Last Saturday I left the safety of the enclosed paddock and ventured out on the trails with Sheldon.
To stack the odds in our favor, we waited for a day when Curly could be the lead horse. Sheldon loves Curly. Most horses seem to but Sheldon has become extremely attached to her. The attraction started when Curly’s stall door was left unlatched and I found the two of them grazing contentedly side by side. They’ll even share hay from the same Nibblenet.
I had take Sheldon out to explore the property shortly after he arrived and I knew that getting him to cross the bridge to the trials wasn’t going to happen on my own. The rushing water made the experience so scary for him that it took me several minutes to get him close enough to even look at it. I also worried that if I eventually did get him over, I might not get him back. It’s a very long walk down a busy road if that were to occur.
But with Curly in the lead and me leading him, he barely hesitated. Obviously the thought of being left behind was scarier than crossing the bridge.
We took it easy on the ride — staying on wooded trails and only walking. Sheldon was great. Sure he jigged a bit, but not very much and he could have cared less about the people out walking their dogs that we passed. The only time I had to get off to lead him was when we crossed another bridge. I don’t mind leading a green horse past or over scary things. I’ve introduced several horses to trail riding (Can your horse learn to love trails) and have found that hand walking a horse (if it has good ground manners) can help them get over the apprehension of exploring the great outdoors more quickly than riding them through it.
The only way that I could tell that the experience made Sheldon quite nervous was that he ground his teeth and chomped the bit. He will occasionally grind his teeth when I ride him in the field, but this was pretty much continuous. Poor boy, he wants to be good and he doesn’t act out in any of the more unacceptable ways, but it’s going to take him awhile before he starts to feel comfortable out on the trials. I was also treated to a bit of giraffe neck so I suspect that a running martingale would be useful addition to his tack next time I take him out.
We were out for about a half an hour and then I worked him for a bit in the field. He’s getting much more responsive to my leg and hardly ever just stops dead like he used to. Right now we’re still just walking, trotting and working on steering. Pretty soon he’ll be ready to canter.