Lostine hadn't been out for a walk in a long time, so I took her on a hike around the desert. She spooked at the flags in our front yard, which surprised me, but I suppose any horse who has been sitting at pasture a while would get over-reactive the first time out.
I was letting Lostine graze on some wild grass coming up after the rainfall when I stepped backwards and my heel fell into a deep depression left by a horse that stepped in mud. The mud was dried up now. When I pulled my heel out, it had a big old cholla ball attached to it. So, I had to hop around on one foot until I found a stick, and knock it off with the stick, then pull the remaining thorns out of my shoe with my fingers while leaning on Lostine for support. She's so used to having to play the role of a wall for me. As soon as she sees that I've got another cholla ball stuck to my foot, she just walks up to me and stands still so that I can lean on her.
We saw some horseback riders coming toward us, and we were both so focused on them that we didn't hear nor see the bicyclist coming up from behind us. Lostine spooked and ran around the front of me to get off the trail, and then the guy yelled out, "Behind you!"
A little too late, but he tried.
The horseback riders stopped to talk to me. They were very nice and refrained from making the usual smart ass comment of, "Shouldn't you be on the horse and not walking it like a dog?"
They thought Lostine was pregnant, and that was why I wasn't riding her. I told them that she's nearly 30 years old and has arthritis in her spine, knees and hocks, so she's retired from riding, but I still take her for walks because it keeps her happy. They said, "Well, at least you are taking good care of her."
They were both riding gaited horses, so I asked why they chose a gaited breed. I've seen a prominent trend of more gaited horse riders on the trails this year. They said they like to move out. They want to go fast and far and not have to worry about tiring their horses out. They said they have Quarter Horses they left at home. I kind of laughed at that, because my Quarter Horse is my choice to ride on the trails because I like to go slow and enjoy the scenery.
They said it was hot, and I said it wasn't too bad. It was only about 70 degrees F. Then I looked at their horses and realized they were dripping sweat. I said, "It looks like you've gone a long ways."
They told me their route. It was a long ways. They were from a colder state, so what felt cool to me was hot to them. It's supposed to be in the 80s this week, so hopefully some of the crowds will thin out.
I just finished reading a book that is supposed to help horseback riders with their fear. It's basically broken up into understanding why you feel fearful, helping you recognize the signs that you are feeling fearful, educating you on how to have better control of your horse through establishing a bond, and just telling to you get out and ride. Not terribly helpful. In fact, one of the points the author tried to make was that the chances are very slim that your fears will be actualized. I filled out this workbook on what I fear will happen when riding a horse, and then I was asked to input the percentage that represents the chance of it actually happening. Most of my fears were up around 90% chance of them happening, so her argument that most fears are irrational didn't work for me.
A perfect example is that I can handle my horse if there are other horseback riders approaching us from up ahead at a walk, but I find myself having to ride out a spook and bolt when a bicyclist comes racing up from behind us, and then the horse is so nervous and agitated that I have to deal with jigging all the way home. Something like that happens pretty much every time I ride when the snowbirds are in town. If it's not a bicyclist, it's a silent trail runner or a rider or group of riders galloping their horses toward us.
While leading Lostine back to the barn, I spotted a shirtless bicyclist up ahead. He was just standing around looking at the houses, and I was wondering what he was doing. He went out to the street and when we caught up to him, asked me for directions. He wanted to get to the mountains, told me the route he came, but my house was blocking his path. I've had a lot of people tell me that. Apparently, my house was built in a very inconvenient location, which is why I have to deal with so many trespassers. I gave him directions, and he rode off, spooking Lostine in the process. It's not like I don't ride my bicycle around these horses all the time.
Anyway, I took Lostine home and switched her out for Rock. I cut off his leg bandage this morning and wanted to see how sound he is now. That hoof abscess turned out to be a fetlock injury. My farrier was the one who figured it out. Once I pulled the feathers up, I could see a scar under his fetlock.
Anyway, one thing the book did help me with was pointing out that when you ask a horse to move its feet, it can do one of three things: Move its feet in the direction you ask (obedience), ignore you (not understanding or not respecting you), or move toward you into your space (aggression). She said to test out your horse before you ride to see where you stand in your horse's eyes on that day. If the horse shows anything less than obedience, do your groundwork first. I've gotten into the habit of testing out the horses' moods and obedience after I've mounted them.
So, this morning I asked Rock to move back away from me, and he practically plowed me down to get out of his stall. Not good. When I took him for a walk, I kept asking him to stop and back up. If he didn't back up with the wiggle of the lead rope, I'd yank it down and back toward his chest. That did the trick, and I'd release as soon as he took one or two steps back. But I could tell that he did not like having the lead rope yanked. My attitude was, "Then step back as soon as I wiggle the rope."
His attitude was, "I don't want to."
At one point, I was yanking the rope toward his chest to get him to back up and he tried to take a bite out of my arm. He didn't use his teeth, but nipped with his lips, so I immediately smacked him on the chest hard with the lead rope repeatedly until he backed up fast. He got the point. No biting.
After whipping my horse, I looked over to see my nosy neighbor hiding in the bushes watching me. At least this time he followed me out onto the public trails instead of coming into my back yard and hiding in the arroyo, but I was plenty annoyed. I'm very kind to my horses except for when they intentionally try to hurt me by biting or kicking. Then I mean business. Anyone who sees me unleashing my firm love on my horses might take it out of context, so this was a bad time to be spied upon.
The guy realized he got caught, and scurried off. I noticed that he didn't bother to respect the trails, but just bushwhacked his way around.
I led Rock back toward home and saw that the bicyclist who asked for directions had thrown a banana peel on the ground. I jokingly said to Rock, "That's dangerous. Someone could slip on..."
And right then I slipped and fell hip-first into a bush. The bad part was that there was a triangular shaped rock in the middle of that bush, and that is what my hip hit. It's times like that when I'm glad I've got a few layers of fat. I don't need the extra weight, but the padding helps.
Then I discovered that I couldn't get up. My legs were uphill from my butt, and my butt was in a bowl with my hip wedged up against the side of this rock. I beckoned with my finger and said, "Rock, come here."
He stepped forward to me and lowered his head down to my face. I hooked my fingers through the noseband of his halter and said, "Pull!"
I haven't trained him to do this, but he just understood. He gently lifted his head and backed up, which gave me enough leverage to get a leg under my butt and push myself up the rest of the way. Horses are so awesome. They really do care about their people. He redeemed himself after attempting to bite me, and all was forgiven.
My hip is sore and will probably be bruised, but nothing is broken.