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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Twitch and the Leopard Print Onesy

Sometimes the picture in your mind, of how things look, differs greatly from the way things actually are.  Sometimes how we see ourselves in the past also differs greatly, from how things actually happened and it affects how we see our skill set now.  For example, in my mind’s eye, I was a really good football player when I was in high school.  When in fact, I was a 6 foot 135 pound tackle.  I will say I more than made up for what I lacked in size by being slow (I guess that must have been the “good” part…skinny and slow, two skills that are hard to come by in the same body).  Now this has nothing to do with horses or cowboys, just a way to give you some perspective of how things look in the past.
A few years ago I was asked to ride a 3 year old mare for a lady who had been bucked off this mare and hurt her back.  Since she was paying, I was willing to help!  When she met me at the burn she was wearing a leopard print one piece jump suit thing, tons of jewelry and 3 inch spiked heels.  Probably in my batchin’ days I would have been excited if someone had told me this was how my customer was going to show up.  But since I was older and married all I could think of was, “wonder if she tried to ride in that?”  Of course all of this was offset by the fact she was in her sixties.  You have probably seen these people; they dress way younger than they actually are.  These are the people that all their friends just don’t have the nerve to say “ ya’ know that age you reach and you shouldn’t were that?  You just reached it!”  But, she had cash money and a horse to ride…..
The horse was another story entirely, she was a spooky, jumpy mess!  Ms. 3” Spiked Heels said that she had ridden when she was younger (I’m guessing 40 years ago) and thought she would be able to just “hop on” and go.  Well she got the shock of her life when the mare bucked her off (who wooda thunk it?).  I told her I was going to start the mare from the ground up and try to make her safer to ride.
The round pen work went like clockwork.  No problems at all.  I saddled and drove her within the space of two weeks.  I would not have normally spent that much time (I was still younger, ten feet tall and bulletproof), but I figured since Ms. 3” Spiked Heels was going to be the one to ride her….I had better make sure she had a good foundation.  I then spent the next two weeks, still in the round pen, working on stops and turns.  I didn’t want Spike Heels or the mare (I called her Twitch) to get in a bind later on.  Twitch was really going good and I felt she was ready to be ridden in the arena.  Now I hadn’t seen or heard from Spike Heels since the first day, so I was a little unsure if I was going to get paid or not.  But since I was this far along, I thought I would just roll with it.
That next Monday I started the mare in the round pen and she was just clicking along.  She was as smooth as the top side of a railroad rail.  So I thought, “Heck, it’s time to go to the arena.”  I should have known better, you would think that I did….but…..  Did I mention that the stable owner had a crew out putting some new tin on the roof of the barn and that you couldn’t really see them and the way the wind was blowing you couldn’t really hear them?  Thought that might not make me look like the gunsel that I turned out looking like….
Ol’ Twitch was a little jumpy when we got to the arena, but I was fairly quick on my feet and just jumped into the saddle (there’s a good idea!).  Now we were on the other side of the barn and this work crew was visible above her head.  I’m sure she thought that these tall skinny giants were there to eat her!  On top of that, they were banging and clanging on the tin.  All of the led to a recipe for disaster.
 1 spooky, insecure horse
4 Men on top of a building
6-78 sheets of tin flopping around
1 idiot cowboy who thinks he is bullet proof
Mix it all together with high winds and hammer on the tin for 2.7 seconds.  The result will surely be entertaining for anyone watching as the horse comes unglued and try’s to leave the country.

As I stepped aboard she commenced to running.  I knew I was in a controlled environment, so she couldn’t go very far.  So we started running laps around the arena.  As I sat up there waiting for her to run out of gas, it came to my mind and old adage my Dad has always said “you can ride them as fast as they can run”.  This is true in a controlled environment, but I suspected would be more challenging outside of the arena.
As we raced around the arena at the speed of light, my eyes and nose were starting to run and she was breathing like a dying cow.  So I thought I had better shut this runaway cyclone down.  Another old adage I have always heard was that if you wanted a horse to stop, just point them at a fence (I thought this one needed to be tested)  As we came around the north end of the arena I lined her up on the south end and just held her straight.
I have talked in the past about those conversations you have with yourself, just before a wreck happens and I remember this was one very clearly:
Me:  “I’ll line her up on the fence and she will be forced to stop”
Myself:  “are you sure that will work, she is still moving like a molecule in the super collider”
Me:  “of course it’ll work, Dad said it would”
Myself:  “it doesn’t look like she is slowing down”
Me: “dang, she going to try and jump it, isn’t she!!?!”
As we approached the south end of the arena Twitch gathered herself to jump, I’m sure she was as pretty as one of those horses that jump 10-12 foot fences.  Unfortunately, she only got off the ground about a foot and half.  As she hit the fence she turned a little sideways, collapsing the fence with my leg between her and what was left of the fence.  She then got up and started running away….dragging me over 1x6’s, fence posts and wire panels, while I discussed her heritage.
I suppose, this hollering yelling thing that she was dragging started to get her curiosity up, so she turned around to take a look.  This, thank you Lord, allowed me to untangle myself from her and all of the fencing supplies I was now dragging with my body.  I looked like I was going to start my own arena right there in the middle of the pasture, I had enough of the old one to do it too!
Once I got her collected up and me back in the saddle, I decided it was safer to ride her in the pasture.  There were only trees and wire fences to dodge and I had to believe they were not as hard on your head as wire panels were
I was sure glad Ms. Spike Heels was not there to see this little episode, she may not have ever gotten on Twitch again!  The building (now fencing) crew all had a big laugh about it, I became the butt of several jokes running around the barn about the need to build higher fences and it becoming a show jumping barn.  I left there a few months later and never saw Spike Heels or Twitch again…don’t know if they ever got over knowing me, but she mailed me two checks!

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