Many of you enjoyed one of our recent guest posts about near-wrecks on horseback, written by Maureen Gaffney. Here is the link, in case you missed it: http://equestrianink.blogspot.com/2013/01/guest-post-from-maureen-gaffney.html
Today, Maureen shares another story from her experiences as an assistant trainer at an Arabian ranch. Please enjoy the ride, and hang on to your seats (or in this case, perhaps not!)
While working at one of the large Arabian show farms in Santa Ynez, I was told to ride a smallish gray mare that was in the charge of the new trainer, who happened to be on her way to a horse show. Something in the way she had said "....if you want....." and then almost imperceptibly grimaced as she drove out the driveway with a 6-horse trailer full of well-mannered, sweet and responsive mounts made several important hairs stand up on the back of my neck. I should have listened to those hairs.
The head trainer—my boss—did not attend the show and we were riding together in the arena, me on the smallish gray and he on an elegant bay the likes of which I aspired to ride someday. All was going well, just warming up after a decent but not devastating lounging—the mare had broken a sweat but no oxygen mask was likely to drop in front of her due to a loss in cabin pressure.
I swung a leg over and settled into the postage-stamp sized English flat saddle (I would later thank 'lucky stars' it was not a western saddle with a menacing horn) and we tooled around the ring for a bit on a loose rein extended walk. I gathered her up a tad and stopped to talk to the boss about this or that. As we stood on our respective mounts chatting, the gray mare began to bob her head up and down rhythmically as if controlled by some unseen marionette conductor. Unbeknownst to me, this bobbing was in preparation for something larger.
Now, generally speaking, horses do not like to up-end. If you've had the great pleasure of watching a days-old foal on its first full twisting, cavorting gallop in a large pasture, you've likely also seen the youngster bite the dust and with a great comic flourish, get up, shake off, and immediately look this way and that to see if the humiliating encounter with gravity has been witnessed by man, beast, insect or vegetable. Like humans, horses become rather embarrassed when they fall down.
Seems small gray mare missed this vital part of her "Horse 101--General Decorum" class. While I sat upon her strong, short back, she nearly audibly counted "A-One, and-a-Two, and-a-three, and-a-Four" with each head-bob before she threw herself up and over backwards from a standstill, and with a flirty swish of her tail, slammed us both into the ground with great aplomb. I lay there stunned with an 800 pound animal resting calmly on my right knee and thigh, trying to ascertain if I am headed for the hospital or if I’ll just be bruised. The utterly confounded boss says from his perch on high "What the..?? Get her off of you!!!" to which I respond "Uh, yeah...." like, gee man, that's a pretty neat idea—wish I had thought of it.
She lingered a bit longer on my leg, then decided the jig was up and returned to that boring ol' standing position. Having taken the first opportunity to put some daylight between the two of us, I was no longer astride by the time she was upright.
Me, the boss, and the bosses’ horse just looked at her with incredulous and deeply offended expressions, like "What sort of a thing ARE you?" She had, after all, just cast shame on her species by displaying her willingness to forego her noble ancestry and grovel like swine all in the name of…what? Revenge? Just plain march-hare variety madness? I don’t know, but I put her back in her stall and gave warm thanks to the rest of the kind-hearted horses I rode that day. The bosses’ horse who witnessed those strange events ever after gave her a curiously wide berth.
Starting as a groom and working up to assistant trainer, Maureen Gaffney worked at West Coast Arabians for 8 years, then moved on to work for some of the best performance trainers in Santa Ynez and Texas before ending up back in Northern California. Horses supported Maureen through college in Santa Barbara and at UC Berkeley. Maureen has since hung up her spurs and is now a desk jockey working to plan and implement a long-distance trail around the San Francisco Bay. She enjoys writing, riding (mostly bicycles these days), cooking, wine and friends. Maureen has been published in Horse Illustrated, American Trails Magazine, and Dirt Rag (a mountain bike magazine). She lives in Larkspur, California with her favorite man.
Thanks so much for sharing another of your experiences, Maureen, and glad that you survived in one piece!
Readers - have you had experiences with horses that reared, and then flipped over, while someone was riding them? How did you handle this very dangerous situation?