cornfield on the other short side. For some reason, this hedgerow is a constant cause of consternation for most of the horses, despite the fact that most of them are ridden past it darn near every day.
I was riding my friend's horse, an 8 year old gelding named Stratego (Strah-teh-go, like the Greek word for general, not Struh-tee-go, like the game). Stratego is a behemoth of a horse, somewhere around 18 hands. Now, you might think that this would make him, like many larger people, fairly confident about his size and ability to deal with any threats. Not so. Apparently, to Stratego, his size makes him a cougar's gourmet fantasy, and he is not about to forget this fact for a moment. Doesn't matter that Stratego lives in a comfy stall, has never had to forage for a meal, and has never seen a predator (cranky Corgis not withstanding). Evolution be damned, in Stratego's mind he is one moment away from being some predator's breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
So, it's a breezy morning, and I'm riding Stratego in the outdoor arena. The breeze is rustling the hedgerow, and Stratego is clearly convinced that something is about to leap out at him. He is determined to avoid the end of the arena, and I am determined that we are not. I am trying to distract him by asking him to shoulder-in, with the hope that the difficulty of the exercise will cause him to forget about the distraction of the potential horse killer in the bushes. Ain't working. I circle him and try again.
Ten minutes later I was sweating like a pig and accomplishing nothing. We'd taken several quick trips down the long side when Stratego decided, unilaterally, that escape was the better option. By this time I was hell bent and determined that I would get one trip through the evil bush-laden short side with the horse correctly bent to the inside, rather than with his great big schnoz pointed outwards like a rubbernecker passing a fender-bender.
At this point I was cussing like a sailor/trucker/sleep-deprived mother all rolled in to one. However, I was careful to speak my curses in dulcet tones, as horses respond to calm, soothing words, not hissed threats to turn them into dog meat. Actually, I was cussing AND huffing and puffing like a steam train, because convincing Baby Huey (think smallish tractor trailer) to do something he most definitely did not want to do was sending me into serious oxygen deprivation. Note to self: Must increase cardio training.
Finally, Stratego gave in. Most likely he came to the conclusion that being eaten by a cougar was preferable than dealing any longer with the crazed woman on his back, and we went through the short side with the correct bend AND without rushing. Mission accomplished.
I wish I could say the adventure ended on that success. Sadly, it did not. We got to the other end of the arena and the other short side, where the barn owner had set out extra chairs, tables, and umbrellas in preparation for the barn barbecue. Stratego took exception to this, and before I knew it, I was continuing northbound while the horse was going westbound. Sigh.
I belly flopped, and, like a water skier that falls and forgets to let go of the tow rope, stupidly held on to the reins. I think my reasoning (?!?) was that if I held on, the horse would realize that it would be too difficult to drag a dead weight and reconsider escape. I also did not want to have to call my friend and tell her that her horse had left the barn and was halfway to Pennsylvania. Luckily Stratego stopped dragging me after only a few feet. That, however, was enough to accrue about 5 pounds of sand down my shirt and breeches.
Needless to say, I needed to get back on the horse and re-educate him. Commenced shoulder-in, circling, and cussing exercise until submission was achieved. Horse and rider were covered in sweat, and rider was covered in an additional layer of dirt and sand (somewhat like grout).
When I got home, I undressed in the shower. Result was somewhat like being small child after day at beach - 5 pound pile of sand at bottom of shower and grit in unmentionable places.
Remind me why this riding thing is fun??