Will’s First Day at Agarita Ranch

amywink October 19th, 2009

I have been dreaming about this day since I first ventured out to Agarita Ranch to volunteer at the first CDE held there in the fall 2005. I started out timing an obstacle, then the next year, I scribed for a judge and set cones, and the next year I had graduated to Clerk of Dressage. Of course, in that time, I’ve taken many a lesson at Good Hands Training Center before I sent my horse for training and continued the lessons after he finished 120 days, working with Tom and Jerry O’Carroll throughout the next year. What excellent preparatory work all of that was our first Sunday drive! Now, I’m driving my own horse and ready to move on to the next phase of enjoying Agarita Ranch and the Plum Creek Carriage Society. Will is ready too–though he was Not Too Sure when we started out on Sunday.

We loaded up in the morning and Will was nervous about getting in the trailer–until Windy came along (whew). Mary hauled the carriages, Lisa hauled the horses, and I hauled lunch! The weather was gorgeous, crisp but warming nicely to the low 70’s, just like Saturday’s Swap Drive weather. We unloaded at Agarita about 10:15 and Will looked about excitedly, sniffing the air for bears. After some time steeping in a stall, Will was ready for harnessing and hooking. He did pretty well with his harnessing, remembering to stand still the entire time, even though his wide eyes looked around the barn. Then we hooked….which went smoother than I have seen it but not as smoothly as at home. Will was a bit jumpy and “up” looking about, but Lisa had a handle on him and we managed to get him to stand well enough for a quiet mounting of the carriage. Then we walked around on the lead rope, so he could settle down a bit–and that’s all he settled, a bit, but we were ready and off came the lead. You can see how “up” he is here:

And so we stood for a few seconds, about all he could stand being still, and I moved him forward before he decided to go himself. Then we walked around and around and around, back and forth down the road, around and around and around the dressage arena where he took some long hard looks at things imagined. If faith is a belief in unseen things, Will is a horse of Great Faith, but he also seemed to have some faith in me and listened when I urged him forward and got him round the scary things, keeping to a nice walk until a trot was prudent. After several rounds of the dressage arena, he stopped to allow Mary to hop on the back, and off we went again for more surveying of the area.

He was still “up” and looking when he nearly scared himself silly by catching the right rein under his tail, when I reached down to move it, he clamped that sucker down, forcing himself to turn hard right. I did have the presence of mind to hold the left rein steady, call for help, and get him straightened. But that tail wasn’t going to let go of that rein. It was me holding the left rein, and he holding the right. A new kind of one handed driving. I don’t recommend it.

Amazingly, he stood. Very still. Very straight. He stood like a statue and Mary got off the carriage and undid his tail. Crisis concluded, everyone unscathed. And at that moment, Will relaxed. His head came down, his posture shifted, and he moved off quietly and calmly. Like he’d survived the attack he’d expected could now stop worrying about it all. So, off we went, around the dressage arena and in, quietly, calmly, forward. He went into the corners deep, circled as best I could do (note to self: work on circles), and we headed out, ready to take on the marathon course through the mesquite thicket at the east side (upper side) of the property

He did amazingly well following Windy, trotting out strong and steady, listening to my hands. He even crossed the muddy puddle without batting an eye. When he moved too quickly, I slowed him with a little “brrrr” and he steadied himself and settled into a nice pace. When Windy took a wrong turn, we circled around waiting for her to return. Though he sent out a call for her–and she answered back–he continued to respond to my hands and kept himself in control. After the “thicket”, we headed “down” into the woods on the western side of the property.

The groomed trails wound through a forest of oaks and pecans and the bright green horse herb, pink oxalis, and blue spiderwort covered the forest floor. Will didn’t bat an eye. He was pretty tired but kept his trot steady, his head in frame, and did a wonderful job trotting down the pleasant trails, happy to wait for Windy to drive through the obstacles with Lisa. “I’ll just wait here” he thought gladly. I’m sure. And notice the nice low head here. img_4592.jpgimg_4591.jpgAfter a break, we headed up to the cones course, set up in front of the Plum Creek Chapel.

Will really thought we were done and casually veered toward the barn but I pushed him on to the cones course and he obliged. Windy and Lisa went first, and we rested–standing quietly in the shade after walking around a bit–while Lisa tried the course. img_4598.jpg

We took it very slowly but he remained responsive and did his best to make it through the tricky tight course.img_4602.jpgimg_4600.jpg

He was a very very good and tired pony. We rested a bit in front of the Hotel and found ourselves with a new passenger. Perhaps a Carriage Cat Class would be in order?img_4605.jpg

After a nice rest, we headed back to our barn and Will stopped immediately in the exact spot where we’d hitched. This time, he knew we were done. And he was right. We unhooked uneventfully, unharnessed and washed the sweat off–though he didn’t really care for that–and got a big drink of water and a nice pad of hay. I was very very proud of my pony and very proud of me. We’d done our first trip out and survive to tell the tale. Team Taipan-Station Returned Successfully with No Losses or Injuries, Physical or Mental. YAY!!

I can’t wait to do it again. I hope Will feels the same.

One Response to “Will’s First Day at Agarita Ranch”

  1. ellen fosteron 21 Oct 2009 at 6:51 am


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