pyrsandponies: (Beau)
[ profile] crankygrrl has precipitated a great discussion of hiking and dangers in the woods. This discussion, and [ profile] searose in particular, have made it clear that now is the time to tell my western timber rattler tale.

First, some context:

1) western timber rattlers, should they bite you, will make you pretty sick, but assuming you get prompt care, the chances of them killing you are slim. the Eastern diamond backs (of Searose's tale) are, if memory serves, somewhat more deadly.

2) Lest it not be clear from my post to [ profile] crankygrrl: I HATE SNAKES. I AM TERRIFIED of snakes. My worst nightmares as a child were snake nightmares. Raiders of the Lost Ark gave me nightmares for WEEKS it is being shown on CBC Sunday. I can't decide whether I should watch or not. Is a good movie, but there are all those snakes . And much as I used to LOVE going the Wild Game Park as a child I used to HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE the fact that Dad would make me look into the snake pit. Yes, a PIT. No glass, just a high brick wall. When they put the snakes behind glass, I was VERY grateful.

3) I live in the Okanagan Valley of BC. It is hot, dry and there be snakes here. Mercifully, in many years of hiking, biking and riding, I have seen few in the wild. We used to always check firepits on the beach though, just to be safe. Still, there are usually a few snake bites reported in the news every year. Actually, just before the above mentionned game park closed about 10 years ago,(due to the declining popularity/political correctness of such institutions), a young boy was bit by a rattler sleeping under a picnic table in the park. He apparently thought it was part of the park's exhibits, and would be safe to touch. *shudder* He was pretty sick, but did survive.

Anyway. Back to my tale. As some of you know, I horseback ride with the Back Country Horsemen of BC. Last summer, one of our day rides was through Wild Horse Canyon, a box canyon in a provincial park near Okanagan Lake. We were riding through the canyon, to the beach for lunch, then back out to the rigs. I really wanted to go, as I had ALWAYS wanted to see the canyon, but had never really had the opportunity. So Mom and Dad trailered me and Shaughnessy (she's my LJ icon) out. I was pulling drag (riding at the back of the trail string of 10 or so riders) with my friend Sue and her horse Tiger.

Now, Wild Horse Canyon is known for having a fair number of rattlers, as the terrain is just right, and as it is a protected area in an increasingly populated valley. So, I was, one might say, a tad concerned. But I have also been working on my irrational? fear, because I love the bush too much to let a phobia keep me out.

I mentionned to Sue that if a rattler was spotted, I'd just as soon NOT know, unless I needed to for safety reasons. Well, on the way out through the canyon, we are riding single file along a narrow trail, with low bush on one side, and ponds on the other. You HAVE to stay on the trail. I notice everyone looking at something in the low bush and have my suspiscions.

I say to Sue -- "um, what are they looking at?"

Her reply: "you'd rather not know."

OK. Cool. Or rather, crap. But at least the snake is well off the trail.

Me: "Hey, rider in front of me, can you NOT stop to get a better look. Thanks."

All is well, I have stayed relatively calm and am proud of myself. I do, however, notice a large rock right by the trail, with a flat top that is about waist height when you are on horseback and think to myself "that is a great snake sunning rock. I'm awfully glad the snake isn't there."

Anyway, the rest of the ride to the beach is uneventful. We have a great picnic in the sun, wade in the lake, and mount up to ride back through the canyon. WELL. When we get to
"the rock," the snake has moved. S/he clearly agreed that it was a good sunning rock. But s/he did NOT agree that horses are nice animals. After the third rider or so when past, the snake got pissed, and started rattling in GREAT agitation. Well, I am the last rider in the line. I hear the rattles and FREAK. I yell to Sue, who is past the snake and rock at this point that "I CAN'T DO IT!." I pull up Shaughns, who goes -"WTF?" Sue reins in Tiger and yells to the group to wait. I continue to freak about 20 feet from the snake.

Sue encourages me "you can do it!"

Me: "No, I can't!"

Sue: "Yes, you can!"

Me: "NO! to self. Fuck. I HAVE to do this, don't I? AW, fuck it, I'm gonna gallop past."

So I do. It wasn't pretty, it was VERY adrenaline charged, but I got past. I was a tad embarrassed, but I'd done it, and that made me proud.

I was also SOOOO impressed by Shaughnsy. Usually, if a rider freaks, so does the horse. After all, the rider is the alpha, the herd leader, and in the wild (as in domestic herds, now), if the leader is nervous, the whole herd reacts, usually with flight. But Shaughns was AMAZING. She stayed calm and listened to me.

However, later in the ride, it was HILARIOUS. Shaughns and I were leading the group. A cricket was clicking ahead, and Shaughns WOULD NOT go until the horse behind us passed us and went. I'm sure she thought "That might be the same kinda thing that scared Paula last time -- we don't wanna do THAT again!."


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June 2010

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