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Let’s Not Forget: Horseback Riding is Dangerous

Let’s Not Forget: Horseback Riding is Dangerous

Wear a helmetWe’ll get to the title in a minute, but we have so much to tell you, I don’t even know where to start!

We had a GREAT day of trail riding on Saturday. Our horse friend Shari, who was not in the market for a new horse, bought one: a Tennessee Walking Horse! A very large, jet-black one that looks strikingly like Valentine. Shari jokes that when she and I go trail riding on our own, we’ll take our “big black steeds.” (She doesn’t have a name for him yet, so if you have any suggestions, send them our way; he’s a sweetheart, 8-year-old gelding, all black with a star and white pasterns on both rear feet. His temporary name is “Spot,” so he’s badly in need of a new one.)

We bought a horse too! Cash. Yes, he tried to run away from us, but we decided he probably didn’t mean anything by it. In fact, we decided to buy him the day he escaped. He is just such a good horse, in so many ways. So when we started out on our trail ride, Bill rode Cash.

So who did I ride, you wonder? Well, even though we decided to get Cash, we just liked Romeo so much we weren’t ready to let him go yet. His owners also had a saddle for sale that we’d like to try, so we took Romeo and the saddle on our trail ride. I rode Romeo for the first part of the ride. Dayle came too (Romeo’s owner), riding her mare Katie.

So there we were, three of us on three new horses. Fun, huh? The first excitement was when Shari dismounted to open a gate and Spot swung back toward us; Cash spooked, which spooked Romeo, and we all swung around. No big deal – we’re all getting to know each other, after all. Then we started out with a creek, so see how Spot handled water (we already knew Romeo didn’t mind it, and Cash of course crossed the creek any number of times during his afternoon stroll on Monday). Spot didn’t like it. Shari had to get off to lead him through, but after that he was fine. We crossed a bridge, rode through a variety of terrain, had a canine escort (Dayle’s dog Oreo – Cash didn’t like it but tolerated him). No problems at all.

Bill had a great time with Cash, and I love riding Romeo. I wouldn’t have wanted to switch, in fact, if the saddle we were trying hadn’t become uncomfortable. But it did, so we switched mid-ride. We met some cows, took a break under some trees and let Spot and Cash sniff each other. Again, no problems. Then it got REALLY exciting.

We decided to let the horses drink from the creek. I started to ride Cash through the trees, thinking that it was just some leafy branches. I didn’t realize until it was too late that there was a large branch in the midst of the leaves. I didn’t have the grip I should’ve on the reins, so I couldn’t stop Cash in time to save me from being swept off the saddle. Off I went, sliding right under Cash’s feet. To make matters worse, the reins caught on the branch, preventing Cash from moving away. I looked up as I fell and saw those hooves right above me, and I swear, I thought I was a goner. Shari was sure I was about to be stepped on too; I think it looked pretty bad from where she was watching. Dayle was nearly as alarmed. (Bill, on the other hand, made what seemed like a pretty insensitive joke when I got up; he’d missed the whole thing.)

But the amazing thing was that Cash deliberately tucked his hooves up under himself to keep from stepping on me. I’d heard that horses do that instinctively, and it turns out it’s true. I said a little prayer of thanks for that, and silently thanked Bill too for making us wear our geeky helmets even though no one else does, then hugged and kissed Cash and announced that we are definitely keeping him. I love that horse!

Oh, and we’re keeping Romeo too. He’s just too good a horse to pass up too, and…shhh, don’t tell him, but…the Kid’s going to learn to ride, and Romeo’s just the horse to teach him. Besides, it’s a nice change of pace for me to have a horse that I don’t need help getting up on. And when I’m done bragging on Cash for not maiming or killing me, you’ll hear lots of praise about Romeo.

But for now…I love that Cash. He’s the best! And don’t forget to wear a helmet, even though it looks dorky and your head sweats and you get helmet hair. Because remember: it’s always dangerous to ride a horse.

Why are horse helmets for guys so dorky?

Why are horse helmets for guys so dorky?

Here’s a plea to Troxel and other horse helmet manufacturers. Please, for the sake of all that is manly, please make a horse helmet for guys that doesn’t look so dorky. I spent weeks and maybe months looking for a good helmet. I ended up with very nice Troxel helmet that I like very much except for one thing. It’s GIANT…I mean watermelon huge. Hey, my head isn’t THAT big. All the girl helmets look cool but the guy helmets look stupid. And I’m guessing that’s one of the biggest reasons I never…that’s right NEVER see guys wearing helmets. Girls don’t wear them much around here either but you see more girls than guys wearing them. I’m still a newbie and I’m still riding horses I don’t have a long history with so for me it seems a helmet is a must. But I hate looking like a dork wearing one.

So Troxel, are you listening? Surely you can make something that’s safe and still looks good on guys. Help us guys keep our manliness and save a few brain injuries while you’re at it.



Moonshine Returns Home

Moonshine Returns Home

We once again have fine east Tennessee Moonshine at our farm. This evening we went over to ride her and get Lance’s final evaluation before bringing her home. The report? Well, not so great. We observed Moonshine hunching up her back at canter and this is after she had been longed. After some demonstration and instruction from Lance, I hopped on and rode her around the ring a few times. She was tense and it was obvious to me she simply didn’t want to move. And I was on high alert and nervous as can be, given her odd performance last week. I walked her and she gave me no trouble doing it except I really had to push her just to walk. I wasn’t ready for anything more than that. Lance reiterated his advice that we should get rid of her and find another horse. I’m still not completely convinced of that but at the same time I realize the insanity of keeping a horse you’re too afraid to ride. I might be more open to it if I knew she would have a good home but who wants a horse you can’t easily ride? I’m afraid she’d be treated with a heavy hand and have a miserable and possibly short life. Uggg. I guess if I can’t work with her I’ll have a 20-year pasture ornament. I love this stupid horse, darn it. I almost wish she was mean to me so I could more easily send her to auction.

Lance brought her back tonight and the boys (Sinbad and Valentine) were quite attentive. We put Moonshine in a stall so the horses could sniff and nicker at each other for a while. Then we let her loose into our pasture so she could re-assert her authority. It was less dramatic than we expected but still funny. I shot a short little video of it (below).

But just so you know, we haven’t totally given up on her. We’re going to explore horse chiropractics and look into marbling (someone mentioned it in comments). In the meantime, it’s good to have a backup horse (Sinbad).

Even though she’s trouble, we’re glad to have our sweet Moonshine back.

My five hour trail ride mistake

My five hour trail ride mistake

Long trail rideOh, my aching back, legs, rear, etc.! Saturday we spent a wonderful day riding horses next to a beautiful lake. This was supposed to be the day we got Moonshine back to try her new riding skills but due to the incident from a few days ago (Moonshine gets hit by a car), she’s on the injured list and wasn’t ridable. In her place I rode my backup horse, Sinbad, a well broke, ridable by almost anyone kind of horse, 25 years old and still full of energy. Mikki and I met up with our horse friend Shari, Lance (the guy training Moonshine) and some other horse owners. Shari and Lance were kind enough to pick up Valentine and Moonshine on their horse trailers (we need one of those!) and off we went for a day of riding. Now I knew I’d be a little sore because I use a cheap saddle and haven’t ridden any distance in 6 months or so. But five hours later, my rump we tender and I was ready to call it a day. Today, Sunday, I could barely get out of bed. I just may have overdone it. Perhaps we ought to bump a hot tub up on the priority list for future purchases!

Notes from the trip:

  1. Mikki’s horse Valentine LOVES the water. He was splashing around on it like a little kid. We were all pretty concerned he’d want to roll in it.
  2. When there are 11 horses together on a trail ride, it makes sense that some of them won’t get along. We had to rearrange horses a few times. For example, Sinbad is a tailgater and the horse in front of us was a kicker. Not a good combo!
  3. Horses are very good at walking over downed trees, though some like to jump over them.
  4. Fearing her own weight was giving her horse trouble navigating through some deep water, Shari bailed into the drink and emerged horseless and soaking wet. Her horse was easily caught and she finished the trip still wet.
  5. Cheap saddles make for sore butts on long rides. According to my body, five hours is considered “long”. You get what you pay for in saddles, apparently.

We’ll definitely head back to this area soon. I’m looking for a new saddle and possibly the add-on gel pads to hold me over. And hopefully a future trip will include Moonshine.

Below are some more pictures from the ride. Yeah, warm weather!


Help Keep Our Trails Open!

Help Keep Our Trails Open!

In addition to our expensive horse hobby, we have an expensive Jeep hobby, too. We have a modified Jeep Wrangler and love to go off-road. Some of you may know that off-road trails across the country have steadily dwindled as certain interest groups have pushed to have them closed to “protect the environment.” I guess that’s not surprising, since a few off-roaders have given us all a bad name. What is surprising, however, is that the same battle is being fought over horses. That’s right; there are many, many people out there who want to deny trail access to horseback riders. Believe it or not, one of their most frequent arguments is that horses are bad for the environment. Their hooves tear up the trails and their manure brings in foreign plant seeds, among other things. I’m sure they have other complaints, but we’re still kind of new to this issue.

The important thing is, if we want to be allowed to keep riding in our own national parks, we have to take action. Trails across the country are being closed just because someone complains, or brings up an environmental concern, and no horse people speak up. I suspect it’s simply because, like us, horse owners are not aware that this is happening. By the time they find out a trail is closed or about to close, it’s too late.

We recently joined a group in our area, the Southern Appalachian Back Country Horsemen. It’s a local chapter of a national organization, Back Country Horsemen of America. These groups, local and national, keep track of current events affecting trail riders and their members do what they can to keep the trails open: writing to government leaders; challenging efforts to close trails; keeping good relationships with their local Forest Service; participating in trail cleanups and maintenance. I urge you to look into an organization in your area, and do what you can to help keep trail riding alive. If we don’t fight, we’ll eventually lose all access to public lands. That would be a shame.

And Today It Was My Turn to Fall Off

And Today It Was My Turn to Fall Off

I guess it’s my punishment for laughing at the Kid when he fell off Sinbad yesterday. Yes, I did laugh – does that make me a horrible mom? I wouldn’t have thought it was funny if he got hurt, of course. But he didn’t, and it was. Funny, that is. But those things sometimes have a way of coming back to bite you. Kharma?

The weather was just so nice today – 71°F! – that we couldn’t resist saddling up two horses for a short lunchtime ride. Actually, I did all the saddling while Bill worked, to maximize our riding time. (Again, no pictures of the new tack! Sorry!) When they were all ready to go, Bill came up to the barn and off we went. We started out by heading away from the house, down a hill, toward the road like we always do. When we got to the road, we decided to go back and ride in our pasture. I tried to turn Valentine around and cross a shallow ditch. Normally, he doesn’t care a bit about crossing anything – water, logs, rocks, whatever – but he took issue with that little ditch. He stopped dead right before it, with his body sloping way down, and I just couldn’t hang on. Over I went. I was able to wrap my arms around his neck on the way down, so I landed on my feet and was unhurt. Then I thought, “Dang! How am I gonna get back up on this giant horse again?” Because that’s always my first concern when I think I’m coming off my horse. He’s really tall, and I’m really short – you can kind of see that in the photo. I have to use a mounting block. Luckily, there was a convenient stump nearby.

Then, out in the pasture, he got all squirrelly again. Neither he nor Sinbad were in the mood for riding, apparently. They both very much wanted to go back to the barn, and put a lot of effort into getting there. We rode around a little bit, despite their wishes, and when I finally turned back toward the barn, Valentine did a funny little sideways turn (he may have spooked a little bit) and nearly came out from under me. I managed to stay on that time, but I whacked my right ring finger on the saddle horn. The end of it is a lovely shade of purple.

So, not the pleasant little ride we were hoping for, but it sure was exciting! Maybe we’ll do it again tomorrow, if it doesn’t rain.

The Kid Rides Again…And Falls Off.

The Kid Rides Again…And Falls Off.

Except for the falling-off part, it was a great day. We went on a multi-horse trail ride over at the Watson farm. There were six of us: Shari on her barrel racer, Misty; her two sons on her gelding Rabbit and her Halflinger mare, Cree; me on Valentine; the Kid on Sinbad; and Bill on Champ. Who’s Champ, you ask? Interesting story.

Our cow neighbors put a horse in their pasture a few weeks ago and we’ve been keeping an eye on him. A couple of nights back, it was really cold, so we approached the neighbors and told them they could keep their horse in our barn when it’s cold. They declined, but we found out that the horse, who doesn’t have a name (cue music…“I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name…”), belongs to their son, but he’s too busy to keep a horse and he’s interested in selling him. So of course we’re interested in buying him. We’ve been feeding him carrots over the fence for a month, and named him, for goodness sake! But, having learned from our experience buying the green-broke Moonshine on a whim, we asked if we could ride Champ today to see if he’d be a good horse for us. They said fine, so after church we dropped the Kid off at Shari’s and went home to tack up Valentine and Sinbad. Then we rode over to Shari’s, picking up Champ on the way. Shari and her kids were ready to go, so we threw the Kid up on Sinbad (with his own helmet, purchased last week) and Bill rode Champ.

The Kid was pretty nervous, and was having trouble keeping his feet in the stirrups. The horses were all really squirrelly – probably because they were from three different “herds” all mixed together. Still, everything was going fine as we wound our way through the trees. Until, suddenly, the Kid fell off. I didn’t see it happen, but turned around in time to see him hit the ground. Luckily, he wasn’t hurt. He was, however, extremely reluctant to get back up on his horse. We finally convinced him to ride Cree instead, because she’s much smaller (about 13 hands) – not as far to fall, don’t you know. I’m sorry to say that he didn’t really enjoy the ride, even after moving onto Cree and not falling off any more, so we’re going to have a heck of time talking him into doing it again. 🙁

The rest of us had a really good time, though. It was a short ride, but fun nonetheless. Champ was easy to ride, not spooky at all and very obedient. Alas, our horse expert friend Shari has advised us against adding him to our horse family. It seems that the sweet guy is over 20 years old and probably arthritic. She warns us that if we were to buy him, he probably wouldn’t be sound enough to ride for very long. Such a shame. We’ll think about it though, and of course keep you posted.

And darn it, we forgot the camera, so no pictures of our horses in their new tack. Maybe tomorrow – it’s supposed to be about 70. Jealous? 😉