Sunday, June 27, 2010

A Big Decision & Change

I've had to make a difficult decision, but I think it is for the best.

I decided Marley needs a stronger, more confident owner than me. He is now owned by a professional trainer with 30+ years experience training carriage horses, including 6-horse hitches. He's gone to the best home he could possibly have, but I cried buckets on the night his new owner picked him up.

I feel like I failed Marley, but he is in better hands now and will get the regular and consistent work he needs. He is a very strong and willful hunky chunky pony who needs to be worked often or he gets too full of himself, inviting past vices to rise to the surface. With my increasing work load at my job, I have less time this summer than I had last year to devote to two horses that need a lot of training and it was beginning to show in Marley's behavior, leading up to the bucking incident (even though it was triggered by fright and not obstinacy). That incident really shook my confidence in my ability to ride or drive Marley.

I miss Marley. I know Misty misses him too.

I worry about Misty being lonely during this transition phase, but she isn't acting nutty or afraid. She is turning to me for attention now and that could be beneficial for both of us. She nickers loudly as soon as she sees me and follows me around like a puppy dog.

I will be focusing more on Misty, working with a professional instructor to continue her training. She still needs a companion and I need a confidence builder. So I'm looking for another horse to become Misty's new barn buddy; the kind of horse I should have bought in the first place - a gentle, seasoned, consistent, bombproof trail horse with no vices.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Just a Spoonful of Sugar

Sing it with me:

A Spoonful of sugar...or Dove Chocolate...helps the medicine go down
The medicine go down-wown
The medicine go down
Just a spoonful of sugar...or Dove Chocolate...helps the medicine go down
In a most delightful way!

I took my first spill off of a horse in more than 25 years.

It was bound to happen sooner or later, but I wasn't expecting it to hurt so badly and warrant a visit to the hospital.

Yesterday I took a day off work so Marley and I could go on our first trail ride of the season. I was looking forward to this ride, as I'd heard of this nice park with thoughtfully planned trails designed for equestrians. Unfortunately, we didn't last 5 minutes.

I went with a group of four other ladies. We had been on the trail for only a few minutes when we rounded a bend in the trail and discovered a big open space before us, surrounded by trees and buttes. We were all exclaiming how beautiful it was, when suddenly a loud, low-flying helicopter came swooping over a nearby ridge, down into the valley where we were riding, and buzzed right over us, scaring all 5 horses who were fresh from just starting the ride.

Marley started to bolt and run. I tried to employ the 1-rein stop I had been practicing, but he got his head down and started bucking repeatedly until he dumped me.

Thank goodness I was wearing a helmet. I put it on every time I ride, thinking I'll never really need it, but being sensible and cautious. I'm so accustomed to wearing it now, I would feel uncomfortable without it. But here is a case when I really did need it.

I always thought the visor on my helmet was just decorative or to provide a little bit of sun shade, but I discovered it has a more important purpose. I would have done a face plant into the hard ground, but my visor made impact first, sparing me from even a tiny scratch on my face. However, I did smack my head pretty hard and had an instant headache followed by dizziness. I'm sure it would have been much worse had I not been wearing a helmet, because I basically landed on my head.

I was embarrassed and disappointed and hated adding drama to a ride that had barely begun. My kind friend escorted Marley and me back to the parking lot, while we wished for the others to go on and enjoy their ride.

I was really hoping this would be a summer filled with trail riding with both Misty and Marley. We've been preparing, but you can't anticipate everything that can happen on a trail ride. How on earth can you prepare to be buzzed by a helicopter? That is just a freak thing. I hate to think someone would do that deliberately, but I do believe this was a mischievous, mean-spirited pilot out joy-riding and getting his kicks by scaring horses with his helicopter. He was flying way too low and flew right over us.

My friend graciously gave up her trail ride and drove Marley and me home. I was still dizzy and had an aching head, so my step-daughter drove me to the Emergency Room where I was examined and given a CT Scan. The radiologist found no bleeding in my brain and no indication of a serious problem. The ER doc said I got my bell rung, but that my helmet was my saving grace.

I still have a slight headache, my back is aching, I've pulled a muscle in my abdomen, my legs are sore and I'm hobbling around kinda funny like. This ole body doesn't bounce like it did in younger years. So I took a sick day from work to recover from my vacation day, intermittently napping and watching TV, and chasing my regularly scheduled Percocet pain killer with Dove chocolate. I figure if the Percocet doesn't do the trick, the chocolate will.

Now comes the challenge of getting back in the saddle, working through the fear, and trying to learn from the experience so I can handle future riding challenges better. I wonder if I could have done something different. I probably need to be more aggressive with my 1-rein stop. Maybe I need to swap Marley's snaffle bit for something with a little more leverage. I don't know. It happened so fast. But next time I hear or see a helicopter, I'm going to dismount immediately.

And now it is time for another nap.

I'm grateful for well designed riding helmets and good friends and family who looked after me.