Tuesday, September 27, 2011

On the Trail Again

by Laura Crum

We’ve been out on the trails again in September, which makes me happy. I was gone all of July, and in August all we did was gather and chase cattle at the roping arena, which is fun, but not my very favorite thing. My very favorite thing (horsewise) is riding through the hills on my steady little yellow mule, looking at the flora and fauna of my home trails.

My break from trail riding did serve a purpose. Sunny came up lame at the end of June—the diagnosis was a tiny fracture on the edge of the navicular bone. Shoes and pads and rest were recommended. Sunny got a rest, and he’s worn front shoes and pads for two shoeings now and –voila. He seems completely sound. At least for the light riding I do. The hills are not bothering him at all and he is absolutely even at the trot. I’m happy.

Below are a few photos of my favorite ride. This ride involves going out my front gate, crossing the busy road (which always raises my stress levels), and then bushwacking our way up a narrow little trail that is very overgrown until we strike a (slightly) bigger trail that leads through meadows, redwood forest and tangled groves of shrubbery and liveoaks to a clearing at the top of the ridge where you can see the Monterey Bay.

So below you see my son on Henry and our friend/boarder, Wally, on Twister, in front of the view, with Sunny’s ears in the foreground. We are looking north towards Santa Cruz, and my son is sticking his tongue out cause he doesn’t like having his photo taken.

From the Lookout we ride another trail home, just as overgrown in places as the one we take on the way out. It doesn’t appear that many horsemen have ridden this way lately—perhaps they have been taking a break, too (?) Usually we see far more hoofprints and horse manure than we did on our recent rides. So far this September we have met no one on the trails—neither horsemen nor hikers. I have to admit, I find this very pleasant. It feels like we are out in the wilderness, though this is an illusion. Civilization is all around us—just hidden by the exuberant woods. I like the fact that we are riding a big loop and see different places on the way back. Here the trail goes down through the liveoaks and tangled greenery.

Here we are on Sunny and Henry, pushing our way through the jungle.

Here’s the view from Sunny’s back as we go down the trail.

And again, in the heart of the green world.

Then its down the ridge to once again make a careful crossing of the busy road. As I said, this always makes me nervous. On our last ride our friend Wally began to cross the street before my son and I were quite on the shoulder and by the time Wally had reached the middle of the road a car was bearing down from the left and a big semi-truck from the right. Since we were not yet on the pavement, I told my son to pull up and hollered at Wally to cross and wait for us. Which he did. My kid and I backed our horses up a step or two and a fair batch of traffic whizzed by at fifty miles an hour a few feet from Sunny and Henry’s noses. We’ve done this many, many times before, of course, and the horses are always perfectly solid, but it still scares me. This time I worried that they’d get ancy because Twister was on the other side of the road. But no, little Sunny and Henry stood like rocks while I waited for the road to be perfectly clear. This is why I bought them.

Eventually the road was empty and we crossed—but by the time we’d reached the far side, a guy on a Harley came blasting down the road making the maximum amount of noise—I’m guessing on purpose. We are off the road now, headed across the field and up the hill to my front gate and home. All three horses raised their heads at the roaring racket immediately behind them, but not one broke out of the steady marching walk. I was so proud of them. Here I’m looking down at Sunny back in the barnyard.

The whole ride only takes an hour and fifteen minutes, but there are plenty of hills and varied terrain and it is always interesting in every season. I think of it as my “hour loop”, the ride I can do on a regular basis.

Does anyone else have a little “everyday” loop like this? I find it very pleasant, though I confess, I don’t get it done every day. And do others besides me stress at dealing with traffic? My horses are very calm and comfortable around moving vehicles—I’m the one who hyperventilates.


Francesca Prescott said...

I wish I could come on your loop with you, it sounds wonderful, apart from that busy road which would totally freak me out. It would probably freak Qrac out too, which would not be good. Right now, at my yard, I'm working Qrac in the small arena behind the stables, because there is all sorts of construction work going on down by the big arena, with bulldozers bullying their way all over the place (they're building a race track - well, more of a canter loop, but it's drained and everything, so mega pro), so I've not been down there for weeks. Although I know Qrac would be fine after a while, I just dont' want to have to deal with a spook fest/tantrum complete with mach two spins (you should see my horse spin! he's fast!). So I ride the small arena. Or I take him up the mountain, on a nice trail ride, but haven't yet been able to take photos of the view as Qrac doesn't like to stand still much...but he's improving and so sometime soon I'll be able to share views of my trail rides with you too :). Thanks for the lovely photos!

Laura Crum said...

Francesca--I would love to see photos of your trail rides. The funny thing is--the busy road freaks ME out--but the horses are fine with it. Go figure.

joycemocha said...

Mocha gets a little skittery around traffic if the noise isn't quite right. Loud noises don't startle her but high-pitched noises or the occasional whistle of something on a rig will startle her.

She'll outright spook if a racing bicycle comes up behind. Just one jump and I've got her back, but it's the sound of the tires. She's an auditory spooker, that is, sound tends to set her off more than what she sees. I've known horses who were the other way around.

Once Upon an Equine said...

That's really great that Sunny is sound after his rest and shoes. Your loop looks lovely. I like all those trees you ride through. I have a favorite trail, but I have to trailer to it, so I don't ride it very often.

Misty does pretty well with traffic, but I don't like it myself.

Jen said...

I don't, but I sure do wish I did! Looks like a beautiful day for a lovely trail ride through the woods (methinks I'm feeling a bit green ;o)

Alison said...

I love the lush and green vegetation Laura. I always think of CA as being drier.

Traffic will always freak me out after reading The Horse Whisperer.

Laura Crum said...

joycemocha and Once Upon--My older horse, Plumber, would get restless waiting to cross the road (sometimes we stand there for long minutes). Nothing big, but a little dancing, and mini-spooks--at bicycles, big trucks with tarps, buses...whatever. He was controlable at all times and I felt safe on him, but that ended when I started taking my son with me. Henry, my son's horse, was/is rock steady, but suddenly I NEEDED my mount to be equally steady, so I could keep all my attention on my son--and not, God forbid, have my horse rattle Henry. So I bought Sunny, who, though he has many faults as a riding horse, is a rockstar trail horse. You'd think, after three and a half years riding him, I'd relax and know he's good with traffic, but I'm still tense.

Jen and Allison--It is dry here right now--the woods look lush, I know, but if you were there, you'd find that the ground is very dusty.

And Alison--I hated The Horse Whisperer. For various reasons--but the obvious use of gripping horror to "hook" the reader in that first scene was part of it.