Sunday, May 1, 2016

Ride with the Wind

Picture from last week
My friend who hasn't ridden in years came to ride horses with me, and the weather was far from ideal.  We'd been dealing with whirlwinds and sudden, big, destructive gusts all week.  A storm was supposed to pass through over the weekend, and the winds would increase right before the rain.  At first they said it would rain on Saturday, then Sunday, then back to Saturday.  I didn't know whether to cancel or not.  We'd been planning this ride for about a year, and this friend has a job on the other side of the country and has been busy planning her daughter's wedding and making dreams come true for a terminally ill teen, so I just decided to deal with whatever weather we got since she had the time to ride now.

It was windy when she arrived, so I suggested that she just ride in the arena at first and I'd stay on the ground to adjust her stirrups or do whatever she needed help with, and then I'd saddle up another horse and ride with her in the arena, and if the winds settled down we could go out on the trails.

When dealing with people who haven't ridden horses often, I never really know how to behave, because I want to teach them so they will be safe and be able to communicate with my horse in a way he understands, but I also don't want to be overbearing and ruin the experience by controlling their every move with my horse.  I look for a balance.

I showed her how to tack up, and then I had her lead Rock into the arena.  I thought it would be a good idea to have her lunge him on the lead line a little bit to establish her dominance over him and make sure he was listening.  I showed her how to do it, but forgot how hard it is to lunge a horse for the first time.  Lunging is truly an intricate process and the horse's response depends entirely on your body language and location where you stand in relation to the horse's body.  It's also dizzying to spin in a circle if you're not used to it.

I was trying to show her how to lunge him when I lost his attention, because some man drove up on a motorcycle and parked by the fence at the back of our property on the cliff.  So, I turned it into a lesson on knowing where the horse's attention lies based upon his ears.  The man on the motorcycle walked up to my back yard and stood there staring down at us with something like a tablet or clipboard or map in his hand.  He seemed like he was waiting for me to climb the hill to talk to him.  I figured he needed directions, but I was entertaining company and wasn't about to leave her alone to go talk to an uninvited lurker.  I also wasn't about to expend what little energy I had climbing that damn hill.  I needed my energy to ride.

I'm pretty fed up with strangers showing up in my back yard.  It happens so often that sometimes I just have to ignore them so that I can do what is on my agenda.  My neighborhood has become such a tourist attraction ever since they made a TV show about it.  I find it so ironic that I was happy to leave my old home because I wouldn't have to deal with tourists stopping me every time I walked to the mailbox to ask me for directions to Lake Tahoe, and now I have tourists waiting for me to climb a hill to give them directions from my back yard to the mountains or the freeway or the trail.

My husband spotted the man and came out of the house to help.  He hiked toward the cliff to find out what the man wanted, but then the man stepped back behind the fence and tried to hide himself as if he didn't need something after all and was just being nosy watching us work with the horse in the arena.  He wouldn't leave, though.  He had one of those really loud motorcycles, and I didn't want him to hop on and fire up the engine right when my friend was mounting, so I held Rock while she mounted in case he spooked.

Fortunately, she was riding Rock toward the motorcyclist when the man finally did start his engine and drive off, so Rock just came to an abrupt halt and threw his head up to watch.  I was relieved that the man drove back up the street away from our house instead of attempting to drive down the cliff into the arroyo, because that would have definitely caused a horse wreck.  I was concerned that he might try that, so I explained to my friend how to do a one-rein stop.

Once my friend said she was comfortable being alone with Rock, I left to saddle up Gabbrielle.  My husband came out of the house and talked with her a bit.  It takes a lot longer to get Gabbrielle ready to ride because she always has to poop multiple times and I have to clean it up.  Then she bloats, so I have to do all these little tricks to get her to relax so I can tighten the cinch.

I finally mounted her, and we rode around in the arena for a little bit.  The horses were doing okay, except there was one hairy moment when my friend rode Rock up too close on Gabbrielle's flank and Gabbrielle hopped her butt over to kick.  I stopped her from kicking, but was afraid that if I popped her on the hip with the riding crop to get her to move her butt away from him, she might kick anyway and injure my friend's leg in the process.  So, I told my friend to move Rock away quickly and she did.  Crisis diverted.  Gabbrielle has pinned her ears at other horses who got too close on trail rides, but hasn't kicked.  However, she must feel the rules are different in the arena, because she's always kicking at Rock in there when no one is riding them.

At one point I was talking and I realized that my friend had this pained expression on her face.  I knew something was wrong, so I told her to just let me know if she needed to get off.

It turned out that while I was saddling up Gabbrielle, Rock stopped being his usual well behaved self and kept trying to wipe my friend off on the railing.  He also bit my husband.  My friend was having to work harder to control him, and her knee cramped up on her.  She also was feeling dizzy because she needed water, but she didn't realize that until later.  She continued to ride because she felt bad that I did all that work to saddle up two horses only to have her end the ride right after I mounted.  She's close to my age and has similar problems with arthritis, so I totally understand.  I was actually worried that she'd be disappointed that we didn't get to go for a trail ride, but she said she didn't think she would last through one anyway.

I dismounted to help her dismount, and Gabbrielle had bloated so much that the saddle slid down her side when I got off.  Fortunately, I was wearing a pain patch and had taken Ibuprofen, so I didn't have to dismount slowly and drag my leg across her rump.  I could hop right off as soon as I sensed the saddle going down.  It was probably good that we had such a short ride so that I still had the energy to do a fast dismount.  It turned out that my friend didn't need help dismounting.  I was worried that she'd struggle with her bum knee, but she did a good job.

I found out later that when my husband talked with my friend, he pretty much told her the opposite of what I told her to do as far as how to ride Rock.  She must have been so confused.  I wasn't close enough to hear their conversation and intervene.  But I also didn't see the problems Rock was giving her as soon as I left the arena.  I might have changed my instructions had I realized what was going on.  I suspect he was only behaving well in my presence because he was reading me and following my cues that I was giving from the ground.

Shortly after we put the horses away several whirlwinds blew through the barn and arena, so we just missed the crazy part of the weather.  The sky got dark in a hurry and we had little sprinkles here and there.  Eventually, there was a downpour along with thunder and lightning.

While the storm front was moving in, I was shocked to see my neighbor and her friend riding horses down the street, heading out to the desert.  The wind was practically blowing them off their horses.  My horses were chasing each other around in the arena, bucking and rearing, having a grand old time.  They were so busy playing that they didn't even notice the horses on the cliff, and those horses didn't pay any attention to their antics either.  The riders suddenly turned around and went back home, and then it rained.  They must have felt the first few raindrops, realized the weather could only get worse and it wasn't safe to be out there.

A short time after that I saw on the news that a man riding a horse in the desert got struck by lightning.  The horse was killed and the man had no pulse, but they were able to revive him, and he is now in the hospital in critical condition.  He was riding with two relatives.  It must have been awful for them to witness that.  I hope he pulls through.


TeresaA said...

You are a good friend to arrange for this to make your friend's day.

TeresaA said...

sorry- hit 'publish' too soon! I hope that the person who was injured is okay.

fernvalley01 said...

Scary about the lightning strike! Nice that you and your friend had a little saddle time, maybe next time will be better

Mrs Shoes said...

Holy cow, the lightning must've gone straight through the guy & killed his horse - how awful! Hope he'll be okay.