High alert!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Last ride before our first ride. To those who’ve been following our story that probably makes sense to you. For those new readers: our first ride of the season is Saturday, and this is our last ride before we head out to the leatherwood challenge this weekend. 

  
Kate came to ride Faygo along with me. 

Overall it was a great success:

Weather was sunny and warm. 

  
Zero turn around arguments (well… Not counting the deer incident, which I do not- more on that later)

We finally kept up a pace of over 5mph (for 12 miles)!

  
The ‘have a heart ‘ pad with 2 inserts on the right seemed to be perfect. Saddle felt even and I felt the most balanced I ever have in it. The ‘strange’ trotting diagonal that used to be less comfortable seems to be gone- it may be the pad evening us out, or the fact that I’ve been aware of it and trying to use it and work it more- or a combination. But my knee doesn’t bother me on that side and I felt much more even. 

Heart rate monitor is working and Khaleesi trotted along rarely braking 100bpm much of the ride and dropped heart rate to the 50s each water break pretty quickly. 

  

After a rough Monday we seemed to be finally clicking along on all cylinders.

Except….

The horses spent most of the ride on ‘high alert’. 

We got to the ‘horse’ parking lot and unloaded fine. At some point both horses were super focused on something: ears pointed, heads up on long necks. They were on opposite sides of the trailer not really able to see each other but the energy was obvious.  

I had no idea what could have them so concerned except a man had arrived in the ‘human’ parking lot with a medium sized dog in an orange vest who was jogging around the field sniffing and just being a dog. My horses are around dogs all the time. 

We got ourselves mounted and headed down the trail along the field at a great forward easy trot (gait for Faygo) and every 12 steps Khaleesi would zag slightly- her nose, ears and eyes looking around any bush or tree for potential danger. 

In fact much of the ride had the horses expecting some kind of danger around the next thicket. Occasionally a few spring birds would shoot out and I’d feel her pull up fast and prepare for evasive action… 

It’s a bird! You’ve seen birds before!

I was reminded of a cartoon I saw recently:

  
Perhaps a bush. 

I am well aware that our horses can be worried and we often respond by being more tense and creating a nervous cycle that spirals – I do not believe this happened yesterday. 

Her ‘high alert’ status did not worry me. Probably it should have, but this horse has only spooked once where I’ve come off (a deer jumped out of a culvert) I landed in the grass where she had been a second before she leapt sideways and she stood quietly while I got up. Since then any grouse we flush (that sounds like a helicopter taking off in the bush next to us) or deer that jumps out of the grasses that sends a spook our way, knock on wood as they say- she tends to keep me up there. 

She’s not a ‘spooky’ horse in general, but the grouse spook me they are so sudden and loud! It’s going to happen. So instead of riding tense and worried- I keep loose, melt into my saddle a bit, and keep easy breathing and soft eyes. 

Your’re fine, I’m fine- we’re fine. 

We were more than half way home along my favorite stretch of grassy flat trail along the Jackson River moving at a good clip when she pulled up fast- my weight fell forward onto her neck, Kate and Faygo nearly rear-ended us and I wondered if I’d have to bail momentarily. I was able to stabilize myself and get back into the saddle while she whipped around ready for flight running into Faygo and I practically knocked Kate as we circled- now Faygo getting ready to topple us in flight. 

What the………

Whoa whoa whoa!

I pulled her to circle into a true stop, regained some composure and heard Kate say:

Deer. 

I guess there were a few in an opening in the brush and they were close and frozen still- as we approached right on them- they took flight apparently scaring the bejesus out of Khaleesi who was already on high alert. 

Deer. 

We see deer all the time. Apparently there’s a rumor at the barn of a new horse-eating deer monster that is hungry after a winter hibernation. 

After we regrouped a moment and apologized to the small family who had been crossing the path to go fishing about 50 feet ahead of us and watched the whole thing – in fact I had noticed the family – acknowledging in my head that she may be concerned about the people as we approached when the deer on the periphery were the true danger. 

We had a little laugh after it was clear we were all fine. Both horses didn’t actually run in flight, and both of us had stayed on through the whirling. In fact I’m not even sure what Faygo did as my world was in the spin zone at the time. She probably just froze in place except being practically barreled over by Khaleesi. 

We put Faygo in front for a while – she could get eaten first. 

  
I then told Kate this will be a grouse day. We see them enough that I had a feeling this was ‘the’ day for stuff like that. My only guess as to why they were acting so odd on this warm spring day is there DID seem to be more animals moving about than usual. 

True enough, about 2 miles later we flushed a grouse out of the laurel we were riding through. 

At this point we were ‘spooked out’ and she hardly seemed to care. 

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