In which the ride is awesome and we re-negotiate the contract

Well, we did it.

Mount Adams 30-mile ride, May 2014
Photo by Jessica Anderson
Santa Jim helped me pack up the rig last weekend, and we hauled Fiddle

In the driveway at Haiku Farm, ready to load up for the ride

and Griffin

Griffin waits patiently for the rest of the caravan to assemble

and Rosemary

Rosemary has a great story to tell about her ride.  I'll try to
get her to tell it here.

down to the Mount Adams ridecamp in Trout Lake, Washington.

Mount Adams ridecamp, with namesake mountain between the Dragon's ears.

We showed up on Thursday so there would be plenty of time on Friday for the Endurance 101 clinic

Green Bean ribbons ready for the Endurance 101 clinic.
Rosemary also made nifty little duct-tape packets for people to carry

Teaching Annie how to find a horse's pulse;
simultaneously teaching Griffin how to stand still for the pulser

Patty teaches techniques for listening to gut sounds.
Griffin had to stand still for this, too.

and a little ride on some beautiful trails.

Patty and Flower joined Fiddle and me for the pre-ride tour of trails

Fiddle and I are entering another interesting stage in our relationship.

On the "Burn" trail.  I can't remember what year this trail burnt, but I did figure out
that the last time I rode on this section it wasn't burnt and I was riding the Toad.
So...a long time ago!
 For the last year--when hip pain hijacked my life--Fiddle took more and more responsibility for stuff on the trail.  She made decisions about directions, ("around the puddle or through it?  over the fallen log, or around it?") about speed ("not too fast, I don't want you falling off!") and about the company we kept ("not too close there, bucko, I've gotta keep my rider on the top!")

Her nasty attitude to other horses stopped being so nasty.  She stopped questioning me when I cued something.  I assumed that she was becoming a nice, adult horse.

I assumed wrong.

She became a nice, caretaking horse for an injured, not-very-capable rider.

 But I'm not injured anymore.

Feeling fine.
Photo by Monica Bretherton
And I don't need a caretaker anymore.

This horse took care of me while I was hurting.
Now, we take care of each other.
But it's not that simple.
Photo by Jessica Anderson

And Fiddle knows it.

She doesn't have to tread carefully anymore!
Her strides are big and loose and happy, and she
doesn't worry about hurting me.
Photo by Jessica Anderson
So recently, she has begun to question my authority.

I'm convinced that she isn't questioning me because she wants to be the boss again. Instead, I'm pretty sure that she knows that something major in our relationship has changed, and she needs to know exactly what has changed and what hasn't changed.

She's done this before.

Here's what I have to do when she does it.

This time, she's got her contract on the table, and a checklist of every line item on that contract.

"Can I bite people?"   No.   Okay.  She checks the box on the contract for "no biting."

"Can I kick people?"  No.  Checks the "no kicking people" box.

"Can I insist on staying with the herd while we're out riding?"  No.
"Really no?"  Really, no.  Sigh.  Checks the box.

"May I pin my ears at other horses and threaten to kick them? Just once or twice?"  Ear fwap.  "You are the meanest."  Yep.  True dat.  Checkmark.

"Do I have to stop on the trail and take a bite of grass when I'd rather continue trotting?"
Yes, you must stop when I say stop.
"Seriously, I think I should just take one angry bite and then dash back down the trail."  
Take a bite, and stand there until I tell you it's okay to leave.
"Srsly? You suck."  Yep.
"Dang." Box gets a check mark.

So, Mount Adams was a Training Ride in the truest sense of the word.  I had assumed the big challenge would be my recently-repaired hip joint.  But the biggest challenge on the ride was re-establishing the parameters and boundaries for the Dragon.

The negotiations are going relatively quickly, as I've learned to recognize her "query" behavior before it spirals into something truly evil.  She never got serious about biting people because I caught that right away, and even most of the ear-pinning was pretty insincere--

Trotting out with Sirie, my "designated trotter" for the day.
I don't know how to teach her to trot out with her ears forward--
and the vets wouldn't recognize her if she did.
Photo by Jessica Anderson

--more of her step in the dance that cues MY step in the dance that re-establishes the parameters of correct behavior.

This mare doesn't give an overweight rodent rear end about being "good" or "bad."

However, being "right and correct" is very important to her.

She challenges me periodically, and is obviously, visibly relieved to find that the rules are the rules are the rules, forever and always, amen.

Big changes are unnerving for Fiddle.  She wants me to be in charge.  She asks the "contract" questions so that I can enforce the rules.

And when the rules are enforced, and when she is sure that she knows them and is capable of being correct,

Fiddle is happy.

I did have a bit of a scare during this ride.  Her CRI was abysmal at the mid-point vetcheck.

 It was awful enough that I normally would have taken a Rider Option and pulled her...but the vet (who is a VERY experienced endurance vet--has vetted internationally as well as locally, and who knows me and my horse very well) convinced me to stay longer at the vet check to let her eat and rest, and then bring her back for a re-check.

So, I did.  Santa Jim (the world's best crew) helped me to not panic.  We watched the mare eat and take her traditional catnap during the first 30 minutes, and I decided to stay until she woke up and ate again.

The result:  a normal CRI when we went back for a re-check.  (Jim and I did our own CRI before returning to the vet.  If the numbers had been high, I would have pulled her even if the vet didn't think I needed to do it.  But they were fine.)

We took the next loop very slowly.  I had almost 4 hours to finish 13 miles, so I wasn't worried about time.  I also knew that section of trail well-- Jim and I helped clear it a few years ago, prior to riding the 100-miler on it!  So I knew where I could make time and where to slow the mare down and let her cool down and relax.

We leapfrogged with this group during the entire second loop.  Becky gave me
some electrolytes because guess who got rattled by the CRI thing and forgot
to give them before leaving camp?  Argh.  Thanks, Becky!

The result:  a nice, solid 30 mile completion.

We walked up the final 5-mile hill, and were actually able to "pass" a couple of people at the finish line pulse-down!  They had trotted those last miles, and it took their horses almost 15 minutes to pulse down to the 60 beats-per-minute criteria.  Because Fee and I had walked that stretch, we came in, I pulled off her tack, and she pulsed down immediately.

That felt pretty good.

The best part:
We had fun.  It didn't hurt.  We had fun.  It didn't hurt!

We had fun.

We had fun.

We had fun!

There are other stories to tell from this ride, but I'll try to get the riders to tell their own stories.  For my story, I'm happy to conclude with this:

Life. Is. Good.


  1. Fantastic! Sounded like a wonderful ride!

  2. Sunny is a bit like Fiddle. He needs to test from time to time to be sure I'm still in charge and is happy when I prove that I am. This is a hard personality trait to explain to others who don't have this type of horse or who have never dealt with this type of horse, but you did a great job. And like Fiddle, Sunny is an immensely sensible trail horse--and I value him very much, so am more than willing to do the demonstrating-that-I'm-the-boss routine when he requires it. So glad you and Fiddle had a good ride overall.

  3. So happy to read of your painless success and the fabulous and full relationship you have with your mare. Great ride photos!

  4. That's awesome. You two have such a functional relationship.

    I really love the idea of letting go of "good" and "bad."

  5. Aarene, you are amazing! I never would have thought, with surgery so recently behind you, that you could take on this kind of challenge. I have said it before, and no doubt will ay it again. Giddyup, girl!

  6. Congratulations on a successful "comeback" ride for you two!

    As to your traveling companion... Rosemary should be thankful that the ride & tie runner was as quick as she was - since she missed getting trampled by less than an inch! Loose & running hard j- he came up behind Farah & I at 90 mph & about took us out - then another runner - before he turned back at us - the runner jumped behind Farah while I yelled "WHOA!" - that & Farah's teeth turned him away & into the woods. No fun!

  7. Congratulations! A great ride. =)

  8. IT DIDN'T HURT!!!!!!! Nothing better than renegotiating a horse/rider "I'll babysit you until you're better" contract. Love reading about it. The dragon is a handful with a huge heart. :)


Post a Comment

To err is human. To be anonymous is not.

Popular posts from this blog

In which we take (metaphoric) coals to Newcastle by boat and barge

In which it's that time again: we're headed for Sawmill Flats to build trails