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.