KBR Horse Humor:

Ranger's Freewheeling Adventure

Ponying can have some unexpected side benefits.

Before beginning any serious saddle work, Tami Daniels taught her newly adopted mustang, Ranger, to pony. With the exception of when she brought Ranger over to the ranch to practice ponying off of Prints, Ranger worked behind his pasture mates whom Tami and her daughter Sierra would ride, and all of his work was in territory familiar to him.

Ranger behind Prints

Once into formal saddle training, Ranger injured a stifle and needed to do a lot of straight line walking for rehabilitation. Tami did this at home, but Ranger was getting bored and he needed some fresh territory.

On October 2nd, 1999, a few of us decided to go out for a 6 mile trail ride in Round Valley Regional Park. We invited Tami to come along and pony Ranger. The park is relatively secluded, most of the trip is on 8 foot wide fire roads, the park isn't usually crowded and we figured it would be a good place to reintroduce Ranger to the great outdoors. There were five of us on horseback plus Ranger. Tami was on Sherlock, her Arab.

Shortly into the ride we typically take a single track shortcut to bypass a steep hill. On the single track Ranger had to stop to smell trees and it wasn't long before Tami, dodging trees herself, lost her grip on the rope. Ranger stayed in the group, however, and in a few minutes we were all back on a good fire road.

Ranger stayed with us really well on the single track so we decided to try removing the lead rope and seeing how well Ranger would stay with the group at liberty. He thought this was pretty cool and for the first mile stayed right in the middle of the group.

As the ride progressed, Ranger got more confidence, occasionally leading the way and snorting at various horse eating rocks and trees. He also decided that he had to investigate every manure pile on the trail so it generally was a good thing when he was far enough ahead that one of us didn't crash into him when he would suddenly stop to check out who had been there before.

Ranger also had one other mildly annoying habit. We'd be going along and occasionally he'd suddenly turn around and want to visit with the horse behind him. Before long we could just wave our arms and tell him to keep moving, and he'd turn around and continue on.

There are several bridges on this ride and at first Ranger would stop at each bridge, smelling the edge of the concrete until the first horse stepped onto it. At that point Ranger would get going and would be the first horse across the bridge. If something really concerned him, such as hikers or a jogger, he would slip back into the middle of the group for protection. Through Ranger we learned that many hikers have a firm grasp of the obvious.

"Hey, you know you have a loose horse?"

"Uh, yeah. He's a youngster just coming out for exercise."

(It must be lack of oxygen to their brains due to their actually having to hike the trails.)

At one point we pulled off the trail at a meadow when we saw a rider with another young horse in tow coming up the opposite direction through a narrow section. While we were stopped, Ranger tiptoed to the front of the group to get a good view, but didn't get out too far. Once the others passed, our group proceeded onward. Ranger started on, then turned around and took a couple of steps toward the newcomers. Not sure if he really intended to follow them or not, I positioned Havilynn the Clyde across the trail and told Ranger to move on. He did.

It's an interesting experience having a loose horse at the water stop. He had to check out all the elements of the water troughs, but he didn't make too much of a pest of himself. Eventually he wandered a few feet to the edge of a meadow and grazed until we were ready to leave, and as soon as we started off, he was back in the middle of the pack.

Havilynn the Clyde didn't drink at the first stop so we left the trail a little farther on to visit a second water trough. The group stayed on the trail but Ranger had to come explore. Havilynn took a quick drink and we returned to the group. Ranger stayed to play in the water until we called to him, whereupon he looked up and came galloping back to us.

For most of the remainder of the trip Ranger decided to be lead horse. He stayed about 50 yards ahead of the group, checking out all the manure piles and scary objects. When we came to the first fork in the trail, Ranger went left while the rest of us went right. When he realized he was left behind, he came thundering by and reclaimed the lead. From then on he'd watch at the forks to see which way the group was starting to head, then he'd take the correct trail.

Ranger would have probably followed the group through the parking lot to the staging area horse trough, however Tami thought common sense should prevail and put the lead rope on him at the last bridge before the end of the ride.

Ranger made the entire trek without out coming up sore on his stifle, plus he seems to have gotten a whole new perspective about trailers. Apparently whenever Ranger is loose and the trailer door is open, Ranger goes over and loads himself.

"C'mon, Ma, let's go for another walk!"

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