Dave Seay Progressive Horsemanship
Moonlight Ride

Big & Scary & Coming Right at Us

“The dam? Gulp”, is what you usually hear from first-timers wanting to ride to the other side of the park. “And there’s no other way back?” is usually what’s next.

Although the vision people probably get in their heads when crossing a dam is mentioned may resemble something closer to the great concrete walls of the Hoover, our little dam can certainly come with its share of obstacles. Stretching a few hundred feet in length with enough width on top to ride 2 horses side-by-side, this little dam does see a lot of activity. It is in fact the only path connecting 5-miles of trails on one side of the park with another 10-miles or so on the other.

With a reservoir boasting trophy bass fishing, on any given day you’re sure to have a plethora of small motorboats just off the shore, people on foot casting off from the rocks, or Great Blue Heron waiting for the perfect moment to takeoff in flight. On the off side of the dam, with the lush never before harvested grass is the overflow pipe, usually just trickling, but sure to blow as soon as you’re on top of it. The land critters you meet include others on horseback, hikers, the occasional Boy Scout troop, and mountain bikers.

Now as a former mountain biker, I totally get it! I LOVE mountain biking and would still be doing it today if I didn’t have so many horses to ride. That being said, most of the bikers out here know the proper etiquette—horses have the right of way. Well you can imagine my dismay as mid-way across the dam, here comes a biker, and he’s not slowing down. I gave “the look”, nothing. So I yell, “hey stop please”, which at least got me a rather confused look. Then I turn-around to see my friend Dave Seay smiling behind me and waving the biker to keep coming right towards us.

"What the?"

As I tensed up I felt the energy in my horse start to boil, and then I heard the voice from behind me, “back him up, keep backing, keep backing”. I know by now to do as I’m told in these situations, so I backed my horse until the bike was right at our nose, then I heard, “side-pass away, then turn and follow”. Presto!

Of course my first reaction was to freeze and want to jump off, but knowing just a little better than that I was about to fall back on the old standby of disengaging the hindquarters. As useful as that is in many circumstances, in the end I’m not sure we would have had the same success here. By allowing my horse to back away he was able to keep both of his eyes on the bike coming towards us. As it got closer my horse was still able to fully see what was coming at us through his eye nearest the bike, and following the bike away gave him confidence and understanding for the next time.

I am always amazed at the multitude of ways there are to help your horse in situations that could easily turn into disaster. I am also amazed at how easy it can be to create a positive experience from something you may dread and just hope never comes up. Inviting a challenge in once in a while, under the right guidance can lift a huge burden. It also goes to show that every moment presents an opportunity to learn if you want it, and there’s never just one answer. Of course it helps to have a guardian angel horseman to ride with!

And now we can get back to the more important stuff like learning where the best place in the lake to catch a fish is and what kind of bait should be used.

Happy trails!


© Dave Seay Progressive Horsemanship.