Saturday, March 8, 2014

Knock on Wood

Whenever I say something positive about the horses, I probably should also knock on wood.  On Friday, after having some success with groundwork in the round pen, I decided to go trail riding with P.S. since my husband was home and could deal with the dogs.  I wasn't feeling too hot going into it.  I was under the weather in general, and had just discovered a gigantic hard mass filling up half my breast.

I have had excessively large cysts for years, but this seemed to grow overnight, so I suspected some kind of infection.  Of course, I had to notice it on a Friday afternoon, too late to see a doctor before the weekend.  My life story.  I figured it would go away on its own like everything else.  My whole hormone system is so far out of whack that nothing surprises me anymore.  I just had a mammogram, which was diagnosed as "stable", meaning it's just as messed up as last year's but not any worse, so I'm not worried about cancer, but I will take a copy of my mammogram to a breast specialist just to be safe and have him assess this fast growing mass.  This mass is bizarre, because it is hard, and it sticks out the side, which is causing bruising.

Anyway, I was thinking it wasn't a good idea to go riding, because my boob was hurting, and riding horses jostles the boobs quite a bit, but it had been so long since I'd ridden, and it seems I always have some kind of health problem, so I just went.  We were good about working our horses on the lead line and in the round pen before heading out.  I hand walked Bombay up the driveway, because my husband had been doing some yard work up there and I wanted my spooky horse to see the changes in the landscaping and the tools my husband left out.  He was more concerned about something out in the desert that I couldn't see.

He spooked and spun and started jigging.  By the way his eyes were tracking "the thing", I figured it had to be someone galloping on horseback.  It was covering too much ground to be a hiker or mountain biker.  So, I walked him back down the driveway to meet up with P.S., and then we rode out.  Gabbrielle refused to go through the gate.  She kept backing up, so P.S. was circling her.  I tried getting Bombay through the gate, and he got right up to it, but would not step through.  So, I circled him around a couple of times and he still refused to go through the gate.

Both horses were backing up away from the gate, so we knew something had to be out there.  Then we saw it.  A man was galloping his horse across the desert in front of us.  Once again, our horses thought his horse was running from a predator, and they were trying to protect us and themselves by refusing to go out there.  I was pissed.  This makes the third time my trail ride has be thwarted by a rider or riders galloping their horses.

Once the man got far enough out of sight, Gabbrielle relaxed and went through the gate, but Bombay still refused.  I was trying to get him lined up, but he was going to bang my knee on the post if he went through, so I kept circling him and just trying to have him walk through the center like he always does.  But on each approach he pushed my leg up toward the post.  I was getting irritated, and that added to his anxiousness, so then his refusals got worse.  Each time I urged him forward, he backed up.  He kept backing up until we were about to back into the street, and I hate being on a spooked horse on asphalt.  So, I dismounted and walked the trail ride while P.S. rode.  Of course, Bombay had no problem going through the gate with me leading him from the ground.

We talked about finding something like a wooden box that I could stand on to mount and hiding it in a bush in the desert, since every freakin' time a hiker or biker or horseback rider is nearby, Bombay refuses to move forward and I have to dismount to avoid a wreck in the road or on the rocky trail.  It's never good to be on a horse that backs up quickly around here, because he can back into a cactus or a steep drop off or a road when a car is coming.  The only problem with the idea of stashing a mounting block in the desert (besides it probably being illegal and considered littering) is that once I mount, I can't hide the box or block under a bush again, so while I'm riding, someone will probably come along and steal it.  I wouldn't worry about that in the summer months, because it's a ghost town around here then, but right now the trails seem to be swarming with out of state visitors.

Trail riding is just no fun for me anymore.  There are too many people ruining it for me by spooking my horse, and at 16 years of age, I doubt Bombay is ever going to get over his spookiness.  I just want all these people to go away.  Trail riding was so fun and easy in the fall, but now it is like I live in a city because there are people everywhere I go.  The majority of these hikers, bikers and horseback riders are of retirement age, so they are out there on both weekdays and weekends -- morning, noon and night.  There is no good time to ride anymore.

When we got back home, Gabbrielle spooked big time right by the barn.  P.S. thought she was reacting to the hay barn creaking in the wind.  We also have all kinds of critters that dine in our hay barn and as we approach it, they scatter.  The quail are the worst, because they just fly blindly and crash into the metal siding or get stuck flailing under the tarp.  P.S., who was still riding her, just laughed, but my nerves were shot between having to deal with so much spookiness lately and hearing so many horror stories about horseback riding accidents and the types of injuries people get from coming off.

I was thinking of riding in the arena, but I still felt yucky and figured the campers up on the bluff would spook Bombay somehow.  Sure enough, they came out of the house and started slamming car, camper, and house doors, acting like they were urgently looking for something important.  I also noticed that someone is living in the other house two doors down that is usually empty, and that man often perches up on the bluff and peers at us through a bush while we work with the horses.  I got one neighbor making loud, sudden noises and another neighbor acting like a predator by spying on us, so I just chased Bombay around in the arena and then lunged him on the lead rope.  I didn't want him to think that he just got out of work by refusing to carry me through the gate.  He was getting pissy swishing his tail each time I made him go another round.

I pooped out before he did, though.  Hopefully, at the very least, all this walking I've been doing will get me stronger and healthier so that I can have more energy to work the horses at home after their time on the trails.

Apparently, my GoPro camera lens or case cover has a smudge on it that needs cleaning.  Hence the blur.

It sure would be nice if I could have my space again without feeling encroached upon by busybody neighbors.  I figure once all the snowbirds leave, my horseback riding problems will be solved.  Unfortunately, it will probably be too hot to ride by then.  Maybe Arizona wasn't the best place to move to enjoy my horse hobby after all.

I've been talking to various locals about this problem of these visitors from out of state hauling their horses in and galloping them all over the trails, and the consensus seems to be that it is considered good manners to walk your horse around other trail riders.  I am aware that people ride their horses at different paces in riding arenas, and groups of people gallop along beaches in the sand, and at barrel races you've got riders galloping their horses down alleyways to prepare for their run, but out on the trails you've got horses and riders of all experience levels, and it is not polite to gallop.  I'm okay with working out my horse's issues when the endurance riders trot past, because they are trotting in a controlled manner, but when someone just beats and spurs their horse to get it to go as fast as possible -- that is so wrong in so many ways.

First off, all the other horses on the trail think that the other horse is running in a panic to get away from a predator (the one on its back) and then pandemonium breaks out and people get hurt.  Secondly, why the hell would anyone want to ruin their horse's feet and legs by galloping on rocky trails?  Your horse takes care of you, so you should take care of it.  I roll my ankle constantly when I am out walking those trails.  Even on the wider, sandier trails, there are still large rocks scattered here and there.  We also have plenty of cholla balls to step on, and from what I hear, the rattlesnakes are coming out now.  I just don't understand people and the decisions they make.  It's just too bad that their horses and other riders on the trail have to experience the negative consequences of their actions.


Sam said...

I'll admit, I tend to take my mare out and let her gallop. Although, I take her to the higher ground that is clear of bushes and make sure no one is around. We walk the path first to look for rocks,garbage (wire scares me!), ruts and holes. She is pretty alert and will let me know when someone is somewhere in the desert so I'm just patient. Your end has a lot of bushes that can hide possible threats and issues, so I'm surprised folks are doing that there. I'll admit, I'm glad to see so many horse folks again. For a long time we were losing that, but I agree - we need some manners on the trail.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Sam/Christine - Yeah, your end has wider, sandier, more open trails. I'd probably be glad to see all the extra horseback riders too, if I had a horse that didn't freak out every time he saw another horse. I think so many people around here own horses that have been there and done that, that the riders have lost their sensitivity regarding the struggles other riders may be having with their horses.

I went hiking this morning and was actually startled to turn around and see a woman on horseback behind me. I moved off to the side, and she whipped her horse up to a gallop, raced all the way to one road, turned around and raced all the way back to the other road. I was glad I was just hiking, because if I were on Bombay I probably would have wound up in the dirt with some broken bones. She's probably the 8th person I've seen doing that lately.

BrownEyed Cowgirl said...

It's not polite to gallop?


It's not polite to gallop BY someone from either direction...But there is no valid opinion that says it's not polite to gallop your horse out in the open.

Sorry, but it would be ridiculous to assume that every rider that goes out to a public place should do so with the assumption that they are responsible for how every other rider's horse reacts. That is just nuts. YOU are responsible for your horse's reactions and if your horses cannot be safely ridden in a public area, YOU are responsible for either educating them or simply not going there.

I haul green horses with me everywhere I go and NEVER ONCE have I ever thought that any other rider was responsible for making sure not to disturb my inexperienced/not-yet-trained horse. That is MY responsibility.

I'm sorry Nuz, but you are carrying your rants a little far on this subject. That is a public piece of land and people are entitled to enjoy it. Just because you live next door, year round, does not make it everyone else's responsibility to not scare your horses. Your horses should be extremely used to the activity by now and this should NOT be a problem.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

BEC - And that attitude is precisely why there is a problem. You'd be pissed if someone came out of nowhere up fast on you and jumped their motorcycle on top of your horse. I consider galloping past other riders as the same thing.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Also, I'm not sure why you think they should be "extremely used to the activity by now," because they only had one horse they don't know gallop past them last year. All the other incidents have happened just in the past few weeks. Having a strange horse race past them is a totally new experience for them, and me as well as other people are in the process of trying to work them through it. The bicyclists are new too. With the exception of Lostine, who rode past hikers all the time in the Sierra, the horses have only seen hikers from a distance, so walking them past hikers is new too. Of course, they have people they know walking around them all the time, and I have ridden a bicycle around them, but their reactions are totally different if it is a stranger doing it and they are away from home. So, what I'm saying is that the only way to educate the horse is to go to the public areas, because training at home does not carry over to public arenas very well. With that said, if I saw another rider having difficulty with their horse and the rider was at risk of getting hurt, I'd slow my horse to a walk or stop, because I care about other people.

BrownEyed Cowgirl said...

I've had it happen. All of it and then some!! Bikes, motorcycles, golf carts, quads and people busting out of the bush, that you didn't even know was there, on horseback and on foot. My neighborhood is quite a bit busier this year than it was last winter when I was here and yet I'm not online constantly complaining about it. It's just a fact that all of the houses that were empty last year now have occupants and everyone is out enjoying the same openness that I am.

I also have to say, I have ridden all over the country, in many states and can only think of a handful of times that people have had overtly rude riding behaviors. So either I am the luckiest rider there is or you have an inflated perception of how 'what others are doing' is directly affecting you.

All I can say though, is you are the nicest person IN PERSON, but if this is what is going through your mind all the time, it's no wonder you aren't getting much enjoyment out of your horses. I find it really sad that you don't get to enjoy them and get to do the things you want to with them, but after reading your blog for so many years, I clearly recognize the problem is not with your horses but with your state of mind. You want everyone to be as aware of you as you are of them and it just doesn't work that way. People might acknowledge you and/or speak a pleasantry, but really all they want is to pretend that they are alone out there on that piece of public land and they are typically not very observant at all of what's going on around them and quite honestly, they don't care all that much. Recognizing that fact, might make it easier for you to figure out a way get past feeling so frustrated with what is considered by most as 'normal activity'. Because that is in fact exactly what it is...NORMAL activity. Your horses are not so inexperienced that they shouldn't be over most of these problems by now. Maybe it's time to stop blaming everyone else?

lytha said...

Although I think horses prefer wide open spaces, I really prefer the enclosure of forest so that my horse can only see so far to spook at only so many things. Then again, the bicycles come racing around blind corners and that is scary for everyone invloved when they end up under your horse's head.

Bombay balks out there when he sees things? I didn't realize that. Yesterday my husband wanted to help me so he took the donkey on the lead rope and I got on Mara in our driveway (which I never do). I hate riding on pavement, and I hate riding through our town, because it is the #1 scary place for Mara. She knows I hate it too, obviously, cuz she stopped dead as soon as I turned her out of the driveway and we watched as my man and Bellis just walked down the street, away, bye bye, getting smaller and smaller. I love having a horse not be herd bound but I also like a horse to go when I ask! I tapped her with my heels and was able to get her out of neutral into 1st gear and she grudgingly followed. My goodness it shouldn't be this hard to simply ride this horse. But then again, she senses that I'm not in my comfort zone, and she takes complete advantage of that. *sigh* Smart *and* lazy. She's gotta have Shetland pony in her somewhere.

I hate to say this but often I think how much you'd love living in Germany because of the peace and quiet, and that horses come first on the (busy) trails. Everyone is raised with a knowledge of horses to a point, even non-riders know riders so they understand basics, so they get out of the way and so far no one has honked at me on my horse, what used to happen in America a lot.

Then again, you'd hate the lack of personal space while shopping. And the staring. They never learned it's not polite.

Oh but you'd love being able to take dogs into restaurants and malls. For some reason, dogs rule here.

Cindy D. said...

I have to say that I ride my horses down fairly busy roads to get to my patch of desert, past the High school, which is often busy and we almost always encounter at least one set of riders on the road. My desert is quite a bit quieter than yours, but there is still a bit of activity out there. But people constantly honk as they go by, and they only slow down if they are horse people. I have to be accepting that if I chose to ride in public places, then I have to expect that people are going to be people.

There was a time when I found myself worried about what passers by do. But I have had to change my way of thinking in order to help my horses. My horses are broke, and I expect them to behave as such. I know that I am not going to let them get into trouble, or to be hurt by these things and it is my job to convey that message to them. If I think that they should be scared, it is guaranteed that they will be. If I treat each new "scary" thing as just part of life, then they pick up on that and quickly begin to trust my judgement.

When I was riding with Mark in the foot hills of Casper Mountain, and I was a little outside of my confort zone with the terrain, and I "knew" Trax was going to balk at the running water and such, Mark, in his perfectly sweet Christian manner jumped my ass about it. He told me that as long as I told my horse that there was something to fear, there always would be. He asked what I was afraid of. I didn't know, I guess I was afraid that Trax was going to be afraid. He said, "Your horse, this horse in particular, looks to you for leadership, so be the leader." Once I did that we were fine. I don't know if that helps any or not.

Cindy D. said...

Nuz, after I left my last comment I went out to work my arena and found myself mulling over your post, and what everyone else has said. It brought to light something for me, but I want to share it with you.

In a perfect world, everyone would think like horse people and help us out as we ride along the trails. But they don't. In fact non-horse people are the bane of my very existence at my own home right now, but that is a whole different story.

The truth is, it is a big scary world out there and we have 2 choices in life. We can be reactive or proactive.

With that in mind I would like to pose a question to you.

My son rides Killian. Killian is a good horse, well broke and doesn't spook at much. But he is also spoiled and lazy and if he chooses to run off Simon has very little control over him. So if someone on the trail came running past him I have no doubt that Killian would take off with that other horse and Simon would not be able to stop him. If my son got hurt over an incident like that, whose fault would it be?

I could not blame the other rider because I made the choice to take my son and his horse to a public place with out having the proper tools to stay safe.

So now that I am suddenly very aware of the potential danger, I have 2 choices. I can no longer allow my son to ride anywhere but our arena (in turn guaranteeing that he would never ride again because he hates arena riding, or I can now formulate a plan to fix the problem.

I chose plan B.

Plan B says "Identify possible problems, find solution, implement solution before problem becomes an injury."

So, I know that Killian will run away. He has no problem running through a bit. So it is my job to get out there on Killian and working on his brakes. Once I have his brakes functioning properly again, then I will have some lope around me in the arena as I walk and trot, and make sure he understands that I set the speed, not him. Once that is done I will take him to the desert and have someone purposely ride past us multiple times at a gallop so that we have a very clear understanding of what the rules are.

Then I will go back to the arena, put Simon on him, and start all over again. By time we are done, Killian will respect that Simon is up there and will stop when asked too. Or Killian will end up being dog food. (not really but it does help to threaten my horses with that)

So now here you are, you have come to recognize that you don't have control over anyone else's actions on the trail,and you have horses who act like horses and who require strong leadership. So now you also have two options. You can get proactive, put your training hat on and find ways to help them (and you) get over your fears or you can stay reactive and never ride outside of your arena.

If you choose reactive then that is ok. There are a lot of people who are perfectly content to stay right there, and there is nothing wrong with that.

I personally hope you choose to be proactive, and start getting creative in your ways to help your horses get over their fears. I believe you are clever enough to do it, your horses will be better citizens because of it, and you will walk away with more self confidence than you have ever know.

Good luck.

ps. I will get a hold of you one day this week to get that saddle. I've been running pretty crazy lately. :-)

Cindy D. said...

Oh and one more thing. I am sorry to hear about the mass on your breast, I'm sure it must be painful. Hope it turns out to be nothing serious.

Cut-N-Jump said...

The snowbirds all tend to leave by tax day. It's a given. They all bail to get home and file. Even with doing it online, come mid April- boom. Mass exodus and they are GONE! HOORAY!!

As for the horses being hyper reactive or over reactive to e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g... They are feeding off of you and your reactions. You expect them to jump, spook, startle or spin? They will gladly accomodate you... The less reactive You are, the easier going they will be too.

I took Kat out for a drive over the weekend. New area, all alone, LOTS of new things to see, a place he had never been before and we trotted almost 3.5 miles, most of which alongside very busy roads. We were passed by motorcycles of all kinds, trucks pulling trailers and boats, a wide assortment of cars & SUV's, a motorhome or two, joggers, bicycles, rabbits, birds, dogs guarding their yards and the one thing that caught his attention? Lines on the pavement. By the time we got to the first main road, he could care less. By the end of out drive? Sure he stepped a tad higher going over them, but he never slowed down a bit.

Of all of the people driving past us, most of them never bothered to slow down at all. The speed limits were typically 45mph and they were probably going 50mph or more. The cars that slowed down, most of the drivers or at least the passengers waved and many had comments- cheaper on gas, he's so cute, that looks fun and the group of guys that yelled who knows what from across their yard.

If you want a 'point and shoot' horse, ride your horses like they are 'point and shoot' horses. Stop caring what everyone else is doing or thinking, because they don't likely care what you are doing or what you think about them or the way they are doing whatever they are doing.

Be a leader for your horses, quit coddling them and have a Come to Jesus with them once in a while. It's ok to jump their shit once in a while and tell them to knock it off. They are too big and too old to be acting like they do. (That's a line my mare hears often enough) They are much like kids. They will never grow up and act their age if you don't let them or push them out of the nest and make them.