by Laura Crum
Ok, its another trail ride post. I can’t help it. I love trail riding with my kid and every time we go out on an especially good one, I just have to write about it. Part of it is that its so special to share this with my son (and I know, as Francesca and others have so poignantly pointed out, that this stage of life does not last forever), and part of it is that I just love riding my steady little Sunny horse through the hills of my home. But I can appreciate that you all might think I’m getting a little repetitive. If anybody wants a break from my endless trail ride posts, just give me a word—I’m willing to write about other things.
But today its trail riding again. My son and I just got back from a two hour ride, which is my favorite kind of ride. Long enough to be a real ride, not so long I’m stiff and sore afterwards. The horses like it, too. They get enough exercise that their hair coats are damp under the saddle and cinch, but not so much that they’re really tired. Just right.
Actually, I meant to do a shorter ride, one that only takes an hour and a half, but when we got to the Lookout my son said, “Let’s go home through Moon Valley.”
Sitting on the Lookout bluff, staring out over Monterey Bay, I hesitated. I had other things to do in the afternoon. But going through Moon Valley would only take a little longer. And we hadn’t been that way in awhile.
“Please, Mama,” my son said. “I really want to go that way again.”
That clinched it. I always try to honor my son’s requests when we ride, as long as they’re reasonable. I want riding to be as fun for him as it is for me. So we took the trail that descends steeply downhill from the Lookout to Moon Valley. And I learned a funny thing. (Well, I already knew it, so I re-learned it.)
We usually ride the trail through Moon Valley in the other direction—don’t ask me why. In fact, I can’t recall that we’ve ever rode it in reverse before. But today, on my son’s whim, we descended where we were usually ascending, and rode the trail in the opposite direction. And it was like a whole new trail.
I saw things I had never noticed before, big trees and views that didn’t appear going the other way; some parts of the trail actually looked foreign to me, though I’ve ridden it many times. Twice I almost missed a turnoff. In short, it was almost as interesting as the first ride down a new trail. I was tickled.
My son was happy, singing as we rode along. Sunny and Henry walked with their ears forward, looking at everything. Sunny spotted a deer in the woods. We all watched it bound away, the horses alert but perfectly calm. They are such good horses.
At one point, traversing the hillside above Moon Valley, we heard a bulldozer and a chain saw working away in the woods near the trail, clearing brush. Oh no, I thought. A lot of horses don’t care for the snarl of a chainsaw and the topple of falling trees. But Sunny and Henry never turned a hair, and we cruised peacefully on by.
As we rode past huge redwoods and through a bright meadow where an abandoned swingset sits forlornly in the woods, I was reminded that I have my heroine, Gail McCarthy, ride this exact route with her son, Mac, in my latest book, “Going, Gone”. So, for anyone who wants a more complete description of the “swingset trail” (and also a little more excitement), read the book (!)
The whole real life ride past uneventfully, in the best way. I wasn’t nervous crossing the busy road (don’t ask me why I get nervous some rides and not others, cause I don’t know). We trotted and loped a long straight stretch through the meadow, the wind flying in our faces, our horses happy to move out. And it was seventy degrees the entire time and the sun dappled woods and trail dust evoked the very essence of late summer. I was so happy. What a great ride.
If anybody has any happy moments with their own horses to share, I’d love to hear them. This is what makes it all worthwhile-- all the work and worry and expense (and the setbacks and disappointments--see my last post)—these wonderful, magical moments with our horses. They can be as small as sitting in the barn listening to your horse munch his hay, or as huge as a two week pack trip through the mountains (and I’ve sure done both). But for today I didn’t need anything more than a magical two hour ride with my son through the hills of home.
Sounds splendid - I'm always glad to hear about other people's great trail rides - my trail-riding horse is laid up right now so none for me. And my arena horse is taking small trail excursions but we're not ready for longer rides yet. So tell me about every great ride you have - I love hearing about them!
Kate--I'm glad you enjoy my "trail stories". I love reading about other people's rides and interactions with their horses, too, and descriptions of the terrain they ride through. Though unfortunately I struggle with getting my old cranky computer to go to other blogs. Or perhaps its fortunately, as I might otherwise spend my whole day reading horse blogs. I have to admit that my horse training days are so far behind me that I mostly skim training posts, probably missing a great deal of useful info. But I love hearing about other people's horses. Dawn is your arena horse, right? And Maisie is your trail horse? I'm sorry to hear she's laid up.
Love hearing about your trailrides. We are gearing up for a long weekend ride in So. Mo. with our new lq trailer. Can't wait for such luxury. We have a young horse instead of a young rider and it is always a pleasure to have a successful trailride where everyone comes home relaxed, happy and looking forward to the next one.
Laura - I've been trail riding on my mare twice and both times while she was totally fine, I was a nervous mess! I'm just not used to it and not used to using my body and my balance in differing ways. It's good for me and good for her to be out and about. I admire all your trail riding adventures cuz I know how much of a HUGE YELLER CHICKEN I am! grin.
That said - I had a lovely moment on Sera Sue this past weekend. I went to a show up in Estes Park with my trainer and another student of hers. There was a rodeo going on at the same venue complete with sheep for mutton busting, cattle, miniature brahma bulls... the westernairres full on with flags streaming...
We stayed Friday thru Sunday and I've never had my mare away from home, much less in a stall for any amount of time. She is a pasture horse with lean-to's for shelter.
As I led her down to the warm up ring and to let her take in everything, we found ourselves in the MIDDLE of all the Westernairres Friday afternoon as they left the arena after practicing...
I thought Sera's eyes would pop out of her head. She skittered around and scooted to the side only to be faced with a pen of mini brahmas and sheep.
We made our way past all the vendor tents with flapping clothes, umbrellas and tarps and over to the arenas.
I had a lovely ride on her once we were down in the warm up rings.. and she was incedibly well behaved in captivity of her stall with all the goings on around. By the end of the weekend she barely flicked an ear at anything.
I took a big sigh Friday as the day cooled and the sun was low over the mountains while I was riding Sera around at a site she's never been ... thought, wow. We have come so far together and now I'm riding her up here and she is pleasant and relaxed while alert and watching. I'm comfortable, I trust her, she trusts me and I'm having FUN!
It was a beautiful ride.
Sorry - blogger sort of freaked out on me and I posted that long comment 3 times. sheesh. Oh, and I thought of you Laura as I led Sera past some cowboys and one said, "DANG! That is a big sucker!" talking about my red-heded mule. Grin. She is 16hh even. Absolutely NOT big in the dressage world but I knew compared to a cow horse, she probably was... made me think of you and Sunny and gave me a smile.
Marla--Is MO Missouri? I think so, but am not sure. We went through the Midwest in July and I saw many lovely places where I would love to ride.
And Shanster--You are not a chicken. I read your post about showing Sera at Estes and there is no way I would be brave enough to do that. I am totally not willing to compete these days. So we all have our places where we are strong and the ones where we're not so strong. It sounds like you and Sera had a great experience and congrats on your blue ribbon. You earned it in every way, from what I read in your post.
Shanster--Yeah, that's another thing. I could not--no way--climb on a sixteen hand horse. To me that is a huge horse. Jami talks about her 17 hand warmblood and all I can think is, if you get off to tighten the cinch on the trail, how the heck do you get back on? I can climb up on 14.3 Sunny no problem, but even my 15.1 hand horse, Plumber, is hard for me. I just don't know how you dressage riders do it. Course, I'm short, so that doesn't help.
Enjoyed reading about your ride and have enjoyed your books. When someone takes the time to describe a ride, you can feel the excitement and enjoyment. How many mothers in today's world would love to be riding and their child beg for more.
I also had a 2 hour ride today. In Tennessee we went from high 90's to mid 80's and I have got several good ones in. So different from yours though. Ours is riding along soybean fields and through woods filled with kudzu this time of year. Great riding though.
For me, the magical moment with my horse is when I hear him do that snorty/ kind of "sigh" noise -it means he is relaxed, he is with me, and all will be well. Magic. As you said, these moments make all the other not-so-pleasant moments so very worthwhile and precious. Enjoy your writing, and your trail ride adventures! Keep writing!
Brenda--I can picture your ride. I've been to Memphis and soybean fields and kudzu ring a bell. In my mind that would be gentle, rolling country where it would be easy to lope along (Am I right?) For us, here, its quite hilly and open spaces suitable for long trots ot lopes are relatively rare.
Jan--Yes, sometimes its just those little moments that are the best. So peaceful.
Laura: Thanks for sharing another great ride with you and your son. I sooooo wished we lived next door to you!!! My son is turning 11 this month and loves riding his pony all over creation and back and now that I've got some more gumption and my aged QH mare is going smooth again we are having some wonderful trail rides together. However my son is convinced that he is the ONLY boy that rides trail horses in the WORLD!!! We live in an area swamped by pony club girls and mounted games ladies!!!! So the poor child thinks the world has moved on from little boys that love horses too. If we had a trailer maybe I could haul our trusty steads to a beginners allowed team sorting event and Keenan could see that there are other boys that ride.
We are fortunate to have a University research farm next door and they have 600 acres of fields and crops and nicely laid out pathways between all the different vegetation, corn, ornamental grasses, fields of alfalfa, soybeans, etc. Thankfully they are still okay with courteous and polite riders as so many places are starting to ban horses from trails and pathways.
Thanks again for sharing a great trail ride!!!
sounds like an awesome ride. I like trail ride stories. It's what I do. There is no competing for me on willie. We'd get DQ'd for the obvious lameness! But it's truly only mechanical now. Vet was at the stables the other day and his jaw literally dropped when he saw Bill. So very happy about his assessment.
I had a great ride yesterday with my best friend. She moved a bit away but came down here and rode gold ol Jimsey and we had a great time long trotting through the creek.
Willie was high as a kite and roared for the first 20 minutes. We laughed and laughed. He wanted to gallop so bad. But we long trotted and he got down to business in the sandy creek bed and it was fun!
I always think about The Return of The Jedi when we long trot the creek. The part of the movie at the beginning when they are riding those motorcycle/airplane machines through the forest. Yeah. That.
What a blessing these animals are.
I love trail.
Lynn--I'm tickled to hear that you and your son are out trail riding. Bravo! Sounds like you've made progress with your horses, from what you told me before. And yes, we know a few little boys that ride, up at the roping arena, but our trail riding is mostly just me and my kid, sometimes with our friend/boarder, Wally, who is an old cowboy. I actually don't mind this. Call me selfish, but I like being able to share this time with my son free of peer pressure stuff, so to speak. I would be very happy if he never wanted to compete at anything. But that is his choice. So far he seems quite content with what we are doing. We do invite his friends over from time to time and they ride double with him on Henry and have a blast, but that is just walk trot in our riding ring.
Joy--That is great that Willie is doing so well. And I totally hear you. I love, love trail riding. We have a couple of places where we can long trot or lope for a mile or so, and it is a blast. My son and I always have big grins when we pull up. I like your image from "Return of the Jedi"--that definitely resonates for me. Its the same feeling, no?
MO is Missouri, we went to the Cross Country Trail Ride in Eminence Missouri for their Labor Day ride and it was totally incredible. If you haven't been to the Angeline Wilderness or around the Upper Jacks Fork/Current River area is is well worth the trip. We had a successful trip, trailer was wonderful and my husband got to figure out all of the cool gadgets. We've had a horrible winter and super hot summer so a beautiful weekend with great horses climbing huge hills, great views and breathtaking rivers was a trailride to treasure. Our youngster was great until my husband tried to put his saddlebags full of beer on him. Let's say he is so athletic! He bucked so hard on the lunge that my husband decided he would have to be drunk to try to bring his beer on the trail and he doesn't do that, just a cold one to relax. Guess we have some homework to do, still trying to figure out what he knows and doesn't know.
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