Thursday, March 24, 2011

River Crossing Terror

River Crossing Terror

Years ago, before Cruiser bowed his tendon and the vet convinced me to keep front shoes on him for support, I used to pull his shoes for the winter. (In fact, I tried that this year, but ended up putting them back on after 8 weeks because he seemed off on his tendon.) Anyway, usually there would be about a month or so in the spring that I would be riding without shoes. For many years, he had no problem with it, but a few years before the tendon incident, something strange started to happen.

When he crossed the very first river crossing on our rides—the only one that there is no way of avoiding, if he didn’t have shoes in the spring, (it didn’t matter in the fall if I pulled his shoes early,) he would cross really weird. It is hard to explain what was going on. It was as if his legs were going every which way. He would go too fast—maybe he was trying to gait? I don’t know what it was. We called it his “crab walk.” That first crossing has a slippery slate bottom, so that might have contributed to it. The first year, we thought it was just excitement—and then we put his shoes on—it instantly disappeared.

Then it happened again the next spring, and the next spring. The crossings could be terrifying. I would try to stop him so he could pull himself together. That helped, sometimes. One time, when the river was very low, he fell. We parted, and he scrambled up and went to the side that leads towards home. He was so scared from the incident, that it took me a week to get him to cross the river, again.

Since he has had shoes on in the spring the last 3 springs, we haven’t had any trouble crossing the river. I was thinking about that when we crossed for the first time this year. All went well, he stepped carefully through the water to the other side—in spite of being very excited to be going on a real trail ride. In fact, that was the only time that he walked slow on the entire ride.

The following day, we went on another trail ride. I was in the lead, and my sister was following with Ranger. Cruiser readily stepped in the water. I was about halfway across, and he started to crab walk. All kinds of things rushed through my head. First of all, I didn’t want him to fall. It was a cold morning and not a good day to get soaked. Second, I was upset that the crab walk came back even with shoes. Will this happen every time I cross now? I couldn’t get him to stop, so I just tried to guide him straight to the river bank. I didn’t know where Ranger was, but I didn’t want to take my attention from Cruiser. I could hear geese honking in the background, but I couldn’t hear Ranger splashing through the water.

We got to the other side, and I breathed a huge sigh of relief. I looked back, and Ranger hadn’t even started across. Ellen yelled over to me, “I didn’t know geese could hover like that.” I had no idea what she was talking about.

She crossed with Ranger and was shocked when I asked her about the geese. She said that as we started to cross, a pair of Canadian geese were flying down the river. When they reached us, they didn’t go around us, they hovered in the air until we got out of their way. Poor Cruiser—no wonder he was rushing across the river!

I did see the geese land in the water when we were reached land. I was concentrating so hard on getting across the river safely, I didn’t realize the honking geese were right next to us!

Ranger, on the other side, was terrified and acting up for my sister, even though he wasn’t in the flight path. I am glad that Cruiser went in the water, first, since he handled the crisis better. The slate bottom is too slippery and uneven for a horse to be bouncing about.

I was very happy, because this meant the return of the crab walk was a one time thing! Hurray! We wouldn’t have any more scary crossings—unless the geese come back to terrorize us.


Story said...

I can't get my girl to cross a puddle...I can't imagine adding geese lol.

achieve1dream said...

That is too weird about the geese. Strange. I'm glad everything turned out okay and that he isn't crabwalking again.