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.
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.