Finn goes to the Mountains

By Patty Wilber

Every once in a while I get a horse that can handle the backcountry almost right away.  Finn is one of those horses.

I had 18 rides on him and his owner Sheryl L. mentioned that she’d really like him to learn to cross water.

Turns out I was scheduled to help with a BCH pack out for a trail crew on the 19th.  (By then I’d be up to 20 rides.) We had to ride out of Jack’s Creek on Beattys Trail #25, to Jacks Creek Trail #257.  We were picking up gear at the creek crossing where you can turn to go up to Pecos Baldy Lake.

That set of trails is pretty safe for a green horse.  There is only one spot I don’t love and it is just a short narrow spot right before the seep on the horse trail out of the parking lot.  And, of course, there was the requisite water crossing, right where we were to pick up the gear, so I’d be able to work the water without slowing up the project. Perfect.

Finn is three or four years old.  I have a photo of his papers, but his name and birthday are chopped off.  I know he was officially registered in March 2021, so maybe three?  He was a stud colt until March of this year and removing the distraction of testosterone has really slowed his roll.  Unless some hot mare starts waving her raised tail in his face.  For that reason, we loaded Penny in front, Cometa in the middle and Finn in the last slot.

He unloaded and stood at the trailer like he’d been doing this forever.  Penny and Cometa had nothing on him.

He’s been on the steep and rocky trails here with other horses so I knew he was quiet when traversing rough terrain and was fine leading or following.  For this ride, I had him follow Penny, who was being packed. Penny is super solid and makes a good mentor, in case that was needed. (It wasn’t, but at least we had a plan.)

We headed out and while he might have liked a slightly faster pace at first, there was no jigging or fretting.  He marched right along.

Heading up the horse bypass out of Jack’s Creek trailhead, following Penny.

Because he had not crossed mud or water before I was a little concerned about the seep on the horse bypass.  He didn’t even pause!  I was really impressed!  But it turns out he was not actually paying attention and when a hoof hit the mud, he was a bit shocked and scooted over.  Fortunately, it is a tiny seep so he was basically through it before he saw it.

He had no trouble stepping over a large log left on the trail–it really needs to be removed.  In retrospect, we should have taken it out on the way back, but we didn’t. Finn did have a fair amount of trouble on the rocky sections and he tripped and chose poor foot placement often enough to be a little annoying.  This trail has no rocky spots with precipitous drop-offs, so he could bumble along with no untoward consequences for either of us.  Luckily, we have plenty of rocks on our home trails so I can work on that.

Once we got to the water, I expected him to hesitate and then plunge ahead to follow the others, but he declined and really did not show much motivation to catch up.  I got off and Jim ponied him.  This did result in a mad rush and a bit of a body slam for Jim’s horse, Cometa.  Cometa has ponied a lot of horses over their first stream crossings.  On one of my first stream crossings with him, he laid down in the water…but back to Finn.

Jim turned around and brought Finn back.  Finn rushed ahead again and got loose.  Dragging his lead rope, he hurried through the water, up the bank and started a strong trot out into the forest, rather than on the trail.  It felt like all the blood left my extremities and I panicked I was about to lose a client horse in the wilderness. Fortunately, my limbs still worked so I was able to follow immediately, and Jim, on horseback, was ready as well. Another lucky break: the trees are thick right there and within 20 yards there was a fallen tree angled across his path.  He could have charged through it, but he just stopped and looked at me.  He did not move a foot as I came to collect him.  I think he was happy I was still close by.  I, on the other hand, was all wrought up! I was a little shaky!

Jim collected him and led him in again, and by this time, Finn had figured out, “oh!  it is water! i am thirsty!”, and he drank.

 I rode him through (easy) and we tied up for lunch. Whew!

“what?” said Finn.

“omg” said Cometa. “babies are exhausting.” “what?’, said Finn.

After lunch, we packed up and headed back.

“water, schmater. i got this,” said Finn.

Finn kind of hopped the seep on the way down, and the rocks in the trial still confounded his feet, but he is just starting out, and I was really proud of him!



About BlogPatty

Here's the skinny: I have a thing for horses. They make sense to me. I have a small horse training business (it's a "boutique" training business, not because it's super fancy, but because the horses get a lot of personal attention). I also go by Dr. Wilber, and teach biology full-time at a Central New Mexico Community college.
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