Sunday, September 27, 2009

Maddie Makes Good (almost)

Pat and Rusty and Maddie and I loaded up this morning for a KVTR casual ride up Robinson Canyon, west of E-burg. We used my new-to-me trailer, a Classic 3-horse with "Rumber" floor (no mats, no rust, no rot!), to make up for all the times this summer that Pat volunteered to do the hauling. The area we rode in is all within the L. T. Murray Elk Preserve, so no motorized vehicles allowed beyond the parking area.
Leaving the trailers (there were eight riders) there was a pretty substantial hill for the first quarter mile or so, so Maddie was pretty settled when we reached the real trail.
This was the first real trail ride off the ranch since the poker ride in May. There was no jigging today like she did then. She kept up well, but didn't crowd the horses in front of her, only once looked askance at something unseen is the woods, and generally earned herself an A+ for the first two-thirds of the outing.
This little palomino gelding is only four, like Maddie, but has a few more miles on him. He did really well.
This little Paint filly is only three, and this was her first time out with a bunch of other horses. She also did really well.
Have I mentioned how much I love being in the trees?!
Our lead rider, 70-something John, brought us up to this "lookout." I got these two photos from Maddie's back, but the gal I asked to take one of the two of us with the view behind must have pushed the wrong button, because although she "took" at least 5 or 6 shots, both of us and of the whole group, there were none on the camera when I got home. :-(
Starting back down, we came to this wide meadow, that John called "the pig farm." Don't know why pigs particularly, but it's the site of an old homestead. If you look closely (or em-big-en the photo) you'll see the side of a stone cold-cellar right under the pair of trees to the right of John's black helmet. At the right of the photo (not visible in this shot) is a stone retaining wall, which must have been the site of either the house or barn. We had to watch carefully, because there were a few odd pieces of rusty old farm implements hidden in the yellow grass. Someone had, at one point, gone to the trouble of collecting all of the farmstead's old barb-wire fencing, and stowing it out of the way. That's the worst kind of trail surprise to trip over.
Here's the view from across the meadow.
We took a twenty minute break here. Maddie stood nice and quiet. Another A+ moment.
Unfortunately, after the break, she must have felt well-rested, because I got a little bit of rushing (though not quite to the point of jigging). We finally got settled back down, when we came to THE STREAM!
All of about 10 inches wide--which makes it dangerous because they want to leap across it--it took a few minutes for all three of the greenies to get across, then less to go back, but on the third schooling, Maddie started to jump and I checked her back--at which time she half reared, and hopped across on her back legs! I twisted a little in my back, so in the spirit of self-preservation, we called it good, and the group continued on it's way. Her A+ slipped to an A-, but I was still happy with her general behavior.
The second stream crossing!
This time it was down in a little draw, and about 8 feet of muddy slop! The palomino chugged right across, but the little Paint took a few minutes. Because there wasn't much room in this spot, Maddie and I waited for her, along with one of the more seasoned horses. When it was our turn, Maddie went right to the edge, but would have NOTHING to do with getting her pretty feet dirty!
After several minutes of trying to ride her across, with her whirling away at the last minute, each approach, my back was starting to twinge, and my courage was rapidly diminishing. So, discretion being the better part of valor, I climbed down and we tried leading her across.
It's worth noting that last year, at this same creek (though perhaps not the same place) a rider who was trying to lead her horse across, got landed on by same, when he leapt the menace. She had to be air-lifted out, and has several pins and a plate in her leg now, to show for it. So I was careful not to be in front of Maddie. But I had brought just a regular web halter and 10 foot barn lead rope, instead of my trainer's rope halter with it's 15 foot lead (including popper). And because of the little dip in the trail, it was awkward to maneuver without getting in the way.
We tried leading her from another horse.
We tried taking all of the other horses down the trail out of sight (this almost worked--at least she thought about it harder).
We tried pushing her from behind with a sturdy cow pony.
We tried snubbing her to another sturdy horse.
We thought about putting Barry's lariat on her, to give us more lead leeway, but he was hesitant, so he just used the coils to push her butt from behind--almost worked, but I think he didn't want to really get after someone else's horse.
She would get right to the edge, maybe even get her fronts into the mud a few inches, then she literally sat down and whipped away to the rear.
After nearly twenty minutes, I was frustrated, embarrassed, and dripping sweat. And exhausted.
At one point, early on, I had unsnapped my training reins, because they are too short to hook over the horn (and give her any head stretching room), and had slid up her neck to the point that they were threatening to get tangled up in her feet. So I got behind her with them (snaps in my hand) and just started thwacking her. Hard. The gal in front, with the leadrope snubbed to her saddle horn, kept the pressure forward. Maddie sat down again, but with the steady pull forward, she started to slide down into the quagmire.She leapt up again, but couldn't turn, so suddenly...
...she was on the other side.
We had held up the group now for half an hour, and I was too tired to even think about "schooling" the obstacle again. And I still had to get back on.
I walked Maddie up the trail to where everyone else was waiting. There were no convenient rocks or stumps to use as a mounting blocks, so I put her down hill from me a bit, Pat held her head (and gave me a little shove), and, by golly, I was back on.
A bit farther down the draw we approached another spot, that in the spring would have had water, but at this time of the year was dry. But Maddie was suspicious. Pat and Rusty led the way. Maddie snuggled right up to Rusty's shoulder and scooted through.

Maddie was quiet (pooped?) the rest of the way down to the trailers.
Much of the mud on her hindquarters was brushed off in the tall grass at the top of the last hill. But I think you can get the idea.
Her Simple Boots stuck with her through it all.
Maddie's A+ ride had tanked, to maybe a C+ (if I feel generous).
Does she look suitably ashamed of herself?
To her credit, she did load well for the ride home.
"Get me outta here!"


  1. Oh Maddie...sounds like you two have lots of stream crossings in your future. Too bad that a good ride had to end on such sour note.

  2. Sounds like so much fun, well except for crossing the stream. Loved your story!

  3. Water, for some reason, can be a real challenge for some horses. My mare Maisie used to be terrible about water - at least as bad as Maddie was, if not worse. We worked on it at at a clinic and now she's as good as gold about water - in fact about obstacles of any kind. But at least it sounds as though Maddie was really good about almost everything else - focus on the positive!

  4. Argh, how frustrating! But nobody got hurt, and you didn't push her so fast or so hard about it that she'll be scared in the future. I'm sure it felt really embarrassing, but you know every rider there has been in that situation with a horse in the past. It happens!

    Hope your back feels ok today.

  5. Wow! I can feel your pain from here. Really enjoyed the story and the pictures. Actually, much more interesting plot development than a perfectly non-eventful ride would have been. Does that make you feel better? Somehow, I believe Maddie will gain confidence with the next ride, and be even better for the one after that. Hang in there. As for her expression, she does look a bit sheepish:)

  6. Oh time, you'll do better. I have read many assignments that started off in the A+ range but ended with a (generous) C+. Live and learn, Maddie - your human won't make you do anything that is going to put you in danger. Suck it up, horsie, and take that next stream like a pro!

  7. Aaaaghh, horses. lol! She'll get better with those stream crossings each time. But the real question is how much patience do you have? hehe!
    Thanks for sharing the ride with us. The pics were great!