I had planned to ride Gabbrielle after riding Rock yesterday, but wanted to give my leg a rest first. She needs more practice riding on the trails without a buddy horse, but it seems that every time I plan to ride her regularly, something happens to prevent it, and as a result, her riding experience is very haphazard. By the time I can ride her again, I have to start over, begin with groundwork, ride her in the arena, then ride her with a buddy horse on the trails, and finally ride her without a buddy horse on the trails. However, life rarely cooperates long enough for us to get that far along.
I haven't ridden her in a while, so I thought I would brush up on riding cues with her in the arena first, and if all went well, then ride her on the trails. However, when I ride in the arena, I have to lock up all the other horses in their stalls, and let them out when I'm done, and with my leg only having so many steps it can take in one day before it gets inflamed, I figured it would be dead before I could ride. I decided to just ride her in the arena with the other horses being loose. If they pestered us, she could learn how to herd them.
Just as I was about to go down to the barn, I got a bad feeling in my gut. Dang.
There's an inherent problem with a bad gut feeling: I have to decipher whether it is my intuition speaking or whether it is fear speaking, because if it is just fear, then I want to beat it. However, if it is my intuition, I want to heed it. Every time that I have ignored my intuition in the past, something bad happened and I got hurt.
An example of when I didn't heed my intuition is when I got into a car wreck and flew through the windshield on the only day in my life that I chose not to wear a seatbelt. That head injury is a part of why I'm such a dingbat.
An example of when I did heed my intuition is when I did not go to a party only to find out later that there was a gang fight and someone got stabbed right in the spot where I most often hung out at those parties. I was a Friday night regular there, and this was the one time I followed my gut instinct and did not go.
This felt like intuition, because a thought kept popping into my head that we were going to get hit by a whirlwind. I had no reason to think that, because there was only a gentle breeze outside. However, we do get bizarre, unpredictable winds this time of year, as well as in late summer during monsoon season. We get whirlwinds, dust devils, gustnados, microbursts and macrobursts. You can't really see them coming until it's too late and impossible to get out of their path.
I felt enough trepidation to postpone riding a little while longer. Sure enough, right about the time I would have been riding her in the arena with the other horses loose, a huge wind shook the house, blew the back door open, and the dogs jumped up and ran out the door barking. I chased them back into the house and pulled the door shut with all my might. As the wind moved away from the house, I could see that it was a gustnado. It hit the barn, and the horses stampeded across the arena with this spinning debris chasing them the whole way.
When the horses reached the far corner and could not run anymore, they turned to face it, and it stopped and spun just a few few away from their faces. I was so scared that their eyes were going to get pelted by debris. It spun in that half of my arena for a good 20 seconds, sucking up a bunch of that new sand I just had dumped, and then finally moved off into the distance. It creeped me out the way it stopped to "stare" at my horses before moving on. It was like a monster instead of just a wind.
I shudder to think what could have happened had I been riding Gabbrielle in the arena with the other horses stampeding and the dogs escaping the house during that incident.
Anyway, that got me thinking about how superstitious I am about riding Gabbrielle, in particular. It does seem like something bizarre comes out of left field every time I work with her. It feels like each time I mount her, either people or wildlife or the weather insert themselves into our space and all hell breaks loose. It's really no wonder that this mare is afraid of her own shadow. She probably associates me riding her with horrible things happening to her, and I, in turn, associate riding her with horrible things happening to me.
Other people have been able to ride her without ridiculous things happening, so I'm convinced that this has something to with her energy and my energy colliding. The majority of my disfigured fingers and toes have come from Gabbrielle's panic attacks. I tell myself that my body is feeling residual pain from all the accidents I've had while working with her, and that's why I'm hesitant to ride her. But then I push past that and do ride her, and I discover that she's a very talented horse and I enjoy the ride. That gets my confidence up, so I ride her a little bit longer, and then something totally ridiculous that I couldn't make happen if I tried, happens, and my superstitious thoughts take over.
What I'm discovering is that I'm not afraid to ride Gabbrielle, because she really is a good horse, but I'm afraid of what will happen to us if I ride Gabbrielle. I'm not sure what to do about it. One could argue that I just need more good rides with good outcomes on her, but if the past is any indication of the future, I don't think there's much hope for that. That's part of why I chose to sell her, but now that I can't sell her, I feel like she's with me for a reason.
I know she has the potential to become my best riding horse, but I need everyone and everything around us to leave us alone long enough for us to make progress together. We just need to get over this hump to a point where we trust one another and have faith that everything will be okay. Then we can start dealing with interruptions, distractions, and big scares. I just feel like we really haven't been given the chance to get comfortable together. I keep trying, but I always come away feeling angry because yet another seemingly impossible and ridiculous thing ruined my efforts to work with this horse.
So, I tried again today, only I made sure to lock up all the other horses to prevent a stampede. The saddle was giving me all kinds of fits. Gabbrielle is really bad about bloating and she is lopsided, so it's important to get the saddle snug to prevent sliding. It's hard to have patience with her after being able to cinch up Rock in two tries. Gabbrielle requires at least six tightenings, and even then, I am lucky if the saddle doesn't slide when I mount. So, I lunged her to get her to relax her muscles.
As I was getting ready to ride, I got a gut feeling that I was forgetting something. A little voice told me to get the riding crop. Oh yeah! I've been having that annoying problem with her running backwards. I got the crop and tapped her with it a bit from the ground to see if she would respond to cues from it, and she did.
As soon as we started moving, she lost her head and ran forward, then backward, left and then right, zig-zagging all over the place. I hadn't given her any cues beyond a cluck of my tongue. I said, "What the heck are you doing?"
She immediately stopped and let out a big sigh, as if to say, "I have no idea."
I clucked again and she took a step back, so I tapped her on the rump with riding crop, and she lurched forward. I didn't have any problems with her acting silly after that. She just needed to be reminded that I was carrying a riding crop, and she behaved herself.
I looked over and saw Rock alerting on the driveway, and thought, "Here it comes. Whatever is going to scare the hell out of this horse is headed down my driveway."
I was half-expecting it to be the Jehovah's Witnesses, but it was a big gust of wind. Fortunately, it wasn't a whirling wind -- just a forceful breeze, so we waited it out.
This is the only other picture I got of her with her ears forward. I had to push the shutter release on my helmet, which explains the strange positioning of my hand on the reins and crop...
Then I thought, "Nah, I should keep riding."
Then I thought, "But Gabbrielle gets grumpy if I ride too long. I should definitely quit before she gets grumpy or something ridiculous happens to ruin the ride."
I dismounted, and the second I took a step back after landing on the ground, there was this loud explosion. I have no idea what it was or where it came from. It just happened. Had I ridden for one more second, the ridiculousness would have had its way with us. Hopefully, Gabbrielle took note that something scary happened after I got off her back.