Today I promised myself that I would take BG (Beautiful Girl) outside the ranch on her first ride with me on her, alone.
Now for those of you who have ever taken a young horse on their first outside ride, you know the inherent demons that exist there. They are those everyday things that are sure to kill your green horse or maim him or at least scar him for life. And, according to your young horse, whatever you have taught him doesn’t apply anywhere other than the place where he learned that particular thing. Oh, and you are stupid, like any teenage kid thinks of his parent. You, who used to be wonderful, now know nothing and this poor horse is going to meet his fate while trapped on the end of your lead rope. Or, trapped with your useless weight on his back.
You know what I mean… Or, maybe you don’t. Maybe I just pick high-strung horses. Dunno. But, I only have one laid back baby and even she cowered behind me on a few of these (I did the same with her. Her story later).
So, back to BG. Sure, I can ride her around my farm. And, I can ride her with other people, although we haven’t done much of that. She has had 90 days of very good training. She is a good girl and we have done many hours of groundwork. The only thing stopping me from trail riding her alone, is me. Yup, I have not fully recovered from my accident. (You can read about it here.) Before that fateful day, I was as brave as they come. I really had no worries to ride a horse I knew very well. In fact, I used to start all of my horses.
But, times have changed and I’m not the same.
BG is kinda my forgotten horse. She has been saddle trained for 18 months now. And for that entire time, I’ve been making excuses. Here are a few: I have several other riding horses and I’m secure on them so I’ll ride them. Oh and she doesn’t wear shoes so maybe the ground is too rocky there. Or, I cannot find a saddle that fits her (which is true but still…). Or, I’ll just ride her around the ranch today. And my favorite, she didn’t want to go today so I took Finn. Oy.
But today I knew my time was up and that I was out of excuses. I had to be brave. I had to venture out of the womb of my ranch and take her on a trail ride by myself. Yikes. So, I decided to take her to my friend’s lovely training farm. If I ended up lying in a ditch, someone would find me. If my horse came running back without a rider, someone would notice. If neither my horse nor myself came back for the trailer, I know someone would go looking for me. This would be a “safer” place than just hauling to my favorite trail and riding. Or so I thought…
I put her in the trailer and off we went. So far, so good. We arrived shortly and it was very quiet there. Yay. Good.
I took her out of the trailer and tacked her up. She was fine (I had taken her there two days ago and walked her around the arena and barn area — me on the ground — in preparation for this day). She remembered being here and she was at peace. We walked over to the water trough to get a drink and…
SWWOOOOOSHHYYYSWOOOSSSHHH POP! SWOOOSY SPLATTER SPLAT SWHOOOSHY RATTLERATTLERATTLE !! Snoooooorrrtttty snoortyysnort eeeeeeeeee (gasp) snoooorrrtttttt SNOOOOOOOORTTT BLOW BLOW BLOWWWWWW!!
OY. We met the evil LADY WITH THE HOSE!… She was just doing her job but BG thought the world was coming to an end. The sound of the hose sputtering then crashing against the dirt, then metal, then wood, then back to metal and sputtering was just too much. She whirled around and told me to step it up to DEFCON 11 and get outta here! Luckily, I had a firm hold and just asked her, “What? I’m fine with it. Haven’t you seen a hose before?” The problem was that we couldn’t see it. It was around the corner. I knew what it was but she was still searching. So, we went up to the hose lady and took this photo. Well, I took the photo and BG just snorted and stood on her tippy toes. Great. Fabulous start.
BG spent the next 10 minutes telling me that she no longer thought I knew anything because this place was obviously full of dangerous traps. She was convinced that around every corner would be some hideous surprise. Sigh. Not what I needed. But, I refused to make another excuse. I would just have to put on my memory cap from when I had no fear and take charge. I decided to march her around the entire ranch and face all of the evils together.
So we did. We walked through the barn and past the evil hose lady, again. We came through a dark alley and out into the sunshine past buzzing bushes, hoses on winders, wall mounted hoses, flower boxes, statues, wash racks, opened doorways, squeaky weather vanes… you name it, and every one had horse eating potential. As we moved along, we could hear loud voices (as if she hadn’t heard voices before…) and she freaked again. I just kept going, dragging an 1100 lbs fraidyhorse behind me only to see that the noise was a lesson in the outdoor arena. We watched for a few moments. “OK, we’re OK.” So, we continued and met up with a working tractor. Oy. Could it get worse?
It was then
that I realized that I would never have met up with these first several hazards if I had simply taken her to my favorite trail. My trying to be cautious actually brought me straight into the Horse Hazard Capitol of Grass Valley! Everything was here! My mare was right. This place was treacherous!
Perfect. We would face it together as long as I could hold onto her from the ground. So, we proceeded past the tractor, me singing softly the whole time. BG kept trying to tell me about the tractor but I just turned to her and sang louder. She walked behind me searching for the bad things.
After a few minutes, she relaxed enough to notice the dropped hay on the ground from the lunch wagon.
Hmmmm. This place might have some good things after all! But, you guessed it, as soon as she put her head down to pick up the luscious hay, the horses who lived in that near pasture came barreling down the hill to meet the new visitor. BG tried to climb a tree. I swear. Luckily, the horses did stop in time and just looked at her from their fenceline. While BG was coming out of the tree, I decided to take a photo. Then, I introduced everyone, “This is Beautiful Girl, she is a Walking Horse, nice to meet you. You are all very handsome.” That seemed to put everyone at ease.
Along the trail we met up with some feisty deer in the brush. It is criminal that the deer don’t let us know they are in there. A simple, “Hey, I’m a deer in here” would suffice. But, in all of my deer experience, I find them mute. Have you ever heard a deer vocalize anything, ever? Me neither. And, that was how it was today. No warning just a humongous leap out of the brush 10 feet in front of us and a major scampering off into the distance. BG vomited in her throat a little and pooped, I think, and then she was angry. She appeared to be embarrassed that she was afraid of a measly deer. You could just see it in her eyes. I looked at her and rubbed it in, “See, it was just a deer, don’t you feel silly now?” She snortsnotted on me and I think I kinda deserved it.
We continued. We went past a lovely vineyard.
I told her all about wine and that Daddy and I like to go to that particular Tasting Room and relax on certain weekends… She thought that was nice. As we chatting quietly, we came around a corner and ended up walking… The GAUNTLET. Unfortunately, I didn’t take a photo. But, I’ll describe it. The Gauntlet, as I now call it because we survived, is a row between multiple large pastures. All of the pastures are filled with curious and large horses who have just been given lunch. So, they are all at their feeders which are right along the fenceline where we are walking. Not only that, some have grain in very large metal feeders that make a clanging sound when teeth hit them.
Oh, and the best part, there are pigeons down inside the feeders who are scratching and fighting for the excess grain. Ha! That was the best! You couldn’t see the pigeons until you were right on top of them and then they would jump up, sputter and fly away in a mess of feathers and squawking. Heeee heee! All the horses were giving us stinkeye so that we wouldn’t eat their food. Some were rushing the fences, others were snorting and being pissy. It was great! And, we made it. We made it past the protective horses, past the pigeons and up to the top of The Gauntlet.
But, we were safe for just an instant. At the top of The Gauntlet were goats, sheep and a llama. Oh, and they were in front of the garden that had bright whirly things with flapping streamers doing their whirling best to keep the birds away. Haaa! Another escapade into horse eating monsters! BG didn’t know where to look first…
the llama freaky thing from Mars or the pinwheel with streamers that was sure to get her. Oy. I thought I was going to be crushed. She was moving so fast and changing direction so fast, I felt like a puppet. But, Pinocchio hung in there and just hummmed and kept puppet walking. BG followed because she was now thinking that maybe I knew how to get us out of there.
Onward, the hazards were so plentiful that I felt like the Princess Bride in the Fire Swamp. After a while, we just jumped a little when our skirts were blasted. We met the proverbial blue tarp, gator, painted rocks stacked upon themselves, flapping feed bags and automatic sprinklers. Yup. We did all of that around the next corner.
Luckily, there was a rose bush at the end and she loves those so we stopped and smelled that. I took a photo. I seem to keep forgetting to take photos… I was busy.
Next we came to the outdoor arena and that was a piece of cake. Arenas we can handle. Except this one is huge. And there was her fascination for the far end. The far end had a view of wide open spaces. That was very exciting… She wanted to go THERE. So, we walked out of the arena and down the road towards the wide open spaces.
All was peaceful and she seemed to be settling right in, finally. We turned around and came back. OK, time to get on her and do it again. Now, mind you, we have already been walking for over an hour. It was hot and she should have the bucks out of her. She was quiet and feeling normal…
OK, this was a perfect time to ride. I brought her into the arena and got on. BG acted like I had just put a rocket on her back. Hmmmm. This was odd. We rode around but she was not herself. I figured I’d check her tack and start over. So, I got off. Her tack was fine. Obviously, I thought, adding the riding part was just sensory overload. But, I couldn’t back down. Not today. Even though I knew she was jacked up and no longer calm, I was not going to give in. Was I being stupid? Probably. Was I going to let myself down. No. So, I stood on the mounting block and prepared to get back on. And that’s when it happened. She reached around and bit me. WHA??! She bit me?! Oh, I was pissed… That was definitely going to leave a mark.
I flicked her muzzle instantly and backed her, calmly but firmly, half way around the arena. (There is nothing like a bite to bring your courage back.) I was not having any of this! She held her breath the whole way and looked at me as if to say, “I didn’t mean it!” Finally, after a lick and chew, I got back on. She stood like a rock. She didn’t move. And we rode.
We rode all around the immense arena for almost 45 minutes. She kept finding new areas to explore and I kept finding new ways to use the poles that were in there. I let her move out so I could feel her. We made many right hand turns (our worst) and just kept moving so that I could really feel how she works. Once we both relaxed, we opened the gate (she did it!) and we walked outside. Yay!
All was going really, really well. We walked where we had walked before. I felt her being a willful girl but I didn’t give in. She wanted to visit the vineyard and explore the wide open spaces. Instead, I chose to walk back towards the trailer … right into the path of our last hazard. The Farmer’s Market Truck… naaa na, naaa na, na na nananana OMG! You’d think it was Jaws. But, we got past that and to the trailer just about when I knew she was done.
It was a very good day! We did it. And not only did we do it together, but my wimping-out actually brought us to the most hazardous place of all! Funny how that works. Now the OUTSIDE trails seem easy…
HORSE AND MAN is a blog in growth… if you like this, please pass it around!
If you want an update on the Iron Man Rescued Foal Bucket Fund or to donate, please click on the photo (photo credit, Trish Lowe)