Monday, April 11, 2011

Mouthy Monday

I didn't get to comment on this one. I was blocked out of th internet at work and had to sneak this story in quick. This one came from GTTYUP, whose blog, Life on the Rough String is one of my favorites.She is living the life I deamed of having as a kid. And as an adult.

Rumors about Mud Holes are True!
gtyyup ~ Life at the Rough String

Growing up with horses and riding for what seems forever, one of the things I always remember being told is: “Watch out for those water holes that you can’t see the bottom of.” My friend Kris and I learned firsthand how true this statement really is.

Our annual trek to Duncan Butte in the Ochoco National Forest of Central Oregon in July was just as pleasant as previous years. The weather was perfect, the wild horses visited us and were on their best behavior, the water trough was full of cool, clean, fresh water, and the grass was green and tall for grazing our horses. This is one of our favorite places to explore during the day and relax by the campfire in the evening after a fire-broiled steak and baked potato. What more could you want!

On our third day, we decided to take the two-track at the end of the road to see where it went. Exploring new trails is our favorite pastime. So with map, GPS, lunch and water in our saddlebags, we hit the trail. As we left the road and began the slightly downhill two-track, we could see a ridge to the right of us on the other side of the draw that we thought might make a nice loop back toward where we rode the day before (backtracking is a last resort for us). After riding about half an hour through changing vegetation with some small water crossings, we saw a well-used wild horse trail off to the right. Thinking about it for a short time, we decided to give it a try. Our experience has been that many times the wild horses like to go from point A to point B and then we get to where we want to go, but not this time. The trail dwindled out and after some very steep hills and brush beating we gave up and had to go back the way we came. Darn!

So back on the original trail, we started out again. The sun was shining and a gentle breeze made for perfect riding weather. As the trail skirted along the south side of Duncan Butte, we were still gradually going downhill and it started to feel like we were heading more eastward and would soon intersect with the trail going up to Lookout Mountain. The trail opened into a small clearing and we noticed a pool of water on our right within a tight group of trees. There wasn’t a visible incoming water source, so we figured that the water came from an underground spring. The pool was almost perfectly round and about 12 feet across. One side had an easy approach with the other sides banked more steeply, and it was quite obvious that the wild horses use this as one of their watering holes. The water was pretty muddy looking, so trying to skim some water from the top with a canvas bucket didn’t seem like it would work. We decided to let the horses wet their lips just a little.

My cattle dog Cowboy was the first to test the waters; as usual, he has to get into every puddle, pond or lake we come across. As he walked across the pool, he was up to his belly in a dark, silty sort of mud. It stuck to his legs and belly as he came out of the pool. I took my gelding Toby up first for a sip knowing that my intention was to only let him get a sip of water and not let him step into the pool. He drank a little and I backed him away. Then it was Kris’ turn for Dixie.

As Kris and I are talking about not letting the horses step into the water because of the unknown bottom, Dixie sniffs the water and instead of taking a drink, she begins to paw at the water. Before Kris could back her up, Dixie had one foot into the water and the other making a big splash and Dixie is sucked into the pool literally head first and comes up in the middle of the pool with her legs folded underneath her and Kris still sitting on her back with her right leg caught under Dixie. It took only a split second and the horse had literally dove head first into the pool and had the silty mud in her ears, eyes, nose and mouth. Dixie couldn’t see through the mud in her eyes. She struggle for only a few moments and realized that she was stuck and waited for our help. The saddle was totally covered, and Kris was up to her waist in the pool. Kris’ first thought was that she was going to lose her horse in this mess!

I’m sitting on Toby only 20 feet away and couldn’t believe what had just happened. Kris had done all she could to keep Dixie from getting into the pool. But there they were. I quickly tied Toby to a bush and by the time I got to the pool, Kris was able to get off and out from underneath Dixie and climb out of the mud by grabbing at some small branches. Dixie was trying to look at us through the black silt that coated her eyeballs. Twice Dixie started to struggle but was easily calmed when asked to whoa; we knew she couldn’t get out by herself. We quickly got ropes attached her breast collar; Kris had opted to ride without the halter on this trip for vanity reasons as she had a new bridle for Dixie, a choice not recommended by her or I. Dixie was facing the steep back side of the pool and would not be able to get out that direction, so we first had to get her body turned 180 degrees. With a few heavy tugs and some encouragement, Dixie repositioned herself almost all the way around. She looked so pathetic and helpless, but still put her trust in us (she did outweigh both of us by 900 lbs). Then, using a nearby tree for leverage, we started to pull her, but she was beginning to tire out and wasn’t going anywhere. I took another rope and started swatting her on the hip to get some forward motion. With a couple of lunges from Dixie and some hard pulling she got her front hooves on solid ground and out she popped!

What a relief, but what a sight Kris and Dixie were. By then Kris had just about as much mud on her face as Dixie and they were both shaking pretty bad. My heart was racing, and I could hardly believe what had just happened over the last 5 minutes. It seemed dreamlike (actually more like a nightmare). Poor Dixie still couldn’t see through the mud. We pulled out our water bottles with squirt tips and did a pretty good job at flushing out the mud and dirt from her eyes. Dixie’s eyes were as red as strawberries but she was soon looking for fresh mountain grass to munch on. What a trooper that horse was. Knowing that there could have been puncture wounds, bruises, or even broken bones, we could hardly believe that there weren’t even any nicks or scrapes, just mud everywhere.

Finally, Kris and I looked at each other and then started laughing, we take pictures of everything and Kris was giving me a bad time for not taking her picture. It really wasn’t very funny; it was a really serious situation that could have had some devastating consequences, but we must have needed to relieve some of the tension.

Well, we looked down the trail we had just come and up the trail to unknown parts. Deciding that it was best to leave the unknown for another day, we headed back to camp the way we came (as you know, backtracking is a last resort). This adventure would be good enough for today, and it would be enjoyed by many around the campfire in the years to come!


Dixie was purchased by Kris 4 months prior to this ride; she had not been ridden for 3 years and needed a good home. Dix was not the horse of her dreams, but as she was ridden more and more the old saying, do not judge a book by its cover was proving to be true. During and since the mud hole experience Dixie has proven she is a most dependable, reliable trail horse and the bond and trust between horse and human is immeasurable.


  1. I can't believe you both got her out without having to use either the other horse or a truck! What a phenomenal horse!

  2. Thanks for surviving to share this great, horse and riders as heroes, story. You go, Gals!

  3. I just wanted to say that I'm a new reader and I love your stuff. Lot of truth in here--and a lot of hard-won humor.

  4. Trust is everything in a situation like that; so glad it turned out all right (and how scary it must have been for all of you!).

  5. Thanks Mugs for posting my story. Glad everyone enjoyed it and everyone can learn a bit from it too.

  6. Yeek. Reminds me of this story that happened in late November. They had to have the firefighters come to get the horse out of the mud!

    I had a MUCH milder version when my horse wandered off the drop off of a pond. The pond was man made and I knew the drop off was there. I was letting him have a drink at the edge after a work out and he stepped further in to play with the water (that horse LOVED water). I started tugging on the lead line and he ignored me and walked forward right off the ledge. SPAHLOOSH! His back half was on the land and his front half was swimming with his head sticking up like a giraffe trying to keep it out of the water. I didn't know whether to boot him all the way in so he could turn around or what. Fortunately he managed to get his front feet BETWEEN his back feet somehow (yay for short backed TBs?) and scramble backwards out of the pond. Ten seconds later as I'm trying to recover from my panic he was sniffing the water and trying to splash again. Thank goodness it was much less scary than Kris and Dixie but thanks for taking years off my life horse!