Pippin is the horse that most of our Willing Workers On Organic Farms (WWOOF guests) enjoyed riding. He is big, handsome and easily steps over the logs, across the creeks, through the rocks and along the cliffs of our usual wilderness rides. He always carried the saddlebags, even when they flapped in the 80 km winds that hit us on ridge tops. Pippin is always the first horse to catch and load; always the one I knew would be fine with a guest; one I would not be concerned about handing off to a new volunteer on our farm.
All was well on the return portion of the trail ride. In fact, it had gone very well. The older horses role modelled appropriate behaviour for Pippin and he gained in confidence with every new sight, sound and smell. As we hit the steep canyon again, my one friend and I started up a conversation. She was not so good at heights, so our discussion distracted her from that. We were relaxed and heading home at a leisurely walk. The more experienced horse was a ways ahead, and had already disappeared around a bend in the trail. Then, a bird flew up from the cliff below right up under the nose of my friends horse, just in front of Pippin.
Everything happened at once - the horse in front of Pippin took off at a gallop, and Pippin and I were left alone on the trail. I pulled him to the north and we stopped in the grassy slope above the trail. I heard my friend pulling up well out of sight, "I don't know where Heidi is . . . or what happened!". I asked Pippin to walk again and moved him back to the trail. With no other horse around, he walked calmly down the trail, around the corner and caught up to the two more experienced horses.
Well done Mr. Pip! Thank you for being our best trail horse from the start. Sometimes training just means enabling a horse to do what he is best at . . . makes my job easy!