How do you know when you’re riding a thoroughbred? Well, first off, I think they can read. While I was traveling, a new gate and some very yellow caution tape appeared at the entrance to our trail system.
Secondly, they are very sensitive to new things. They remember exactly what the trail looked like the last time they walked down it. Freedom took one look at the tape and the gate and started to shake. He thought seriously about bolting. Can’t you see it says caution? He asked me. We need to get out of here!
Not wanting to escalate the situation, I dismounted and stood with him by the tape. The wind blew. The tape shook and rattled. Freedom snorted and jumped. Then he planted his feet.
We stood quietly and contemplated the new path and the rustling tape. I scratched his neck for awhile. He stretched way, way forward without moving his feet and sniffed the wood chips on the ground. After several minutes, he moved incrementally toward the path. In total, it took him about seven (long) minutes to walk through it with me in the lead. For several more minutes he jumped whenever he heard something rustle.
Coming home was better. I still had to dismount but he was content to follow me through. I love how he trusts me to be brave even when he isn’t.
Then I took out Zelda. Riding a draft cross is a completely different experience.
Zelda looked at the new fence. She considered the caution tape. She looked long and hard at the grass growing behind the tape. She was mightily disappointed that she was not allowed to taste it. Then she walked through the gauntlet of tape onto the scary new wood chips like she had done it every day. I love this horse. She is smart. Sometimes she’s too smart, but she’s always thinking.