Sunday, July 15, 2012

Duke's Recompense

Last January, as I related in a series of earlier posts, I had a riding accident while working with Duke.  My left leg and foot were crushed when he fell and I've been trying to recover ever since.  The leg is still swollen and has to be wrapped daily and I am still unable to wear my nice cavalry boots or any kind of snug footwear.  I can ride without much problem and I can walk normally for a little while.  Eventually, if I spend too much time on my feet, I begin to limp slightly like Chester on Gunsmoke.

As a result, I try to avoid walking for long periods of time.  This gets a little problematic though when I have to go searching through the pasture for the horses.  The pasture is about 58 acres of rugged terrain and the horses generally like to graze as far away from the feeding area as possible.  Last week, while searching for them, they appeared from a stand of trees at the extreme north end of the pasture.  I was already limping from the effort to find them.  The horses trotted up to me to say hello and then thundered off toward the feeding area as they like to do. 

As I contemplated the long uphill walk back to the stables, Duke who was at the rear of the herd, trotted up to me and stopped. It is unusual for a single horse to stay behind when the rest of the herd is galloping away.  Nevertheless, Duke stood there quietly as I slipped the halter I was carrying over his head and tied the lead rope around his neck.  I then positioned him in a low spot so I could jump on his back, as he is a tall horse and I don't jump as high as I once did.  I managed to get aboard easily though as Duke did not move a muscle while I mounted. 

Duke was eager to catch up to the herd, but as I had no bridle on him, I requested he walk.  He did so obligingly, although he walked swiftly.  He sped up when we descended into a gully as horses like to do in order to use their momentum to crest the other side, but otherwise, he remained at a walk for the whole ride of about a half mile.  I was greatly appreciative of his assistance as it saved me a lot of discomfort. 

It don't know why Duke stopped to give me a lift as he has never done it before.  Maybe he just wanted me to bring him in first as he prefers a stall to the pasture.  Or maybe he could see I needed a little help and, like a good horse, decided to provide it.  The experience was just one of many that caused me to think that animals understand us better than we give them credit for. 

Friday, July 6, 2012

Independence Day

Waiting to start our demo

For the last ten years or so, celebrating the 4th of July has always meant riding a horse in Veterans Park in Sierra Vista.  B Troop is tasked each year to set up an encampment and deliver a proclamation to the city mayor during a noon-time ceremony.  The ceremony always features a 50-gun salute to each of the states and a fly over of F-16s.  It is a nice little ceremony and it attracts a lot of the local politicians and military dignitaries. 

The fly over

In the old days, our participation also featured pony rides for the kids.  For a small donation we would put kids up on the horses and walk them around in a circle.  I called it the "pony ride death march" as it was always very hot and walking around in the hot sun for four or five hours in a wool uniform was brutal.  However, we eventually learned that it was illegal for us to accept donations as are a military unit and then we had a couple of incidents with the children.  During one of the pony rides, a couple of our horses ran off with children clinging to the saddles.  Thankfully, no one was injured, but we decided after that to discontinue the pony rides. 

Dismounted fighting demo

This year we did our usual encampment and ceremony gig, but there were thunderstorms all around the valley so we had to pull out early.  We still managed to support the ceremony and then hung around for a while so every kid in town could come up and pet the horses.  We were literally surrounded and it was getting a little scary as the crowd surged forward.  Now I know what rock stars go through.