Soleil makes progress at Carrot Fest 2007

It was a wonderful day to enjoy Wilder Ranch State Park with our Equestrian and equine friends. We were high up on the Horse Camp marine terrace with great views of the ocean and the back country. It was sunny, warm and clear. Perfect spring weather on the central coast.

Rebeckah from SCCHA and Sebastien from MBOSC discussed the basics of horse-bike interaction on the trails and hosted an open discussion of experiences and lessons learned when encountering the other user group on the trail. Then we broke into a clinic to help desensitize horses to mountain bikes.

We started the clinic by having the bikers ride in large circles and let the horses follow them. The objective is to make the horse feel like the predator rather than the prey animal so that the horses could get used to the sounds and sights of a mountain bike. Then we placed ourselves in the position of coming up from behind and passing the horse. I was really impressed with the control and confidence of Claudia’s bay mare Silhouette around bikes. I was pedaling right beside her so closely that I would turn my head and glance into the horse’s eye.

The most transformational moment was with an Arab mare Soleil and Geoff Smith (a mountain biker). Soleil is a 12 year old horse who was never frightened of mountain bikes when Claudia first got her at 7. Claudia didn’t think that Soliel had a specific negative experience with a mountain bike but something recently made her fear the mechanical steeds that we choose to ride. She said it was analogous to a young child who suddenly gains a realization of his own mortality. But she says that it’s a mystery and demonstrates that horses have personality which may change over time.

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