Last week Elizabeth wrote about an oddly branded gelding she came across on a trip to try out a horse she was interested in buying. Here’s more:

Later that summer, I tried a tall and imposing warmblood cross in a gently sloping grassy bowl beside a massive, golden stucco mansion sprouting alone on a high hill like an enormous mushroom out of the red Georgia clay.

I trotted the horse up and down in the silent high-summer heat along the edges of the concavity that served as a riding area, trying to come up with the nerve to canter as a sizable cliff dropped from one side to a public road. Although I never swing a leg over a new horse unless I’m pretty sure I’m safe, I always consider the worst case scenario. If he grabbed the bit and ran over the edge, I was toast.

By the time I worked my courage up to ask for a gait change, he was tired, and despite his enormous height, he gave me a lovely, collected canter with not a foot out of place. I felt my shoulders sink and the tension leave my back as I realized he was as hesitant about getting near that drop-off as I was.

Sometimes, the distractions prove to be simply too much.

I later found myself on an older mare on wet grass in a front yard filled with bushes and trees. All of that would have been challenging enough to navigate had there not been a four-month-old foal at her side. The owners were unable to contain the unweaned baby as she had never been separated from her mother.

No sooner would I ease the mare into a jog than the filly would come careening out from behind the shrubbery and nearly collide with us, jumping three feet into the air at the very last second and reversing course while kicking out with her tiny heels.

Dodging the baby required so much of my mental energy that beyond registering that the mare seemed unflappable and had a nice little trot, I couldn’t even begin to make a decision about purchasing her.

Although the craziness makes for great stories , it’s obviously better when horse trying isn’t always so eventful.

A successful mission took place recently in a very large hayfield dotted with freshly rolled round bales. The owners apologized that their gelding was a little distracted by his pasture mates, but after what I’d been through previously, I assured them it was really, really (like, really) no big deal.

The horse was a deep, golden palomino with a flaxen mane and tail and a beautiful, dished face. He was a stoutly built fellow, no doubt descended from good cow lines. I was able to trot and canter him in large, easy circles in and out of the bales, his feet swishing through the short grass rhythmically as we figured each other out.

I realized I actually had room to think about my maneuvers without worrying about cliffs looming or tiny horses rocketing into me, and the owners kept a polite distance. It was a pleasant departure from what has become my accustomed set of hectic circumstances.

Well, there you have it: I’ve laid out my views on what situations not to get yourself into when riding an unfamiliar equine. To summarize: brands portraying obscene imagery are out. Cliffs near the riding area are out. Wild, unweaned baby horses are out.

What can I say? I’ve had some interesting rides and done some unforgettable (and very unplanned) sightseeing during my horse trying outings. I’ve wasted quite a bit of gas — but I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of my stories.

Elizabeth Crumbly is a newspaper veteran and freelance writer. She lives in rural Northwest Georgia where she teaches riding lessons, writes and raises her family. You can correspond with her at www.collective-ink.com.

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