Cowgirl up

You’d have thought it was Friday the 13th, but it
was only Wednesday.  I hate to be
superstitious.  I know it’s
illogical.  I prefer reason.  But once again, bad things come in threes.  I’m sure it’s just coincidence.  Right?

How many times have I heard from backpackers we pass
horseback on the trail (usually those going uphill with a heavy load upon their
back as I “just sit” on my horse) that riding is SO much easier.  Spoken by someone who’s not spent enough time
in the saddle, I say.  Working with
horses, it’s not a matter of if you’ll
get hurt, but when, how bad, and how many times.  I’ve heard of plenty of hikers getting tired
and sore. Yet I think of all the horse people I know who have broken collar
bones or pelvises, smashed toes, sprained wrists, lost fingers, and even
died.  I don’t hear these things
happening very often to backpackers.

Please don’t tell me it’s easy. Because right now, as I’m
nursing bruises to both body and ego, I’m thinking it feels pretty darned hard.

Stop that belly achin’, you tell me. And you are right.

So it all comes down to this.  Cowgirl up. No matter how tough things get,
hang on.  Don’t let go of that rope.

Here’s my example, my Wednesday the Thirteenth.  We’re packing into ditch camp.  I’m on my Arabian who up until last fall was
a stallion and was (still is) the father of most of my herd.  Not always an “easy” choice for a mountain
mount, but for those of us who choose them, we sure do learn to ride. Or at least, to hold on.

He’s in the lead.  We’re
coming out of the woods into the open, right on the flats of the Continental
Divide, way up there, way out there.  And
something spooks him.  I don’t know
what.  All I heard was a branch snap, and
it probably wasn’t much more, but you know how horses are.  So he bolts.

Well, I’ve not trained this guy to neck rein.  We still direct rein, which means to issue a
STOP command, I need one hand to let up and one hand to pull, thus turning the
head to the side, bringing the horse to a calm stop.  That’s the theory.  It’s technical horse talk, don’t worry about
trying to really get it if you’re not into horses.  But the bottom line is this.  It works.
If you can do it.  Of course at
this particular moment, I couldn’t.  I
had one hand holding the reins even, so all I could do was pull straight back,
which produces the “race horse response” by which the horse pushes into the bit
and goes faster.  And the other hand,
well, it was holding tight to the lead rope of my pack horse.

So, off we go over the Divide at a full out gallop, me on
this fancy little Arabian who’s spooked from a broken branch, and my loaded
down pack horse, running along even beside me.

We manage to stop. Somehow.
I don’t know how.  All I know is
there I was catching my breath, letting out the adrenaline, and noting that I
still had a firm hold of the lead rope and my pack horse was still there beside
me.  I call that a good move.

Next incident goes like this.  I’m leading Norman the New Guy across the
creek for his first day of ditch work.
Everything is new for him.  New
harness.  New environment.  New creek.
New experience.  I have to hop
across these three rocks to make it from one side to the other of this
creek.  The rocks are slick and my rubber
work boots don’t have great traction but with enough forward motion, it usually
works.  Usually.  Well, on this particular day, I’m leading a
horse who is not as sure as I am about crossing the creek.  So he stops to think about it.  Fine.
Only he does that at the same time I’m playing leap frog on those
rocks.  The lead rope I’m holding onto
jerks back as I try to leap forward and the ensuing physical response leaves me
flat on my rump in that cold water creek.
But… I still had a hold of that lead rope.

After a bit of anger and finding ways to blame my husband
for my own mishap (maybe he was scheming to get me to spend the day working in
those shorty shorts playing lady logger instead of donned in my usual baggy
levi jeans which spent the day hanging from the tent to dry), I’m back to work,
in the ditch with horse and shorty shorts.
I’m figuring maybe this would be a good time to work on suppleness and
responsiveness with my horse.  Right
there in the ditch.  Well it doesn’t work
as I planned, and the horse spooks, jumps my way, knocks me over, and the next
thing  know I have a draft horse
scrambling over me while I’m down in the dumps in that ditch.  I’m seeing long legs and mighty big feet all
around and don’t quite know which way is up.

When it’s all over, I realize he managed to avoid stepping
on me.  Fifteen hundred pound on my
hundred fifteen pounds would not have been a good combination.  I love that big boy even more.

And the best part of it?

There I was in the bottom of the ditch, my shorty shorts
covered in mud, my thighs battered and bruised, and my front end dragged over
my hind end.  But I still had a hold of
that horse’s rope.

Anyway, the moral to the story is probably something to do with
holding on, no matter what.  I can’t say
it’s something I thought about much at the time.  Any of the times.  But it’s something you got to do.

And about that part on bad luck coming in threes?  Well, I still don’t want to believe that.  But nor am I in the mood to try my luck.  For now, my body is bruised and my confidence
shot.  I think I’ll walk for a while.

At least until tomorrow when I got more work horseback
coming up.

And hope I have some better luck.