It started with a text on Christmas morning from Sister. "Are you feeling adventurous?" Coming from my sister this could mean far too many things for me to be comfortable giving a direct answer.
"I don't know. Why?"
She called me and explained she wanted to ride from the barn to her house so her boyfriend's nephews could pet the horses. "Come with me," she insisted. I wanted to go out and see my boy anyway and the ride to her place is only about 30 minutes. I thought I could sneak off for that long without my family missing me too much.
Little did I know that when I told my husband I was going he was going to freak out. I'm not even sure what kind of passive agressive BS that was but do you think he could just ask me to stay home? Of course not...it had to be the hairy eyeball rolling thing he does when he doesn't want to tell me not to do something but he's mad I didn't just read his mind. So, I called Sister and told her I wasn't going to make it. Just then my husband drug a bag of carrots he bought for the horses out of the fridge and plopped it on the counter beside me. "Just go," he growled and went back to chores which is what he does when he's mad. Really? Why'd he buy the horses Christmas treats and then get mad at me for wanting to go ride...argh. I will never get men. But never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I took him at his word and bolted.
I got to the barn just as Sister finished tacking up and rushed to get Tax out and saddled. By then it was 3:30 and I was starting to worry about making it to her house and back before dark. As long as we didn't stay too long we should make it but it aslo meant I didn't get time to warm Tax up in the arena and do an attitude check. Of course that means that everything that could go wrong did. Tax was a creep...even Promise was a creep. The garbage cans at the end of the driveway were scary, the dogs barking at the fence next door were scary. Promise REALLY did NOT want to leave the barn and kept trying to turn around and go home but sister was afraid to fight with him because Tax was so tense so instead she kept having to hop off and lead on foot. We got lost and had to double back a bit to find our trail again. We came across loose dogs and honking attack geese. And in a minute I'll tell you about the bike jumps but first a bit about traffic...
The Christmas traffic was terrible. Local folks drive really carefully around the horses even though we aren't riding right on the road most of the time other than a couple of places where we have to actually cross. The worst we typically get is someone who drives a little too fast but Sister (on her usually reliable pony) flags them and asks them to slow it down and they usually do. Christmas, however, meant a lot of vistors to our little rural area. We had two vehicles I'm pretty sure were purposely trying to scare the horses; honking and gunning their engines right next to us when the could clearly see my horse dancing around starting to panic and there was absolutely no reason for it but pure malice. Sometimes we have folks honk when they're excited about seeing horses and they wave...I get it and while it's inconvenient with my idiot horse we deal. These guys were just being awful and trying to cause an accident. We weren't on the road; we certainly weren't causing a problem for them. There must be a special place in hell for someone who would try to get someone else killed in a horrible accident like that on Christmas. Idiots.
Bike jumps...I used to run up and down them, hills and ditches, as a kid on my pony and it was great fun. The trail were were riding on Christmas was elevated with slopes down each side and water in the ditches along side. Some kid had dug down the trail right in the middle about 7-8 feet and it was almost a straight drop down, then a narrow bottom and then straight up the other side. Sitting 5 and a half feet off the ground and looking down at a huge drop off on my morondon does not bring back fond memories that make me want to try it again. As a matter of fact it makes fear boil up in the pit of my stomach bad enough that when we got to the first one I got off and walked. I can't get on Tax from the ground so once I'm off I'm off until I can find something to climb up which is fun when he's freaking out and dancing all over the place. We were close to the house and needed to cross the road so I decided walking was a great option at that point.
Going down in hand was actually not too bad. He went slow although sideways and with his head up like a llama. Why can't he watch where he's going? Up was another story...he blew up that hill sideways in two big leaps and nearly crashed into the back of Promise dragging me along with him by the reins. Whatever, we made it to the house finally without further incident and he was great with the kids. He grazed all sweetly while the family fawned over my "majestic" horse. Heehee...he is a pretty striking animal especially when you aren't used to horses.
I'd already gotten myself in trouble for going to the barn on Christmas now it was someone else's turn. Sister was in trouble with her boyfriend's mom for not being there. I have always, always ridden my horse on Christmas when I had one. Why do non-horsey people not understand this? We decided to get back to the barn as fast as possible because the light was getting low and Sister needed to get back for the Christmas dinner she hadn't planned on having.
We tried heading out at a trot but the horses were antsy to get back to the barn. Tax was bucking and crow hopping about twice a minute. Then we had the first of the creep drivers just as we got ready to cross the street to hit the trail with the bike jumps so that got him nice and riled up. Shortly after that we were back to the trail. On the way back we saw there was a small path next to the water in one of the ditches skirting the first bike ramp. The footing on the path looked okay so we decided to try it instead. I didn't want to get down now or I'd be walking quite a long way to find a suitable fence to help me get up on Tax again.
Sister took off too fast and got ahead while I was trying to negotiate some mud (which Tax also doesn't like) to get on the path. I called out to have her wait up but stopping on the way to the barn was not in Promise's plan for the day. He proptly turned, refused to listen to Sister's cue and went back up to the main trail. Tax was none too happy about that, let me tell you. Sister got to the top of that bike jump and immediately hopped off to walk it. Damn her and her long legs and short pony. We were doing okay until Tax and I got to the point where our path intersected with the bottom off the bike trail just as Sister started up the hill back out of it. Tax thought they were leaving him and just flat panicked. I could feel it in every muscle in his body. He backed onto the trail while I started calling out to Sister. It's what I do when I panic. Sister, Sister, Sister, Sister (except I use her real name in real life)...over and over. I remember thinking that I hate that my voice sounded panicky too. I was kicking Tax forward toward the path while he backed in a blind fury. I knew he was going up the hill after Promise no matter what and I flashed back to a fall he took on a hill on another trail ride because he just doesn't pay attention if he gets left behind. Then I couldn't think about anything because he was leaping up the hill sideways and flailing about. I remember a half a second of rational calm where I realized I just needed to let him go. I pushed my shaking hands forward to stop my frantic pulling and sank deep in my saddle grabbing the horn. Sister had stopped at the top afraid to go further and make his panic worse. We hit Promise hard in the butt as my horse twisted sideways trying to find purchase on the path. I prayed the mud would hold us and he wouldn't slip. Then we were standing at the top slightly off the path and I cannot believe I stayed on him. It was like riding a ship tossed in a storm. I immediately burst in to hysterical laughy tears. I don't think I've ever been so afraid in my whole life...I'm kinda proud we managed it but do not EVER want to do that again.
On the way back there were a couple of good moments but also too many stupid drivers and too many crow hops into Promises butt. We're so lucky he's got the patience of a saint. You'd never know these two try to kill each other the minute they're turned out together. I finally got off and walked the last couple of blocks as the twilight got too deep. Everyone got home safe. I'm still not getting a divorce and I have no idea if sister had the most uncomfortable dinner of her life but my guess would be yes. Man, this was supposed to be a relaxing ride!
Note to self...if Sister ever asks if I'm feeling adventurous, just say no.
Oh, so I cut December's mane. Yeah, with scissors and yes, I know I'm not supposed to but I got tired of trying to comb mud out and she won't let me pull it and sometimes I get impatient. Oh and yes, I cut it wet; thanks for asking. It's too short but only the top 1/3 closest to her ears so she has a mini-mohawk on top. I banded it and put her sleazy on her but I don't know if its going to help. I would only do something so stupid with a horse I need to sell. Heh...that's so not true. I constantly do stupid stuff. Sigh.
Next, I'll write about my niece's first fall off a horse. She and December are no longer friends.