Friday, October 8, 2010

Memory Lane Friday

This week's Memory Lane Friday is another "No Theme." For a few days, I tried to narrow down a topic.

But a Two Bears Farm and the Three Cubs post (A Rattle You DON'T Want to Hear) on Tuesday made the light-bulb turn on over my head.

That means I'm going to write about a time I lived in Tucson, AZ and had an Appendix Quarter Horse named "Wild Stride."

"Wild Stride" in Tucson, circa May 2001.

"Wild Stride" in Tucson, circa May 2001.

"Cotton," as we called him, was a lot of fun. He was a Palomino, obviously, and I would joke that sometimes he acted like a blonde. Little fuzzy bunnies would occasionally scare him out of his wits. Same with fluffy clouds, a cool breeze and . . . well, you get the idea. (Please . . . no offense to you blondes.)

But if I worked him in the ring at least 3 days a week, and turned him out to run around the other days, he'd be mellow enough for me to take him on a trail ride, bareback.

Or maybe I'd have a lesson with my trainer one of those days. Or she'd ride him one or two of those days. Didn't matter what the combination was, just so long as he got worked at least 3 days.

Well, one early Saturday morning, I decided that I'd take him out on a trail ride (saddled, this time, and not a leisurely bareback trail ride). We'd do a lot of walking and trotting (part of which would be in the sandy wash), which would be a good "cardio workout" for him.

Plus, I was looking forward to getting to a particular part of our trail ride. There was this part where we'd leave the bottom of the sandy wash and head up to this dirt road where we could look down a drop on one side and see the wash below, and down the drop on the other side, where we could see some sort of quarry.

Both Cotton and I looked forward to this spot. I'd usually get into a two-point (making sure all my weight was in my heels, keeping my rear out of the saddle, and grabbing a bit of mane for safety). And then I'd squeeze my legs and say "Okay . . . go!" And we'd head off in a hand-gallop. 

After our hand-gallop and a little breather for Cotton, we'd be back to our walking and trotting in the wash before turning around and heading home.

Well . . .that was the plan, anyway.

I'd groomed him, got his bell boots on his front ankles, and tacked him up. (Bell boots or "overreach" boots protect a horse's front heels if he accidentally overreaches/steps on his front heels with his hind hooves, causing injury or shoe loss.) All the while I was daydreaming, looking forward to our trail ride. 

After mounting up, we headed out, thankfully before it got really hot (must've been in the upper 70s/low 80s). It was early summer in Tucson, and while humidity was low, temps could easily rise over 110 degrees, with little to no shade.

We'd only been out for . . . oh . . . about 10 - 15 minutes or so. At this point as we're walking along, while I was enjoying the southwestern landscape, Cotton suddenly slammed on the brakes. It startled me.

What the heck?!  I urged him forward. He swished his tail hard (I could hear the quick swish-swish-swish), while he threw his head around. But he would NOT budge.

I urged him forward again. He reared ever so slightly, just barely lifting his front hooves off the ground, but just enough that I got the message - he didn't want to go forward.

I looked around wondering what the problem was, while he was still acting weird, then felt him backing up.

At this point, I noticed that one of his bell boots was on the ground (it was one that opened/closed with velcro, making it easier to put on/take off, compared to the all-rubber ones). It must've come off as he was "acting up."

I decided to dismount and grab the boot so I could put it back on and continue with our ride.

But when he felt my weight shift on his back, he countered with his body, like he wasn't going to let me get off. I turned him and walked him a few feet toward home, then tried again to dismount.

Still, he wouldn't let me, so I dismounted from the right. Boy did that feel unnatural.

Then I took the reins over his head, holding them in my right hand as I walked toward the bell boot, ready to reach for it with my left hand.

He pulled back, snorting, reins going taut. I looked at him. His eyes were wide, showing lots of white.

And then I heard it.

The hair on the back of my neck stood on end. I felt goosebumps all over my body, regardless of the rising temps of the day.

It was that scary, unwelcome sound of a rattlesnake's tail

I hadn't even seen it, because it was so well camouflaged against the sandy wash floor. But Cotton had sensed it/heard it/seen it long before I realized it was there.

When I realized it was there, I backed away slowly. Upon getting back to Cotton's side, we turned and walked away. Finally, when it seemed like we were a safe distance away I mounted up again, and we headed home, the lone bell boot left where it had fallen.

The adrenaline rush had finally dissipated by the time we got back to the stables.

Poor Cotton. He insisted on turning around as soon as he realized it was there, but I wasn't paying attention. Nevertheless, I am so grateful for him and his "acting up," because he saved me from a poisonous, deadly bite.

Memory Lane Friday is hosted by Two Bears Farm and the Three Cubs. Please click on the button below to read her Memory Lane Friday post, as well as any other entries.
Please check back next Friday, when the topic is Halloween, Part I.


varunner said...

Cotton was just like The Black Stallion! Gorgeous horse :-)

Sonya Heilmann said...

Yes! He was just like the Black Stallion! Funny that you mention that, because Livie has recently been introduced to that movie (and she loves it).

Thanks, he sure was a beauty!

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