Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Monsters under the Bed...

We had a horrible storm blow through our province on the weekend. We were visiting some family members at a lakefront cottage. I thought of my boy and wondered how he was reacting to the thunder. The lightening show Sunday night was spectacular. After the storm cleared, it left behind beautiful temperatures and blue skies. The remnants of the gale force winds have provided a lovely breeze. The last couple of days is what summer should be like.

I arrived for my lesson on Tuesday half hoping that we would take advantage of the gorgeous weather and go out on the trails. As I grabbed my helmet from the trunk of my car, I looked at my vest and grabbed it too. Yes, I bought one. I bought a "racer" vest. The regular vest was too long in the front and would have caught on the horn of my saddle. As I walked up from my car, LA came out of the arena and confirmed we were hitting the trails.

My heart rate increased and once again I visited the bathroom 3 times before I even got on Gem!! But, it was like magic when I put on that vest. It was like I had put on my Confidence! I almost felt... well....invincible! I stood up straight, puffed out my chest, donned my helmet and sunglasses and walked with purpose out of the barn with my trusty steed.

My ensemble turned a few heads. DH's mom said that all I needed was a side arm and my look would be complete. Sigh. As I jogged Gem around the paddock, another boarder asked if Gem and I were in training for a SWAT team. Sigh. What do these earthlings know? They obviously don't understand that they are looking at Super Wolfie!

Gem picked up on my new persona, too. When LA opened the gate, Gem did not strain on the bit, he did not show any impatience. He calmly walked through and then stood while my other two classmates walked through the gate. Yay!

A trail ride is pretty basic for most people. But for me, it's an opportunity for the monsters lurking in the shadows to grab Gem's leg causing him to deposit me on the ground in a quick and painful manner. Our local monsters include wild turkeys, fox, deer, coyotes and Canada geese. I have seen wild turkeys fly out of the trees (geez, they are big birds!) and make the horses stampede away from the watering tub. Deer have bounded away suddenly, causing the herd to run. But it doesn't take a largish critter to spook a horse. Many years ago, STA and her horse fell down a small ravine because a quail flew up in front of them, causing her horse to rear and fall backwards. Yes, a 1 lb. bird took down a 1,000 lb. animal. Both survived the fall. The horse had some bruises. STA sustained back injuries which she fully recovered from. But, her fear paralysed her and she did not ride for almost a year. The main reason I wanted to ride was to be able to go out on the trails to observe it's sort of weird that I am now nervous of the main thing that drew me into riding in the first place.

I worked at sitting deep in the saddle, using the "potato" technique. Instead of leaving the reins loose, I kept some light contact on them, but still allowed enough length to let Gem look and navigate the stony areas. I used a very subtle see-saw movement with the reins when he started to rush up the butt of LA's horse and he immediately responded and backed off. I recognized his apprehension as we came up to muddy spots (he doesn't like mud!) and worked at calming myself (cleansing breaths) and him down (eeeeasy, good boy) instead stiffening up and hanging on to the reins for dear life. It worked! My Confidence and I coaxed him through.

After we were on the trails for a while, LA suggested I try jogging Gem to the opening of the next field. I have never gone faster than a walk on a trail ride, so I resisted at first, but then agreed to try. Gem listened to my cue and we did an evenly paced jog across the field! I jogged a couple of more times in different fields. It felt great! Gem enjoyed it, too. The last time I asked him to jog, I felt him power up for loping - he does this head flip thing before he lopes - and I was able to gently pull back and make him refocus and do a jog. Yay!! This vest has AMAZING powers!!

Gem is not a spooker, thank goodness. It's a characteristic of his breed. He's curious, but he's not scared - not even when wild turkey monsters swarmed the trees in his field! But Gem is not as used to these trails as the school horses are, so some things are new to him. The first monsters we came upon were the dastardly sparrows. :-) They fluttered around us as we stomped through the trails. Gem was interested, but not disturbed. Squirrel monsters made several appearances running and jumping overhead, with no reaction from the group. The swishing branch monsters were a constant, and Gem took care of a few of these by just grabbing them in his mouth and shaking his head and either breaking the branch or ending up with a mouthful of leaves. "Drop it! Drop it, you maniac!" My classmates, rolling their eyes, reminded me that he was not a dog so my commands wouldn't make a difference, but I am not buying it. I think he understood exactly what I was saying.

As we were walking along the stone wall that separates LA's property from a golf course, the golfer-monster made a sudden appearance right beside us (well, his voice did) on the other side of the wall and Gem did a very LARGE two-jumps-to-the-left move that caught everyone off guard. It was quite a big movement, but my butt was firmly planted in the saddle and I moved with Gem and other than loosing one stirrup, my first spook wasn't bad. Super Wolfie!

When the ride was finished, I felt elated. I think Gem did, too. He was having a "good" day (will expand in another post) and was amazing. Wearing my Confidence helped me relax and focus on Gem's movements and at the same time enjoy my surroundings. Rest assured, blogger friends, that I will continue to use my newly acquired powers for good and not evil. Monsters are no match for Super Wolfie and her trusty steed!!!

What was I thinking....?


  1. I'm sure that the Confidence Vest has turned you into Super Wolfie. If you didn't have the confidence and weren't relaxed it might not have gone so well. Now that you and Gem are having fun on the trails there's no limit to how much you two can accomplish together. Glad you had such a great ride.

  2. It's super Wolfie to the rescue, lol! loved this post, very inspirational to this girl whose never ridden a horse, yet....
    I do know that if you feel confident, the horse will feel confident too. That's why people with angry or aggressive energy have such a hard time getting horses to do what they want, which in turn makes them more frustrated.
    Sounds like you got yourself a lovely horse :-)

  3. YAY!!!! You go Super Wolfie!!

    I am so glad that you found something to channel your confidence and what a GREAT ride you had with it! Soon you and Gem will be the masters of the trails. Good for you :)

  4. Very good ride! Sounds like a lot was accomplished and that you both enjoyed yourselves!

  5. Good idea re the vest. It would have saved me from a broken rib on a trail ride a couple of years ago.
    Sounds like a great ride and that you have many more to come.

  6. Confidence makes a huge difference! What a great day.

    I hear you about the bird thing - Smokey had a OMG moment when a quail headed out from a tree. Then he stepped on a branch and the long end of it went up and whoosh, we were two steps sideways. But then he was just fine.

    Glad you are staying in that saddle!

  7. I hope those sunglasses are aviators, because that would have just completed the whole cop look. Seriously though, it sounds like buying that vest was the greatest thing for you. Good for you getting and wearing it despite the ribbing you get about it.

    Interesting story: yesterday a coworker was telling me about a horse he used to ride when he was a kid. One day his horse spooked hearing a rabbit scream after he STEPPED ON IT. Crazy but true.

  8. It's Super Wolfie and Gem to the rescue! LOVE IT! Happy to hear you have more confidence! HAPPY TRAILS!

  9. Good morning!

    GHM - Absolutely, my transformation into Super Wolfie is due to the Confidence Vest.

    Pinklitterfae – Horses are very sensitive, as you noted. You need to get on one and feel the magic! You won’t regret it.

    Stephanie – Super Wolfie will be hitting the trails again this weekend. I can actually say I am looking forward to it!

    Kate – Thanks. I appreciate your encouragement.

    Carol – This vest has magical powers, I swear!

    Breathe – Even as Gem (and I) get more accustomed to the trail, I am not going to kid myself that Gem will never spook. But learning to plant my butt in the saddle is a big first step to avoiding falls, I think.

    Shannon – They were racing sunglasses. :-) I have no problems with making fashion statements...I have been a trend setter before. OMG – stepping on a rabbit??!!! I would have totally freaked out!

    JM – Thanks very much!!

  10. Glad you enjoyed your trail ride. Is a confidence vest a kind of back protector? I have seen a few kids riding wearing back protectors but the general consensus seems to be that they are a nuisance and uncomfortable if you are out trekking in the mountains and wont stop a really serious injury anyway.
    I am off on my first trail ride this weekend but don't think we have the same amount of wildlife in Wales, probably mainly sheep, sheep and more sheep. And the horse should be fine cos she is of the bombproof variety and is used to trekking out in the mountains.

  11. Hello JanLou! Thanks for stopping by. The vest I am using is a version of vests used by eventers and jockeys. It does protect your ribs and spine by dispersing the impact of a fall. I do not find it a nuisance; it's quite comfortable. I call it my "confidence" vest. :-)

    Have a great time on your trail ride. In the mountains? How exciting!

  12. Check out my blog in the next week or so and I should have an account of my trail ride. Hope it goes as well as yours did. Will have to think about a vest perhaps cause safety is so important but at the moment am all spent out as have just had to buy some extra jodphurs and some half chaps.

  13. Hey Wolfie... or should I say Super Wolfie!!! Thank you so much for taking the time to stop by & leave a comment on my humble blog, & thanks for the 'good luck' wishes. By the way, I too am round & middle-aged *L*
    Your horse sounds a real gem ;o) My dream is to one day have a horse of my own tho I pretend that Biscuit, the horse I have for my lessons, is mine *hee-hee*
    Apart from horses, I absolutely love wolves too!
    Shall be visiting again to read the previous & ongoing Adventures of Super Wolfie & Gem -- yeehaa!!!