Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The First Dump

It was a warm day but a light breeze kept the temperatures from being too unbearable. It was not only be day off from non-horse work, but it also was one of my days off from my four day barn-work week. I was eager to get some riding time in. The barn was deserted (as was usual for this small, trail rider friendly barn) except for that day's cleaner, wrapping up her chores.

I sang quietly to the radio as I tacked up Milo. Milo had started displaying some cinchyness when tacked up, but at this time I was in denial about the fact that my $300 bargain roping saddle might not fit my ever growing horse. I told Milo to knock it off as he wrinkled his nose and backed up a bit in the cross ties. Making another mental note that his behavior towards saddling was changing and this person, Sarah, that I had been referred to might be a good person to call. But procrastinating the $60 saddle fitting consultation, I reached for the bridle and fastened it's buckles around Milo's growing head.

I led Milo through the narrow gate to the large outdoor arena. I always worried about that gate being too small, and a stirrup getting easily caught in it's panel style slats. But Milo as usual walked through calmly.

We had been having problems with Milo's trailer exiting. When hauling with my straight load Logan trailer, Milo had no choice to step right down. But the slant load accessable from a fellow boarder who could haul for me, did not offer that very near step down, at least not from the first stall. Turning Milo around was not an option for two reasons: 1. Milo would leap from the trailer like a psycho, his hind legs slipping on the rubber matted floor, and coming dangerously close to hitting his head on the trailer roof. This catapult out of the trailer would also leave me jerked out of the trailer, my hand grasping the lead rope Milo was now runnig through. 2.He was too large to easily turn and lead out. This would cause him to literally body slam me into the trailer wall. After one time of seeing this happen, Boyfriend was not ok with the notion of his girlfriend getting crushed by a 1200 pound horse. He asked if there was a better way, but there was not one I could think of. Backing Milo out of the trailer made him panic, not knowing where the step down was. He would back two steps, then race back forward into me (this was also how he was the first night I got him and tried to back him out of my straight load).

I had gotten an idea to teach Milo to vocally "back" and "step down" by a fellow boarder, and was using the trail bridge in the arena to teach this to him. Today, I wanted to work on this before mounting up, while I was still on the ground and wouldnt forget. Milo learned the concept easily after a few trianing sessions and now confidently backs and steps down out of our slant load trailer.

I patted Milo, then mounted up.

The gate connecting the two outdoor arenas was wide open for another boarder who had been running barrel patterns. The barrels were set up in the larger outdoor arena and she would run in from the small one to start the pattern. She had left the gate open, not a real foul by any means - everyone at this barn was really laid back about things. Deciding after a while that I wanted it closed, either due to it being a distracting magnetic pole that Milo gravitated towards, or that I wanted to work on gate closeing - either way I decided I would close the gate astride Milo.

I walked him up to it and got him parrell to the large twelve foot stock gate. Wondering how exactly I would maneuver closing this, I reached out for the end of the gate and slowly urged Milo forward, figuring as it came closer to us while closing, we would move out away from it, then back in to the latch to close it shut. Just as we had done with much smaller gates in trail classes. My hand ran down the top of the gate rail as we walked and pulled the gate behind us. Knowing we would have to step out soon as the gate was now creeping up farther towards Milo's hip, I laid some inside leg on him to step out. Milo didnt step out but kept walking.

In a split second I felt something catch on the saddle and stop the saddle's forward motion with Milo. Still walking, but caught Milo suddenly jolted forward, then spooked being restrained by something behind him. In a giant leap into the air, Milo crashed down onto the gate. Still caught, he leaped and twirled again, my mind was unreactive, I didnt process what was going on. I had let go of the gate and figured Milo would calm down soon. But he humped his back again and with a large leap and buck from his rear, sent me flying to his left side. I hit the sand and saw saw the underside of Milo's belly and hooves, coming straight down towards me. Reflexes finally kicking in I covered my head and caught a glimpse of Milo's face registering I was beneath him. Thinking his hooves were going to fall flat down onto my head, instead, I saw an incredicle gymnastic move from Milo as he shot sideways and forward while still airborne, propelling himself into the other smaller arena.

I laid on the ground, arms still covering my head and face and I heard the thunder of hoofbeats rocket away from me. I prayed the gate was closed for the smaller arena, a vision of Milo running down the busy road just outside the driveway flashed into my mind, Milo running towards the highway...

But my fears were subsided as I got to my knees, my head pounding and I looked up to see Milo running circles in the arena. The cleaner heard the clattering and noise and was running towards the small arena's gate, and Milo, hands flailing in front of her, screaming HO! HO!

I leaped to my feet as I saw some panic creeping into my horse's eyes. I jogged towards the woman and the gate and told her to stop! Please stop! She asked if I was ok, I ignored the question as I calmly walked towards my horse who had caught sight of me and joined up with me quietly. He was still a bit wide eyed and puffing.

"Are you Ok?" she asked again.

"Yeah, fine" I said back quietly as I looked over my horse. He had a nick on his hind leg near the gaskin and it was bleeding a bit, but nothing serious.

She asked what happened. I didnt know. I continued looking over my horse and saw the hind cinch had a large tear where the buckle had ripped some of the leather open. The rear cinch caught the end of the gate. Thats what had caused the resistence.

I looked over at the gate, now with a huge dent down the center of it. I led Milo towards it, wanting to see f it still functioned, and hopefully still close it. The sentence in the board agreement I signed stating that any damage to the property caused my either myself or my horse was to be paid by me, ran through my head causing some anxiety to my wallet.

The gate was off its hignes, but still functional. However, as I moved it slighty to try and close it, my horse shot backwards away from it, puffing and goggling at it. Oh boy, my horse was now spooked to gates. With work however, Milo did get over his gate fear, though it took some time and caused some anxiety to both he and I.

I drove home that day, remember the image of my horse catching sight of me underneath him, and doing everything he could to avoid trampling me. What a good horse.

*The title might throw off the reader. This was my first and only fall off of Milo (so far) but Ive lost count as to which number this was in my entire life.


Kate said...

So glad you're both OK - those things can be very scary. Getting equipment hung up is one of my biggest fears.

Story said...

Oh my goodness, that sounds like it was more than a bit scary. Glad to hear that you are both ok. The way you described Milo crashing around, it was hard to believe either of you would come out with just a few scratches.

Your gate problem makes me think of the roping dummy that is often pulled out into the barn aisle where I board. It always makes me worry because the horns on it are just about average stirrup height. I actually did see the BO catch a stirrup while leading his horse past it one day but fortunately someone yelled too him before anything bad happened.

Isn't there some sort of saying about if there is trouble to be had, horses will find it?

paint_horse_milo said...

Anything that can catch makes me nervous, especially after this happened! Thank goodness Milo got over his new found gate fear though, you cant really avoid those!

Rising Rainbow said...

As you began describing the situation, I knew exactly what happened although I didn' t know precisely what had caught the gate. I love that Milo watched out for you but then after meeting him I figured he was that kind of horse. It is easy to see how kind he is.

I knew what was happening because I have had that experience too. It was not a piece of equipment that caught the gate but the toe of my boot. I ended up on the ground as well and pretty broken. I'm glad that you escaped without injury.