We’ve had a couple of good rides since Mimi, the opinionated walking horse and I had our little fight at the end of the driveway. Her basic problem I believe, is that she doesn’t want to go off the farm alone. The only route off of the farm is the paved public road leading to the trail system in the nearby state park. Fighting with a balky horse on pavement and in traffic is never a good idea. I had to devise another way to solve her problem.
It’s not good to work in a vacuum. Discussing training problems with other folks is always a good idea. I’ve been doing just that via the internet at site called horseforum.com . The best advice I got was to set the horse up for a balk in a safer place and work it out there. That is a bit problematic since the farm has only one way off the property, but I had some ideas.
The perimeter trail around the property runs past a wooded area. It also has a boggy place in it that bothers some of the horses. So, on a recent sunny afternoon, Mimi and I saddled up to see what would happen. The idea was to set her up for a balk in a safe area, then spank her backside sharply to keep her going forward. In the barn area, Mimi was her usual well behaved self. We walked down the long driveway, and before she had the chance to tense up at the road, I turned her onto the perimeter trail. The front part of the trail is dry and fairly open. The part we had started on bordered the pasture she is kept in. Mimi walked out calmly and confidently. The woods begin to close in on the back corner. I could feel Mimi getting worried, but she continued to move forward. The trail on the backside is a bit muddy and the tree branches overhang it in places. Mimi showed her agitation by getting a bit prancy but I insisted on a walk. The deeper we got into it, the more she showed signs that she wanted to turn back. Still it was a simple thing to keep her moving forward. When she was walking calmly, we turned around and went back through it. When we got to the front, Mimi made a halfhearted attempt to dodge back down the driveway, but we pushed past that easily. The front section of the trail parallels the public road, but we had already dealt with that. Around the corner, the bog awaited.
The farm property drains to this wooded area. I think there is a seep spring here as well. The place stays damp, even in dry weather. But we’ve had a wet winter, with several heavy rains. The bog is knee deep to a horse in places. We approached it at a walk. Mimi hesitated slightly but she stayed on track. Once we were into it, I took a chance and gave Mimi her head. She put her nose to the ground and picked her way through like a veteran trail horse. We continued around, through the wooded back side and past the driveway. Then, we turned around and made a complete lap in the other direction. She stayed a bit nervous on the back side, but never offered to balk. I took her back and forth in front of the driveway to reinforce that we only go home when I’m ready. Then, instead of turning directly into the drive, we made a little half cloverleaf turn at the top and went back to the barn.
While Mimi is proving that she will make a good trail horse, we were not successful in setting things up to correct the one flaw we’ve found in her. We’ll have to get a bit more creative next time.