Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Here's Mud in Your Eye....

First, I want to thank Mare at Simply Horse Crazy for giving me a Lovely Blog Award. Thank you!!!! Mare and her horse Missy are a dynamic duo. If you haven’t checked out Mare’s blog before, I urge you to do so. :-)
* * * *
The past two weeks have been AMAZING weather-wise. Temps have been around the 23C mark and it’s been sunny. It has been perfect riding weather. This is my favourite time of year to ride. Not too hot, not too cold, no bugs and the trails are beautiful.
My friend, Jean has been easing me out on the trails when we have managed to get together outside of lessons and I have reconnected with another boarder (DH’s mom) who is an avid trail rider. Her and I have managed to get together the last three Sundays. To refresh your memory, DH is Gem’s turnout buddy and he is the leader. It’s actually quite hilarious to see a 14.3hh gelding push around a 16.0hh horse. I used to ride regularly with CA on Sundays, but she prefers the arena environment. As long time readers know, my ultimate goal is to trail ride comfortably and safely. Who knows....maybe trailer somewhere with friends and feel confident on new trails. Now that Jean has helped me with my trail riding confidence this past summer (baby steps!), I am fortunate to have found DH’s mom available to hit the trails on weekends. I have had as many trail rides in the last few months as I did all last year!

Most of the horses where I board are Quarter Horses that are around 15.0hh, with a couple of Arabians and Paints thrown in for good measure. While there are quite a number of open fields to wander around in, some of the more interesting terrain means going through some bushy areas or (my favourite) the forest. The paths through these areas are clearly for smaller horses. I can't tell you how many times I had to duck to get under branches or push saplings aside as we wondered through the brush, when no one else had a problem. Could all this bending and stretching and reaching actually be helping my balance???? Geez, I hope so!!! Sometimes the paths get so narrow, I have to pin my legs against Gem to avoid getting my knees bonked by trees.

DH and his mom have no problem negotiating the trails; they are both "petite" shall we say, while the gy-normous black beast and his proportionally sized rider tried to keep up without loosing an eye. You see, when your horse is 5 inches taller than just about every other horse on the place and you are tallish (5'7"), you have a whole different set of obstacles to deal with than other riders when out on the trails. Branches that clear the tops of other rider's heads hit you at face level. Trail openings that accommodate 900 lb. horses can be a tight squeeze for a ~1200 lb horse. A challenge, but one that I am up for! :-)

So here's the thing. My horse has a certain kind of quiet strength that allows us to maneuver through the herd when we come upon them in the forest without being challenged. He does not spook when the wild turkeys fly out of a bush and he only shows interest and not fear when the golfers next door yell suddenly. I can ride him in the arena during thunderstorms. Loud machinery noise, doesn't blink an eyelash. His weakness?.....Gem does NOT like mud! He may have had a bad experience in his previous life, or maybe it’s because he actually sinks quite deep in the mud because of his size (and my additional weight-whaaaa!!). Whatever the reason, he panics a bit. He will do just about anything to avoid mud.

Me: Gem, it's just mud. It's wet dirt.
Gem: I will walk in it and never come out.
Me: We will come out, I guarantee it!
Gem: You have eyes in the front of your head. What do you know. I see everything. There are demons in there that will grab my ankles and pull me under.
Me: Pleeeese....
Gem: You are embarrassing yourself by begging. Ain't going to happen.
Me: Sigh.

This can be a little nerve-wracking when we are on the trails. He will rush through it and push his way around the horse in front. Or he tries to take me through the bushes to avoid the mud all together; thank goodness I wear safety goggles when I trail ride!! So the first time DH's mom took us through a swampy area, my heart started to pound. I tried to tell her that Gem didn't like mud, but she told me to give him some rein, so he could lower his head and see the mud, sit square in the saddle and relax. I did as told. Gem was hesitant, but when he saw his fearless leader DH walk through it, he did too!! Now, I am not going to say that Gem was 100% calm walking through the mud…he still high-stepped trying not to get his feet dirty….but he did not RESIST going in the mud. Yay! Since that ride, DH’s mom has us going through muddy areas every ride and each time my anxiety has dissipated a little more and so has Gem’s. I am hoping that by the time winter rolls in, we will have beaten the horse-eating mud demons down completely!

I have not come off the trail rides unscathed, though. Monday, I suffered a trail riding injury...No, not as bad as the two times I was catapulted in the air by Gem! :-) There we were, in the forest, winding our way through a very narrow, rocky path. As we followed DH and his mom, I leaned to the right to avoid a branch, right into the stub of a broken branch on another tree. Gem was fast-walking down a slight incline at the time and the stub went into my upper arm and caught my blouse, ripping the sleeve open to my elbow. It hurt! I quickly checked to see if skin was broken (no), but a bruise was already welling up.

The bruise is now about an inch wide, 4 inches long and is a lovely purple black colour. Oh, well. Makes for interesting conversation. Cripes, I am going to miss that blouse though!!

What was I thinking....?


  1. Ouch! But it's good you didn't break the skin. I can understand what you're going through because I did the same. Erik was 17-2 hands and wide, amazingly he thought if he could fit so could my legs/head...wrong. But we worked it out by me taking care of myself because he sure wasn't going to. Gem is getting better with the mud, Erik never got better with puddles and always refused to walk through them. You and Gem have come so far in such a short time. I have a feeling you and Gem are going to have loads of fun this winter on the trails.

  2. Good for you and Gem on the trail rides! Keep up the good work.

    It's crazy the things that horses pick to be afraid of!

  3. LOL about the mud. Smokey has the same opinion about mud. Given how much I pick out of his hooves, I can't imagine he is actually worried about it, but maybe the very idea of being forced into a puddle...

    Gem is aptly named, what a good guy. Glad you are both have a fabulous time, blouse notwithstanding.

    (Besides it's all the trend to have ripped sleeves. Seriously

  4. I miss trail riding. Except for the first year I rode, I never rode in an arena, just out on the trails. I've become quite flexible in the saddle because of all the trail rides. I can get my foot out of the stirrup and over my horse's neck to avoid hitting a tree in probably three seconds flat.

    I hear you about tall horse's being bad. Socks and I were pretty good together. She's 15.1hh and I'm barely 5'1. Now Thor is my trail horse and he's about 15.3hh. Those couple of inches make a huge difference. I can't believe what it must be for you and Gem!

    It sounds like Gem will get better about the mud. Our young horses always hate mud. It feels strange for them to walk through and they do have a fear that they will get stuck in it. But you're doing exactly what we do, give them their hed and let them pick their own way. It helps a lot on trails when you come to uneven places.

  5. Oooh! I hate it when my knees get banged while riding. Even worse when your clothes get ripped.

    You should check out my blog post from 2008 when I ripped my jeans from hip to ankle riding through a gate.

    I'm glad you're finding the time and good folks to ride during some nice Fall weather. Those Fall trails look lovely.


  6. Gooshy footing is scary for my boy too, we continue working on it as well. Sounds like it's becoming a none issue for Gem. Glad your getting out on the beautiful Fall trail, but ouch - darn branches!!

  7. Poor thing! I've lost a couple shirts that way myself.

    I'm so proud of you and Gem! You've come a very long way you know, look at you all confident out on the trail! The good thing about being big and having more trail obstacles is that it will help your balance and you will also learn to maneuver him around better- lateral movements around trees FTW!

  8. GHM – OK, if you were riding beautiful Erik through this forest, your helmet would be banged up and you would have to have ridden slouched over! Gem doesn’t mind puddles…in fact, he splashes them like a dog if we are standing in one. Thanks, as always, for your kind words and support.

    Allison – I am really enjoying going out with him and I know he really likes it too. He is such a baby when it comes to mud!

    Breathe – He is pretty darn good out on the trails and I am very thankful. I just looked at that site…I am rethinking throwing that blouse out! :-)

    Cjay – A couple of inches higher does make a difference! I am jealous of your youth and flexibility – pulling your leg over your horse’s neck to avoid trees? Wow.

    Lisa – I just checked out your post – that was quite a snag!! LOL

    Aurora – I have to say that those darn branches do make me pay attention to what I am doing and where I am going.

    Shannon - I am sort of proud of us, too! :-) I sure hope trail riding helps my balance. I have to say that I am a little stiff the next day after being out on the trail, so the bending and stretching while in the saddle is having a positive effect...I hope!

  9. Love the beautiful colours in your photo's! Fabulous to be out on the trails on days like that!Oh how I miss riding out. You and Gem are going places, no place better than out on the trails to become a real team. I know all about trail riding hazards of the tall, Cassie is 16.1 and I'm nearly as tall as you and I've had my helmet swept of my head on one memorable occasion, but at least it wasn't my head. That arm looks sore.

  10. How nice it must be to go on a trail ride without the bugs bugging you. I bet your bruise is getting quite colorful by now. I am glad you didn't fall of Gigantor. He's a good boy! It sounds like your on the right track with the mud issue. That could get just a tad bit annoying. (sorry Gem)

  11. It looks like a great time to go on the trails. Perfect weather. Too bad about the top though. Ouch, darn trees.

  12. Ouch... those brush-bruises really hurt!
    Hmmm, I have had that demon conversation with someone before!

  13. OUCH! Sounds like you were brave though! Well done with the whole mud issue, Poor little Gem and not wanting to get his little hooves dirty, I don't blame him, does he go through mud when out in the paddock or does he hate that as well?
    I love that you and Gem hit the trails, one day I hope to be able to be brave enough to do the same!!!!

  14. Sigh, trail rides can be such an adventure right? Miles also hates mud. What's with these big strong geldings acting like such pretty princesses? lolz

  15. Good for you working through the mud issue- I typically have those issues with water; my horses are guaranteed they will sink to Chine if they step in that reflective puddle!

    I have a similar issue too- of being on the tallest horse and I'm about your height- unfortunately my boy isn't as calm as your dear Gem- navigating around the branches and such.

    Ice that arm! And wear a tank-top so when everyone asks you about the bruise you can share a highly dramatic (if not slightly embellished) gallant horse adventure! :)

  16. twohorses – Good grief! You lost your helmet?! Yikes! The colours here are sooooo beautiful this time of year that I sometimes catch myself looking at the trees when I should be watching where I am driving!

    Mary – it is so nice not to have flies and bugs!!! I love riding this time of year. My bruise is now a lovely black yellow colour. :-)

    Ruffles – I think I am getting the hang of it! :-)

    Dreaming – I hate those horse-eating mud demons!!!

    Nina – So nice to hear from you! He avoids mud even in the paddock. :-) BTW, love that your Little Poppy is being ridden by your nephew!

    Sarah – When there are soooo many other things he could be nervous about, why mud?? Big baby!

    Corinna – no worries about puddles; he doesn’t mind water. I am getting a bit more familiar with the trails now, so I am starting to be able to anticipate where we might have issues with branches. I am the only female on my floor and you can bet that I have shown off my bruise and given a highly dramatic account of how I got it! ;-)

  17. For years my Thoroughbred would spook when my helmet hit the low hanging branches. That was...interesting. Ya. Interesting.

    He's the same horse who, with a different rider, on another occasion, flatly refused to step in a puddle. So we thought he'd just follow my Quarter Horse through this puddle. My Quarter Horse walked right on through and this Thoroughbred panicked when he thought his buddy was leaving. So of course he jumped the puddle and landed on my Quarter Horse's butt.

    He taught me a lot. That Thoroughbred. Most lovable beast there ever was.

    And yes I eventually did have him going through puddles. Puddles, by the way, were nothing compared to...crosswalks :)

  18. I think that all the things that Gem ignores - turkeys, golfers, loud noises - make him worth his weight in gold! Sounds like you are approaching the mud issue just the way you need to and congratulations for not letting him off the hook on that one. When we first moved here and I joined our bridle trails association, the best advice that they gave me was always bring a pair of garden shears when you ride out in the woods - clipping those branches from the back of your horse is the easiest way to make a trail safer. I'm glad you have good buddies to ride with.

  19. This comment has been removed by the author.

  20. td - The visuals of your Thoroughbred have made me smile. :-)

    Victoria - Nice to hear from you! I am with you...if mud is my only real worry, then I am OK with that! :-) I LOVE the idea of taking gardening snippers with me next time - thank you!!