Monday, March 2, 2009

Valentines Day to The Extreme

I can't believe it, but three weekends ago was Valentine's day. I was home from school that weekend and was so excited to ride again. It had been two weeks since I had been home and ridden the 'spotted one.' She has the greatest personality in that she tolerates me not riding for weeks at a time, only to come back and jump on her back like we hadn't missed a day. My goal was to go for a long ride to make up for our lack of riding, but before we headed out, I wanted to get a nice picture of her saddled up.

We headed out and went over to the old trail tracks to do some loping. It had been wet for a few days so I wasn't expecting to go very fast, especially if she acted up at all. But she didn't. She was calm and responsive, so once we got to our 'running spot,' which is a stretch of the straightaway that has no other trails dumping into it which could really cause an accident if anyone was to pop out, I urged her into a lope. Now, let me explain something just real quick as I will explain it in more detail in a future post: Mercy can be a bucker. She has only gotten my off once when I wasn't paying attention to her. Most importantly, I am NOT afraid of her or her antics, but I am alert and aware. Every time we lope I try to set her up for success, but there are no guarantees. Anyway, this day was one of those good days: she wanted to go! I urged her more and she gave me a little more speed. Again I asked her for more. Every time I did, she responded. And when we got to our 'stopping spot,' a little seat pressure and she slowed immediately. Perfect.
That part of the ride was a thrill. I could not have asked more from her. It could sound so silly to some of you, but loping/galloping with Mercy has been a challenge for us both. And, we need to get through it together if we are every going to get to barrel racing! Of course speed comes later in training, but you still need speed to game and be competitive, obviously. She and I will also need to get this figured out if we ever want to get to a reining show. Oh my plans are finally becoming a reality. Slowly but surely we'll get there (and without being mentally fried and lame! Bonus!).

Now, to reveal the hint I posed as my computer crashed last week: technically, there is nothing in THAT picture of salal, a native plant of western Washington. But as we started to head back home after weaving in and out of some old growth-type wooded trails, we heard a rustle ahead. Well, quite honestly, that's not unusual. There are bears, deer, elk, bobcats, cougars, and many other large animals found where we ride, no big deal right? Wrong. It wasn't any of those animals. What we rode up to was a young Spanish speaking man. Not unusual enough yet? YOU COULDN'T SEE HIM! Literally! He had bundles of this salal covering his whole body as he trudged through the undergrowth. The pictures below don't even begin to look like what we saw, but they are the best I can find that was big enough. I am dead serious now when I say we couldn't see the guy under all of this foliage.

At first the horses were OK, I think cause they didn't realize that it was a 'bush' that was moving. They just knew something was moving and they couldn't see it. They stood stock still.

I thought, "Good, no one's panicking."
Then Starlett moved forward with my mom, Mercy and I tagging along. They rode on, both keeping an eye on the unknown moving object to our left. Then, at the same exact time, both Starlett and the young man entered the gravel service road, at which point Star spooked and tried to run off to get away from the at least 7 foot tall and wide green monster emerging from the forest. I was somehow able to hold Mercy back and on the trail so she wouldn't enter the road and try bolting too. With Mercy still decently quiet and standing, I knew Star wouldn't go too far. Plus my mom had a good hold on her, just in case. When I realized the young man didn't speak English, I dismounted and gave Mercy a pat. No sense in getting hurt entering the road, plus I know she doesn't feel 'rewarded' when I get off. I think this also gave Star the courage to relax a little, giving my mom a little easier time handling her.
The young man was scared too. He did the right thing though, taking all of the salal bundles off his back, sides, head, and front, leaving himself in only his boots and rubber overalls. I know he didn't understand me, but I talked to him to make the horses more comfortable. I thanked him over and over for putting his load down. Mercy even wanted to say hi, but I just wanted to keep moving so we didn't have any more spooks. I lead Mercy past and Star followed on the other side of us.

A little distance later, I remounted and we continued our trail ride. We eventually rode past the young man's van, full of salal bundles harvested earlier that day, waiting for transport. Remember, or if you are unaware, salal is common floral arrangement greenery, so harvesting it (legally) is big here, especially around Valentine's day. The salal that grows around this land where we ride is beautiful and very marketable as very little is damaged or has black spot. For some reason, we thought they would be gone from the area since it was Valentine's day... silly us....

It's a good laugh now, but how can you expect that? Seriously. You could never prepare a horse for that. I am just so grateful that we have two willing and trusting horses who at least give us the opportunity to show them that it is OK when we are there. (BTW mom- great job handling our 'crazy, wild, semi-retired barrel racing, 20-year-old stallion, mare!' ;) )

After returning to the barn, my mom took a few neat pictures of Mercy and I, just for kicks.

When we got back and unsaddled the horses, I decided to try and take a decent conformation shot of Miss Cedes. She is truly a difficult one to get decent pictures of because the way her mane sticks up causes the illusion of a seriously thick and somewhat disfigured neck. I promise it's really not that way! It is a little more 'ewed' than I would like, but she carries her head low naturally, so I am not that concerned.

And of course, an apple for the good spotted pony and a nice roll ends the crazy, exciting return to riding.

1 comment:

Latigo Liz said...

Good job!

She’s a cupcake, really. The whole time I had her in Wyoming she NEVER offered a buck, but I was prepared, just in case.

Good to hear someone is riding. ;)