Tips for Trail Riders: How to Slay a Dragon in 13 Steps


    Life with Horses - Tips for Trail Riders: How to Slay a Dragon in 13 Steps
    Just in case you come across a dragon like this on your next trail ride, I have some tips to help you slay it.

    As I mentioned in my previous blog posting, my blustery, in-your-face Paint gelding, Wally, has finally met his match. And it’s a dragon statue sculpted out of rusted metal. After Wally suffered an existential crisis the first time he encountered the dragon, you’d think that I’d simply avoid riding past it again.

    But then, you’d be wrong.

    Because I’m nothing if not a horsewoman who wants to prove a point to her horse. And that point would be that metal dragons are not going to kill us anytime soon so we can just continue on past it thank you very much you idiot sorrel gelding.

    Just in case you might encounter a dragon while riding, I’d like you to be prepared. So, with a hint of humor, I offer up How to Slay a Dragon in 13 Steps:

    1. As you approach the Realm of the Dragon, do so at a slow, leisurely pace. This will instill a sense of calm and tranquility to your horse. Who knows? Maybe he won’t even notice the towering monstrosity with its leering stance until you’ve ridden past it. And then it’ll be over before it starts.
    2. Well, that didn’t work.
    3. Take a moment to marvel at the equine’s ability to recognize subtle cues from the environment that signal potential doom and gloom. Interestingly, this may correlate with the behavior your horse displays when he sees the vet truck pull into the driveway.
    4. During initial phase of horse’s physical signs of Mental Meltdown (i.e. arched neck, bulging eyes, snorting nostrils, ears pricked forward like tines on a dinner fork, etc.) make a calculated attempt to distract him from dragon and also reconnect to your aids. Institute tactics promoted by that chorus of experts in your memory bank, including Clinton Anderson, George Morris, Julie Goodnight and Margie, your first instructor from Pony Club when you were 9.
    5. Despite all these well-intentioned Words of Wisdom, experience tells you that you’ll soon reach a point where your horse’s allegiance to your aids will be surpassed by his instinctual urge to get away from the dragon.
    6. Yes indeed. Always a multi-tasker, your horse decides to exhibit both aspects of the fabled “fight or flight” conundrum: He’s fighting you for not allowing him to take flight from the dragon.
    7. Achieving a détente of sorts, you finally convince your horse to settle down long enough to realize that the dragon is not going to eat him. Well, at least not right at this very moment. Pat your horse enthusiastically on the neck. Look for signs that he’s relaxing. Did he lick his lips? Turn an ear back toward you? Flex at the poll? Cock a hind leg?
    8. Somewhat emboldened, you urge your horse across the street, because this would amount to true victory. He shall now cross the street and continue down the trail, traipsing directly into the path of the dragon! Hoo-rah!
    9. Or… not. He reaches the middle of the crosswalk and simply. Cannot. Take. Another. Step. Frozen in place, you attempt to restart his forward momentum. This exercise in futility only serves to prove once and for all that no 115-pound woman can physically make a 1,000-pound horse go someplace he most certainly does not want to go.
    10. Rather than allow your horse to perform his version of the Electric Slide on a public thoroughfare covered with asphalt, you turn him around and go back to the safe side of the street (the non-dragon side) and reconsider your options. Ask yourself: “Is this the hill I want to die on?” Envision the hospital visits, the whisperings at the funeral, and the obituary in the local paper. People will be quizzically asking each other in hushed tones, “And it involved a dragon statue?”
    11. Dismount. Pull reins over horse’s head. Lead him across road to meet the dragon face to face. Although horse doesn’t follow readily, he does come, each stiff-legged step mimicking the unsure, wary walk of Frankenstein’s monster. No doubt he’s calculated that the length of the reins will permit just enough time for him to bolt and run after the dragon snatches you in its jaws.
    12. Stand outside dragon’s lair for an indeterminate amount of time, as long as it takes for horse’s eyeballs to return to their original position in his skull. Console horse continuously by stroking mane and interjecting soothing comments like, “At some point you’re going to grasp that this is an inanimate object and then you’re going to feel really stupid.” Meanwhile, wish you had a dollar for every driver who pauses to ask if you were bucked off. (Doesn’t anyone every dismount voluntarily in this town?)
    13. Fortunately, before sunset and before your husband contacts the sheriff and insists on a search party, your horse visibly sighs and drops his head. After much contemplation he has dismissed the dragon as merely another example of bad yard art. Finally. You stick a foot in the stirrup and remount. Pat horse reassuringly. Then school horse back and forth in front of dragon until you’ve worn a furrow in the patch of crab grass outside the fence line.

    Eventually head home, both you and the horse exhausted from the ordeal of slaying a dragon.

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    1. HaHa! Reverse the human and horse roles and you’ve got TJ and myself 😀 ! I’m also not ashamed to admit it, but I am blushing as I type this.

    2. Very funny! I had a similar encounter on the trail yesterday with the dreaded “fire pit of doom”. Who knew a circle of stones and some charred logs would completely unnerve an otherwise brave gelding? Thanks for the laugh.

    3. Hey, Cindy! You should really check out the book “Hold Your Horses” by Bonnie Timmons. It has so many goofy “nuggets of truth”, so she says, “for people who love horses no matter what”. I just love this book and its cartoon drawings make it so much more lovable!

    4. That was delightful! You have managed to keep me and the cats up way past my bedtime–they sleep over 90% of the time, so they’ll have no sleep debt issues.


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