Saturday, September 18, 2010

I Get To Ride My Own Horse

I have not had the opportunity to ride Kate for almost six weeks, what with grandkids and husbands using her.
So on Labor day (my last day of freedom before school started) I saddled the Dun Wunder up and headed out the driveway. As willing as she is away from the place, leaving home all by herself proved to be a bit of a challenge! I had trouble getting her past Hank's place, partly because of some newly painted, bright red storage containers hiding behind the potato barn. Once past them (about a quarter mile from home) she settled a bit.
Then I made the [poor] choice to take to the ditch bank out to the next county road. The problem with the roads that skirt the irrigation ditches is that there is only about 10 feet between the drop off to the water, and what is usually an equal drop off on the other side into adjoining field. And often, as on this ride, the edge of the field has a fence: in this case an old barbed wire fence, no longer even on it's posts, but instead, hidden in the tall grass. I knew it was there but Kate didn't.
So when she would balk a little at the mini-dams in the ditch, or horse-eating rock piles, or distant rumbling tractors, I had very little room to work with her. The first few times I was able to do some very small circles and move her feet. Then on a couple of more stubborn stops, I would turn her and back in the desired direction 10 or 15 feet, then turn on the haunches and she would proceed a little further (backing is hard work, and horses would usually rather move forward).
But as we approached the two mile point, where we could have gotten off the ditch bank and started down the road for home, we came abreast of a hay barn/equipment storage area, and Kate had had enough! She would not move forward, and she got around the backing trick by losing her "steering" and heading off the road toward that hidden barbed wire. So I dismounted and we did a little work in place, then I led her the last 100 yards or so to the road. It was probably a good thing I stayed on the ground, as the little herd of sheep that lives at the corner came bounding down the hill, bleating all the way, to see who was visiting.
Coming back, she was much happier and forward. I'd like to think it was our groundwork, but I'm sure it was more that she probably knew she was headed home.
Next time I'll go out on the road, where I have more room to work with her (though I'm not crazy about antics on asphalt) and come back on the scary ditch road.

The next Saturday, hubby Al and trail riding buddy Pat convinced me that, despite all the projects that need finishing before winter, I deserved to go on a trail ride with the KVTR. We caravaned to the Flying Horseshoe Ranch, on the Teanaway River outside of Cle Elum, Washington, and headed for the hills.
There were a couple of places where the road was washed out and we had to drop down very steep banks to bushwhack around. I really liked that Kate sat right down on her butt to negotiate these places, without balking or hurrying, and climbed back up without scrambling.
Then we got to the biggest obstacle of the day!
Possibly the biggest trail challenge of Kate's short life!
The Teanaway River.
Going across the first time, she hesitated a bit, but as everyone else worked their way across, she gave it a try. Here where we were the first time, the current made us both a little sea-sick as we looked down, but she picked her way through the rocky footing to the mid-way rest stop on the opposite shore.
Going back, I found a spot where the water was a little more placid, and she trundled across, slowly but steadily.
Going back through the woods: What are we all looking at?
Can you see him?
How about now? (Same photo, cropped.)
This little buck was laying not 30 feet off the trail. Four or five riders passed him before anyone even noticed. Then he just watched as everyone after that who had a camera, stopped to document his presence. We had seen another deer, a doe, earlier in the day, also happy to just lie there until we all rode past. Shortly after spooting her, we also saw one older fawn (half grown?) frozen in place, as a curve in the trail allowed the group to "surround" him on three sides; but once we had moved far enough along, he sprinted for the hills!

We rode for three and a half hours, for a total (according to Barry's GPS) of about 10 miles.
It was a beautiful late summer day to be in the mountains.


  1. Sounds like a beautiful ride. I wonder if the Girl Scout camp (Camp Teanaway) is still there on the Teanaway River near Cle Elum? I attended an international camp/backpacking expedition there when I was 14 (many, many, many years ago)-I still remember the beautiful scenery on those trails.

  2. sounds like a great time, glad you took the trip as well, even if its been busy.

  3. Glad to hear that you are successfully leaving farm chores behind! Ride that pony!!!