Sunday, January 24, 2010

Flying Through the Air With the Greatest of Ease.....

The weather here has been fantastic the last few days. I actually skipped out of work early on Friday and headed to the stables. I didn't care if there wasn't going to be anyone there to ride with me. I just wanted to be out in the warmth and with my boy.

I found him half asleep standing in the sun with one of his roommates. He was very snuggly when I went to put the halter on him. As I put him in the cross-ties, his eyes started to close and his pink lip started to quiver ever so slightly. I rubbed and scratched him in all the right places. Half way through my grooming routine, AT came in the barn. She was on her way to get her pony and asked if wanted to join her out on the trail. Of course!!

Off we went. The snow was deep and heavy, but the sun was shining and it was hovering around -2C. We just walked around the property, chatting away. Horses came up to us a couple of times to check us out; no incidents. Gem was very well behaved and was a big baby when I was grooming him after our ride. He snuggled me and dozed off with me rubbing his pink lip. It was a wonderful afternoon.

Today, I arranged to meet up with two other riders at the stables, RB and CH. We tacked up and headed out to the water tub just inside the pasture fence. As Gem and I were standing waiting for my riding mates to mount, a couple of horses came in from the pasture for a drink. Gem started to get a bit anxious and pawed at the ground. I have never seen him do that before. "Oh, he's probably anxious to get on with the trail ride," CH said. We walked away from the tub as a group, and then the two loose horses went one way and our group went the other.

As we stood together trying to decide which trail to take, Gem got all wiggly and then he kicked up his heels, hard and high. I didn't even have a chance to blink. The next thing I knew, I was flying through the air and hitting the ground. I hit hard, and I took a quick inventory of my teeth and made sure I could move my fingers and toes before I attempted to get up. I had a terrible soreness on the inside of my left thigh. He stood beside me for a brief moment, then turned and started to gallop across the field after his two new friends. I have to say he looked magnificent; tail up, long mane flowing. CH and RB got off their horses and helped me up. RB walked after Gem and eventually brought him back in. RB said that when he caught up to the group, it was like they were standing around talking about the weather. RB had no problem gathering up Gem's reins and he was easily led away.

We all went to the arena. I got back on Gem and rode for an hour. Gem was fine, his usual self. Eventually, my body started to stiffen up and I could feel a lump swelling up through my jeans where my thigh connected with the horn when I bounced off the saddle. Gem was fine when I unsaddled him and groomed him. He put his head under my arm as I rubbed his head. Could this be the same horse that just an hour ago had no regard for my personal safety??

What the heck happened today?? What could I have done differently? How do you convince a horse that he should be with you and not playing with new friends? How do you get a horse to chill out when you don't have an opportunity to lunge him or warm him up? When I think back on events leading up to my high flying act, there were subtle signs that all was not calm with Gem. He was a little anxious in the cross-ties. He rushed me out the barn door and I had to correct him. He did a little dance after I mounted him and I had to circle him a couple of times. He pawed the ground. Meeting the two horses at the tub just added to the excitement.

This is the second time I have ended up in the snow (see Faster than a Speeding Bullet) and it's the second time he has run after a group of horses. I am actually thankful that I fell off before he took off after the other two horses. But the fact that this event is so similar to the last time I fell off has made a solution to this situation a high priority. I don't want to be dumped on the ground - it's harder than snow! CH and the new boarder think I am one tough lady! They are 10 years younger than I am and can't believe my resilience - sometimes is pays to be round! RB had an interesting comment....he said that the only time he sees Gem running is when it's away from me!!! :-) I will have to discuss options with LA when I see her for my lesson this week. In the meantime, I have my leg elevated with an ice pack on it to keep the swelling down. Where did I put my vodka soda?????

What was I thinking.....?


  1. All I can tell you is that you have to respond the even the most subtle signals from your horse (boy have I learned this one lately).

    It sounds like you could benefit from a training I did with my other horse (who was a maniac and is now gone, thank God. Gem doesn't sound nearly as bad).

    Arrange for some friends to work with you in a controlled setting - arena preferably. They bring their horses up to you and Gem, they ride by you, they stop you keep going, etc. THe whole time you are keeping your boy focused on you. You learn his signal for starting to wig out. and you check any goofy behavior before it gets to be a fully formed thought.

    Since you know he's a nut with other horses, I'd keep him busy when they come around. Turn him away. Not in a freaked out way, but get to business. Make him back, side pass, trot, halt. Make it so you are very demanding and he can't entertain the thought of running off.

  2. Naughty boy! I hope you're okay physically and not too mentally rattled.

    I agree with Breathe, except that I wonder if it would be better for you to do these activities on the ground or have someone else sit on him and work through the kinks. Now if you find yourself in similar situations you're probably going to be anxious and that won't help.

    Hopefully it was just a case of spring freshness and not a symptom of bad saddle fit or a horse in pain.

  3. Good morning!

    Breathe - LA recommended exactly what you outlined a while ago and I have been doing it when I ride in the arena with others. I also had him ridden in a drill routine with 19 other horses from the herd - Jean rode him for me as I couldn't commit to the rehearsal nights. He was wonderful. He knows better and perhaps I have been lazy with reinforcing his manners because I have not been spending much time in the arena. Consistency is key. Bad mommy!

    S. - The saddle fits him fine and I did wonder afterwards if I did the cinch up too tight. You are right that I will probably be anxious. I have been playing it through my mind and I just realized that we were not an experienced trail riding bunch, so I am sure all of the horses picked up on it. RB has been taking lessons for two years and got his horse late last summer. CH has had her horse for a few years, but had a bad fall a year ago that has made her a little gun shy. I think Gem actually kicked out at CH's horse, who was up Gem's butt. Based on what heard after I fell, I believe Gem actually stood still long enough for CH to almost get his reins, but as she got closer to him, I saw that Gem was not into getting close to her horse. Still, no excuse for his bad behaviour.

    I am amazed at how sensitive these animals are!!

  4. I'm never crazy about riding in a pasture or arena with loose horses. You can't control what those horses are going to do. I've had them come up and try to bite the horse I was riding. Then my horse was far more worried about what they were going to do than what I wanted. I hope your not hurt to badly. It's also always best to go out with someone who is trail experienced. Both rider and horse. In the beginning this helps to give you both positive experiences.

  5. Hi wilsonc - I have a bruise on my thigh the size of my hand and it's turning a lovely shade of purple. I think I will put trail riding on the back burner for now. I am going to go back to riding in the arena so that we can re-establish manners and boundaries. I think Gem has forgotten that he isn't the boss. :-)

  6. So it seems that everything was good and Gem was just overreacting? Groundwork time! It'll be a good thing to do while your leg is still too sensitive to be rubbing against the saddle.

    Speaking of that, have you ever tried Arniflora arnica gel? It's a natural homeopathic that helps with bruises, swellings and knots and heals them up super fast.

  7. Well, getting launched like a rocket is never fun. Hope you're not hurting too badly. But it does come with the territory sometimes.

    Everyone seems to have given some good advice. I'd work him in the arena for while like suggested. I also don't ride through a field with loose horses, that can cause some problems. Even when we head out to the trails on the other side of the fence and the horses all come a-running it makes the ones we're riding nervous. Dusty actually bucked at the fence trying to kick Sami one day. I'd never been on her for a buck and luckily she doesn't get too high. I'm sure the more you ride and work together all these little quirks will disappear, Gem seems like a really cool horse who is a good boy.

  8. Morning!

    S. - I think he was over-reacting and being pushy. I have a lesson tonight so I will see if I can actually stand being in the saddle. :-) I will definitely be including groundwork, groundwork, groundwork, over the next while! Funny you should mention the Arnica. One of the other boarders mentioned it to me. I have a homeopathic store near my house. I will have to stop by and pick some up.

    GHM - We usually steer clear of the herd when we are out, but sometimes you come upon one or two that are off on their own in the bush. Usually this is not a problem. Gem is a great horse and I know he has a good heart. He is not malicious. I just love him. But I think he has my number. He is a "teenager" and I think he is pushing the envelope to see what he can get away with. I have to adjust my attitude and stop letting myself be manipulated by his big, brown, soft eyes!! :-)

    Thanks! I appreciate everyone's support. I was feeling a little idiotic to have fallen twice in the last month. But, GHM is does come with the territory sometimes. Hopefully, I am smart enough to learn from these experiences!

  9. You've got to keep his concentration on you and keep his mind busy before he can think too much about how nice it would be to go play with his mates. If he's fidgeting while your waiting make him walk or trot around in a circle as if you're schooling. Don't keep trying to make him stand still when he's fidgety, it'll wind him up even more. Well done for getting back on though. Hope your aches and pains ease soon.

    Hark at me - sounding like I know what I'm talking about! Its all very well in theory, its the putting it into practice thats the hard part!

    Good luck next time out :D

  10. Thanks, Jooles! My instructor reminded me last night of some emergency maneuvers (which I totally forgot about!). I know about keeping his head turned or walking him in circles if he's getting fidgety, but I didn't think to do it. Next time! BTW, he was very good during lesson last night and we had a very good trotting session. :-)