Monday, November 08, 2010

I Do This For Fun?

On Friday, Brian and I almost didn't go to the barn. We were both tired, he'd had a long day at work, my neck was still stiff from my fall, and it was chilly. Somehow, however, we talked ourselves into going and so Friday afternoon found us tacking our two boys up in the barn aisle.

At first, it seemed like we'd made the right decision. Both Steen and Bear were good for tacking, grooming, leading, mounting and almost 30 minutes of riding. The sun was shining and it was pleasant to be outdoors.  Steen was actually extremely awesome - way better than the last two times we rode. Quiet, responsive, engaged, happy to go, happy to stop. I was wearing my new helmet (which I find significantly more comfortable than my old one) and feeling relaxed and happy.

Then we decided to call it quits for the day, but first to amble down to the bottom of the strip and then back up as a sort of cool-down. Amble down we did, then we turned to head back up to the barn to dismount, and that's when things started to go wrong. In the distance I saw the pasture herd had noticed us and one horse had decided to run over to say hi. From behind me, I heard Brian say, "Oh look, Star is coming." But I didn't think the running horse was Star. I looked back at the remaining herd members and saw Star standing among them. I pointed this out. There is not another plain red horse in the normal herd, which meant the horse running towards us was a horse we did not know. I almost said, "We should dismount." But then I told myself I was being silly. Our horses had been turned out with this horse for hours (if not days) and now she was on the other side of a fence. What could happen? Both Steen and Bear were walking quietly. They did not seem in the least alarmed by the new horse's approach. So I said nothing and we kept going. The new horse loped up, stopped and loitered near Bear for a moment. Steen and I continued to walk up the strip. I concluded the danger was past.

Except then the new horse decided it would be fun to run back to the barn. She started to lope behind Steen and passed him running in the same direction we were headed, mere feet away from him, on the other side of the fence. Steen decided he should definitely run with her.

So, here I must make a confession. Since we got Bear, my "good" snaffle has been on loan to Brian and I've been using the super-fat training snaffle I bought when I first got Steen and he had a lot of anxiety about bitting. I did order a second bit like the one I normally ride Steen in as soon as we switched Bear out of the Tom-Thumb, but that bit has been back-ordered for nearly two months. I've never had trouble controlling Steen before (or at least, not for years), so haven't been super worried about it, but on Friday I realized that the fat snaffle is inadequate for moments when Steen truly feels he needs to run. As he accelerated to chase the running horse, about all I could do was collect him and keep his lope controlled. I would have been a lot less worried about this situation except I could hear that Bear and Brian were also running behind us.

It actually probably took me less than 10 seconds to regain control of Steen, and as I pulled him up he spent one horrible instant fighting the bit and coiling his body up like he was going to throw a huge buck into the equation. The thought, "I really, really, really don't want to fall again," went through my mind as I rode through this moment, not losing my seat but coming close. Steen did not buck. He slowed to a trot, then a walk, then halted. I seized the opportunity and dismounted quickly.

Brain did not come out of things quite so well. While I have been involved in lots of runaway or pseudo-runaway horse experiences, Brian has not. Nevertheless, he did really well until Steen veered off the fence as I tried to get him to stop. At that point Bear redirected into the soybean field, where he began to sort of half-stumble in the deep, uneven footing at just about every stride, still lurching along at a very, very fast lope. Anyone would have had trouble staying on at that point. Brian fell.

Bear came running back to me and Steen. I was pretty mad at both of of horses just then, but was at least relieved to see Brian getting to his feet in the field. I collected Bear and met Brian as he walked back in my direction. We took our two idiot prey-animals inside, groomed them and turned them back out. Brian is ok, but it was a hard fall. He has some very sore ribs along with a badly bruised hip and shoulder. At least he didn't hit his head.

So, to sum up, it's been the sort of week that makes me wonder why I do this, and why I got my husband into doing this with me. We are, in general, safe and intelligent about how we ride, but the thing with horses is you never quite know what it going to happen. Even in fairly controlled situations there are variables, and sometimes even small mistakes have big consequences.

Still, I know myself well enough to know that ceasing to ride isn't really an option for me. Somehow, my happiness hinges on these big, unpredictable animals. So for now I can only redouble my efforts at staying safe and hope our bad luck has run out.


  1. I'll be honest, I don't know that a thinner bit would have made much difference. In my experience, a horse that really wants to run will blow through pretty much any bit...if it's too painful they just buck.

    I totally hear you on the wondering why you do it though. Although my questioning is usually more related to shoveling horse poo and such. Hope things are better the next time. :)

  2. Dang - poor Brian. When we have bad rides it does question our sanity, doesn't it? I rode my husband's mare last night. Where I can quietly lope my mare back to the house (or walk or trot or gallop), his mare must stay at a walk coming home or she gets out of control. The herd ran up to the fence when they saw her & then sprinted to the barn. I had a heck of a time keeping her with me. I hate, hate, hate that. She rides in a short shank bit and I still had a hard time with that, so agree with what Erica said - that a bit won't stop them if they want to go.

    We are suppose to have another week of fairly decent weather. Hope Brian feels well enough to ride again & enjoy it.

    Take care.

    PS: What kind of helmet did you have & what kind did you get?

  3. Erica: Ha. I am at least lucky that poo-shoveling is not currently a regular part of my life.

    Tammy: Thanks! Brian does not seem too discouraged and hopefully will not conclude that this horse thing is for idiots. :}

    My old helmet was a Troxel Sierra and although I expected it to be a nice helmet, it was top-heavy and never felt secure even when it was so tight as to be giving me a headache. My new one is a Tipperary Sportage. It is much lighter and sits more snugly. It never wobbles around when I turn my head. It's the same model Brian has (I'll admit I've had helmet envy since he ordered his). So, silver lining, I suppose.


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