I've been to the barn more this week than I have for the past several weeks, and yet I'm sure that I've actually spent less time in the saddle than in previous weeks!
Sparky is way out of shape and quite pudgy (my new favorite nickname for him is "Pudge," which I extra-like, because it's also a name for mashed potatoes, which I also love), so I've been trying to spend some time in the rather-hilly back pasture doing my version of "trot and canter sets." This really just means that because I don't own a watch, we trot around the perimeter a few times, canter around then perimeter a few times, and then reverse and repeat. We get the benefit of a big area to maintain our pace for a longer period, as well as the added effort from the hills and dips.
Since it was a perfect day weather-wise, I decided it would be a good day to go out to the back pasture. We did this last week, and it went well. The one change I made was to shorten my stirrups a hole - they felt a little long last week.
We head out to the pasture, and started out at a walk around the perimeter. After completing one circuit, we moved up into a trot. As we came by the trees, Sparky started to get a little "looky." I remembered that the neighbors have cows and assumed that Sparky was just hearing them, but worried because he couldn't see them. I mentally shrugged and thought, "No big deal. He's seen cows before - he'll be fine."
We passed the treed area and move along our fenceline to where it paralleled the clearing in the neighbor's pasture... oh! Here are the cows! Sparky was still acting a bit spooky, so after we passed by, I brought Sparky back to a walk, with the intent of walking by the cows again. It seemed it might be okay, but then one of the cows (calves, really) cantered up to the fenceline!
Thoroughly convinced that the zombie calf wanted to eat Sparky's brains ('cause they're so big, you know), Sparky politely tried to excuse himself from the situation through all means of attempted bolting, spinning, backing, hopping, and popping up in front. I had him well enough in hand that he didn't actually run off, but I knew that I also did not want to stay on him. Convinced he was about to be zombie-fied, it took a minute to settle Sparky enough for me to dismount.
My smart thought upon dismounting: unbuckle the reins. I knew I would have more control over Sparky if I brought the reins back over his head, rather than leaving them around his neck as I usually do... but for some reason, unbuckling the ends seemed like a good idea.
I worked on the ground with Sparky for a while, trying to convince him that the cows really were not going to harm him. Poor Sparky was literally terrified - every single muscle was tense, he was puffed up, blowing, shaking, snorting, and soaked with sweat. Poor guy! A few times he relaxed just enough to try to reach down and take a bite of grass, but as he rustled leaves and made noise, he scared himself again!
Eventually, Sparky started to calm down some, and tried to grab a bite of grass again. But then, horror of horrors, one of the zombie cows (again, calves, really) came running up to the fenceline again. That was enough for Sparky. He said, "Fuck this shit! I'm outta here!" and took off. I suppose I could have tried to hold him, but really, what was the point? I'm brave, but I'm not stupid (I don't think, anyway...). As Sparky ran off, I yelled to him to not break anything. And I set off, at a much slower pace, across the many (15?) acre pasture back towards the little barn to retrieve my pony.
As I got close, I saw that there were no longer reins dangling from the bit... nay, there was no bit! So much for my warning to not break anything. Of course, for probably the first time ever, there are no spare halters by the barn with which to catch my horse, but then I spotted a random few straps laying on the ground. So I walked over to those, thinking it would work for now to lead Sparky back to the main barn. As I got closer, I realized that those straps were not so random after all. Oops. Reins - check. Bit - check. Cheek pieces - check. Headstall - headstall?!? *Sigh*
Who would have thought a cow (calf) could be so terrifying?