Running Water, Chaos Theory, and Sparrows!

There are two ways to look at this:

  1. I’ve been riding Ginger for Laurie.
  2. Laurie has graciously indulged me by allowing me to ride Ginger.

I think the photo below shows that #2 is the correct pick. They’re beautiful together:

Copyright: Centerline Photography
Copyright: Centerline Photography

Ginger is an orange ball of fire: opinionated, believes “forward” is an understatement, and is…impatient…with the idea of anything approaching what she would call ‘sedate’. Anything less than Mach 10 is sedate to Ginger.  Slowing down takes far too much time and energy. She’s also a total glamor girl. Think Lucy before her comedic talent was discovered.

Lucille Ball famously said: "I'm not funny.  I'm brave." I think Ginger would say the same thing.
Lucille Ball famously said: “I’m not funny. I’m brave.” I think Ginger would say the same thing.

She’s also a mare’s mare. She reminds me what it feels like to be a hormonal teenager: out-of-sorts and crampy, making a benign issue a problem because we girls just feel like THERE IS A PROBLEM. THAT THING I JUST SPOTTED MUST BE IT. FIX IT, dang it.

I so get this.

During a recent ride, Ginger decided the wash rack that butts up to the arena was The Problem. There was a hose.  Water was coming out of it.  WATER. Do I understand what she’s saying?!?  WATER at one o’clock!

This is a horse that loves her baths.

We went backward, forward, skittered sideways, bounced up and down, and in general showed our displeasure at having to pass near running water at a speed below Mach 90.  I identify. When hormones are involved, I do NOT back down once I’ve staked out an issue, true or not.

Fairly soon, we’re standing quietly opposite the wash rack, while the water is running, talking to a friend. (We know it’s still going to kill us, but we’re very brave.) We try to focus on the conversation.  Sparrows are flitting in and out of the arena, picking up hair for their nests.  All the horses are shedding.

A bit later, we quietly go to work, and it’s awesome. We are cantering nicely in our least favorite direction when it happens.

Two sparrows come tumbling over each other into the arena, straight at us.  I don’t know if they’re fighting, or it’s spring baby making time.  I feel a wing hit Ginger’s belly. Birds whapping near one’s privates are definitely an allowable meltdown issue.  Ginger pays no attention to the birds. Not even a blip on her radar. We keep cantering.

This is where Chaos Theory comes in.

A plot of the Lorenz attractor for values r = 28, σ = 10, b = 8/3.
Whatever. It’s a butterfly! If they flap their wings in Australia, we WILL have a tsunami in California. Who knew?

The birds should have tumbled out, right?

No. Because we hit a Chaos loop.  Running water scared us, therefore the universe hurled us squalling feathers. Her hooves gathering upward in the canter pushed the rolling ball of birds up and in between her front legs.  I feel them tumbling and richocheting between her legs, their little heads whapping like ping-pong balls.  I feel a wing hit a stirrup, feel the Ball ‘O Birds being gathered back up and into the churning cycle of her front legs. They tumble and flap and toss.

I gauge Ginger, wondering if she is going to go all “Today is a good day to die” on me.

Calm cantering.

Except for the sparrows bouncing and rolling and flapping between her front legs, just another day in paradise.

If I stop her, it’s likely the birds will crash to the ground and get pulverized in the process.  If I don’t, she might notice at some point BIRDS are pinging around between her front legs. My slow thought process takes a couple more canter strides to come up with a solution.  (Hey. How often do birds get caught in our horse’s legs?! It’s not like I’ve had to practice this!)

Down into the trot. Hopefully, that will give the birds time to get out sideways. We trot, the birds shoot out of the spin cycle (they’re fine), and Ginger politely asks to canter again.

As if a downward transition to release frantic, trapped sparrows was a normal part of any workout.

And she thought the hose was the problem?

Note to self: next time I decide THAT THING OVER THERE is the problem, check for sparrows.

33 thoughts on “Running Water, Chaos Theory, and Sparrows!

  1. I can’t even imagine that happening with the sparrows or any birds to one of mine. You really kept your cool (and so did Ginger). Good thinking to go to the trot. Glad that worked.

  2. I think horses must’ve INVENTED chaos theory. How else to explain them?

    My very staid Paint gelding and I were at a park one day. Little girl in a sparkly princess dress comes skipping down the path, twirling a pink parasol with a long piece of pink ribbon tied to it, which is flapping in the breeze. I tense, prepared for disaster. Girl skips past, parents right behind, Cash never even blinks.

    The tree stump 100 feet down the path? THAT HAD HORSE-EATING MONSTERS IN IT. Oh yes, it did. Most assuredly, it did.

    Chaos theory indeed.

    1. Completely. Crazy. I had more proof of Chaos Theory in Horses, this time with Hudson. Who is afraid of almost nothing. With the exception of a strange noise. Say, a rider singing “If we’re happy and we know it clop our hooves…if we’re happy and we know it clop our hooves…”
      Melt. Down. Could have been the awful singing, not the song….?

  3. Mares may be the reason there is a chaos theory! I love them most of all because unlike their more reasonable other halves they have a much better grasp of their surroundings, they absolutely know when there is danger, things to be upset about, birds making love in spring? normal, water coming out of a hose by the arena, not normal, therefore DANGER, upset, and if I do, you’ll have to make me. No discussion on this. 50 years of riding but I never heard of this scenario before. Fun fun.

    1. It’s the most ridiculous scenario imaginable. Birds get trapped between a moving horse’s front legs? Never, never ever ever seen or heard of this happening. Thankfully I was on a completely sensible mare, at least when it comes to – yawn – birds whapping about. I think *I* would freak out if birds ping-ponged between my legs as I was jogging.

  4. Ah, how they love to keep us puzzled. Solo never batted an ear at most things. Guineas flying at once’s face? Road grader buzzing up his butt? Semi jake-braking next to us on the road during a ride? Psh, the trees are more interesting. But OMG, AHORSEAPPROACHESUSONTHETRAIL! Yes, horses. I’m like, dude, they are YOU. And all your pasture-mates. And oh, your entire species. I have no explanation beyond headshake….

    1. It always makes me wonder how horse brains process things. I was riding a horse who is bomb proof enough to walk around the outside of the arena while it’s being groomed with a tractor and drag, the tractors bucket high in the air, shaking. An old, loud, creaky, jangly, roaring tractor. Not an eye blink. He sees a HORSE in a paddock at his own barn, probably 100 feet away, and FREAKS OUT. Dude. You LIVE HERE, lol.

      1. Oh, so you’ve ridden Solo then? 😀 He literally lived next to Fort Bragg. WHERE THEY DROP BOMBS. Unconcerned. Falls asleep in stock side trailer while semis blow by on interstate. Like, ASLEEP. A horse approacheth while under saddle? Danger, Will Robinson, DANGER!!!

  5. We have a horse in our barn who’s afraid of shadows. And since he’s an athletic Int-I horse, it makes for an interesting ride. We try and ride him in the morning before the sun’s fully out.

      1. Must be Bucephalus reincarnated. Now if we could just figure out how Alexander conquered his fear of shadows, you’d be golden

      1. Silk is an Arab too! Maybe Jane is unfamiliar with the term “Arab moment”. Sometimes followed by Airs Above the Ground. I had a dressage judge make the comment “lovely up until the Arab moment, lovely after” 😀

        1. I love Arabians. I had an Arab gelding many years ago that I adored. Rock solid when it was imperative to be solid. Where I was boarding at the time, there was no place to ride except in the arena, or on the country road: narrow shoulder, deep drainage ditches on either side, with barb wire fencing after that. I’m bored, so I decide to get there early on a Sunday and ride at 6 am on the road’s shoulder. It’s in the middle of nowhere, and he can handle cars. What he can’t handle? Coming straight at us at 50 mph at 6 am on a Sunday, and unloaded double-trailer logging truck, with all it’s chains flapping. The driver helpfully let us know we were in his way by pulling on the AIR HORN. No place to get off, no place to go. AHHHHHHH WE ARE GOING TO DIE! I asked K.O. to stop and stand. Amazingly, HE DID. Shaking like a leaf, but not moving a hair. Driver flipped us off (really, where could we GO?) and honked one more time for good measure. When he was gone, and we’d settled a bit, I asked K.O. to walk on. And he did. What undid him? He had a complete and total melt down over the giant S painted on the road (stop sign) and we ended up in the drainage ditch. Arab moment!

  6. Hahahaaa! I had a mare like this – trucks could race past with flapping tarps, and squealing pigs, no issue – but trotting across the arena diagonal and suddenly there’s a mid air scramble because of the butterfly nearby…….. I always blamed the behaviour on a tiny weeny bit of Arab blood, but now I’m not so sure…..maybe it’s part of the training foals get from their mothers. “Now this is how to behave when there’s someone on your back” 🙂

      1. My trainer broke her leg because she dismounted in the middle of a field to dig a rock out of her horse’s hoof and the grasshoppers started jumping on the mare. She came UNGLUED. This a mare you cold field hunt, take anywhere trail riding and made it to upper levels in dressage. Normally unflappable. Apparently, grasshoppers are a subspecies of those horrid butterflies.

        1. Fiddle STOMPS butterflies. And grasshoppers. And any other kind of bug that would look cute while singing in a Disney movie.

          Fiddle will never be a Disney horse. Sigh.

    1. I know, right?? I had to go around boring everyone to death, describing what happened. I’ve been riding since I was 12, and NEVER had anything, heard of anything, seen anything like this happen. It was so surreal. She was so GOOD.

  7. Yes that sounds about right. Silly mare doesn’t flinch as a flock of turkeys fly in her face but has a major meltdown if the tractor is not parked in it’s usual spot. Thank you for taking such good care of her – oh for teaching her to close the gate! You rock 🙂

    1. Talk about taking things in stride. She is one heck of an awesome horse. (It sounds so much more impressive when we say “Jane showed Ginger how to close a gate” than “Jane was too lazy to get off and get back on again, so she annoyed Ginger by asking her to close the gate.”)

  8. This is so true. Once we had a meltdown over a darker spot in the grass, conquered it and then as we rode on TWO pheasants flew up and crashed into my horse. I readied for Armageddon and he didn’t even flick an ear. I SWEAR he looked over at the other horse and said “Monkeys, they act like they’ve never seen a bird before.” Same horse who was flung down on the ground at a show by a pigeon. I kid you not.

    1. This made me laugh out loud.Two pheasants and he was FINE? Those are some big birds. Yet horrified and preparing for nuclear attack (duck and cover) because of a pidgeon? So made me laugh, thanks for sharing. 😉

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