Imagine, the perfect day. You are finally on that vacation you have been dreaming about and heading out for an overnight trail ride. You have been planning and saving for this trip for a year and it is finally here! The sky if a crystal clear blue and the sun is shining down. You smile as the leaves move in the summer breeze and the shadows dance across the trail. You are thinking - it just can't get any better than this, when all at once, all heck breaks loose. Your horse jumps, nearly unseating you, and you watch as several out of control horses gallop past you, and then you see the rider go flying into the air. He lands with a thump and you hear him moan. PTL that this time his head missed the rock that he landed by. Luckily, this time, there are no life threatening injuries, although that does not preclude several weeks of pain and stiffness. However, this is one of the "good stories". There are just as many where the ending is not so happy. We live in an area abundant with rocky terrain. So we really need to stop and think before we mount up - "just how safe is this horse?"
A short while ago, we were at a training session in Stagecoach, NV, when a lady commented on "California Riders". She looked at me and said "no offense". I had to laugh, because up until a short time ago, I was guilty of exactly what they call "California Riders". I grew up, like so many others, simply getting on the horse and riding, and hanging on like crazy if it exploded or was spooked by something on a ride. I rode for years before I ever even heard of a round pen. I was a country kid on her pony, running as fast as we could, never worrying about anything except our horse's legs. (We grew up where if a horse had a broken leg, it was a death sentence - so we protected their legs like nothing else.) We learned on a pony (bareback - as we couldn't afford a saddle) that taught us to hang on. He would dump us in every manner known and then some. But he taught us to hang on and some serious lessons. We just learned as we went and by the grace of God we never ended up with any serious injuries. It was a dream childhood in that respect and I treasure every memory.
However, although riding a horse can be one of the most amazing and enjoyable activities known to mankind, it can also be dangerous if your horse isn't safe. I spent many years at a place where there were overnight rides. When my friend and I offered to do some "desensitization training", we were told NO, in no uncertain terms. When I asked why?, I was told for two reasons. The first was that "they didn't want us to bring back any hidden traumas that the horses might have experienced". (Hmmmmm I might be silly, but I would definitely prefer to find out that my horse was terrified of a slicker, a can or bottle opening, or a hat falling when I was already on the ground and in a safe and controlled environment.) The second reason was simple liability. By not finding out if the horses on your string will spook if someone takes off a rain jacket, drops their hat or opens a bottle of fizzy water, folks can say "they didn't know". Unfortunately these decisions are a direct result of the world of lawsuits that we live in. We are now in a world where law suits and liability issues are a major concern and people are scared; so they make decisions based on the "what if someone sues us? It is a tough position to be in, but one accident can change your life forever. So if you are going on a trail ride - ask about your horse. Will they spook if your hat falls off? Can you drop your sweatshirt and be safe? Knowing your horse is safe will make for a very pleasant ride.
I have to say I watched a gentlemen travel a great distance through the air after opening a sparkling water. He was on a string horse, and it did sound like a rattlesnake when that bottle opened. His horse bolted and galloped off, followed by the other rider and it took a few minutes to get my horse under control. Horses tend to "follow the leader", especially when a horse is exhibiting "flight" tendencies and is terrified. That reaction is basic and goes back to the fact that survival for the horses has always been "fight or flight". So they tend to think that when another horse is running for it's life, well maybe that it is a good idea to leave and be safe as opposed to stopping and checking out why that other horse took off.
Another thing you might want to do is make sure that you are in a "safe frame of mind". I was working with a young colt that had been severely traumatized. He was a wild mustang and had been adopted out and then returned. He was extremely sweet, but everything scared him. I had been riding him bareback a little bit at a time, and he was making some progress. However, this is one of those times when the horse was simply not ready to be ridden. I spent months with him doing ground work, but he was so traumatized that I should have realized he needed to just "be a horse". Unfortunately I went out and worked with him on a day even when I was upset about something that had happened earlier and was not paying attention. Due to myself being so stressed, I simply fed him that stress and we ended up with a train wreck and I hit the ground. This horse was so sweet that instead of ending up stepping on me, Matt saw him turn mid air and crash into the fence to avoid landing on me. He simply had not been given the tools to react safely when I goosed him in the flank. This event changed my life, so hopefully my mistake will allow other folks to learn without the pain :). (My doctor said that if I mess up this 3rd knee replacement or break it, he wants to amputate, so I really need to make smarter decisions and stay safe. I didn't injure my leg, but shattered my pelvis and tail bone and I was simply getting on the horse.) This was several years ago, but I can tell you that I paid dearly for not taking the proper steps to make sure my horse was safe. So make sure that you are not only smarter than I was, but calm, paying attention, and ready to have a good and safe session with your horse.
We can encounter so many different things out on the trails; bridges, water, bicycles, dirt bikes, dogs and quads, just to name a few. I was talking with a lady today that said she actually had a bicyclist come by and slap her horse on the butt. That alone would be enough to cause a train wreck for a lot of the horses that are out there. If your horse can "complete" the obstacle course, it will have learned some of the answers it needs to solve problems it may encounter and will have the proper tools to react to a given situation. It is very difficult to cover every situation, but it sure makes sense to do everything we can to have a safe horse.
I know that as a parent, I would want my child's horse to be as "bombproof" as possible. I saw a lady at a fair with a tiny baby in her stroller. The stroller was literally up against a police horse's back legs and the horse's tail was inside the stroller. Now that is a well trained and extremely safe horse.
Since joining with LRTC (Least Resistance Training Concepts) www.whmentors.org, we are beginning to improve our facility and implement what we are learning. By creating the CHILLY PEPPER - MIRACLE MUSTANG "OBSTACLE AND TRAINING COURSE", we hope to make sure that every horse that comes through our rescue leaves a much safer animal.
Due to the extreme temperatures and lack of moisture lately, we have added a couple of items to our Wish List. We have noticed that some of the horses (including Honey Bandit) have been coughing due to the large amounts of dust in the air. So we are putting up sprinklers around the paddocks to not only keep the horses from overheating, but to keep down the dust so it won't be an issue and cause them to cough so much. Thank you in advance for your help in this area. :)
Garden Hoses (doesn't matter if they need a little repair - we are expert hose repairers! )
SO COME AND CELEBRATE HONEY BANDIT'S 3RD BIRTHDAY & OUR 4TH ANNUAL OPEN HOUSE! BEAT THE HEAT IN THE COOL PINES & ENJOY THE FRESH MOUNTAIN AIR
CHECK OUT THE CHILLY PEPPER - MIRACLE MUSTANG OBSTACLE AND TRAINING COURSE
ENJOY BARBEQUE AND BIRTHDAY CAKE! 474-5197 with Questions
Saturday - August 17, 2013
11:00 a.m. - ????
34694 Sidebottom Road
Shingletown, CA 96088
Remember - this is your "rescue" and you make what happens here possible!! THANK YOU & GOD BLESS!
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PO BOX 233
GOLCONDA, NV 89414