by Laura Crum
Lately it seems like at least half my favorite horse blogs are written by endurance riders. I love the descriptions of the rides and all those photos of “ears” in front of striking scenery. And they all seem like such nice people. If I were younger and not so burned out on long hours in the saddle (I spent my 20’s and 30’s mostly on a horse), I’d take up endurance myself, if only for the social aspect. (Even though I’m something of a hermit in real life.)
But I am old and stout and I have paid my dues on many all day rides of various sorts (not endurance), and I like my sedate little two hour trail rides just fine, thank you very much. In fact, despite the fact that what I am doing now (horsewise) seems pretty tame compared to the ranching, roping, cutting, horse packing…etc of my youth, I am having as much or more fun with my horses today than I ever have in my life.
I like the freedom I feel, and the complete absence of anxiety. I like to ride along in a relaxed frame of mind, enjoying the scenery and the company of my son. I love my steady, unflappable little yellow mule, though he is a far cry from the much more athletic horses I competed on those many years ago.
So no endurance for me—though I tell myself that I am sort of a mini-endurance rider—after all we’re all folks who enjoy trail riding, right? I just don’t like trail riding until I’m exhausted (!)
But I do love getting “outside” on my horse, and when weather and life cooperate, I’m out on the trails two or three days a week. Last night I started looking for some photos of myself trail riding to post on the blog—as I always enjoy the photos that others post of themselves out on the trail. I particularly enjoy the “ride photos” showing the intrepid endurance rider and mount cruising through dramatic scenery (like the last set Funder posted links to on her "It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time" blog—breathtaking!). So I tried to find some photos of myself and Sunny out in the hills.
Well, there aren’t that many photos of me it turns out—because I am the one taking the photos, usually. Thus photos of Sunny are mostly of his ears. The most recent photos of myself and my mount that I could find are from last summer and fall. And they are a far cry from elegant “ride photos”. No professional photographer was handy. But anyway…
So here’s Sunny and me and my son and Henry in September—taken when my husband hiked with us. I am busy talking to my husband and paying no attention to what I look like on the horse—so yes, my hand is way too high.
And here’s one taken by my son last summer. Look at Sunny’s mane. Funder and White Horse Pilgrim, I think it rivals Dixie’s and Brena’s.
And yes, I know—no helmet. This was before my conversion to helmet-hood. I do wear the helmet now. And yes, I ride in Ugg boots. Works for me. Note the little flames on Sunny’s breast collar. I would not have chosen these (Aarene and Funder), but my horse Plumber won this breast collar in a roping contest, so of course I have to use it.
Looking at these photos, I realize that they were both taken on one of my favorite rides. This is a logging road that runs through a redwood forest on private land. The property is next door to my uncle’s small horse ranch and we have permission to ride there. It’s an up and back, not a loop, but I have been riding on this road for over thirty years and I know every bend and every tree. The road takes you up to the top of the ridge, and then, unless you get permission to ride on some other private land, you come back down. Going to the top of the ridge and back takes between one and two hours, depending on how fast you go. In my twenties, I would lope the whole way up on Gunner. It was great fun. Now we mostly walk and trot.
Here are a few more photos that show what a pretty little dirt road this is. Below you see my son on Henry and our friend Wally on Twister, headed up the hill. My son is objecting to being photographed—I think he’s been reading too much Calvin and Hobbes (!)
And here I am following Wally and my kid out of the forest and into the big meadow that borders my uncle’s place.
Here’s the ubiquitous ear photo as Sunny and I reach the top of the ridge.
Here’s my favorite photo—even though it is blurry. (I have a hard time taking sharp pictures from my horse’s back.) But you can see my favorite stretch of the road with my kid trotting down it—isn’t it pretty?
We only ride here in the summer and fall—since it is a north slope mostly in shade, it doesn’t dry out in the winter and spring and the ground there is very slick when it is wet. So I haven’t been there since the day my husband took the first photo in this post—which was September, I think. Usually the earliest we can ride there is June, and we’re almost never up there past October.
Its been raining a lot for the last week or two, so I haven’t been out on the trails at all for awhile. But looking at these photos makes me feel happy. I’ve had so much fun riding on this little road through the woods over the years. I look forward to getting back up there this summer.
And, on another joyful note, my 5th book, Slickrock, is now up on Kindle for 99 cents, This has always been the reader favorite of all my books, and today I’m gonna give it a little plug. Folks, if you like horses and trail riding, you will like this book. It’s the least mystery-like of my novels, so even if mysteries are not your thing, I think you’ll like it. The whole story takes place in the course of a mountain pack trip in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California, and its more of an adventure than a mystery. It works just fine as a stand-alone, so even if you’ve got no interest in reading my mystery series, give Slickrock a try for 99 cents (if you read on Kindle). Here is the link.
OK, I’ll quit with the shameless promotion now.