Thursday, March 3, 2016

acceptable/unacceptable game

On a recent ride, I again realized how expressive our horses can be. How does each individual horse determine what is acceptable and not acceptable? What do they pay attention to, what do they ignore, what do they chase, what do they object to? Ignoring something in their environment, as prey animals, is a pretty big deal. As is chasing down something interesting!

lake creeping up on trail

So let's play a game! As I rode I compiled a list. Try to guess the four things Major found unacceptable, and also the four things I thought would be a problem but were not. All the unacceptable things also resulted in some form of unacceptable behavior! (Though only one spook. Bonus point, guess the one spooky item).

a. big rocks
b. entire ROTC group with flags
c. giant baby stroller with twins
d. small, empty ditch
e. other horses going the opposite direction
f. other horses going the same way
g. rotten, fallen tree
h. kid in backpack
i. speedy mountain bikes
j. three off-leash puppies
k. giant, adult 3-wheel trike bike
l. standing in the lake
m. leaving the lake
n. meeting friends and talking
o. cantering up Mooney Ridge
p. going back down Mooney Ridge

taking in the view from Mooney Ridge


OK, did you guess? The four unacceptable things were:

d. small, empty ditch. Obviously was the Grand Canyon, as when I asked Major to walk over it he performed an airs-above-the-ground, leaping, stupid move. So ditch was then walked back and forth over until normality returned.

f. other horses going the same way. Major thought we must chase and be stupid, or be crabby because we must pass they they are going too slow. He objected by pulling like a freight train, and kicking out at my leg cue. Not acceptable! Much conversation ensued about acceptable speed and behavior around other trail users. Horses going the other way: totally fine, who cares.

g. rotten, fallen tree. This actually got a rare spook sideways and side-eye, both directions, and running off the trail into the weeds. I did not expect it, hence why we ended up in the weeds.

m. leaving the lake. First request resulted in Major putting his head down and splashing. OK, fine. Second request was head-shaking and backing up into deeper water. I don't think so. Then I worked him in the water knowing it was hard. That was still acceptable to him. So he got smacked with the reins, finally deciding "Oh, you meant leave the beach."

Major in Folsom Lake Belize

Four things I thought would be a problem but were not:

b. entire ROTC group with flags. The group was loud and boisterous, Major stopped and stared. I said "It's just people and flags." He went "Oh, it's just people and flags" and proceeded to charge up the trail towards them. I slowed him before the group, though they looked a bit nervous, and they parted to either side of the road, so Major stormed on through. I think he was pretending to be a war horse.

k. giant, adult 3-wheel trike bike. Down the beach it came rolling: a giant, adult tricycle, complete with beach tires. I do not have photographic proof because I was attentive to what Major was going to do! He glanced at it, unconcerned, and kept playing in the water.

n. meeting friends and talking. Major hates waiting around, especially heading home. I was expecting a bit of a fit when I stopped to talk with two friends and their horses. But Major stood nicely, I think he was actually a little tired!

p. going back down Mooney Ridge. I thought Major would object to going back down after just coming up. But he gamely walk/trotted back down, and then charged back up, three times! He would have happily continued if I hadn't decided it was enough. Yeah for short speed/climbing training! (history fact I just learned: Mooney Ridge is named after a cattle rancher whose property was condemned by the government so they could fill the lake.)

 ceanothus is blooming everywhere, and it smells AWFUL

Luckily, the list of Major-approved trail obstacles is pretty high. Though I'm sure something scary is lurking out there, or something unexpectedly interesting! Which is why I love trail riding, something fascinating can be just around the corner…but you better be paying attention.

Yes, I like my grass with dirt clods attached


  1. I got it all right, and started with knowing he'd spook at the fallen tree, buahaha. Oh arabs. Mine almost never spook at real "scary" stuff but will have a crisis of faith over a stump. And the morgan isn't spooky period so it's manipulation. Love horse-analities!

  2. Ashke's kryptonite is cut wood of any kind, but not necessarily fallen trees, rocks from the size of your head to the size of a car (all are bears, we are convinced), the ROTC group would have been an issue (he really hates flags on the back of recumbent bikes). Love watching Major play in the water. Glad he doesn't lay down on you.

  3. Atabs and their tree isues lol. Luckily mine's not really a spooker at obstacles, but is liable to leap into the air for no reason. Flags might be too much though lol

  4. Dead trees, dead cactus, large lurking rocks...all headliners in the Unacceptable category!