Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Apples, Thundering Hooves and Quicksand

At last!  The temperatures are dropping and the last week has been wonderfully coolish.  DH's Mom and I went out the other day.  It was a very relaxed ride, the two of us not talking much.  Gem has taken to walking with purpose when we go out, that plus his bigger steps means that we usually get ahead of DH's Mom.  So when we entered the old orchard through a very narrow, dark entrance, we were way ahead of DH's Mom.  The sight that greeted Gem and I was quite funny....picture being greeted by five horse butts sticking out from bushes.  That's all you could see...their butts.  It's the height of the apple season.  The horse's couldn't have cared less about us being there; there were apples to be eaten!   We stopped and waited for our slow poke companions.   When our friends entered, the horse butts pointed at DH made him spook a little.  Really?? 

We walked through the orchard (Careful!  Horse butt up ahead!!) and then entered the scrub brush area.  Gem made a bee-line to his "special shrub".  Over the summer, he started walking right through this large shrub located in the middle of an open area, then backing up through it...back and forth a few times.  Initially, I thought he was just being a jerk and would force him forward.  Then DH's Mom pointed out that he was scraping the flies off of his belly.  So this has been part of the routine all summer.  The flies aren't as bad now...so I think he does it because it feels good.  :-) 

On the way back to the barn, Gem lowered his head looking for some apples that had fallen from a nearby tree.  He tripped over his own front feet and his whole front end went down!  In fact, the side of his head hit the ground.  WTH?  I was pitched forward on to his neck...I have to say that getting a horn in the gut isn't pleasant.  However, my concern was righting my boy so I quickly sat back in the saddle and steadily pulled back and braced the reins to give him something to "lean" on to help him up.  He was none the worse for wear, thankfully.  DH's Mom was impressed that I stayed in the saddle.

Last Friday, Gem was a bit frisky (cooler weather??)  Because of this, I took the time to warm him up in the paddock.  He was not paying complete attention to me and DH's Mom asked if I wanted to lunge.  I believe that lunging has benefits, but I prefer to ride it out and get his head back when I am in the saddle.  When Gem consistently responded to me telling him "easy", then I felt ready to hit the trails.  Looking back, I am glad we had a warm up session.

The ride started out pleasant enough.  DH's Mom and I were joined by CL riding a beautiful Clyde, Marty.  Gem looks delicate next to this guy.  :-)  CL, like DH's Mom, has ridden most of her life.  Marty is still a youngster - I think he's 4 - and he still has some youngster behaviour.  But CL corrects and moves on.  I like riding with them.   CL/Marty were leading us across the large middle field, with Gem and I close behind and DH's Mom/DH a little further back, bringing up the rear.   About 5 minutes into our ride, we started to enter the winter feeding field to gain access to the forest.  CL/Marty stopped dead at the entrance on high alert.  Then I heard it....the pounding of hooves!   We couldn't see exactly what was going on because of the trees and shrubs against the stone wall. 
Direction of thundering, crazy horses.

I moved Gem to the right, away from the entrance and tried to take cover against a couple of bushes as the herd of 30 horses thundered through the small opening, with a couple breaking off and either jumping the wall (WTH!) or veering into the forest.  Holy crap, Batman!!   I had an adrenaline rush and my complete focus was on Gem and keeping us safe.  I was thinking quite clearly and honestly, there was no room for panic.  I implemented a half-halt and luckily in the excitement, I managed to convince Gem to do small circles and that there was no need to follow the herd.  I had my palm on the horn pushing my butt into the saddle.  The thunder of the herd galloping by me pretty much drowned out any other noise, but I do remember hearing DH's Mom yelling at me to hang on.  Understandably, Gem was a bit bouncy.  There was one point that I lost my balance slightly and thought that I might be coming off, but I righted myself.  I got it together in time to watch the last of the horses continue galloping down the bottom of the field.  Beautiful. Then I started to breathe again.  :-)     Of course, this whole incident only lasted, what, 30 SECONDS???  We have no idea what caused the stampede.  DH's Mom admitted that she was a tad nervous...her main concern was a horse kicking out and hurting her or DH.   Gem and I survived our first stampede!  Yay!   OK, it needs to be said - DH's Mom was not wearing a helmet.  This is a perfect example of how the situation can change in an instant when you are out on the trails.  Just sayin'. 

As we rode along the golf course, a golfer's ball connected with, I think, the flag pole resulting in a loud twang! noise...right next to us.  Come on...really??  Gem did his beautiful two large side steps...his version of spooking (geez, I wish I could get him to side step like that when I asked....his cross-over is amazing!)    

Then CL decided to take us into the marsh..."oh, it's not too muddy", she said.  Good grief.  I should have known better.  With all of the rain we've had, how could it not be muddy, for cripes sakes!  She led Marty through deep mud that caked his feathers.  I have to tell you it was like quicksand....as you walked, it was like you got sucked in deeper and deeper into the black goo.  Gem, in the meantime, was trying to convince me that walking along the edge of the trail through very thick bushes to avoid the ankle deep mud was OK...not!   Believe me, if walking through the brush was a viable option, I would have been all over it.  However, it was actually safer to walk right down the middle of swampy mud.  Convincing him took some effort, but he listened more often than not.  I know, hard to believe, right?  Me convincing him that mud was OK.  Crazy, eh?  DH's Mom was struggling a bit as DH is only about 14.3hh and his tiny feet were really sinking into the mud.  In retrospect, it probably wasn't the safest situation for DH's Mom and DH to be in.  Interestingly, although I was apprehensive as we got deeper into the marsh area, I focused on the fact that we were almost through it, and I was OK.....I did not loose my mind.  Weird, eh?  When we emerged, Gem and Marty had mud and splashes half way up their legs and on their bellies.  DH was covered and DH's Mom's jeans were splashed up to her knees.  Sometimes there is an advantage to being on a taller horse.  :-)   

The whole ride, I was the entertainment...in a good way.  :-)  DH's Mom was reminiscing to CL how last year I would yell or scream like a girl in certain situations, or how I would tell DH's Mom to go fly a kite if she wanted me to try something, etc. etc.   We laughed a lot.   Later on, CL gave me a high five for being a good sport and for having a great ride.

As I drove to the pub to meet DH's Mom, I reviewed the ride and smiled...a lot!  I did pretty good!   Over beers, DH's Mom mentioned how pleased she was with how I managed the various situations presented over the last few rides.  And then she said it.  She said that I was ready to go with her for an off-site trail ride.   Nice to hear, of course, coming from her.   If she had said this to me a couple of months ago, I would have been jumping for joy and asking when.  But the reality of it was that her suggestion did not carry the "approval" weight that I thought it would.  You see, I think the last couple of rides have pushed me to the next level.... I have graduated....in spite of riding inconsistently.   I don't need an offsite to add variety to my riding experience or to prove anything to anyone.  I am more confident, my seat is better and I am learning to go with whatever the ride throws my way.   Gem's confidence in me shows and I would rather continue to build on that and focus more on jogging and loping out in the fields at LA's.  In fact, the stampede proved to me that horses can run really fast through the fields and not trip on anything.  :-)

I appreciate DH's Mom recognizing my recent achievements and I thanked her, but I didn't take the bait.   We enjoyed our evening.  When I got home, I told My Husband about my super, awesome ride...and he was suitably impressed. :-)


  1. Wait, have you been riding in a big pasture all this time? Yeesh! Love your drawring ;)

    1. Yes! But at a walk or trot. :-) Glad you enjoyed my artwork. Hope all is well with you!

  2. 'Horse butts up ahead' - that made me laugh! What a sight that must have been. So, does DH not know what horse butts look like then? ;)

    Way to go, Wolfie! Staying in the saddle when Gem tripped - poor guy, glad he's ok; keeping calm in the midst of the stampede - Eeek!! the golf ball - talk about having the 'full works' thrown at you on your ride; and, last but definitely not least, Mud!! And not any old mud, but quicksand-mud!!! Who are you, what have you done with Wolfie?? *lol* You rock, woman! There's no stopping you now - you and Gem, team supreme :) And two thumbs way, way up for realising that you do not need anyone's approval but your own. xx

    1. I laughed when I saw those butts greeting me as I entered the orchard! Hilarious.

      Yes, I impressed myself! After my most recent ride, I sort of felt invincible! lol! After 5 years, maybe, must maybe, I am getting the hang of this riding thing!!! :-)

      Thanks for your support, Joy. Your enthusiasm always makes me smile. :-)

  3. Love your description of horse butts in the orchard. Too cute.

    Horse butts, stampede, Gem going down, mud all wrapped into one exciting adventure. I'd say that's enough to give your confidence a giant boost. It's a great feeling when you've dealt with it all and come out smiling. I think you really did prove to yourself that you are "officially" a talented rider. You should be suitably impressed with your skills and have no trouble heading out for more fun with Gem. Way to go!

    1. I know, right?! It's been a crazy few rides but, to be honest, I am glad this kind of craziness has happened now and not a couple of years ago when I was not as confident and would have probably carried the nervousness with me always. You are right....I have validated in my own head that I am moving forward with my skills. Thanks, GHM. You have been with me from the beginning and I appreciate that you have always helped me focus on the positive.

  4. Holy cow! You rode while loose horses thundered past! I'm so impressed. I've been there, and it's very scary! Kudos to you, and to Gem for not losing his brain! Good boy, Gem. Good girl, you.

    1. I wish I had been able to actually watch the horses thundering past! It must have been beautiful.... :-)

      Looking forward to seeing some more of your beautiful pictures!