I haven't ridden with any consistency since before Christmas. To be more correct, I've only thrown my leg over the horse twice since his leg healed. The first instance ended after five minutes due to Mrs. BR's horse colicking. In an act of self preservation, I terminated the second ride after ten minutes due to an overload of fools riding in the arena at the same time.
Some horses can sit in the pasture for months on end, and then be ridden as though they been working daily for that entire time. Smokey is not one of those horses. And lest I forget, he spared little time in reminding me.
A wall is being built at one end of the arena, to serve as a wind break. As a result, there are 2x6's, ladders, tools, some cones, etc. at that end of the arena. As soon as we approached the work area, Smokey just about jumped out of his skin. He whirled, and would have headed for the hills, except that with a pull on the rein, and well placed spur, I turned him around to stare at the horse eating demons. He would turn his head as if to leave, and I would gently pull it back. Once he had settled down, I forced him to take one step toward the work materials. This went on for about five minutes, until we were standing next the pile of lumber, and he was idling sniffing it. Then we moved over and stood next to the ladder, until the same result was achieved. The rest of the day's ride was uneventful.
Rumor has it that a horse was eaten by the pile of building materials last night. Or so it would seem, judging by Smokey's reaction today. We were trotting towards the pile, when, in the blink of an eye, he whirled and started in the other direction. Again, rein and spur pointed him in the direction I wanted to travel. Again, he whirled. This repeated itself as we spiraled ever farther from the object of his fear. Having had entirely enough of this, I pointed him at the pile, and dug in. He took off towards it, until realizing it was still there, he slid to a stop and began power backing.
At this point, I nearly fell out of the saddle, I was laughing so hard. I found the whole thing to be terribly amusing.
We finally worked thought it. although not without much snorting and blowing. Or so I thought.
Some time later, we were riding past the pile, when he spooked sideways, again headed for the hills. I straightened him out. When this again repeated itself, I decided enough was enough. This horse is being an imbecile, and it's going to end right now.
With Mrs. BR providing helpful cues, I rode the hell out of him near the construction area. Tight circles, figure eights, and rollbacks. Once he was sweating and breathing hard, and paying attention to me, and not his fears, I walked him over to the pile and let him stand. Not a peep. The goal of this is for him to associate the "scary place" with the ability to rest. Thus, instead of something to fear, it becomes a safe haven.
Believe it or not, I call this a good ride. An opportunity to school the horse, and to test my riding abilities. I must have a good seat, because when Smokey spooks, it's BIG, and comes without warning. I could very well end up in the dirt.
Why do I say he's a fraud? While riding yesterday, one of the resident goats broke his moorings and wandered into the arena. I rode right up to the goat, and Smokey just sniffed him. No fear. We have encountered bears, deer, and elk in the wild. Not a flinch.
But construction material? Run for your life!!