I just have to give my horse some credit for being amazing. We moved to the island 7 months ago and when we first started riding on the beach, I feared for my life every time. It wasn’t that Baron was out of control, but he stayed just under that fear threshold where things can go very wrong every single time we rode. There’s a point for every horse where they get overloaded with stimuli and depending on their personality, they go into fight or flight mode. Baron tends toward flight. He wants to go faster when he’s feeling overwhelmed. He’s a thoroughbred and he was bred to race, so he got it honest!
I give him a lot of credit for being so good during those first few months. The beach was a totally new environment and there was a lot going on- trucks, fishing poles, loose dogs, kids running around, kites flying, planes overhead (a nearby military base flies training runs over the island constantly). It was A LOT for him to take in. Every ride he got more and more solid, and now he’s able to go out onto the beach alone and do the whole ride on a loose rein. It’s a BIG DEAL. If you’ve ever ridden a naturally hot horse, you know what a big deal it is for them to be able to relax.
Baron is getting in the water every time now too, something that took months to accomplish. On our last ride, I rode in the middle of the day when the beach was packed with people. Hatteras is one of the few places that allows people to drive out onto the beach, and the beach was lined with trucks at least a mile in both directions. It was a busy day, but we went right down to the water and splashed around a little. He didn’t want to go in very deep, but considering that he was spinning in circles and freaking out a few months ago, I’m perfectly happy with him being able to calmly walk into the water and get his feet wet.
The other day I got up early and rode around Hatteras Village before most people were out and about. We crossed two bridges, got passed by the ferry traffic (including massive RVs), and he never once put a foot wrong. He was so curious and engaged the entire time. It was a wonderful ride and a change of scenery that we both enjoyed!
I’ve had Baron for almost 13 years. He hasn’t been an easy horse. He is expensive to feed, he has some physical issues that take work and careful management to overcome, and he is a sensitive horse to ride. But he can also be a total mellow fellow, once he is used to something. Once he is calm and relaxed, he is the most fun to ride because he can walk calmly but also get up and go if I ask him. Many times I have wished for an easier horse- a horse that would not have such a dramatic reaction to things, a horse whose idea of a spook is to snort in place. But looking back on 13 years of our partnership, I know that I would be less of a horseman if I had an easier horse. He has made me better, no doubt about it. All the money and time I have invested in him has the return of making me a more sensitive and compassionate rider. You can’t put a price on that.