Zoe and I decided to ride over to Rachel Carson Park but we planned to take a different route than usual. Bad move.
Deja was a bit out of sorts because she was coming into heat so she was stopping frequently and refusing to go on. As I've said in previous blog posts, Queenie does not like to lead except when she knows we are returning to the barn (then she usually moves at light speed).
I urged Queenie forward and she reluctantly moved in front of Deja. The first "obstacles" we encountered were the bright spots of sunlight filtering through the trees. Queenie was certain that the contrast between the sunny and dark areas of the trail spelled D-A-N-G-E-R. She didn't want to walk on the trail and tried to detour into the foliage-covered areas along the edge of the trail.
I talked to her continually and she eventually relaxed. Not so with Deja. She became more and more agitated. Rather than take the long trail that meanders past a large pond and through meadows, we decided to cut the ride short and return to the barn along more familiar trails.
Things were going well until we heard a tremendous CRACK! I admit that I had no idea what was going on but Queenie took a few steps to the side and quickly recovered. I looked back to see terror in Deja's eyes (she had been closer to the noise) and I was certain that she was building up to bolting through the woods. I turned Queenie to block the path and yelled, "Whoa, Deja." (Zoe and I laughed later that I was yelling at her horse to stop instead of my own).
I swear that Deja was galloping in place. Her head was up and her front legs were moving in the air as if she was covering ground. Zoe credits her Mikmar training bit for stopping Deja before she could take off like California Chrome in the Derby. I also think that Deja realized that she'd have to go through Queenie since she was blocking the trail.
|The Mikmar training bit disperses pressure to the nose, mouth, chin, and poll areas.|
I'm lucky that for the most part if Queenie spooks, she settles down quickly and continues moving along the trail. Unfortunately, Deja remained like a coiled spring so Zoe got off and walked her for a few minutes until both Zoe and Deja were calm enough to finish the ride.
The cracking sound was caused by a large tree branch falling. I can't imagine why it fell on a such a calm, sunny day.
It was one of those rides where we were happy to get back to the barn safely.
I often say that if I thought about the risks of horseback riding too long, I would take up knitting as a hobby instead. We became acutely aware of the dangers after hearing yesterday that a former boarder had been flown by helicopter to the shock trauma center after falling from her horse. Norma and her friend Lisa are like me--more-than-middle-age riders. They ride their very senior horses at only a gentle walk. Norma's horse is 27 and Lisa's is 24. Both Quarter Horses are calm, steady and as close to "bombproof" as any horse can be.
Norma's accident occurred in a field where they board when her horse's hind legs buckled (likely from advanced arthritis) and he went down. Our understanding is that Norma was thrown with some force and she landed on her head, knocking her out for what I'm sure seemed like forever to Lisa. The helicopter was able to land in the field and quickly transport her to the hospital. At some point, she also had a mild stroke.
I'm pleased to report that she is doing well and will be released in a day or two to continue her recovery at home. It is unlikely that her beloved horse can be ridden again. They've been together for nearly two decades.
I'm always thankful for my calm horse but I realize that I must be ever-vigilant. In addition to a helmet, I wear a safety vest even when I'm only going to ride in the arena.
I'm waiting for someone to create a stylish bubblewrap equestrian outfit.