Sunday, November 29, 2009

Invisible swordsman!

Today we did the Mines, backwards, plus some extra wandering in the desert. It was 5.18 miles in 1:43, average 3.0 mph.

We meandered off at our usual pitiful pace, but Dixie picked up her speed pretty fast headed down the wide canyon trails. Everything was going pretty smoothly til we rounded a corner and encountered the Invisible Swordsman. I don't know what else it could've been - I sure couldn't see anything there, and Cersei couldn't see anything either. But Dixie was sure a monster was lurking. She did that Horse Helicopter Thing. You know what I'm talking about - the horse starts snorting with that extra WHRRR noise and helicoptering her head up and down to get a better look at the monster. I just sat there and talked quietly to her til she decided the danger was past, and we continued down the trail.

She was pretty nervous after that brush with death, so I rode extra calm and things went well. We made it to the furthest out point and turned onto the canyon that would take us home and proceeded up it. Then the Invisible Swordsman struck again! (Or more likely, Cersei broke a branch behind us.) Dixie lost her shit and bolted up this narrow canyon. On the first stride, I hollered "Dixie!" in exasperation. On the second stride, I reached forward and grabbed the left rein as far up as possible. On the third, I briefly considered how one-rein-stopping her was a Very Bad Idea, but how letting her run was An Even Worse One. I pulled her head left, up the canyon slope onto a pile of boulders and tree branches, and she stopped instantly. What an awesome mare!

We continued toward home, but she was even spazzier and I kinda lost the trail and ended up at the top of a sand slope, surrounded on all sides by nasty rocky footing. My only choice was to turn around and head back down the slope, but Dixie felt very stupid. Like, she was going to either plunge down the slope on her forehand or she was going to bolt down the slope and kill us both. I got off and walked her for almost a mile, and she gradually calmed down more and more. We detoured down a wash til I found a mounting block - a juniper that was probably 500 years old and hadn't ever grown more than 24" high. I stood on the scraggly stump and she lined up perfectly by it!

We did a little more exploring on the way home. I found a mountain we can climb next time. That sounds kinda silly, because everywhere you look there's mountains, but some of them are too steep for me to comfortably ride back down and most of them are too rocky. I'm not worried about Dixie's feet as much as I am about her slipping! :( But this one looks doable.

The three of us shared a tangerine when we got back safely.


  1. I envy you! when im riding and they do the helicopter thing, i get really tense and start to worry, but my mom says i dont show it (thats all that counts) :p

  2. Hahaha, dude, I'm terrified too! I've spent years working on not showing it through my body language, or at least fixing it as soon as I tense up! There's a little tiny part of the back of my brain that's always running the worst-case checklist: "If she rears lean forward. If she tries to spin check her. If she bolts then one-rein-stop. If you fall off don't let go of the reins." Talking nonsense and remembering to breathe calmly and keep my legs relaxed and my hands soft is ALL practice.

  3. Getting off and walking can be just the thing to calm things down - I don't have to do it that often but when I do it's OK - sounds like all ended well!

  4. Egad, you're giving me flashbacks to the early years with The Toad! I am so glad (lucky) to have lived through all those "helicopter moves"...and I suppose it has made me much more secure in the saddle.


    Under the heading of "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger", I suppose, but criminy: be careful!

  5. Yall, I used to have to walk so much more than I do now. Her helicoptering isn't even terrible anymore - she did not melt down at the end of it, she just had to have a good freaked-out look at the invisible monster. It's progress. Baby steps!


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