Settling into a season of less ride time, (forced due to darkness and weather), I shift focus a bit to thoughts about the upcoming ride season. I have been thinking about goals next season. Obviously I would like to stat next year off with completing a LD ride with JB early in the season .That’s a big one for me. It eluded me for the 2008 year due to JB’s bruised sole. I don’t intend to let it pass by for 2009.
Before I look ahead to far, I had to ponder where I have been. Ok 2008 was a rough year…not going to dwell on that.
Where did this desire to do endurance come from anyways? Why, more than anything has it motivated me ? When was the first time the thought of riding a horse for 50 or 100 miles over varied terrain begin to sound like fun????
It’s been hiding there in the back of my mind for a long time and it started with a special horse named Rebel. I can remember as clear as day the first time the idea of competing in endurance first entered my thoughts. It was during the first year I owned Rebel , after we sorted out some of his behavior issues he had. Rebel came to me as a rescue from an abuse situation. He had been mistreated and as a result , built in some pretty good defense mechanisms. I was told that all he knew how to do was rear or back up when a rider was on him. I had been warned that he was a renegade and I had better be careful.
At the time, I was about 17 years old and pretty much fearless. I hadn’t even heard of Natural horsemanship yet. But this was my first “horse of my own” that I had. It wasn’t a lesson horse, he wasn’t my sisters horse, he was mine. I had to make this horse right.
The first few rides out were a little rough. He had a couple of blow ups with me that included the aforementioned rearing and backing up. He bolted, he spooked, he tried to run away. He threw it all at me. Somehow, I managed to stay in the saddle during all of this , and maintained my composure (young and fearless) and just kept on about our ride.
Looking back on how I handled that, I never really got after Rebel for reacting like he was. At the time, knowing his past history of abuse, I was so fearful of doing anything he might perceive as me hurting him. I just went along with it and hoped for the best. I wanted him to realize that no matter what he did, I was still going to be right there with him. I didn’t really know what else to do. Just coming off of the last 8 years of riding Thoroughbreds retired from the track, over cross country courses, I was used to runaways.
Of course, when a horse rears like Trigger from the famed Roy Rogers show, I naturally threw the reins forward, clung to his neck and prayed to the heavens above we wouldn’t go over.
I just hoped that eventually he would realize I wasn’t going to try to hurt him and that he would eventually decide he didn’t need to do all those things. It must have worked.
After some time, I must have gained his trust on some level. He proved to be a decent riding horse. He was always a bit of a spooky, hot headed mount but over time it did lessen. THe rearing, bolting episodes lessened with each ride out and I got to see some great country atop his back as he swiftly carried us for miles and miles along the back roads of Stevensville, MT and into the Sapphire hills that shadowed the east side of the Bitterroot valley. On these rides, he astounded me with his ability for speed and it seemed I never could tire him. I rode with various people on various trail rides and ultimately would end up riding alone. No one could keep up with him. Rebel was my only riding horse for several years. I can’t tell you how many Montana sunsets I saw atop Rebels back.
… Thus the beginning of my quest to someday compete in endurance.
Since those early days, Rebel ended up having to be a bit of road warrior for me. While I floundered around through my twenties, Rebel made several moves with me from Stevensville, MT to Kalispell, MT to Helena, MT , back to Kalispell and a variety of moves around the Flathead valley at various boarding stables. It wasn’t until Tom and I married that Rebel was in any one place for any length of time. And yet, he was the one constant in a period of my life that seemed to be always changing.
In the last few years, Rebel has not been used very much. That has been eating on me. It’s easy to use his age and some of his quirks as an excuse to leave him behind as I drive off doing things with JB or any of the others at Acer Farm. It seems that there is always a youngster to work or some other project I have taken on. For a long time, I fooled myself into believing that Rebel was happier being ridden only once in a while and otherwise left to his own devices, grazing and loafing in the pasture but in my heart, I know better. Rebel has always loved getting out on the trail This past summer, I was so concerned about Rebel’s state of mind from not getting much use that Tom started him in Horseback archery, which he took too fairly quickly but if there is one thing Rebel loves to do, that is go…. and go fast.
All those years ago when it was just Rebel and I enjoying a Montana sunset, I promised him that someday we would make use of his speed and compete in an endurance ride together.
For the 2009 ride season, I intend to make good on that promise once and for all. Albeit, 14 years later and Rebel is approx 18 years old now. I might not consider it if he wasn’t in such good condition. I don’t think it’s too much to ask but it’s never too late to atleast try, right?
I realize he is older and maybe he won’t be quite as fast. Maybe I won’t find the fire he once had and I have to live with having missed making good on a promise, but my heart tells me that he has been patiently waiting all these years for me to finally give him a chance. After all, if it weren’t for Rebel, I likely would have never had the endurance bug.
Wouldn’t it be something if, after all this time, we finally get to accomplish what we intended to so many years ago?