We tacked up and I did some ground work with Rocky before mounting up, as he was a bit snorty at things around the cabin. After some lunging and sending exercises, his thinking brain was back on so we headed out. My mom and I brought our dogs to come along, and they were very excited to go out on the trail. Dexter, my mom's black lab/newfoundland mix, likes to cut into the woods or run ahead, checking things out. Bear moves between my mom and I, guarding us from the sides and rear. It's a good system, and the horses like the feeling of security.
We got out on the four wheeler trail after crossing a meadow, and Rocky was in the lead with a confident stride. Normally when we go out on trail rides with a group, Rocky ends up in the back and middle of the pack. He's not a fast guy, in fact, there have been jokes made about how slow he can be. Tapper is slower than Rocky is- to the point that we can turn around and ride back to where Tapper is plodding along.
We did that for a bit, and then we came upon a stand of young poplar trees. Rocky stopped and his head shot up, eyes wide. He then began to side step. I asked him to flex and he refused, mouth and neck hardened against my ask so that he could stare into the trees. At this point I'm getting worried, because he is clearly alarmed at the trees and is resistant to following my directions. I look over, and Tapper has also frozen, his eyes showing white.
Tapper has been generally unflappable to this point, so the fact that his front feet are planted and he looks like someone just told him he will never get grain again made me go "aww shit..." I then look at my mother... who is trying to look over Tapper's head to see what he is scared of. She looks mildly concerned, but more curious about what's going on.
I take all of this in and realize that one of these horses is going to try to flee the scene very soon, and when one goes, the other will be with him like a shot. I start pulling harder on my rein to get Rocky to flex, and tell my mom that she should flex Tapper, too. She goes, "oh, yeah, he does seem kind of scared..."
At this point, I'm scared. My mom can't afford to get hurt, and I would really rather not get hurt myself. My response to her casual statement?
"NO! You need to flex him NOW!!" It made my mom jump, and she quickly began to pull Tapper's nose in to her boot. At about that time, Rocky finally gave me his face a bit so we stood there and flexed our horses until they were at least responsive to us. After they had relaxed a bit, I explained to my mom that when Rocky is really scared, I can feel his heart beat through the saddle. This was one of those times, and I could tell that Tapper was ready to panic, too.
We had a good laugh about it later, joking about my mom "getting us killed" by trying to figure out what the horses were so scared of rather than addressing their fear.
The rest of the ride went well, but we had to hurry back as the skies were starting to get stormy dark. We made it back in time for a few sprinkles to start, but we decided to take some quick pictures anyway.
|Rocky, Bear and I. You can see the storm coming in the back ground!|
|Bear and Dexter were tired boys on the drive home!|
It was a good trip, and I can't wait to do it again!