Trekking In Iceland, Day 2


Trekking In Iceland, Day 2

Looking at the rocky moguls and lava rocky ridges and ditches and creeks of the environment, as they tacked up AJ was wondering where exactly they would be riding.  And then suddenly they were all just running full speed over that treacherous terrain.

On the first day, AJ had shouted at her no-longer-mounted riding buddy to “let go!” and then had also had to do it herself, during “the incident.”  On the second day, she witnessed a guide with a bay named Noah, demonstrate the complete opposite of that sentiment! It was like a circus act, as he, for some reason in an instant as the herd was first released and just beginning to run, he fell off, and then held on as he got dragged, to somehow sort of stand up, and then miraculously vault on to the horse in motion.  We were amazed and he was hoping no one noticed!  Incredible! 

“Imagine riding Oliver with no reins,”  AJ was the topic of some impressed conversation that night at dinner also.  It had been discovered late in the ride that she had done the drop noseband up incorrectly, making her communication with her mount through her hands and the simple snaffle bit far less than ideal.  All she knew for the first few hours of the ride was that he was a smooth but forward horse who was disinterested in her efforts to slow or steady him.  Others were surprised to see him being more forceful, and in fact difficult with head shaking, than usual, and AJ  had just concentrated on using the horse of the guide in front of her, as a break, and trying to just ride the rhythm, instead of fighting with him.  

They crossed the river over and over and over, often in water deep enough to actually swim. And they rode alongside it for miles and miles and miles.  It was glorious!

At one point, the herd had splintered.  And as they tried to round up the rebels, one of the other guests fell off their horse.  Some riders helped that situation and the others herded the ponies that were on the wrong side of the fence towards the rest of the herd. Success!  

Then, with everyone’s attention on the fallen equestrian, one black and white pinto came barrelling back across the river to run the fence on the wrong side.  AJ was the first to notice and took prompt action.  For all her inexperience and ineptness on the gaited trek, she had a good understanding of herd dynamics and successfully, with the willingness of her mount, cut off the free-galloping individual, several times in several directions, and sent the adventurous independent loose horse back the direction it needed to go.

It was one of the highlights of the ride for AJ, when that guide said “You are a bad ass rider that could take my job!”  AJ had felt that she had not quite gotten to the point to actually keep up with the pro riders properly, but at least had become a competent guest rider, that was on occasion actually useful.

In terms of tack check though, she was also disappointed that it took her 3 days to notice that her stirrup irons were the only ones withOUT rubber grips, making it even harder to keep her feet in them…

AJ had Jill laughing imitating a joke her room mate-during-the-adventure would do, when they weren’t riding, impersonating North American riding lessons “OK, OK, OK, everybody line up, we’re going to canter.  ONE-AT-A-TIME!!! One length of the arena…” Meanwhile, how often, when we were riding full speed in the front of a herd of loose galloping horses, did a guide command: keep going, keep the speed! “I have to rush and open a gate, or fix something! You people in the front do what has to be done!”

AJ said most of her relaxing came from watching the 4 guides round up the herd from their overnight paddocks, to check for shoes, and match to riders etc.  “I feel like I can't even be bothered to ride in North America now…”  


Trekking In Iceland, Day 1

Jill had just landed a “dream” job at the so-called epicentre for academia, and equine industry/government.  AJ didn’t want to be discouraging about the limitations to actually furthering Jill’s horsemanship with such a career move, so she changed the subject to her recent trek.

Let me start, by describing the incident.  Suffice to say, we shouldn’t do the beginning at the beginning, we should do it later.   When we are more ready for it!  I had no idea what to expect, as no one provided any kind of over view. The weekend cowboy friend who had inspired the confidence in me to go on such trek, as unfit as I am, and as unfamiliar as I am with the discipline — you know because if he can do it I can do it  — fell off in the first 3 min of the first day, right in front me.  Just as all the whole herd was taking off in too many directions, with many galloping past us. It was so dramatic!  These horses went running every where and anywhere, into the trees, over dangerous rocks, all over the place! It was insane!

My friend who, who after many valiant saves in keeping his balance,  was now on the ground, was holding on to his horse by the rein.  And the pony was running and dragging him.  “Let go!” I shouted while actually managing to stop my incredibly bouncy chestnut. I hadn’t figured out how to get the tolt yet, and had been basically trotting out of control with no stirrups.  

I had no idea what the protocol was when there was a rider down.  

Have I mentioned we were riding with running loose horses? 

My story is that I managed to stop Dude, and was “emergency-dismounting,” so as to make sure the person on the ground in front of us was okay.  When my mount would not stand, even for a split second, with the herd galloping past him, so next thing you know my face was in the dirt. 

The little chestnut began to run.  Why would I hold on?  I had just yelled at the rider in front of me to let go! After wrenching my shoulder significantly, I released the rein, and also let go of the idea of getting back on if my friend was ok, and then catching up with the other riders.  

And, so we sat in the grass and waited for what would happen next.  When the guides finally arrived, ponying our horses back to us, my dude had lost my brand new Tapestry Equine neck strap that I had looked forward to using to help me stay in the saddle in any difficult times, while saving my horses mouth. Alas. 

“How Ironic!” Jill lamented, clearly getting it.

AJ said that the one upside of new guide to guest ratio, as they travelled to rejoin the others, was that she finally got a bit of instruction on how to activate and package at the same time to get the tolt, the smooth gait she was going to need to survive the journey.  In catching up with the other riders, she had also had her first experience of looking across the rocky ditch and asking her mount to carry on, expecting him to jump it, and having him run right through.

Finally connected again with the others, who were resting the herd and changing horses and such, they began again, riding around a beautiful lake.  It was a magical landscape and she was very happy to be there.  She couldn’t believe After about 2 hours, at more pace than her “Dude” wanted to offer, AJ was getting tired.  By this time, AJ had been awake for about 39 hours straight.  Her host had said not to worry if she didn’t sleep on the plane, because the first day was an easy ride.  


A Not So Good Friday

AJ had long thought Bob had more potential than the place he lived, but it didn’t seem like there was any flexibility on his location or part-school-horse-board bill. So she just tried her best to offer him some chance of development, one ride a week, gas money provided, while taking an informal break on her own progression as a rider or trainer, concentrating instead on her radio projects. She thought of herself as his occassional yoga teacher and made sure to log at least 20min of trot in her fitness app for each drive out there.

He had some new bad habits. Backing up for no reason, not standing at the mounting block etc. He had actually banged her in the face with his neck as she got on. Was it related perhaps to the fact that he had been ridden by the student worker “every day this week.?” AJ thought so, but decided to concentrate instead on some improvements, like the fact that he actually chewed on the bit when she put on his bridle! The teenager must have been getting lighter in the hand. The brunette in branded stable attire had asked AJ, privately, “so how do you like working with Bob?” AJ said, “Well he is definitely a BOB.” and admitting he’d been hurting her ankles a lot lately, “Because, I am old. And when he does his spook-turn-bolt thing, I tend to jam my feet down in the stirrups.”

After some ground work and mounting in the arena, they did a bit of work at trot and then headed out into the sandring to repeat similar warm ups and patterns. Then, AJ headed out for the small training exercise she was inventing on the spot for him that day, as she did each time she rode. They began walking down the spooky driveway. She did not trust him around the fields, but he was usually dead in the ring. Since she had already got him to relax and stretch long and low in the ring, she wanted to spice things up a little bit and go do something a little scary for a minute and then return to the ring for some more relaxation, but with some extra impulsion. It was their regular routine…

Unfortunately, after just one car length, she was being yelled at! “Turn around turn around. There’s too many machines down there, he will freak out.” The farm owner was loudly freaking out, in front of many visitors, as usual. That’s why AJ avoided riding evenings, holidays or weekends… The screecher was making it clear she felt AJ didn’t know what she was doing, and AJ didn’t appreciate being treated like a 12yr old beginner. “Can’t you see there are all those tractors doing stuff?” The so called head coach thought one should avoid scary objects, instead of school them. Jill was a sane and cautious rider, but not a fearful one.

The bossy shouter suggested AJ and BOB head out to the fields an alternate route. AJ said she’d just wanted a tiny challenge, and didn’t want to take on the risk of the actual fields…

“Aha” was her smug retort. It was the layers of rules the screecher kept adding to that prevented AJ from schooling him out there.

first it was no figures or circles, then it was no use of draw lines, then it was no going out with other horses “Bob makes them crazy,” and then it was no going out around with fields with any other riders…

AJ walked the few steps back to the barn, put him in his stall, whipped off all his tack and put it away. A minute later she returned to the stall door and said I love you Bob, but I am done here.

Luckily as she exited the building she ran into the Grand Prix rider she’d shared the arena with one tornado-day ride a few weeks back. She’d been wanting to get in touch with him! “Next we’ll be asking for autographs around here.” The farm owner was a bit pathetic in her effort at a joke as she overheard the celebrity equine biz owner agree to guest on the horse talk radio show with AJ… and exchanged contact information in the warm spring sun.

You have to CLOSE one door for the next one to open right?


Bob Winter

AJ avoided joining in a conversation around the radio station. She could not admit to having lived on assistance. She would not admit to worse either, having lived without assistance… it was only years later, with huge debts weighing her down, did she realize she had had options besides borrowing. She had used her line of credit for food and rent in those hard years, healing from post traumatic stress. She had thought it was all just so temporary… and she also fled from the medical supports she had at the time, because they wanted her to pursue disability benefits or a law suit with her former employer over the way she went on to suffer as a result of the violence in her work back then.

When Jill was home for reading week, AJ arranged to meet her a the barn for a free “lesson.” She was trying to take a leadership position in the horse’s development. No more the rule of no eating with the bridle? In his case he needed to chew more?

“The new bit is working out great. I’m finding him less locked in his jaw, and I’ve been trying to really ride the rhythm and not use any hand at all for transitions.”

“Are you coaching?” the farm owner asked, essentially interrupting AJ’s update to Jill. No no, AJ assured. I just want to bring Jill up to speed on how I’ve been working with Bob.

I will insist she get him to go long and low though…

“Good Luck” said the old man mucking stalls.

AJ did accidentally speak once while Jill was sharing the arena with a group lesson, “THERE. you’ve got to soften instantly, in those moments when he does offer to go soft.” And then, after that tiny bit of "coaching", Jill did get Bob relaxing, stretching and maybe even chewing the bit at trot!

A couple days later AJ was on a split shift from work, so she did not stay behind to clean up the new broken glass she noticed, outside the barn door window that someone else had duct-taped over the cracks.... she had to rush back to work, but for a change it was an amazing visit to the farm!

She had sat and had a think in the parking lot outside work, before actually deciding to go to the farm. It was sooooo windy! Wouldn’t going home for a nice delicious feast for lunch be nice? “Don’t get blown off the horse” her friend had joked, suggesting a meal bar to help tide her over.

“Do you mind if I share the arena with you?” she surprised the strangers by asking, “when I’m ready” she added, as they were tacked up already and she was just arriving. Clearly, she’d surprised them… but the answer was "Sure."

When she’d come in ready to mount, the mounted rider said, “Its so windy!” I know, AJ answered. “All the horses are running around out there.” It was a fun ride. Both of the horses were spooky, but it was fun. There were lots of trotting poles to work through to keep the rhythm without having to use strong hands of the speed the weather was inspiring.

He turned out to be a Grand Prix rider who would be willing to hack with her, around the fields, to help work through Bob's running off issues. The woman, explained their invovlement/partial ownership of an impressive nearby international event biz, and mentioned having young horses in need of more work. AJ explained some of her own background and equestrianism. She mentioned doing a long-standing horse talk radio show at the campus/community station. It felt like a great new connection!

It was kind of hilarious how she practiced with Bob in the wash stall. She explained the odd approach to them "I don’t know what else to do, because I'm in such a rush and there's someone’s in Bob’s stall." She heard him say, under his breath, to his companion about her method, “its so weird its actually working.” What didn't work, was that she had forgotten to get their contact info!

I just put the lead on so when he breaks the cross ties, I’ll have a little more to work with.

Did you buy him?

Oh no, I would never!  His owner is in second year. Kingston, is that Queens? She thought she might bring him back with her for the summer, but she just got a sweet research gig in Germany, so I’ll ride him this summer.


Bob, Early Winter...

For two or three rides in a row, Bob was going better than ever. He’d taken the bit willingly, which AJ saw as a good sign. Maybe he didn’t dread the use of it in his mouth, because of the way she was consciously very soft with her hands?

It was fun to present the small plank jump, one morning, and the tiny puddle ditch another, because they frightened him and he cleared them — by far — using his powerful body “correctly” - engaging the hind end, rounding his back and lowering his head!

“It’s nice to see him facing his fears” his spectator said.

AJ was glad to sit two or three bucks as well, because, “usually those send me flying, ha”

It was so nice that the saddle was just sitting there waiting for her in the tack room, and that she didn’t need to make an appointment to use it. Although it was true the girth was missing, so she’d just borrowed another and returned it.


Jill didn’t know that AJ had once had a job with the Olympic Team. This was only 10 years ago, as a mature working student ha, who’d been promised her own private cottage in Florida for the winter and $250USD per week!  But, it hadn’t lasted very long.  And word on the street was, she “really broke his heart.”  AJ told her the story while accompanying her mounted protege for a winter walk through deep snow, AJ on foot. 

She also told about that swimming feeling she’d experienced through snow drifts, training with another Eventing Team member, another winter, in Canada.

They also talked about how AJ would find another horse to ride, or Retire!!! lol if he ended up moving to Kingston with Jill for 3rd year.  

Meanwhile, AJ’s only other “not-student” had worked on training a nice school horse gelding to do his flying changes over poles in a figure 8 in the arena. A very effective rider, with good position and a great attitude as well!  AJ had been trying to explain to her what riding "with a contact" was all about...

The difference in the aisles ways of the 2 facilities was remarkable!