ID MyHorse

Comanche Peak Wilderness, a Forest Rebounding From Fire

Finally, I am literally and figuratively back in the saddle. After a several month hiatus from blogging, and an even longer hiatus from riding, I am so happy to be able to share our recent trail rides with you! We enjoyed our first ride of the year in Comanche Peak Wilderness. My blog series about equine slaughter and my series about America’s wild horses really took a lot out of me. I needed a writing break for a while.

First, an update as to why we haven’t been riding for so long. My poor gelding, Kadeen, suffered a puncture wound last September, resulting in surgery in October. Months of convalescence followed. When radiographs documented sufficient healing to begin riding again, we had major issues finding a competent farrier. (Our previous Arizona farrier suddenly just ghosted us!) We live in a rural area in both Arizona and Colorado. We have abandoned the idea of having a decent farrier come to us. Rather, we haul a considerable distance to get our horses properly shod.

As a result of these challenges, we didn’t have sound horses until late May. We returned to Colorado from our Arizona home just in time for another set of foot films to insure proper shoeing. We formulated a plan for conditioning, but our attempts to exercise them in the round pen were thwarted by an incredible amount of rain here in very green Colorado! Finally, we were able to ride a couple of local trails that were relatively easy for the horses.

Our first outing was to Comanche Peak Wilderness. The trailhead is located in the nearby community of Glen Haven. I wrote about this trail in the past (see that post for directions to the trailhead) and described the devastation from the Cameron Peak fire. Once again, we rode through blackened forest. Because we were not sure how many people we would encounter on a Saturday morning, we only took one dog.

Alan’s mare, Sadie, is not a “leave her alone for months and you still have the same horse” kind of horse! The round pen work helped, but she’s usually squirrelly after a period of no riding. Her jigging and fussing on the trail earned her some additional round pen time after we returned home! Nevertheless, she wasn’t horrible and we really enjoyed our first foray into the fragrant, beautiful forest.

My Steady Eddie, Kadeen, couldn’t have been better. Sometimes, I get a little wistful when I realize how mellow he has become in his old age. (He turned 21 this year.) While I love not having to argue with him to get a relaxed, flat-footed walk, I also miss my high-energy guy. However, he’s a phenomenal trail horse and is as sure-footed as a goat. He carefully chooses where each foot will go. Sadie, on the other hand, takes the approach of “plow through and hope for the best!”

A full and rapid river

Recently, the news reported that for the first time in 4 years, there are no identified areas of drought in northern Colorado. We have had an incredible amount of rain. The grass and forest are green, the rivers are flowing rapidly, and many places are sporting large amounts of standing water.

This photo is from August of 2013, and the river is shallow and calm. That is NOT what we encountered this time! In my post about this ride in June of 2021, the water was also high and more challenging. I didn’t even try to take a photo, as I was quite busy urging my horse forward through very rapid, foot-deep water.

To the side of this stock crossing is a pedestrian bridge. I had to show Kara where the bridge was and then ride back to the stock crossing. She was smart enough not to try and cross with the horses!

Although the damage from the forest fire is still evident, the forest has somewhat rebounded. Here is a composite of some of the photos I took…

comanche peak wilderness

We rode a total of 5.75 miles on an out-and-back route. There is a kids’ camp that keeps horses in Comanche Peak Wilderness and we encountered a large group of kids on horseback. Between the kids and the swampy area ahead, and the fact that we wanted to take it easy on the horses, we opted to turn around.

We all know that the trail coming back is different than the trail going out… so here is a snippet of the sights and sounds of this gorgeous place on our way back. It is too bad that I can’t infuse the smell as well…

Is the grass greener somewhere else?

Although Alan and I live in an absolutely gorgeous area, we recently tossed around the idea of looking for a different home. We can’t drive our motorhome up the mountain to our current residence. Not a deal breaker, but a hassle. It does make it much harder to jump in and go places, and our biannual trek back and forth from Arizona is much harder. We’ve seen lots of places for sale in Colorado that border BLM land or National Forest. Being able to ride (or hike with loose dogs) for miles from our own place was appealing.

However, after looking at many options, we very quickly came to the conclusion that no place in Colorado is as beautiful as what we encounter in the northern Rockies. The alpine tundra is very different than the high desert tundra in southern Colorado. We get desert all winter in Arizona. We want the waterfalls, the aspens, and the evergreens that surround us here. We also are very comfortable in our current home. We have concluded that we will watch for horse properties in our current geographical area, but in all liklihood, we’ll stay put.

Thinking about the safety of our horses and ourselves…

As we were looking in various areas of Colorado, we realized that being near good medical care is more important to us now than it might have been 10 years ago. Pagosa Springs, Colorado is a beautiful place, even though it is more desert tundra in the mountains. But residents in that area are 2-3 hours from a major city at least. It isn’t just us that we think about. We are less than an hour away from Colorado State University, which proved invaluable when Kadeen needed surgery, or when our dogs require specialized care.

We have a neighbor here on the mountain who owns some nice-looking Morgans. She has quite a bit of acreage in pasture. Her “fence” around this pasture is one strand of non-electrified white tape somewhat held in place no more than 30 inches off the ground on wobbly fiberglass poles. In my mind, that is akin to telling your toddler to go play in the street.

Maybe we’re off one end of the Bell curve when it comes to safety. Nevertheless, we’re living a totally awesome life and we’d like to keep it that way. Therefore, we do whatever we can to keep ourselves and our horses safe. Nearly every day I see a new post on MESA (Missing Equine Search & Awareness) about yet another missing horse. Often they are fully tacked when they get loose. Other times, they simply get out of their pasture and get lost. There are frequent postings from law enforcement officials who are wondering what to do with a horse or donkey they found wandering on the road.

Desperate owners are relying on Facebook posts to recover their animals. A similar phenomenon occurs after July 4th fireworks, when an incredible number of dogs get lost. Neighborhood news groups and Facebook are inundated with people posting about their missing pup.

Wouldn’t it be so much simpler if you had your pertinent information, or at least your phone number, already on your horse or dog? I just don’t get it. Dog ID has been available for ages. What is the rationale for not making it incredibly easy for a finder to contact you immediately?

Horse ID is obviously less readily accepted, but clearly, horses are getting lost. Obviously, if they are stolen, a thief merely needs to remove any visible ID, and that is where microchipping is invaluable. But for the horse who wanders away from home and is (finally) captured by a county officer, wouldn’t it make life much easier if all that officer had to do was retrieve your information from the horse and call you?

We are back on the trail, riding challenging terrain and occasionally pushing the envelope just a wee bit. We do our best to make sure the horses and the riders return home safely. We wear helmets, hit-air vests, and medical ID tags. The horses wear their tags. At least we know that if we get separated, we won’t be counting on Facebook to get them home.

Stay tuned for my next blog about Homestead Meadows, one of our favorite places to ride! In the meantime, stay safe!

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