Since things have been slow going around the barn, I thought I'd participate in this:
10 Questions for November from Viva Carlos
How old is the youngest/greenest horse you’ve ridden?
I started Gabbrielle under saddle when she was four, which is about right for an Arabian since they can be petite. Here's a link to how that first ride went. Reading it now, I can see that I made several mistakes. Oh well, at least I tried. Ironically, despite how easy and cooperative she was when I started her under saddle, she is now my most ornery horse, which makes me look bad.
How old is the oldest horse you’ve ridden?
I think I stopped riding Lostine because of her arthritis when she was 28. I've ridden a lot of public rental horses, and some of them may have been older, but I didn't ask.
Were you scared of horses when you first started riding?
I started riding when I was so young that I doubt I felt anything beyond happy excitement. I'm sure I was oblivious of the dangers. I rode at summer camps. I do remember getting scared when we had to lope as a group (on bareback pads with no stirrups), because I've always suffered from motion sickness when I go too fast in or on any vehicle. I could never ride on anything at amusement parks, and to this day I still struggle with simply being in cars. My wild ride on a gurney to the operating room last week was enough to make me never want to have surgery ever again.
Would you say you’re a more nervous rider or a confident rider?
I go through phases. I'm always nervous before a ride, but once I mount, I feel at home. I'm usually too busy to get nervous while riding, but occasionally my nerves act up when my horse repeatedly performs a bad behavior and I as the rider can't fix it. At those times, I usually dismount or head for home early before things escalate further.
I'm more nervous about what other people on the trails or in my neighborhood are going to do to spook my horse than anything else. Unless a horse has a calm nature, and has almost had that fight or flight instinct bred out of it, it's difficult to desensitize your horse to everything under every circumstance. I've found that the "spook in place" approach only works when your horse still has its brain. Now that I'm older and have arthritis, spooking is painful for me, so I want to avoid it. I also find that I'm more nervous after a bad experience, and I need a few good ones before the fear will fade away. I need to trust that the bad things won't happen again, or at least not every time I ride.
Biggest pet peeve about non-horse people around horses?
I think I am always a bit stunned by people who simply have no interest in horses and don't want to see them and pet them. I don't understand how anyone can not be fascinated by such awesome creatures. I respect people who ask to visit my horses because they need a little horse therapy. I know they understand the value of horses on a spiritual level. I've had guests refuse to go outside to meet my horses because they didn't want to get horse hair on their clothes, or they were afraid their hay fever would act up, or they thought the barn would smell bad. They wouldn't even give it a chance.
I don't have this problem anymore, but at my old house Lostine kept colicking fairly regularly, and I found out that several neighbors had been feeding my horses a variety of things over the fence including rotten vegetables, whole uncut apples (which can be a choking hazard for horses who inhale their food), bologna sandwiches, grass cuttings, dead weeds covered in bugs, and beer. I had to pay closer attention and talk to each neighbor one by one as I caught them in the act to tell them that they could kill my horses by feeding them the wrong thing or by feeding them too much.
A time you’ve been scared for your life?
I don't think I've been scared that I was going to lose my life in any of my near misses or accidents, but I've scared myself a few times running through scenarios in my head about all the things that can go wrong. I just don't ever want to be on a runaway horse that won't respond to the one-rein stop, because my motion sickness will send me into a full-on panic attack.
Have you ever fallen off at show? What happened?
I don't show.
What’s a breed of horse you’ve never ridden but would like to ride?
Icelandic. I like them short, and I want to try gaited.
Describe the worst behaved horse you’ve ridden?
Ummm, believe it or not, that would probably be Lostine, and I've ridden her more than any other horse. I bought her when her breeder retired her from being a broodmare. She hadn't had any recent riding. Before being a broodmare, she was shown at halter. She clearly did not like being taken away from her broodmare buddies, and definitely did not want to be ridden. She paced the fence line calling out to her buddies across the street for the first two years I owned her. Crow-hopping was a regular part of her riding routine. Fortunately, she was too fat to pull off a full-on rodeo buck. On the trails, she ran backwards when refusing to cross streams or pass a large rock or sign that scared her. Pulling her head around and urging her forward was fruitless. I'd have to twist my head and upper body around to see where we were going and duck as she ran backwards under tree branches, and I had to yell at hikers to get out of the way. She was a real stinker, but I enjoyed riding her more than any other horse because she was so compact and low to the ground. It was impossible to fall off her. She taught me more about riding than any other horse I know. Now she's my best friend, and if she lives another ten years in her retirement, I will be more than happy to care for her.
The most frustrating ride you’ve ever had?
In recent years, it has been those group rides when my horse is mysteriously nervous for no apparent reason and keeps refusing to move forward or pussy-footing along when in front, and insisting on running up on the other horse's butt when behind. I have no patience for unfounded insecurities. I want my horses to be able to ride out alone or in groups without reacting emotionally to every little shift in the wind. I also don't like it when they try to sort out where they are in the social hierarchy when they go on a trail ride with a new horse. I find it easier to ride alone, but even passing other horses on the trail seems to be a challenge for my horses, so I know they need the practice of riding with others.
With that said, I had one of those rides on Bombay a couple of years ago where he was nervous the whole way and never settled down. We were just a few yards from home when the rider in front yelled out a warning that a group of horseback riders were coming our way. I couldn't see them from my vantage point, but every bone in my body was telling me to dismount because my horse was ready to blow. It turned out that the horse in front of the group that was passing us was a gigantic mule -- the first mule Bombay had ever seen -- and he completely flipped out. I could barely keep control of him on the lead rope. I was super glad that I got off, but still frustrated that all my efforts to get him to calm down and relax had failed. I can't say there was anything enjoyable about that ride for either of us.
When I first moved to the desert, a couple of horse bloggers came out to ride with me to help me get Bombay used to the sights and sounds of his new home, and on both rides I had to dismount because he was so nervous, which was making me nervous, and I knew nothing good could come from nerves spiraling out of control. In one case, he even started bucking when I wouldn't let him run for home. I wasn't as frustrated during those rides, because the environment was so new to him and he hadn't been ridden in a long time. However, in the ride I described above, he'd been ridden in the desert a lot, he was with familiar horses, and nothing was going on that should have made him so anxious. That's why it was so frustrating. I expected better behavior from him.