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Jinx

September 14, 2009

Has anyone experienced riding at a particular place and invariably, something strange happens?  Even though Halloween is 7 weeks and a few days away, there is something about Union County State Park, that provides a bit too much excitement for me.  Also known as Union Grove, this is a nice area to ride and visit within a short distance of Sioux Falls, SD.  There are only 4.3 miles of horse trails, but they consist of rolling hills with native grasses and some forest along with two bridged water crossings.

Yesterday, I met a group of friends there for a RSMHA trail ride.  Being Zack’s first trail ride and only his 3rd ride, counting two 15 minute bareback rides, I was extra cautious.  His disposition is very willing and calm, so other than exposing him to new surroundings, I wasn’t too concerned.

The Beginning

The Beginning

The group consisted of 8 Morgans, 1 pony and 5 Quarter Horses.  It was a very pleasant day, sunny, calm  and very few bugs.  The first ride out, I rode Zack.  He stepped out as though this was “old hat”, so I was happy.  As the ride progressed, the trail became more muddy and slippery.  Even though the terrain is nice, the trails are VERY eroded with deep and sometimes uneven trenches.

15 Minutes Into Ride

15 Minutes Into Ride

As it became more slippery, I decided to let Zack have his head to manage the footing better.  During the third uphill climb, Zack lost his footing and tried to compensate by bucking.  After the second buck, he responded to my cue and stopped, but knowing the the ground wasn’t stable and I was off balance, I decided to bail off.  I was concerned that if I stayed on while centering myself, I could possibly make him slip and fall over, hence the bail. After dismounting, Zack stood patiently, as if wondering what had just happened.  Having a two sided horse, I mounted off side and we proceeded up the hill.  I was very pleased with his composure after the event and during remount!  Completing the 4.3 miles on Zack was a wonderful accomplishment and he even seemed pleased with himself.

After The Buck

After The Buck

After lunch, I ponnied the pony with Honor.  At the first “floating” bridge water crossing, “pony” spooked a bit.  Honor, being the moody horse this day, decided to use the spook to try to go back to camp.  Disobeying my requests to move forward, he backed himself into a deep muddy hole, basically slipping into it up to his haunches.  Leaning forward as to not fall backwards, I encouraged him to walk out of it, but with a lunge forward, and the “drink” directly in front of us, I envisioned a worse scenario than the mud.  There was a bad post sticking out of the water, that had Honor gone in, I feared would have gored him.  A prompt HALT was a must and with quick composure, we proceeded over the floating bridge with pony in tow.  Staying relaxed through this was a gift to be sure!

Honor & Pony

Honor & Pony

After this ride, Honor and I needed to release some energy, so we rode off alone for a gallop.  After trotting for a while, and just before our gallop, I noticed his bridle leather flapping.  WHAT NEXT?  A chicago screw had worked itself loose and the bit was staying secure by the mere pressure of my reins.  I know some of you would say, no big deal, ride him bridle-less.  Not being a “normal” day, it wasn’t a possibility.  Honor had two things on his mind, eating and home.  Rather than pushing my luck any further, I ceded to the “jinx” and led him back to the trailer and called it a day.

Relaxed

Relaxed

Before everyone left, a couple of us fitted a driving harness on “pony”.  He was totally accepting of the saddle, crupper and britchen.  He walked around a bit, relaxed and curious.

Since the ride was over and the group disbanding, Barry and I decided to use some existing elements for training.  There are two sets of outdoor steps.  One leads to the pavilion and another leads up a hill to some corrals.  We led the horses and pony up and down the larger steps that led to the pavilion.  Since the other steps were pretty steep for the horses, Barry led the pony up and down them.  DSCN2507Zack and pony were very interested and took to the steps like a kid to candy, while Honor was his bored, unamused self.DSCN2505DSCN2513

If you haven’t been to Union County, it is a pretty place to visit, but if your experiences have been like mine, I know I will not return.  Roughly 4 out of 5 of my riding experiences there have  involved a mishap, when every other riding experience I have had has been an uneventful one.  Since I or my horses haven’t been injured there yet, I’m not going to press my luck.  Delving into the history of the area, there have been some rather strange events during the last 100 years.  Makes me wonder why.   BOO!

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