At the trailhead we observe all kinds of interesting situations that horses and riders get themselves into. We have discovered that you have to be aware of your space, of your horse, and everything going on around you. There are horses refusing to load, dogs milling about, trucks and trailers pulling in and out, horses coming and going from the trail. It can be a bit chaotic and never short of action.
I have to tell you a crazy story about what happened at the beginning of our ride. We left the trail head and started out on a long sandy road to the trails. The one I am riding My Boy down in the above photo. We passed a man on a grulla colored horse. I complimented him on his horse. He said thanks, then told us that his wife was a ways back with a loose horse. He said don't freak out, the horse is old and follows her, he's like a dog. We thanked him for the information, not quite sure if the horse was with them, or just a loose lost horse. But we figured he meant the horse was with them, that they were kind of ponying it.
In the almost two years we have been riding these trails, we have seem a lot of riders ponying young horses on the trails. We even saw a loose Shetland pony wearing a bell that just followed along with his horses and riders. Although, he kept stopping to eat grass and was not keeping up very well. A lot of riders also bring dogs that trail them. This does not bother me too much as our horses are very accustomed to dogs.
We got to where the sandy road comes to a "T" and we needed to turn left. We could see that to the right, far off down the road, was a rider on a horse, and a riderless horse moving alongside of it. We were glad we were not going to have to encounter them, as they would be heading back to the trail head. So we started up the road to the left. I think I looked back once or twice. And on the third look back, my eyes widened as I noticed that the loose horse was in a dead run (I'm talking Kentucky Derby homestretch here) straight down the road, leaving it's other horse in the dust, heading straight for us. My first instinct was that our horses were going to panic and bolt. So I leaped off My Boy. My sister and her boyfriend followed suit. We turned our horses towards the dark bay, appendix type horse, who had galloped up and slid to a stop near My Boy. My Boy arched his neck. The bay circled us once. Our horses were caught off guard and a little snorty but it happened so fast I think that they were as surprised as we were. They did not panic as I thought they would. The bay had a halter on with the name "Ghost Rider" embossed on the nose band. As quickly as he had galloped up, he turned and ran full speed down the sandy road back to his horse and rider. It was the strangest thing we have ever seen. Having a dog run up to you to say hello is one thing. But a horse? In retrospect, we discussed how this behavior could have completely panicked a younger, less experienced or spooky trail horse. Nothing evokes the prey animal instinct in a horse like another horse galloping up behind them. We were lucky our horses kept their wits about them (but I sure felt better with my two feet on the ground!) After our horses settled down, we mounted back up and continued our ride. I wished I had taken some pictures or video of this adventure but getting my camera out of my fanny pack was the last thing on my mind. I was in flight or fight mode! Here is My Boy eating some grass and calming down after Ghost Rider galloped away. A little green grass and My Boy forgets everything.
The rest of the ride was without mishap, except My Boy got irritated by the buggins while on one of the forested trails and began shaking his head again.
We brought back some pretty tired ponies to the trailer. We tied them up and began unsaddling when we noticed a man in a trailer starting to unload his horse. Suddenly, the horse began thrashing and pulling back. I watched, holding my breath as the man almost became pinned against the wall and the horse appeared to be hitting his head on the trailer ceiling. The horse finally stopped. I am not sure if he pulled himself out of his halter, but he was still in the trailer and the man was haltering him again. Then, the horse began to thrash again and thrashed himself right out of the back. It was scary. After we loaded our horses up and were getting ready to leave, we noticed the horse, which the man had moved to the side of the trailer, suddenly pull back again. He was rearing, twisting sideways and nearly sitting on his haunches. The man got caught in the tussle and was thrown down. The horse was loose. We stopped and waited, as did another woman, to see if the man was okay, and then if he needed help catching his horse. The horse had trotted off and started eating some grass, but moved away again as the man got close. We held our breath that he stayed in the parking lot near the other horses. Not far out of the trail head is a fairly busy road. Luckily, the man was able to approach the horse again and attach the lead rope and lead him back to the trailer.
We drove away but I did not feel good about the situation. It is hard when you see someone struggling with their horse. We have all been there at some point, at varying degrees. But it was possible for that man or his horse to have been injured in both of those situations we witnessed. I just hoped his horse's ground manners were one thing, and saddle manners were better, as he appeared to be saddling up for a ride, alone. Maybe that horse had been abused and had haltering or tying issues. I do not like to see interactions between a horse and a handler like that. It makes me nervous. And very thankful that for the most part, My Boy is a fairly level-headed horse to deal with.
Here is My Boy and I playing in the creek. Instead of just walking straight through and up the other side, we walked around in a few circles. I think he was confused. I was just hoping he didn't decide to take a bath!
My Boy had a hard time staying on the road. He kept veering towards this green field. I wonder why? Okay fine, we will go there. And take a picture. With the big robot monster in the background. Pony Girl is wearing her bug-eyed Jackie-O sunglasses. Not so cute.
Here it is. The big robot monster. Really, it's just a power line tower. Or whatever they are technically called. I like to make up names for things. But they look like they might just start walking towards us at any minute. They snap, crackle, and pop as you ride under them. I wonder if it is healthy to ride under all of that electricity? I am just surprised they never bother the horses, with all that noise they make.
If you were allergic to scotch broom weed, you would not want to ride down this hill, bless your sinuses. Or let your horse eat it, as it is toxic. It is kind of pretty, though. In a photo.
It was a pleasant ride. It has felt good to get out two weekends in a row, and get about 5 hours of riding under our cinches. The horses are well on their way to being in good shape for summer riding.
I am just putting the finishing touches and photos on the final installment of how My Boy became mine. I will post it tomorrow! If you cry easily, get out your Kleenex!