Snowy Ride with Cole
I have been working with Cole in the arena with much determination to train him to be an awesome horse. Well, the other day, I decided I am getting a little off track. I have been neglectful of his trail training. The real reason isn’t my goals in the arena. The real reason is the weather and dark evenings.
We had a rather nice day that landed on the weekend, so I decided it was time to test him in the snow. I had already ridden him in the arena for a half hour, the sun was shining and the trail was calling.
When Cruiser was the same age as Cole (5), he was impossible on the trail in to cold and snowy weather. After a few disastrous attempts, I gave up until spring. Mingo, on the other hand, was a dream horse by that age. Of course, they were completely different personalities. Cole is somewhere in the middle. Would he get all excited and uncontrollable like Cruiser used to? Would he be a mellow and careful horse like Mingo? It was time to find what Cole would be like.
I told Ellen, who was watching us ride, that I was going down the hill. She got a funny look on her face, and I thought that was a bad sign. Could I be asking too much from my spunky, young horse who hadn’t had a good turnout in a couple of weeks?
I led him down the driveway to the trail. I asked him to do his silly walk a couple of times to get him focused on me. At the trail, I mounted and away we went. Our goal was to ride to the uncrossable river and back. Since we have consistently had more troubles on the hill than anywhere else on the trail, it wasn’t as easy as it sounded.
We started out fine. About halfway down, on a flat section, we encountered our first ice under the 2 inches of snow. He slipped, but recovered and kept going. At this point, I asked him to slow down and pay attention to his feet by jiggling the rein to get him to lower his head. It worked. He became very aware of where he was stepping instead of gawking at the trees.
I was a little nervous where the slope resumed because of the ice. I kept encouraging him to be foot aware, and it worked. We found no ice on the slope. I think there may not have been any.
The hill gets very steep at the bottom, and he often gets excited there. Nothing I did worked, here, as he motored down it at a very fast walk. Thank goodness there wasn’t any ice. We walked to the end, turned around and we headed up the hill.
Sometimes he gets excited going up because he is going home, but he was simply perfect. He walked at a moderate speed in a careful manner. He didn’t slip in the icy part because I asked him to look down and step with care, and he did.
I was so very pleased with our little, 15 minute ride. He did as well as he would have in the summer time in spite of the snow and cold. Also, he acted calmly on the ice—something Cruiser doesn’t always do. (Cruiser has to keep his shoes on for therapeutic reasons, so he doesn’t go out in the snow anymore.)
It will be many weeks before it will be light enough after work to go riding on the hill, so we will still be working hard in the arena. On the weekends, though, when the weather is reasonable and the conditions are good, I will try to get him out a little bit for variety. I think he will be fine.