Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Ride of the Week: Creek Crossing Trail Ride

TJ from The Ranch on Salmon Creek brings us this week's pictoral ride.  If these pictures take time to load, be patient - they are so worth it.  TJ tells me she cut out a lot of pictures before she sent them to me and told me I could cut some if I wanted to, but I just couldn't, they're all amazing.  I'm certain that you'll all be ready to ride with them after you get a gander at these pictures.

Thank you so much, TJ, for sharing these pictures with us.  I'm so jealous of this ride; it looks like so much fun.

Stay tuned for a really exciting announcement tomorrow!  Be sure to check back in with us tomorrow, you won't regret it.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Ride of the Week: Shadow's Leading Lesson

This week's Ride of the Week is brought to you by Juanita from It's A Horse Life.

For more than ten years Juanita and her husband, Bill, had dreamt of moving to the mountains and getting horses, after the kids were grown. Well, it finally happened. They purchased The Lodge high in the mountains, settled into their new life and a couple years later became the proud owners of two ‘old’ Mustangs, to which their children informed them that they were soon to be put into new white jackets. You know, the kind with the cute little strings that tie the sleeves in back to keep a person out of trouble?

**A bit of clarification from the GunDiva: I threatened them with the funny farm when they bought the lodge; I kind of forgave them when they bought the horses.**

Shadow's Leading Lesson

Shadow, a 10 year old un-trained grulla Mustang gelding, was attached to the other end of my 15 foot lead rope and standing next to me with his head by my shoulder, peeking at me with his huge brown luminescent eyes. We had come a long way in our current adventure. My husband and I had purchased two matching Mustangs from a wrangler that was not having such a good time with them. We just wanted a couple of horses to mess around with and these guys were really cute (good reason for buying your first horses, huh?). Naïve doesn’t even come close to describing us. So…

Here were Shadow and I educating ourselves in Leading 101. We had come a long way: I could walk into his pen, walk up to him with a lead rope, put a halter on him and brush most parts of him in a reasonable amount of time. Not bad for an ‘older’ wild horse who had never been handled by people until his capture the previous year, and the handling he did get was not pleasant (freeze-branded, shots, gelded). I actually think part of the reason we got along was that in my naïveté, I had no expectations of him. We just did stuff together, so we were walking around the corral getting used to him just following me with no pressure on the rope.

I spotted a softball sized rock ahead of us with a nasty looking sharp edge poking out of the ground in our path. OK, you need to understand that Bill had made considerably more ‘progress’ with his horse, to the point of actually trying to ride him – or buck him out – as the older cowboys told us, and managed to hit the ground a few unplanned times in this exact corral. Thinking that rock would hurt a lot if landed on, I bent down to pick it up, and …. wait, where was my horse? Did I say how quick these guys could be? Shadow was standing at the opposite end of the corral, snorting and staring at me like I had attacked him. Trying to think through some of the new stuff I had been reading, I realized that when I bent down to pick up the rock, I had become the ‘lion’ predator and he made a quick retreat.

I called him back to me (yep, he would come when called once haltered) and let him lean out away from me as I very s-l-o-w-l-y bent down for the rock and threw it over the fence. He let out a sigh and came back in close to me, so we continued walking. Thinking this was a good practice thing, I looked for another rock, we walked to it and again I picked it up, not so slowly this time. This time he didn’t run away, just stepped to the end of the rope. As I straightened up, he closed the gap and stared over the fence. I threw the rock away and we started off walking.

“What, Shadow?” I had walked; he had stopped at the other end of the rope, with a softball sized rock laying between his front feet. He looked at the rock, looked at me, looked at the rock, looked over the fence. By this time, Bill was laughing so hard tears were forming in his eyes. He had been watching us from the side and realized what Shadow was doing. “This is a game, right?” from Shadow. Not believing this was happening, I intentionally walked past another rock and again Shadow stopped. This time he very pointedly stared me in the eye, like he’s trying to train me, then looked at the rock and looked over the fence, until I picked it up and threw it out. Then, he walked ahead of me!

“It’s gonna be a long walk in the mountains, with him wanting to pick up every rock,” laughed Bill. “They don’t call these the Rockies for nothing.” (Stop, dismount, pick up rock, mount-up, walk, stop, dismount…you get the picture. ) He continued to train me in the ways of wild horse humor.

Monday, March 22, 2010

I'm Gettin' The Fever...

No, not Spring Fever, Horse Fever.  All over the blogosphere, my equiblogger buddies are talking of their wonderful spring rides and here I am, still horseless.

But that's okay, because there's still horsey things I can do in preparation for the horses' homecoming in a few weeks.

First order of business, get the horn bags in order.  When facing a big task, like cleaning tack, I always start with the smallest task so that I can feel some form of accomplishment.

Everytime I go out, I have all of this with me.  I could pack a whole lot more, but these are the essentials.

  • Water

  • Duct tape

  • First aid kit

  • Gloves

  • Toilet paper

  • Baling twine

  • Snack

  • Gum

  • Camera (not pictured, well, because I'm using it for the photo)

  • My mom carries a hoofpick as well, but I always ride with my Gerber tool on my belt, so I don't feel like I need the hoofpick.  The few times I've needed it, the Gerber has worked well enough, plus I've got cutting edges (in addition to my folding knife in my pocket), screw drivers, etc.  You can pretty much fix anything with a Gerber or Leatherman tool.
You'll notice there's no cell phone or GPS.  Cell phones don't work, neither do radios where we ride.  We just have to trust our horses know the way home.  All of this stuff gets transferred to my fanny pack when I'm riding bareback.

Once the actual cleaning started, we started with cleaning halters.  They were gross.  I mean, scrubbed in multiple tubs of Borax and water gross.  We rinsed until the water came clean, without suds, and hung them to dry.

Yes, there are nine halters for four horses.  Estes is the only one with just one halter; guess I'll just have to order her a spare.

Then, deep breath, on to the leather cleaning.  I love the smell of cleaning leather, but panic when faced with something like this...

I know it all went together once.  Heck, I'm the one who tore it apart, but I'm always afraid that I won't be able to put the stupid thing back together.  It never fails, I always get something on backward.  This was actually the second bridle I cleaned.  The first one, I managed to put the headstall on backward, so Estee's ear piece was actually behind her ear.  For this one,I got smart and held it up before tightening the ties.

While I was fighting with the bridles, Mom was busy working on Washoe's saddle.

I had to head back down the hill before I could get to Estes' saddle, but I did manage to get her breast collar done, as well as her bridle and my daughter's bridle.  The saddle will have to be my project next time.

How 'bout you?  What do you absolutely have to have with you when you hit the trail?

Don't forget to join us on Wednesday for this week's Ride of the Week.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Snack Time, Take Two

I've already admitted to hand feeding Estes, though I don't do it often.  But when we're out on the trail and the mood strikes, I'll share whatever I have with her.  She was pretty sure that if I thought it was edible, then she'd like it a whole lot too.

A different day, again with Bill (my rides with my mom are so much less adventurous - in a good way), we had tied up at a hitch rack in the Wild Basin area.  Rather than trail mix, I had the Handi-Snacks Cheese 'n Breadsticks.  You know, the one with the "cheese" in one compartment and the crunchy breadsticks in the other.

Miss Estes thought that she might like one of those little breadsticks.  So, being as trainable as I am, I gave her one.  Oh, she thought that breadstick was the bee's knees!  She loved it, so we shared a little.  I'd dip my breadstick in the cheese and eat it, then I'd feed her a plain breadstick.

She was okay with that until she realized that she wasn't getting exactly the same thing I was eating.  When I offered her the next breadstick, she very pointedly looked at the cheese, "What're you trying to do? Cheat me out of something?"

Really, it was that pointed.  And, being trainable, I scooped up a good bit of the cheese on the breadstick and offered it to her.  She took it and immediately her eyes bugged out of her head.  She curled her upper lip back, which had the cheese on it, and shook her head trying to get rid of the cheese she had asked for.  When the cheese wouldn't come off, her eyes got bigger and you could see the wheels in her little brain churning.

She tried backing away from the offending cheese, but was tied fast to the rail, so she didn't get far.  She tried shaking her head and snorting, but that nasty cheese just wouldn't come off.

By this time, Bill and I were practically peeing ourselves laughing at her, so neither of us was any help at all.

I can still plainly see in my mind the moment she saw the upright for the hitchrack.  Her eyes locked on the upright and she thrust her head toward it.  It took me a second to figure out what she was going to do; about the time I figured it out, she was already busy scraping the cheese off of the inside of her lip with the upright.

I can't recall when I've ever seen that little mare look so proud of herself!  Once she got over her moment of pride, she gave me a look that clearly said that she couldn't believe that I would eat that crap.

I offered her a plain breadstick as a peace offering and that little brat had the audacity to turn her nose up at it!  I'm pretty sure she hasn't eaten one since.

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.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Snack Time

I know that it's not good to hand-feed your horse.  I know that horses who are completely food-driven can have big issues; they can become bullies and lose their manners.

Even knowing that, I admit that on occasion, I've been known to share my snack with Estes while out on the trail.  On one ride - I don't even remember if I had guests or if it was just a ride for fun - Bill and I were tied up at one of the hitch racks in the Wild Basin area for lunch.  I ate my lunch and was starting in on my trail mix.

For some strange reason or another, I decided to see if Estes liked trail mix, so I poured some in my hand and offered it to her.

Holy cow did she like it!  She hoovered it up off of my palm like a pro.

So, I gave her more.  Boy, did she love me for that.

She stopped mid-chew and allowed to something to drop from her mouth.  A blue M&M lay on the dirt between her hooves.

Then she asked for more trail mix, and I obliged.  I'm nothing if not trainable.

Again, she stopped mid-chew and dropped something out of her mouth.  Another blue M&M.

Hmmm... "Hey, Bill.  Look at this!"  I pointed out her pile of two blue M&Ms.  I knew that there had been M&Ms in every handful I'd given her, but she was only spitting out the blue ones.

"No way," he told me.

"Serious.  She's eaten all of the others."  I decided to show him and poured some more mix into my hand.

She hoovered the mix up out of my palm, stopped chewing, and dropped the blue one out of her mouth to join its little blue buddies who were quickly becoming desert for some very brave ants.

I can't tell the difference between colors of M&Ms, at least not since they took the carcinogenic red food dye out (and, yes, I can still remember that taste), but Estes certainly can and she does not like the blue ones.

Wonder if she's on to something?  Maybe I shouldn't eat them either.


Don't forget to join us on Wednesday for Rachel's wild ride.

Friday, March 12, 2010

First Ride

Reading Bill's blog reminded me of the first time I "cowboy'd up" and rode Ranger.  (Isn't that how it works?  You hear one story and it reminds you of another, which reminds someone else of another? That's why I'm hoping that we'll have fodder for Ride of the Week for a long time.)

Bill bought Ranger in December of 1999;  he "spent the first year trying to buck him out; the second year healing and apologizing; and the third year training."

Ranger himself wouldn't let me close to him for years.  I'm not exaggerating.  Even when we were running the livery in 2004, Ranger wouldn't let me near him.  There was no way, rope or no rope, that I was allowed to catch him.  I, apparently, was not worthy.

Eventually, I'd had enough of not being able to catch him and started walking him down (yes, with a swinging rope).  It took a while, but I managed to catch him, rub him down, and then release him.  Soon, I was catching him for Bill before we went out on rides, leading him over to the lodge and helping get him tacked up.  I never rode him, just pulled him for Bill, then attended to whichever horse I'd be riding (Meeker, Estes, or Washoe - never Jesse - still haven't been up on that beast).

I finally decided that I wanted to ride Ranger and asked Bill's permission.  He said yes, even though only a couple of people had ever ridden him.  Other than Bill, I'd be the first family member up on him.  I played it around in my head for a couple of days, put on my big girl panties, and decided to do it.  It's not that I was necessarily afraid of Ranger, but let's just say I had a healthy respect for his ability to move when he so chooses.

I pulled Ranger from the pen, brought him over and tacked him up (there was no way my first ride was going to be bareback)...
I had to make nice with him before he allowed me to bridle him, but I managed.

Mom and the Monster got their horses ready.  When they were ready, I took a deep breath and swung on up...

He twitched an ear at me.  That's it.  Bill's big, bad, fire-breathing, trainer-chasing Mustang let out a sigh and twitched an ear.

We had a great ride and I've ridden Ranger a few times since then, even bareback, without a problem.  It seems as long as you don't do anything stupid, like joust from him, he's a pretty willing, easy-going horse.


Don't forget to join us on Wednesday, March 17 for Rachel's Ride of the Week.  It's an exciting one!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Ride of the Week: Catch Me If You Can

This week's guest blogger is Bill from It's A Horse Life.  Juanita was originally scheduled for this week, but they pulled the ole switcheroo so that she can have time to finish her homework.

Bill remembers his first ride on a "real" horse when he was 4 years old and on a day trip to a small farm owned by family friends. He also remembers being "blindsided" by a billy goat on that trip. That first horseback ride set up a life-long love of horses. Horseback classes in high school and volunteer work at nearby riding stables for ride time deteriorated into annual trail rides. Finally, he and his wife bought "The Lodge", and two mustangs 12 years ago. After almost a year of "No, really. You CAN'T make me" from Ranger the mustang, Bill learned about "least resistance" training techniques from the BLM and assorted trainers. Life is now good for all involved. But Bill still detests goats.

Catch Me If You Can

"Sure are a couple of good looking horses" said Hammond as my wife, Juanita, and I watched our new purchases running around the corral at the livery across the street from our lodge. A beautiful matched pair of 9 and 10 year old grulla mustangs. "So now what, Ham?" I asked.

Ham was a cowboy with better than 30 years experience working ranches. Working cattle, fixing fences, breaking horses... whatever was needed. He had talked my wife and I into buying this pair of unrideable critters from the gentleman that had adopted them from the Bureau of Land Management. The horses didn't work out for the original adopter. At all. Not even slightly. In fact, he sold them to us the day his one year probationary period was up and he got title, and later told us he thought we were nuts for even getting into the pen with them.

"Now, we catch ‘em and get a halter and lead rope on them" says Ham, "You ever thrown a loop?" I thought that sounded suspiciously like throwing a disk out in your back, but could guess what he was talking about.

"No" I said.

"Well, you can borrow my rope, and good luck" says Ham. He gave me a couple pointers, his rope, and lots of space and time. After a few tosses, I got the loop around the running horse's neck. "A few"? Did I say "A few"? I meant QUITE a few. Thirty two misses and finally a catch. Not a great idea really. Now I was attached to a large, scared, PISSED OFF running horse. We did finally get him reeled in and a halter with lead rope on him, so he would drag the lead rope around and "learn to stop" when he stepped on it. It was also supposed to make him a little easier to catch.

I still had to get the rope out, stand in the middle of the corral and sail a loop over the running horse's head to get close enough to grab the lead rope, but day by day, I got better at it. Rope the horse, reel him in, brush and talk to him, work with him for a couple minutes, then cut him loose again. I was getting better at "throwing a loop".

Twenty nine tosses and a catch.

Twenty seven tosses and a catch.

Twenty four tosses and a catch.

By the time I was down to less than ten tosses, I was feeling pretty proud of myself. Right up until the moment when Juanita pointed out that the horse wasn't running and ducking any more, now he was just trotting and stretching out his neck. He seemed to have figured out that bad things didn't happen when he got caught. In fact, kind of GOOD things happened. He finally got to the point where he would stand until I walked up and put the loop over his head. Then he was mine and I could work with him. Just a short while later, I could just swing a lead rope around over my head, and he would walk up to me and let me drop it across his neck. Caught!

Several years later, we had a fairly well known trainer in the area giving a clinic at a nearby ranch. He asked if I would mind if he worked with my horse, as he hadn't spent too much time working with older mustangs. He likes to "round-pen" the horses before he works with them, to establish his "leadership role" with the animals. He climbed into the round-pen with my horse and started swinging a lead rope over his head to drive the horse around the pen. Only the horse didn't try to run away. He headed for the trainer. The trainer was a little apprehensive before climbing into the pen as older mustangs have a "reputation", so when the horse came at him, he bailed out of the pen and into the dirt like Satan himself was after him. "Did you see him come at me?" hollered the trainer. I could barely see anything through the tears of laughter in my eyes, except a very bewildered looking horse hanging his head over the pen.

Had that horse over ten years now, and I still can't halter him unless I drop the lead over his neck and "catch" him. The old guy still has his pride.


Sunday, March 7, 2010

Pied Piper

In 2006, I had intended to lease Estes again, but she was unavailable - her mommy was setting her up with a new Freesian boyfriend/gigolo - so I leased her daughter, Meeker, instead.

On pick-up day, Estes was her typical hard-to-get self.  She's rather a stand-offish mare and wouldn't let me close.  But two can play that game.  I just told her fine, I wasn't there to pick her up anyway.  My parents were with me, as they had the trailer, so we spent a few minutes giving loves to all of the horses (except Estes who was being a mare).

Boy, was she one ticked off mare when I haltered up Meeker.  Estes doesn't like it when I don't play her game and she really didn't think that I'd just turn my back on her.  But I did and the look she gave me clearly told me what she thought of me taking her daughter instead of her.

When it was time to go, I lead Meeker off through the series of gates toward the exit gate.  Mom and Bill were walking alongside, but started snickering.  When I looked back to see what they were laughing about, I saw the horses following us single-file (my God, single-file!  We spent an entire summer trying to keep them single-file and here they were doing it of their own accord.), with Estes bringing up the rear, pouting as only she can.

Those nine horses followed us through three gates, all perfectly spaced, in a single-file line just like I was the Horse Pied Piper.  Even once we got Meeker through the exit gate and were leading her along the road to the trailer, the herd followed our progress from inside the fence.

Side note:  That was the last time Estes was ever stand-offish to me.  After I bought her, I went into the pasture to pick her up and she practically haltered herself.  Guess she learned her lesson, huh?


This week's Ride of the Week is brought to us by Bill over at It's A Horse Life.  Be sure to join us on Wednesday to hear about his Mustang, Ranger.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Bonus Follow-up

So...Mrs. Mom forgot part of the story yesterday.  If you'd like to see how her day ended, be sure to click here.

The end of the day story had me blowing coke (the drinkable kind, not the snortable kind) out of my nose yesterday when I read it.  Believe me, it's worth clicking over to read "The Rest Of The Story" (you have to say it in your best Paul Harvey mind-voice).

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Ride of the Week: Flying Fireballs and Wild Grape Vines

Please welcome Mrs. Mom from Oh HorseFeathers! and Related Twisted "Tails" for our inaugural Ride of the Week. 

Contrary to popular belief, the character known as “Mrs. Mom” is not a 93 year-old man, who drags various portions of his anatomy behind him in the dust. In actuality, Mrs. Mom is an almost 40 year-old Mother of three, devoted wife, and passionate horsewoman. A career in hoof care has been cut short by back injury- NOT sustained while under a horse- has led her to writing a small blog, “Oh HorseFeathers! and Related Twisted “Tails” in her spare time.

Flying Fireballs and Wild Grape Vines

I’ve worn glasses about as long as I’ve loved horses. Which, if you ask my Dad, is more or less since I had legs. Now way back in my youth, getting a brand new pair of glasses was momentous. And expensive. Very. Expensive.

At the ripe old age of sixteen, I was hot stuff on a horse. All the ribbons on the walls showed me that, every single day. In my mind, I was invincible, expensive new glasses and all. My very best friend and I both were hot stuff on a horse. We spent every waking moment not in school or at our part time jobs riding, showing, and starting young horses. I was always told, “Wear your old glasses when you go riding!” so that my newer (and expensive) “new” glasses would not suffer injury. (Never mind that to this day, I still have never broken a pair of my glasses.)

One crisp fall day, in the wilds of upstate New York, my best friend and I decided that a trail ride was in order. We used to go “brush busting” regularly, forging our own paths through some rough country. I got a ride over to her house, and a lecture along the way about how to not mess up my new (and expensive) glasses while riding. Bev and I headed out as soon as I had dropped my bags to catch our mounts for the day, and of course, I skipped changing my glasses.

Bev caught her sixteen hand, blood bay, solid as a rock, quirky minded mare “Ruby”, and we decided that it was time for “Fireball”, a 14.2 hand small framed Morgan gelding to hit the trails and get in some good miles. We had been riding Fireball for about a month, and we were confident that he was ready to go.

For the most part, he did good. Traffic getting to our favorite area did not phase him, wildlife popping up in strange places caused him only to look a bit, but not spook. I sat relaxed and comfortable upon his back, laughing and talking with Bev about our plans for later in the day.

We hit the off shoot into the woods, and headed down to the thicket. Now, the area we were in was rough. This part of the state was known for large rocks, very little topsoil, wild brambles, and wild grapevines. Since it was fall, we did not have to worry about breaking through green branches, and our progress through the woods was excellent training for a young, green horse. Bev on Ruby led the way- since getting in front of Ruby- who absolutely loved brush busting- was a very bad idea. Fireball cheerfully plowed his way in her wake, dodging trees, and twisting and turning around saplings. We were saying how well he was doing, when “it” happened.

We found out the hard way that Fireball, with his small build and small closely set pig eyes, had a real issue with things being dragged behind him. A grapevine wound up snagging on the fender of my saddle. As I reached down to unhook it, Fireball moved his hindquarters, and the vine wound up snagged in his tail.

Fireball, AKA: COMET, was off like a shot. He hit his stride, and closed the gap between us and Ruby, plowing through her 1,100 pounds like she wasn’t even there. I did my best to duck and dodge, and bring his head around, but had to give up in order to keep myself from becoming lodged in a tree trunk. There were two thoughts going through my mind. One, “Holy crap, I am SO going to die if I break these new glasses!” and “Holy Shit I’m Gonna DIE!”

I could hear Bev and Ruby crashing through the brush behind us, yelling for me to stop the horse. (Stop? Like you think I was egging him on to go faster?) She and I both knew what was looming ahead—and I knew if I did not get that colt stopped or turned REAL quick, he and I were going to be in a whole new world of hurt. With every panicked stride Fireball took, we were headed closer and closer to a sheer cliff that dropped into a deep, cold, dark reservoir. Bev thought she was witnessing certain death, and she was already worried about how to explain to my mother that not only had I died, but I had worn my new (expensive) glasses to die in. Fireball however, lost his rocket engine about three strides before the edge, and I was able to halt him.

That was a view I’ll never forget. Fireball’s fuzzy red head, ears hanging over the edge of the cliff, looking way, way down to the water below.

I sat there for a moment, feeling his sides heave beneath me. My hands shook, my glasses were steamed in the cold fall air, and I wondered if we had truly escaped unscathed. Bev and Ruby came crashing up behind us. The first words out of her mouth? “Holy Shit! Why didn’t you STOP him!” Ruby snaked her head out, ears back, teeth showing, in an attempt to bite Fireball. I threw myself off the horse, and pushed her head away. Bev took Fireball from me, still sitting on Ruby, while I checked myself over to make sure that nothing was broken on the horse, or me. And while I was at it, I had to untangle the still clinging grapevine from his tail. Good thing Bev had a tight hold on him, because once he caught sight of the vine moving again, Fireball was ready to haul ass down the cliff.

We rode that little gelding all over for the next probably five years. He was a wonderful ride, a sweet horse, and even went on to compete in some local shows and do quite well. A young lady came along and fell right in love with him, and Bev decided he needed to move on to a new home. Besides, she already had our next project picked out- a Mustang named Skippy.

The best part of that day? There was not one tiny rub on my brand new, very expensive glasses, and my Mother never knew of our escapade.

I loved this story.  Thank you so much for kicking of ROTW so well, Mrs. Mom!    Be sure to go click on over to her blog, leave her some comment love and send a virtual hug to Sonny who knows how to enjoy a good roll.