Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Expect the Unexpected

I spent the majority of the day cleaning mud, dust and dog poopsidents out of the house, doing laundry, washing dishes, doing paperwork, paying bills, etc., and it was a long, dreary struggle with everything that could possibly go wrong going wrong.  Still, I persevered and completed what I set out to do, so I decided to reward myself with a nice, relaxing trail ride.

No sooner did I swing my leg over during the mount and two horses in the barn got into a tussle and banged up against a gate.  Rock saw the movement out of the corner of his eye, heard the crash, jumped, spun around, and took off running.  I only had one foot in a stirrup and had somehow lost the reins, despite having tipped his head in toward me with the inside rein while I mounted.  Awesome.

I didn't even have time to sit all the way down, so his jump popped me out of the saddle and I came down crooked.  I was grappling around for a rope, any rope, thinking, "Really?  The one horse who almost never spooks decides to spook, spin and bolt right while I'm mounting?  Could my luck be any worse?"

I grabbed a part of the rein or lead rope and pulled, and he instantly came to a stop.  I got myself situated, did some lateral flexation exercises only to determine that he had lost all his softness.  I knew I should do some ground work with him, because I'd be riding out with very little steering unless I could get him to be more responsive, but I really had my heart set on that trail ride.  I had worked hard all day in the house, and the last thing I wanted was to have to work hard at the barn too.

The majority of the ride went well, but it was a struggle to steer him around cholla balls.  He was just so hard in the mouth and face, and my legs were like flies on his sides.  I wanted to do something different, so I turned him around in a spot we never turn and headed back the way we came.  That was a fateful decision.  I probably would have had a better ride if I just kept going straight.

Coming up out of a meadow, he alerted on something.  I saw movement under a tree in the distance.  It looked like a pack of coyotes.  I urged Rock on, but he was very concerned and kept stopping to gawk.  I wondered why he was suddenly so interested in coyotes, because they visit his barn every night, they trot along side him and follow him on the trails, and unless they are nipping at his heels, he totally ignores them and accepts their presence.  I got him going, but he was nervous, so he was doing a little prance, going faster and faster.  He stopped again and stared.

I looked a little closer at the coyotes and realized that they were acting strangely.  They began moving around and it hit me that these were deer.  I have never seen deer in central Arizona before.  I know they are here, and some people I've ridden with have seen them.  I've just never seen them here.  My Arabs had deer coming around the barn all the time in Nevada, and they were seriously freaked out about it.  Anytime I was woken in the middle of the night by horses kicking stall walls, I knew it meant the deer were nearby.

But I don't know enough about Rock's history to know if he has seen deer before.  He seemed very concerned about them.  So, we were at a stand still watching the deer when a hiker suddenly appeared over a rise.  Rock jerked his head in that direction and snorted.  Then another hiker appeared over a different rise, and Rock jerked his head in that direction and snorted.  Then a third hiker appeared, and these three hikers were kind of converging on the deer, which were starting to get stirred up.  Rock jerked forward at a fast walk, going faster and faster, working his way up to a trot, and I could feel his panic.

I kept trying to slow him down or even stop him, but he wasn't responding.  His neck was stiff and I just couldn't bend it enough to circle him.  I knew it was only a matter of seconds before he'd be loping for home, so I decided that since I didn't have any brakes or steering, I should bail out while he was still moving at a slower speed.  As soon as I lifted myself out of the saddle, he stopped and let me dismount at a stand still -- just the way I like it.

I led him around a while and didn't go straight home, because it became clear to me that he had forgotten all of his leading manners.  The twirling rope didn't deter him from barging ahead of me, so I had to keep turning to face him and snaking the lead rope at him to force him to back up.  Then when he tried to pass me, I'd kick him in the chest the way a horse might.  I thought, "The whole day has been a struggle, so why should I expect a trail ride to be any different?"

Once home, I lunged him in the round pen.  I need to get back to doing some basic ground work with all of the horses.  This has been a wet and busy winter, so they aren't getting ridden as much as they should be, so they are losing their responsiveness.  It turns out that the neighbor behind me is painting his house, but with brushes and rollers, so I don't have to deal with compressor sounds for a while.  But the horses will have to do their ground work with men up on ladders nearby, and I'm not going to tolerate much gawking while that is going on.  Those horses better get down to business and listen to me.  The sooner I can get their ground work perfected, the sooner we can be trail riding safely again.

I started thinking about why deer would suddenly show up in our part of the desert, and I realized its because of all the grass that is growing thanks to the storms.


Cheryl Ann said...

Really, Rock...DEER? ...sigh...I feel your frustration!

achieve1dream said...

Oh Rock!! You're supposed to be the sensible one!

I feel you on this one, only I have the opposite problem. I haven't done ground work in a long time and Chrome has gotten overly sensitive instead of dull. It looks like we both need to get back to it!

I'm glad he stopped and let you off!

How Sam Sees It said...

I'm amazed that we see so many - but they must usually not venture across the roads.

Monty and Harlow

Linda said...

We're lucky that deer abound in our parks and horses are quite used to them. I did a night ride last summer where we came across a big herd of them and they took off running--shadows to us--one of the horses on the ride (a brand spanking new horse with a green rider) did jump and startle and I thought he might come off (he didn't), but the others did fine.