Thursday, July 22, 2010

The good, the bad, and the...lovely

Today was an adventure in contrasts.
Maddie and I joined 16 other riders from the Kittitas Valley Trail Riders (and one pack horse-in-training) for a ride up Green Canyon, through the Wenatchee National Forest. We started at the two little rectangles at the bottom , slightly left of center of this map, rode up the creek into the area surrounding the words "Wenatchee National Forest" in the upper middle. It was mostly up hill going in, then some up-ing and down-ing in the roadless area, then downhill back to our starting point.

What was really irritating was that Maddie jigged for 90% of the three hour ride! I would just get her settled into an energetic but acceptable walk, and something would come along to give her an excuse to start up again with the dainty little trot steps. She wanted so very badly to keep up with whichever horse was in front of her, to the point of stuffing her head up their tail, if I would have let her (but that's rude and dangerous, so, of course, I didn't let her). It was nice that if the whole group stopped, she would stand quietly until it was time to move again--then move she did! It reminded me a lot of her first poker ride last year.

What was good was that she handled some of the things that came along to fluster her: we rode much of the time alongside a rushing brook, and for one little section, the creek had spilled on to the roadway, and she dealt with it without her behavior getting any worse (for the most part). The wet places weren't all that muddy, really, and ran the length of the road, parallel to our direction of travel. I sidepassed her over them several times, back and forth along the road, and she also managed to step in a few puddles without melting.
We also crossed several small bridges--at the first, our leader pointed out that there was the option of crossing the water rather than the bridge...Yeah, right! I spent nearly 45 minutes last summer with this same trail riding group to get Maddie across a small, muddy creek. Until last fall, Maddie was always trailered in my older ramp trailer, and I'm sure that's why she (and all my others) don't worry too much about thumping across wooden platforms. My only worry was that she might sidestep off the edge, but she walked across each time likes nobody's business. Good girl!

But the BIGGEST accomplishment of the day was just before we stopped for a break.
Just before we stopped for a break, on
(I do believe I saw my life flash before my eyes!)

On our first approach, the horse ahead of Maddie hesitated, and I think Maddie was just about to follow her through. Then the other horse barreled on across, leaving Maddie behind on the bank with nothing but her worries about getting her feet wet.
Warren came up behind us and said "Let her follow me." So as he inched his gelding down, one step at a time, Maddie slowly but steadily matched his steps.
She stopped at the muddy little drop off into the water, but Warren's gelding waited for her, and, after only a moment,
Maddie stepped into the creek!

This is not the best shot of my horsemanship (really) but I had given her her head to step down, and then she started rushing, and I didn't want her to think she could just charge out, so I'm scrambling a bit to gather her back to me. She did stop and stand for a minute before walking on out.
I climbed down, loosened her cinch, dropped her bridle and told her what a LOVELY GIRL she had been. I think we were both a little surprised at the feat of watery daring do.
After a 20 minute break, we were on our way again. Where all the climbing up the mountain had significantly reduced Maddie's energy, she was now rejuvenated, and the jigging resumed. But she crossed another slightly higher foot bridge, even stopping and standing quietly partway across when the horses in front of us had to wait for something. Beside the infernal jigging, the only nasty thing coming back down the mountain was an "airs above the ground" leap (I think it was a "levad") she made across one little puddle. The streaking wet farther down the road didn't much bother her, but in her mind that puddle was avoidable!
Here we are coming out of the canyon. It may look like Maddie's leading the group, but the cameraman and several others were ahead of us. I did make a point of having her in various parts of the group and behind different horses throughout the ride. It didn't make a difference in her rate--she wanted to be right behind whoever was in front of her. Shortly after this photo, I asked her to walk beside "Peaches" (the palomino to the right of us in this picture), who she had been crowding for much of the trip down. She actually seemed to like this arrangement, and settled partway down to a walk....until she realized we were almost back to the trailers
The resident GPS carrier said we did 8.28 miles, and we arrived back at the trailers almost exactly three hours after leaving them. It would have been a much more enjoyable ride if it had been at a walk, but the creek crossing more than made up for that.


  1. The only thing that works for me for jigging is to redirect the energy - just bottling it up seems to only make things worse - I do serpentines, leg yields, etc. - it gives the horse something else to think about besides jigging and uses up some of the energy.

  2. Yes, Kate, good point! That's one thing I don't like about riding with KVTR--the groups are getting bigger and bigger, and I hate to hold up the group with my schooling. When I had room (on the forest service road) I did do some "weaves" (couldn't really call them serpentines) and leg yeilding--which also help with the wet part of the road.

  3. It's so hard to ride a jigging horse. They are frustrated, you are frustrated, argh.

  4. Well at least you got out and into some beautiful country. Even with the jigging it was probably just nice to get out. Glad she was a superstar at the creek. Maybe with more outings she'll settle down a bit.

    I know what you mean about not wanting to hold the group up with schooling, maybe if you took her out with just a small group of friends it would work out better if you wanted to school her a little.

  5. Oh this was so excellent!!! Loved the photo;s of the creek crossing.WOW, she is on her way to being such a great trail are so good for her!

    I dream of riding a big group like that in open spaces like too...I would love to do a camping trip on terrains like that with a big mare could maybe settle into race, no competition!
    What a fun time, I am so glad that you are doing these wonderful trips...she is really coming along...the zig...hopefully will lesson. Sometimes..I actually make my mare do a real collected trot, if she much move her feet so much...she soon realizes...walking is better, and the movement gives her steam a place to go.(unfortunately the details of work get her MORE riled leg yield render me- a high strung mare!)

  6. Does circling her, either on or off the trail, everytime she jigs, help her slow down and focus on you and the trail ride? Sometimes the folks I ride with in a group are riding rescued horses that need more training and they will take their horses off the trail for schooling, anytime they jig or act up. None of us mind slowing down or stopping and waiting for them. Just an idea if you've not already tried it. A jigging horse is not relaxing at all. Sorry you had to deal with that, but look at what you accomplished with Maddie. How exciting!
    Warren was awesome to be willing to help you with getting Maddie across the creek, too. It's wonderful to ride with helpful and understanding folks on experienced, seasoned trail horses. :)

    Those photos were incredible. What a beautiful place to ride! :)


  7. Aarenex- "frustrating"--that's a good word for the ride! It certainly was not relaxing.

    GHM--It is beautiful country--More trees than my end of the valley. I do try to get out with just my friend Pat and one or two others when I can. When we met to caravan out to the trailhead, it looked like there would only be 5 or 6 of us...But the rest were waiting for us at the trailhead! This was Maddie's first time out in the open country this year (she's been laid up this spring). Her last outing last year, you'd have thought she'd been on the trails for years (except for that day's creek crossing--or rather NOT creek crossing)-- she was wound tighter than a watch spring, yet crossed the creek with no big hassle. I guess that's what surprised me so much.

    Kacy--Basically, collected trot is what she was doing, almost to the point of piaffe. I was doing halfhalthalfhalthalfhalt for a long time!

    Lisa--I tried the circling a couple of times, but it just wound her up more to see the horse she was trying to catch up with get farther away!

    Thanks for all your suggestions, folks. I guess what Maddie needs is more miles of experience. It's been hard for me to prioritize the three I have in work right now.

  8. Sounds like you had fun, jigging aside! Lovely country.