"And, when you want something, the entire Universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." -The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Conquering Fears

I want to write about this before I forget.

The weather has not been cooperating this week for going on the trails. If it's not been actively raining, it simply hasn't been sunny long enough to allow them to dry. Plus with my mom in town, I've been riding at odd hours too.

So we've been doing other things.

*We added our third 4-minute trot set!*

There have been more encounters with the bath mat:

We started like this...
(This is her absolutely refusing to step on the damn mat. She preferred to sidepass around it rather than just walking over it...)

Then went to this...

And finished with this!
It took all of 15 minutes!

Over the weekend, I was able to hand walk Lily once down to the creek. I had noticed, during one of our many forays over the big bridge, that there was a gap in the brush through which you could go down to the water's edge. So I took her down for her first REAL close encounter with running water.

The bank of the creek.

"I wanna go THAT way. There's no water that way!"
Exactly, Lily. That's why we're going THIS way.
It actually wasn't hard to send her into the creek at all; I kept it really low key, and she went right on in after the second try. WAY easier than when I introduced her to ditches back in November!
It didn't take very long for her to realize that running water is just like standing water: it doesn't eat horses.

She even drank from the creek, but I didn't get a photo.

I'd say this was a huge success, don't you think? :)
She chose to stay in the water for several minutes before deciding to come back out. I asked her to go back in one more time, where she splish splashed again some more, and then we headed back to the barn.

We rode Monday in the indoor, since it was after work and getting dark by then. On Tuesday, the weather was horrible, and both arenas were being used for lessons. I had planned to ride in the big field or one of the paddocks, but the guys were running late with their morning chores, and all of the horses were still turned out. So much for that...we went for a walk around the property instead, where Lily got to hang out in giant puddles.

She drank from this puddle, too. Now she needs to learn to drink under saddle.
Totally chill about being in the water.
We finally discovered an empty paddock. We got lucky: the horse was being ridden in one of the lessons! So we lunged a bit, and Lily got to wear a raincoat for the first time ever.

"Why do I have to wear this thing?"
Because you were afraid of it, silly girl.
She was really good about walking with it on, and after it fell off one time, she was very careful to walk so as to not dislodge it again.
Wednesday was the day we rode in the big field, that I posted about yesterday.

Today I was planning on taking her out on the trails. It had not rained all day, and the trailhead, which is muddy-ish on a normal basis, was (surprisingly) fairly dry when I arrived at the barn: a good indicator of the overall condition of the trail.

No sooner had I started grooming Lily than the skies opened up and it POURED. And poured, and poured. And then it poured some more. The rain was falling sideways, and there was thunder and lightning. I had just sedated her, too.

The outdoor was flooded within seconds. John, the BO, and the guys, Alex and Juan, were working in the indoor, pressure cleaning the walls.  They have been doing this for the last 2 days. Riding in there was out of the question with the racket, plus they were using the tractor to lift Alex up to ceiling height so he could clean up the rafters. Not an environment conducive to a quiet ride, especially on a stall-rested horse.

I couldn't leave her locked in, though. So I put Lily's rope halter on, attached the longe line, and took her to the indoor. The guys were working at the far end, over by the row of stalls, so they weren't actually within the confines of the arena itself. I walked Lily around and despite the ace, she did spook once at the activity, which made me glad I had decided to stay off. It was a pretty big spook! I let her look around and she rolled her eyes at the noise of the pressure cleaner, but walked behind me obediently.

I took her to the opposite end of the arena, lay down the bath mat again, and worked on longing her over it. We did 2 walk sets and two 4-minute trot sets, alternating, first going over just the bath mat, then over a ground pole placed on top of the bath mat. She was looky initially, and I had to lead her over it a few times, but it wasn't very long at all before she was trotting over the obstacle with barely a glance at it.

At this point it stopped raining. And the guys finished with their pressure cleaning. So I cut Lily's session short, thinking I'd finish lunging her in the big field. I started leading her out there, then changed my mind and decided I'd ride her for the last 10 minutes or so.

In the indoor.

No, in the big field.

No, on the trail.

On the wet, muddy, sopping trail. It would be a short ride after all, only 10-15 minutes, and only walking.

I tacked her up and took her out. I was feeling super calm and super brave, and had complete faith in my mare. This is not the kind of thing I would have normally attempted, but I just had a really, really good feeling about it. Go figure.

The trail head was now, of course, uber-muddy, and there was a creek flowing right through the path. Lily initially balked at this, but I insisted. She snorted and danced, forward, backwards, forward, backwards. She looked at the trickle of water in front of her (it was only a foot wide!!) a couple of times, and I continued to gently insist with heels and voice. She finally gave a huge snort and popped across the tiny stream. The entire process, from initial balk to the crossing of the stream, took maybe two minutes max.

The rest of the trail was shiny with water, and she hesitated briefly but trudged on when I encouraged her. As we rounded the corner, I realized the entire trail itself had turned into running water. (About an inch deep, and running clear; you could see the footing underneath.) She snorted and hesitated once, then walked right through when I asked. I was so.proud.of.her!

We continued on up the trail, and when it was dryer, with better traction, I asked her to trot for a short ways (maybe 10 strides max.) Instead of crossing the street to continue on into the Bayou Trail, I had her follow the road down to the big bridge. The first part of the Bayou Trail gets super slick when it's this wet, and I wasn't going to fry her brain asking her to negotiate that. Especially when we're still rehabbing!

There were ginormous puddles in front of the big bridge, and the creek was running pretty high. Lily balked at the sound of the rushing water, but I made her circle in the puddles, and soon she was tentatively stepping onto the bridge. She startled right as we were making it completely across, but whoa'd when I asked, saving her from slipping and sliding on the wood. Phew! We stepped off and I pondered what to do next. Go backwards up the Bayou Trail for a ways? (The trail loops back onto this road. The final portion of the trail also always has good footing.) Go down to the creek shore where we'd gone over the weekend, to see if she'd do it under saddle? Or just continue straight ahead up the road?

I decided to continue straight ahead up the road. The road has good traction, and is a slow gradual slope. We have only been once up that way, and it was back in February with Charles. The road looked WAY different now! It was green now, of course, and super overgrown. Lily hesitated at the idea of going up into the unknown, but I urged her into a careful jog and gave her her head. This worked beautifully! She marched up that hill like nobody's business. We reached a house at the top, then I had her turn around, and we slowly walked back down. I had to duck branches, we both got wet, and she got rubbed by some tree limbs sticking out. Something that, at another time, she would have freaked out about. Today she handled all of this really well. We survived!

It's funny: this is downhill, but the angle of the photo makes it look like we were going uphill.
An ear cocked at my "Good girl!!"
We crossed the bridge uneventfully, then made our way back to the barn. I got this video for you guys, so you can see the part of the trail that was flooded and how well she negotiated it! Mind you, I was riding one-handed so I could film, too.

This is the same mare that was deathly afraid of mud and water this past winter.

It was a 15 minute ride. Despite the mud and water, Lily was 100% surefooted on her bare feet the entire way.

And my feeling that it would be a really good ride? Totally correct! :)

She received treats and a bath afterwards, and I took photos of her feet. Compare to here, only about 6 weeks ago!

Left front (clubbier foot)

Left hind
I need to touch up her bars again

Right front
The flatter, more crooked foot. See how much straighter it looks?

Right hind.
Left front (clubbier foot)
Left hind

Right front (the flat foot - already looks less underslung!)

Right hind
She did chip it a bit on the trail.


  1. Feet are looking really great!

    1. Thank you! It is amazing how quickly they've changed.

  2. Replies
    1. I know, right? I was so excited. My first thought was, "I have to tell Liz!

  3. Ugh! I wish Archie tolerated water that well!

    1. It took MONTHS to get her to this point, believe me! And I'm still not sure what she will do when she has to cross water on a completely new and unfamiliar trail. Archie will get there too. You'll see. :) Just don't give up!