Friday Five

Friday Five: Worst Rides on Gem

Until I have some more interesting topics to share, I thought it would be fun to do some fun lists and who doesn’t love a little week day alliteration? First up, brought on by my most recent ride, the five worst rides I’ve had on Gem, in ascending order of horror.

5.)  Mud. Falling off. Stupid decisions. This has them all!

This story goes back circa spring 2010 and both Gem and I were very, very different back then. The Dynamic Duo were being boarded at a “training” facility, hahahaha but that is another story, 50 minutes away from us. It was nearing our time to move to OH and I believe this was our very last ride there.

For some reason that is completely unfathomable to me now, Dusty and I decided to ride Gem and Pete in the small indoor arena while an old fashioned sprinkler was running.  You know the type – slow around then zips back? Yep…smart, right?

Dusty went first and hugged the arena wall which gave Pete plenty of time to eye the sprinkler. When it came his way, only his hooves got splashed and all was well and good. When it was my turn, I tried to do the same only husband, using some sort of male logic, came trotting up  between Gem and the sprinkler. Pete gets hit full blast in the chest and freaks out which causes Gem to subsequently freak out bolting bucking and throwing me to splat in the mud.

I was pissed though not at Gem.

4.) Endurance ride Twilight Zone. 

Flash forward to fall of 2011 in WI. Gem and I had completed our first LD three weeks earlier coming in 8th (though for full disclosure I fell off at mile 21). The season ended Halloween weekend and I was too excited to wait until the following May to begin again. Dusty and Pete joined us and even signed up last minute for the ride!

The actual time spent on Gem was fine. We finished with all As in 4 1/2 hours including the 50 minute hold, brain can’t do math right now, tied for  last with Pete in a drizzling rain that had lasted all weekend.

What made it awful was the entire rest of the experience. We arrived with several dishes for the pot luck. Waiting for the ride meeting and dinner in a crammed room, we happened to sit right next to the entrance door to the food. Once dinner was called, everyone ran to the door and Dusty ended up holding it open. Multiple people laughed at us holding the door and waiting patiently telling us that being nice would make us starve. These were adults. We watched as people left with heaping plates of food on multiple trays per person and when it was finally time for us to enter, it was all gone. No food left. We then sat for the ride meeting, hungry, and watched as people threw away all that food they so greedily took. We ended up eating peanut butter in our tent.

During the ride itself, people laughed at our slower pace over twisting, technical train covered in more roots than I had ever seen. Karma took over though – the ride had a really high pull rate for lameness and the vet went ballistic on people.

When we finished, 4 1/2 hours later with a 6 hour time limit, they had already taken down the finish line, nobody was around and dinner had been started an hour early. When we found people they told us to go faster next time, never mind that both our horse (draft horse included) had all As on the card in a ride where a lot were pulled. The vets told us we were rude for making them wait in the drizzle. Excuse me? We could have turned around before the finish and done another loop and still been under 6 hours!

It was enough for me to quit endurance until we moved to a new region.

3.) First solo conditioning ride: January 2014.

When we moved to SC, I decided that I wanted to try again with endurance. Re read #4 to see why I gave up on it back in WI. Wyatt was just over a year old which took Dusty out of the picture as a training partner and I didn’t know anyone local yet.

No to be deterred, I loaded Gem and made my way to the Clemson Experimental Forest for the first time. I wanted to go for an hour. Now, I had had Gem for 4 years at this point, she had done two LD rides and been on countless miles of trails with me and Dusty, this wasn’t her first trail outing by any means.

Dusty went off hiking with the dogs and kiddo and I pointed Gem down a different trail. I had no real distance marker in mind, but figured we could do about 4-5 miles in the hour given her past performances.

30 minutes later we had gone 0.75 miles. I was in near tears and so frustrated I couldn’t speak. She had spun around to go back to the trailer nearly a thousand times in that half an hour, spooked at nothing and crawled at a snails pace that my 1 1/2 year old son could have beaten. To say it was demoralizing is an understatement.

Of course, once I turned her around she decided it was time to gallop all the way back. The next 30 minutes were spent turning back around another thousand times only this time directed by me as I refused to let her go more than a walk back home.

By the time an hour and 1.5 miles were up and I was untacking her, I was near ready to give up on endurance and sell her to a meat packing plant. Thankfully, I did neither.

Pretty sure we aren’t even on the trail here. It looks to be off to the right. Not surprising given how she would turn around all the time.

2.) The clinic from Hell.  

Ah. This still makes me angry. Flash back to our fake training barn in spring of 2012, OH. Trainer’s friend and clinician, B, was coming to the barn to do a clinic. At this point in my career with Gem we were just finally starting to walk with some trot work and no canter at all because asking made Gem buck.  Pete had a nasty rearing problem any time you asked him to stand still for more than a minute.

Trainer, likely trying to drum up business for her friend, signed both of us up for a half flat work and…wait for it…half cross country jump clinic. I wasn’t so keen, but she said we were ready. HA!

There were five us in the group: Dusty/Pete, Me/Gem, a scared to death young girl on a schoolmaster that a monkey could have ridden blind folded, and two middle aged women on their OTTBs. The clinician immediately hated us. Her whole shtick was to yell, make fun of everyone and screech in the most grating nasal voice possible. That is just about the exact opposite type of personality to get me to do anything. Anyway…

The clinic started off with us all sitting on our horses in a circle listening to her. Pete reared and spun and bolted and did anything but stand still. The young girl cried. At least Gem and I could stand. Then we went around the arena on the rail at the walk and when the leader got to C they had to trot while B yelled and screeched about how awful they were and shouldn’t they just get a mountain bike instead? Once everyone went around we had to canter. That went awful in every respect for us.

Having been yelled at for a half hour inside, we moved outside where she proceeded to point us over solid obstacles. I was petrified. Gem was awful. Eventually she told me I was so awful at riding that I was kicked out of her clinic and to just go wander around somewhere out of her sight. I wanted to punch her teeth in. Trainer was laughing the whole time. Two weeks later we moved to WI.

Walking around out of her sight
Learning Pete lives to jump at the same clinic. Dusty was much better at tuning her out

1.)  Trail ride horror show.

It was the summer of 2012. We were still living in WI and knew Wyatt would be born that fall. We spent the summer getting in as much time on fun, childless stuff as possible and one major thing on the list was one last ride together at our favorite trail system: Castle Rock. These trails were so much fun. Mostly double wide sandy roads, some single track technical trails in the woods and a river entrance made perfect for swimming. We used to gallop for miles and miles.

On this particular day I was riding in my WISE cross country saddle which I adored, but ended up not fitting the mare well enough. We were having a great time trotting and cantering through the woods when we came upon one of the narrower and more technical sections. I still don’t know what Gem’s issue was, but she ducked her shoulder and spun 180. The saddle slipped and I was dumped  hard on my hip. I got right back on, but I hurt. It was extremely hot and humid and my nerves were a bit wracked from the fall. My guts decided I needed to go…now. I pulled over and had pretty intense diarrhea (too much info??) in the woods with mosquitoes and horseflies everywhere. My butt itched for a week! To make matters worse, in a park where we had never run across anyone ever before, along comes a big group and there just wasn’t enough vegetation around for proper coverage. It was mortifying.

The ride back was 5 miles and I couldn’t trot due to the hip hurting, but my stomach was killing me and I just wanted to get back before having to partake of the woods again. Didn’t happen. Multiple times we had to pull over so my guts could relieve themselves in the semi open forest with minimal coverage and only leaves which I desperately hoped were not poisonous to wipe with. It was the worst 5 miles I have ever ridden. To make it worse, the heart necklace Dusty had gotten me for Christmas the first year we dated (2003) broke during the fall and came off and I didn’t realize it until that night when I took a shower. We never made it back to the park and even if we had I likely never would have found it again.

The only picture of Castle Rock I could find and given the date stamp should be from that same ride. This is one of the few wooded areas, so I’m guessing it was right before she dumped me

So there you all have it. The 5 worse rides I have had while with Gem. Granted, most of them weren’t actually due to Gem, but without her they wouldn’t have happened so they count!


14 thoughts on “Friday Five: Worst Rides on Gem”

  1. I think number four actually raised my blood pressure -_- Very similar to my experience in IL. Also, I think I am stealing this!!!


  2. I’ve had some awful rides but I don’t think they were quite as bad as yours…but then again I haven’t been riding all that long to have that many stories I guess! I do have an awful trainer story though


  3. Oh man, those are some real doozies. Ugh. Esp that clinician makes me mad. It’s amazing how some of these bad experiences stay with us – not necessarily as baggage but maybe like horrible badges of….. Something?


  4. Oh dear I too have had some awful rides but most of my bad ones were me being yelled at by my dressage or eventing coach or I ended up maimed. lol Going in the woods is the worst. Especially like that, I truly felt for you on that story. This was a fun read though!


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