Tales from the Trail #212
I close up the trailer and slither into my truck feeling defeated. I drop my head to the steering wheel trying to breath. The trailer starts to rock as Dulce tells me to get moving; he doesn’t like being in the trailer unless it’s moving. I start the engine, and as soon as the diesel purrs, he mellows out. Down the winding washboard roads and hills we plunge.
I try to shake off the bad feeling of a ride that appeared to go wrong at every turn. I pump up the volume on Michael Franti singing Stay Human. Doesn’t help. I put my window down to let the warm, summer air hit my face, and I shift my focus. “What good happened today?”
The ride started out well. Dulce handled descending down the hill while going over polls incredibly well. When he did get nervous about anything, he never panicked. He simply took a few steps back. I gave him time to examine whatever made him nervous, and when he relaxed, he’d step forward easily. He was relaxed yet alert. Nothing seemed to make him nervous. He responded to me, and what more can a girl ask for? A green horse doing all of these things on a trail he’s never been on is beyond perfect.
We weren’t riding alone though. My dogs were with us, and I brought Harley, my 20 yo quarter horse, along. Harley has been on every trail around this area. I thought he would keep Dulce calm on this brand new trail and be a good teacher. Harley was more interested in high elevation grass. Every time I paid more attention to helping Dulce through another obstacle, he tried to drag me off the saddle as he dove for a big bite. If Dulce and I went to the left, he’d turn right. Harley’s mind was on green grass and that was it. Being in a drought, who can blame him? My right arm sure could as I tried to stop him from snatching. He jerked me around in every direction. I tried to keep my frustration with Harley at a minimum, because I didn’t want my emotions to agitate Dulce.
When we finally got down into the small canyon, I noticed a camper up ahead in an area that made me wonder how in the world they got it there. My experience with riding by campers isn’t always the best, so I decided to ask Dulce to climb a steep hill to the south of them through thick brush and over some rocky spots, which I’ve never had the opportunity to do with him before. All we can do is try.
As we climbed, I shoved any doubt I had out of my mind. He is so athletic, and he relished the challenge. He climbed over obstacles with ease. His enthusiasm to climb the hill became contagious, because Harley didn’t try to snatch one blade of grass. Dulce jumped up onto a rock cliff, and before I knew it we were at the top of the hill. I think my smile extended a lot more than from ear to ear when Harley tried to yank me down to the ground hard yet again.
“Harley, stop it!” I yell. He looks at me with a mouthful of grass and a smirk.
“I’m going to ignore you Harley.”
We ride into this one area that used to be a homestead. Unfortunately, a lot of wire from old fences was all over the place. When I spotted it, I asked Dulce to back out of the area, and he did it without any problems. Harley didn’t want to back up. An old spring still flowed, and the grass is five feet tall. No wonder they had their homestead here. It was the greenest most lush spot I’ve seen all summer. The old trees created the most beautiful, cooling shade. I didn’t want to leave.
We head off when we came to a dried up water crossing. Any type of water outside of his home environment is the one thing that seems to scare Dulce, and this dried up area held on to all of the smells of water was no different. Dulce refused to walk over it.
“Okay Harley, you’re up. Time to teach Dulce that this isn’t scary.” Harley crossed a lot of water with Shandoka and I years past. He has this. I try to get Harley to lead the way, but he refused. He and Dulce both begin backing up.
“Are you kidding me Harley? You and I have crossed over this I have no idea how many times. Come on Harley, help me out.”
Harley backed up a few more steps with Dulce following. Frustrated with Harley that he was teaching Dulce this was scary, I give him one more chance to show Dulce how brave he is. Total fail.
He looked at me as if to say, “Listen woman that feeds me and makes me go on these long walks, if he’s scared, why am I going to take the lead? There is some really nice grass on this side of the crossing. I have no incentive to go across.”
I hop off and walk them back and forth across this area easily. I climb back on, and we ride across it. I throw Harley a side glance of displeasure. He could care less until I shorten up his lead rope keeping his nose by my knee. We work our way up another hill where a creek that usually runs across the path is dried up. We go through the same thing as the last crossing with Harley refusing to be the teacher….again. After climbing back on, the ride goes well until we head back and hit the same water crossings. Even though we ended up riding across them once before, they wiped it out of their memory. Back to hopping off, teaching, hopping on, and riding across.
“Harley, you are not earning your hay today at all!”
“Well, let me try to drag you off your saddle again for some yummy grass right over here!”
That was our discussion for most of the ride back.
We get to the hill where we need to drop off back into the canyon. Dulce did fantastic at navigating the steep grade while climbing over poles. I decide to cut to the left around a big aspen, so we can hit an easier part of the hill, when Harley decides to go around the opposite side of the pole. I nearly went off the back of the saddle this time.
“Harley!” I yell out of total frustration. He is usually the best trail partner rarely giving me any problems. “Why are you doing this to me?” I exclaim as I hop off Dulce again, and get Harley on the right side. I climb back on, and ride down the hill into the canyon when a strange dog comes running up to us.
I look around for his humans who obviously are in the camper. I call out to them several times asking them to come get their dog because he keeps following us. I ride towards their camper calling out for them to get their dog again. Dulce AND Harley were fantastic about it all. The dog was great, and he only wanted to play with my dogs. No answer. I call out again, and this time they close the door of their camper.
“Really? Instead of getting your dog, you’re closing the door? Seriously?”
My pot was boiling at this point. I didn’t want to chase the dog off with the horses, because I didn’t want to teach him to go after horses out of fear. I hop off for the upteenth time, and I chase the dog back to his camper where he finally stayed. I walk my guys over to this huge, downed Ponderosa, and climb back on Dulce.
By the time we make it back to the trailer, I’m frustrated, exhausted, and beating myself up for being the worst horse trainer in the world. I load them up, and this is when I tried to find something good from all of this.
My answer was that I never got bucked off. Dulce took it all in stride no matter what Harley or those campers through at us. He overcame new obstacles with ease and struggled with the same issue of water. I’ve exposed him to deer, elk and black bear scent, walked him through my irrigation and where my irrigation forms a huge puddle with ease. I need to find some water out in the woods and go sit by the water’s edge with him until he finds a way to walk up to it. A strange dog didn’t even phase Harley or Dulce, and Dulce is extremely athletic. I get excited about the rides that we will be doing one day. So, this is how I made some lemonade out of huge lemons.
I unload the horses, Harley last. I look into Harley’s eyes and shake my head. He did help teach Dulce to deal with all sorts of negative stuff.
“Okay, okay, you earned your hay.”