Just beyond Little Bear Bridge lays a very large mud puddle that never dries. About three horse lengths long, wide as the logging road and pretty darn deep, Kessy has never crossed through it. We've built a bypass around it over the past 3 years so it's not really an issue. If you've been a Coffee Clutcher for a while you know Kessy and puddles is a work in progress. In Kessy's defense other horses, who from time to time ride with us, don't trust this puddle either.
This being a hot, dry summer monster puddle did dry in the middle leaving sizable puddles in the truck tracks on both sides, and a muddy but water free 2 foot path down the center. I should mention we pass this way both in and out every day we ride.
Kessy, Saturday and I had such a swell ride yesterday, great bird watching, searching for fall foliage and some really fun gaiting, and were in great spirits when we got back to monster puddle so, I figured we'd give the middle a try. Just for fun. Kessy marched right up to it, and stopped.
Now Kessy is a wonderful girl, enjoys new things, most of the time, and has really come a long way in our 3 years together – but when she says no, sometimes she means it. For real. I was really feeling great, wearing a big ol' smile, so I gave Kessy a pat on the neck, and asked her to "walk on." … She said, "Nope."
Kessy has different levels of "nope," sometimes she'll think about it and give it a go. Other times she'll stick to her nope and that's it. She's had some issues forced on her before we were a team, and she goes into shut-down mode, especially if she's scared.
I backed her away from monster puddle about 10 feet, let her study my request, the puddle and the world. After she gave a sigh, I asked her to walk on again, and she did. Right to the edge of the puddle, then she stopped, nice and soft, but not an inch closer. She dropped her head and stood waiting for my next ask, which she refused. Saturday was having a grand time in the mud and water and I thought perhaps she'd follow, but nope.
We backed away a few more times, soft and easy, waited for the sigh, and walked right up to the edge and each time Kessy stopped at nearly the same place.
Still feeling silly, still having a great morning, I remembered my Uncle Ed, an honest to goodness cowboy who grew up on the XIT ranch in Texas, telling me years ago, that sometimes you can help them understand by backing them trough. I'd used this already and found it to work nicely; of course it must be a safe place. And Kessy's a great backer, so we turned around.
Cautiously we backed, one step at a time, all the way to the center of the monster puddle-track. I gave her time to relax each step. She even played in the water with her nose! We paused in the middle until Kessy was comfortable, then I asked to walk back out again, which she did nice and smooth.
At the edge we turned around again and I asked to walk where she'd just backed. Nope, she was not moving.
Still in high spirits, even laughing, I turned her around again, and she backed clean trough to the other end! Just as smooth as can be, never missing a step. Kessy loves her treats, so I gave her a piece of carrot.
But I wasn't done, and Kessy, while worried, was still very engaged, so I asked her to walk through. Nope. Not doing it. So we turned around one more time, backed all the way through again, still soft and smooth. Turning her at the far end, I asked for her to walk forward down the track one more time. Nope. I fell forward, hugged her neck laughing out loud, and gave her a carrot. Then I asked her to walk around the puddle on our bypass. She was so happy she fell right into her running walk!
I would have gotten off and tried to lead her, but mounting and dismounting without our platform is tough for me right now, so we just played the best we could. We had some fun clowning around, and one day, when she's ready, she'll march right through monster puddle.
Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry