*Note: Apologies for no photos! I haven't taken any more photos of Victor, but now realize that I should have. I'll add photos to my next post about him so that you can bask in his cuteness :)
As you all know by now, I am rehabbing an adorable horsey named Victor. I've been working with him for about three weeks now and while he's made a lot of progress (as in, he can actually trot for five minutes now without dying...) I am getting just a tad bored. I don't mind the trotting, because I can always find things to do while I keep him trotting (like practicing my sitting trot or two point or doing some up-up-downs), but the walking part is just miserable. Seriously... nothing feels as long as 10 minutes straight of walking... it's worse than staring at a pot of water while waiting for it to boil. Sure there are things that I could work on during that time, like more two point, or having Victor practicing bending in a circle, but since I'm not training him, just exercising him, I don't really have the motivation to do that. And so I decided that the way to beat the boredom was to take him on a trail ride.
Honestly, I did not know what to expect from Victor on a trail ride, because he is very odd and quirky about his fears. For instance, he doesn't spook at anything in the outdoor arena or anything near the outdoor arena, even though it is surrounded by distracting and sometimes scary things, but he is totally freaked out by the weirdest things in the indoor arena. He is terrified of one of the barrels in the indoor arena. Not the other three barrels, just the one. He is also convinced that if a cone is on its side it is actually a terrifying orange creature that is out to eat him. If that same cone is standing up then he doesn't give it a second glance. To be fair to Victor, it is pretty common for horses to be more spooky in the indoor arena than they are in the outdoor arena, but his phobias are so particular and bizarre. Even though Victor has strange fears, I figured that I trusted him (and his steering) enough that we could go on a trail ride together and it would not end terribly. And so we went.
I mounted in the indoor arena (because the mounting block by the barn is still home to a wasp nest) and when I asked Victor to leave the arena he was very hesitant. He walked super slowly onto the gravel. Once we were out of the arena we had to walk past all of the paddocks in order to get to the trail. Victor acted like he had never seen any of the horses before (he had) and was walking as if he were a kid on their tiptoes, one exaggerated slow step after the next. Finally, we got to the trail. I thought that Victor would be fine with the first section of the trail as it is literally on the other side of the fence from his pasture, but he continued his slow and wary walk all the way down to the far side of the galloping track. For the short side, he picked up a little bit of speed and was moving more normally. And then we had to turn the corner and face the log of terror (as it is named by Casey). I tensed up a bit as we approached the log because I was expecting the worst, but Victor didn't even give it a sideways glance. He got a lot of praise for being so brave and then we continued on.
Then... we were before the wooded section. Victor started to get really tense and as soon as we hit the first tree he tried to bolt sideways. I kept him from running and then just asked him to stand facing the woods. He was all dramatic breathes and panicky motions, but I stayed calm and gave him many pets until he calmed down. I had to ask him probably three times to go into the woods before he actually did it. He speed-walked through the woods, but he did it without any more spooking! He also had a little freak-out moment when we cleared the woods and he saw the outside of the indoor arena, but with a little bit of pets and calm reassurances he faced his fears and walked right past it.
After the trail ride we did our five minutes of trotting and then Victor got tons of treats and hugs. I think that he handled our first trail ride together really well! I'm excited that we now can do that rather than just walking around in the arena and who knows, maybe we'll make him into a decent trail horse!
Does your horse have any weird phobias? Does anyone else have trouble when they try to take an arena horse out to the big, bad trails?