Sunday, July 24, 2011

Endurance ambassador

I just got home from a quite pleasant ride at Washoe Lake with two adventuresome trail riders, and I cannot believe how good Dixie was. She really is the opposite of all the endurance stereotypes. (Hopefully I am too, aside from my fashion sense and tack choices!) She trailered great and I met up with T at the turnoff to Eastlake and we waited there for a couple minutes for H to show up to lead us to the park at the north end of the lake. Dixie did not kick the trailer to pieces; she just stood and waited. Then we got down to the park and I fly sprayed her.

A million years ago, when Dixie was a real Problem Child, she would try to break halters to get away from fly spray. I tried to roundpen her out of her fly spray fear and 30 minutes later, dripping wet, she'd still panic and run from the sight of the bottle. I have off and on squirted her with water from a spray bottle - and by off and on, I mean maybe 5 times in the last two years. But she's been so good about stuff, and I decided that I'd just assume she was going to be fine. I showed her the bottle, squirted it all over her neck and butt, brushed it in, squirted the brush, brushed her face with fly spray. No big deal. She didn't like it from the near side and danced away but I just told her to quit and kept spraying and she stood there like it ain't no thang. So: if your horse comes totally unglued about fly spray, ride 500 miles a year and she'll improve. Nah, it's not the riding.

We saddled up and rode down to the lake. Dixie hasn't seen Washoe Lake (or any lake) since the trail trials last spring, and she didn't like it one bit then. She was snorty and dance-y and sort of hypnotized/terrified by the motion of water on sand and I didn't push the issue because she was pretty worked up that day. Today we rode to the lake and the big TB waded right in. Dixie walked up to the shore and snorted a bit. I let her look and asked her to walk in. She offered to duck out, I straightened her up, and she walked in. Like it ain't no thang.

We rode a mile or so down the lake til we hit a patch of biting flies, then we veered inland and went to check out the other horse park at the south end (the one where the Washoe Ride is held). We walked over and looked at the new stuff and found a tank of water. I knew she wouldn't drink, but I asked her to go stick her nose in the tank and she did, then we hung out while the other two horses decided not to drink either. ;) We all gallivanted around the nice new arena then headed back north toward the trucks.

The road was nice hard sand, not the deep sand by the lake, so we decided to trot and canter. Dixie gave me some nice gaits, plus a lovely round canter for a bit, all on a loose rein and totally calmly. The other two horses were not so perfect - not so their owners had any trouble, just bad enough to make Dixie look like a spotted angel in comparison.

The wind had picked up so we went back to the lake. There were whitecaps and waves, and those were pretty scary, so I'd let Dixie walk on the dry sand for 100 yards, then ask her to go let the waves slap her hooves for 10 yards, then repeat. We were maybe a quarter mile from the trailer when Dixie suddenly pointed the tips of her ears straight back at me in a very quizzical manner and the woman behind me said "you lost a boot!" They both told me at the same time!

I got down, got the problem back boot off, got the other back boot off, and got back on. Just like that. Dixie didn't run in circles or scream or yank her feet away or try to walk off while I was mounting. Absolutely no drama. Ain't no thang. (Boot failure: The toe strap came unstrapped. The velcro on those boots is pretty old, and I'll need to replace it before I do an e-ride in them, but I was pretty impressed with how well they stayed on in wet deep sand.)

In fact, the only drama was back at the trailer, where I had to beat* my poor horse into walking over and getting tied up at the trailer to eat hay. She didn't want to stop. That's three rides in a row now where she's very clearly said "I'm not through and I'd like to do more please." I think tomorrow I'll get up early and go up the road to Cold Springs and let her scramble up the foothills of Peavine - maybe that'll satisfy her!

*Ok, I twirled the lead rope at her butt for a while then cracked it quite forcefully on the saddle to make her move. Abusive, I know.

I am going to break one of my unspoken rules and tell yall that I love that horse. She is a fine beast. I didn't know what I was doing with her but I was stubborner than her and she's turned into quite a good trustworthy mount.


  1. I can only hope I get to that stage with my horse. I got dumped really bad early this year and I haven't been on her since (lots of stuff in the way, not JUST me being a giant chicken). I have had progress though, at first she was horribly spooky with everyone, including me. I was told the other day that she was pulled from the field (no running away) and flysprayed (not even a snort) and behaved better than even the older mares. Yay for progress!

  2. Love it! Good spotted horse!

  3. Oh Jeeze- now you've done it. You said IT. Now she's a gunna blow up at a bunny rabbit like it was a grizzly bear.

    Bill (my horse is a dope)

  4. This post made me smile. Yay for you and Dixie - a fine pair if there ever was one :)

  5. There's nothing better than a ride that makes you think how much you love your horse! Glad you guys are back at it.

  6. :D

    There isn't really much else to say, other than our TWHs finally grew up, and it's grand.


  7. Aww... this post made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Pretty much the same feeling I get when my own Rosie behaves so well. I'm glad she's behaving so well and hopefully those hills help her and you work out some of those longings to go more.

    Hopefully Rose will take after Dixie some day and treat big water like it "aint no thang"... this last week I've been amusing myself with the mental image of what would happen if Rose and the ocean met.... *snort*

  8. This was a great post - congrats to you and Dixie on being such a fantastic partnership!!

  9. My gelding freaked at fly spray and knocked me down under the feet of my husband's mare & I broke my ankle. Was he always afraid of fly spray? No. I just used a new type of sprayer and didn't warn him.

    Understand the "love" thing. Go with it. :)

  10. Awww. Love it. Dixie is quite the good girl.

  11. It's not the 500's the time you spent together getting ready to go that far.


  12. Sounds like a hoppin' fun ride; what a girl. Jesse had a couple bad spells to start the summer after the nail-in-hoof incident, but has since returned to my "perfect girl". I had let her get so out of hand over the last couple of years, I am amazed she has come back so quickly, but she seems to be enjoying being a 'working girl' again.

    Washoe Lake? Except for my horse named Washoe (came with that name) I had never heard it before.

    Keep smiling...and riding.

  13. Love it! Glad you had such a great ride on your spotted angel!

  14. Thanks, yall :)

    Juanita - yeah, Reno is located in Washoe County. I've always loved your horse for that reason - he's a NV mustang, right?

    Aarene - I know. I was thinking about it last night and almost posted again, but the words wouldn't go right. I got her to trust me by repeatedly insisting that she do little things that she thought were scary. Now it looks like she's thrown her lot in with me and just trusts me in general. :)

  15. cool beans! i think she's telling you she's healed and is ready to go.
    - The Equestrian Vagabond

  16. 'So: if your horse comes totally unglued about fly spray, ride 500 miles a year and she'll improve. Nah, it's not the riding.'

    I happen to think that the majority of it *is* the riding. The saying, 'It's not the years son, it's the miles.' comes to mind.

    And like ArleneX says...It's all the time invested that goes with getting there.

  17. Whether a dog or a horse, it is such a wonderful feeling when they finally learn to trust us, and show us how far they have come.

    Such a good story, which put a smile on my face as I followed along (virtually, that is) on the ride.

  18. i'm so happy for you. i remember the beginnings. makes me want a mare.

    i wanted to mention that with baasha's herbal oil mane treatment against bugs his mane is now way grosser than dixie's. like, greasy sticky all the way down. *shakes head sadly*

    and one more thing - now that i'm employed, and with a european vacation allowance of XX days (i cannot say, it's too many!), i hope to come to reno and meet you. and bring you lots of dark chocolate.

    this dream also includes me flying first class but we'll see about that: ) (i HATE flying cattle class over 10 hours!!!)

  19. BEC - it's not The Miles per se, it's winning all the fights in the course of the miles. I don't think she'd trust me nearly as much if I hadn't done most of it alone, facing down scary monsters, yknow? It was 500 miles a year of actively riding, not just flopping around up top as a passenger.

    lytha - I can't wait, I truly hope you get to come to Reno! We will go riding - I can get you an Arab to catch ride, or you can ride the tall spotted thing and I'll ride an Arab ;) Agree on flying first class - it's just too far to do it any other way.

    Jean - thanks :) And Merri, yes, that's exactly what she keeps saying! I hope she's right :O


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