In 2017, Candy and I logged 27 hours of trail riding (and a little hunting!) and earned our 25-hour patch from TIP’s Thoroughbred Recreational Riding Incentive Program. My goal is to reach the 100-hour mark in 2018. Cold weather kept us at home for much of January, but we’re back on the trails and have added 6 more hours to our log!
At the end of January, we celebrated a friend’s birthday by trail riding at nearby Oologah Lake. Candy was awful. We were out for about two hours, and she jigged restlessly the whole time. The only time she was quiet and calm was when she was standing in the frigid lake- she’s a big fan of water, even when it’s chilly!
A couple of weeks ago, we went out with Harvard Fox Hounds at their usual fixture, Flint Creek. Candy started out pretty well- she was paying attention to me and seemed eager to go. I kept her towards the back of first field; she’s gotten much, much better about not kicking at horses behind or near her, but I like to err on the side of caution. It wasn’t a great day for hunting, as it was very windy and the hounds seemed to be distracted. We had a couple of draws, and the hounds eventually opened on a line that led us down a sketchy gravel road, into some open bottomland near the creek, and up into an open pasture. Once we arrived in the pasture, we re-gathered the hounds and tried to figure out where we’d ended up; no one, from the staff to the longtime hunt members, seemed to know exactly where we were. Candy was not very patient during this break- she fidgeted and paced and was very annoyed. When the hounds were reassembled, we headed back toward familiar territory. Candy’d had just about enough of hunting at this point, and decided to fling herself sideways down the trails, heedless of the brambles and branches scraping and poking her. I tried to sit quietly and stay calm, which didn’t do much to settle her down, but didn’t seem to make her more agitated. Finally, a friend told me to plant Candy’s nose on top of his mare’s tail. I’m so grateful for him and his giant draft cross- with that mare’s big booty blocking her way, Candy gave up on jigging on resigned herself to walking for most of the ride back home.
I went trail riding at Oologah Lake with a couple of friends yesterday; Candy was like a totally different horse. She was calm and relaxed, and happily led the way for most of the ride. She stepped and hopped over lots of downed trees, trekked up steep inclines, and shimmied handily down hills. No visit to Oologah is complete without a plunge in the lake; it took a lot of convincing to get her to leave the water! She didn’t spook at the half-dozen armadillos we saw during our ride, and she didn’t jig once. She walked confidently, with a big swinging stride.
Candy definitely seems to be more comfortable trail riding in small groups. She’s been really good when out with one or two other horses, and at her worst in large groups. She’s also happier leading the way. That’s usually fine on trail rides, but it’s trickier for hunting. (Maybe she wants to be a staff horse.) I think I’ll try to stick to riding in small groups and gradually introduce more and more horses into our outings as Candy (hopefully) becomes more comfortable about being part of a group.
If I’m going to trail ride on her for 67 more hours in 2018, I ought to have more than enough time to help Candy overcome her group anxiety!