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Wizard Ride 253: Rider

June 27, 2011

Christie and Brigid eyeballing the cross country course

Saturday, 6/25/11

My friend Erin came from Maryland with her lovely Morgan mares Belle and Esme and picked up Wizard for our trail ride in Assunpink Wildlife Management Area.

Esme, photo taken this spring…


Wizard loaded onto the trailer like a CHAMP (woo-hoo!) and was quite happy with his equine companions. We tacked up and met up with Christie and her filly, Brigid, who was started under saddle this spring. Esme is also pretty green, so Wizard was the second-most seasoned trail horse on the ride! Belle is the trail princess, and she has been everywhere. The flies were not too bad, and Wizard was equipped with his Nose Net and a fly bonnet. The weather was wonderful- after a week of sporadic rain, some of the trails were wet but totally rideable.

For the beginning of the ride, Wizard was a little balled up with energy. I expected this, and did my best to settle him into a good walking rhythm. On narrower trails, he was fine, but in the huge open fields, he would get a little prancy. He also likes to prance up hills, but my biggest pet peeve ever is letting horses blast off at a faster gait than you want. So we WALKED the hills, not the most relaxed walk ever, but better than a jig.

About a mile into the ride, Wizard settled into the walk I was looking for; he has a delightfully swingy and ground-covering walk when he is relaxed. The larger group of horses meant that sometimes they were riding alongside him, which was fine unless one of them trotted ahead of him. Then, he would get antsy and dancy and fussy and not really pay attention to me. In the words of Dr. Deb, Wizard’s “birdie” leaves the building.

At one point, one horse trotted past him up a hill and he went into a leaping, cantering, pulling, sideways, clumsy tantrum. He does not rear or buck, so it’s fairly simple to sit, but it definitely feels a little like riding an octopus wearing roller skates. He threw the tantrum once again when we reached The Horse Park of New Jersey, where we strolled through the cross country course. Someone trotted ahead of him, and there I was again, cantering, sort of, on a horse who felt like he had no head because it was tucked so low.

I’m not really sure how to work on the issue. It never usually happens, since the trails at my barn are narrow and nobody usually trots past me when I’m walking. I would like to work on it, though, since I’d love to do some hunter paces with him. I guess one answer is to always be the leader and never allow anyone to pass us when we’re walking, but that’s so controlling and limiting. I’ll need to think on it.

So for about 20% of the ride, Wizard was wound up or fussing, but for the rest of the ride, he was delightful. He was fine on the lead or in the back of the pack, but he definitely prefers the lead. The only time he spooked was when one of the horses we were riding with separated and walked around a group of trees. We met face-to-face and BOTH horses jumped! It was hilarious.

When we reached Stone Tavern Lake, Wizard was interested in wading in the water, but the ripples seemed to freak him out a little. All the mares got into the water and were even playing and pawing. Wizard stood at the verrrrry edge. I could feel that he wanted to try it, so I tried a few different angles and walked toward it a few different ways. I did not force the issue, and eventually, he got the hang of it and walked in like a pro. Maybe next time, he’ll wade a little more.

At the Horse Park, we explored the hills and paths that make up the Jersey Fresh cross country course. It was really cool to walk in the footsteps of the eventing greats- of course, they galloped those steps, ha ha!

We returned to the trailer and let the horses graze for a little while before they loaded up and went home. I gave Wizard a much-needed hosedown and put him back outside with his paddock buddies. Hopefully, we’ll have a few more off-the-farm adventures this summer.

And I blazed
in the last orange hours of the day,
until the dust hazed and hid us away.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Niamh permalink
    June 27, 2011 11:14 am

    Someone recently posted a similar problem to this on COTH. A good way to work on it is to play “leapfrog” on the trail. Simply make it a bit of a game to desensitize the horses. Take turns trotting ahead of your trail partner, then ask Wizard to stop (or walk) your trail partner trots past you and ahead and walks, and so on. It can be really effective for horses who get amped up in company or when another horse is passing them at a faster gait. After a little while he should think it’s no big deal and relax. We did this exercise the last time I was in Middleburg over a super long treeline of small cross country fences and it really worked — we’d trot up to the fence single file, then one of us would pass the other hop the next fence and stop, our partner would follow behind and continue the routine. Good Luck!

    • June 28, 2011 10:14 pm

      I was reading that thread- thank you! Part of the problem is that we don’t have many open spaces on our home trails, but now that we have explored the tree farm, we might have more places to practice.

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