Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Random Joy

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.


Anonymous said...

Great photos, and the best part is everyone looks like they're having fun! You certainly do have a beautiful selection of trails where you are.

And a fifth book . . . I just finished #4 on the Kindle and can't wait!

Laura Crum said...

I'm glad you're enjoying the books, Kate. I hope you like Slickrock. I hope to have all of the first eight titles up on Kindle by the end of April. The last four are already there--though for more money, as they are still in print and controlled by the publisher.

And yeah, we do have fun on our rides. Its very relaxing and enjoyable, if not particularly exciting.

horsegenes said...

Great pictures! I love them. It always look so green and lush where you ride. By mid June we are brown. And by September we are brown and DUSTY.

I do love me a good trail ride.

Laura Crum said...

Its brown and dusty in Sept here, too, kel. But the redwoods look green all year round. I love your trail ride photos, too.

Funder said...

Sunny is definitely a princess's pony! You may act like a no-nonsense roper, but that's a mane that got brushed out before the pictures ;)

What a beautiful trail! I think there's a lot of joy in riding the same trail over and over through all the seasons. I've had some favorite trails everywhere I've lived/boarded. I hope, before I leave, the wildflowers bloom on one particular trail out here so I can share the ride with yall. It's been a dry winter over here, but we're catching up in March, so hopefully they germinate.

AareneX said...

I love your photos--and Funder is totally right about Sunny: princess pony all the way.

I still think that in a few years when your son wants to spend every waking moment on a horse, we'll be seeing you in ridecamp. At least, I really hope that's what happens!

Also, btw, I think you are only marginally older and plusher than me. And I think I'm significantly older and more plush than Funder....!

Laura Crum said...

Nope, Funder--I absolutely did not brush the mane. I never brush the mane. I comb through it with my fingers--that's it. I think I've only washed it like twice in four years of owning him. I really AM a no-nonsense sort. It isn't my fault or due to my care/fussing that he looks like a princess pony--though I will admit that he does--and I think that all the time.

Aarene--I like that word "plush". I am definitely "ample"--another word I like. No use pretending otherwise, since I posted photos. Its all the tougher to take because up until I turned forty I was a relatively slender little thing. Ah well.

I guess you'll see me in ride camp if my son wants to try endurance, but I'll probably just be his crew (!) I have spent many a long day on a horse between pack trips and gathers and roping and cutting--I'm not sure I need more.

Susan said...

You have some beautiful scenery to ride through. A memorable day for me, years ago, was in California, spending the day walking on the beach and then through the redwoods near Crescent City. I haven't been back since.

Laura Crum said...

Susan--On the beach and through the redwoods are two of my favorite places to ride. But your ranch in Montana looks very lovely, too.

Anonymous said...

As always I am jealous of your wonderful trails, so scenically described in your book.

Alison said...

that was me that left the anonymous tip. It's late and so easy to click on the wrong button.

Mrs. Mom said...

Wow you have some awesome looking trails Laura! I love seeing your son on Henry too- the 2 of them are a pair and a half.

I won't tell Phat Boy he needs to step it up in the mane growing department ;) Although at this rate, by the end of summer his mane should rival Sunny's in these pix!

Thanks for taking us along on a ride!

cdncowgirl said...

You are so lucky to have somewhere safe AND pretty to ride. Most of my riding is either in my arena or pasture... prairie pasture, nothing fancy.
I'm looking forward to your newest book!

Laura Crum said...

Alison--I really love my trails, and know I am lucky to have them. They do get included in my books a lot--cause I love to write about them.

Mrs Mom--I love Phat Boy's mane. And red is better than white--especially in the winter. You should see Sunny's dirty yellow mane right now.

Thank you cdncowgirl. I hope you enjoy the book. I'd enjoy riding on the prairie, I think. So wide open.

Dreaming said...

It all seems heavenly! The trails, the sunshine and the length of the ride. Like you, I think of the joy endurance riders find in each other, but I would be very saddle weary!

Francesca Prescott said...

Total Princess Horse! And oh those trails....

Laura, I didn't get a chance to reply to your proposal to try and send me a copy of your first book. I'd love that if the postage isn't too mental. The reason it's really expensive on Amazon is because it comes from "other sellers"; I buy loads of books from Amazon and am usually quite happy to pay for postage from the US as it's quite reasonable.

whitehorsepilgrim said...

Like you, having ridden lots of hours when I was younger, the idea of riding to the point of exhaustion no longer appeals. However three or four hours on a nice trail remains very appealing. I've lost interest in fast riding other than the odd canter - it's nicer now to look at the countryside. Seeing the intensive (and sometimes downright aggressive) trail marking required by endurance riders (over here anyway), I guess that they don't spend much time enjoying the landscape.

Laura Crum said...

Dreaming and White Horse Pilgrim--I can still enjoy a three to four ride, and we do these occasionally. But a two hour ride is my stand-by. It feels just right to me (now). Enough but not too much. And like you, White Horse Pilgrim, I really like looking at the countryside, so we mostly walk--a little trotting and loping when we feel like it.

Cesca--I will try to find out about postage and work out a way to get books to you without it being so expensive.