Dandy was the perfect horse to use as a companion for Storm on the trails. Not just because the horse has tons of experience but mostly he just plain loves trail riding. I don't think the horse ever showed any kind of concern right from his first trips into the woods. He has always been confident and bold, moving out like the woods are his kingdom. A pro from his very first trail ride those 15 or so years ago.
Over that time Dandy has introduced a number of horses to the trails including Legs and a number of riders too. He doesn't take on the nerves of fearful riders or those of unsure horses. Dandy knows the woods are fun and he can't get enough of them and he doesn't mind sharing his wisdom with other horses. I think he actually likes the role of "big brother" on the trails.
The problem was getting the weather to cooperate when I had someone available to ride Dandy for me. Seemed like every time we had things set up the torrential down pours came or 50 mph winds. It was sometime in mid January before we finally got Storm out onto the trails and the unsure Arabian horse wasn't quite sure what to think.
Because Storm has been unusually studdy in his behavior since he returned home, I had some concerns about how close to Dandy I could allow Storm to be. The horse, on the other hand, decided he couldn't get close enough to Dandy to really be comfortable. He wanted to ride with his nose tucked right into Dandy's tail hiding his face. His rate of travel always seemed to be a notch higher than Dandy's normal long strided pace. Storm was pushing, pushing to get this ride over with.
The wise old gelding wasn't really concerned about Storm's intrusion on his space. He could feel the horse's nerves and need for comfort. It was my concern that Storm's apprehension might just wane just long enough for his hormones to become active and I didn't want Storm trying to mount Dandy in those woods. Not that Dandy didn't know how to deal with such behavior, but most certainly for the safety of the rider or me I didn't want to see anything resembling stallion behavior. Luckily Storm was so worried about being out there in the woods, breeding was the last thing on his mind.
The trails at the park are a combination of wide almost road like trails around the perimeter and dissecting the wooded portion and skinny little deer trails that wind all through the stand of firs. For Storm's first trip, we stuck to the wide open trails. I figured the stimulation of brush against his body and legs would probably be too much for Storm.
Still, that gave us plenty of ground to cover and some of it was uneven with enough ups and downs to make him work. We wound our way up and down the wide portions of these trails twisting an turning our way through the area that is used by the nearby high school for training for their cross country kids.
There were barking dogs on the outside perimeter that needed to be coped with. At the first sounds of their barks Storm thought the earth had opened up and was about to swallow. He tucked his tail and pushed up into Dandy snorting under his breath but it didn't take him long to realize he'd heard those sounds before even if they were different dogs. The pitch was very much like Sugar and Delilah at home. Once Storm made that connection he backed off his nerves just a bit. His tail came back up and his neck lengthened just enough to get his face out from under Dandy's tail.
Dandy never flinched. Here Storm was trying to literally hide himself underneath Dandy's tail and the big gelding just kept plodding along like nothing had happened. I think it was Dandy's lack of reaction to Storm's spook that gave Storm the confidence to think his way through this problem to even get to the point he recognized the sounds of barking dogs.
Next some kind of power tools could be heard as we got near the one perimeter fence. Sounds that Storm has been exposed to at home but now they took on new life in these strange surroundings. His ears perked forward and his eyes darted as he tried to spot this impending danger. Then at the sound of my soft and low response to his alarm, Storm cocked his ears my direction and thought about the possibility there might not be danger..........but did not totally give the idea up, still trying to hug Dandy's tail and hide his eyes. Dandy just plodded on probably thinking what a dunce Storm was being........put patient, none the less.
Storm was alarmed when we first came to the fence line that is the small farm complete with horses. At the sound of hooves on rocks, he startled and crouched wanting to explode. I couldn't help but laugh at this reaction and Storm immediately knew he was being stupid. He cautiously rose from his crouched position desperately looking for something familiar. I could tell when his gaze finally rested on a horse by the depth of his sighs. Dandy was still in front working his way down that fence line enjoying the ride.
We did not stay out on these trails for long. Dandy was out of shape and Storm was just too stressed to torture for long. It might have been half an hour tops when I decided to call it a day and directed my friend to make her way out of the woods. Both horses were showing signs of sweat and I suspected Storm wouldn't have relaxed had we taken hours to explore these woods.
As far as he was concerned these woods were as foreign to him as if I'd taken him to Mars. We might have been heading for home (the horse trailer) but we weren't there yet and Storm was still on high alert. The question was were there really Martians in these woods. We didn't have much to find out.......but then when did it take a lot of time to scare a horse half to death.........
To be continued................
Encountering a Troll....
This is a picture of Dandy with Scandalous. Yes, that really is Dandy buried underneath that pile of hay sleeping like a baby....
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