Zoe's Story

Friday, 7 October 2011

Pippin, Our Best Kept Secret

Have you ever told a story about a horse that had no scary moments, no naughtiness, no silly stuff? Well, when you have a horse that is just serious about his job, keeps his nose to the grindstone and is simply a pleasure to ride, chances are, he is not part of those stories you tell around the campfire! After 7 years first working with Pippin, then simply enjoying his presence and uncomplicated cooperation, it is time to tell his story.  He is indeed our best kept secret.

 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.

There is lots to appreciate about the storyless horse, and well actually there also is one really good story to share too.  Mr. Pip went on his first mountain trail ride near the end of the summer when he was three.  I had been riding him all summer around the farm, and felt he was ready for more.  I joined my friends with older horses; one was still a bit green, and the other was a well trained trail horse.  Off we went on one of my favourite trails in Waterton, Blakiston!  We rode for a couple of hours along the spectacular trail with rough bush to the north, and an amazing red and green canyon a significant few metres deep, to the south of the trail - right to the south.  As we rode single file, at a leisurely pace along the cliff I had two significant thoughts.  The first one was, well, this is what I am best at; taking my young horses from the trainer and giving them the experiences that will make them into confident experienced horses.  This is why I hope folks will buy horses from our farm, I will already have (in a safe manner), completed many of the milestones in training like "the first serious trail ride in the mountains."  The other thought was more basic . . . ."I am glad my horses are not suicidal".  As I peered down the cliff, I realized a wrong move at the wrong time, could have serious consequences.  Even a young horse has instincts that will keep him safe, and the rider has to count on those instincts.  Plus this is my "job" as a horse breeder with the goal of offering experienced, well started horses to folks.  It is a pretty darn great job!!

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!