Thursday, January 21, 2010

Trail Riding

I have been riding Galahad more lately. Midnight's little 14-inch saddle (necessary because of his small size and his swayed back) doesn't fit me or Galahad very well. Yesterday a friend lent me her endurance saddle, one that she doesn't use on her small-framed Paso Fino. It fits Galahad perfectly, and is extremely comfortable.

I rode him bareback out to graze back before it got so cold--and promptly fell off when I tried to get off his back. It was graceful, they said (wouldn't you know I'd have an audience of other riders), and some even thought that landing in a seated position near Galahad's head was intentional. It was just that the distance between his back and the ground and from Midnight's back to the ground is about a foot different.

Yesterday, with the "new" saddle, we went out with a group of friends on their gaited horses. Galahad was amazingly good. It was a chilly morning, just the way the horses like it, and all of them wanted to run. The other horses were all pitching fits, bouncing around, and just generally being baaaad boys. True to his quarter-horse breeding, Galahad walked calmly along, for the most part, though he was hyper-alert and interested in everything. I had to urge him into a trot several times to catch up to the others. Gaited horses move very quickly, and my guy tends to prefer a casual saunter to anything that takes much effort.

Halfway through the ride, we came to a short but steep downhill section of the trail. All four horses, including Galahad, broke into a canter. At the bottom of the hill we encountered another group of riders, and stopped to chat. The horses, predictably, got excited with the little bit of a run, and with seeing yet more of their buddies.

Things got a little dicey for me at that point.

We were OK until the others rode off to continue the ride. Galahad, picking up the energy of the other horses, wanted to canter, and I didn’t—I’m still not all that comfortable with that gait. When I asked him to walk, he refused and started to run; so I took firm hold of the right-hand rein and cranked his head to the side until his nose nearly touched my toe. This is called the “one-rein stop,” and it’s a lifesaver, sometimes literally. With his head in that position, all the horse can really do is spin.

And spin he did, let me tell you. At least three times clear around before he even thought about slowing down. I released the pressure just a little, and he was ready to run again. So I cranked (BTW, that doesn’t hurt their mouth, because the pressure is against the side of their face) and he spun. We kept that up for quite a while. Finally, he agreed to stand still.

A couple of my companions brought their horses back, and we cut the ride a little bit short. Galahad, to his credit, walked back very nicely.

When we got back to the barn, in spite of his little fit, the group voted him the best behaved of all the horses. Very good boy! And I learned that I can actually stay on him when he misbehaves.

I didn’t start shaking until I got off….

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