Just Out for a Walk
If we have time, Ellen and I often go on a hike after we ride. The easiest thing to do is to just walk on the hill that leads to the river—that way, we don’t have to drive anywhere. We typically do 3 trips up and down. It is a good workout.
We were out walking on the hill the other day, and it was covered with snow and very sloppy, so we weren’t going very fast. On our first trip up, we saw an old friend riding on a Quarter Horse mare that she started leasing this summer when her Arabian mare died. Those of you that have my book would recognize her and her horse, Beauty. I put several pictures of them in my book. She has had 3 Arabians, and I believe that every anecdote in my book that mentions an Arabian, it is one of hers. It seems like she was always getting into some sort of trouble back with I was writing my book.
She told us how well the lease was working out, and that, though she misses having an Arabian, she really felt that at this point in her life, a quiet Quarter Horse is so much more suitable. The only problem was that the horse that she is leasing is not at a stables with an indoor arena. She said it had been many years since she was out riding in the snow.
She headed down the hill, and we followed, slowly, after her. We saw her at the bottom, and she asked me to check her new bit to make sure it fit correctly. It looked good, so she headed up the hill ahead of us. Her horse started jigging and prancing to get up the hill. She was very anxious to get home. As they started up the slope, we saw the mare do a couple of canter strides—and then buck. Our friend tumbled to the ground. She just lay there, still holding the reins, calling, “help,” as the horse looked like she was going to lick her face.
Ellen and I were scurrying as fast as we could to get to her. I got a hold of the reins, and I sighed relief as our friend stood up. She wasn’t hurt seriously, but she was shaken up. She took the reins, and we all started walking up the hill together. So much for a quiet Quarter Horse!
While leading the mare, we saw her feet were packing up with snow. Turns out they put shoes with borium to help her with ice—but no snow pads to help with the snowballing. I really don’t know what their farrier was thinking. With our snow, we either need to go barefoot or have snow pads. We all agreed that that may have been a reason that the horse became so uncharacteristically uncooperative. Also, we found out that she hadn’t been able to get her out of her stall for a few days—giving her an extra dose of energy.
She still wouldn’t settle down, and our friend could barely lead her. I reluctantly offered to lead her. I say reluctantly because I spent so much time leading Cole on the hill while he misbehaved back in the early days, that I have an aversion to leading misbehaving horses. Still, I had to help. I might not like to do it, but thanks to Cole, I am very good at it.
I took a rein in each hand under her head to lead her. This way, I could make the reins work the same way they would if she was being ridden. Also, I could get her to walk and stop straight—something that she wasn’t doing for our friend. I said a few kind words to the mare and asked her to walk. After a few steps, I gently asked her to stop. I had total success, and gave her a bunch of praise. I repeated it a few more times and then we were on our way. Anytime I would get too far ahead of Ellen and our friend, I would ask the mare to stop and wait. I showed them what I was doing with the reins and why. We made it up to the top without a bit of trouble. By now, our friend was recovered enough to take the reins and bring the mare home. I noticed, as she walked away, she had one hand on each rein.
We continued with our walk on the hill—relieved that no one was hurt and glad we were there to help. We don’t expect to see them out in the snow with improper foot ware again. It was also a reminder how much horses’ personalities can change when the weather gets cold. Some horses need to let off some steam if they haven’t had much exercise due to the weather. Even if they are exercised in an indoor arena on a regular basis, going out on the trail can get them rather excited. As Ellen pointed out, you never really know a horse until you’ve been through 4 seasons.