I rode Mackey, a six-year-old Appaloosa a few days ago and did pretty well considering how green he is. He is usually is very tense when I ride him away from the other horses by himself, but Chris came along on Mr. T and that helped a lot. Nevertheless, I was on pins and needles because of what happened before we left the property.
I generally tack him up on the brick driveway outside the garage where the saddles are kept, lead him over to the yard and mount him from the grass but this time I climbed on while we were still on the brick apron outside their garage. There happened to be a little stool in the garage and I decided to use it as a mounting block. After I was in the saddle, I asked him to back away from the garage. I didn’t want him to turn and trip over the stool.
Mackey refused to back up. I don’t think he liked the footing but I kept asking anyway until he decided he only had one choice. He lay down. I saw him going down and there was nothing I could do but step off and pull the reins over his head. There I stood, reins in hand, trying to stay away from his feet without bumping him in the mouth. I watched as he kept on laying down, flatter and flatter as if in slow motion until he was sprawled out on his side with his head on the ground. He rolled his eyes a little and just lay there as still as can be.
For a moment I thought he had gone into shock. Meanwhile, Chris was climbing aboard Mr. T on the other side of the cars probably wondering what was taking us so long. When he got up in the saddle, high enough in the air to see, he looked over the cars and saw Mackey sprawled out on the driveway! About this time, Mackey decided this wasn’t any fun and got himself up. I led him out to the grass, checking to see if the stirrups had injured him in any way, pulled his front legs way out in front of him to make sure they were working right and climbed back on.
Chris and I laughed about what Mackey had done, but for the next hour and a half, every time Mackey tripped over a prairie dog hole, I thought he was going down again!
When I told Bob this story, he said it reminded him of one of his high school roommates. We were trying to figure out why Mackey would have laid down like that and decided it was because his brain short-circuited. I kept asking him to back up and this is hard enough for a horse to do without being on a slippery surface. He was afraid of falling down and I was hoping to over-ride his fear.
I wasn’t giving him another alternative so he freaked out and gave up. Maybe he was thinking, “As long as I’m going to fall down, I may as well just lay myself down nice and easy so I don’t get hurt.” Which is exactly what Bob’s friend said after some robust partying years ago, “If I don’t sit down, I’m going to fall down.” To which everyone replied, “So, sit down, then!”