a brave boy Oz is! Congrats on this breakthrough.