Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Step 1a of Escape From The Arena is complete!

I am an outdoorsy rider at heart. Arenas are nice and all, especially when it's cold or rainy, but I am slowly going nuts riding in circles in the arena all the time. But Dixie's so spooky, I figure she'll leap sideways in front of a car and it's lights out for us.

Thus The Plan was born. I am getting in shape, and Mel does an inspirational (crazy) amount of running alongside her horse, so I figured I'd take her out a couple times on on foot. Do some walk/jogs and model calm behavior around traffic, mailboxes, loose dogs, etc. Today was Day 1.

We did 1.5 miles, round trip - not very far. But holy shit it was HOT. I am kind of a wuss about the heat; I got heatstroke when I was 16 and it took 12 years for me to mostly recover. I still can't tolerate heat like "normal" people. It was in the 80s, sunny, and about 90% humidity - it rained a tiny bit when I first got to the barn, so that touch of rain was evaporating the whole time we were chugging along.

I jogged a bit, but mostly I walked. My head is still throbbing, which means I almost overdid it with the tiny bit of jogging I managed. And of course I wore my stupid horrible worthless Ariat Terrains, which rubbed blisters on the balls of my feet and rubbed my heels. Poor me!

But Dixie did very well, and I'm very glad I walked her out. She is very spooky about traffic, could care less about dogs and mailboxes, and does not approve of a tree that had a plastic bag hung in it. We saw one bicyclist, who predictably freaked her out, and we saw a rare carnivorous groundhog.

Our route out anywhere from the barn leads about 50 yards down a very busy road, then onto much quieter roads. I shamelessly walked her through a yard for the busy road, and on the way back the homeowner and his daughter came out. I chatted with them for a long time, explaining what I was doing and answering horsey questions. He was totally cool with us walking on his lawn, yay! It was great for her - there were lots of cars zooming by about 10' away from us, and she went from half-panicked running in circles around me to somewhat irritable and walking in circles around me. When I believe she's not actually scared anymore, I'll insist on better behavior, but I won't punish her for being afraid of stuff.

Anyway, my head hurts and my feet hurts and my horse had another positive experience. I'll take it!


  1. Were you wearing a hat? Now that you've started wearing a helmet when you ride I have a new mission.

    P.S. I am writing this on my iPhone on the bus and I am watching two people in the park. One is doing yoga (Vancouver, eh?) and the other is throwing The Ball for a very keen brown poodle. You don't often see such a drivey poodle.

  2. Yay dp, keep on her about the helmet. I second the suggestion!

    Sounds like an awesome adventure. I'm a huge believer in "walkies" for green horses.

    The place where my horses have been for years (moving out this weekend!hurray!) is on a crazy reservation road with weird junk in yards, kids on trampolines, bizarre barking dogs...PERFECT for walking a horse who needs to learn to Cope. With. It.

    Of course, having the perfect Tow Horse (a nice, calm, experienced horse who will demonstrate a lack of worry about mailboxes or trampolines) makes the whole adventure not very adventurous.

    Which is, of course, the goal.

    Good for you! Keep going!

  3. Good for you! I am going to do some walking/jogging with Johnnie this week. Part of my summer fitness program, which it is about time to start!!

  4. Good for you, Wahoo!!!! I hear ya about the heat, I can't handle it, either. I walked Lakota out the first few times I took her out also, and ended up with shin splints from wearing my Ariat paddock boots. They are NOT made for walking any distance!

    I need to go back to basics again if I ever get time this year, and saving the cash to send her out for training, I just don't have the time or skills needed.

    Why didn't I buy an old bomb-proof gelding? Oh right, I had one, he died.

  5. Sounds like you have a plan and are moving forward on it in a thoughtful way. Does your horse know how to ground drive? - it takes some learning for both you and the horse - but can be a very valuable tool for working with horses in new situations and also with young horses. Good luck with your plan!

  6. dp - I was not wearing a hat, of course not! Hats are to keep you warm in winter. I have never bought into the theory that hats keep you cool in summer. (I may be wrong though.)

    I would love a drivey standard poodle, actually. They're supposed to be huntin' dawgs!

    All of yall - I'm glad to hear that walking a horse on foot isn't as crazy as it seems. I never see anybody doing that IRL, and at the old barn you only walked if you fell off and the horse ran back to the barn without you.

    Michelle - Why do our bombproof geldings have to die on us? :( I am infuriated with my stupid shoes. The blisters feel pretty good today, actually.

    Kate - neither I nor Dixie know how to ground drive. I kind of think I'd rather be at her head when we're around traffic, but if I learned how to ground drive I might change my mind about that!

  7. Nope, handwalking isn't crazy at all. I walk all my horses on the trail first before deciding to mount for the first ride. I also found out that my horses are reacting to stuff more under saddle, then on our walks, which means I'm probably tense in the saddle. The walks/runs really help me to relax once I'm in the saddle because I know they CAN handle everything OK.

  8. Well, you know I'm one of those who regularly walks my horse like a dog. One reason (main reason was the 5 lbs I gained last week)we did it last night was that I wasn't sure how he'd handle the hill on a trail we wanted to try, and this was easier than riding him. Turns out he did fabulously.

    It's also so nice for just bonding with them. I love it.

    One thing that I do when Peanut gets spooky during our walks is that I pull out the horse treats. I know that some would think that this would reinforce the spooky behavior, but I haven't seen it in his case. Instead, it distracts him a little and gives him a nice memory to cut through the OMG IT'S GOING TO KILL ME. He's chilled out a lot since then in general. YMMV, of course. :)

  9. Are your Terrains the front zip ones? Because I hike like crazy in mine; I love them. Ariat doesn't make the front-zip ones any more . . . :(


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