I guess I had some expectations going into my ride today. I know, not good, but I was hoping that my 21st birthday ride would be something to remember....for a good reason. I wasnt sure I wanted to post about this, but there must be a lesson in here somewhere...
I tacked up Milo with all the fixings for a trail ride. Fortunately for me with my birthday in the summer, Im usually always guaranteed a nice day, and today was no exception. I knew I wanted to hit the trails and get some sun for this special day. Throughout the week I had been asking if anyone was available to join me on the trail, but because its a Friday, most were working. Initially, I wasnt thrilled about going out alone, but decided I had done it so many times in the past, today would be just fine.
Interestingly, the night before as I had my last few thoughts before falling asleep, I pondered going on the trail without my helmet. I ride in the arena and at unfamiliar places without it, why not the trail? I barely even got the thought through my head and another voice screamed, "NO! NO! Wear your helmet on the trail! This would be the ONE time that something bad happened". I still considered my theory that I dont like going on the trail alone, but with my cell phone in my pocket, a helmet on my head, and chinks covering my legs, I ventured out - alone. In fact, I enjoyed the time to spend solely with my horse and not chit chatting with anyone. I decided it would be a good opportunity to "find my seat" as Sarah had suggested me doing my loping a long stretch of trail and finding the balance in my seat.
This was my intention upon hitting the trail. I wanted to be able to come back from it and tell you all that I found it, that we got our lead changes, and all went well and according to plan.
Silly me, I should have known you cant go into a ride with expectations.
To begin with, Milo spooked in the usual place before entering the trail. The solid fence outside a house that always bears barking dogs unseen behind it always makes Milo on edge, but this day Milo not only stopped and raised his head to stare at the unseen, but he whirled around and proceeded to take off the other direction. Of course I wasnt ok with that, and sent him back towards the fenceline. Again, he spun backwards, and with my encouragement for forward, he shot backwards, avoiding any means of direction from me. I seriously thought we wouldnt make it past there, and I had never experienced a spook like this from Milo before.
But, we did make it beyond the unseen barking dogs, and we were on the trail now. We actually enjoyed some nice trotting with a lifted back, and I started to try and find or rhythm together. There was a perfect opportunity for a lope with a long stretch of trail before us. I urged Milo into the lope, and really wanted to try for the lead change. Again, the voice told me not to - he was excited on the trail, not fully listening, not fully using his body, and certainly not fatigued to the lead as we get in the arena. And yet, I wanted to do what Sarah suggested, and I wanted to find those magical lead changes.
Unfortunately, wanting and performing are two separate things. It seems the more I want something to happen, the less I allow it to in my body. Needless to say, we did not get any changes.
And then the real event of the trail ride happened. As we were walking along a gravel logging road, a road that did not suit any working on with the deep gravel, I used the opportunity to let Milo get some air. A fork in the trail was coming up, but I thought nothing of it. We had passed this spot many, many, many times on our usual trail route, and what is scary about a fork in the road? Something was to Milo and he stopped his feet dead in his tracks and lifted his head up in his best impersonation of a giraffe. Instantly, he whirled back as he had done at the dog fence, and prepared to take off back for home. Heck no was I allowing that, and I brought him back around and urged him forward. Another double back, another turn around from me. Another flying backwards episode, urging legs and rein from me. One more spin back, and I tried to turn his head back around. This spin back sent Milo into the bushes on the side of the trail, which was up a mount slightly. As he turned around, and now with his head off center, and the footing not even, Milo scrambled to find his feet and we went down.
It played in slow motion, like these events tend to do, and I felt the slip of his hind feet as he tried to find a grip on the gravel. No anchor to grab onto, his foothold failed him, and his back and front went down simultaneously, directly onto the right side. As we came down, I knew we would land directly onto my right leg. In fact, the impact directed at the right stirrup, and we sort of crumpled around that, and the motion of the slipping rear took the hind end's weight off of the side. I had no problem getting my feet out of the stirrups - in fact, they seemed to do it themselves without my direction, but I still held one rein. Milo was barely down a moment, and he was right back up again. Me, not so much.
Although thankful that my helmet was on, my head never made contact with the ground (thank God), but I was most appreciative of my chinks. The chinks made the most impact with the gravel, and I think really saved me from getting torn up at all. It only took a few moments to process, and I felt that everything seemed to be in working order still, and I stood up. My feet (which had already been killing me from very poor tennis shoes I have been wearing while pushing carts at work) were hurting, and my right one particularly from impact. I felt a little crippled as I walked still, but typical for the past few days. But I felt no real "pain" and I led Milo towards the Y in the trail, as he was still upset about it. He tried to pull back once and I was able to use the end of the reins to slap behind him. As if nothing happened, suddenly Milo calmly walked forward and didnt care about the fork in the road anymore. Horses.
I mounted back up and we continued on our way. Milo was quiet and calm for a few minutes as we walked along, and then we had an issue with him listening to my lateral aids. I got really frustrated and ended up texting Sarah and getting a real lump in my throat. Tears welled up and I felt childish and wondered why on earth I was crying. I suppose frustration, the event that occurred, and the fact that my perfectly planned out ride was not meeting my expectations. I did, however, work on simple changes along another stretch of trail, and did, by the end, get some very nice changes. I suppose I will focus on that "ta-da" for today.
Not the memory I wanted to hold for this day, but a memory nonetheless.