Saturday, April 17, 2010

Bombay's Big Adventure

With it being an awesome 70-degrees out today with no wind or clouds, I had to seize the day. Normally, coming out of winter I would ride the horses at the Fairgrounds a few times before taking them on a trail ride, but I noticed a bunch of trucks hauling horse trailers in the direction of the Fairgrounds, so I figured the arenas were being used for some event. My husband was willing to hike with me, my son -- not so much.

After seeing the way Lostine reacted to me moving the trailer the night before, I didn't want to give her a nervous breakdown by choosing her for the trail ride. I walked into the paddock, halter and lead rope in hand, with the intention of catching Bombay, and Lostine charged me head-on. I was shocked. She's never attacked me before.

Instead of jumping out of the way, which is what she wanted, I threw the halter end of the lead rope from the side at her neck and pushed her over. She clipped me as she galloped past, and I swung the rope one more time to whack her on the rump and chastise her. That was so rude and dangerous. I did not want her trying that B.S. again. I don't care how scared she is to leave home.

I lunged Bombay in the round pen and tried on his Big Macs and EasyBoots, but none of them fit. They fit when I bought them. I guess coming out of winter his hooves were moist and fuller, and he's nearing his time for a trim. I decided we had to ride the trail without shoes. This is a sandy trail, so it shouldn't be a problem.

It seemed to take me forever to get ready. I had to charge my camera battery, fill the water tank in the trailer, load up the step stool and the manure fork, take my vitamins to give me strength, etc. My husband came out and checked the tire pressure on the trailer. Then we were on our way.

Bombay was just as excited and out of control visiting the canyon this time as he was the first time I took him. I had hoped he'd be more relaxed, so that I could just mount him at the trailer and ride up. However, he had pushed his gut out so far that I couldn't tighten the cinch where it should be, which meant I had to lead him until he walked off the bloat, so that I could mount.

When we got to the top of the hill at the trail head, he froze up and stared off in the distance of the sheep farm. I figured he was smelling the sheep, but it turned out that he saw something I didn't. A helicopter was getting ready to take off from that farm.

We had to walk quite a ways before he settled down. My husband tried to give me a leg up and something in my shoulder popped. I had to stand there with my arm hanging at my side, leaning against Bombay until the paid subsided. I was pulling myself up, because I didn't want to put all my weight on my husband, which is why I got hurt. So, we walked a ways further until we came to a bench, and I mounted from there after tightening his cinch a couple more times.

We met many dogs on the trail. You'd think the dog owners would have the sense to keep their dogs out from under my horse's legs, but they didn't. Dogs don't know that horses kick and horses don't know what those dogs are doing down there. It's dangerous for the dog. Bombay cocked his hind hoof at one dog, so I said NO! He stood still until the owner got her dog. In another case a lady had four dogs off leash and she warned me that she wasn't sure what her dogs would do around a horse. I said, "Just try to keep them away from his legs."

She did a good job and so did her dogs. Bombay was very patient, but he did take a step back when one of the dogs was standing directly behind him. That was a close call for the dog.

We were hoping Bombay would at least make it to the top of the P-shaped trail like Lostine did last year. He did. Right when we got to that point, we met up with a very authoritative man who rides a black Tennessee Walking Horse who I've seen many times on this trail. I asked him if this one part of the trail was too narrow for a horse. He said it was fine, but he recommended that I actually go up higher, cross a stream and go into a meadow. He said we could run around out there. It sounded interesting.

He offered to lead us. Of course, his horse just crossed the stream with no hesitation. However, as soon as Bombay realized that I wanted him to follow, he started running backwards. Yikes. I got him turned around and tried a couple more times, but he was backing into this low hanging branch and I had to lean way forward to avoid getting knocked off. The other rider discouraged me from pushing him, because he could see that Bombay was about ready to bolt. So, he gave us directions on how to take a different trail to the top of the mountain that doesn't have any stream crossings. We thanked him profusely and went on our way.

Once we started climbing, I realized I should have asked him how rocky the ground would be since Bombay didn't have shoes. Fortunately, it was still sandy with just a few large rocks here and there that he had to step over or around. In some places the trail was very thin with soft ground on the edge of a cliff. Bombay's hind end slipped off the trail and instead of trying to jump forward out of the quicksand, he started backing down the cliff. I freaked.

I'm not kidding. My life was flashing before my eyes. My first thought was to jump off, but then I thought, "No, I can't abandon my horse and let him fall off the cliff. I'm the captain and I'm going down with my ship if I can't keep it afloat."

Fortunately, my husband was able to grab the lead rope and pull us back up. Thank God for the Coast Guard.

From that point forward, I just had my husband hold the lead rope each time we got into similar terrain. We got up so high. The views were beautiful.

I was so proud of Bombay for making it that far. He was one tired puppy by the time we reached the bottom of the mountain. I dismounted right before the parking lot, because he was getting agitated about the sheep farm again. As I lead him down the hill, a woman said, "Oh no. A horse without a rider. Are you okay?"

I said yes and explained that I dismount early, because he's scared of the sheep. I decided to tell her that I'm looking for a riding partner, but I was honest in that I'm riding a couple of inexperienced horses who don't like to cross streams and still need quite a bit of training on the trail. She said, "Well, we like to ride everywhere. I don't think it would be a fit."

So, I thanked her for her time and loaded Bombay up into the trailer. Just before we left, another woman rode up to me on her horse and said, "I hear you are looking for a trail riding partner. My mother's horse picks up on the energy of young and inexperienced horses and gets out of control easily, so she has to ride with seasoned horses and riders, but I'm willing to ride with you sometime."

She explained that her horse is 22-years-old and has been traveling the trails for most of that time. I took down her name and number and thanked her. I hope this works out and she doesn't tire of my horses' antics like my other riding partner did. This girl seemed very patient and giving. She gave me advice on how to help Bombay cross the water.

All in all, a fabulous day. Does anyone have any tips on how to get a scared horse that is backing up to move forward? Obviously, I was giving him plenty of leg and rein, but it wasn't enough and we were in too tight of a space to be able to turn around.


Leah Fry said...

My goodness, what an adventure! Good for you for hanging in there with Bombay when it got hairy.

Honestly, I have no advice for a horse backing from fear. Mine back because of the I-don't-wannas, but not out of fear. I suspect mine would bolt before backing. So I look forward to hearing what kind of advice you get.

WV = frading
I think that's a great word for backing up in fear!!

Once Upon an Equine said...

Sounds like a very good ride, despite the thrilling moments. From the pictures, it looks like a fun trail. I hope your new riding partner works out. I don't know about the backing up, but I'll be watching your comments for suggestions. Marley did a quick backup a week ago when he spooked at a banner in an indoor arena.

Oh,yeah, and the dogs off leash - I don't like that either. Dog owners don't realize they are putting their dogs at risk. A puppy off leash started running up to Misty on a trail last summer and the owner said, "Don't worry, he loves horses." I said, "But my horse doesn't like dogs, and she'll kick your cute puppy; get him quick!" Misty has kicked 2 dogs that I know of and her aim is right on.

Fantastyk Voyager said...

I'm so glad you got to ride Bombay and that your husband went with you! He's a gem for helping you out. That must have been very scary with him backing over the edge. In my youth I'd have whipped him and been sure that he'd move forward and we'd all be fine but in my age I would probably freeze up because I now know that really bad things can and do happen.

Katharine Swan said...

I am surprised Bombay wouldn't cross water when another horse did it first. I've heard that usually works. Do you think he would have followed your husband across, or even you if you had dismounted? I know it means getting your feet wet, but he might feel reassured by knowing you aren't worried about it.

I am curious, though. What did the other rider suggest to help you out?

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Leah - LOL. Frading is perfect.

Once Upon - Guess what the name of that black Tennessee Walking horse was? Misty.

Fantastyk - You're right, he is a gem. I normally keep a crop in my hand, but I gave it to my husband, he stuck it in his back pocket, and we both forgot about it. I'm sure tapping him forward might have helped as long as it didn't scare him worse.

Katharine - She recommended persistence and not letting him turn around and go another way. I just didn't want to make my husband and this other rider wait while I dorked around with my horse. My husband made it clear when we left that house that he didn't want this to be an all day outing. Maybe when I go riding with this lady who gave me the advice, she will be willing to wait and help out. I have to be sensitive, though. If she's like me and rarely gets to ride, I don't want to eat up all of her riding time while I train my horse.

Anonymous said...

When our gelding was still green, he didn't like to cross ditches or streams, so we put him between two seasoned horses. A calm even natured in front, and the same behind him. We would just stay in a tight line, and the one behind was right there to push him if he decided to balk. We didn't give him enough time to think about it, and when he was in the water we would just sit there for a couple of min until he calmed down. I don't know if that is the proper way to do it, but it worked for us. (we also did the same thing with his little sister when it came time to train her, big bro got to be the pusher that time)

fernvalley01 said...

Unfortunately ,I would have to say in that typoe of situation , use your crop andf spank him one!(use your reins if you have no crop) once he moves ahead tell him he is wonderful and carry on ,but the bottom line is to keep both of you safe and backing down a cliff is not safe .sounds like an otherwise productive ride , and hopefully you have a riding buddy now

Sydney said...

A horse has to be moving forward, even to back up.

When I have a horse that is backing up and will not go forward I either disengage the hindquarters. If a horses motor is moving sideways it's very hard to go forwards/backwards at much speed. Or I change their direction. Remember backing up with no control is no different than going forward, but it's slower. The horses power still comes from his hind end.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

What beautiful trails!

The backing up on a trail can be so scary. Baby Doll did that to me several times....because she wanted to go back home or not do what I asked. I always just disengaged her hips and turned her in tight circles, which like you said might not be doable on a narrow trail. I recently read on a trail training website that if a horse tries to back up when faced with a water crossing, turn it around and ask it to back up INTO the water. Some horses will actually agree to do that...and once in the water, they usually relax and then try to turn around and go through the water forward in the direction you originally asked for. lol!

I think following another horse sometimes works, but not always. For instance, when Apache crossed the bridge obstacle, my friend Renee was riding behind us and we both just assumed that her horse would see Apache calmly crossing the bridge and just do it, too. But her horse refused.

And the horse right in front of us did the same thing, refusing to cross the bridge...with a huge head tossing, rearing reaction, too. So I was pleasantly surprised when that behavior didn't phase Apache and she still crossed the bridge anyway.

It's great that your hubby went along with you to help. My hubby wouldn't be so patient. He's not one to do much hiking either and he's not experienced around horses.

By the way, did you know that your lead rope was resting on your left reins? Wouldn't the constant weight on the reins be confusing for Bombay? And wouldn't it be more difficult for your hubby to lead you with the rope with it caught on the reins?

I bet you probably released them once you got riding and those photos were just from the beginning of your ride, though.
I love seeing you up in the saddle. You and Bombay look great together. That saddle looks very comfortable, too.

I'm glad you met a potential riding partner, because if it's a good fit it will be that much easier to get out and ride. Because as you know horses typically do better when they have a buddy horse to ride with. And it should be more fun for you, too. :)