Monday, July 29, 2013

The rodeo ride (and Big Black Demon-spawn)

It's absolutely official.

I hate biting flies. You know the ones, the Big Black Demon-spawn that bite hard enough to draw blood and drive horses crazy.

They drive mine to buck. Even under saddle.

Gabe has bucked a few times while out riding and one of the Big Black Demon-spawn lands on him in a place he can't reach. He grunts and bucks a couple of times, I find the bug and try to squash it. It keeps me on my toes and he gets a natural "chiropratic crack" in the process.

Montana, on the other hand, is a nasty bucker.  He takes off running and bucking, under saddle, when the bugs start biting hard. He's an athlete, apparently. He bucks sideways, twisting his body in the process of trying to rid himself of the Big Black Demon-spawn that land on his belly.

And apparently, I need to practice riding without stirrups more often to improve my balance and strengthen my seat.

Yes, I got dumped this weekend. By Montana. Stupid bugs.

We trailered to a friend's place this weekend to go for a trail ride. It was Montana's first outing there so he was a bit up and looky, but nothing major. We were in the woods (the bugs were awful. A buffet of every biting bug imaginable followed and tormented our little group), trotting along, nice as can be, a good, forward, energetic trot when I felt him starting to ball up, his tail started going crazy, his head came up and his ears laid back flat. I thought the rider behind us was perhaps a bit closer than Montana was comfortable with and dismissed it to attitude. Then, without warning, he just started bucking and going forward with even more energy, bucking and twisting his body in a way I've only seen accomplished at rodeos.

Off I went.

Right off into the dirt and hard on my butt. I have a very pretty bruise where I landed and, oh, boy, did my lower back ever hurt the morning after. He stopped immediately and stood there looking at me like "what the heck are you doing down there, silly human?" Of course, I was absolutely mortified to get ditched in front of my friend and my husband and a woman I had just met. What kind of rider am I that I can't stick to my horse for a couple of bucks? Usually, those things don't faze me at all, I can ride just about anything they want to throw at me and laugh at them as they do it. I might not be pretty while riding out a stupid moment or two, but I can usually ride it out and stay aboard until the stupids are out. He seriously caught me off guard. I did not expect that, not at all. Especially not while going at a good trot.

I brushed the dirt off, put a mental Band-aid on my pride, and hopped back on.

The rest of the ride was fairly uneventful, he was still up and looky, but, new place, strange horses, 4-wheelers and dogs, all contributed to his level of high alert and I couldn't really get on to him for being a nut. He's still young, and he needs many, many more miles under saddle before new things become old hat. He did walk right over an old, tilted, wooden bridge without much fuss at all, a definite plus in my book.

But I can guarantee this: Every ride from now on will start with a good 10-15 minutes of work without stirrups and another 10 in two-point to regain my balance and solid seat. There is no reason at all that I should have come off, and I'm going to do all I can to make sure it doesn't happen again. At least, not with anyone watching!

Oh, and more fly spray. Lots more fly spray.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Born of the Pyramids: Rocky's Story

Most horses in the U.S. have a pretty good life. At least, all of the horses I know do. The ones I know (and there are many!) are pampered, doted on, spoiled, given good veterinary care and considered part of the family. Gabe has been reacting to fly and mosquito bites very, very badly this year, so, he gets antihistamines, bug spray, a fly mask and baths with soothing, medicated shampoo to ease the welts. I have a full-body/neck fly sheet on the way. I can’t stand to see any horse suffer. I see a bump, bruise, scrape or owie on any of them and it gets treated.

They really have no idea how good life is and I hope they never know any other life.

There are those out there who are abused and starved and neglected in the U.S., but there are charities and organizations here that work to help them and find them new homes.

But imagine being in a poor country in the middle of a revolution where horses are treated like 3rd hand vehicles and kept working injured, starved, sick and abused.

I had no idea how bad it was for horses in other countries. I think many of us forget that in other countries, horses are merely beasts of burden, worked until they die with no thought for health or comfort, or even food. We are used to our pampered, glossy, healthy horses. Not the skinny, abused, injured, sick and overworked ones that are the norm rather than the exception.

I just finished a book, “Born of the Pyramids: Rocky’s Story” by Susan Richards-Benson that highlighted the suffering of the horses in Egypt.

The story is written based on real-life, current experiences of horses in Cairo told from the point of view of a horse named Rocky. It follows Rocky from birth through a variety of owners and the abuses he and his fellow horses suffered: Beatings, saddle sores and harness sores, torn lips and tongues cut by sharp bits, starvation, dehydration, poor farriery, infections, overwork, the ignorance of owners about the welfare of their horses and the boggling practice of applying red hot iron rods to horses’ legs to “make their hearts stronger.”

The book kept me riveted from page one. The story kept reminding me of Anna Sewell’s “Black Beauty” as Richards-Benson showed the reader the wretched lives of the horses living (subsisting) and working in the streets of Cairo. They are worked until they die or simply cannot move.
My heart broke as a I read it and with each new, horrifying atrocity done to the horses and donkeys in the book, I found myself often thinking “no way. There’s no way anyone could be that ignorant and cruel!” I kept waiting for Rocky to wake up and find out it was all just some horrible dream he was having. But, it wasn’t a dream.

Rocky was actually one of the first horses purchased by a small rescue started to help the horses in Cairo and he has become the “mascot” representing the plight of Cairo’s horses and the efforts to help ease their harsh lives.

I did a bit of research while I read the book and found out the atrocities committed throughout the book are extremely commonplace in Egypt. It’s just the way it’s done because no one knows any better, but there are groups working to get feed, vet care and farrier work to the horses and educate the owners about the proper care of the animals they depend on and use for their livelihoods.

Some of the terms used will be unfamiliar to American horse owners because they are terms more commonly used in Britian. I believe the author is British, which explains some of the unfamiliar terms. I read a lot of training books written by British authors, so I could figure out what most of the words were referring to.

I do recommend this book. It’s not terribly long and is a fast read (about horses, always a bonus in my world!), plus, buying one helps the horses!

The author, who is working to change the plight of the horse in Egypt and around the world, is donating proceeds from the sale of “Born of the Pyramids” to The Egypt Horse Project, The Egyptian Society of Animal Friends and other animal welfare organizations worldwide.

The book can be found at

I highly, highly recommend a visit to the Facebook page of “Born of the Pyramids.” Updates on the work being done for the horses in Cairo are regular and the photos of the horses, their condition and injuries will definitely make you want to not only donate, but go out and hug your horses and give them a few extra carrots.

(Full disclosure: I did not get compensated for this review. I was asked by the author to review the book and because the proceeds from the sale benefits the horses, I agreed.)