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First Camping Trips

Posted by greygelding , 17 October 2017 · 5,985 views

It occurred to me that Mayo was the only horse that had been in a pack it in camping trip. I decided that Aspen would be the first even though she would require the most preparation. I rode her around the arena then brought out some camping equipment to see what she needed work on. We never made it past an empty canteen. I placed a large empty canteen hanging from the saddle horn and started to lead her. She was crouching as I led her and as soon as I touched it making it move just a little she went into panic mode. Whirling around me she was trying to figure out where to go and what to do. I managed to stop her and with some soothing words and soft petting she was soon standing quietly. I removed the canteen and presented it to her, there was a little bit more nervous dancing, and within a few minutes she was walking quietly with it on the saddle. Spooky but smart is something I can work with. I mounted her and rode her around that way. The saddle bags were next. After the introduction she warily allowed them to be placed on the front of the saddle and I led her around. One ear and eye were glued on the bags. Next I mounted and she nervously walked but when I moved them the response was instant. She started to dance, whirl around and began to buck. I jettisoned the bags and regained control. With a bit more work she finally was OK with them. Over the month she adjusted to everything including me brushing my feet on the fence rail to simulate bushes brushing on the gear and dropping things from her. The weekend before the scheduled camping trip she was ready for her final exam. I packed her up just like we were heading out for the trip and I filled the front bags and pack with cans containing small rocks so they would make lots of noise. We went around the arena two times then stopped so I could unpack her. I purposely unloaded everything right in front of her tossing the front bags on the ground so they might frighten her. All she did was flinch so I dropped the reins and finished unpacking her. She watched everything hit the ground with interest but stood her ground like a sport. I hugged her and rewarded her and the trip was on.
Pam rode Mayo while I rode Aspen and the trip up was wonderful. Mayo, of course, had been there before so this was nothing new for him. Aspen took everything in stride and as the brush growing on the side of the trail rubbed her she paid it no mind. Arriving at the campsite I really appreciated my training of her. I took the camera from the saddle to take a picture and doing so I dislodged one of the front packs. It landed on the ground next to Aspens right front foot and instead of her throwing a bucking fit it didn't bother her at all.
We tied the horses to the tie rail and Aspen took her cues from Mayo as I hoped she would. She quickly caught on to things like hikers and deer are no threat as well as to the best times to nicker for a carrot treat. The next morning we packed up and prepared to mount. One thing I knew from past trips is when you take the crisp mountain air, combine it with the knowledge that we were heading home, the horses are raring to hit the road. Mayo was like a spry young colt, Aspen took her cue from him, and we had our hands full for the first few minutes until they settled down. The whole trip turned out excellent instead of the wild woman disaster that it looked like just a month ago.
One week later found us back on the camping trail with Pam on Begonia and I was mounted on Mayo. Begonia was a little nervous at first when tied to the rail but when she figured out that treats and food were forthcoming, just for the asking, she started to really enjoy herself. On the trail home, Begonia demonstrated her true value, my never having to worry about Pam while riding her. At one place in the trail we were on a narrow spot carved out of the mountain. The downhill side went sharply down at a steep angle just short of vertical. The uphill side sloped down sharply as well ending at shoulder height while mounted. Covered in brush there was no way to see if anything lurked in there. I was in the lead with Begonia and Pam right behind me. As I passed a large bushy area, a deer exploded out of the brush right behind me, crashing through the brush and racing noisily away. I was riding with the reins dropped taking pictures when Mayo broke into a run. I grabbed the reins and stopped him after about three or four strides. Turning in the saddle I saw Begonia in her "You're not messing with Pam!" stance. She had just stopped dead center of the trail, puffed up as big as she could, and stood at the ready to do battle.
The next week was the finale of the whirlwind camping extravaganza I had planned. I did no pack training with Shar as I assumed, correctly, that she would understand and just adjust to the situation. I had ridden her with saddle bags and a front bag hanging from the horn before and she had never paid any attention to them. I packed her up, tying the small mountain of stuff onto her saddle, and as predicted she just didn't mind at all. Her attitude was "Hurry up and let's go riding!" She stepped out lively followed by Mayo and Pam. The difference between Shar and the other horses, with the exception of Mayo, was her fascination with the event. She was in sightseeing mode for the whole trip. She had the uncanny ability to take in all there was to see as she went along but never make a misstep. When we arrived at the campsite and secured her to the tie rail that's when she was at her happiest. Every hiker or animal that came within sight brought her new found pleasure. The head never lowered, the eyes were bright, and those ears were always perked. When it was dinnertime she treated her food like it was an interruption to her day. The following morning I was up as it was starting to turn light. She was standing there in the same stance staring up the mountain. Pam and I watched her as she continued to stare up the mountain. It took awhile but we finally discovered that she was fascinated with the fog rolling softly down the mountain. Satisfied when it finally reached us, and seeing nothing else new, she turned her attention to the business of eating. When we started the trip home the horses were usually up for the occasion but Shar really stepped it up. I thought for a minute she was going to start bucking and her excitement produced a small buck from Mayo. When it was time to load she, who always jumps into the trailer, loaded a bit slowly as if she was disappointed that the adventure was at a close. Three trips in three weeks and I had a herd of camping horses.

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