by Laura Crum
We went for a ride in the woods the other day. It is mid-January and much that we saw was dry and dusty. This is unheard of for this time of year. The central coast of California is in the grip of a huge drought. In 56 years of living here, I have never seen a January quite like this. So this is one big change.
Looking on the bright side of this change, the footing is perfect. No mud. Nothing is slippery. We can do any ride we care to do.
We decided to ride our usual two hour through-the-forest loop backward. Trails look so different when you ride them in the opposite direction. It would be like a whole new ride. This would be a change, too. Off we went, down the steep hill that we usually ride up, and across the creek.
Henry is such a good horse—the very best.
Henry will be 26 years old this spring. He’s still going well, but I have cut back on the work he is asked to do. On this ride I noticed for the first time that Henry was a little reluctant to climb the steeper hills. (There are no big hills on this ride, just some short bits of up and down.) I paid attention and on the climbs Henry is stepping short on the right hind. He’s fine on level ground. I’m pretty sure his hock is bothering him. To be frank, it’s a miracle his hocks haven’t bothered him before this. Older QH rope horses almost always have a touch of bone spavin. I will keep a good eye on Henry and we may avoid steep climbs from here on. Another change.
Though I am accepting that Henry can’t go on forever as a riding horse, it makes me sad to acknowledge that this part of our lives is coming slowly but steadily to an end. My son and I are still riding together on Henry and Sunny, and both horses have been a total blessing. But Henry IS 26. The change is coming.
We rode through the forest. I snapped a few photos as we moved along. All of them turned out blurry, but you can see how pretty the forest is. It was 70 degrees—just like a summer ride. Lovely under the trees.
Here we go through what feels like a doorway between two big redwood trees. It’s neat.
And then I got lost. I know, sounds idiotic. Lost on a two hour ride I’ve done dozens of times before. Sort of like Gilligan’s Island (this really dates me). And I wasn’t truly, exactly lost. I just took a wrong turn and we didn’t end up riding our usual loop backward after all. It’s surprising how different a trail looks when you ride it in the opposite direction. But we found our way back to the truck and trailer eventually and saw some pretty things along the way. Reflections of redwoods seen through Sunny’s ears…
Everything is changing, all the time. “Change is the very most natural thing,” in the words of Jerry Jeff Walker. A lot of the time things seem stable and we don’t notice the changing. But sometimes things seem to change suddenly, all around us. Like my 13 year old son, who, in one year, is no longer a little boy. And there have been several other changes in our life as a family, all in the past six months. On the surface, some of these changes are not so positive. And yet, maybe it just depends on how you look at it.
This drought we are currently going through here in coastal California looks like a pretty darn negative thing. But we sure have had some lovely days…and some lovely rides. Can’t help but enjoy this 70 degree weather.
Henry may be getting near to the end of his time as a riding horse. But he has given us SO much. From when my kid was just turned 7 until now at 13 and 1/2 years old, my son has ridden this good red horse everywhere, and never had one bad experience. How wonderful is that? Wonderful enough to balance some inevitable sadness of loss, I believe. Those good rides will forever be a part of us.
These last few months we have had our fair share of change and sadness. Some people we care about have had some very difficult and unavoidable problems, and some other people we know and thought were our friends have turned out not to be our friends. These things are true and they do make me sad when I think about them.
But my son gave me a hummingbird feeder for Xmas that is made out of an antique ruby red glass bottle. It is beautiful and the hummers love it. The feeder glows like a jewel in the sunlight and the birds whiz up to it in delight. I can think about the sad things, or I can watch the hummingbirds.
I think I will just keep my eye on the hummingbirds.