Tuesday, April 8, 2014


I'll probably be posting several times a day over the next few days, because I want to write about the weekend's activities while they are fresh in my mind.  But this post is an intermission from talking about the equine festival.  This is about my latest trail ride.

One evening my husband and I went out onto our front drive because we had been hearing a low flying helicopter buzzing around our house.  The helicopter was flying very slowly and low back and forth across the patch of desert in front of our house.  They seemed to be searching for someone or something.  I brought out my binoculars to get a closer look, but the helicopter was unmarked.  All I could see was that it had several antenna on the front, probably for radar or night vision, a camera or spot light on the back, and the side door was open.

While we were standing there watching, a police cruiser came racing up our street, turned around in front of our house, and the officer slowed down to look at me to see what I was holding in my hands.  I hoped he would stop to tell us what was going on, but then he accelerated and took off once he realized that I was holding binoculars.  I could only speculate on what was going on, but just so that I could sleep, I checked all the compartments of my horse trailer to make sure that some fugitive of the law was not hiding out in there.

I checked the news, but there were no reports on the incident, which is typical.  In the small town where I lived before, if anything at all went on in the community, the local news reporters were updating the community on Facebook before the article even came out.  Our reporters were tight with the police, and they made the effort to chase sirens.  Where I live now, there is very little news reporting and communication unless it is on a planned activity, such as court proceedings, sports events or awards ceremonies.

The next afternoon I went out into the desert on a trail ride with me on Bombay and P.S. on Gabbrielle.  The first thing I spotted were quad tire tracks.  A short time later we came upon a different set of quad tracks.  Motorized vehicles are not allowed on this land unless they are city vehicles doing maintenance work.  Someone with a key would have to open a gate to let them in, but sometimes I see people lifting little kid quads over the gates designed to just let hikers and horseback riders through.  It seemed a bit extreme to get a helicopter and police cruisers out to chase down some trespassers on ATVs, unless they committed a serious crime.  It was more likely that these were police officers or search and rescue members riding the ATVs looking for someone who was lost or in danger.  We have a memory-assisted living center nearby, and sometimes the patients get out and can't remember who or where they are.

While we were riding, the horses spotted a hiker up ahead, and of course, they got a little nervous, raising their heads up high and breathing more rapidly.  We pressed on, knowing that since the hiker was moving away from us, it would build the horses' confidence to follow.  We practiced looking past the hiker to the location up ahead that was our destination.  Eventually, the horses relaxed.  That only lasted until three horseback riders appeared in the distance.

They were in front of us and off to the right, but were cutting straight across the desert instead of following a trail.  By the route they were taking, I could tell that we were going to run right into each other if we continued on the same course that we intended to take.  Because they were in plain sight, my horses were already nervous and gawking at them.  In this type of situation, we have to deal with the horses balking, quivering, snorting, looking back at the barn while considering bolting, and spooking over other things that make sudden noises and take the horses by surprise because they are so focused on the strange horses up ahead.  It's nerve wracking.

Bombay and Gabbrielle have different boundaries in their comfort zones, and with P.S. riding behind me, I had to rely on her verbal assessment on how Gabbrielle was handling it.  I wanted to push both horses past their fears, but when there are other riders to consider, I have to make safe decisions for everyone.  We came to an intersection on the trail and Bombay started doing his jig.  Of all of his nervous behaviors, the jig is the worst, because it jostles my cysts and tumors, which causes me pain.  I asked P.S. if she wanted to turn back, because if we continued forward, on either trail ahead of us, we would meet up with the other riders.  She said she wanted to keep moving forward.  I was glad.  The only way we are going to get the horses past their nervousness is to show them that there is no reason to fear other horses on the trail.  I just wished I had my horse trainer with us to coach us through it.

When I pushed Bombay forward up the sandy trail, he resisted.  He'd walk a little bit and then balk and ignore my leg cues, head straight up in the air, ears blocking my view of our destination.  Then I remembered that I was wearing my new spurs.  I bought bumper spurs, which are very mild, because I didn't want to have to keep taking them off and putting them on depending on what horse I am riding.   My Arabs are very responsive and don't need additional pressure, with the exception of when they are nervous and balking.  The Quarter Horse is the one who needs the spurs in most situations.  So, I dug my heels, which were now dressed in metal bars, into Bombay's sides, and he lurched forward, remembering that I was on his back.  It always helps me to relax when my horse remembers that I exist.

Then P.S. reported that Gabbrielle was quivering and having a bit of melt down, so we stopped and let the three riders pass in front of us while our horses gawked and sweated.  You'd think they were marching to their execution the way they overreact.  It was then that we noticed that the other three riders were having problems with their horses too.  The horse in front was jigging, but the rider was doing a good job keeping its head straight and focused on their destination.  Once they were past us, our horses instantly relaxed and we were able to finish our ride.

I figure that experience *might* make things a little easier next time, since the horses *hopefully* learned that other horses on the trail are not going to pick a fight with them.  Although I really don't know what is going on through their minds when they see other horses.  I know that when horseback riders have cut through our property, my horses have charged them in a territorial manner.  But the rules change once we are out in the desert.  Maybe they are afraid that we are in the other horses' territory, and they are expecting to be chased off, which is what happens in the wild.


Johara said...

My sister-in-law's teenage Pintabian mare reacts much the same way. Seeing another horse (walked or ridden) while out riding causes her mind to come unglued, whether she knows the other horse or not. I've had to pony her for the next 20 mins until her mind starts working again, but she's ridden by either my green SIL or my green 11 yr old student.

My old Arabian mare, she still gets 'hot' when she sees another horse on the trails, but it's competition-hot, not spooky-trembling-fearful. The few years we did LD endurance rides a decade ago are still how she thinks rides should go lol.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Johara - Thanks for letting me know. Maybe it's an Arabian thing. I usually see Quarter Horses and gaited breeds on the trail, and most of them show no concern for other horses.

achieve1dream said...

Weird about the helicopter... I hope they found whoever they were looking for. Good job pushing the horses outside their comfort zone. They will figure it out eventually. Or so I keep telling myself since Chrome has issues with other horses too. He is excited though, not fearful, so I guess it's technically two different problems. They will figure it out though!