Arena exercises had not gone so well for Adrienne and Popular Five “Bo”. They were both tired and a little sore from the prior weekend’s activities. Wanting to end on a positive note, Adrienne took Elizabeth’s advice and went for a walk in the woods. They were accompanied by Katelyn and Spot Run “Spot”.
As Assistant Head Trainer and guardian of the Bits & Bytes kingdom, I feel it’s my duty to keep a watch over my horses and their people. I find it occasionally helpful to do this in “stealth” mode, i.g., stalking through grass and hiding under bushes, which allows me to see how horse and rider interact when they think no Trainers are watching. I went into “stealth” mode and followed the group out of the arena.
The quartet was joined by With Wings and So Romeo, whose pasture is adjacent to the path to the woods. Wings quickly spotted me, as he is Elizabeth’s horse and occasionally assists with training. He gave a subtle nod, but did not alert the others to my presence.
As the group neared the woods, Adrienne and Bo let Katelyn and Spot take the lead. The entrance to the wood is protected by an enchanted brook and Bo was still new to crossing through water. He preferred for someone else step in first.
Spot calmly approached the water, and then pretending to be The Pie at Becher’s Brook, sprang to the opposite bank. Bo declined to enter the brook. Spot had not actually stepped into the water so he was not quite convinced it was safe. Katelyn and Spot offered encouragement while Adrienne kicked, clucked and cajoled. It wasn’t pretty, but she remained calm, rewarded progress and did not stare down at the water. Her already fatigued legs soon gave out. Forced to rest her legs, she fired up her mouth, “You are the horse of kings! You can do this!” Bo like many thoroughbreds thrives on praise. He lowered his head, until his lips nearly touched the water, and conducted a thorough search for water sprites and river monsters. Not finding any, he cautiously put a foot in and then quickly tiptoed across.
Not aware of Adrienne’s proclivity to taking the road less traveled (figuratively and literally) Katelyn and Spot allowed her and Bo to take point as they set off through the wood. Once the group was a safe distance from the brook, I found a shallow crossing. I was forced to stop and swat off a few water sprites who tried riding me across, but I soon caught up with the troop. Bo and Spot happily padded along the loamy ground while the girls laughed and shared stories. Bo willingly went where Adrienne directed, even when they ventured down a seldom ridden, slightly overgrown section of trail. Spot bravely followed with Katelyn, curious to see what lay ahead.
Thankfully the wood nymphs, trolls and fairies stayed out of site and behaved themselves, for the most part… Someone pushed an old fencepost across the trail. Adrienne noticed nails in it, as Bo stepped over. Bo showed great maturity when Adrienne dismounted and moved the post. He then patiently stood while she mounted from the off side. Spot quietly kept Katelyn at a safe distance from the hazard.
They trekked only a short distance before encountering dense foliage and a log across the trail. Bo hesitated briefly and then started over. He stopped halfway over and would not take another step. Katelyn was the first to see that Bo was hung up in a thorny vine. Adrienne looked closer and found that some mischievous creature had used the vine to lasso his muzzle (apparently OTTBS are desired in the magical realm as well). Bo surprised even me when he gingerly offered his nose to Adrienne and stood quietly while she freed him from the brambles. Spot and Katelyn wisely found a briar free detour.
The horses and their girls eventually found themselves back at the brook. Adrienne decided to take Bo across first. Bo did not agree with the decision and anchored himself several feet from the brook. Seeing the standoff, Wings left his grazing, walked over and stepped into the snippet of brook that cuts though his pasture. Wings stood with his front hooves in the creek, looked at Bo and gave a “See, it’s safe” look. Bo walked down to the water’s edge, but still wasn’t sure about crossing. Wings stretched his neck out and placed his muzzle between the fence boards. Bo stretched towards Wings, without stepping in the water. Wings whispered words of encouragement while Adrienne whispered a little prayer. Bo lowered his outstretched muzzle to the water, paused and then carefully walked across. I’m not sure what Wings said, but I would imagine it had something to do with him ponying Bo across his first creek just two days earlier.
There wasn’t a water sprite in site as I crossed back into the kingdom. I stopped briefly to praise Wings, before taking a short cut through his pasture. I was waiting in the barn, purring with pride, when Spot and Bo contentedly followed their girls into the barn.
If you, the rider, are having an “off” day due to being sick, over tired, injured, etc. , you would be wise to avoid an intense session or introducing a new skill. Instead, try a walk through the woods, brushing up on fundamentals, or just grooming and hanging out.
It is important, for horse and rider, to end training sessions with a positive experience. It is especially important when working with a young or green horse.
*Spot Run’s favorite movie is National Velvet. He can relate to Pie because he used to leap out of his paddock for entertainment and back in for dinner.