Saturday, October 5, 2013

A Perfect Ride and Flying Lead Changes?!

If I were in 5th grade right now, I'd be doodling Scrappy all over my trapper keeper, along with hearts and rainbows and silly home made comic strips about his fabulous horsey life. I was already heavily In Like with this Rushcreek horse of mine, but after today I will say I am In Love. We just had one of those rides. You know, those rides that has you grinning the whole time, still grinning in the truck on the drive home, and really eager to bore your husband to tears with details of your horse's stellar performance once back home.
I started the day planning on my new resolution of at least 20 mile rides once, but preferably twice, a week with Scrappy. Thing was, I hadn't ridden him in hind boots in almost two months and the hind boots *had* taken some adjusting to for him previously. So my enthusiasm for 20+ miles was (as usual) tempered with, "but What ifs.." My early start got waylaid by various things, then I needed to stop for fuel, and finally the parking lot I was planning on going to was half full of paving material with the other half full of horse trailers, so I scrapped my plan of doing the easy flat 6 mile horse camp loop first and parked up top at N and I's usual spot. It meant I was starting my ride downhill either direction I went, so I decided to just boot all 4 hooves and go for the west side ride down the dam with the big hill about halfway through. It wouldn't get me 20 miles but it would be a good test of how he went downhill, and going in all 4 boots. As long as he was moving well my goal was to up our usual pace too, since the mileage wasn't anything impressive.

Oh Scrappy..plump kids and chocolate cake come to mind...
Today I did two things differently and both of them worked. Firstly, I decided to try driving Scrappy down the trail while on foot to help alleviate the "dragging a dead thing" effect when I lead from the front. Blaze trained me well with this one and as luck would have it Scrappy took to the same method I've used on Blaze well. Basically I just position myself at or just behind his flank, the reins unclipped and run up and behind the water bottle in the pommel bag (not attached in any way, just tucked behind it to keep the rein in place where I want it), and in my hand. Mostly the horses are motivated to walk out nicely just from my presence back there and clicking to them but I'm also handy for a rein or crop pop if I really need to refocus or drive them. The areas of trail I did this were narrow enough that Scrappy couldn't easily veer off wherever he felt like and he walked out really nicely this way.

He peed in the trailer  again (ewwie) and had a big drink before we rode out 
 The second key to today was that I carried a crop for the first time. I've noticed that Scrappy does NOT like heel pressure on his sides, he will in fact turn and glare at me sometimes if I use my heels, but a vocal cue and tap from the crop on his rump when necessary today kept him focused and forward without ever getting resentful. I don't know if he is just that sensitive on his sides (he gets half a tub of Vaseline in his pits on every ride or else) or if he was ridden with spurs in the past and is sensitive to heel pressure now. Mostly he chooses the correct speed and footing for things but he also does like to see if I am paying attention and sometimes I want different things than he wants to give, so I was excited to see how a refocusing tap with the crop could get the desired effect harmoniously. Again it's that fishing a different river analogy, because my mare Desire would get *pissed* and detour at Bronc Street if I used a crop at all. For her, when she was being out of line spooky-ridiculous, a sharp word and a slap on the neck (and like 40 more miles) was the thing.
Lots of happy forward ears today
Green grass, at last, it's been 5 miles! 

Listening and taking care of us

Aside from great trail time that we flew through at a powerful trot or free, happily given canter, we also passed one set of riders twice today and another set of riders elsewhere, plus a bicycle, barking charging dogs, crossed streets 4 times, and DID A FLYING LEAD CHANGE! What?! I know. I didn't know Scrappy even knew what leads were. Okay, not really, but basically he is a well broke trail horse who carries himself beautifully but has no formal dressage or arena training. So far in our journey he has cantered, but generally either wasn't wild about it or put his head low and did a running crow hop. Today, in all 4 Rennys, he cantered happily on both leads, and around a slight left hand turned he just did this fabulous flying lead change! It was glorious. 

Turning off to take the big hill
He wasn't wild about much speed up the hill itself but the footing has also gotten  really rocky and shitty most of the way up so I was happy with a dog trot up where safe and a brisk walk otherwise. We were to the top in no time where I stopped briefly to sign the trail log and Scrappy kept an eye and ear on some riders coming up the trail:
I walked him down the backside of the big hill, for my own leg stretching more than anything, and then we jammed on back to the trailer feeling sound and enthusiastic. We ended up riding the loop a full hour faster than we have in the past so my upped speed goal was met too. I can't stress enough how much I needed this happy, sound, willing performance from Scrappy today. I'm a constant worrier and angsty theory enthusiast and after my recent RO at Chamberlain Creek I just needed a carefree, no pressure, sound ride with my dude. It wasn't my early morning Plan A ride but it was exactly what we both needed on this day, and it was everything I'd hoped it could be.

We did good today, buddy. A warm bath and lots of snacks in your future


  1. Aah! I'm grinning for you and with you now!

  2. What a great ride, so happy for you! I think a well balanced horse will do flying lead changes, Major will do them on twisty trails too, and I know he has no specific training in that. It has been fun to read about your new adventures with such a different fun horse like Scrappy.