I have the amazing pleasure of riding the Rocky Mountains this week. I spent two summer living here, the year before the flood and the year after the flood. Last year, Alan and I spent a week in Colorado camping and riding, and it was Finn’s first time in the mountains. I wrote about that in this blog. Following our week in the mountains, Finn experienced a week at the Big Piney in Missouri in October. That ended his trail training last year.
Because we had such a cold, wet spring, the horses enjoyed an extended winter vacation. Over the past couple of months, I have worked hard to get the boys in decent condition for some serious riding. That conditioning has included trail time, round pen time, arena time and a couple of lessons. In multiple scenarios, Finn has exhibited some serious resistance to having to work for a living! During both lessons he tantrumed when he thought we were done riding and I made him go to work again.
Our first mountain ride was a mere 5 miles. He’d had several days off, notwithstanding a nearly 700 mile trailer ride. The second one was 9 miles. We had barely crossed the trailhead threshold when he did an abrupt about-face! “No thanks, not feeling like climbing a mountain today!” He pulled that routine several more times during the day. Of course, none of those incidents were on the way back… only as we headed out. He has done great in terms of negotiating rocks and handling the trail. He’s apparently just allergic to work! At one point, I applied my popper to his posterior, received a recalcitrant buck in response, but managed to convince him to head the proper direction.
Kadeen and Alan had no such arguments. Kadeen does kick in to Turbo Drive when we’re heading home, and he prefers to lead. At one point, Alan led Kadeen when Alan’s knees needed a break. On the other hand, Finn is most happy to follow! Several times when Finn went into reverse, he’d regroup and follow Kadeen. As we headed home, Finn was less opposed to being in front… his goals had changed!
The meadow we visited used to house many homesteaders. It is a destination I have hiked many, many times from childhood on. I only started riding my horses to the meadow the first summer I lived in Estes Park. Sadly, I have watched the homesteads disintegrate over the years. Between the wind, the winter and the flood, the rustic cabins have suffered.
One of the rides I hope to do this week will involve wooden bridges over loud, rushing water! Kadeen has done those bridges countless times. I am not certain what Finn will do, as we did not encounter those last year. In fact, Alan and I decided to order Hit-Air vests before our trip this week. The dang things are expensive, but it seemed like a smart move. On our first ride this week, we ended up on a trail that got fairly challenging fairly fast. The horses did great negotiating the trail (we turned around quickly and retraced our steps) but it was a dicey start to our week. I was grateful for the vest. Clearly, I hope never to need it, but I love the way my life is unfolding right now and I’d like to stay healthy!
The idea for creating Emergency Identification tags for the horses, and Medical Alert tags for the riders, was borne out of my two summers of riding in Rocky Mountain National Park. I encountered challenging trails, unpredictable weather, and the occasional rubber-necking tourist. I carried a Garmin GPS model that had walkie-talkie features that allowed me to connect to the Park Ranger frequency if necessary. Still, I had no identifying information on me or my horse during those two years. Should something really horrible happen, like my head meeting a rock, hopefully my helmet, Hit-Air vest, and medical information will enable me to ride another day!