Fall Colors Between Rhio's Ears

Fall Colors Between Rhio's Ears

Friday, April 20, 2012

Tail Wind

My last ride was almost a week ago due to some nasty spring weather and a busy schedule.  (You'd better bet I'm saddling up this afternoon to rectify this situation!)  But, it was a GREAT ride and Gesa and Dawn finally met.  Dawn picked us up early Saturday, and we headed up to the North Shore State Trail once again.  In the winter, the parking lot gate is unlocked and we have ample off-road parking.  In the summer, though, the gate is locked (I presume to keep ATVers off the trail - not that it is particularly effective) and we have to park on the side of the road.  This isn't ideal with horses, which then have to be tied to the trailer to be tacked up, but the road is nice and wide at this spot, and pretty quiet.  It works.  This day made me think, though, about the safety and practicality choices we have to make all the time with our horses.  They are a particularly reactive, and therefore accident-prone, species.  I believe this is because they are a prey species, and their defense mechanism is to run away, fast.  Their instincts tell them to run away from any scary or *perceived* (by them) potentially harmful situation - ask questions later.  This serves them well on the open range, when being pursued by a mountain lion.  It doesn't work very well at all in domestication.

To illustrate, this day we had a small trailering incident.  The fact that many (most?) horses will get into a confining, dark box and ride calmly down the road, bumping, swaying, and vibrating all over the place, is kind of amazing, really.  Of course we do everything we can to make it safe and "inviting," including rubber mats on the floor for traction and shock absorption, tasty hay to munch on while traveling (eating is calming for horses, and it's also good for maintaining gut function and preventing ulcers), and, if we can, a buddy to make a "herd."  But, the unexpected still occurs.  In Dawn's trailer, her mare was in the front straight-load area, with the dividing gate shut behind her.  We put both Rhio and Paco in the rear area, which is open.  We tied them on the slant, as they would travel in Gesa's trailer, heads to the driver's side. Both horses willingly loaded up and schooched in together.  There is no divider between them, nor any secondary barrier behind them, besides just the back door of the trailer.  This is the way they travel in Gesa's trailer, and many other trailers, without any issues in the past.  Today, we had an issue.

Upon arrival at the trail, we started to unload the horses and somehow Rhio and Paco had gotten their leadropes crossed over each other in the trailer.  Because it's an open stock trailer, I was able to reach through the slats and start untying them.  I did not do a good job of communicating what the issue was (totally my fault!) and meanwhile Gesa and Dawn opened the back of the trailer.  Rhio was loose at that point, but Paco still wasn't.  I was trying to get Paco untied (I should have just unclipped the leadrope from his halter - that whole hindsight 20/20 thing) and Rhio decided to scrambled out by himself - except that he had to pass Paco to do so, as Paco was the rear most horse.  Rhio tried to go under Paco's neck/leadrope, and Paco backed up to make space for him to do so - only Paco was still tied and stepped out of the trailer, scraping up a hind leg in the process.  The scrapes must have stung, as he was limping for a bit after we had them both sorted out, but he "walked it off" and with a little ointment to sooth the raw skin, we went on to have a fine ride.

We certainly don't set out to create an incident like this, and no lasting damage was done (both horses loaded right back into the trailer to go home without hesitation), but it is still scary and upsetting when things like this happen.  We will be hyperaware of this happening again, and probably go a bit overboard on prevention (for a while) - but I'm sure the next horse incident will be something completely unrelated.

Stopping at a puddle for a drink.

Rhio leads the group across the bridge.

The horses contemplate the trail.

Exploring a huge new logging road.
As for the ride, it was marvelous.  We rode & chatted for 7 miles, only turning around because of time constraints, and then realized we'd been riding with a stiff tail wind the entire way "out."  Oh, boy!  The wind was so strong coming "home" that I could feel my helmet slightly lifting off my head at times, and Rhio's mane and tail were streaming out behind us.  Luckily, it wasn't a cold wind, and we finished our longest training ride of the season, 14 miles in about 2 1/2 hours.  For the most part, the horses seemed compatible and we all really enjoyed ourselves.  I had less "race-brain" issues with Rhio coming home than the last time we rode in a group of three, so I was pleased with that.  He is fitter than he's ever been at the start of the season, and we have a total of 125 miles of conditioning so far this spring (most springs we're right around 100 miles by the first ride in May).

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