I didn’t really have a specific plan for what I was going to do with the horses on Sunday. It was quite warm, Henry had jumped the day before, and I’d done some groundwork with Presto. I wanted to do something with both of them but wasn’t really sure what. I’m struggling these days to come up with things to do with Presto that are new or interesting or even consume like 1% of his effort/attention.
And then as I was grooming Henry, it hit me: why not try ponying him on the road? It was a practical idea for a couple reasons. 1) I haven’t ponied him much at all lately, maybe once in the past 4 months. 2) I need him to start getting used to the road. I want to spend the summer hacking him, and would really like to ride him over to the 80 acre farm down the road at least once a week. It’s not very far from our gate to theirs, but it does involve walking down our street to the stop sign, and then a very short maybe 20-30 yards down a busier/higher speed road to get into their back gate. If I can start getting him used to the road before I ever actually climb aboard, we’ll be that much further ahead of the game when the time comes.
Henry himself is generally quite good on the road. For as spooky as he can sometimes be, he’s spent a lot of time road hacking and while he might sometimes get snorty about crossing ditches or walking past culverts, he’s trustworthy and excellent in traffic. Perfect tour guide for a baby’s first road adventure.
I tacked Henry up, put Presto in his rope halter, and off we went.
The first “challenge” was getting out of our front gate. There are flags on either side of the entrance, big and billowy and snapping in the breeze. The first time I ever rode Henry out of the gate he was NOT a fan of them, but he’s gotten used to them by now. I wasn’t sure what Presto would think… he’s pretty bold naturally, but certainly does have a spook in him sometimes. So we rode up to the gate and I stopped and stood for a minute, letting him see and hear them. He didn’t seem to care at all, so we edged closer and closer until we were standing right between them. No shits given. Even when Henry flinched at a particularly loud SNAP, Presto didn’t care.
Ok then… out the gate we went.
I turned right, heading down our quieter road first rather than toward the busier main road. First we stayed on the shoulder for a bit, until the first several cars passed us. I wanted to make sure we were safely on the grass and out of the road in case he spooked, but again he didn’t care. He’s lived close to roads for a while, so I guess he’s become accustomed to the cars passing already. The shoulder got too small and slanted to easily walk on so we graduated to the road, retreating down to the shoulder to stop and stand when a car came. He was good about all that, and patient. Even when a very loud very fast car came rumbling past, he didn’t mind.
I turned up another side road and we were quickly assaulted with car doors slamming, kids running and screaming, and dogs barking and running up to the fence on both sides of the road. That rattled him a bit. There was some snorting and arabian-esque prancing, so we just stopped and stood and let him think about it for a minute. He was worried, but he settled, and we walked a little ways up that road before turning around and looping back.
Then we retraced our steps but this time on the opposite site of the road, going back toward our gate. We encountered plastic bags (no problem) and lots of culverts (he couldn’t figure out why Henry was giving them the hairy eyeball). We walked up to the industrial building and checked out, which he thought was boring. And then, as we passed the building, he saw what lurked behind.
And so began his only meltdown of the day. All the other shit was totally fine, but the cows were his complete undoing. He snorted. He piaffed. He tried to turn and run for the hills. He bounced off of me and Henry. It was horrific, according to him. We stood there for quite a while just watching them, until I could finally get Presto to keep moving his feet forward. Eventually we got past them, and worked our way up to the stop sign where our road dumps out onto the main, busier road. We stood there for a while watching traffic zip by, which he didn’t care about. So we turned back around, he spotted the cows again, and the meltdown replayed.
Honestly. Cows? COWS? He’s seen cows before. At the vet’s farm there was a resident cow. He saw it EVERY DAY. I mean seriously, of all the things. I guess I should have known that whatever was the least logical scary thing would be the one that caused the hamster to fall off it’s wheel.
Once he settled down we walked back to our gate, and I had him just stand there between the flags and watch some more cars go by for a while until he was bored again. Yes, standing between two big loud flapping flags and watching cars zoom past was the way to calm down the baby idiot’s brain explosion over cows existing. He quickly chilled out enough to where I moved him close enough for the flag to literally flap right next to his face, which I started videoing.
So that was when he decided to grab the flag and yank it, breaking the flag pole mount on the fence and giving Henry a complete heart attack.
I didn’t see that one coming, which was really dumb considering that I’ve known this horse for his entire almost 3 years, and if there’s one thing I should have absolutely expected, it’d be that. Breaking something? Totally in his wheelhouse. Scaring other horses in the process? Presto written all over it. He had no idea what Henry spooked at and tried to go back and pick the flag up. That would have been the end of me for sure, if he’d come at Henry with that thing.
The flag is now rolled up in the house, and the new bracket will be here today. Thanks Amazon Prime. Dammit Presto. But, ya know, otherwise… pretty successful first road outing? We just gotta work on the bovinophobia (I was today years old when I learned that that was a word).