Warning: if you don’t want to hear me talk about how wonderful my baby horse is, you should back away now.
Still here? Ok good, let me tell you about Presto’s weekend.
Hillary and I made a plan last week to take Presto and Dobby to Garey Park. Neither of us had been there yet but I knew the trails were mostly pea gravel and there was river access and it wasn’t super far away, so it seemed like a good first adventure for Presto. I hadn’t ridden him since last weekend, and my intention was to ride him on Saturday before we went trail riding on Sunday, but I pulled him out on Saturday and he just looked… so gross. He always grows a thicker summer coat, and he was super sweaty and just looked kind of miserable all around. So I aborted the riding plan and grabbed my clippers instead.
I was not at all prepared for a body clip and didn’t have an extra hour to bathe him and wait for him to dry, so it was… not my best work. I had a semi-dull blade on my Lister’s and a semi-dull blade on my Andis. His coat was so icky that the Andis wouldn’t even cut into it, I had to start swiping with the Listers and then come behind with the Andis. I did him in chunks in case my blades went completely caput, but managed to get 90% of him before they gave up the ghost. Look closely and you can see a still-hairy belly. And I didn’t clip his head. But whatever, he’s definitely much cooler and happier with less hair. I was not his favorite person by the time we were done, but he was pretty patient overall.
I had the brief thought on Saturday night that maybe I was a total idiot for wanting to go trail ride a 3yo who has only 12 rides, hadn’t been ridden in a week, and hadn’t been on a trailer in like 8 months. But… meh. I was pretty confident that he would be fine.
On Sunday I got to the barn, loaded all my stuff in the trailer, and grabbed Presto out of his pasture. He has always been easy to load (he’s been trailering since he was 2 days old, so that’s fair) but he hasn’t left the farm since we moved over here, and I wasn’t sure how he’d feel about being pulled away from his two Pasture Lyfe BFF’s and loaded up alone. But he walked right in the trailer, I went around and shut the ramp, and he was already eating from his hay net before we even got out of the driveway. No neighing, and didn’t seem concerned. Even Henry screams when I haul him out alone, and he takes a good 10-20 minutes to relax enough to eat his hay. The 3yo is showing him up.
We drove 40 minutes to Hillary’s barn to pick up her and Dobby. It was a quick stop – she tossed her tack in, dropped the ramp, loaded Dobby up (Presto’s reaction? “OH HEY FRIEND, WELCOME TO MY TRAILER!!!!”), and off we went.
We got to the park, unloaded the boys, and tacked them up. Presto was looking around in a interested way, but not nervous. He’d take a bite from his hay net, survey the parking area, and then repeat. No dancing around and no screaming.
There was a little arena near the parking area, so we decided to get on in there and make sure the boys seemed to have their brains in. I had stashed a lunge line in the trailer just in case, but Presto seemed pretty quiet so I decided to just go ahead and mount up. We walked around the arena (as a girl chased her horse around the adjacent round pen while cracking a lunge whip VERY LOUDLY) but they both seemed okay, so we headed out.
He was definitely a little looky at everything at first. No actual spooking (like Henry’s favorite teleport maneuver), but he was checking out every rock, bush, cactus, etc. This was his first real trail ride… I’ve hacked him outside of the arena a couple times at home through our fields, but this was obviously very different in a lot of ways. I was happy to let him go slow and look at his surroundings, as long as he kept going forward, which he did. In the beginning he was very much just following along with whatever Dobby did. Presto was brave enough to want to walk just slightly ahead of him, but definitely kept a solid eye on Dobby and what he was doing.
Our main objective was to ride down to the river, and on our way we got a nice variety of things thrown at us, including hikers, dogs, a stream crossing, a low water crossing, and other horses. And hills… lots of little semi-steep but fairly short hills. That’s EXACTLY what I want, to help him learn how to manage his feet and his balance, so I just stayed out of his way and let him pick his way up and down. Dobby wasn’t too sure about the low water bridge (in his defense it was spooky AF), which made Presto a little unsure, but we gave them time to figure it out and they crossed within a couple minutes. At the stream Presto decided that the only clear solution was to LEAP over it (and just about face first into a tree) so we took our time there again, going back and forth and moving forward one step a time so he could calmly figure it out and cross it more confidently. I was glad that he did what I asked and got across, but I wanted him to not just blindly leap over it like a banshee. We had the luxury of time, so we spent a few minutes letting him figure out the question.
When we emerged down on the river bank there were people sunbathing, swimming, and having picnics. It was visually kind of a lot – the big wide open river, people, screaming and running kids, strollers, etc. We stopped a little ways away and again just let them look and assess everything before asking them to move on. We slowly made our way down the bank and into the river.
Where we were at was nice and shallow, so you could ride quite a ways down the river itself. We stood for a while and let the water run past their feet before we started moving, walking about 100 yards down the river. I have to be honest, the thing I was worried about most with this trip was Presto trying to lay down with me in the river. He got a drink, and he splashed a tiny bit, but mostly was just content to stand there and observe his surroundings.
By the time we came out of the river it was getting pretty hot and we’d been riding long enough, so we just headed straight back the way we came. It gave us the chance to do a couple more repeats over the stream, and it was much better. Neither of them hesitated at the low water crossing this time either, and by this point Presto was no longer looking carefully at all the bushes. I could tell he was definitely starting to feel tired… while we stuck completely to walking, this was still definitely more work for him than he’s done so far, especially with the terrain. He was content to take a solid lead on the way back though, not worrying about relying on Dobby to hold his hand. I put him on the buckle and let him walk along however he wanted.
Once we got back to the trailers we hosed the boys off, gave them some water, and loaded back up to make the drive back to Hillary’s barn. This was the second thing I’d been worried about – what would Presto do when we took Dobby off the trailer and he had to continue his journey alone? As we pulled out of her barn he looked around the trailer a bit, seemingly confused about where the heck Dobby had gone, but he didn’t get upset. He went back to alternating between munching his hay and propping his butt against the ramp to nap. I was really really proud of him for that, because Henry for sure would have been an idiot. Presto showed a lot of maturity for a 3yo.
He unloaded quietly at home and I took him straight back out to his pasture, shoving like 6 cookies in his mouth. I was pretty confident that he was ready for a day like that, but still he really blew me away and exceeded every expectation. I was so proud of the intelligence he showed all day. He never once came anywhere remotely close to a meltdown, and I threw a lot at him in one day. I mean, I thought he’d handle it fine, but you never really know for sure until you try. Gold star for the little boy, he really put on his big boy pants.
He did chip up his feet a little bit though, so I think I’m going to buy Presto his own pair of hoof boots for trail riding. While he’s got good feet, there’s no getting around the fact that it’s really freaking rocky in this part of the world, so it seems like a worthwhile investment if we’re gonna keep going on trail rides while he’s barefoot.
Many thanks to Hillary for being willing to come along on this adventure and helping Presto with his first trail ride, and of course for helping document it with pictures. Hope everyone else had a good weekend too!