The Goldenrod Ride
My sister and I love to ride up to the show ring trails all the time—but particularly when the goldenrod is blooming. Sunday was a chilly, sunny morning—a perfect day to see the goldenrod. Instead of Dante, Ellen took Ranger. Ranger loves the trails up there since he used to live there. He gets all excited on the way out and pouts on the way home.
This day was no exception. He was a little slow to warm up as any 25-year-old would be, but once he did, he was very eager to be out. Ranger is the bully of the barn, and he loves to pick on the other horses. He likes to lead at the trot and gets angry when other horses pass. If we are walking and the bugs are bad, he wants the other horses to go first, though.
In the last few years, he invented a new game. Instead of trotting fast so other horses can’t pass, he slows down or stops to let them pass and then makes angry, threatening faces at them as they try to pass. Cruiser never cared—he was just happy to be in the lead. Cole and Dante get intimidated. We don’t like it because we want to keep trotting and not play the game at all.
I decided to try something new. Ellen would trot off with Ranger. I asked Cole to stop, clicked and treated him. That gave Ranger a chance to get 20 feet or so ahead. Then, I asked Cole to trot and match Ranger’s speed. The speed was a little slower than Cole wanted, but I just kept praising him and telling him what wonderful horse he was. The only time we ever caught up with Ranger was the time I wasn’t paying attention. It worked like a dream. Ellen got to trot Ranger as much as she liked, and Cole didn’t get picked on.
As we were trotting through the Lagoon, some people were standing in a parking lot by the trail. They pointed out Ranger and watched as he went by. I told Cole that this was our chance. I quit posting, squeezed my legs and Cole launched into his “Show Trot.” Ellen heard me chuckling, and she knew just what happened. I don’t know if the people looked at us, but if they did, Cole looked fantastic.
Ranger marched along to the big hill. Ellen leads him up because she wants to make it as easy as possible for him. (She has been getting spoiled from riding up with Dante.) We walked through the pretty pine forest and then we reached the “Pig Trail.” It is the best trail in the whole park since it is no where close to the river and is not subject to flooding. We trotted along—stopping only where it got muddy. Then, suddenly the trees ended and we were out in the field of goldenrods—and they are at their peak of blooming. It was yellow everywhere—except for the places that were the homes of purple asters and the last of the Joe Pye Weed. The sun was at a perfect angle—it looked quite magical.
We trotted along to the end of the trail, turned around and headed back. We did a little bit of trotting, but we didn’t want to overdo it with Ranger. We explored one side trail that doesn’t go far, but it is a fun trail, nonetheless. It is seldom traveled and many tall plants were obscuring the trail. Ranger had a great time eating. I was able to keep Cole from eating, and gave him a carrot at the end for resisting all that temptation, but I don’t know if he understood it.
After a walk break with Cole in the lead, Ellen thought we could try trotting with him in front. She doesn’t want Ranger to push himself too hard, so I would have to keep Cole at a slow and steady speed. I used to do this back we would ride with Ranger when my niece, Sarah, rode him, so I knew that Cole was up to the task. I asked Cole for a slow trot, and he went so slow that Ranger caught up to us and Ellen told us to speed up. I could feel Cole reacting to the pressure of Ranger being close to him. I asked him to go faster, and he did—but then Ranger turned into a bully—and Cole said, “I’m out of here.” He took off like lightning to get away from Ranger. I stopped him as soon as I could, looked around and saw Ranger charging down the trail. I missed his kitten buck and a couple of canter strides. (Ranger doesn’t canter under saddle anymore, so that was the real surprise. The kitten bucks are normal.)
So much for that experiment. After that, we walked home. At times, Ranger would want Cole in the lead, we would pass, he would make faces and sometimes get upset that Cole was then in the lead and insist he went in the back. Poor Cole. He was always glad to get behind Ranger.
It was a great ride, and I think that Ranger really enjoyed himself. Ellen and I sure did enjoy ourselves. I hope Cole did…