Friday November 9 2007
Once you get a Good Horse Knocking-Around, a really serious injury, I think you sometimes have a wee different perspective from those who haven't. I never get on a horse and go out for a ride, any ride, long or short, without the miniscule thought in the back of my mind that I might not come back. It's not a fear, just a tiny awareness, and I accept that. And when I come back in one piece, there's always the diminutive little follow-up thought in the back of my head, Thanks for the Safe Ride.
Today Carol and I hauled out to Wilson Creek to meet K to ride. Another lovely day, lovely place (new for me), lovely horses.
We rode out of the parking lot, Carol on trusty August, me on trusty Jose, K on her young gorgeous bald-faced chestnut Thunder. He was a little green but had been out in this area plenty of times, and what do you do with green horses, but get miles of experience under saddle on them.
We weren't 100 yards out on the trail when K's horse, out in front with August, did a mighty spook - at what, we never figured out. Such a big spook that August and Jose spooked too. K managed to not come off, and as she was clambering back on into the saddle, her horse bolted.
"Uh oh," we said, as we calmed down our own horses. Usually when a horse bolts, you can get a hold of him after a few (or many) strides (well, the couple of bolters I've been on, anyway). K looked like she had a hold of him, but he kept going - and going. We couldn't believe he kept going. In fact, they disappeared out of sight around a hill.
It's easy as an armchair reader, or rider, to say, She should have hauled on one rein, or, She should have pointed him up a hill. That was obvious to us sitting on our horses; that's what we were yelling: "Pull on one rein!" "Point him up the hill!" Maybe K did and it didn't work, and either way, things are happening so fast when shit happens on a horse, you don't have time to sit back in your armchair and say, wow, you are right, I should be doing this. Everything shifts to instinct as things are flashing by - instinct for the horse to bolt in panic, and instinct for the person to react however they are going to react - and it does all flash by, giving you no leisurely time to reason things out. People who haven't been through the GHKA sometimes don't get this. (I got all kinds of helpful coaching after my accident, thanks).
We turned August and Jose back toward the parked trailers, thinking we'd see K pulled up in the parking lot when it came into view. As we got closer, we did see the horse trotting - but no K. Shit. We started trotting toward the lot, and Thunder saw us, came to a stop, hesitated, then whirled around and took off again in the opposite direction over a hill.
We got to the lot, and no sign of K anywhere. We should have seen her by now. Not good. We tied our horses up, and ran off in different directions looking for her. As I ran up this hill in the last place we saw her on Thunder, I was starting to have all kinds of nasty flashbacks in my head. At least I wasn't on the receiving end of things again, but K might be, oh shit oh shit. I looked back toward Carol - no K. I was panting by the time I reached the top of my hill, and I was just on the verge of panic because there was NO K. I turned to look way back toward Carol, and finally saw two figures standing. Whew! If she's standing, that was a good sign.
I met them in the parking lot, K walking gingerly, holding her arm to her side. "I think my rib's broken," and her face was skinned up, and she was a bit foggy (yes, she was wearing a helmet). At first she didn't remember exactly what happened, how far we had gone. I reminded her, and she remembered, and she remembered Thunder running all over the place, and jumping a ditch, which was her undoing. "I just can't believe it! He's never done anything like that! I don't know what it was! I just don't understand it!"
Carol had her sit down and got water and a towel for her face, and I headed up to the opposite hill where we'd last seen Thunder. I climbed to the top of that, which gave me a sweeping view 270* of the plateau below, stretching to the foothills of the mountains - and no Thunder. NOTHING. I searched and searched - if he was anywhere close, a chestnut horse, especially moving, could be seen. I needed the Elf eyes of Legolas (or binoculars), because there was nothing to be seen with the human eye. He was long gone - disappeared.
Now what? I just happened to have my cell phone with me, and it just happened to work. K didn't feel bad enough to get hauled off to a hospital immediately, but we were keeping an eye on her. We decided I'd take our two horses back home, K's boyfriend would come pick her up and take her to the hospital, and Carol would wait at the parking lot with K's trailer, hoping the horse would come back. He knew the area, and the parking lot, so maybe he'd return at some point.
I waited at home all day for news. Carol had talked to people at the nearby feedyard, asked them to keep an eye out for the horse. She flagged down a few groups of ATVers coming in to play, and enlisted their help in the search. The sheriff was notified also. By 4 PM, K was still in the hospital emergency room (so far just looked like broken ribs), and the last of the 4-wheelers were coming in - no sign of the horse. Carol was getting picked up at 5 PM, as was K's horse trailer.
We've organized a posse for tomorrow to go out and search for the horse.
Somewhere out there in the night a lone horse with saddle and hackamore roams the hills and mountains. He could be in Nevada by now if he didn't stop running, or he could be in the parking lot, or hanging near the feedyards tomorrow morning.
You just never know. It's good to acknowledge and appreciate every good thing you've got, because you may go out for a ride and not come back one day. Or your horse may not come back.