Tuesday, July 14, 2015

That Time My Horse Almost Sunk

Too hot, hot damn.
Last weekend the temperatures were still quite high and the heat-wave was ever-lurking, with no signs of disappearing anytime soon. Doing any kind of riding - be it hacking or schooling - was simply out of the question. But when AJ's owner N suggested taking the horse's for a swim, I embraced the idea.
We waited until 7pm [when it started to cool off]  and hacked down to the river-side - N riding AJ and ponying Flash with me riding Suzie and ponying Spud. The river was quiet, calm, and aside from a family playing in the water further down the shoreline, it was peaceful.

I had unclipped Spud and had him trot freely behind us, like he always has during our trail rides and hacks. The last thing I did before clucking Suzie into the water was kick off my flip-flops (oh yes, I was riding in style. Bareback in flip flops, go me).

It took some urging on my part to get mare-pants into the water, but she toed in gracefully and commenced pawing, splashing, and dunking her muzzle in the river. Spud trotted gleefully past us and literally plunged into the water, swimming in a long circle before coming back to shore. He looked like Micheal Phelp's training for his next 50m dash. In fact, I'm almost convinced Spud was a sea-horse in a past life, or maybe he hails from the pedigree of the almighty Poseidon.

Spud be all like "Just chill, the water is fine."
 But anyways, this blog entry doesn't really have much to do about my large dog's fantastic swimming ability, or the fact that I think he could easily win a breast-stroke competition. This is about Suzie and the crazy shit that happened after we had crossed the river several times.

Everything was going well - the horse's were marching across the river (although Suzie was least enthused). But there was one problem. The water wasn't really deep enough to allow them to swim - it only really came up to Suz's shoulders when it splashed around a bit. And since N and I wanted to swim and perhaps go a bit deeper, we began scouting out our options. I had never swam Suzie before and wanted to make it a good, positive experience and I mentioned to N that I didn't necessarily want to swim the length of the river either. I just wanted a stroke or two to see what it was like.

We had pinpointed a location where N figured it'd be deeper and as she moved off with Flash in tow, I followed a few feet down-stream from them. All was well for the most part, until Flash and AJ reached the other side. Immediately I sensed AJ having difficulties, as his back was roached and he kept flailing to get onto dry land. Flash struggled to get onto the sand, which confused me slightly (I'll delve into more details, don't worry) and I watched slightly aghast as they struggled. AJ humped up several times before N was pitched off into the water and it was then I realized we had a serious problem.

I got closer and closer to land and after feeling Suzie swim about two strides, BAM, we were scrambling to get to land as well. I clung onto her mane as she literally sunk in the thick, wet sand and every time she flailed to get her front leg in front of her and onto the bank, the entire bank would slough away and fall into the water with us. After she struggled a few more times, I bailed off her right side.

It felt like this, but it was actually a lot less dramatic.
(FYI: the horse in the photo was OK)

 In hindsight, I should've threw myself farther away but with a horse who is scrambling and thrashing to get to higher ground, it's a bit hard to do... When I jumped off I sunk up to my hips and remember seeing her hooves flying wildly in front of me, clawing at the sand. Ah, shit.

I managed to scramble up the bank, which wasn't high at all - it was just the fact that the deepest part of the river was literally right in front of the shoreline and the shoreline was disintegrating. Holding onto her reins - which were barrel reins, FYI), I heaved her forwards in an attempt to get her to land. She surged forwards and I fell back, sprayed with sand and mud.

I glanced over at N and AJ - his bridle was off and N was vigorously trying to put it back on. They were standing in the water, with no sinking and no thrashing. Flash had already swam back to the other side and I honestly had no idea where Spud was at this point. Taking a deep breath, I whoa'ed Suzie and watched as she grunted and settled down into the mud, which was as high as her shoulder in the front and sucking her hips down in the back. Oh fuck, I thought.

Here's a random river wading photo from last Summer.

Unclipping one side of the barrel reins from her bit (handy little reins they are!) I was able to make a longer lead and began outweighing my options. Turning her around, back into the water, was not an option - she was stuck diagonally and would have to pivot on her haunches which would only make them sink deeper. And trying to get her to climb out directly forwards wasn't going to work either since the bank kept sloughing away. I opted to walk down the bank slightly and was aiming for her to continue to get towards land diagonally - this way the bank would be firmer and she wouldn't have to worry about getting more stuck.

I clucked and yanked on the line and after one or two heaves, Suzie burst onto the bank. I was so happy I could've cried. I kept petting her and brushing the mud and sand off her neck and cheeks, telling her what a good, brave girl she was. She snorted and licked her lips, I think in an attempt to calm down from all the excitement. Glancing back I saw N wading through the water, swimming back to shore with AJ. I led Suzie back through the water as well, in the shallower parts where it only came up to her shoulders and stopped for a second to wash the mud off her sides.

The horses got lots of pets, love, and cookies. We waded back in the water for a few minutes, giving them a good experience before mounting back up and heading home. N had to carry her paddock boots since they were full of mud and water (good thing her synthetic saddle was on and not her leather one!).

We split up to go our separate ways home and that's when I felt it. Suzie took a misstep. And then another.... followed by one more.

.......to be continued.


  1. oh no - that sounds awful, i hope Suzie is ok! :(

    1. I figured leaving it on a cliff-hanger would be mean, but rest assured that NOTHING BAD happens. Suzie is OK :)

  2. What a scary situation to have been in! So glad Suzie is ok!