Mounted up, Quest moved out eagerly when I pointed her at the trail and took the lead though albeit she felt all over the place. When I asked her to move out at the trot though, she settled into her groove though it was not as nice as I know it could be. We kept leaving T and her Icelandic pony Nickers behind with the big trot though so we kept mostly at a walk. Which Quest took to mean “stop completely” and balked at the most random things.
I asked T if she would mind taking the lead for a bit while I gave Quest a mental break. When we trail ride with A and Smokey, she usually requests Quest and I to lead since she is less confident. Quest has risen to the occasion every single time and done so very well so far but bottom line, she is still VERY new to it all. I had a gut feeling that all the leading on the trails the past couple of weeks was totally frying her brain. Once Nickers took the lead, the change in Quest’s demeanor was immediate. She relaxed and I could sense the high alert tension slowly ebb away. We then did lots of nice trot sets and confirmed that Quest can rate with quite well with another horse in front of her; no problems with transitions up or down either. We only had one nerve-wracking moment when Nickers suddenly shied sideways and back from something in the brush and nearly ran into Quest and me. Thankfully athletic mareface scooted away just in time so there was no collision and no one was hurt!
Quest was much more eager to lead the way home so I let her move out a few stretches before requesting T to take the lead. We did some leapfrogging exercises, mostly for Quest's benefit to work on staying at the walk while Nickers trotted past and ahead. It was challenging for her but we ended on a very good note. We rode past the barn with no arguments about heading back and Quest trotted up compliantly when I asked so we could close up the gate for the night.
|Looking cute in purple <3|
Overall the ride wasn’t full of highlights but it brings up important things for me to think about. It did bother me at first that Quest balked at some things/places that never used to concern her much and we had more conversations on this ride compared to others. The trail we did was not new to her; in fact it was the same exact one we did during our 6-mile solo ride a week ago. However looking back on the miles we did over the past couple of weeks, it could be her way of telling me that she needed a break. And to be honest, I’m tired as well…being the lead rider on a trail ride isn’t easy either!
We had a bunch of amazing rides lately so I’m not surprised that we’ve hit a low point. Yesterday was a good reminder that endurance riding is not just about training just to get the mileage and completion. It’s about training a horse to finish sound and fit to continue. I personally believe “fit to continue” includes being mentally fit.
Quest is so athletic that I think it is easy for me to overestimate and overlook her mental fitness at times. I see so much potential and am so excited to try new things with her that it puts me at risk of frying her brain out. Being a new horse owner, I am bound to make mistakes though I never want to make them at the cost of hurting my horse. And fortunately for me, Quest told me in her way that she wasn’t mentally ready for more and she did it without putting me or anyone else in danger.
The safest and healthiest thing to do now is to take a step back and mix our rides up with arena rides to work on equitation, play with ground poles/obstacle training/barrels, bum around bareback, and continue desensitizing. Trail rides will still happen but approached in a different manner. One thing is for certain about horses, you really don't ever stop learning!