I had the WORST trail ride EVER this morning, and by the title you can probably guess why.
It should have been an awesome trail ride. We went out early, and neither the bugs or the heat were too bad yet. There were five of us: Panama's buddy Voodoo and his owner, his loved-from-afar girlfriend Flash and her owner, and Windy and her two owners (the husband on a borrowed horse, Pawnee).
We didn't go very far before I got my first taste of the mood Panama was in. I noticed early on that Panama suddenly became very aware of Voodoo behind him. He was trying to crawl up Pawnee's butt, and kept turning his head and flicking his ears back to look and listen to Voodoo.
About ten minutes out, completely without warning, Panama stopped dead in his tracks — and started bucking! The first buck caught me off guard, and I lost my balance. I grabbed onto his neck, and probably could have pushed myself back into the saddle, if he hadn't bucked again. I don't remember feeling
the buck that did me in, but he must have bucked, because do
remember somersaulting. I landed some distance away from where he was — placidly eating grass, when I got up.
I was okay, but unfortunately, my friend (Voodoo's owner) had gotten kicked in the ankle. She said she was fine, though, and we kept going.
As we continued on, it became clear that Panama was ANGRY about something — something to do with Voodoo. Once, Voodoo was nowhere near his rear end, but Panama turned around and tried to back into Voodoo to kick him. A few circles and a boot in the ribs cured him of that notion, but he kept trying. Only when we took the lead, and Pawnee followed behind us, was Panama (relatively) calm.
The rest of the trail was nerve wracking — I could feel Panama's anger and anxiety simmering just below the surface, even when he wasn't trying to kick his friend — but we crossed the creek twice and a ditch once, and led quite a bit of the way.
The second creek crossing was pandemonium, though: I didn't want to cross with Voodoo and my friend, because of the way Panama was acting, so we were going to wait with a couple other horses while Pawnee and her rider took Flash and her owner across — Flash has been having problems with stream crossings. I didn't think that was a good arrangement, but I didn't feel like I had much of a choice. It didn't seem like anyone else was getting it — that Panama couldn't be with Voodoo, for whatever reason.
Anyway, Panama was happily munching on grass when he realized Pawnee was starting across the creek without him. In his panic, he jumped down the embankment onto the beach, shoved right past Windy, and inserted himself right behind Pawnee. And I just came along for the ride, because nothing I was doing had any effect on him, whatsoever.
After that we went along pretty smoothly for a little bit. We came to the public arena, which was essentially on the way back to the barn, but the others were talking about going on. "I need to go back," I said. We were just barely holding it together and I knew to go on an even longer
ride could be disastrous.
"All right, we're going to keep going!" the others said brightly. I was dumbfounded. They were going to leave
me, after how Panama had been acting?
My friend, Voodoo's owner, said she'd go back with me. I thanked her with some trepidation, since I knew Panama probably wouldn't react well to all the others going off and leaving him with his nemesis.
Sure enough, soon as they left he started flipping out again. He was trying to back up to Voodoo from practically 30 feet away
, so intent was he on kicking poor Voo. I told my friend I wanted to take him into the public arena to ride him for a bit until he stopped thinking about the other horses having left, but Panama was shying at the fence (which is different than any other fence he's ever seen) and the bottleneck created by the arena and the hitching post and sign.
I kept trying to make him walk into that bottleneck, and for a moment it seemed like he would; then suddenly, unexpectedly, he shied hard to the left and took off, and I simply fell to the right. I was in such disbelieve as I fell: Twice in one ride!
I jumped up and saw Panama standing at the top of a hill, perhaps 50 feet away, so I called to him. He stood there, facing away, looking at me over his shoulder for a long moment — and then ran off. It was so clearly a "Screw you, Mom," look.
One of the wranglers from the riding stables was leading a small group past when I fell, so he helped me find Panama (who, naturally, led me on a merry goose chase through thistles and weeds taller than my head). When I finally caught up to him, saying hi to the riding stables' horses over the pasture fence, he came right up to me. It would be his one act of contrition that entire morning.
The wrangler asked if I needed anything else, and I asked if someone could go with us back to the barn, as I was very worried about how Panama would behave if left alone with Voodoo again. He asked another wrangler to go with us, and we went back to collect Voodoo and his rider.
The wrangler tried to take the lead, but Panama quickly passed him by cutting off the trail, even though that meant stumbling through an invisible ditch and cantering up the hill to get in front. I confess that by that point I was just done — I just wanted to get back in one piece, and figured I could ride some sense into him in the arena once we got there. Luckily he was fine once he was in front, and led all the way back, with the wrangler between him and Voodoo.
When we got back to the barn, I took him right into the arena and rode for quite a while, but Panama calmed down only marginally. He rushed through everything, clearly wanting just to go back to his corral. I was getting frazzled, and even though he wasn't lame, I was also worried that he might have hurt himself falling into the ditch and that was why he was so anxious to rush through everything. In the end, I accepted the first good behavior he threw my way (not rushing the trot down the long side of the arena), made him do the same in the other direction, and then called it a day.
It has been so long since I've had a frustrating ride that I'd almost forgotten what it feels like — not that I've ever
had one this bad. I have no idea where any of this came from — Voodoo is his friend, for heaven's sake, not to mention on Friday he was being so good that we practiced jumping. I'm anxious for tomorrow — I plan to get out there before our Monday-Wednesday trail riding buddies arrive, and ride him in the arena for a bit beforehand. If I can be sure he is going to behave himself, I'd really like a positive
trail experience to remind him that he likes
this stuff normally.