Monday, October 24, 2011

11 Years Young

I took the afternoon off on Friday and met Jean for a trail ride. As much as I was looking forward to the ride, I was also little apprehensive. We have had a lot of rain the last few days, sometimes torrential, followed by a lot of wind. It was going to be MUDDY. We got saddled up and out we went. Jean led the way initially, and I have to say that when I saw her small horse slipping and sliding, particularly in the forest, I was a wee bit nervous. I started thinking about how cold the mud was....and visualizing how I was going to be covered in it when Gem slipped and I came off....and how I was never going to be able to get the black mud stains out of my clothing...and.... WAIT!!! STOP!!! I gave my head a shake!! Not going to happen!!! I gave Gem lots of rein, he checked out where he was walking and.....he rocked it! There was a heart-stopping moment when Gem tripped over a rock hidden by leaves and went down to his knees, but he recovered nicely and so did I.

There was a swampy area that we just couldn't walk through, so we cut back up into the forest, into a less popular area. There were obstacles - mud, rocks, saplings, low branches - and at one point, we became sort of trapped. The recent high winds had taken down a bunch of branches and a large one now blocked our way. It was too tight to turn around, so I asked Gem to go forward and left it to him to decide what he needed to do. I trusted that he would get us through, and he did! He carefully picked his way over the branches and led us out.
* * * * *
Gem turned 11 on October 17th! I can't believe how times flies. Gem and I get teased a lot about his birth date. I am told that his birth was probably an "oops-ie". If that's the case, I am grateful for this particular mistake. :-) I posted a notice on the barn bulletin board asking that anyone interested in participating in a birthday trail ride be saddled up for 1:00 p.m. on Sunday. Eleven of us went out! Four of those that went out were new boarders.

It was cloudy, but temps were decent. We walked through the brush, into the forest and across the open fields. For most of the ride, Gem and I and DH and his mom were leading. This was for two reasons; DH's mom knows all the trails and the trails that we took, particularly in the forest, needed to be wide/tall enough for Gem. :-) There is one incline that whether you are going up or going down, it can be a bit of a challenge. We are not talking a Man from Snowy River incline, but it's enough that it can unseat an unprepared rider. It's also rocky. DH's mom has had to coach/calm me up and down this incline on a couple of occasions. Sunday, DH started to slide down the incline and his mom opted to take him through the bush. I yelled a "slippery!" warning back to the others. I gave Gem rein and asked him to move forward, leaving the option open to go into the bush if he started to slip. Gem didn't hesitate and carefully picked his way through the rocks and down the slope. :-) DH's mom yelled "awesome!" when we got to the bottom. Another confidence/trust boosting incident for Gem and I.

Trail riding is what he did in his previous life. Coming to live with me and spending a great deal of time in a lesson environment was a huge adjustment for him. But, I think the fact that he has not become a bitter, grumpy horse because of this change in his lifestyle shows a great strength of character and work ethic ....oh, and how much patience he has! :-) There have been some frustrations in lesson, for sure. Sometimes I feel that I am never going to get it. But, it's important to me to learn how to communicate with him properly and I am looking forward to when we both understand how and why I am asking him to do things.

My confidence level is getting better all the time when it comes to trail riding. I now realize that Gem knows what he's doing. :-) There were a few times that we actually jogged ahead of everyone and we loped a bit! Crazy, eh?! Could he have known that the ride was in his honour?? His winter coat is coming in and he looks quite magnificent, if I do say so myself. :-) We were out for just over an hour. I gave my boy lots of loving and extra treats while I was untacking him. Then, my trail riding buddies and I met in the bunkhouse, which was nice and toasty warm; LA's mother had started up the wood stove while we were out. I served up carrot cake, chips, soft drinks and beer. It was a lovely way to get to know the new boarders and part of a lovely memory of Gem's birthday.

Pooped after a birthday trail ride.

Happy birthday, handsome Gem!! xoxo


  1. Happy Happy Birthday Handsome boy Gem! There was something magical in the Universe those couple of days that made 2 amazing dark horses, because Miles was born October 16th:)
    Good for you for stopping the negative visualization...I have to do it more than I like to admit:) Gem sounds like such a great horse, and you two make a great team. I've really enjoyed reading about your journey.

  2. Happy Birthday to your handsome, patient and very special boy!

    Sounds like a wonderful trail ride for the two of you, and everyone that joined you.


  3. Sounds like a nice time


  4. Sounds like a lot of fun! Happy birthday to a great boy!

  5. Happy Birthday to Gem!!
    What a wonderful birthday trail ride and after-party!

  6. Wow! I am envious of your trails!!! What a great guy Gem is!
    Happy belated birthday, Gem!!!

  7. Happy Birthday Gem! Is there a better way to celebrate a birthday than a trail ride? I think not :)

  8. Happy Birthday to Gem! I love his white star; he's so handsome!

  9. Happy Birthday to a special guy. Eleven is such a great age for a horse. I think you should give yourself a pat on the back for how much your confidence in Gem and yourself have come so far. You are doing so well and Gem is a superstar on the trails. Seems he knows exactly what to do in any given situation. Smart boy. Glad he had a lovely trail ride and celebration in honor of his birthday. Looks like he was ready for a birthday nap too!

  10. Happy Birthday Gorgeous Gem!! Another Scorpio, 11 days before me :D
    Well done you, getting rid of that negativity & nailing that trail ride! And the birthday trail ride sounded the business *applause*
    I'm no expert but it sounds like you've got some connection with that fab boy, the way he comes through for you -- fantastic!
    Love that photo, he does look quite pooped *lol* Carrot cake ... yum ... xx

  11. A lovely story to read. Happy birthday Gem! Well done to you for banishing those negative thoughts. Your growing trust in each other shines through in the telling of your story and you must be very proud!

  12. Happy Birthday Gem! He is the living definition of everything Canadian Horses are bred for! He's such a patient guy and it's great that you were able to banish all those negative thoughts!

    Poor guy! He looks tired! I bet he had a fun ride though too!

  13. Sounds like a perfect day for a perfect boy! Happy Birthday Gem!

  14. Happy Birthday Gem! What a lovely day the two of you had. Funny that 11 riders went out on his 11th birthday. He is such a wonderful, solid horse. I know quite a few horses who didn't cope well with a change in career at all, but Gem seems to take it all in his stride. And well done for stopping the negative visualisation, why is it so much harder to turn off a negative thought than turning on a positive one where riding is concerned? my old instructor used to say that riders who picture themselves falling do indeed fall off...

  15. Thanks everyone! I will pass on your birthday wishes to Gem!! ;-)

    Sarah – It’s so funny that Miles and Gem share the same age and practically the same birth date!! I am the Queen of negative visualization when it comes to riding – I am getting better at stopping it.

    Lisa – It was really nice so many came out. Part of the riding experience for me is being social and it was lovely.

    Abby – Yes, it was a very nice way to spend an afternoon.

    Kate – He really is a great boy. I am appreciating him more and more as time goes on.

    Allison – That little bunkhouse is the perfect spot for a little après-ride get-together. :-)

    Minus Pride – I am not sure how much acreage there we have available for trail riding (60?). Not a lot compared to some, but the terrain and wildlife is varied, so that makes it interesting.

    Shannon – There is no better way to celebrate Gem’s birthday. :-)

    Mona – Nice to hear from you! I think he’s handsome, too. ;-)

    GHM – I always appreciate your support and wisdom. :-) It’s taken a bit of time, but I am realizing that he really does know what he is doing out on the trails. BTW, he was definitely ready for a little snooze after the trail ride!

    Joy – I still struggle with my confidence, but I am getting quicker at stopping my negative thoughts! :-)

    Jooles – “Your growing trust in each other shines through in the telling of your story…” Thank you! and, yes, I am proud of both of us.

    Cjay – When I read the description of what a Canadian Horse is, he really fits the bill. I am so grateful!

    Mary – I think human and horse participants had fun!

    twohorses – You know, I never even noticed 11 people out for his 11th birthday! Cool! :-) Solid is a good description of Gem. I think your instructor is right – if we visualize failure, then we will fail. I have to constantly remind myself to remain positive and recognize the small victories.

  16. Happy Birthday to Gem! It sounds like you all had a fun day.

  17. Happy birthday Gem!

    I love it when trail riding goes well, I'm about to start taking my boy on some small trail rides - starting out with our long but enclosed drive way haha. I figured that at least that way if he misbehaves he can't gallop off into the bushes and leave me trying to find him lol.

  18. Good job. That's exactly how it's done. And that's how you build trust and confidence in each other.

    I'm happy for you and that's a nice way to celebrate Gem's birthday.

  19. Megan - I will pass on your birthday wishes! Good luck with your trail riding. :-)

    ltd - I am finally starting to get it!! Each time we go out, both of us are more and more relaxed.