Angel has been at the new stable for two weeks. He’s settled in nicely, gets along with his neighbors, and seems to be happy. Time to get to work.
One of the main reasons I moved him was so we’d have access to trails. I don’t have my own rig and trailer, so if I don’t have trail access from the barn, we’re stuck. Before we moved to Applecreek Farms – the stable we just left – we had that access and hit the trail all the time. Angel enjoyed the time away from the barn and we had many very good rides. So my immediate goals now are to re-orient Angel to trail work and build up my own confidence riding outside the arena. To experienced riders, that probably seems silly. Just get on and go! But I’ve always struggled periodically with fears of falling off and getting hurt – not unfounded fears, as this has happened in the past! I’ve been riding just inside an arena for so long that I feel stuck. Getting outside the “safe” confines of the arena always makes me a little nervous. Sometimes, a lot nervous. Which of course makes Angel nervous as well.
I’m making some unexpected discoveries. There’s just the two of us now – Angel and me, no trainer – so our focus is really on each other and not on a third participant.
Discovery #1: I can trust my horse. Angel is a good horse. Rod has trained him well, and he has a good heart and mind. He’s not going to do anything bad on purpose. Just because he’s looking around at all the new sights and sounds doesn’t mean he’s going to spook at them. He’s just looking. This may sound a little to “airy” to some, but I can tell when he can tell that I’m trusting him.
Discovery #2: Angel is sick to death of arena work. That’s the vast majority of what we’ve done for the past several years. We’ve been out on some trails, and we’ve done some cattle sorting, and we’ve gone to a couple off-site clinics, but the day-to-day riding has been done in the arena.
Yesterday, after warming up in the arena for about 20 minutes, I rode Angel all around the ranch several times, and then out on the trail just a little. I rode for about an hour and a half, and we had a ball. Today, after warming up in the arena for about five minutes, I guided Angel out of the arena, to the gate off the ranch and we hit the trail. Angel had no energy for the arena at all. He kept looking at the gate, and I knew that he wanted to go do something else. He enjoyed the trail, and moved out willingly. Next weekend, we’ll build on that and go out further.
Arena work is incredibly valuable for training and practice. But we train and practice for something, and for me, that something is trail riding. Slowly but surely, we’re getting our groove back!