Thursday, November 13, 2014

A Bit of Tension

Today's trail ride was a bit tense.  You just never know what you are going to run into out in the desert.  I considered riding Gabbrielle out alone, since my husband has been having to work seven days a week lately and can't ride with us, but I'm glad I didn't take her, because I don't think she would have handled it well.

I feel like I've been riding Lostine way too much for her age, so I rode the young one again.

I supplied the horses with a little more alfalfa than usual for breakfast, and apparently, that's all Rock needed to get more energy.  No elephant walk on this ride.

I was riding on one of the truck trails that runs between the power poles when I looked up to see several power company trucks driving through the gate into the desert.  They were coming towards us on a adjacent trail.

When trucks pass you on a paved road, there is a whoosh sound and sometimes some rattling or banging if they are carrying loose cargo.  But when a truck carrying loose cargo passes you on a rocky, dirt road, there is a lot of banging and booming.  I figured Rock would be okay with it, but I wasn't willing to run a test to find out either.  The smaller truck in front was coming fairly fast, so I decided to cut across the desert off the trail.

The only problem was that there were cholla trees everywhere I wanted to turn, so I had to keep moving closer and closer to the truck before I finally found a place to turn where I didn't have to risk us getting stabbed.  We began bushwhacking our way along, when Rock's head popped way up into the air and he planted his feet.

Oh shoot.  He sensed something up ahead of us and the truck was coming closer behind us.  Sure enough, the driver had cut over onto the trail we had just abandoned, so if I didn't turn us off the trail, we would have had a head on.  I was pushing Rock forward, and he was staggering around, stepping in thorny bushes and jumping because he kept getting pricked.  I finally decided that rather than to try to get away from the truck, I'd just let Rock stand there and I'd try to relax deep into the saddle as much as possible in case he spooked or bolted.

The truck roared past his hind end and he didn't even flick an ear in that direction.  He was clearly more concerned about whatever was up ahead that still hadn't come into view.  With the first truck gone, I relaxed a little bit, but then Rock began dancing around, and none other than the shirtless cowboy with the loose dog burst through the bushes at a trot.  He was on the same trail I always run into him on.  He had another horse and rider with him this time, so he was moving slower than usual.  I said out loud, "Oh, it's him again," and almost as if he heard me or his horse heard me, he whipped his head around and looked at me.

He continued trotting and I continued sitting at a stand still until they passed.  Then Rock unlocked his legs and continued on.  We circled around behind the other riders, and Rock had to pause to sniff every pile of manure they deposited along their path.  He started jerking his head all over the place pointing out sounds and scents to me.  We must have been surrounded by activity, but I couldn't see anyone.

While riding on a trail that is well traveled and normally has no issues, I was startled to see at the last second that there was nowhere Rock could step without stepping on cholla balls.  It was as if someone or something had shaken a cholla tree that was about ten-feet off the trail, and all the balls rolled onto the trail.  I pulled Rock's head around quickly and narrowly avoided it.  I don't know if the spikes on the balls are long enough to hit a nerve if they got up into the sole of a horse's hoof, but I know that they will stab me straight to the bone through a shoe, and they are very difficult to get off once they have impaled themselves into you.

With so many narrow misses of what could have been unpleasant incidents, I realized that I was riding up on my pelvic bone instead of on my back pockets.  You know, when I took equitation lessons years ago, I was taught to ride on my pelvic bone with my thighs rolled forward to grip the saddle, but since then I have received less English and hunt seat training and more western trail training regarding sitting on your back pockets and even rounding your back a bit to keep a low center of gravity.

I don't know if either approach is better than the other, but I can tell you that my Tai Chi classes have helped me with my balance in the saddle, as well as the use of my own energy in communicating with the horse.  On my last trail ride, and at the beginning of this ride, before the trucks approached, I was riding with one arm dangling at my side and the other arm only lightly fingering the reins.  I got out of that lazy habit of resting my paws on the saddle horn while gripping the reins in both hands and actually worked on flowing in balance with the horse.  I also stopped pressing down on the stirrups, but lightly rested the balls of my feet on them.  It was so much more comfortable.  But then all the tension came back once we had those encounters on the trail.  Hopefully, I can soon retain that relaxed posture even when the horse gets excited about something.

1 comment:

achieve1dream said...

That's awesome on the relaxation. Maybe I need to take tai chi. :-)

Those cholla balls should like a pain in the.... well everything.