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April 21, 2013: Giddyup Heather

Today my friend Heather brought Rio Rogue, her Arab-Quarter horse over for a ride. She’s never done this before. Rio, at age nine, is still green. This is no fault of Heather’s – she’s exercised good judgment in bringing him along slowly with his training. I’d also asked Bill Sullivan to come over and give Heather an assist. He did well in the Competitive Trail Ride, and so he seemed like the best person for the job. In fact, way better than me. I’ve exclusively worked with Icelandic horses, which are small, calm, and not as reactive as their larger counterparts.

It all went very well, on this, a beautiful sunny spring day. It was the sort of day where you feel like doing what lizards do, and sunning yourself on a log. Bill has considerable knowledge about natural horsemanship techniques (which don’t go over well with Icelandic horses) and has a great deal of patience. He was slow, methodical, and all afternoon took the time to think things through before taking action.

Heather introduced Bill to Rio. Bill then took the horse in hand and did some groundwork with him, having him walk, stop, back, and move from side-to-side. The horse did well—to Heather’s credit, she’s been working with him on this stuff ever since she got him. After, Bill decided that Heather could ride Rio and that he’d lead him. Kaylene (Bill’s significant other) and Pete stayed behind – I followed Heather and Bill as they made their way around the loop, first with Rio on lead, then after with Rio off lead. Doing this reminded me of my first few rides on Raudi – Pete leading. Again, all that previous uncertainty came back to mind.

Rio is a very fast mover – faster than Raudi. Bill remarked at one point that he’s always going to be this way. He just wants to go. Today, Heather’s job was, through the use of pressure/release, to remind him that she was in charge. It appeared to me as though Rio was actually a good listener.

Once we were back at the starting point, Heather elected to walk Rio around the loop. I went and got Tinni because my horses also needed to get out. Pete and Kaylene, on Siggi and Ember, soon caught up with us. I then got on Tinni and rode him bareback, this after putting a knotted lead rope on his halter. Tinni, of course, knew he should behave, and he did.

Next, Heather rode Ember and Kaylene rode Rio. Pete rode Signy, and I rode Raudi. Raudi really objected to my keeping her from roaring to the front of the pack. I don’t think anyone knew that she was fighting me a bit. However, I was glad of this. I was wanting her to be more forward. After we finished the group ride, I took her a ways past our driveway and on the way back up road we did walk/trot/canter transitions. A good thing to do because she was reminded that at all times, she’s to listen to me.

The others went for another ride, and Heather and I went for yet another walk. This time, I took Hrimmi. She came bounding down the driveway with me, saw the strange horse and trailers, and did a double-take. She then jumped around and reared, but quickly calmed down. And she stayed calm the rest of the walk.

Lastly, Heather and Bill spent 45 minutes or so working with Rio on trailer loading. The goal was for him, after being asked to back out, to step in of his own volition. After a bit, he did just fine. And off everyone went. I resumed pen cleaning. It’s breakup, and it’s a real mess.

Bill didn’t do everything the way I would have done it. For example, trailering – I would have used a body wrap, and done some leg work. I might also have put a few poles before the step up area, thus giving him something more to think about. But the way the pair went about getting Rio to load up worked just fine. I learned a great deal from Bill about the importance of remaining patient, taking charge, and keeping one’s cool. Big life lessons here. And I learned some from Heather about the importance of tenacity. She was very focused and able to articulate to the rest of us why she was doing what she was doing.

So, it was a very good horse day. There will come a time when Heather and I will go riding together. I’m already looking forward to this.

Next: 112: 4/22/13: Trip Plans