Keep calm and carry on

In a mo­ment of cri­sis, my new horse showed that he will take care of me for many happy miles on the trails.

EQUUS - - Eq Backpage -

Through­out my 35-year-long en­durance-rid­ing ca­reer, I have en­joyed the com­pany of some won­der­ful trail com­pan­ions, in­clud­ing sev­eral tal­ented Ara­bi­ans, a su­per-smooth Ten­nessee Walker and a feisty, opin­ion­ated Mor­gan.

In re­cent years I have suf­fered a few in­juries, in­clud­ing one that led to an emer­gency hip re­place­ment nearly three years ago. I was warned by my physi­cian never to risk fall­ing off, be­cause I am now much more frag­ile. Thus, af­ter com­plet­ing 5,000 Amer­i­can En­durance Ride Con­fer­ence (AERC) miles, I briefly con­sid­ered giv­ing up the sport I love.

But a life without rid­ing is no life at all, so in­stead I searched for a mount who could carry me smoothly and safely down the trails. Early this year I found him.

ZGC Phoenix is a curly-coated sor­rel Fox Trotter geld­ing. Ev­ery­thing about him is curly---even his eye­lashes and the hair on his ears! He’s a beau­ti­fully bal­anced 7-year-old with the thick­est mane and tail imag­in­able. And he is kind. How­ever, I didn’t re­al­ize how in­tel­li­gent and truly amaz­ing he was un­til a re­cent sum­mer evening on our ranch.

I was rid­ing Phoenix, while my hus­band, Kenny We­ber, was aboard his gray Fox Trotter mare, Legacy, and our friend Lupe rode our Ara­bian mare, Mynta. We wound through shaded ranch trails, mostly walk­ing and mixing in in­ter­mit­tent gait­ing. Phoenix was still some­what green and learn­ing the finer points of re­spon­sive­ness un­der sad­dle, but he is be­com­ing bet­ter with each ride.

We were walk­ing along on our way home when Phoenix tripped and went to his knees. I ex­pected him to catch him­self---as horses usu­ally do---but he kept go­ing down, down, down, all the way to the ground. The next thing I knew I was hard up against a barbed­wire fence and a t-post, locked be­tween two im­mov­able ob­jects.

All was quiet, in­clud­ing my mind, which was al­most in a med­i­ta­tive state. I was still in the sad­dle, not know­ing what would hap­pen next and pow­er­less to af­fect the out­come. My friends braced in their sad­dles, watch­ing in hor­ror. And then, while still down, Phoenix some­how wrig­gled his body away from the fence and out from un­der me, al­low­ing me to roll off him and land harm­lessly on the ground, in­tact. He did not strug­gle; he did not thrash. We all con­sid­ered it a mir­a­cle.

Phoenix care­fully re­gained his feet and gazed at me with soft, trust­ing eyes. He stood like a statue. Un­hurt other than a few barbed-wire nicks, I stood up. And I walked to my horse and hugged that neck and its thick, plush mane.

I be­lieve Phoenix saved my life that muggy Au­gust night with his calm­ness, steadi­ness and trust.

Lupe said she was proud of me for re­main­ing so calm---for not cry­ing out in fear. And in that Zen mo­ment I re­al­ized that horses truly do mir­ror our emo­tions. By stay­ing quiet and still, I al­lowed Phoenix the free­dom to think, to LOOK­ING AHEAD: stay calm and to not Bob­bie Lieber­man, re­act in fear. shown aboard We walked toPhoenix, is a for­mer gether a short dis­EQUUS Se­nior tance, found a rock, Ed­i­tor. Now based and I was able to in the South­west, re­mount to fin­ish she is a free­lance our ride. Far from writer and au­thor. feel­ing ap­pre­hen

sive about rid­ing again, I now felt an even closer bond with this curly-coated red pony. I will be ev­er­more vig­i­lant that he not re­peat that stum­ble and, should it hap­pen again, per­haps of­fer him a bit of sup­port with the bit and reins. We are also work­ing on ground­work ex­er­cises to help him learn to use his hindquar­ters more ef­fec­tively and stay light in the fore­hand to pre­vent fu­ture stum­bles. I look for­ward to many more happy miles on my sweet, smooth boy---and per­haps a re­turn to the en­durance trail.

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