For this trip, we decided to park at the barn in Hart Park. I've parked here many times and shared pictures before. There are a few corrals, a wash rack, hitching posts, and picnic tables. There's not a lot of room for multiple trailers, but for a small group of three or four rigs, it's perfect. We generally head east and go around Lake Ming and come back in front of the California Living Museum (CALM), a small zoo for indigenous animals.
The way Izzy halted so quickly at the lines painted on the blacktop suggested that he probably hasn't crossed a lot of actual roads in his life. We ended up crossing the road a few different times, so that by the time we returned to the barn, he only eye-balled the bright yellow lines, but he crossed them willingly.
Because this is a multi-use park, there are a lot of people-friendly structures like a soccer field complex, a campground with TENTS, frisbee baskets, bridges, stand alone restrooms, playground equipment, boat docks, water pumps, parking areas, and so on. Every inch of the trail offers something new and unusual to look at. Most of the time Izzy was pretty solid, but there were a few booger moments.
When we got to the back side of CALM, there is a small stream that flows through a culvert beneath the dirt road. The stream is surrounded by trees, so if you didn't know it was there, you'd walk right past it. Izzy heard it though and hit the brakes HARD.
And then he backed up ... fast! And suddenly, he realized he had learned a new trick. Instead of just stopping and staring at whatever was scary, he decided that it was much more effective to go from marching forward to a mach ten reverse. KG kindly stood back while Izzy and I had a little discussion.
Now, before I hear all of the when they want to back up make them back up even further comments (sorry, but I know they're coming), that is simply not a safe option on most trails. It's even less safe in a line of horses. The trails we ride can be steep, have drop offs, or be lined with wire fences, among numerous other obstacles. In my neck of the woods, going forward (or simply stopping) is the only correct answer.
In the arena, we can back up all day, but that's another situation.
It took about three of these discussions before Izzy returned to the land of stop and wait when I'm nervous. Good boy!
Once I saw that this backing up thing was looking to be his go-to answer, I started to play around with fixing it. When I spotted something ahead that looked funky, I asked him to stop. I patted his neck and gave him lots of good boys and then asked him to walk on. If he even rocked back slightly, I goosed him and smacked him on the shoulder. KG agreed that my timing was impeccable.
You should have seen the wheels turning. After about the third time he got smacked, he started re-thinking his new answer and quickly decided that his old answer was better. I agreed. Stopping and standing still when you're scared is perfectly fine. Eventually, he would simply slow down but with a gentle squeeze, he would again start moving forward. I think our Trust Bank got a pretty hefty deposit.
We also rode past the golf course, which makes both KG and I jumpy. When the balls are hit, they make a whistling sound that is a bit unnerving, especially when you're not sure where the ball is headed.
There was one steep descent that proved too technical for Izzy. Even though we sent Taz down first, Izzy spun up the incline. I made the executive decision to dismount quickly. I'd rather he feel safe than over-faced and off balance. As soon as I hopped off, he followed me willing all the way to the bottom. There was a steep slope off to the side, and the trail is only about two feet wide. We'll try again on another day.
I would feel quite comfortable marketing him as a safe and sane trail horse. Not that he's for sale, but knowing that I could throw him in the trailer and join a group for a trail ride makes him worth a lot more to me than if he was only safe in the arena.