What a TRAIL RIDE we had on Friday. We had a group of six riders made up of 1 couple and a family of 4 – 2 adults and 2 children aged 8 and 10. Our age restriction for children is a minimum 10 years for horseback trail rides since the trails are not suitable for youngsters. But when Nicole had called to make the reservations she told me that her daughter, now having her 8th birthday, had ridden before though she was ponied and loved horses. This was to be her daughter’s birthday present. What I had failed to ask is whether the 10 year old had ever ridden and to ask my usual question, do they like the PNE rides. That always gives me an indication of how adventurous a child is. If they like the rollercoaster (I couldn’t get enough of it when I was a kid) then they likely won’t be scared on a horse. I agreed to take the reservation on the basis that I would put the 8 year old on Sammi, our smallest horse (though we call her a pony because she is only 14 hands) and pony her. I figured I would put the 10 year old boy  on Peppy, who is 17 hands large but is as kind and gentle a soul as any horse could ever be.

Marjorie one of our volunteers at the sanctuary had offered to come in the morning and help groom and get the horses ready for the ride. Since I just had the Ferrier in to do some shoeing, I had one extra horse and invited Marjorie to join us as a thank you for the contribution of her time. Marjorie hadn’t ridden in over 20 years and I had no idea how much experience she had had before that. I often get people that tell me they rode as kids, or grew up around horses or had lessons at one time or another and then find out that they are often the ones who have the most trouble with balance or the ones who are saying “Whoa” the most often even though the horse is barely going more than a fast walk. Never ceases to amaze me. Anyway, little was I to know how fortunate I was that Marjorie joined us and that she actually did have valuable riding experience.

 Prepping and getting the horses loaded and to the park is always a long process. On average I spend about 3 to 3 ½  hours feeding, prepping and getting to the trail ride destination. Having Marjorie pitch in meant I didn’t have to rush and stress as much and was able to give a bit more attention to the grooming, especially since they are all so muddy because of the of the weather lately. We got to the horse corral at Golden Ears Park just as the first guests arrived – the family of 4.

Marjorie and I got the last or the preparations done, cinches and hackamores, just as the other couple arrived. I assigned the horses, usually based on size and weight. I then gave my short instructional “How to” which emphasis and how to carefully use the hackamores and about posture and balance. We didn’t want anyone rolling off because they put all their weight on one side of the saddle. We got the couple up in the saddles and had them practice their maneuvering while getting the kids up. Well, much to my surprise the 10 year old boy didn’t want to go. What to do. The father tried convincing him to get up, then tried telling him he had to get up and the more he pressured the boy the more resistant he became and then started crying. I got in and took the boy aside and chatted with him. He got up to the horse but then changed his mind again and walked off. This whole scene went on for about 15 minutes. The boy said he’s stay the father said he couldn’t and then the boy said he’d walk. I finally said fine, we have to go. The boy can walk behind and I’ll pony the horse. If he changes his mind, he can always get on. Only now I had a bit of a problem because I had to pony 2 horses which I couldn’t do with a child on one of them. It wouldn’t have been a problem if both had been riderless. I turned to Marjorie and asked her if she had ever ponied a horse before. No she hadn’t. I asked if she would be willing to try and yes she would. So I got her up on Thor, my lead horse, who I knew would pony no problem and ended up putting that tiny little girl, who couldn’t have been more than 70 lbs and 4 ft and a bit high, on Peppy. I would pony Sammi in case Chad, the young boy changed his mind. I got the parents up while Marjorie practiced maneuvering around with Peppy in tow and as I was getting ready to get on my horse, Marty, Chad decided he would give it a try and asked me to help him get up. We walked him over to a large “mounting” stone and he got on Sammi. As soon as he got on and we walked a few steps his fear seemed to vanish and a smile appeared. “See, I told you there was nothing to be afraid of. You are going to have fun, I promise” and off we went.

 Needless to say, the ride went very well.  Most every time I looked behind me at Chad he had a smile on his face even on the steep up and down hill climbs. His smile was even bigger when Sammi was trotting to keep up my horse, Marty, who has a very fast walk. Sammi’s little pony legs often have to trot to catch up lest she pull my arm off. Thankfully Marjorie, despite the lack of ponying experience and years out of the saddle, did an excellent job of ponying Peppy and his petite little passenger. In the end, despite the anxious start, we all had a wonderful and enjoyable trail ride in Golden Ears.

Thank you Marjorie for being there to help out.