(Originally posted to my tumblr in June 2021.)
Time for another vacation story! This one about a horse Causing Problems.
Everyone meet Stubby. Stubby was very tall, had a top speed of “turtle,” and does not seem to have had a thought ever in his life. Notice the curled over ear, possibly due to not having the brainpower to hold it up.
Here’s the scene: there’s a group of about fifteen of us going on this trail ride. Upon arrival we’re all asked who has ridden a horse before. Twelve of us, myself included, raise our hands. Three do not. The wranglers use this information to pair us with good horses. I was given Stubby because I said I was willing to deal with a horse that needed “hearty rein use.”
So off we go, plodding along up the mountain. I’m actually not a huge fan of trail rides like this, but I freaking miss horses and can’t afford my own at this point so trail rides are what I’ve got. It becomes quickly evident that a good portion of the other eleven people who claimed to have horse experience have probably lied at least slightly if not severely. This doesn’t particularly matter because these are well trained trail horses that are used to having absolute idiots on their backs. Tug on their reins as randomly as you want, they’re following the lead horse and that is it.
Reaching the top of the mountain, our group split into two. Most of us had paid for a steak dinner as part of our ride. Three of us had not, so they continued on along the trail. Said three were the ones who had never ridden horses before and also, apparently, never been at Colorado mountains level altitude, let alone on a ninety-something degree day. This turned out to not be a great mix. One lady in the group apparently passed out from altitude sickness or heat-stroke or stress or some combination of the three. Thankfully she did not fall off, but either way it got all the wranglers up and running to go help out with this lady.
Which is great! That is exactly what they are supposed to do! Except. Well. This left the rest of us completely alone on top of a mountain with a bunch of horses. The lies told by my fellow riders about their level of experience were becoming more apparent the longer we waited. A good half of them were just terrified of their horses. None of them seemed to have any idea how to approach the horses. I realized with dawning horror that I was the one with the most experience. Mind you, I had not actually ridden a horse in about fifteen years. But I was still apparently much better off than everyone else in the knowledge department.
It was about this time that Stubby got incredibly tangled up in his reins. See, when we’d gotten off for dinner the wranglers had told us to just leave our horses, and they’d take care of them. So I did. But, for whatever reason, none of the wranglers actually secured the reins on any of the horses. They just left them dangling. Which is. Not great. And Stubby was a perfect demonstration as to WHY.
The reins first slipped over his head to drag along the ground as he munched on clover, but they were still kind of draped over his ears. Then they twisted into a loop on the ground. Then Stubby stepped in that loop. Then he lifted his head. The result of all of this was that he now had a tight loop around his leg and something pulling at his ears and he was Not. Thrilled. Started rearing back and doing little bucks, jerking his head to try and get free.
I was, at that point, helping everyone take pictures with their individual horses since I was about the only one willing to approach the horses and lead them around. As soon as I saw what Stubby had gotten himself into, and the wide-eyed looks of “do we need to also panic?” on the faces of my fellow riders, I darted over and grabbed Stubby’s reins. It took a minute to get him calmed down, then I set about untangling him. This took some work since, as I said, he was a big boy. A good handful of clover had to be offered to get his head down so I could actually reach his ears and loosen the reins enough to free him.
Okay, crises averted. Reins are off, they have been properly secured, and Stubby is back to munching on clover. Still no sign of the ACTUAL wranglers, but whatever, the sun is setting and it’s dang pretty. We’re not in danger of real dark for at least another hour, so it’s fine.
Except it would seem that, despite his lack of braincells, Stubby is in fact capable of horse-to-horse telepathy, allowing him to communicate the steps to causing problems. Two more horses proceeded to get stuck in their reins in the exact same way. By now the other riders were mostly huddled in a little group off to the side as I darted around freeing panicked creatures and securing all the reins properly. One of the horses, Whiskey—who never got stuck—decided this made me The Best and started following me, nudging for constant petting as I worked. Stubby seemed completely unconcerned with the chaos he’d started.
Finally the wranglers came back, all apparently under the assumption that they’d told one of the other ones to stay with us, resulting in none of them staying with us. O’well. All’s well that ends well.
Everyone mounts back up and we set off back to the ranch. As we ride we all chitchat and it turns out that “we’ve ridden horses before” meant that the majority of my fellow riders had been on horses before, but someone else had been leading them around a ring. They’d never even touched the reins themselves. Apparently the wranglers need to be asking more specific questions at the start of these rides. Things like “have you ridden a horse you were in control of?” and “have you ridden a horse outside a ring?”
What I’ve learned from this experience is that you could not pay me enough to lead trail rides. Also I really want my own horse again.
But hey, at least it was pretty!