Riding Alone: A Lesson from Rockytop

Dan Aadland, with The Trail Trider Magazine, shares his experience with Rocktop, the first colt he's trained and raised by himself.

He was a big, spirited colt with blaze and socks, already 16 hands high at 3 years old, his sorrel colt shining from a spring on lush grass and clover. Rockytop was the first colt I’d ever raised and trained from scratch, and he once furnished me an unforgettable lesson about the importance of never becoming hung up in a horse’s tack, particularly while riding alone.

I’d dismounted to open a gate into an alfalfa field. Enjoying the spring sun, I stood looking at the snowcapped mountains to the south, holding the reins while Rockytop munched greedily. Suddenly, my right leg rose behind me, pulled into the air by a sudden unseen force.

In a glance over my shoulder, I realized my spur had somehow hung up in Rockytop’s bridle. I saw the whites of the colt’s eyes, terrified by what would happen next: a panicked, spirited colt dragging me in the worst possible position under his forelegs with nothing but an open gate and acres of Montana real estate in front of him.

Luckily, just as my foot reached the apex, it came loose. Rockytop quickly regained his composure. It took me a lot longer!

Unlikely as it seems, while Rockytop grazed close to my foot, the rowel on my spur had slipped through the ring on his bit. It probably wouldn’t happen again in a million years, but it did happen, and the results were nearly disastrous.

I learned the old adage that if something can go wrong it will go wrong, and that you should do everything possible to avoid any chance that you’ll be involuntarily “glued” to your horse.

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