Chapter 12: Racehorse to Trail Horse
To be honest, I was a little bummed about our show career ending so fast. I had hoped in 2010 that we would be able to do another show. However, the day before we were going to show, she ended up being really antsy and difficult. I figured it wasn’t worth the mental energy to force her back into the show ring. So we officially retired from it.
I had taken Eve on trail rides before. Some of our lessons were trail rides, so she knew the trails just as well if not better than me. I can’t say if she enjoyed it, but I know she definitely didn’t hate it. I didn’t really “train” her to be a trail horse. I just kind of told her “Hey, this is what we’re doing.” And she just went with it. We always rode bareback on the trails. She hadn’t had a saddle on her in well over a year. We were just too lazy to deal with tacking up, so she probably didn’t take any of it seriously. Occasionally, when we would be walking on the trail in the middle of the woods, she’d decide “Alright. We’re done with this now” and would turn around and just start walking back home. So I’d have to turn her right back around being like “No, no. We just got here. We’re not done.” And she’d take a few steps forward pretending to comply with my instruction, then she’d just turn right back around. And I’d have to fight with her a bit, not gonna lie, to keep her on the trail. She’d just decide randomly “Yo, I’m out.” This wasn’t because she hated trail rides. This horse just hated working of any kind and wanted to let me know that.
Every now and again, she’d tell me she wanted to be done, but then she’d give in and keep going. She wasn’t the ideal trail horse, but she went with it. She would spook sometimes, but being in essentially the wilderness alone – she did pretty well.
Chapter 13: Trail Rides Gone Wrong
There were quite a few instances of our trail rides ending in potential disaster.
One time it was a cold, snowy winter day. We went out to the meadow and down a trail that was actually way more slippery and steep than I had expected. We slid down this hill off the trail and were stuck in this gully. It was steep on both sides of us. We wandered around for a while trying to find a not so steep part to climb out of. Not only was it steep, but there was brush, weeds and bushes and trees everywhere. Keep in mind we’re off-roading it at this point. Eventually we wander around enough that I give up trying to find a level enough spot to climb out. If we went too far into the woods off-roading it, we might get lost. So I did what any sane horse person would do. I let go of my reins and told Eve to go home. And she found her own way out of the trench. It was still steep, but we did it!
There was another time we had gone to a different part of the stream to play in. It was around spring time. It had rained, so it was muddy in some parts. We were walking across the grass to the stream – and I’m pretty sure we weren’t off-roading it this time – and I felt my foot touch the ground. And I was like wtf? I look down and Eve is almost shoulder-deep in mud. She has half sank into the ground. I panicked, and got out of there. Thankfully she wasn’t stuck. It was just a swamp or something. I really don’t even know. But when we turned around, she had to climb out. So she must’ve just taken one step and sank. The thing is the ground didn’t even look like a swamp or that scene out of Neverending Story where the horse gets swallowed up into the quick sand spoiler alert. It was just a field of grass with now deep holes where Eve’s hooves punctured the ground. I took her back to the barn and just bathed her. And I apologized profusely because that could’ve ended way worse with her being pulled out by a search and rescue team. She was calm about the whole ordeal though. I didn’t even know anything was wrong until I felt my foot hit the ground (which is a really weird feeling when you’re sitting on a horse and feel the ground under your foot when you know there shouldn’t be ground there). But we survived.
Another time, we had just started our trail. We were just about to enter the woods when she shook her head to turn around (like she does). But when she shook her head, her entire bridle broke. I felt no tension on the reins. I panicked internally. She kept walking forward until she slowly realized I wasn’t communicating with her anymore. And she was probably disturbed by the fact the bridle was hanging off her face. She didn’t know what to do so she promptly turned around and bolted. I stayed on for a little but then I figured she might just keep freaking out as long as I’m there. So I jumped off. She bolted up to a nearby field, then waited for me to come get her. I always cleaned my tack thoroughly after that incident.
Some shorter stories include her falling into the stream and scraping up her leg. I had to get off and inspect her legs which were bleeding. Then I had to find some random log to climb back on (difficult when the log is small, your horse is big and you ride without a saddle). Another time we were riding and I chose a different route. It was a route I wasn’t really familiar with. It was a longer route, and we were almost back home when a giant tree had fallen and was blocking our way home. We had already been riding for almost 2 hours. If we had turned around and come back the way we came, it would’ve been dark. I didn’t know how else to get back, so again I just let go of my reins and told Eve to find a way around the tree. And she did. It was actually a pretty easy path she chose. It was off-roading slightly around the tree under some low branches, but she made a solid choice. We got home on time thanks to my horse who has a built-in GPS system. And then there was that time a group of shirtless teenage boys were running by us and all of our horses spooked. Eve turned and bolted.
We definitely had some adventures. They were fun. Most of the time our trail rides were uneventful. These are just some memorable rides. We did them once or twice a week if the weather was nice. She enjoyed trails way more than doing flatwork in the arena.
Chapter 14: Arthritis Be Creepin
It was in 2011, when she hit 20 that her arthritis started becoming a little more noticeable as she got more stiff and needed longer to warm up/cool down. She wasn’t on a joint supplement because she was on field board, and if we wanted to give her a supplement we’d have to come up everyday and give it to her. And as a senior in high school, that wasn’t possible for me to do. I started taking it easy on her because even though she still bucked, reared and galloped like a maniac, her body was still that of a 20 year old. We did less jumping, less ring-riding and more trails. We mostly ever walked on trails. I figured walking on the hills and playing in the streams would be less strain on her joints than flat work.
I also barely rode this horse at 20. We rode when we felt like it, and every time we rode it was bareback. I think we had stopped doing lessons in 2011 because she had gotten more stiff, and I thought the lessons would be too much for her. (They probably weren’t, but I babied the hell out of this horse). So she was out of consistent work and was just doing trails and some light flat work/jumping in the ring bareback with me and was being amazing about it. No racehorse tendencies at all. She got nosebleeds in hot weather sometimes, so we didn’t ride if it was too hot. I didn’t like riding in the cold, so we didn’t ride if it was too cold. It had to be just the perfect amount of sunlight hitting the earth at just the right angle for us to be like ahhh it’s a great day to go for a ride!
In 2011, I was getting ready for college, so I didn’t have time for lessons or hard core riding even if Eve was technically fine for both of those. I just figured it’d be better for everyone if we all just kind of semi-retired from riding and made this a just-for-fun type of deal. Plus remember – even though I’m not mentioning it – she is still getting hurt. She’s getting punctures and infections and is on stall rest a lot. I’m just not including that because you already know those stories.
Chapter 15: Our Last Show
The last show we did was in 2009. This next show wasn’t really a show. It was more of a games type show. So there were teams of 3-4 of us, and we had to do a number of obstacle courses like weaving poles, potato sack racing, etc. I’m not sure what possessed me to do this. Maybe peer pressure from friends. But we entered and were put on a team. Eve absolutely loved it. The commotion of people cheering, the competitive nature – this was where she was ALLOWED to go fast. We owned those games. And she knew it.
However, on our last class – we had to weave bareback between poles. It was a relay race, so we were put last because since we rode bareback all the time we were guaranteed to dominate. So we started cantering weaving the poles then turned around and weaved back. And I made the mistake of kicking her to make her go faster. I kicked her as she was already cantering, and you’d think she’d take off right? Bolt back to the group? This horse stopped dead in her tracks, pinned her ears and gave the tiniest buck. Not the buck from previously where she wanted me off – it was just a “Hey. You better check yourself before you wreck yourself” kind of buck. And I got the message immediately. I patted her, apologized and we cantered back to the group – still won. It all happened really fast. My teammates didn’t even see what happened. They were like “Why did you stop?” And I had to explain well, my horse saw I was getting too excited and told me to cut that shit out. So I did. We still ended up getting champion for our team overall and won two first place ribbons. I was really proud of her. Then afterwards, we did our victory lap!
That was our last “show” we ever did. We did other stuff like costume contests and fun stuff like that, but never another competition where ribbons were involved. I’m glad we ended on a good note though. She did have a good time at that show, and so did I.
We enjoyed just trail riding and relaxing. But our fun was going to come to an end just a couple years later…