Mud. Gem's most hated thing out on the trails. I decided to be proactive in getting him acclimatized to spring trail riding by asking LA if she could take him out a few times and work him through his anxiety. We had to wait until today for the thaw to be complete and the mud and the water around the swamp to be at their most scary. :-)
LA texted me this morning:
LA: Morning. I am gonna take him out today.
Me: Yipee! I want him ready for me to go out on the trails.
A bit later....
LA: We are standing in the pond.
Me: No kidding!
LA: Ya. He must be sick.
LA: He didn't spook at a partridge. It scared me! :-)
LA: Went through the creek. His belly is wet. We walked all through the swamp. What the hell? :-)
Me: Yay! Keep up the good work! :-)
Me: Was he OK with the squishy mud?
Me: Are you sure you are riding the right horse??? :-)
LA: Maybe not. lol Next time it's you and me out on the trails. I didn't do anything except sit on him.
Me: OK. Yes, I know it's mostly me, not him. You want to give him another ride before we go out together in case it's a fluke?
In the past, Gem has tried to jump over mud, tippy-toe through it, even climb on the back of the horse in front of him (that was interesting!) in his attempt to get through a swampy part of the trails. His mud antics have come close to unseating me a number of times. But, LA's texts have brought it front and center; it IS me not Gem that is really the problem. The fact that a confident rider like LA can take him through the swamp without Gem batting an eye shows that Gem is really not a scaredy-cat. When I think of the mud meltdowns I have experienced, I am more convinced that I was the initiator. My nervousness about his POTENTIAL reaction to mud percolates the moment we start out, to the point that I start to feel anxious way before we even get to the swampy bits of the trails. Obviously, he feeds off of my anxiety. And that can lead to a mud meltdown. Not a good combo and not very relaxing for him or me.
I have experienced "two steps forward, one back" on a regular basis when it comes to riding Gem. It doesn't bother me as much as it did. This riding thing is a lot harder than it looks! However, I think (and I am knocking on wood as I write this) we have turned a corner the last 6 months. Honestly, the most basic training (doing squares, straight lines, turns) have helped immensely in building my confidence and improving our communication. Having a better understanding on how and when to correct has been a god-send also and I can tell Gem respects me more. I am hoping that now that I have more confidence in the arena, I will be able to translate that out in the fields and we can avoid mud meltdowns. Trail riding is a big part of my riding experience, so it's time to face my fear and get on with it.
Hope you are having a good week!