Fall is my favorite time of year to go horseback riding. I am partial to summer, since I was born in August (my mother has a theory that the season you were born in is the one you like best; for instance, I like being hot, and don’t mind sweating; I hate the cold, and winter is my least favorite season), but summer is often so busy with gardening, vacations, kids’ activities, and things that can only be done in summer. I just never have time to ride in the summer, and so when fall arrives it is such a relief.
Summertime is busy. I love summer, but there is just so much going on, so much garden work to do, so many kids’ activities, so many vacations….nope, I am not complaining! But here it is nearing the end of July, and I finally got my saddle out and dusted it off and discovered that my stirrups were still set long from the last time I rode it…which was back at the first of April when Penny bucked me off! We rode at the end of May in Idaho, but here a month and a half later, my own horses have not been ridden all summer. I am just now finally get back to it!
I was recently asked to write a guest post for Equitrekking.com about the best horseback riding trails in Iowa. They are conducting a 50 State Trail Riding Project, and needed a post for good horseback riding trails in Iowa; so they contacted me to see if they could have permission to reprint my post on the Pierce Creek Trails near Essex, Iowa. I told them “sure”, but that I could do a little better, and I set out on a mission to complete a descriptive guide to my favorite horse riding trails around the state.
We visited my parents in Idaho around the end of May. They live in a beautiful valley in the southeast part of the state where they raise beef cattle, Quarter Horses, and mules. We spent a week out there riding horses, hiking on mountain trails, enjoying their western scenery, and catching up on life among the Lewis family. I took two cameras, and when I got home there were over 700 photos on my memory cards! So this blog post is to share some of the sights I saw, most of them taken from the back of a horse.
We extended our stay in Idaho a couple extra days so that we wouldn’t miss their annual cattle drive where they take their cow and calf herd fifteen miles up into the mountains. It is an all-day event, starting early and ending late, and involves a lot of horseback riding and beautiful scenery. We didn’t want to miss it! All week my sister Karmen and I had been getting horses ready. Karmen put shoes on four horses so that their feet wouldn’t wear out on the rocky trail. I rode Donegal to give her a little refresher so she would be well-adjusted to being ridden again, as my dad was going to ride her on the drive and he is seventy years old and still recuperating from his accident that broke ribs last November. Karmen planned to ride her young mule Garnet, and I was going to take Stormy, the young mare I’d been riding all week.
I’m on vacation this week. No, not sunning on some beautiful beach somewhere like most people would think of, but in my opinion this is better—I’m visiting my family in Idaho and spending a great percentage of my time horseback. I usually refer to my folks’ place as a “working cattle ranch”, with emphasis on the “working!” I am not used to this much physical exertion, andevery muscle aches, my arms and neck are sunburned, and I am saddle sore. But this is my kind of vacation!
It’s not often I get to ride three different horses in one day—much less, ride new colts and just-started horses, which is one of my favorite things. I’m in Idaho, visiting my parents and sister, and besides enjoying family time over the Memorial Day weekend and following week, our goal was to put some rides on their colts. They have twenty head in their horse and mule herd, and they are so busy with irrigating their alfalfa fields, putting up hay, and caring for their cattle that training horses gets put off. So I am always anxious to get some horses started or do more riding when we visit
That old Kenny Rogers song came to mind today, as I was thinking over the happenings of my weekend. In terms of horses, you should never be too sure of a horse. Riding horses is always a gamble. There are no sure bets, and you can win or lose with a stroke of luck, good or bad. I always say, “That’s the way the cookie crumbled.” And there’s no predicting it, how events are going to go or what exactly is going to take place. I think the cards were stacked against me in the hand I was dealt on Saturday!
I got a phone call last weekend out of the blue. The guy had been searching online for horse trainers in the area and found an ad I had placed probably eight years ago (before I had kids) when I was looking to take in outside horses to train. He wondered if I could help him with two horses he was wanting trained, and me being the horse enthusiast I am, I said “Sure.” I had to follow that up with a lengthy explanation of how I am a mom of three, work full time, and almost never have the time to ride anymore–but I assured him that I could help him put some rides on these horses of his.
We recently stayed at a swanky hotel in St. Louis where my husband attended a business conference for his work. The kids and I went along just for fun, the thought of spending three days at an indoor-pool-equipped establishment being our main motivation—yes, the long winter is getting to us! While there, my husband got his cowboy boots shined at the shoe-shine station in the lobby. After seeing the transformation from scuffed to gleaming, our son wanted his little boots shined as well. While he sat and got them polished, one of the hotel managers struck up a conversation by asking our son if he had a horse to go with those boots….
You may have heard about the recent study sponsored by Harley Davidson that deducted that women who ride motorcycles are happier than women who don’t. The study was conducted by Kelton, and interviewed 1,013 adult female riders and 1,016 adult female non-riders. “The findings make it clear that riding a motorcycle greatly improves a woman’s feelings of overall self-worth.” I wonder what a similar study would find, if they interviewed women who ride horses rather than motorcycles?
Riding horses is dangerous. So is operating an automobile. So I’m not saying we shouldn’t engage in either activity, but I’d like to point out that when you are around a horse, virtually anything can happen. I’ve seen good horses in bad wrecks, great riders get broken up, and not-very-cautious riders get away with doing some stupid things around horses and get away with it. What we all should keep in mind is that there is great risk involved in riding horses and training horses, and a smart rider will do what he can to protect himself and his horse.
I’m sitting here after a long day, wondering what to write in this post to sum up the very best parts of my day to share on CowgirlDiary.com, and I’m not coming up with a whole lot of words. I went for a horseback ride this evening with JoAnn. It was a beautiful, windy, fall day…the kind of day that just beckons. I stuffed my old camera in the hip pocket of my jeans and away we went. Basically, it was a super fun ride. And the rest, I’ll just say with pictures….
I told a customer at work yesterday that I have “Horse Radar”. He looked at me funny…and I explained that I had seen his wife out trail riding the other day along a road, and wondered if he was riding with her. He said, “No, that was her daughter and a friend. Why?” I said, “Oh, I was just jealous, and told my husband—see? That’s what we should be doing today!” He said, “You have horses?” I said, “Yes, but I don’t get out to ride much.” He said, “Well, you should talk to my wife, she’s always looking for somebody to go riding with.” Phone numbers were exchanged, Facebook friend requests sent, and now his wife and I are planning to go ride at some trails as soon as we can!
I attended a training clinic several years ago, put on by a good friend of mine, Kevin Wescott, a horse trainer from west-central Nebraska. It was a general horsemanship clinic, where local people brought their own horses and asked Kevin to help them through issues they were having, or give advice on their riding, and so on. I was there with my mare Daisy, whose behavior at this clinic you might remember from my previous blog post. But aside from that, I observed something at this clinic that has stuck in my mind ever since.
I’ve been mulling a bit lately, over the horse ownership thing again. I’ve mentioned before that I feel guilty about owning horses and not spending much time with them, aside from feeding time. I confess that it’s been about three months since I’ve ridden….in fact, I can’t even remember the ride at all, or when it was. I have a pretty good excuse for not riding any broncs, though….I’m pregnant with our third child.
Most of us horse lovers have been inspired by horses and riders in the movies at one point or another. Whether it was growing up watching Bonanza or seeing Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken for the first time, those horses and the people who rode them made a big impact on us and deepened our interest in becoming a rider or owning our own horse someday. There are just a few things that have crossed my mind when watching some of the Hollywood-style riding, and wanted to comment for the benefit of the total beginning horse enthusiast.
Last weekend we took our cows out west where I grew up. From here, it’s a four hour ride in a car…a six hour ride for a cattle pot and truck and trailer with seven people packed into the crew cab. Saturday was one long hectic day. But it was one of the best weekends I’ve had in a long time, because to me it meant going home.