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Lesson Learned, Another Educational Ride

Published: 9/19/2012
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By Maddy Butcher Gray

This I Believe:
Pep is a solid, sensitive mare. We have a trusting partnership. We understand each other’s subtlest cues. Oftentimes, Our Minds Are One.

Except when they aren’t.

A certain disconnect crept into an otherwise pleasant Sunday ride. It happened as we descended into a dark, thickly green ravine.
Over the summer, I had devoted many, many hours to exploring trails around the nearby wildlife management area. My efforts paid off by our spending less time on dusty gravel roads and more time in beautiful fields, meadows, and woods.
One reconnaissance trek found us cutting down a slope into this aforementioned ravine, scaling up the other side, and climbing a half-mile hill towards the best view around.
At first, I tried it with dogs. (Photo) It was steep, thick with vines, trees, and secondary growth. We eventually found a horse-worthy deer path.
I introduced Pep to the route. After several passes, she was taking it in stride.
Or, so I thought.
This Sunday ride had, up to then, been one of the summer’s best. With cooler temperatures and a summer’s worth of conditioning, we covered eight miles in no time. We galloped stretches of field, skirted the firing range, and handled crazy cyclists and motorbikes without incident.
The ravine was the only hurdle to clear before the home stretch of gravel road towards home.
At its top, Pep came to a dead stop.
I pointed her down the path and gave her a second to make the choice. She said, ‘no, I’d rather go this way.’
I said, ‘how about we go this way?’
She said, ‘this way is better.’
I said, ‘we’ve done this a half dozen times. C’mon.’
When managing steep descents, most horses hunker down on their butts.

Click for crazy hog-hunting ride with Marsh Tacky horses.

When our discussion ended, I shifted my weight, anticipating this downhill scoot.
Nuthin’ doing. Pep launched herself, like a rocket, off the side of the ravine.
Ever seen a Dock Dog competition, where dogs hurl themselves off a platform and into a pool? That was us, but without the water.
We landed. I discovered I was still in the saddle. Pep trotted through the thick greenery and hustled up the other side. I grabbed her mane and ducked through the last of the undergrowth.

We popped onto the road like a kid at the end of a playground slide, shook off some leaves, checked for scrapes, and continued towards home.

-- Whatever happened to a horse’s sense of self-preservation?
-- Whatever happened to ‘A Horse Looks after Her Rider?’
None of that.
Today’s lesson, evidently, was “Relax and Learn.”

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9/26/2012 Jane
Wow!... that was some huge threshold she blasted through!....what happened before what happened, happened!?...hmmm, interesting how she gave feedback at the top... 'can't do this! i'm too unconfident', pressure goes on then bang! the right brain explosion! Glad you both got out unscathed :) Thanks for sharing.

"Speak kindly to your little horse, and soothe him when he wheezes, or he may turn his back on you, and kick you where he pleases" - Anonymous