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Training Adventure

Yesterday's training ride was quite an adventure.
While we were tacking up in the parking lot, a rather
lost looking mini-van drove up. Though we were
anticipating giving directions to the driver as he
rolled down the window, he surprised us by asking,
"Have you seen a deer running through here?" At our
puzzled noes, he went on to explain, "I hit a deer on
the road and we saw him head off in this direction. I
think I broke his leg." He had a very concerned
four-year-old in the front passenger seat.

I took a look at the nose of the van, where I saw a
slight dent and a small crack in the grill. I told
him, "You may have hit a deer, but right now it's more
angry than hurt." Aarene spoke up, "He's done this for
a living," referring to my years as an Army Game
Warden in Virginia. I continued, "Yes, and if that
deer were seriously injured you wouldn't be driving
your van right now. Every accident I've seen involving
a mini-van and a deer, the deer walked away and the
van was totaled. You really lucked out. Really, he's
just very PO'd right now." As Sue stifled a smile,
Aarene grinned and told him that if we saw the deer,
she'd give the guys address. After joshing hism a bit
more to make him feel a bit better about driving away,
he left a satisfied customer, telling us if we did see
him, it would be a three point buck.

Now, I knew that deer had either laagered up or move
across the feild to our south, so I didn't think there
was a big chance of our seeing him. I forgot about the
dogs. Kadi and Callie, Sue's big goldens, always join
us on the trail for exercise. They're usually good
company and always well behaved. Callie is our scout,
checking the trails to the fore and flanks, while Kadi
takes drag to ensure that no-one gets lost. I
shouldn't have been surprised when Callie found the

Or should I say the buck found Callie? I've never seen
a deer chase a dog before, but there it is. That
fella's three point black-tail buck chased Callie to
within 30 yards of the trail. When he saw the horses,
he stopped. So, Callie stopped. What a beauty he was
at maybe 200 lbs. No trophy, as his rack had been
broken either in the accident or some other time. But,
still, powerful, wild and alive he was, standing there
with challenge emanating from his carriage.

Callie started to trot back to the deer, and as Sue
called Callie back, that buck started to chase after
the dog, slowly and limping a bit. Callie came away
and we trotted on out of there. I know for sure that
old boy had his dander up and was looking for someone
to take it out on; Callie would have been handy

We commented on that as we rode along a bit, thinking
that our main adventure was done for the day. We were
wrong. Blue had a surprise for us.

Another ten minutes or so and we reached our usual
stream crossing. The banks had been mad slick by the
week's steady rain, whch had also swollen the creek to
knee deep on the mighty Blue mare. The boys were
content in the little river, Billy even playing a bit
by sticking his muzzle upstream and letting the
powerful current push it downstream. The dog's were in
Golden Retriever heaven, darting through the creek and
bushes like a couple of economy size otters. Sue was
about to comment on the good training that facing this
livlier stream was for the horses when all Hell broke

Blue was not happy. Unbeknownst to me, she had pulled
her rump rug awry on a bush while entering the stream
which was a severe test for her. It had taken weeks to
get her to stop flinching away from the crouper, and
we had believed she was free from her butt issues.
That discomfort was compounded by the slippery footing
and powerful current in the stream. The final straw, I
think was a crackling of brush behind us as one of the
retrievers moved about in the bush. At least it
afforded the excuse she needed.

Blue exploded. Billy and Cabby were readily convinced
that there was a monster on Blue's butt and it would
be after them next. Even as I rode out the firs four
bucks, the boys surged out of the stream, carrying
their riders to safety. Sunfish. Spin. Buck-buck.
Spin. Buck and kick up the bank after the boys. With
pulley rein and seat bones (when they touched the
saddle-HA!) and crop, I got through to her brain and
brought her back. 

After some discussion with Sue, we attempted it again.
The boys, in the lead, were, naturally enough,
nervous. Blue and I stayed a good 10-15 yards back.
The boys had cleared the stream when we entered. As
soon as all four hooves were in the creek, she
exploded into action. Buck-buck-sunfish-buck. Real
rodeo action. Reins tight, heels down. Pull, pull,
pull. Sue shouting encouragement and advice from the
bank above, where the boys had come to rest. More
quickly, the mare came under control, and we coasted
to a stop near the boys. More coaching from Sue. A
short breather, and again in to the creek. With the
same result.

We tried a final time, with still more rodeo action.
That day the creek won; but not the mare. During the
remainder of the ride, no infraction was unremarked. 

We followed a very dificult technical track above the
creek, then backtracked to the main trail. It was
difficult enough to require we dismount and guide the
horses back down. Blue's brain came back; she does the
'four-wheel drive' stuff very well, and we had gone
back to something she knew how to deal with. 

Afterward, we went to the tailer for a break and a
snack. All of the mammals but one got a cookie or
granola bar to tide them over. All but one; guess who.

Compared to that first hour, the rest of the training
ride was a breeze. As Blue paid close attention to the
cues and aids, she got more pats and less whacks. We
practiced transitions along the main gravelly road
into the tree farm, which she handled with the aplomb
of a schooling horse. She was made to walk up a steep
quarter-mile section of sandy trail; she did not balk
or argue, even though it was apparent that she wanted
to trot or canter up. She looked askance at the white
patches of fresh fallen snow, but didn't shy away.

In the end, we trailered back a tired, content and
well-schooled mare. Of course, we still have to cross
the creek, but that adventure is for our next ride. 

I credit my ability to stay in the saddle to Sue
Brown's tutelage in dressage and practice, practice,
practice. I know I couldn't have stuck to the saddle
this way a year ago. Of course, Blue wouldn't have had
the muscle or energy to react that way a year ago,
either. Fifteen months of dressage and endurance
training have certainly made a difference for us,
though we have a way to go, yet.

Jim Beidle

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