Last Friday we took Eugene on a short trail ride out of our barn. The plan was to see how he went and then maybe trailer out on Saturday to go somewhere else. The main issue with trails and Eugene is that he walks about twice as fast as Nilla, but he’s very spooky. So he wants to go fast, but then he needs her to come up and lead him past scary things.
His nervous energy was also feeding Nilla so she was acting like a nut while she has done this trail hundreds of times and usually sleeps through it. Eugene spooked at a guy out smoking by the side of the trail (which was admittedly weird) and Nilla decided it must be scary if he thought it was. Much persuasion got us past that and then we had to get past the special needs camp, which was having drop off so cars were ripping in and out. While we were waiting for a break in the cars, there was a special needs man standing by the gate making weird moaning/screaming noises. Both Nilla and Eugene were very nervous about this.
We finally got past that and went over to the picnic ground where my husband rode Eugene all over making him approach the scary bathrooms, tables, and the man who stopped at the parking lot to use the bathroom. The man owns horses himself so he was kind enough to stand and let Eugene come check him out. Eugene’s still very scared of strange people.
We left the picnic grounds and checked out the creek. Eugene walked right in and through with no problems. Normal trail obstacles don’t bother him, just people. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people out on the trails in our area.
Saturday dawned miserable and rainy, but this was actually to our advantage. We slept in, went to a diner for breakfast, picked up some beet pulp and didn’t even head to the barn until almost 3 when it had stopped raining. Then we took the new trailer and loaded up the ponies. We put Eugene up in the front stall. He hopped on nicely, but it took some convincing to get him pushed over against the wall to close the divider on him. We left the middle stall open and put Nilla in the back triangle stall. She hopped right on the trailer, but then proceeded to try to get out. We shut the doors on her and she was pawing, but she was untied and could turn herself around in that spot.
We made it to the park with her in one piece. We could feel her pawing around back there so she’s not traveling nicely, but she wasn’t dripping sweat, she wasn’t lying down, she wasn’t missing large chunks of skin or hair, and there was no blood so I’d consider this a success. We still have to test if she’ll behave without the empty stall between her and the other horse, but I’m hoping we’ve solved her trailering issue.
The rain worked to our advantage in that the park was massively under attended. Rancho San Antonio is a very popular spot, usually full of hikers, lots of kids, strollers, and even a field where a lot of people like to fly model planes and drones. There are usually cars circling looking for spots and people park down the street and walk in. This time the main parking lot was less than half full and the sub-lots were all much emptier than usual.
One of the park rangers that knows us was driving by and she stopped to say hi. We told her we were going out with the new Mustang and she told us to call if we ran into any issues. I have to say I’ve never had issues with any of the rangers at our local parks. They’re all very respectful and helpful to riders.
We headed out with the plan of sticking to the big fire roads so that if Eugene spooked, he would have the space to do it in without falling off the side off the trail/off a cliff. The PG&E trail is also less crowded than the trails to go to the farm.
Before we left, my husband kept saying he thought we’d be fine because Nilla could lead Eugene and I said that was highly unlikely to happen. I was right. This is how most of the ride went:
Eugene was pretty scared at every person we passed or were passed by. But we saw very few people and most were really good about pausing for us. We did have to ask a few people who were walking with hiking poles to stop. Eugene was great. He went over bridges, through mud, past scary signs, and was leading for almost all of the ride. Because he was being so good and the park was so empty we decided to go back via the trail near the farm. It’s a narrow trail and usually very crowded, but we hoped the rain would make it passable.
We definitely would not have been able to do it without the rain. The first people coming towards him caused him to spin and run at Nilla. So we started leading. Of course Nilla is too slow for him and she simultaneously gets pissed and slows down when he comes up on her. So I started trotting ahead and then letting him walk to catch up to us. This worked until we saw a stroller. I do not understand people’s obsession wth dragging strollers along dirt and rock trails. Especially not when those trails are muddy from rain. I hopped off, told my husband to get off and then had to yell at the stroller draggers. I had asked them to stand still (hikers are actually required to yield to horses, but we usually just keep walking and don’t mind them) and explained that Nilla was scared of strollers. They kept trying to back the stroller up and move it away. And I was like, just stay still.
We got past the stroller and remounted. Eugene took that opportunity to climb off the trail, but my husband got him sorted and we got going again. We made it back to the trailer shortly after this having gone about 9 miles. Eugene was great for his first real trail ride. And he still had tons of energy. He’s going to be a good endurance horse. Once he stops freaking out about hikers on the trail. Both of them loaded up easily and we returned to the barn without any incident.
Great success all around!
That's fantastic!! What about taking cookies or treats on the trail & giving them to hikers to give to him? That way the scary becomes AWESOME TREAT DISPENSING people! 😉 Just a thought! 🙂
That's a really good idea. We'll try that this weekend.
Yes, I hope it continues.
Sounds like a good time…my horses hate people on the trail as well, especially if they have kids or dogs along with them.
There are so many people on the trails here that ours are totally used to it and don't care anymore. Strollers are a problem and off-leash dog are a problem, but people are ignored. Eugene will get used to it fast.
Aw sounds like he's got a pretty good brain in there!
What a good boy!
Wow! Amazing he was recently wild! Huge progress in bonding with him.
What a good boy he was. If I understand it correctly he lived out with probably a bachelor band of feral horses right? That would explain his nervousness as it would have been necessary of survival. He seems like a such tryer.
He was part of a herd until 2 and then lived from 2 to 7 in one of BLM's holding pens. But the people interactions while in those pens were always negative (shots, worming, etc in stocks). From what I've heard all Mustangs are like this: much more of prey animals than the average horse.
He's certainly trying.
He was in holding pens for years, so I'm not sure I would call him totally wild, but he had never been handled until about December.
Yes, the brain seems good. We can work on the rest.
A very promising start!