Monday night I made spur-of-the-moment plans to meet my friend Hannah at the barn for a short ride. I zipped out there to meet her and we had the horses tacked up in rapid fashion, Hannah on Q and I on Griffin.
For the second time, I mounted Griffin cold-backed. He took the lead position, his favorite, and we walked out of the barnyard, down the drive, and crossed the creek.
Hannah and I chatted amiably the whole time. This kept me from over-assessing what Griffin was doing and potentially sending him subtle signals to cause alarm.
He questioned the best way to cross through the ice to cross the creek, but figured it out without issue. Once in the field on the other side, we walked at a stately pace and wound up the 4-wheeler road.
We then met up with the backroad, choosing to walk down it a ways and then double back on another woodland trail in order to gain the most light from the setting sun. (The woods get dark so much faster.)
The back road was slick in places from packed snow turning to ice from car tires, but Griffin did pretty well. he'd try to walk in the tire tracks, slip some, and then I'd chastise him verbally - calmly - and request he move to the side. He was so alert and focused the whole time. Such a good guy!
When we had to cross a small creek (2-ft in width from waters edge to waters edge), he was a bit concerned. Not wanting to create a bad situation, I requested that Hannah and Q lead. They did and Griffin crossed without issue. Good boy!
Griffin and I regained the lead on the woodland trail. I hadn't been on the trail since Franken-superstorm Sandy. Its still a mess. We had to do a lot of bushwacking and weaving for the next 5 minutes. Griffin was a super star!
He wound around things as I requested, was sure-footed and cautious where he needed to be, and completely unbothered when I had to take the time to lean down low on his neck to avoid certain branches. <3
When we reached a dilapidated barn in the woods, he got pretty spooked. I tried to get him to walk past, but the darkness between the gaping boards of the side of the barn spooked him. He spun on his haunches in an attempt to bolt. I pulled him up chastising him for being ridiculous and tried again. Same response. Q and Hannah led. Griffin still wouldn't go!
Instead of creating a fight or a bad experience, I dismounted and led him by, chastising him all the while in a calm, sarcastic tone of voice, "If you walk over me or run into me I will kill you. Just so you know. You are absolutely ridiculous. Ri.dic.u.lous. Its just a barn. Not a monster. *walk by completed* Oops, yep, how was that? Yeah? Yep. You died. You're dead. You died. The barn killed you. The monsters ate you. You're not here now. You died. Worst day ever. *rolls eyes* You're not allowed to be this dramatic in the future. *remounts* Seriously, though. Monsters. You died. *eye roll*"
After the old barn there is an open field segment that we traverse to reach the next stretch of woods. I said, "Trot" aloud. Griffin immediately trotted - no popping up either! "Can-ter!" Immediately into this slow, uphill canter - no popping up again! It was a JOYOUS canter. I was giggling with delight. SO FUN.
"Trot." Immediate downward transition. "Wa-alk." Immediate downward transition again. "Good boy!!" Praise, pats, happiness.
We bushwacked and traversed through the woods to a more open trail segment to finish our little loop. "Trot!" Immediate transition - no popping up! "Can you can-ter?!" Immediate transition - no popping up. Once again, that slow, uphill canter. *swoon*
Then suddenly low, broken branches across the trail. "WHOA." Immediate downward transition to a fast halt. "Good boy!!"
We traversed the obstacle, then made our way down the trail once more with trotting and cantering. No popping up. Perfect transitions. *more swooning*
The last stretch to the barn continued with perfection. He was a doll. I was beside myself.
*This* is the horse that is underneath all of the silly antics. I know it. *This* is the horse that pairs perfectly with the personality that I've come to know so well from our 2 years of ground work. *This* is my future athlete in many pursuits; my partner who will be a solid, dependable guy that I can trust to carry others around without spooking at nonsensical things as Q does. *This* horse...this horse is after my heart.