April 18, 2010

*

Had a long trail ride this morning. A friend came over (an hour earlier than planned, no less) and we were out by 9 AM. Both horses were great and it was the first time L. said she thought Bullet actually seemed happy. Now lots has happened since the last time she rode him, but truthfully, I just think she’s in a better place and she fussed with him less. With Bullet, that makes a world of difference in his attitude. He did seem to be moving very freely and with a lightness that I haven’t seen in him since she started riding him off and on with me.

I planned our ride to include riding down the dirt road that runs parallel to Salmon River. Fishing season opens this Saturday and for the next few weeks River Road will be busy with folks looking for that perfect fishing hole. Not that I still can’t ride there, but it’s always a much nicer trip before the cars and trucks invade the peace and quiet. Usually it’s pretty dead during the weekdays, but since the road is closed to vehicular traffic several months out of the year, it makes sense to ride it then.

So we walked and trotted our way down the AL trail towards the river. When were were almost to the path that cuts down to River Road, both horses suddenly spooked. We were approaching the last rocky ledge cut-though and the trail up ahead was shadowed by the steep rock ledges. With my eye issues I certainly couldn’t see what the horses were bugged by and initially my friend couldn’t either. We both gave the horses a few seconds to collect their thoughts, then urged them forward. They both took about three steps, then suddenly spun around and lunged several feet in the opposite direction!

Now I was perplexed. First of all, Bullet rarely spooks. He occasionally will react to something new or strange, but he’s pretty Even Steven when it comes to seeing something on the trail. He tends to be more curious than afraid. And unlike Dharla, Bullet’s not the least bit prone to making up stuff in his head to spook at. He simply can’t be bothered. The fact that Dharla was spooked didn’t phase me at all, given her dislike of the rocky cut-though areas to begin with, but often she just spooks at shadows. Yup, she still has young, green Arab syndrome! We turned the horses around and began to approach the passage again, but neither horse would go any farther than before. Suddenly my friend said, “Snake!”

Well I couldn’t have seen that snake if my life depended upon it, but I took my friend’s word that there was (what she through was hopefully) a very large Black snake slithering toward us at the base of the rock ledge. I say hopefully because we DO have Timber Rattler and Copperhead snakes here, though they are not as common as our other native, non-venomous snakes. I tried for several minutes to see the snake, but alas, my vision is still too impaired to see it at our distance. (About 10 yards away) Neither horse was going to go past that snake and frankly, I wasn’t too willing either. So we turned around and walked a bit in the opposite direction, then cut into the woods. I knew there was a path somewhere nearby that ran parallel to the trail we were on, it was just a matter of bushwhacking until we found it. We didn’t have to go too far before the trail suddenly materialized and we followed it down to the river road.

As we approached the dirt road we saw a dark green pickup truck parked off to one side. There was a middle-aged man standing beside the truck with what we assumed was probably his dog. The dog was a medium-sized, cute, but unleashed bully breed. We approached with caution, more or less assuming the man would reach out and grab his dog as we slowly approached. We were wrong. Suddenly, the dog started barking and darted in our direction. Thankfully, both horses didn’t over-react, but when the dog sidled up a bit too close for comfort behind Dharla and she started dancing a bit, the owner casually said, “Don’t worry if your horse kicks the dog.” Huh? Once again, I was totally dumbfounded by the stupidity and ignorance of yet another dog owner. (Ironically, my riding partner is a professional dog trainer!)

Dharla managed to keep her cool as we continued on and the dog stayed behind with his owner. I turned and said to the moron, “I wouldn’t want my horse to kick your dog any more than I want your dog to go after my horse. Neither would be a good thing!” Suddenly, the man got nasty and shot back, “Yeah, well it would be nice if you horse people would pick up after your horses when they crap on the trail.” Huh? Well now I was pissed off because it just so happens that every time my horse poops I stop, dismount and kick the manure off the trail. EVERY time. I’ve been doing this for over 15 years and I’ve got the crap-caked riding boots to prove it.  I also do this for anyone I happen to be riding with if they are using our horse. Sometimes, I’ll even dismount and boot poop off the trail that other riders have left because I know this is a sensitive issue and I don’t want people to start lobbying against equestrian use on our trails because of a little horse manure. (Yes, this HAS happened here a LOT, even though most of these trails were used and maintained as horse trails for over half a century before bikers and hikers started using them!) I stopped my horse and turned around.

“I DO clean up after my horse and always have!” I said.

“Oh yeah. Right. Like I’m gonna believe that!” He shot back.

Screw you, buddy, and your little dog too, I thought as I shrugged my shoulders and moved on. You can’t fix stupid.

The rest of the ride was pleasant and uneventful. We rode down under the AL trestle to see the work that was done on the culverts last fall. For the time and fuss it took to repair the culverts it doesn’t look like they did much of anything. You could drive a Sherman tank back there now, though. Both horses were a bit leery about the plastic erosion guards and the change in the landscape, but they coped.

We did a deep water crossing down by the broken bridge. Dharla was pretty animated crossing and ended up getting much wetter than necessary. This has only been her third deep water river crossing, so I’m sure she’ll get better with practice. She kept her head, she was just a wee bit “anxious” and hurried, but I expected that.

Snakes and morons aside, it was a great day and a fun ride and both horses did great!

Time 3+ hours

Distance: Guestimate; 8 miles.

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