Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Just Like the Old Days

I got my act together today and had an encouraging trail ride on Rock.  I'm always anxious trail riding out alone on a horse who has been sitting all summer.  I've got to recall my saddling routine and riding techniques, re-fit all the tack to a flabby horse, my muscles have to relearn their job, and the horse has to be re-introduced to everything in the trail environment, as well a re-learn that buddy sour behaviors will not be tolerated.  There's a lot going on.  Add in that the winter visitors have been arriving early, so the chances of running into hikers, bikers, and horseback riders along the way are high.

Rock isn't spooky, but he does get excited over anything that moves, and he doesn't always listen when I insist that he pay attention to me and where we are headed.

I recently bought a ten-dollar quirt that I can keep hanging over the saddle horn, and then loop over my wrist if I need to use it on the hind end.  I tested it out by whipping myself, and it did hurt quite a bit.  It should be used lightly.  I decided that since it was Rock's first time out in a while, I'd go easy on him and just use the saddle strings.  His saddle has strings, but Gabbrielle's saddle strings are broken, and I always forget to bring a crop along when I ride in her saddle, so the quirt was left in the tack room hanging over the Arabian saddle horn.

Rock did balk a bit on the way out, but the saddle strings kept him moving.  We headed south and caught a flash of light up ahead from a car passing by.  Rock came to a halt and lifted his head to stare.  I said, "It's just a car.  Keep going."

But he refused.  I started rethinking the quirt decision, and turned him to head back the way we came.  Keeping his feet moving was my main goal, along with preventing excessive gawking.  I didn't notice at the time, but you can see in these pictures that he always had an ear cocked back behind him...

He stopped to poop, and I kicked him forward to get us out of his stench cloud.  I was talking out loud about how awful his poop smells.  I knew that on the first few rides of the season, the horses always rush home, so I didn't want to get too far from home.   It's aggravating riding a horse that's in a hurry to get home and won't slow down when you are a long ways from the barn.  So, I turned him around to go back down the trail we came, and lo and behold, there was a horseback rider right behind us.  Rock knew what he was talking about all along.  I'm not kidding when I say I'm going both blind and deaf.

Rock threw his head up and balked.  I urged him forward.  He took a few steps forward, then balked again.  The other rider saw my struggle and moved over to the adjacent trail, which I wish he didn't do, because Rock has to learn that he can walk head-on toward a strange horse and nothing bad comes from it.  On the other hand, the other rider knows his horse, and maybe that was the best move for everyone.

As we passed, I said hello and let him know that this was the first time I've had my horse out on the trails all summer.  Surprisingly, he rode over to me to chat.  He was probably the friendliest horseman I've met in a while.  He looked kind of like a horse trainer I've seen advertising.  He said that his horse had also been sitting all summer.  He agreed that it was just too hot to ride this summer.  He was trying to get the horse conditioned to go on longer rides on more difficult terrain.  He said he usually doesn't ride in this area.

Because of the horse's head set and speed, I thought it was a Paso Fino at first glance, but he told me it was a Mustang.  He said his horse can be a bit of an ass because he powers up on other horses from behind and tries to run right over them.  That explains why he switched trails.

He pointed and said, "What is that?"  I thought he meant what breed is my horse, because a lot of people have a hard time pinpointing Rock's breed.  I usually say he's a solid Paint or a grade Quarter Horse.  I realized later that he was probably asking about the Go Pro camera sticking out off the front of my helmet.  I forget it is there.  He had something sticking out by his mouth that I assumed was a mouthpiece for a mobile phone.  Horseback riders are getting high tech so they can multi-task.

Rock got over his initial excitement as soon as we started talking, and I was pleased that I only had to correct him once for not standing still.  He did better than the other horse.  We parted ways, and I rode a little longer, then sat out the fast ride home.  I have to remember one repeated piece of advice that an old trainer had for me, and that was that as long as the horse is walking, let it walk.  It doesn't matter how fast it is walking.  The only time you correct it is when it breaks into a trot without a cue.  I tend to micro manage the speed of each gait, because that is what my arena trainers taught me to do.

I was really encouraged with the ride because I felt good, I rode in my riding boots as opposed to the sneakers I've been wearing lately, I mounted on the first try, I felt comfortable in the saddle, I survived meeting up with a strange horse on the trail, and I dismounted on the first try like a normal person.  I don't think anyone would have suspected all the struggles I've had over the past few months.

Afterward, I hosed down Bombay, because on that last super hot day we had on Sunday, I looked out the window to see him standing on three legs and trying to bite his privates.  He kept losing his balance and stumbling to catch himself.  When I went outside to get the fly spray, he has blood splatter on his legs and tail.  I sprayed him down with fly spray for the second time that day, and smeared a handful of Ivermectin on his privates.  He jumped because it hurt, and my hand came away covered in blood.  I knew there was no point in calling the vet, because she'd just tell me that fly season will end tomorrow and then his problem will be solved.  It's weird because the flies eat Bombay alive, but don't bother any of the other horses.  I'm waiting for a variety of bloody messes to heal on him before riding him, so it looks like Rock is my only option for a while.  I'm not complaining.


Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Oops! I just realized that I never texted my husband at work to let him know I was riding out and when I got home. I still need to get back into a routine. I've forgotten about everything I used to do to prepare for a ride.

Camryn said...

Sounds like just the kind of day you needed! I've always carried a quirt, thumping it on my leg usually did the trick. Once Camryn in particular knew it was looped on my wrist she'd pick up the pace a bit. Hope you run into more friendly riders like that guy.

Grey Horse Matters said...

I think you're pretty brave heading out on the trails by yourself after such a long time. Sounds like it was a good ride and you and Rock did really well managing everything that came up. Since I'm not a western rider and know basically less than nothing about western tack I'm wondering what saddle strings are?

Poor Bombay and his fly trouble. Blue has the same problems with flies. They seem to like him best. I wonder why certain horses are more bothered than others. Maybe they smell differently. I don't know. What seemed to help them all out in the past few years is my daughter added garlic powder to their food and apple cider vinegar.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

GHM - Saddle strings are leather strips that hang off the sides of the saddle that can be used to tie on saddle bags or used to spank your horse or they can just hang there and look pretty. They often have conchos holding them in place. I have one set on each side of the front near the horn and one set on each side of the back to hold a cantle bag. The problem with Gabbrielle's saddle is that the screw in conchos got stripped, so the strings and conchos kept falling off.

Grey Horse Matters said...

Thanks for the info. I get it now.👍🏻

Linda said...

I got that same advice about the walk, and I always remember it. How interesting that his horse was a Mustang! Very cool! Your Rock is an impressive guy. Even with time off, he still keeps his head. And, good job not letting him gawk all over the place!