Sunday's weather was clear and bright, with the high reaching in the upper 60's. With the Ladies BR off to shop for wedding dresses and attend showers and such, yours truly declared it to be a fine day for a trail ride, and to try something I've been wanting to do for some time. I was going to ride alone. I know I've ridden Smokey along the river levee alone, but riding within a mile or two of home doesn't really count in my book. I'm talking pack the horse and tack in the trailer, drive somewhere, and ride.
Mrs. BR suggested that I should take our Paint gelding, Dozer. I though, "why not", and loaded the young man up.
Dozer is DN2's horse. She bought him him when he was four. He's nine now, and has spent the last two years leased out to a girl who has used him for 4H, but she is done riding, so he's headed back to our care. He has spent the better part of the time being ridden in the arena only, and has become a bit punchy. Dozer is a tad skittish, goofy about his off side, and has run off once or twice while his rider was dismounting. At the 4H show on Saturday he did his level best to unseat three different riders. What could possibly go wrong on a leisurely trail ride?
Dozer needs a confident rider. Horses are very sensitive to their riders mood, particularly if nervousness, trepidation, or fear enter the equation. You are the leader when riding, and if you're scared, most horses will sense that there is something to be afraid of, and will make heroic effort to "get the heck out of here". As the horse becomes more skittish, the nervous rider gets scared, which in turns scares the horse more, which causes the riding to become seriously frightened...wash, rinse, repeat. Possible recipe for a bad ending.
We went to Mill Pond, a series of equestrian trails on Weyerhaeuser land off Hwy 410. After saddling up, I looked him in they eye and in no uncertain terms informed him that it was a nice day, and we were going to have a good ride. That, or he would go to France in a box. And off we went...for three uneventful hours.
He was uncertain, but he paid attention. He stopped on occasion, requiring some added encouragement (read: spurs) to get going again. If we encountered other groups of riders, he became certain that we needed to follow them, and would get a little loose in the steering until I applied proper motivation (read: spurs) to get him pointed in the desired direction of travel. Beyond that, nary a problem. A very enjoyable ride, and, I think, good for his mind.
It was interesting to contrast the differences between Smokey and Dozer on the trail. At 22, Smokey is very trail wise, and follows the path with little to no rider direction. I'm reasonably certain I could take a nap in the saddle and still find myself on the same trail upon waking. Dozer, on the other hand, would occasionally lose sight of the trail and head off into the trees. Dozer has a quicker walking pace, which I rather enjoyed. Smokey can be a bit of a slow poke, which can be infuriating at times.
I know that one ride is only a data point, but Dozer just may have a future in the mountains.