To paraphrase one of my favorite authors, horses really are amazing creatures. They will always surprise you in a pinch, and Bars continues to surprise me, even after all our time together.
Bars has always preferred trail work over the arena. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that he truly hates arena work. I know this because whenever I tried to work with him on simple things like, say, flexibility, or collection, or carrying the bit properly, in the arena, he would tense up and resist. To this day, asking him to perform a simple maneuver such as a shoulder in/out–which means bending his head a bit to one side while continuing to move forward in a more or less straight line–in the arena is an exercise in frustration. Get him out on the trail, however, and it’s a completely different story. He turns on a dime, performs lovely half passes, collects himself beautifully….all the stuff you can’t get him to do in the arena to save your life.
Now, this does not mean that’s he’s always the steadiest trail horse. In our early days, it was a complete fight to get him 50 feet away from the barn without a buddy—and I mean a fight. Spinning, bucking, occasionally crowhopping—he did it all. So, we spent several years trail riding with a buddy. As time went on he grew more confident and comfortable in his environment…and then we moved to a new barn in a new area where he got to experience things like creek crossings, hills, and gates for the first time. O goodness. One creek in particular became known as “Crocodile Creek,” because of our joke that it had Invisible Horse Eating Crocodiles in it. But he got better about that, too, and for the last 15 years has been such a great trail horse that our barn manager and the local trainers advised new riders to ride with us. How times change….
Well, now we’re in a new environment again, and it’s been a really wet winter! There is water, water, everywhere and the creeks are full and rushing. Last week we attempted our first foray onto the trails since last November. Apparently he forgot that Invisible Horse Eating Crocodiles are really a figment of his active imagination, because every little spit of water is cause for alarm. “I can’t put my foot in there, mom! It’s scary!” Well, eventually he got brave enough to step over the teeny tiny rivulet…..and then was faced with the BIG creek. This is pretty fast flowing water and up-to-his-belly-deep. I thought we were just going to look at it and turn around for the day—but no! After putting up a huge fuss over a little tiny stream less than a foot wide, this guy just walks right on through the deep stuff. I didn’t even ask him, just right on through. And, on our last trip, he continues on down the trail, all on his own! Who is this horse? Has he finally, at this advanced age, decided that creek crossings are ok? Who knew?
Well, maybe not. The teeny tiny one still is infested with Miniature Invisible Horse Eating Crocodiles. They’re really there! Honest! Can’t you see ‘em?
Next he’ll be telling me about Rodents Of Unusual Size…..