I haven't blogged for awhile, but now that my wife is back from touring the world, I have a little spare time so here is an update on what's been going on with Flash and me.
In mid April, Annette and I and Flash went to the Alisal guest ranch in Solvang, California. Annette's horse, Jackson, couldn't make it because he was still off, so he stayed home. After the 4 hour trip up to Alisal, Flash settled right in amongst the wrangler horses and the cattle. The next day was our first ride for Flash. I was expecting a private ride because they don't want to mix their herd with an outside horse which is understandable. I was shocked and a little nervous when the wranglers put Flash in right behind them, with Annette and about 5 guests behind us. The last time a private horse was allowed to ride at the ranch with other guests was over 10 years ago, and it was apparently a disaster. People say their horses can cross water, be around cattle, deal with wildlife,etc., buy it never turns out that way.
Well, we started out and after 100' we had to cross a large stream. Flash negotiated it without a problem. He was fine at the walk and trot, but when it came to the first lope, Flash got very excited. He wants to be first, and I had a hard time keeping him from running over the wrangler's horse. The wrangler was good though, and realized Flash wanted to lead so he let us, telling us where to turn and when to trot and when to lope. Flash was really, really happy. We even came to a bridge crossing a damn, and the wrangler wanted to go first, but his horse balked, so Flash led the way.
The next day we encountered cattle on the trail. I had no idea how Flash would do, but he was in the lead and trotted right thru them. At one point, two of the cows tried to get by on the right and I moved Flash over. He went on auto pilot, and cut and herded the cows away from the other guests and off the trail. He loved herding cattle up there; after each time he would come back to the group, head lowered, ears forward, licking his lips. Now he has me looking for cutting clinics along with everything else. Riding Flash at the Alisal was a "bucket list" thing, and it far exceeded even my best expectations.
While Annette was traveling in France, I signed up Flash for another sensory/parade clinic in San Diego with the same instructor that Annette and I had gone to several months ago, (see "Where is Jackson?"). This time he was a totally different horse. He had a slight melt down just before the lunch break when another horse next to him went on a bucking spree and almost hit him, but after doing three rodeo 360's, he came back under control and we went to eat. Part of the problem was that Flash was used by the instructor as the "demo horse", and was always put next to "problem horses" during the parade/formation riding. The same thing happens when we go to our posse trainings, and both Flash and I get a little tired of being the "model".
After the lunch break it was back in the arena for the sensory portion. While one of the instructors demonstrated each obstacle on her horse, (he refused to do 3 of the obstacles), Flash decided to take a nap. He lowered his head with me on him, closed his eyes and went to sleep. After the 15 minute demo, the course was open for everyone to try the obstacles with one exception: the Chinese kite on the ground with glitter and long tails flowing in the breeze was just there to walk by, nothing else. As we broke up, none of the horses would come within 15' of the kite, but Flash walked right over to it, put his head down, and picked it up in his mouth. I had to make him drop it as he was scaring the other horses. He basically was sleep walking through every obstacle. Not one of them even bothered him, and not once did he ask, "where is Jackson"? At one point, the instructors put long pillow type cases over their bodies, covering their heads, with long sleeves sewn in so they looked like dancing pillow cases with arms. Most of the horses got within 8', but no closer. Flash on the other hand, walked right behind one of them and pushed them with his nose. Scared the instructor who turned around and tried to spook Flash by flapping her arms and wrapping them around his neck. He just stood there and said "whatever". He redeemed himself from the last clinic.
On July 2nd, we had a posse deployment at a local park, (approximately 200 acres), where a fireworks show was scheduled in the evening. There were over 6,000 spectators and "easy-ups" everywhere. Every time we would stop, 30 to 40 kids would run up to the horses, kicking beach balls, waving flags, and screaming. All of the horses were good and let the kids pet their faces. Flash doesn't like his face being pet, but he tolerated it to some extent. After a few minutes he would move his head away to avoid all the kid contact. At one point, two of the other horses were starting to act up and get antsy, so the Captain asked me to take them for a walk until they calmed down. I thought, "here we go again", being the model horse. Well, the three of us rode over to the far side of the park where we came upon a group of developmentally challenged kids and young adults. The group leader approached me and asked if she could have a couple of the kids take pictures next to Flash. I said yes, and the next thing I knew, she was pushing a wheel chair bound young adult right up to Flash and spun the wheel chair around right next to his front legs. Flash didn't even flinch, and where earlier he got tired of the kids touching his face and moved his head away, this time he lowered his head and put it on the shoulder of the young adult. I think horses just know a lot more than we give them credit for.
The day ended fine, and when the fireworks show started in the evening, all of the horses did great. Well, I promise to blog with a little more regularity.