Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Back in the Saddle

The end of the trail and I was still smiling!

I am so proud of myself and so happy. My DH even congratulated me yesterday evening on our good ride. We started out at 3:00 yesterday afternoon, we would have started out earlier but we ran into the usual sequences. We had mud to scrape off of horses and saddles to scrub, then of course we had to find a headstall that would fit my gelding.

My goal with my new gelding is to ride him with just one of my rope halters with side pulls, so I wanted to start him out with a kind and gentle hackamore. He has only been ridden with my former horse Dan's sweet iron split bit but that is the same bridle and bit that my DH uses on everything. So locating something else was not easy. We have tack located in several different boxes, in several different locations.

I haven't ridden a horse but three short times (less than 15 minutes) since the wreck that messed up my back four and a half years ago. I was determined that I was going to ride again. My Doctor told me that I could try it but only without any medication, so that I would know when to quit.

Since the one bridle was all my DH needed to ride with, my bridle was used for all of the horses. We finally located one of our good aluminum hackamores and then had to find a leather curb strap because I didn't want to use a chain curb on him. My poor DH was getting quite annoyed at the time that it was taking us to get ready. But it was a good lesson in patience for him.

After my heavy Tex Tan saddle was placed on my horse, I had to listen to my wonderful Husband gripe again about having to tighten my saddle. It has one of those square metal girth riggings built into the skirt. I hate them too, we both prefer a round rigging ring that isn't built in and I usually like to tighten my own saddle but I was trying to conserve my energy yesterday.

When Ranger, my new horse (Dan has been semi-retired at 22 yrs. old) was saddled and bridled my DH got on him to take the buck out of him. Ranger has only been ridden a few times at 7 yrs. old and still bucks a little when starting out. He humped up once, then they spun around several times, I got a little dizzy watching them. When they finally started walking out in a nearly straight line, he bucked and got his hind feet a good 6 inches off of the ground. Six inches doesn't bother me because Dan always bucks that high when a fly lands on his rump, even higher if it is a horse fly.

My DH on Ranger after the buck was taken out of him.

Now it was my turn to ride Ranger for the very first time, the problem was that I couldn't get on him. He wasn't suppose to get as big as he is. His Sire is only 14.3 and his Dam is maybe 14.1. Ranger does have a full brother who is over 16 hands and thankfully Ranger only grew to around 15.2. On a side note here, to those who now own Feather, Shadow, Thorn and Shay, Ranger is their full brother.

My first time on Ranger. Had on my back brace.

I decided to keep Ranger when he was first born because he is an Indian Shuffler and I love that gait. He also has a lateral canter that is smooth, if you can hold him at the right speed. My DH isn't good with gaits, so I hope to be able to teach Ranger the speed and gaits that I want now that I can ride him. That will take some time but that is another of my goals for him.

Ranger and Leroy stood pretty still for me before the ride.

I had a horse fall with me several years ago and he stepped on the outside of my left knee when he got up and totally messed it up. After that I always had to mount Dan on the right side, Dan has always been a hot horse but he did always stand perfectly unflinching when I mounted, no matter how long it took me. This is something else Ranger will have to learn.

Tying rope halters has given me good upper body strength and even after our accident and my being overweight, I could easily pull myself up on a tall horse. However, now I am having some problems with my left shoulder and that made mounting difficult for me yesterday.

Once onboard, I couldn't reach the left stirrup, this was strange, maybe I am shrinking on one side. My DH adjusted the left stirrup but not the right, they felt balanced but I didn't feel balanced, after we took off I completely abandoned that left stirrup. We rode off down the road and I was having to fight Ranger all of the way, he doesn't neck rein at all and he didn't respond to plow reining very well either. I was also having to kick him hard to get a turn out of him. This just wasn't working for me.

I felt thrown forward in the saddle, I did have a back brace on and I thought that it might be causing the problem. After riding my boy for 15 minutes I was done. My back was killing me and I was very upset. The combination of kicking hard, pulling hard on the rein for every turn and feeling thrown forward, I told my poor DH who had worked so hard to get me going in the first place for only a 15 minute ride that I was done and wanted to go home.

When we got home, he asked me if I wanted to try changing horses. I took my back brace off and got on Leroy, another of our young horses in training. The difference in saddles shocked me and I realized that I have a saddle problem. My DH said that my saddle throws you forward because he could feel it too. This saddle had always been comfortable for me before, but with the back injury that I have, it just won't work. So now I am on a saddle hunt.

We ended up riding for three hours and it was great, Leroy is a perfect horse and his price is going up. We had a inquiry on him the other day and they wanted to know if he had ever been trail ridden, I had to say, no. He had only been ridden in an arena and on the road in traffic.

Well, Leroy has been trail ridden now and it was a new experience for him. But I was able to negotiate trees and brush on him without one skinned knee and we accidentally got off the trail once and it was rough going but he and Ranger both did great. We did a little mountain climbing and they were exhausted when we reached the peak. Then we did some mud hole wading that neither of them liked but with encouragement they learned that deep mud holes aren't always quicksand.

Here is a list of things that Ranger and Leroy learned yesterday, some of which they had experience before so it was just a refresher course.
  • The hollow sounds of hoofbeats on a long and tall bridge can be soothing.
  • Stepping on solid ground again at the end of the bridge is startling but not life threatening.
  • Muddy waterways will not suck you in deeper than knee height.
  • You can trust your rider to guide you through the woods and brush even without a clear pathway.
  • Ranger learned that you can't stop and eat just because you are hungry or there is something new on the menu that you have never tried before.
  • Large hay bales wrapped in tarps are not meat eating dinosaurs.
  • Stumps are not hungry wolves.
  • Large camping trailers in the middle of nowhere do not contain vampires
  • Abandoned tires and brightly colored plastic jugs in roadside ditches are harmless.
  • Walking through junkyards on a windy day is very interesting, there is so much to see and do.
  • Cadillac Eldorado's look very different when standing up on one side, the bottom is just not as pretty as the top, it in no way resembles a rogue elephant even if it does have a trunk.
  • Junkyard dogs can be ignored, their bark is much worse than their bite even in packs. Though these Pit Bull and Pit Bull mixes look much more intimidating than the neighbor's little Jack Russell Terriers, they aren't nearly as dangerous.
  • Diesel trucks make a lot of noise when coming up behind you but not as much noise as a big well drilling rig coming up from behind.
  • Discarded tires, roofing shingles and other unwanted household items in a quarry hole are not environmentally friendly but are not an immediate danger to a passing horse and rider.
  • When riding South to North in the evening hours your shadow will not give you much trouble, but when turning eastward you will suddenly have the setting sun behind you, you must not be alarmed at your own shadow.
This list is just to let you know what we and our two horses experienced on our three hour ride yesterday. They didn't, however, have a problem with most of this stuff. The only slight problems that we did have were with the knee deep muddy waterway, Leroy had a slight problem with stepping on the solid ground again after being on the bridge for awhile. Ranger did spook at his own shadow. For the most part these boys did excellent with all of the scary things we exposed them to.

The end of the ride, I was flexing Leroy to the left.

Then to the right. Who is that fat Granny?

I did great too. It took me a little while to get my land legs back after the ride was over and I did take some pain medicine to get me through the rest of the evening but I surprisingly felt really well this morning and am looking forward to our next ride and getting a new saddle for Ranger.

I reached some personal goals yesterday and I look forward to reaching some more this summer. We have several young horses that need some wet saddle blankets, this is something that I used to be able to help out with and these horses deserve a chance to become the excellent horses that they were bred to be.

Wet saddle blankets are good for white horses,

But look better on Leopards.
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