I got out for a little toot on Dharla yesterday. Aldo and his buddy were planning to go for a ride mid-afternoon, but I figured they’d head for the woods which I knew would be much too slick for my taste. So I waited until they left, then headed out to get Dharla ready to go. To say she was worked up at Bullet’s having left already would be a bit of an understatement. I slipped her rope halter on then clipped a lead rope to it. Her MO is much like Tia’s used to be when she was agitated: she circles in her stall and moves from one stall door to the other, looking (and hollering) for her buddy. Ultimately, this has the potential for me to get knocked around and I won’t stand for it. I grabbed a hold of the lead rope as I brushed her and every time she tried to swing around and move to the other stall door I gave a short tug on her halter. It took about three tugs before Dharla realized I meant business and the wild look in her eyes started to subside. I looped the lead rope around her neck and went to get my saddle, then stood next to her for a few seconds before I swung it up on her back. I unwound the lead rope and held it in one hand as I finished tacking up, which I do in gradual stages. By the time we were ready to head down to the ring Dharla was relaxed and ready to go to work.
We did our usual ground work routine in the ring. I’d carried Dharla’s bridle down with me and when I felt she was sufficiently warmed up and paying attention to me I slipped it over her head, opened the gate and mounted up. We started our ride by going down the dirt road (past lots of big puddles) to the trail that winds through the woods and empties out on the AL trail. Dharla was alert, but not spooky. When we arrived at the rock ledges where she usually gives me a hard time, I noticed a new large branch had fallen to the direct right of the trail and lay alongside the base of the rock ledges. I figured Dharla would be apprehensive of that and we didn’t get very close before she stopped and locked up. I gave her some time to look and think about it before asking her to move forward. Brush isn’t anything new, but she quickly tried to turn and avoid moving forward in the direction I’d asked. I backed her up about ten yards, then turned her around. Again, she stood stock still and stared at the large branch. When I asked her to move forward she repeated the same routine, turning and trying to walk away in the opposite direction. I stopped her (again) and backed her up double the previous distance. When I stopped and turned her around and asked her to move on, she complied. She gave the branch the evil eye as we passed, but she didn’t fall apart. She continued to be a bit edgy as we walked the rest of the way through the rock ledge area, but she never shied at anything else. (Yay!)
The rest of our ride was fairly uneventful. We encountered at least five different groups of people out hiking with various unleashed dogs. Nearly all of the people and dogs we met were clueless about horse and trail etiquette and two of the dogs were downright threatening. Dharla held it together beautifully but I wanted to throttle them. (The dogs AND their people.) Get a clue, folks!
I felt Dharla moved very well and responded quite well to all my cues with the only exception being the little tug of wills that we got into at the rock ledges. But even that is getting better every ride. What is really important to note here is that I didn’t ride Dharla once the last week, but I was able to get right on her and go after just a very brief session of ground work and a few short circles (at a walk, no less) on a short lead rope. This makes me very pleased considering it’s spring and I know Dharla’s feeling quite good and full of herself! Generally speaking, this girl gets right down to business once a saddle is put on her back. I so love that about her. I also think the Clam Mare Ultra is helping her feel a bit less skittish and spooky. Or maybe it’s just the fact that I’ve been riding her consistently on the same trails for the last several months? I don’t know, but I do feel like we’re making some nice progress. I can’t wait for the ground to start to dry up a bit so we can get out on some different trails!
Time: 2.5 hrs
Distance: 6 mi.