I know such glooms and blahs as I wrote about in my last post don’t lift easily, so I’m taking the steps to shake them off, little pushes forward towards the habits I used to have. On Saturday my friends and I were finally able to meet up at Hardy Creek, a trailhead I’ve ridden at extensively for years but that my Washington friends have never made it to. Tarma and I arrived extra early, as I wanted to really work on relaxing and not just throwing tack on and heading out. I brushed and braided her mane and tail, ate lunch, and puttered a bit. Just when I thought some great calamity had befallen my friends, they pulled in as I was finally tacking up. Turns out, they managed to get lost, but not a normal “I took the wrong turn” lost, oh no, that’s too basic for us. I had sent the Google map of the trailhead to our group chat, and when one friend pulled it up on her phone, it autocorrected to an entirely different place miles and miles away! Of course I couldn’t help as once I was at the trail head there’s no cell service. Lessons learned there for sure!
These trails in the Mollala River Corridor take you through what I call “pure Oregon”, lush greenery, trickling little streams, technical single track winding through mixed forests. After about three miles on an old logging road, you pop out into a clearing with a structure, called Annie’s Cabin. When we got there, all the horses were immediately on edge, whether it was the cabin itself, catching their reflection in the windows, or some smell or sound (lots of cougars and bears up that canyon!) I was working to calm Tarma down when all the horses decided at once that the clearing was a no horse zone, and she took off. I stayed with her until she hit a gravel pile and lunged right and I slid off left. Amazingly, she only ran about 60 feet before stopping and looking at us all, saddle slipped sideways but saved by the breast collar. My friend walked right up to her with her mare and Tarma let herself be caught and her rear boots (Renegades) put back on. I bandaged up my hand where I scrapped it on the gravel and hopped back on. No one wants to fall off of course, but for our first time it wasn’t unmanageable.
We finished out a beautiful ride, while working on several things. I’m asking Tarma not to just fling herself down hills as fast as she can, but to shift her weight back and be deliberate. She picked this up eventually, as it had just rained a few days before and there were some slick spots where she slid a bit and finally decided to take my suggestions on speed and balance down hill. We also worked on not crowding the horse in front; Tarma much prefers to lead, except when she’s done leading but then she wants to be nose to tail with the lead horse. Manners are a thing, mare! We also worked on patience…her patience. I can tell her sense of direction is well dialed in, even though we looped back on different trails she could tell we were heading back towards the trailer and she wanted to speed walk the entire way there. My friends and I prefer to mosey on rides; stop and eat a snack, take a photo of a flower, take photos of each other, futz with tack. Tarma has no mosey in her yet, so we worked on stopping, facing back down the trail, and staying stopped until she yawned or swallowed, then continuing on (versus stopping, throwing some irritated ears around, and charging forward again at the slightest shift of rider balance). Patience is a thing, mare!
Last night we braved Tarma’s first bath together, and no one died! I noticed that while she’ll cross any water, dive into a river, splash through puddles with barely an ear twitch, she’s not a fan of hoses. I armed myself with treats, patience and time, and we did pretty well. She told me she wasn’t a huge fan initially, but she did relax and we took plenty of breaks where she told me she could keep at it, especially with the warm water! One of the many advantages to the barn I board at is a large, welcoming wash stall with a dedicated hot water tank, just the space for working with a horse that’s not sure about baths. Tarma’s just lucky I have no interest in showing, so baths will only be a few times a year!