Another Horse Field-Trip Report

Last weekend, I completed another field trip with Shiloh and Bear. We went over to the nearby training/boarding/lesson barn again. I mentioned in previous posts that I have been trying to tick off several items on my riding “to do” list. My goal for this trip? To ride Shiloh with another horse.

For most people and horses, riding with others is standard practice. Shiloh and I are an exception. We had never ridden with anyone else.

Overall, the ride went fine. Nothing terrible. I did struggle though to keep Shiloh “on the aids” with the extra distractions. We were in the indoor where Shiloh is not as comfortable. There is a row of eight stalled horses, two huge doors with views to the outside, an observation room with people coming and going. I suspect Shiloh sees it more as haunted house than barn.

We also did something a little different with Bear for this visit. Instead of the outdoor roundpen, Bear stayed in a stall in a separate part of the barn. Bear was completely out of sight.

Being in the indoor combined with Bear’s absence definitely created a different feel to the ride. Since I’d eventually like to do more adventurous things with Shiloh, these are necessary small steps to practice. Bear, I was told, looked unhappy at first alone in the stall, but apparently settled better by the end.

After Bear walked out, our riding partner walked in. The presence of the other horse being in the arena was fine with Shiloh as long as we were on opposite ends. The other horse was a tall Saddlebred with a different energy and movement from Shiloh. He was also longer strided and faster. In order to pass going in the same direction, the other horse had to halt while we walked by or had to be walking while we foxtrotted past him. Otherwise we would be forever trailing.

Closer up, though? Shiloh was intimidated. Passing left shoulder to left shoulder with Shiloh on the outside between the wall and the other horse brought Shiloh to an abrupt and complete halt.

I felt Shiloh with his body say something to the effect of “I think it would be best to turn and spin 180 degrees and high tail it outa here before the other horse gets too close, yes?”. He was all for social distancing.

Those dicey situations can be tricky for me. Keeping a horse mentally in tact during tense moments can be a struggle. This was a major issue for me with a horse like Bear who is quick, extra sensitive, nervous by nature pretty much 24/7 (most likely due to those speed racking bloodlines of his). At twenty-five, Bear is a quieter horse than he was, but even so, he still has his fiery moments.

Shiloh generally needs less support from his rider than Bear. He was just born a quieter, more relaxed fellow. In those situations where he becomes hands-down frightened or otherwise overwhelmed with emotion, though, he needs me to step up. He needs me to provide direction and support. I know this intellectually, but sometimes I do a better job of actually coming through for my horse in those moments than others.

Anywho, Shiloh thought about spinning away but didn’t. Rollbacks are actually kind of a fun movement to sit. That power when they roll over their haunches and push away quickly in the opposite direction feels pretty neat. But it’s a movement that I would rather ask for on a well-trained horse, not happen to me unexpectedly in the course of a spook!

At the end of the ride when the other horse left the arena, I wondered if Shiloh would object to the desertion. He is a herd animal after all, even if he was a little unsure about the other horse.

To my surprise, I actually felt Shiloh relax when it was just the two of us again. I might have actually heard him say “phew!”, but I’m not sure. We practiced a little bit of backing and then I dismounted.

Shiloh was a touch sweaty at the end of the ride while sporting his Winter coat on an unusually warm November day. He was no doubt a little tired too, both mentally and physically.

I think Shiloh’s highlight of the trip was being fawned over by the young daughter of the person who rode with us. The daughter is an equestrian herself and was riding in a lesson as I arrived with my horses. I thought Shiloh might fall asleep as she talked to him and stroked his face. Apparently loving adoration in the package of an enthusiastic child is just fine with him.

I didn’t get any pictures of the ride so the window shots of Bear and Shiloh loaded up in the trailer will have to suffice. I feel thankful for every safe and drama-free travel experience that we can accumulate under our belts.