DiDi has a turn.During the ride out DiDi had been playing up a little. She’d been reaching and tugging down on the reins which normally indicates she is anxious. On most of such occasions when she has foamed up around the mouth, seemingly she wants to expel the liquid. Some days it is an issue, on others it is not. However nothing too bad had happened on the ride and we reached the yard safely. Once in the yard I turned her back towards her stable and we stood where earlier she had been groomed and tacked up - all very normal. Getting down off the saddle is these days for an Old Man a cautious move, because he can’t readily swing his right leg over her butt. Neither does he leave the left foot in the stirrup iron, Western style. So the acquired method is to swing one’s upper body across the neck of the horse, and then grab the flap of the saddle down by the girth with the right hand. This is to avoid dropping down onto the ball of the foot. The attendant concussion would provoke arthritis problems within a few days. There is no fast dismount for the Old Man. But DiDi knows the game, we have played it often enough,
Now we were facing towards the back of the barn with the entrance to her stable a few feet over to the right. Just as I was lifting my right leg, in preparation to dismount, she moved forwards and turned towards the stable door. She had never done this before in 18 months. Of course, she knew it was her stable. I was caught in “flagrante dismounte” - neither in the saddle nor out of it. Instantly I straightened up and I grabbed with my right hand for the right rein. DiDi proceeded to walk forwards towards the open door of the stable. For her, the bar over the door was no obstacle whereas for me it was a serious barrier which had to be avoided. I lent forwards and ducked under the bar as we passed into the stable itself. What was she thinking about? It was at this point that I must have called out. Oh, I don’t know what I shouted, it wasn’t conscious me speaking. It was that sub conscious part of the brain which was saying -” Oi, you’ve lost the plot, you silly old Git And now we are going to hit the ground.”.
Once in the stable, - a 14 ft square, rubber matted haven for DiDi, there I was, still up on her back. That is simply not the place to be mounted on a horse. I remember our going round in circles. I had both reins in my left hand. Who knows what I was doing with the right. All I could think of was, “don’t go out through the stable door.” - because I’d have to duck again or be decapitated. I remember counting three times round the stable, which did not exactly take long. Then Jennie appeared. She called out to DiDi and she grabbed the reins down by the bit. DiDi came to a halt. I slid off the saddle whilst Jennie held the reins. I was breathing very fast. My heart was pounding.
Then I went over to my Irish Colleen and asked why she had done what she had done. Jennie said she had had her eyes out on stilts. Poor dear, she was frightened. There was no way I could tell DiDi off, she was obviously highly distressed. The thing to do was to get her calm. I stood by her head. I talked to her as quietly as I could and slowly we both calmed down. Jennie led DiDi off back into the yard and walked her around. I untacked her and within a few minutes she was back in her stable standing calmly munching on a hay net. Panic over.
But what had happened? I simply don’t know why she had decided to move off in the middle of the dismounting process. She usually stands perfectly still. Just why on this occasion did she decide to move when she knew full well that I was still aboard? I’ll never know and no one else was watching to tell me later. When she had started to move - just as I was at my most vulnerable posture - I felt distinctly uneasy. That was the way to hit the ground in a rather indelicate way. I was going down.
Then there was the bar over the stable door: which could decapitate me if DIDI made the move too quickly. Oh yes, there was good reason for me to panic. And panic my sub conscious brain did. What words I called out, are probably not repeatable. I don’t remember. It was not me speaking. It was that part of my brain which is constantly telling me: “OI! Horses are dangerous and unpredictable , why do you play with them?” To DiDi , the actual words didn’t matter: it was the panic in my tone of voice.
The reins, well I had them in my hands, but whether or not I had a light firm contact, I don’t know. In truth probably I didn’t. All I do know is that DiDi was running round in a 14ft square space - not spinning nor whirling - she was running. OK, I know horses, don’t run. I had not practised this manoevre before. But when I looked at my hands, I’ll swear that my hold on the reins was pulling her head to the left, not to the right to follow her movement.. I had been trying to stop her but DiDi was in panic mode too.
In my head I was saying to myself: - “Godden, you are going to come off and then she is going to trample you with those steel shod hooves. Don’t fall off.” And I didn’t.
It was Jennie from the ground who stopped DiDi and not me. Of course, I was subjected to the verbals like: - “how did you get her into this state? “
In 33 years of riding, this was the first time I have been caught out like this. I must be losing it.
Apart from the shout, I did not get angry. But it was most likely the instinctive shouting which caused DiDi to panic. My leaning forward to get under the bar must have added to her fears. “What is he doing?” she must have thought.
Why had she made a beeline for the stable door? Well only she really knows. I can only guess.
I know now never to leave the stable door open if it is my intention later to want to dismount just a few feet away.
I also know that I must face her towards a brick wall or some other obstacle to dismount. Also taking a short hand full of the reins is just not enough to stop her if for whatever reason she decides to move forwards.
I now think that once in the stable I should have dropped the reins and let her charge round with me aboard but somehow that is like letting go of the steering wheel in a skid. In reality DiDi could not have gone far - except perhaps back out through the stable doorway. If I could duck under the bar on the way in, then hopefully I could have ducked on the way out. I didn’t let go of the reins, if anything I took them up.
In future, no way is any food to be left in the stable, on this occasion there wasn’t any but maybe DiDi thought there was. It was, after all, teatime.
I also realize that I must be 100% sure that next time I dismount that I get it right - otherwise I am going to have DiDi panic every time I get off.
It was my fault, my fault. Mea culpa, mea culpa.
After all, DiDi is just a timid, frightened, sensitive, 8 year old Irish mare and that is just the way she wants me to keep thinking. She is young and beautiful; a delicate innocent creature from County Cork and I must protect her.
Me, well as I have said elsewhere, I either have to stay one step ahead of her, or she’ll dump me for a younger man.