Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Last Ride

Rewind from my last post, back to last Sunday, the 22nd.

I stayed with Chelsea Saturday night, went to El Gran for dinner and drinks, then headed out to the barn on Sunday morning to tack up for our last ride together on Orion and Kit at the old barn.  The only issue in getting started was Orion's reluctance to take his bit because the big brat knew he could prolong leaving the barn if he did.

Finally, after much struggling, it took a team effort of Chelsea, Linda, and I to coax him into taking it, and we headed out.  Chelsea recently got permission to ride on an old trail that Orion and I used to love and go on until the land changed hands, and we stopped going because we didn't know the people and whether or not they were okay with us riding there.  So with newly acquired permission, we headed up that way.  There were lots of new things on the way that didn't used to be there...large trucks, timber piles, and a group of people, among other things.  Both horses were a little nervous but not enough to really act up.  With our guidance and words and pats of encouragement, they kept it together.

It turned out that no one had been on the trail since Hurricane Sandy blew through almost a couple years ago.  Jeez, it doesn't seem like it's been that long! Time flies!  There were downed trees, but other than those, the trail was in relatively good shape.  We had to get off to lead the horses under two trees before getting maybe 2/3 of the way up the first leg of the trail before it branches off and coming across a tree that we could go under or around.  Both horses handled it relatively well.  The first tree presented a problem the first time we went under it, on our way up the hill.  Kit, with her pony shortness, cleared it just fine.  I had to lift it up slightly to let Orion pass under it, and when I thought he had cleared his saddle horn (I was riding Western), I let it down slightly and turned to walk him the rest of the way away from it.  Bad move.  Apparently he backed up slightly when I let the tree down, and he wedged his saddle horn under it.  I heard Chelsea yell something as she was looking back at us and heard Orion suddenly scuffle around behind me.  I glanced back and just had time to jump to side as he came barreling out from under the tree like a bat out of hell.  He just barely clipped me with his shoulder as he started to go by, and I fell.  He ran into Kit's butt, and she swung around and glared at him as if to ask what the hell he thought he was doing.  He immediately looked chastised and calmed down as I was climbing off the ground, still holding his rope.  I didn't have a mark on me, somehow, but I was peeved.  Chelsea later remarked that her favorite part of the day was me ranting and ending with, "Why the hell is it that every time we ride, I always somehow end up on the ground??"

The rest of the ride progressed just fine.  It was great being able to ride in the woods again (since last fall, most of the trails that we normally go on had been closed to us, so when we did ride, we had to ride on the road - a back road, don't worry - but it's not as good as riding in the woods.  Orion gets bored on the road but loves the woods as much as I do, if not more.).  The only other slight issue was overcome pretty easily, and I was proud of us for it.  When we got to that last tree, Chels rode Kit up the hill a little ways to see if we could ride around the uphill side of it.  That was a no go, but Orion almost had a panic attack at the possibility of his herd mate leaving him and first tried to bolt up the hill after her, then when I thwarted that, he almost crashed into a bush, contemplated jumping down the hill on the other side of the trail, then just ended up spinning a couple circles when I pulled his head toward my leg to keep him from doing anything stupid, as it was obvious he had stopped thinking logically at that point.  By that time, Chels and Kit had picked their way back down the hill to us, and he immediately chilled out.  I got off and led him down the trail in anticipation of having to lead him under the next tree on the way back.
Just after crossing under tree #2 on the way up the hill.  You can see it in the background, and you can kind of see Orion's sunburned pink nose.  Poor dude.  I need to get some baby sunblock for him.


He smacked his sunburned nose off a branch as he tried to grab a snack and split one of his scabs open. -_-  After that, the only thing he was concerned about as we walked back was his stinging nose and trying to scratch it on every single thing in reach. Including me.  Brat.

When we got back to the tree that he had been stuck under on the way in, Chelsea and I stood around for a few minutes trying to find another way around it to avoid the same thing happening.  What I eventually decided to do was to loosen the girth, slowly slide the saddle sideways so the horn wasn't sticking straight up, and see if Orion was freaked out by it or not.  Dude stood patiently.  I got a what-the-hell-are-you-doing-to-me glance and an ear flick at one point, but then he was unconcerned.  I then took him to the tree and lifted it with the hand I was holding his rope in (I thankfully had my long lead rope with us on this ride), held onto his girth to keep the saddle from sliding under his belly with the other hand, and clucked him through.  He was slightly confused for a minute before slowly ambling under it, unsure if that's what I wanted him to do.  Good boy.  It was an awkward situation, but it worked.  I was especially proud of the fact that all the work I did with him last summer on staying with me, not walking ahead of me, seemed to pay off at that moment.  It wasn't the best moment for that lesson to kick in, as I actually needed him to walk past me, but it was nice to see that he at least thought about it.  He wasn't scared or really even that nervous; he just seemed confused.

Once we were on the other side, I tied him to a tree and fixed the saddle.  Ohhhh if only you could have seen the evil death glare I got upon tightening the girth back up.   He was not a happy camper.  I'm pretty sure he thought he was done for the day when I loosened it the first time.  But after pointing and warning him about being an ass, he sighed and turned back to watch Kit amble underneath the tree to us.

By this point, we could hear wood saws going down where the timber piles and people had been. -_-  We decided to walk the horses back so that they felt like there were more numbers of us for safety, because the saws were loud, and we were going to have to walk right by them.  They did fine, with a couple snorts and wary looks toward the people, who thankfully stopped to let us pass when they saw us coming back up their driveway.

After that, it was smooth sailing.  I put Orion below me on the hillside and hopped up on him (I'm short, he's tall, and even with a Western saddle, I still find it difficult to get on him unless I do this or have something to stand on.), and we headed home.  We even rode through the spare field to get back, which is something I haven't done for a while because we almost always have bad experiences when riding there.  No problemo.



We faced challenges, and we handled them fairly well.  Most of them were due to circumstance and not anything with us, so I was happy with how it went.  All in all, it was a fun and interesting last ride, and I couldn't have been happier.

Orion had three days left at his home of the past two years and ten months.  I told him to enjoy it as I put let him back into the field with his buddies, and then Chelsea and I packed up the majority of my barn stuff and took it to the new barn.

It was a great day. :)