Monday, April 4, 2016

First Snake Sighting of the Season

The temps are up in the 80s and 90s this week, which is perfect for a snake migration.  I need to ride Rock as much as possible this month, because I have a friend coming over at the end of the month to ride him, and she hasn't ridden in a few years, so I want him to be on his best behavior.

You ready to go, guy?

I almost forgot that Rock has had a problem lately with walking off during the mount.  Basically, as soon as my right foot pushes off the stool, he plows up the driveway while I'm swinging my leg over his back.  I did not want that to happen this time, so I worked on just having him stand still by the stool while I tried to fake him out, making him think I was going to mount when I wasn't.  I couldn't fool him.  I also flexed his head from side to side.  Still, I could tell he was ready to walk off.  I didn't want to have to drain my energy and waste time working his feet every which way, and then letting him rest by the stool, so I took a minute to think up a different plan that would set him up for success.

I got smart and just turned him around so that his butt was pointing up the driveway instead of his head.  His head was pointing at the hay barn, which had no hay in it, so he had nowhere to go.  Sure enough, he held still while I mounted and stayed still until I gave him the cue to walk.

I don't know how I saw it, but up ahead, stretched across the end of the driveway was a snake.  I couldn't see enough details to know exactly what kind it was, but I could see by the outline and coloring of the tail that it either had a rattle or a faux rattle.  So, it was either a rattlesnake or a bull snake.

We stopped and held still, and the snake stopped and held still.  I would have had to hang a tight right to keep out of striking range, but that meant possibly running into some sharp plants.  I didn't want to ride around and through my neighbor's front yard, so I waited, and the snake went down a ground squirrel hole on the driveway.  I was kind of hoping it would eat the squirrels, because those are the ones who have been shredding my newspapers to make nests.

You can see in this next picture that I was always surveying the ground in search of more snakes...

I planned to ride Rock around that power pole, but it had bushes on each side, so I wanted to make sure the coast was clear.

Rock did a great job on the way out, but got a bit too antsy and rushed home.  I don't mind if he speeds up, but I need him to stop when I say stop.  He doesn't do that very well when he's focused on getting back to the barn.  He had no problem waiting for the snake to move, because we were still at home at that point.  I also stopped him a few times on the way out, and he was patient.  But I had to use every whoa cue in the book at the same time to even get him to slow down on the way home.  Then when I did get him to stop, he'd only hold still for two seconds, and then take off again without a cue.  

I was practicing with him in the arena for a while specifically to correct this problem.  I had no difficulty getting him to stop and back up in the arena.  I need some ideas on how to get him to be more responsive about stopping and holding still on the way home.

I've been paying closer attention to what is going on with my right hip and leg that makes it so difficult to dismount.  I realized that the types of problems I have with that hip and leg are similar to the types of problems I have with my left shoulder when I can't lift a saddle over a horse's back.  The joint and muscles freeze up and I feel pain.  Then I remembered that I have Scoliosis of the spine, so it makes sense that the shoulder and hip on opposite sides would be wonky.

I concentrated on sitting on my back pockets and letting my legs hang loose while riding, because I suspected that when I sit more upright and roll my thighs in to grip like I was taught to do, I'm causing those muscles in my hips and thighs to fatigue.  I think my riding technique worked, because I was able to swing my right leg over on the first try when dismounting, and I even cleared both the cantle and Rock's rump.  I even made sure that I went for a long ride to give my hip and leg a chance to flake out on me.  I saw one of my neighbors was home, so I figured that if I couldn't dismount, I could ride over to her and ask her to lift my leg and push it over for me.  Fortunately, I didn't have to do that.  Also, if I get into that predicament again where I can't dismount, and no neighbor is around to help, I can always ride over to the fire station to get some help.  It's only a couple of blocks away.

I haven't tried yet, but I'm pretty sure I can't dismount from the other side if my right leg gives out, because if I have a hard time putting weight on it, I can't stand in the stirrup on it while I swing my good leg over.  I usually stand on my left leg in the stirrup, and once the right leg is over, I lean across the saddle, pull my left foot out of the stirrup and hop down, landing on my left foot.  Then I limp off, because my right hip and thigh are in too much pain to put weight on them.  The pain goes away pretty quick if I keep walking and gradually stop limping.  It might be something a chiropractor can fix.


Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Pfffft! It's a good thing I rode a horse today, because as soon as I got back from my ride a bunch of people called me and now my calendar is filled up with unexpected appointments for the rest of the week. This always happens to me. Every time I set up a dental appointment, somehow, some way, I get wrangled into half a dozen other appointments around the same time. It's bizarre. I've actually already cancelled my dental appointments twice, so I can't do it again just because things got busy after I set up another appointment.

Linda said...

It sounds like he did great with the snake, and snakes do usually try to get out of the way. You had good eyes to see it before you were right on it. We were warned of one on a trail ride Saturday--a jogger told us there was a pissed off bull snake to the left on the trail. Soooo, half the ride, we were looking for the pissed off bull snake to the "left", but we weren't sure if she was talking about her left or our left, so we had to look on both sides of the trail, and she never indicated how far away it was. I was riding single file behind my husband, trying to stay in the direct middle of the trail. Needless to say, we didn't see it, but it sure distracted us.

Crystal said...

Last summer we were riding with friends in pasture and his horse stepped right on a snake, he said it hissed and his horse just ignored it and moved off. That woulda creeped me out but he wasn't worried, it was non poisonous.
Interesting about the leg/shoulder. Maybe in between all your other appointments you can get a chiro in.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Ha ha! Believe me, there is no "in between". Maybe in a few weeks. Unfortunately, taking care of myself always drops down to the bottom of the list.