Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Trail Rides and Mojo

I have all kinds of training posts, thinking about stuff posts and so on that are half way done.

I am ADD in my thinking these days, so I flit around and create obstacles in every aspect of my life.

You guys aren’t the only parts of my life I’ve been spacing out on, believe me.

BUT! I have been riding. Riding and riding. Not training (much) just going and doing. I think about things while I ride. Where I’m heading, how god-awful awkward I am when I rope, finding little holes in my training that have led to pretty problems with my horse in the show pen.

I take delight in my horses. All three are a joy to ride, good minded and solid in their own way.

So I’m still circling and dodging many of my self built obstacles but I do have a bit of a tale to tell.

The kidlet (excuse me, I mean Clare) my good friend Kathy and I went for a trail ride on Sunday in the Garden of the Gods park.

There was weather expected in the afternoon so we got up at Oh-my-God thirty and had our horses trailered in, unloaded and saddled by 9 a.m.

There were all kinds of little niglets and weight to this ride. Clare wanted a ride with just the three of us. As she prepares to pull away and get on with her growing up she has become sentimental.

Kathy is essentially Mom#2 to Clare and Kathy’s daughter, Sarah, is her horse riding buddy and soul sister.

We all felt the weight of not having Sarah with us. Of course she was hanging at a beach house in Florida. I don’t think she missed us as much as we missed her.

So this carefully constructed plan had started with a good dose of sentimentality hanging on our saddle horns.

The next little knot was tied around Kathy’s neck. Two and a half years ago she was body slammed into an iron corral rail at a high speed (remember Captain?).

She spent 2 weeks in ICU and came out thoroughly shaken. Kathy spent almost a year simply taking care of her horse Rosie. She fed her and cleaned her pen, groomed her and enjoyed her, but didn’t, couldn’t ride.

She finally came out and rode with me for her first time and everything went fine, but she was still afraid.

Rosie is a wonderful, quiet minded, goofy little horse. She is Loki’s half-sister and Kathy has owned her since she was a few days old.

Kathy trained her herself, with a little riding from me and the rest through instruction and hard work.

Rosie is a fun little horse who can spin on a dime, will toss out a dolphin buck here and there to remind us who’s who and has enough cow to keep Kathy on her toes.

She is also Kathy’s dear friend and was totally OK with staying at a walk until Kathy was ready for more.

I conned Kathy into giving up her self care barn and moving Rosie to my barn. She has been riding more and more and getting her “ride” back. I have my favorite person to ride with.

Clare and Kathy both wanted to run up the valley, the same one I ran Sonita up.

So we had that little niggle to contend with. Kathy hadn’t let Rosie run since her train wreck. She looked a little strained.

This was a big next step for my arena baby. Both Clare and Kathy were better about getting their horse out than I was. Madonna looks at this trail riding as a huge adventure. She hadn’t had to tackle anything like these rocky, steep, trails before, so I was hoping she would still like trail riding after today.

So off we went, excited and eager, our little niggles trailing behind us.

The ride was fun and the park, as always, breath-taking. I noticed a few things.

When your horses are barefoot you can see them feel the rocks to find the best path. I kept thinking how a shoe must flatten their foot and take away the feel. Because all three of us ride on a loose rein it was interesting to note how careful and thoughtful each horse was about finding the best path.

All three horses would put their noses down like a horse doing the bridge in a trail class. They would snuff and look and then pick their way.

It was so different than my old way of tightening up in a tough spot.

These days our horses never scramble, never panic, they just kept going along. As long as we stayed centered and aware they did too.

We didn’t have a single refusal all day. All three horses willingly climbed bare rock, dropped down a 2-foot ledge and crossed all kinds of bridges.

A wonderful feeling came over me. I realized my fear has subsided.

I had no thoughts of danger, no times when I had to force myself to relax, nothing. Kathy and Clare were the same. Of course the kidlet is always that way. But here we were, two old fifty-something ladies, cruising along.

My mojo is back. I have come back to being a happy, confident rider. Is it because I only ride my horses? Probably.

But I’m working my colt, easing my fried ex-show horse through her anxieties and riding my Madonna, who although is wonderful, can be a lot of horse.

So it’s not all cake, but I’m not afraid anymore. I trust my horses and my ability and they trust me. Cool realization to have riding on a beautiful day in a gorgeous park.

We came around a bend to the bottom of the old reservoir. Kathy was looking pretty anxious, so I suggested we lope a few circles in the field before we headed out.

Clare made a face but did it anyway. Kathy got a little tight and Rosie picked up the wrong lead, but she fixed it and pretty soon all three of us were loping lazy, loopy circles in this beautiful field of green grass.

“Screw it,” Kathy said, “I’m going!”

She and Clare rode out of their circle and headed up the hill. Madonna and I followed behind at an easy lope.

They sped up with every stride and soon were flying.

My little yellow horse watched with interest but stayed in her lope, comfortable on a loose rein.

She sure isn’t Sonita.

“C’mon,” I said, “we’re way behind.”

With a scoot of my seat she took off up the hill after them.

On the way home I looked over at Kathy. She sat in the back seat of the truck, a sly smile on her face.

“What are you thinking about?” I shouted over the chug of the diesel.

“We had to look so cool running up that hill,” she answered.

Talk about mojo.


  1. Wonderful story. Big smile on my face for all three of you guys and your good, steady horses. I'd let out a whoop ... but I'm in cubicle-ville and I can't make any CLMs (career limiting moves). Grin.

  2. Thanks for letting me ride along with you and feeling the wind from a long canter up the hill.

    I relate to your comment about just riding. I have started to feel more comfortable with my horses, now that I just ride. No agenda, just do what I can for as long as I can and not worry about frames and bending and whether or not he is on the bit or before it or behind it!!!! I still get off and walk when I start to freak out but we are doing things I never would have done 4 months again even.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences with us Mugs, they make a difference, they really do.

  3. Shanster- I too suffer from OE (office entrapment). I need to learn how to make goat cheese. No anybody with goats?
    mommyrides- It's just going that has made me braver. I'm learning more about my horses than I ever did in the arena.
    It is making them better in their arena work too!

  4. Shanster - Or do you know anybody?

  5. Hello - Mugs (rolling of eyes)... sheesh. You want goat cheese, I gots all the goat cheese you can eat. I got plenty o' goats... you want one? grin.

  6. Shanster - I need to learn how..I write a food column...I could probaly get a lesson in milking too...

  7. It is fun to have you back! Thanks for the story. I am looking forward to getting back into the saddle.

    Turns out the sciatica and sacrum pain that I have been having is caused by lymphoma and it is unfortunately too painful to ride right now.

    The mouthy monday post was a good and timely one for me. I am looking to feeling better than I have in a long time, and especially getting back in the saddle once treatment is over, or at least under way enough to loosen the choke hold on my sciatic nerve.

    I am so glad that you are making the time to get out and ride, and that you found the time to write about it!

  8. What fun. I really wish Texas were as generous as Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada and so forth when it comes to horse-friendly parks and public land. Phooee!
    But I'm glad you had a great, easy-going ride.
    Whywudya - my best thoughts toward your treatment!

  9. I never had a thought that you had any fear. You have always come across (to me) as fearless. I was kinda amazed to read that part.

    I'm so happy for you. What an awesome ride. I lost my riding buddy, not LOST her, but she moved and took her horse. My best friend. It's far enough that we don't get ride much anymore and that has really affected me. I miss her. Glad you got yours back.

    Me and hubby call it "o'dawn thirty" either way, it's early!

    Thanks for sharing. (PS, I can see the garden of the gods in my mind's eye. I need to go back to CO and see/smell that place again.... hopefully sooner than later)

  10. Thanks Rockey Mouse, I am planning to give the treatment my best shot.

    I have had two different friends offer to take on my two horses for me. I hope and plan to keep them near me, but it sure is nice to have options.

  11. You should totally learn to make cheese, Mugwump. There is so little decent cheese in the US. It's inexplicable to me given the enormous dairy industry you guys have over there and yet the only cheese appears to be Monterey Jack or tasteless cheddar. After visiting one time we seriously looked into the viability of setting up a European cheese shop in California just so it would be possible to get cheese with a flavour somewhere in the United States. Of course, seeing how the import system works for food made it pretty clear why nobody does...

    Also, good to have you back and sharing your horses with us.

  12. What a wonderful post! And timely too. Sounds like you guys had a fantastic time. I enjoy traveling to new places to go hacking and finding new forests but I just don't have access to the same type of land as you. Perhaps I will have to venture south one day.

    I have spent the spring/summer just hacking this year. Unfortunately I lost my riding buddy back in March (moved the horse over an hour away and I don't own a truck or trailer so going to see her costs about $300). This meant hacking alone. A lot. I learned a lot about my horse and myself. I used to get off if he started to really act up. Now I stay on. I guess it helps that he rarely acts up anymore. :D He is very accustomed to dogs, bikes, joggers, traffic, flags, gun shots, fireworks, etc. Nothing phases him anymore and I couldn't be prouder of him. The moment that really turned it all around for me was when I realized that he stays calm when I stay calm and that includes leaving him on a loose rein. If I tighten up, so does he - makes sense to me! I just had to experience it to realize how easily I affected him.

    Tonight he gets to show a couple of newbies how to play in the pond. :)

  13. Wow, totally awesome story! :) I was SO THERE!
    I am going to hit the hayfield today. I have you to thank for that. So, THANKS!

  14. I got a big grin on my face at the end! Awesome story! I often think about stuff we did on horseback and I wished I could've watched it from afar, just to see how cool it would look... I'm sure horses going up a hill at full speed would be quite impressive! I loved your story, I was right there with you!

  15. Awesome story... AS ALWAYS. Thank you for sharing with us


  16. hehehe - we call it the "butt crack of dawn"

    Good to see you back on line. Hope everything is falling in place for you.

  17. We call it "0-dark-thirty"--but you're right--getting out early is a good thing to beat the heat (or other adverse weather).

    Glad you girls had such a good ride. Altho I remember Kathy's issues, I don't remember any previous posts specific to you losing your mojo, either...

    Good to have you back!

  18. OMG...this is my summer! Starlette and I have been trail riding an average of 3 times a week. We've gone from tight walking to power trotting and cantering on the trails! Both of us are more confident, and Starlette is learning to open up and *go*!

    Hope it doesn't rain tomorrow...


  19. So when do we get Madonna's story?


  20. Oh, and this summer Mocha has settled down enough that we're doing the occasional bareback session. In fact, after two weeks away, I tossed on the bareback pad, the snaffle, and crawled up on her before wondering if it was such a wise idea....It went well.

    Bareback does wonderful things for your seat. And given that Miss Mocha has a bony spine, a pad is somewhat required to protect my menopausal rear end. I'm still doing walk and trot, though. Haven't worked up to loping, just because she is what she is, and lope often starts out with an energetic little leap or bound, especially once she gets wound up (like she was today, after doing changes, then rollbacks and that spin exercise where you lope, spin to the inside, lope again).

    But I'm getting there. Lope bareback, ride her rollbacks in the English saddle...those are current riding goals.

  21. What a great story- from the name of the park to your last line. I'll bet you guys did look cool!
    Fear is a funny thing isn't it? I had a ba wreck and it made me a little afraid for awhile too. But I gutted through it,especially after my friend and horseman extrordinare Charles Wilhelm said that being afraid was just one way of taking care of myself.
    Hmm... I had never thought of it that way. Now sometimes I do get a 'thrill' when the ponies buck or rear, but I remember that I am a good rider, I know what I am doing and if I need to take care of myself- I can always get off and get on again later.
    Boy I wish I could ride with y'all- you sound like my kind of 'babes'!

  22. ha ha ha mugs.
    everyime I put you and you horse up on a pedestal, you guys do a slide stop and throw dirt in my fool grinin face. Who knew you could be afraid. I had a bad fall in 2004. even on my steadiest of horses, i was afraid. Only the kindness of my friends got me out on the trail. over a period of times they started remarking how I looked like I was having a lot of fun. and less fear.

    Now I want to go and run (some) and be out in the parks. Good horses and good friends. what is better?

  23. should try bareback riding on the trails! Yup...Starlette had a nasty bug bite right at her girth, so we met with friends and rode for over an hour bareback! I loved it, she loved it...only thing was going down hills and sliding into her withers! I don't use a stick better that way!


  24. Whywudyabreedit - best wishes for the treatment :) I just learned yesterday that my own lump on my throid is still there so Im on the fence myself. Keep the ponies close it will help.

    Mugs - that sounded like a fun trail ride, and a confidence building ride.

    Remember my slightly abused HUS gelding? He earned his first 1/2 a halter point in Aug. :) (in preformance halter) And turning heads everywhere, noone can belive hes the same horse.

    Want to come on a trail ride in Nova Scotia? I could use some of that confidence beside me to atempt the trails around here on a show horse (there are animals in the woods!)

  25. Great to hear about your ride Mugs-I need to teach my adopted horse how to be ridden. He's a lovely pasture pet but I want more. And trauma pony doesn't need all the time.

    Goat cheese is easy if it's unpasturized-just let it sit out and when it starts separating drain it through cloth. That's my lazy cheese. Hand milking will make you really aware of the muscles in your forearms-cause they'll burn at first! Have fun! It's a blast.

  26. joycemocha- Madonna's boring. She's a sweet, well-bred horse. No training traumas, solid to ride, just not shown enough because of my own issues.

  27. Confidence and trust - sure brings back the joy and the mojo.

    Having just barely gotten to this place, I'm still in a buzz with the energy of it.

    Thanks for the wonderful post. (and have fun milking goats...)

  28. Great story...I agree how friends can be a rock for each other to overcome fears...sure wish I was galloping up that canyon with you all!!

    If I could keep my working horses barefoot year-round I would. With the amount of rock out here on the desert, it's just not possible. I've spent up to 11 hours driving cows, and without shoes, he'd have never made it. Yes, I believe the shoes deaden their feel. I find them tripping more etc.

    I believe every horse needs to get out for R&R...whether it be trail riding, driving cows...whatever! It have a horse with a solid mind, they desperately need to get out.

    Thanks for the post...look forward to more!!

  29. I am so envious that you were able to go riding in the Garden of the Gods! I've been hiking there a couple of times while visiting on vacation, but would really love to ride there! Next time you'll have to take and share pictures : )