So my lesson yesterday had it’s challenges. I normally do not ride Alfie 2 days in a row, but last night I got to thinking. My boy loves to trail ride. And we hadn’t been trail riding in a very long time. We have a nice path that goes around part of the property into a lovely woodsy section of forest. Alfie and I only did one super short ride back there when we first moved to this barn which was a year and a half ago. So I decided that today, I was going to ride him outside.
I spoke with my trainer and barn manager and they both thought it would be something Alfie would enjoy. My barn manager Regina took it one step further and said, how about a trail ride? We have an amazing pony named Tommy who is staying at our barn for the week and he is a trail master. So Regina would ride him and I would ride Alfie. Of course I said yes!
Here’s the deal with me and trail riding. I’ve done it bunches of times. I enjoy it. But it lacks the “safety” of riding in an arena. So I’m never 100% comfortable. But Alfie is. This is his jam.
I get to the barn, get Alfie from his field, he enjoys his brunch and I tell him we are going to go on a trail ride today. Of course he just keeps eating his brunch 🤣🤣.
As I’m getting Alfie tacked up, I find out that Regina’s wife Jenna, their son Allan and their friend Sarah are also going to be coming along. So we’ve got 2 people on horses and 3 pedestrians. How cool is this! I internally breathe a little sigh of relief. It’s been a long time since I’ve taken Alfie out on a trail and yeah, I admit, I’m a little nervous. So having some people walking with us just in case Alfie or I needed them, was a comfort.
I know, you are reading this and wondering what is my deal? I’ve had Alfie for over 4 years, he’s never done anything to put me in harms way, why do I still get nervous or anxious. Trust me, I’ve have this same discussion with myself over and over and over. The bottom line is, I trust Alfie 99.9% of the time. It’s that .1% that gets me. And you know what, that’s ok! He is an animal, and his instincts can kick in at anytime, and it’s that unknown that causes my nerves to get a bit edgy.
After Alfie is all tacked up, it’s time for the mounting block. I line him up, get him situated, adjust his position a bit, ask him to stand, climb the stairs, grab the reins and I get on. Holy cow. He stood. If there hadn’t been a bunch of people standing in the arena looking at me, I would’ve cried happy tears (I finally did once I got home 😊)
We warm up in the arena for several minutes, he’s much more willing today which was a nice change from yesterday. After our warmup we head out.
Regina is a former horse wrangler at a dude ranch so I know if we run into any issues she’s got my back. As we round the corner and head away from the barn she looks back and asks me if I’m ok. I tell her I’m a little nervous, it’s been a long time and she says, it’s all good, and it’s ok to be nervous. Alfie is very excited to be walking outside past the barn, he’s able to keep pace really nicely with the pony Tommy. He’s got some spring in his step.😊
As we enter the trail, I actually stop and look around and the beauty. And then I realize how different I feel to be out on a trail from the previous times I’ve trail ridden. Yes, I’m a little nervous, but it’s a different kind of nervous, it’s more like some butterflies in my tummy than actual fear. And the reason is so simple, I’m a much more confident and skilled rider than I was before. I’ve got this.
The terrain on this trail is basically a dirt road, which is perfect for Alfie with his tendon issues. I can see what we are stepping on and so can he. Our first obstacle was some puddles. Alfie generally doesn’t like to walk through puddles although I’ve gotten good and getting him through them. But today wasn’t about what I can accomplish with him, it’s about him. This ride was for him, so we rode around the puddles. And then we saw it….a hunting shack…🧐
So here is this hunting shack, grey in color, nestled in the bushes. As we approach it, Alfie takes one look at it and immediately gets startled. He didn’t really spook but you could see he was trying to figure out what it was and why it was it in the bushes. He walks away from it giving it a wide berth yet he can’t stop looking at it. So I stop him and turn him slightly so he can see it with both of his eyes. We paused for about 5 seconds and then we walked on. This is the first time I was able to keep Alfie calm, cool and collected with something scary. The last time we encountered something scary, he spinned around and around until he didn’t see it anymore. I stayed on him but felt like I failed him because I needed help getting him past it. This time, he trusted me, and I didn’t let him down. I proved to him I had his back.👍🏻
We get to the end of the trail and turn around to head back. The trail ride was about 25 min, and I can honestly say we both enjoyed it. But again, this wasn’t about me, this was about him. Every Sunday – weather permitting, we are going to ride this trail. ❤️🐴