I am joking. He was actually quite good considering it was his first trail ride ever, he'd never met his trail companion before, and it was his first time being in that particular area.
My pal, KG, has been my closest friend in the world for more than two decades. Any time I need a friend to go to a show or a clinic, she's right there with me. We've ridden bazillions of endurance miles together and know how each other thinks and what each needs for support, moral or otherwise.
When I told her I needed to get Izzy out of the arena, she quickly agreed to load up her older gelding, Taz. He's been her number one endurance horse since he was three. He's now in his very late teens, but he stills motors right along. That's an Arab for you.
She first tied Taz to the other side of the trailer so that Izzy could see him while being lunged. He was pretty nervous when he unloaded, so the lunge work was just about letting him get an eyeful without me hanging on to him. He jogged around, but it was very sane. I had him go both directions and once his head came back down, I tied him to the trailer (with the Blocker Tie Ring). KG brought Taz over to our side of her trailer to reassure Izzy that nothing bad was going to happen.
KG and I have traveled so many times together that we both know the routine. We chat about this and that as she saddled Taz. I gave Izzy a quick groom, and by the time I started saddling, Taz was standing with a hip cocked providing moral support for my somewhat anxious green bean.
It was decided that I would mount first so that Izzy wouldn't feel as though he was being left behind. He stood really nicely without getting overly anxious. KG was up quickly so that we didn't have Izzy sitting around getting nervous. As soon as she was up, we walked out to the trail. We didn't rush, but we also didn't take so long that Izzy had a chance to worry.
We picked this staging area because it is well away from the road, nearly completely fenced in, and feeds directly onto the trail without the need to walk on the road. The section of trail we rode is on the north side of the river which has far fewer trail riders or hikers. It's sandy with trees, but the trail is wide open in most places, so a panicked horse has plenty of room to spook without feeling trapped.
He did spook a few times at oddly shaped stumps, a tumble weed, a weird plant with a gourd that all of the horses hate, but the spooks were mostly in place. He stepped over logs, walked in deep sand, marched up and down whoop-de-doos, followed a bit of single-track trail, and even was willing to walk on a narrow, raised trail that had a tiny drop to the side.
He was never head hanging relaxed, but he was never scared or terrified either. Instead, he seemed very interested and eager to see what was next. The point of the ride was to teach him that forward is fun. Whenever he acted nervous, Taz simply walked ahead of him to show him the way. We never pushed Izzy to do something that he didn't volunteer for. And once Taz walked by something iffy, Izzy never gave it another look.
Since the trail was mostly a double track, Izzy had plenty of room to walk ahead, or stop to allow Taz to take the lead. On the way back, we did take some single track trail that was slightly narrower, but Izzy followed Taz through without feeling trapped or worried.
We let the horses stand for a few minutes as we finished off a drink ourselves and put away our tack. KG quietly loaded Taz, which sent Izzy into a bit of a fit. But since Taz stood so quietly in KG's trailer, Izzy calmed down right away. Without giving him time to think about Taz leaving, I asked him to load as well. He balked a bit, even with the butt rope, but I just gave a firmer and firmer tug on the butt rope until he hopped in.
He unloaded at home just fine where I gave him a hose down. An endurance vet that we all liked and admired used to say that as long as your horse was EDPP, all was well. To this day, I never leave my horses until I am sure that they're been Eating, Drinking, Peeing, and Pooping. Izzy did all four within a half an hour.
Our plan is to try and haul out to the river on as many Tuesday and Thursday mornings as we can over the next few weeks. Schooling green horses on the trail with a buddy has always done wonders for my horses. Let's hope that the method woks for Izzy.