Saturday, August 13, 2011

Leading the way

Tonight when I arrived to the barn, the barn owner and Metku's owner were getting ready to go for a trail ride.  They were both tacking up with saddles and bridles, but told me they would really only walk, since this was Metku's first time off the property so if I wanted to join in-hand, I could.  I asked Little Love what she thought and she was ready to go as well.  So, we put on the boots quickly and slipped on the halter and off we went. 

Because neither Kira nor Metku wanted to leave the yard first, Little Love and I took the lead.  Lilo walked in the front confidently, leading the way as if she had always done just that; lead the way.  From Metku's owner's request, we decided to stay on the wider roads instead of venturing onto the narrow paths in the forest.  This, of course, sounded good to me, since I know how much Little Love is afraid of the forest.  We walked down to the first intersection and turned right onto the dirt road.  Kira was significantly slower than the other two horses, so we waited for her every now and then. 

We were an impressive sight as we walked with three black horses all the way to the end of the road, which is about a mile and a half from the barn.  Many of the neighbors were out on walks as well and there were lots of "oohs" and "aahs" when we strode by with our black mare entourage.  The sun was setting in a mostly clear sky and the night was so very still; what a perfect evening for a long walk.  The barn owner told us about the lake nearby and suggested we explore the road leading to the lake.  This route is off limits for cars, but luckily horses can get past the metal gate set up in the middle of the road.  We made our way down the field, dove into the forest and hiked up a winding (but not narrow! :-) mossy path until we were near the lake.  Then we turned around  and came back down the same way we had gone up. 

Little Love was amazing.  She walked on my side, slowing down if she noticed I was falling behind.  She stopped from voice cues only.  She waited for her friends politely.  The only time she became anxious was when we turned around in the forest and started heading home.  At first I thought it was because we were going home and because there were some knats buzzing under her stomach, but once we passed the last tall fir tree and came into the clearing, she immediately calmed down.  Obviously it was a bit too many trees for her :-)  But despite her anxiety, she never took a trot step nor did I have the feeling of totally losing control.  She merely walked fast, at times scrambling over tree roots without exactly looking where she was placing her feet.  I had to pull on her face a few times to ask her to stop, as I could not keep up with her (not to mention waiting for Metku and Kira...).  But after that part of the walk was over, she was back to her considerate self.  Her brave self.  Her confident self.  Now I know why we had to struggle so many times on trail rides years ago: so that we could both appreciate this life we now have. 


  1. Just lovely, K. The walk sounds enchanting, the area must be beautiful! What a different mare you have now! The essence of calm, grounded, and gentle... wow.

  2. One of the huge, HUGE advantages to being "in-hand" as some people call it is that I find horses to be a LOT more confident when their partner is on the ground at their side rather than on their backs.

    Griffin and I have also gone on walks together while other people have ridden with us. We have also been in the position to be the "leader" when the other horses are busy balking and refusing to go down the trail. I have actually had people comment that it was a good thing that I was leading Griffin because I had an easier time "making him go down the trail." I don't MAKE him do anything -- he is just more confident because I am alongside of him rather than on his back. He knows if the monsters jump out of the bushes, they will get ME first (laughs)..

    At any rate, this is a beautiful post. I found myself cheering for you and Little Love because she was so brave in going down the trail with you(because of the trust she has developed...I know that you didn't "MAKE" her do it either -- LOL).

    I haven't been on the internet a whole lot lately because I have been quite busy, but I do read your posts every time I am here. You continue to be big inspiration to me :)

    Grif and I continue to work towards a relationship based on positive reinforcement and as little pressure as possible. Admittedly, I have had my set-backs -- but I feel I am once again headed in that better direction :)

    In exactly 1 month, Grif and I will have been bitless for an entire year! ....the longest yet and I'm finally feeling like we will never go back to the bit. ever. I am also working on ditching the saddle and using just a BB pad. Griffin has made it clear he prefers this -- so that's where we are headed. Thankfully we don't do any fast riding anymore, so I can work being a better bareback rider for what we DO do. :)

    Huggs to you, Melissa, and Lilo :)

  3. It all sounds absolutely lovely! And then I keep thinking about all that SNOW you're going to get!!!!!

    Isn't it great that when you give horses control and independence, they figure out how to use it wisely and positively.

    I think in-hand is a good idea too, but I've known a couple of horses - our Rose included - who visibly calm down when they have a rider on board. My new theory is that it's like the Thunder Vest they use for dogs who are afraid of storms - that the pressure of the saddle and rider makes the horse feel secure or something.

  4. Carol, good to hear from you! So happy to hear about your progress with the bitless! You just have to follow your heart and horse, they will lead you the right way even though sometimes it is difficult. And I so agree with what you said about going in-hand; it is so much easier for Little Love and has nothing to do with MAKING her go.
    June: I know, I'm sort of both freaked out AND excited about the prospect of snow LOL. And I've known a few horses, too, that prefer the person on top. Little Love is definitely not one of them, at least not yet :-) Maybe that will change when we get to the snow part, I might be worthless when it gets really deep...