It was a lazy weekday evening in a normally quiet semi-rural neighborhood. Most of the homes sat on 1-5 acre wooded tracts ...large enough and wooded enough that you could have a bunch of rowdy kids or a loud conversation between adults in your own backyard without disturbing any neighbors. But this particular evening, there was some excitement back in the woods.
A woman shrieked and a male voice could be heard yelling, "Hold her!!" and "Hit her again!!" The woman shrieked again and the sound of something or someone big crashing through the dense woods could be heard for quite a distance. Two deeply male voices erupted into laughter. Then all was quiet again. A few minutes later, three riders emerged from the woods. Two men and a woman on horseback. The woman was quiet, feeling sheepish for having shrieked not once, but twice ...and the men were laughing about how it must have sounded to any who could hear but not see what was going on.
You see it was me and Yeoldfurt and my son who was staying with us at the time. We had ridden our horses back into the woods at the back of our property and my mare decided something big and bad was hiding in the back corner. She must have been SURE there was a bear back there by the way she was acting. She was fairly young at the time, barely 100 rides on her so far and young horses can react in a big way when they feel threatened. When she first started getting nervous, she just danced a little and refused to step closer to the big scary corner post. When I insisted, she finally snorted and spun 180 degrees with every intention of leaving that horse-eating corner post far behind her. That was when I shrieked the first time. I'm not proud of the fact that such a definitively girly sound of panic erupted from me without warning, but it did. It must have surprised my mare too because she froze. I smacked her with the flat of my hand on her neck, making a loud THWACK sound that startled even me. For any PETA people reading this, trust me, you can NOT hurt a horse with the flat of your hand ...you will break your hand before you do any damage to the horse. I slapped her and said, "WHOA!" as forcefully as I could muster. I may have even said "WHOA-DAMMIT!!" ...I'm not sure but it wouldn't surprise me if I had.
My horse, of course, was already stopped which is what 'whoa' means so when I slapped her, she went back into action and did a little cutting horse dance, snorting and spinning this way and that way, apparently looking for the most viable escape route lest that corner post try to eat her. That's when Yeoldfurt yelled, "Hold her!" and "Hit her again!"
My son was quiet through most of this but when things calmed down, he said to Yeoldfurt and me, "You know how this sounded, don't you?" Two obviously male voices yelling "Hold her!" and "Hit her again!" and a woman shrieking, not once but twice. We all had a good laugh and started back out of the woods toward the barn. Laughter is one of the best calming agents for a nervous horse, so the rest of the ride was almost boring by comparison.
I am happy to say that both my mare and I have come a long way since that day in the woods. She is now ten years old and had many many rides in all kinds of different situations. A trail ride we were supposed to go on yesterday was cancelled due to too much rain the night before. But Yeoldfurt got up this morning and suggested we go have our own trail ride at the Lake Somerville Equestrian Trails.
It was hot today and Yeoldfurt has a low tolerance for heat, but he was determined. We took our time, loaded the trailer with what we needed, loaded the horses and headed out. It's only a 30 minute haul to the trail head and we had the place pretty much to ourselves when we got there. It was just after 12:00 noon so campers who had been there all weekend had already headed home or were preparing to do so. We rode around the campsites for a while and then headed down the trail.
Lake Somerville has 23 miles of trails. They call them Equestrian Trails but the horses have to share them with bicyclists, hikers, joggers and even the occasional baby stroller and yapping dog on a leash. The trails are densely wooded on either side, so there are plenty of deer, rabbit and squirrel to keep things livened up along the way too. Today's ride was short, but very enjoyable.
Yeoldfurt's mare is really low mileage so she can still be unsure of herself in new places. She's also half-Mustang and, therefore, VERY opinionated so she can be downright argumentative at times. But today, both horses were as good as gold. There were only one or two incidents when something in the underbrush made one or the other of them nervous, but all they did was stop hard and stare for a minute or two, like "What was THAT!?!" Then they'd just sigh and move on down the trail.
I am happy to say that I did not shriek once today. In fact, I don't believe I have shrieked in several years ...at least not because of any antics my horse pulled while I was on her. Yessiree, we've come a long way, my mare and me.