I had the privilege and the thrill of spending two summers living in Estes Park and riding the Rocky Mountains. It is truly a multi-sensory experience. You smell the pines, you hear the sound of hooves on the trail and wildlife around you, you feel the rhythm of your horse, you see some of the most amazing beauty imaginable. One of these days I am going to get back there with my horses. I don’t really want to do horse chores there over the winter, but I’d love to finagle another summer place to stay where I could keep my horses and escape hot and buggy summers in the Midwest.
The first summer I was there was before the 1000 Year Flood. I joined the local equestrian group, rode through town in the Rooftop Rodeo parade, and explored numerous beautiful and amazing trails (sometimes with others, sometimes by myself) throughout RMNP and the adjacent national forest. The next summer…. the devastation was everywhere. That was 2014. To this day, roads are still not all repaired, and Lake Estes is still not the way it used to be.
My family had been going to Estes Park since I was a gleam in my parents’ eyes. I had hiked many of the trails in the area, and I had always longed to explore them on horseback. One area I had hiked frequently was not only open to horses, but also dogs. (No dogs allowed in RMNP.) Sometimes I would ride there alone, with my two Border collies. I purchased a Garmin GPS unit that allowed me to tap into the Park radio frequency if I got into trouble. Also, I tried to be sure I told someone when and where I was going if I went alone. I always wore a helmet. I had borium horseshoe nails in my horse’s shoes to provide a little additional traction on rocks…. but not too much grab.
I have many, many stories of adrenalin-pumping rides and experiences. Once I donned a plastic raincoat in heavy winds on a winding-up Arabian. I missed a trail and opted to bushwack across uncharted territory, following my GPS to get back on track. I don’t think I took five breaths over a 15 minute period as I crossed a “pick up sticks” terrain after the flood had destroyed all my landmarks. The dogs were confused as there was no trail to follow. The horse was equally confused but was awesome, awaiting my direction.
I tried to take all the preparations I could. I carried some necessary items in my saddle bags, but probably not everything I should have had. But what I didn’t have was any identifying information about me. I didn’t have “ICE” information. I didn’t have insurance information, or any identifying information on my horse. And I certainly was in plenty of situations where that information might have been very critical to have. Next time I ride in Estes I will have an ID MyHorse Emergency Identification Tag on my saddle and on my person. Happy Trails and stay safe!!!