Wednesday, March 25, 2015


Between me being unexpectedly busier than usual, the weather being wetter than usual, and my health being more obnoxious than usual, I haven't been able to get a whole lot of horseback riding in this winter.  I've been walloped with one illness or injury after another over the past five weeks.  Every time I turn around, it's something else, and I'm not just talking about the sniffles.  For instance, the past two days I have had a knot in my calf that made me walk with a limp.  I have no idea where that came from.  Then yesterday the allergies kicked in with uncontrollable sneezing, endless nose blowing, chills and sweats, headaches, swelling, etc.  If I wanted to stop sneezing and blowing my nose, I had to take an antihistamine, which knocked me out.  I think I slept a total of 18 hours yesterday alone, and only woke up to go to my photography class.

So, when I woke up today feeling about 70% normal, I was determined to ride a horse.  When I am consistently not feeling well enough to ride over a long period of time, I get frustrated because I know that the horses are going to be so much more difficult to work with as more time passes without them being ridden.  At the same time, my desire to ride wanes.  I develop other habits besides riding horses, and then when I feel better I have to get back into a routine where I make riding a part of my daily activities.  Ultimately, I always feel great when I return from a trail ride.  Being out in the sun allows me to sweat out whatever toxins my body doesn't need, I feel stronger, and I feel happy because I've accomplished something.  So, I knew I had to ride before I got any deeper into this rut.

Of course, as soon as I started getting ready, my body said, "Go to the bathroom NOW!"  Took care of that, went into my office to get something, but totally forgot what I was going into there to get because an old camera of mine freaked me out by turning itself on, extending its lens toward me, and then retracting the lens, and shutting itself off.  I haven't used that camera in so long that the battery should be dead.  So, I just said, "I guess the spirits are talking to me," and I went on my merry way.

Whenever I leave the house to go for a ride, I have to remember five things:
1.  Lock the trash can, so that the dogs can't get into it and make themselves sick.
2.  Get my protective vest.
3.  Get my mobile phone.
4.  Get a bottle of water.
5.  Get my GoPro camera.

I always, without fail, forget one or two items, get halfway to the barn, and have to turn around to go back and get what I forgot.  That happened today.

I had promised a friend that I would get Rock tuned up so that she could ride him, and when I approached him with the halter, he jumped at the sight of it, spun his butt into my face with his tail tucked under, and took off at a gallop across the paddock.

Whoa.  Not good.  He's never done that before.  He always either comes to the halter or stands and waits for me to put it on him.  He was clearly communicating to me that he liked being a barn ornament and had no intention of doing any work.  Obviously, I couldn't let him get away with that.  So, I took several minutes out of my trail riding time to teach him that running from the halter is futile.

Then I had to take several more minutes out of my trail ride to teach him that he is to walk beside me when I lead him, and he is not to stop and graze every few feet.

I led him into the round pen because he was acting very jumpy.  He overreacted to every cue I gave him, and I didn't want him jumping two feet in the air as soon as I lay some leg on him.  I figured he was jumpy because it had been so long since he'd been around humans or had a rider that he didn't understand what I wanted and he was scared of the unknown.  So, I worked with him on simple requests like walk, trot, whoa, and turn toward me, not away from me.  He caught on, and with each success, he received praise, and eventually relaxed.

I tied him to the trailer to be tacked up, and I managed to drop the reins in a patch of stickers, so I had to take more time out of my trail ride to get the stickers out of the reins.

I got my GoPro set up on my helmet only to discover that its battery was completely dead.  I had charged it the last time I used it and I had turned it off, but apparently the battery can keep draining if you don't use it.  So, I grabbed my GoPro-free helmet and strapped it on.  I don't know what is going on, but over the past few days I have had four cameras, my laptop computer, and my mobile phone all go on the fritz.  They shut themselves down and won't start back up, or they start themselves up and shut themselves down.  This is some seriously weird stuff.  A lot of static electricity in the air, I guess.

Right on cue, all the delivery trucks started driving up the street.  I got used to them not coming around until mid to late afternoon all winter, but now they are coming mid-morning, which means that many of our winter visitors have gone home.  That's a good thing, because it means less congested roads and supermarket aisles, and less unwanted surprises on the bridle trails.  It's easier for me to feel more confident on the back of a horse when the chances are low that we will run into motorcycles, ATVs, bicycles, powered parachutes, inattentive drivers on the roads, hikers popping out of bushes, and loose dogs that want to eat my horse's hooves.  The chances are pretty high right now that we will run into rattlesnakes and killer bees, but I'd take that over the winter visitor circus any day.

The delivery trucks made their rounds quickly, so I led Rock over the the mounting block, and he wouldn't hold still for the mount.  Really?  You're supposed to be our best horse.  So, I had to take more time out of my trail ride to work on holding still at the mount.  He learns quick.

We headed out and he managed to drag my leg against a branch that had a ton of bees on it.  They got all stirred up, and I held my breath and prayed that they were just common bees and not the killer strain.  Nobody got stung.

Then the gawking began.  I have a subscription to THE TRAIL RIDER magazine and have been picking up on a few new-to-me training ideas.  One thing I see on the trails that I like are horses that focus on the direction they are headed, and never bother to look at hikers and bicyclists and horseback riders who pass them.  All four of my horses morph into giraffes the second they spot any movement or hear any noise on the trails, and several of them have problems walking when their periscopes are up.  I'm tired of my trail rides coming to a halt because of my horses' reactions to activity that has nothing to do with us.  Julie Goodnight wrote something about correcting your horse every time it gawks, so that it learns to focus on the trail ahead and tune out everything around it.

So, each time Rock's head turned, I pulled his head back straight and pointed it where I wanted him to go.  If he got too obsessive about studying whatever was distracting him, I was going to turn him in the opposite direction and make him walk away from it, even if there was no trail there.  Fortunately, it didn't get to that point.  He learned to focus on where we were going.

I also decided to head off the problem of him rushing home before it could get to that point.  I pulled that off by taking trails we normally don't go on, walking just a few yards up them, and then turning around, returning to the main trail, finding another trail, not following it to the end, and turning around, then crossing the main trail where he wanted to turn toward home, and stuff like that.  I just mixed it up so that I would eradicate all expectations from his head regarding where we were going and when we were actually heading toward home, since we headed for home several times only to turn around and go back out.

In the process, we found several different types of cacti that were blooming.  The wildflowers that were pushing up out of the soil over the past few weeks are now drying up and dying, but the cacti are offering some color.  I plan to go out there when the light is better and take some photos before the blossoms are gone.

Rock was good.  I felt like I got my old buddy back by the end of the ride.  I like it when it doesn't take too much effort to tune up a horse after he has had a long vacation from work.  Once he consistently comes to the halter, holds still for the mount, and follows directions from the saddle, I'll feel more comfortable with letting someone ride him.

I wish I had pictures from the ride, but it appears that all my cameras are on the fritz at the moment, so I'll dig through my archives and see what I can find.


Cheryl Ann said...

My gelding did that Sunday with the lead rope! For heavens' sake! A LEAD ROPE! He is just too goofy...sigh...
Cheryl Ann

achieve1dream said...

That moon is pretty!

I can't wait until Chrome is that easy to tune up hehe. He's still so green!!

I might have to start doing that with the gawking... I want my horse to enjoy the ride and be able to look around, but we don't get anywhere with all the gawking. It's annoying.

I feel you on the rut. I'm the exact same way. I haven't been able to ride because of so much rain and working extra hours (my boss is having the same ongoing, never ending, it's always something health problems that you are) and I've totally gotten into a rut. I need to dig myself out of it before I completely miss out on pretty spring weather (if the rain ever stops).

I'm glad you enjoyed the ride!!