Thursday, September 15, 2011

When a Horse Trusts You

Well, I better start writing about my friend Patty as she will be the subject of several blog posts. She gives me that much material to write about. 

I’ve known Patty for about nine years at the barn where I lease. She is an excellent rider and has also been dubbed the social director of our little group of ladies who ride in the ring, on the trail or just hang out in the tack room for the occasional happy hour. 

But for as long as I’ve known her, she has had a very special relationship with Pistol. Pistol, long retired from an unsuccessful racing career, is a mahogany bay, 16.2 gelding. He is also one of the best trail horses in the barn and can do some dressage. Affectionately nicknamed “Forrest Gump,” Pistol is laid back and will lick you to death if you come close enough. In fact he usually only resembles his name during turn-out when he demonstrates his characteristic bullet-like exit from the barn and into the field. 

Patty and Pistol on the trail last winter.

Patty has been his “mom” for many years and knows him better than any of us. In fact, it’s their tight bond that got them both out of a bad spot last summer. 

I was not present on this particular trail ride, but heard the story afterward. Patty and Pistol rode out with another experienced trail horse and rider on a warm, sunny day, as they had hundreds of times before. They decided to take a familiar trail and knew it crossed a small creek. It had recently rained, but the water was not much higher than usual, so they looked around and seeing no hazards decided to cross. Pistol is a great lead horse, so he and Patty went first, without hesitation.

Mr. P is a great lead horse.

No sooner did Pistol take about ten steps in the knee deep water, then sunk up to his chest, his feet sucked into a muddy hole below. He could not move. Patty warned the other rider not to enter the creek. She was not sure what to do at first, but jumped off and tried to help pull Pistol out by the reins.

It was no good. He could not move. By now, Patty was getting worried about the possible outcome. She knew she could not panic. Covered in mud and soaked herself, she somehow found footing to the side of the horse and pulled his head around. With great effort, he was able to dislodge his feet and climb out onto the bank. Rattled and obviously exhausted by the effort, Pistol stood on the edge shaking and shivering for quite a while. So did Patty. She realized the only way back to the barn was to go back through the creek. She was not sure if Pistol was going to go along with that plan.

When they had both caught their breath, Patty decided to go for it. She tried to lead him back through the creek, but like a smart trail horse, Pistol said “forget it.” She took her time coaxing him and eventually, he actually walked back through the water. Somehow they were able to side-step the offending hole and stay on more stable ground.

“It just goes to show you what you can get your horse to do when he trusts you,” Patty told me after the incident. Yes, indeed. 

--Many thanks to Alexa and Rachel for the photos!

A Few of the Usual Suspects: Laura on Cheers, Alexa on Cherico and Patty on Pistol.

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