Reno is my BLM mustang who was captured by the government during the horrendous Calico round-up in Northern Nevada. In fact, his HMA (herd management area) Granite Range is the setting for my current work in progress.
Over time I’ll tell you Reno’s whole story starting with his capture, but for now I’ll tell you about yesterday, because today yesterday is hard to forget.
One thing Reno has difficulty with is saddle fit. He’s a large chested horse with a round back that is shorter than most horses. Reno has a special gel infused saddle pad for his western saddle. For those of you who are unfamiliar with saddle types, a western saddle is the kind cowboys use and an English saddle is the kind used in the Olympics, or by Queen Elizabeth.
I’m always working toward making Reno more comfortable and yesterday I decided to give the English saddle a try because it’s smaller and lighter than the western. I don’t like to use the English saddle on a green (less than trained) horse because there is more chance of being hung up in a stirrup iron if you have a problem. Hung up meaning everything but your foot disconnects from the horse.
Okay, maybe you haven’t picked up on the trend yet—special saddle pads, concern about his comfort. You already know from the post Morning in the Barn he has a “hungry foot.” And there’s more I won’t divulge today. Suffice it to say Reno’s a tad spoiled. I figured it was my prerogative.
I’ve always ridden Reno the horse whisperer way with a rope halter and cotton rope reins, no bit or bridle.
I use a mounting block to get on the horses because I’ve found that as I’ve aged is not as easy to heft this body from ground level to horse level. Reno has learned to stand by the box like a gentleman and wait for me to mount. Lately he’s taken to standing over the box (which is a really difficult way to mount because if he’s over the box I can’t stand on it) and other times he takes 1 step back just as go to put my foot in the stirrup, which messes with my senior citizen balance. We’ve always worked it out, but now that I think back it has escalated the tiniest bit over the past few rides.
When Reno did his mounting box avoidance maneuvers yesterday, I worked with him as normal, realizing with its shorter stirrups, mounting with the English saddle would not be as easy as stepping into the western stirrup. But I managed a smooth mount, sinking gently into the saddle.
Normally Reno stands until I tell him to walk. Yesterday wasn’t normal. He took two steps forward, buried his head between his front legs and began to buck like a rodeo bronc.
As Reno bucked his way around the corner and along the arena wall I realized three things. He wasn’t going to quit, my left foot was too far into the stirrup, and he and I were going to part company.
I’d like to tell you that my horsemanship skills made me able to make a miraculous save, but they didn’t. I didn’t even make 8 seconds, so no trophy buckle. About 60 feet later I hit the floor, first on the base of my neck then followed by my hip, as my foot released from the stirrup.
I’d forgotten the miserable feeling that accompanies having the wind knocked out of you and tried not to panic. Slowly the air came back into my lungs, and I did a mental body assessment. I had not hit my head ( I wear a helmet) but the pain in my neck back and hip was excruciating. Getting bucked off a horse at 69 years old isn’t so different than when you’re twenty, but it hurts a whole lot more.
Boy, is the arena floor hard. I sat there thinking, do you really want to do this anymore? The words that went through my mind are unprintable, but the answer was yes, so I got up, caught Reno and worked with him, all the while wondering if I was too injured to try again. As the pain sank in I realized it couldn’t be today. I was thankful to have the strength to unsaddle Reno and put his equipment away.
Last evening I felt like a failure, disgusted and angry. After all, this is my life work and mustangs are a cause I champion. Sleep was miserable and getting out of bed this morning was comical. I can’t tell you how many parts of my body hurt with the kind of pain that makes you nauseous. When I made toast so I could take ibuprofen, I bit down—right on the spot I had a tooth pulled from two days ago. ARGH!!! I spent most of the day reading a book with my mind rejecting the idea of writing a blog post. I was too sore to type and too fogged to think.
If the enemy can ruin my love of riding, it will kill my enthusiasm for the blogs and the stories I write. God has given me a lifetime worth of training in horses, and I’m called to write. And while the enemy may win a few battles, he won’t win the war. I’m in this until God says I’m finished.
Barbara Ellin Fox
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