This morning started out like most any other morning. I woke up, had my coffee, sat with my husband and asked God’s blessing on the the day. There was a volunteer coming for a riding assessment to join our Equine Management Team, a group of independent, skilled riders that help PEACE Ranch horses stay in good shape through weekly trail rides. Frankly, I felt a little tired and a little lazy. I asked my girls if they wanted to come along and put them and the volunteer all on good solid quiet horses for our ride. “We’ll take an easy lap around the cabin trail, a few trots and a canter and we’ll be good” I thought to myself. I rode Vinnie, my trusty steed. All this was orchestrated to be safe, predictable and with as little effort as possible.
It was a warm, pleasant morning. We got the horses tacked up in a jiffy and were ready to roll. We went down to the arena where I needed to re-saddle Vinnie after stepping up into the stirrup only to have the whole saddle slide down. “I got this new girth and I’m still getting used to it.” I mumbled a little embarrassed. I got my act together and soon we were on our way.
We headed out the driveway and across the road to start our adventure. The new volunteer rode Tana, a young but steady mare. Nikki (16) rode Skie, a tall bay gelding who is as level as the day is long and Tori (11) rode tried and true Ruby. We all used saddles and bridles except Nikki rode Skie in a rope halter and lead rope. He had some issues with bridling and so she’d been riding him bridle-less quite successfully.
We walked up the hill and by the cabin in the woods. We trotted a little here and there on the ridge trail then looped around toward the field where the old apple trees are. We came through the pine trail, most of the area had been clear cut recently to expose an old abandoned car in the middle of no where and turned right by the deer blind, down through the pines and squeezed by the metal posts. I thought we would just continue down the two track, make a left at the clear cut waste land and down the hill back to Hoosier Valley and home.
When we got to the clear cut waste land, (I call it that because the DNR cut hundreds of pines out of this acreage recently and then tilled it to leave deep sand trenches riddled with left over pine tree limbs and stumps) Skie was acting squirrely. He was going around in circles and trotting out into the waste land which seemed nutty and a little dangerous. It would be so easy to get a hoof caught in the buried debris or even have something drive itself into him by accident. I thought he would quit but he seemed more agitated and Nikki did too and finally she got off saying she felt too uncomfortable and thought maybe she’d just walk him home. I offered to trade with her and she took the trade so I dismounted Vinnie, traded, fixed my stirrups and up I went on Skie.
At this point, my intention was a quiet walk home but he would have none of it. He blew through my leg, over the bank and into the waste land. I circled him around and he blew out again. I realized as I rode that the way Nikki had tied the lead rope left no option to use the one rein emergency stop. At about this point, Skie bolted. No longer trotting and circling, he was at a dead run through the deep sandy trenches and over the limbs, rocks and stumps. Very quickly I determined there would be no stopping him and put my concentration into riding sitting back and deep in the saddle. Time and time again, we came upon things that I thought for sure would make him stop but over we went without missing a beat.
The drop off was coming and I tried one last time to pull him up but to no avail. There was a big something ahead that I thought might stop him but he flew over it and the crest and I was thrown forward. I wrapped my arms around Skie’s neck as he barreled down the embankment. I remember being shocked that he was holding me with his neck and thought “any minute he could drop his head and my weight could bring him right over the top of me” but he carried me down the hill to the two track at the bottom. He wanted to turn but with me on his neck it wasn’t easy. When he slowed down, I grabbed his halter with my left hand and swung my body smoothly down off his neck, landing on my feet. We both stood there, stunned and out of breath. We waited for the rest of our group and when they caught up, I remounted and walked Skie home.
Reflecting on my experience I can only say that this is so much like life. How often have I gone into an ordinary day with a well orchestrated plan only to be derailed by a runaway horse? How often have I needed to give up my illusion of control and just concentrate on sitting deeper to ride it out? How often have I been thrown into a position where I all I could do was just hang on for dear life? And how often, by the grace of God, have I been able to reach out at an opportune moment and end up on my feet.