Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day Trail Ride

My husband and son hiked beside me while I rode Lostine on the first trail ride of the year and only her second trail ride in the history of the 8 years that I've owned her. Why did it take me so long to get her out on the trails? All I can say is that time flies when you've got a full-time job and a couple of part-time jobs on the side.

The morning got off to a slow start, because I overslept and the horses seemed to take forever to eat their breakfast. While they were eating (as slowly as they possibly could), I put together a human and horse first aid kit, stuffed it in a plastic zip lock bag, and put that in my horn bag. I've been reading a lot of trail riding books, and if I put everything that they suggest into bags on my horse and myself, my horse wouldn't be able to move. Most of it isn't necessary for a short two-hour ride.

I just took bandages, gauze, vet wrap, wound creme, a knife, a hoof pick, horse treats, a whistle, tissues, my camera, cell phone, and car keys. My son packed in some liquids.

The ride was far from relaxing, but I am so happy that I did it and came away in one piece. I made the mistake of pulling the trailer forward before catching Lostine. As soon as she sensed something was up, she cowered at the far end of the property to avoid getting picked out of the line up as the victim who has to get in the trailer.

I knew I had to take Lostine, because I've been riding her more than Bombay and she was the only horse who was in good enough physical shape to withstand a hilly trail ride. I spent some time following her around, trying to get her into a corner where I could catch her. I finally got the halter on her when she stopped to poop.

Once I tied her to a post to put her Old Macs and splint boots on, she danced around and refused to let me touch her legs. I had to be firm with her and do a lot of lead rope yanking. After about ten minutes of struggling, I finally got the front splint boots on and lunged her in the round pen.

Time was ticking away and I was anxious to get on the road. The day was getting hotter and I really wanted to hit the trail before church let out. It was such a beautiful day that I knew a lot of people would be planning on hiking that trail.

Once I finished lunging Lostine, she settled down enough to let me finish getting all her boots on. However, as soon as I started leading her toward the trailer, she kept bolting in the opposite direction. My husband growled, "You ARE getting in that trailer, Lostine," and she walked right in.

There was a lot of pawing and kicking on the ride to the trail head. Someone had done a lot of work on this trail since we last visited last September. There were signs designating horse trailer parking, which I was happy to see. Without those, people will park willy nilly all over the place and not leave space for the trucks and trailers.

Lostine was excited and difficult to control when I saddled her up. I walked her around in the parking lot to try to relax her so that I could tighten the cinch. My plan was to mount in the parking lot from my step stool, but even with my husband holding her, she refused to let me mount. She started her little dance and throwing her butt around. I said, "Let's just lead her up the trail a bit, and then I'll mount. If she throws me here I will land on pavement. If she throws me up there I'll land in sand."

We put the stool away and locked up the trailer and started our hike. At the top of the first vista, we could hear sheep. This was a very foreign sound to Lostine, so she was on pins and needles.

People had posted really nice signs all along the trail pointing out names of trails and the rules of the trail, however Lostine had to spook to the side every time that we passed one. Of course, that put me on edge knowing I had to get my feet out of the way each time we approached another sign.

Once I heard Lostine take a deep breath and visibly relax, I asked for a leg up from my husband. My son led us at first, and then I rode with the lead rope wrapped around the horn with enough slack hanging under her chin in case I needed someone to grab it. Our first major challenge came when we were trying to move out of a rest stop and a jogger with loose dogs came down the trail toward us. I was urging Lostine forward, and she kept backing up. Then she spun to head back to the trailer, but my husband grabbed her.

We passed several more dogs and hikers on the trail, and Lostine wasn't as worried about them once she got past the first one. I rode her to the stream to see how she'd react, and she humped up her back, which is a sign that she was going to throw me if I forced her to go near that water. I didn't want to get too close because the water was not drinkable.

At one point we came to a place in the trail where large boulders were embedded in the ground. For some reason, Lostine was terrified of them. She started backing up and spinning to get away from them, so my husband led her over and around them.

The ride back was much easier. Usually, the ride back is more difficult because the horse wants to rush home, but Lostine knew that since she already traveled the trail up and nothing bad happened to her, she could travel is back down without incident.

As we were headed down, we met up with a woman pushing a baby stroller. I've heard stories about horses freaking out upon seeing baby strollers for the first time. This family was the first we met on the trail who didn't know the rule of stepping off to the side to let a horse pass. The woman with the baby stroller, two kids on foot and a dad all passed within a few inches of us without incident. The baby in the stroller waved at Lostine. It was quite cute.

We passed one other horse, which turned out to be the same rider with his Tennessee Walking Horse that we met up with the last time we rode the trail. I told him I remembered him. I was going downhill and he was coming up, and there wasn't enough room for both of us, so he moved off into the sage brush to let me pass.

We were good about cleaning up each of Lostine's manure piles so that no one had to step in them, and we were friendly and made small talk with everyone we met, to help people feel better about having horses on the trail. One couple was worried because their Pit Bulls had never seen a horse before. Fortunately, they had them on leashes. I spoke to the dogs so that they made the connection that a human was on that horse, and they were well behaved.

All in all, it was a great day. When I got home I discovered just how sore I was from trying to maintain control of my anxious horse. I had to keep a tight rein the whole ride, because Lostine wanted to bust out of her britches. Interestingly, some birds, bunnies, and lizards burst out of the brush in front of and beside her, and she didn't bat an eye.

This second ride was actually more difficult than the first. I think the difference was that I had been riding her on a regular basis at home, my neighbor's place, and the fairgrounds all summer the first time we took her out on the trails, while I've only ridden her at home 4 or 5 times in the round pen since a long winter hiatus. She'll get better once this becomes routine.

Thanks for all your well wishes. I think they helped get me home safely.

Happy Mother's Day!


Shirley said...

Just look at the big smile on your face!

Katharine Swan said...

You have the same problem I have: no one to ride with. It's scary for a horse to be on the trail alone, and having another horse there usually helps them calm down. Would you trust your husband or son leading one of the others with you next time, at least on a short ride?

In any case, you look blissfully happy, despite Lostine being nervous. I'm glad you got out for a ride today. Happy Mother's Day!

Flying Lily said...

Woohoo!! What a great training experience for Lostine and you. And kudos for getting out there. You have a great support team too. Beautiful photos, clearly a gorgeous day.

Beckz said...

Well done for getting back out there. The more she does the more confident the both of you will get and the more fun you will have.

Leah Fry said...

I certainly commend you on having lots more energy than I had today. We still have sloggy weather. Happy Mothers Day

Paint Girl said...

You guys look great out there on the trail!
I know exactly how you feel riding an anxious horse on the trails, Brandy use to be a nervous wreck out there and I was always so tense! She is much better now, but still has some issues. It does take time, Lostine should get better everytime you go out!
I used to have my other half walk down my road in front of me to get Brandy down it! She would only walk forward, if he was in front. Now I can get her down the road fine! Horses are so funny sometimes.

sue said...

sounds like you had an amazing day... what a huge accomplishment... and what a great Mother's Day gift... that your hubby and son were there for you!!! outstanding.....

Kate said...

What an amazing experience - you and your horse both did really great - it made a big difference having "ground support"! Every time you have a successful trail ride like this, it will build your and her confidence. Congratulations on your achievement!

I love the photos - you live in a beautiful part of the country.

manker said...

the greatest of all victories is to be victorious over yourself... Well done


fernvalley01 said...

Glad you got your ride in!! Sounds like all in all it was a good one!

Breathe said...

Sounds like we had a similar horse experience this weekend! LOL Glad you remained safe...

AareneX said...

Glad you had a good ride--what beautiful trails! I'm deeply envious!

HorseOfCourse said...

That's what I call a super Mother's Day present!
How nice to get company on the ride, and how nice to get help with the horse if things get scary too!

And thanks for the photos, they were beautiful. Looks like some nice sandy paths there, good footing for the horses.
Is it normally a lot of people around, or is it possible to have some up-tempo riding too?

The safest and best thing (and in particular with an inexperienced horse) is of course to have company, but it is not always possible to get it.

So how do you solve that problem?
The horses benefit so much of trail riding, both physically and mentally. It is sad if one has to refrain from it due to lack of company.

What's been working fine for me is to walk part of the way.
My horses normally find things less scary if they have have me on the ground beside them. By walking I can save the back on my young horse as well.

After having young horses for the last 6-7 years, the walking has grown to a habit of mine. I appreciate the time I walk beside my horse too, I feel closer to her.
And it is a nice way to get warmer too if it is cold outside (but we seem to have opposite problems here NM, lol!)

lytha said...

I can't even express how good it feels to see you riding on the trails, and dang your mare is pretty!

SO glad your husband and son came along to support Lostine, She must be a pretty independent mare if she sometimes didn't trust her support system.

Your countryside is beautiful. Those pine needles in the face, I've felt those before!

Surprising that with horse people around, and horse trails, the ATV folks are winning.

I really wish I could get out on Baasha for a ride with my husband along to get some pics!

Happy for you,


Laura said...

I'm glad that you were able to get out and get a trail ride in - even if Lostine was nervous. Having a support crew really made the ride possible - I'm glad that they were there with you!

Callie said...

Awesome! Sounds like a fun time anyhow! And it's great to have that support right next to you! Awesome!

jen098 said...

I am jealous! Thanks for posting the pics so we could ride along!

Lulu said...

You did awesome!!! Keep at it and she will be a relaxed trail horse in no time!!

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

I'm really so very happy for you, NM. You look so happy! What an excited smile on your face. You had such a special Mother's Day with not only your husband and son, but also your horse, spending time together out on the nature trails. I'm so envious, but also pleased for you, too.

And I'm also very very relieved that you came through your ride safely.


Andrea said...

How exciting!! I can't believe I missed this!! Where have I been!! How wonderful. It's so funny to me to think that Lostine acts like that and is way up there in age. She looks young too!! She sounded like she was pretty good considering everything that you encountered!! The day look perfect and the ride looked even better.

I am like you and do not have anyone to ride with. Normally I will just ride in the round pen and put my 19 month old daughter in her stroller next to the round pen so I can see her. At least I am riding, right??

I am so happy for you and being able to go out on the trail!! What a great ride and I am sure that she will just get better as the summer goes on!! Maybe she will get to the point where you could maybe pony Gabrielle along on a trail ride!! That would be great!