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Postcard Jack’s first trail ride

Published: 11/25/2015
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This Not Too Old series was developed from reader feedback of the popular Anatomy of a Wreck feature.
Guest columnist Debbie Hight is a Remuda Reader from Norridgewock, Maine. For the past few years, she and her friend, Rob Rowbottom, have worked to rehabilitate a retired, 25-year old standardbred. Rowbottom is a Remuda Reader and skilled horseman who has worked with Elijah Moore and enjoys Buck Brannaman principles and techniques.
Postcard Jack happens to be the winningest horse in Maine track history, but how will he work as a saddle horse?
The series reminds us: Horse or human, you’re not too old to learn.

Read more about Postcard Jack and the Not too Old to Learn features here.

A note from Debbie Hight:

I hope that Rob emailed you about Postcard Jack's first trail ride.  Rob likes to say, "well, let's see what happens..." So, we headed out under the protection of Roxy and me (ha-ha).  Rob got Jack's attention, no problem, we walked out through the 40-acre field, no problem. 
Then we headed into the woods for a short woods ride, just to test him out. It was my idea, of course, I wanted to see what he would do around an enclosed area, with a few fallen branches, one fallen tree, and staying close to home. In hindsight, I really don't think that Rob needed a test drive.
All went well. We headed down another trail, out into another field (I call that field the Buck Field, the scene of one of my many inaugural dumps courtesy of Roxy) and onto the snowmobile trails. 
Big mud puddle?  Only a small problem! 
Overhanging limbs? So what?  Boy, this is fun! 
I really think that because Jack has so much trust in Rob, he would go with him anywhere and through anything. 

A note from Rob Rowbottom:

I've not ridden as I planned to this fall, getting the manure spread, logging, and taking care of the beef critters has been a full time deal. I have managed to put time in on Mac (a rescue horse) and have made some significant progress with using less and less rein.
Jack has had some time off, however, and one day Debbie and I were going on a trail ride and she suggested I take Jack.
I was so excited in how it turned out. Jack was a little spooky and doesn't like mud, but he behaved and I had control off all four corners with a great backup and softness.
In the first photo above, Jack initially balked going across a wet run, so I turned him around and backed him across, usually works if you don't have a lot of time. In the picture I've set him up to turn right. I've weighted the left side of my seat, turned my head and torso, and opened my right leg and am about to ask with my right rein to turn right as his right leg leaves the ground. This picture is important to me because I feel the timing is right. A picture is worth a thousand words!

It was so gratifying to see that he wasn't too old to learn and the best part was to see that he has "retained it."
In reality, he was ready for the trails long before this and I believe, like clinicians will tell you, that getting them to fluidly do the things they do in the arena in a field or the woods is so important. I believe that starting from the beginning with effective groundwork and building on that has helped him retain his learned skills.

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    "Practice sharpens, but overschooling blunts the edge. If your horse isn't doing right, the first place to look is yourself" - Joe Heim