Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Riding to Conception - Part 2

Hindsight is something that can be tough to handle. You look back and there is the path that brought you to this place you are in, vivid in the searing light of hindsight, every misstep glowing brightly and indelible in your mind.

I look back at a million moments, moments that clearly added up to where I ended up outside Benavides, on the trail to Conception. Off my horse, feeling lost, confused, and even shocked.

It was the last thing I expected.

I tacked up Cibolo at the start of the trail ride and, as I mentioned before, there was a long wait for the start. He was excited, but nothing I couldn't handle. He moved around while other horses stood still, dancing, anxious to go.

So was I.

Eventually, after nearly 40 minutes past the "start" time, the trail ride began. And in the next mile my control of my horse unraveled. We came up on groups of horses and Cibolo began to get agitated. I was surprised and brought him under control. Vaquero and Rudy moved ahead, and he began to get really worried. Riders came up behind us, over taking us as he began to really stress. We trotted to try to keep up with Rudy, but soon Cibolo was all over the place.

(five minutes before the freakout began)

The unraveling sped up, and I worked to disengage his hind quarters; he spun like a top. I worked to back him; he went back 15 steps before I could stop him. Every reaction was over the top. He side passed, turned, and I felt it.

He was no longer listening to me. He was trying to get his cues from the herd around us. I was on a whirling derbish, nearly careening into people all around me.

Knowing that I was no longer in a place where I could get him under control, I got his attention long enough to dismount safely.

Rudy came over, as did an older gentleman I'd met last year (he rode the biggest quarter horse I've ever seen, a horse that looked like a Michaelangelo sculpture, not a real horse). I said I didn't have the control over my crazy horse and I'd hook up with Adam.

Adam was driving as a support crew and spotted me. He pulled over to the side and I told him what happened. He was taken aback. We had to let all the riders go by before we even tried to load Cibolo into the trailer. My horse was drenched in sweat, swirling and taking desperate grabs at grass, calling out to the horses going by.

He was freaked out and we barely recognized him.

A year ago I'd ridden this same trail ride on Canyon. My crazy, bucking, Arabian. He did fine. No issues.

Now my steady Eddie quarter horse was a trembling mass of horse flesh.


If it had ended there, then I would have thought that it was because he's just 6 and not used to a 300 horse trail ride. I'd have figured it was overwhelming and he just needed more exposure.

Basically I would have thought it was about the horse.


At this point I haven't decided yet if that would have been better. Better for me to think it was about youth, and inexperience and the horse.

I suppose it would have been kinder to my pride, but probably more damaging in the long run if the truth didn't rear up and toss me into the dust, shaking me out of my denial.


We drove with our crazy quarter horse to the midway point and met Rudy there. After all, we were still support crew (without a working cell phone, but that's South Texas and T-mobile for you).

I was terribly disappointed. I sat in the truck, stunned at the turn of events. I thought of the horse back at the Ranch. Woody, who didn't get ridden for lack of a rider. I thought of Lily at home at the Lake and how she would have been fine with her petite boa boot. I thought of how I was going to miss the parade, and more importantly miss out on riding.

I unloaded Cibolo when we arrived at the halfway spot because it was so hot I didn't see a point in having him stand in the sweltering heat of the trailer for another hour and a half as we waited for the riders to arrive.

He was calm, cooled off, back to normal.

But in many ways, everything had changed. Nothing was normal.  And what happened next made things much, much worse.

(Okay, I really don't mean this to take forever to tell, but I'm so tired from a long day. I'll post part 3 tomorrow.)


Kate said...

Sorry you and your boy had such a hard time. There's nothing wrong at all with you or with your horse, although I can understand why you found what happened upsetting. It's likely he'd never been in a situation like that before and his circuits just overloaded, and that's what happens when a horse can't cope. But that doesn't mean that he won't be able to cope once you've built in the foundation pieces and gradually introduce him to the sorts of circumstances you want him to deal with. Kudos to you for taking the pressure off of him - if you'd forced him you might have lost his trust forever and ended up with a shut-down but internally fearful horse.

I had lots, and lots of these "events" with Maisie before I learned to read her - someday ask me about Maisie at the horse show - it was at least as bad as what you guys had! Maisie is a willing, generally compliant horse, but I asked for more than she could do at that stage in her training, we got a meltdown. That's to be expected.

Based on what you've said about him so far, there's nothing wrong with him that careful, patient, slow work won't remedy - just think about things at each step and don't feel frustrated or worried - it's just the natural course of training and working with horses. I'll bet there's lots of things he already knows that you can build on, and where he doesn't know something, or how to deal with a situation, he can learn to look to you for help in dealing with it - but it takes time and work to build in that trust.

Good luck, and don't be frustrated/discouraged - you've got a very special opportunity here to build a relationship with what looks to be a very nice horse.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Oh, how disappointing for you. I'm sorry you missed your ride because your horse got so nervous. It would be nice if horses were more predictable.