Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Ride of the Week: Cowgirl Up

Howdy y’all – I’m Rachel. A city girl happily transplanted onto our country acreage where my backyard view includes my beautiful four-legged friend.

I’m an adventurous beginner – learning to trust after my first “horse from heck” at age 29. My sweet rescue mare, Kona has been my confidence-builder and teacher.

Our little home on the internet includes my adventures in horsemanship as a deaf rider, tales of parenting our little miracle toddler, and a good dose of humor from the husband who hijacks my blog regularly. Find us at Once Upon A Miracle. Hope to meet you soon!

I am so pumped to be doing my first guest blogger post! I say “first” in deference to that positive thinking thing - hoping I don’t bomb badly enough that GunDiva bans me from her equine tales blog.

Cowgirl Up

Let’s just say I’m 30-something. Old enough to know that the increased natural cushion around my derriere and midsection does not equate to more bounce.

And being that “adventurous beginner” means I really should have all my ducks in a row before I try something new, right?

Yes, it’s true. I finally took my maiden voyage with an “emergency dismount”. (Don’t you love how they call it that? Like it was intended and stuff?)

Thanks to years of ballet (read: thighs of steel), and sheer terror; I usually manage to keep my butt where it belongs.

What? My butt IS where it belongs. Technically.

A little background: as a deaf rider, I have to make choices that not everyone agrees with. One relates to safety equipment. A helmet sits directly on top of my hearing-aid, causing it to squeal and whistle obnoxiously – something many horses (including my Arab saddlebred) are apt to react to.

Why not forego the hearing-aid? I really and truly am profoundly deaf – giving me the balance issues that impact anyone with inner-ear trouble. I’m far more likely to lose my seat or become unbearably dizzy without it – two scenarios that are unsafe for riders.

So, let’s just say that it’s been awhile since good riding weather, so when the front pasture looked dry, and my mom suggested a ride - I jumped at the chance.

(Oh just wait… that last sentence totally comes back to bite me).

We tack her up in her treeless saddle – the most comfortable ride for girls and horse. My mom remarks again that we need to punch another hole into the girth to be able to cinch it up tighter.

Yeah, yeah. I need to get a hole punch.

It’s a wee bit loose, but we’re not doing anything crazy today. Besides, I have a velcro butt, remember?

Mom suggests pulling out some trot poles to catch Kona’s interest. And man does that ever work! Kona watches as a couple of fence posts are laid on the grass in parallel – creating a mini obstacle course for her to trot over. While she thinks it’s a game, we know it’s one of those “sneaky mom” things to do to pay more attention to where her feet are going.

This isn’t Kona – but y’all probably already know that this is what a horse should be doing over the trot poles:

My mom is on the phone with her sister as I trot Kona through the poles a few times. One the last run, I lean forward in a two-point position and expect her to trot over them again.

Instead, she breaks into a canter and launches over the poles.

Just imagine something like this. Except with Kona. And me on her back. With a very surprised expression.

My mom starts whooping and hollering and tells me to run her again.

So I do what any obedient child does… I cheerfully oblige.

Kona starts to head over them again.

And yep…

That darn saddle does need to be tighter.


As soon as we’re over the poles, the saddle shifts. The saddle pad slides back and into the “bucking strap” zone. And my dear sweet mare suddenly becomes terrified.

She takes off faster than I’ve ever ridden her and is galloping headlong toward the corner of the pasture.

I yell WHOA!!! in vain as I pull back hard on the reins.

The reins that are connected to the brand new bosal that she got for Christmas. The one that she’s never ridden in before. The one that might not fit well enough to exert the pressure needed to slow down the panicked freight train.

And that panicked freight train is heading straight for the horse trailer with little room to stop.

I see this in the space of a second – at the same time that I feel her back hoof clip my foot and suddenly realize that the saddle has slid all the way to the side and I am literally riding sideways with one leg on her back and another under her belly.

With both feet stuck in the stirrups.

Those of you who ride can appreciate the awful feeling of knowing that you can’t disentangle yourself from the beast who is fleeing what is stuck on her.

Kona continues to gallop madly toward the trailer that is parked perpendicularly – in a path that will put her just past the end of it, but her sideways rider right into it. I am trying mightily to pull myself up onto her back, but I have nothing to pull with – save the reins.

Those reins are pulling her head straight back as she continues at a dead run. Dirt flies around us as her feet tear up the ground. Her hoof clips my foot again – a second bruise. I can see her eyes wide in fear, but the new location of the girth overrides any calm I can talk her into.


As she thunders on, the trailer is only another second away. In half that time, I decide to take my chances under her, somehow fearing that I might not survive a headlong (helmetless) crash into the trailer at that speed.

I force my hands to release the reins and feel my sideways body give way to gravity.

The slow motion suddenly speeds up and my leg slides off her back – still stuck in the stirrup.

In an instant, it is over.

My hip and rear end hit the dirt hard, jarring my chest and head. I am stunned for a few seconds and I watch in disbelief as Kona takes a few more strides and crashes through a fence. She tears out four panels in her panic.

My mother is at my side and I gingerly try to sit up. Realizing that I can move, I beg her to catch Kona before she crashes through another fence and onto the road.

Kona has stopped and stares at both of us from the other side of the fence. She snorts and looks sidelong in obvious confusion. She has crashed into the neighbor’s goat pen.


In taking stock of the aftermath, we realized what a precise set of details had to have occurred for this result.

The bosal that I wasn’t so crazy about… if I’d been riding in a bit, my butter-mouthed mare would have probably flipped over on top of me in pain if I’d pulled with my weight to try to climb up her back.

There are two stirrup fenders laying scattered in the grass… somehow ripped clean from a brand new saddle. I had never heard of this happening and am stunned beyond belief to realize that this most likely saved me from being dragged underneath my horse to serious injury.

If only one of the stirrup fenders had broken, I would have likely been dragged behind her – through her back hoofs and through the busted fence.

And if she had truly been just an Arab having an excuse for a freakout, she would have bucked to get me off her to begin with.

And somehow… crashing through that fence left her with no injuries – save to her pride. How embarrassing to have an audience of goats.

I limped away with bruises on my butt and gratefulness in my heart. God is in the little things.


Holy Smokes was I sore for a couple of weeks! My favorite jeans recovered after a single wash, my pride took a substantially worse beating. And once again, I have come to realize what a treasure it is to have a horse who loves her people.


Kmama said...

I love this post. I'm so glad you chose it for the guest spot.

Foursons said...

The story is just as terrifying reading it the 2nd time. Glad you didn't have any more injuries than just the few bruises. It could have been a bad one!

Anonymous said...

wow!! these posts have been keeping me on the edge of my seat! scary!!

Shirley said...

I guess this just goes to show that you should never put off fixing your tack before you ride....... but holy moley! What a ride! Unbelievable that you didn't get seriously hurt! And it was rather funny about the goat pen.

Brandi said...

Well, I guess I missed this the first time around so it was fun to read it here. Wow! I could just picture the entire thing in my head... you had me laughing when she jumped over those poles. Great story!

Linda said...

Great story. I'll file that in the "horse wrecks" file in my brain. :) It's a rather large file as you can imagine. Glad you survived to tell about it!! BTW, I usually don't wear a helmet either.

K- floortime lite mama said...

i totally loved this post and am seriously releived you survived the fall completely intact
The world is a much better place for u and Mr Daddy in it
And I am glad that you are the family upon which miracles are bestowed

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I still say you had some angels riding herd on you that day. If everything hadn't happened just as it did, we would have been hearing about this in a totally different manner. For anyone new to Rach and Once Upon a Miracle... you need to go over and check out the stories that she and her hubs Mr. Daddy put down over there. The stuff that happens to them just doesn't seem real.. and yet it is. You'll'll'll sit on the edge of your seat in terror!
OK, Rach... where's that $20 you promised me? *wink*

GunDiva said...

I'm so glad you're guesting here today. This story gave me the chills the first couple of times I read it and still does. I'm totally a what-if person and darn nearly made myself sick thinking of all the bad things that can happen.

Mrs Mom said...

Ooooo Girl.... You is One Lucky Cowgirl!

Next time snug your cinch ;)

Michelle Pixie said...

I have to agree with Julie...It was just as much of a nail bitter the second time reading it! I am sure glad you are okay!

He & Me + 3 said...

I read that like I didn't read it the first time...hanging on to every word. So glad that you are OK and that God is in the little and big things.
It would have taken two washes in my brand new stupid washing machine. I hate it.

Mr. and Mrs. Nurse Boy said...

I agree with Julie... just as terrifying to read the second time around!

Mrs. NB

Killlashandra said...

It's still an excellent story Rachel. ;)

Lynn W said...

Rachel, great job guest blogging. You are such a good writer and Mr. daddy as well. Ya'll crack me up. I'm glad the second time around to know you lived thru that again. No more girlfriend!! Take care of that equipment first and foremost.
Thanks for the laughs and lesson.
Lynn in AR

HeatherOz said...

This was just as suspenseful as the first time I read it! I still can't believe how everyting happened.

Rachel said...

GunDiva -
Thanks for letting me play along with your Ride of the Week! I had a fabulous time and it was great getting to meet some of your readers! :)

Happy Trails!

Rising Rainbow said...

Rachel, I have a friend giving riding lessons to a deaf girl. I noticed she wears her helment up really high on her head. I wonder if it's because she has trouble with her hearing aid. There must be a way to fix that. Maybe a different style helmet could be altered to allow more room around the ear.....

Great story! Glad you were not hurt. I have my own tale of a saddle slipping. I ended up with a bruise the shape of a bunny on my butt. LOL