by Laura Crum
I will admit it. I spend a good part of winter either watching it rain, or looking morosely at the mud and thinking it’s too muddy to ride. We get plenty of rain here in coastal California in the winter. (It is raining as I type this.) And I am a weather wimp. I do not ride in the rain. I do not ride if it’s below 50 degrees (or above 80 for that matter). I don’t ride if it’s very windy. Yes, I’m a weather wimp. Go ahead and make fun of me, you tougher sorts who live in more challenging climates
However, one of the good things about coastal central California is we have a Mediterranean climate here. This means that though it rains, it almost never snows. It rarely gets down into the 20’s, very, very rarely into the teens. And we gets LOTS of sunny winter days in the 60’s and even 70’s. And these days are perhaps the best riding weather of the year.
So I do ride quite a bit in the winter. Often we ride on the beach, as we did on Monday. The beach is always good footing. And often it looks like this.
Yes, that is the view from the cliff top where we began our ride. Pretty idyllic, don’t you think? And yes, I think I live in Paradise. Despite the rainy days.
The thing about riding on the beach is that you need to schedule your ride for low tide, so there is lots of firm wet sand to ride on. And I prefer days when the surf is not high—its so much more peaceful. And then, as I said, I’m a weather wimp. The temp has to be in the 60’s or 70’s or I don’t want to go. And there is one more thing about riding on the beach…or riding “outside” in general. You never know what you will meet. And sometimes it can be quite surprising/alarming.
So this last Monday we had a very low tide in the afternoon with low surf and the temp was about 70. Needless to say, we headed for the beach.
Interestingly, the very low tide had created many tidepools in the beach sand, and, of course, everybody wanted to wade through them. At least, the people did.
The horses will wade if we insist, but they don’t exactly volunteer to go in the water. Nonetheless, we waded. I don’t have any pictures of Sunny wading, because I am required to pay attention as I urge him into the water, and I am also very thoughtful about the “bottom” as I once rode into just such an innocuous tide pool stream and found it to be a form of quicksand—my horse sunk almost to the shoulder and had a hard time getting out. So I pay attention and focus on my horse and surroundings rather than taking photos. But here is Sunny watching Twister get wet.
We don’t usually insist that they go in the surf, because the waves going in and out have the effect of making many horses dizzy. Having had horses stagger and nearly go down in the breakers (Wally had one that did go down), I am thoughtful about this. But the tide pools were much like streams, and the horses waded through them easily enough.
Then we trotted and loped down the beach for a bit, until we’d had enough. It was a bright, pretty day and there were a few people about, even though this is a private, secluded beach. We saw some very active dogs chasing shorebirds, joggers—one of whom wanted to take our picture-- a mountain biker…etc. The horses were not bothered by any of this, and seemed to be enjoying the ride as much as we were.
Eventually we turned around and headed back. It really was a lovely day.
Not five minutes after I took this photo, a small single person aircraft thingy—what we call a flying lawnmower—appeared, flying along the shore, oh, about forty feet overhead. My son and Wally were quite excited. Being the worry wart I am, I was instantly concerned that the horses wouldn’t care for it. However, I am smart enough not to share my worry with either my kid or my horse. While thinking, shit, I hope these horses don’t freak out, I kept my legs loose, my body relaxed and consciously did not tighten up the reins. I said, in a chipper tone of voice, “Yeah, I see it, how cool,” to my kid, adding calmly, “just be sure you have a hold of the horn.” And then, to my dismay, the thing proceeded to land right next to us. OK, not RIGHT next to us, but close enough.
And no, I have no pictures. My heart was racing. I was thinking about avoiding a disaster, not taking photos. I remained outwardly relaxed and cheerful, but I kept an eagle eye on Sunny and Henry, looking for any signs of panic. But I was the only one who was nervous. All the horses regarded the flying lawnmower with mild interest, including watching it take back off, to the sound of much angry buzzing. Whew.
I know our horses are steady and experienced, but still, I would have expected more reaction. Anyway, it ended up being another lovely day, along with giving me a small reminder that you never know what you’ll stumble upon. And I bet many of you have equally interesting stories about stuff you’ve met on the trail. I think our scariest moment was facing two huge, very low-flying helicopters at the beach. How about you?