Saturday, June 3, 2017 – Another Ride with Callie, Watched Other Clinics

As Callie was leaving today, and Hubby still didn’t feel up to it, I arranged to take her for another ride this morning, though I wanted to go early enough to get back for two other demonstrations that were planned, one on packing for back country trips, and another on the wild mustang program, so I was up early, and had the horses saddled and ready to go by around 8:30. Today we headed out on the yellow trail, which took us out along the southern side of the resort. I have to say, I was rather disappointed. It seemed that they once had really nice trails here, but for some unknown reason, they had decided to maintain their trails with a bulldozer, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s the fastest and surest way to ruin a trail. So instead of winding our way through pleasant woods, we were following bulldozer tracks that had all but destroyed the trail. There were a lot of other, nicer trails weaving through the woods, but they were all unmarked and not on the map, so we didn’t dare take them. We still enjoyed ourselves, but the trails were rocky, wide and ugly, so it was only being on a horse that made it worthwhile. Callie enjoyed herself, though, and that was more the point than anything. She did much better today, even cantering up hills a couple of times, so she was obviously getting the hang of it. We did managed to get back by 10:30, and I made it over to the packing demonstration by 11:00. Turned out to be a very casual, almost unofficial packing demonstration, no mule or horse involved, instead using a barrel with a saddle on it. If it hadn’t been for a young lady named Mickie who was determined to master the art of packing, it would have been a really lame demonstration. It was mostly just answering her questions that made it interesting. I mean, how are you supposed to ask questions about something you don’t know anything about? I didn’t even know where to begin! Once that was finished, I went over to watch the mustang clinic, and even though the set up was a bit more professional, I didn’t find the demonstration particularly interesting. Didn’t really learn much about the program, didn’t really learn much about the clinician’s training philosophy, didn’t really learn much of anything except the names of the horses he had brought with him and where they were from. Sorry to say, it just wasn’t very interesting or informative, not quite sure what the point of it was. Sigh. I really wanted to learn more about it, but again, how is one supposed to know what questions to ask when one has no foundation to know what to ask? Guess I’m just a bit picky when it comes to watching presentations, as would be expected from someone who teaches people how to make presentations… Anyway, got back to camp around 2:30 and felt so tired I took a nap, then relaxed the rest of the day and evening, putting away as much stuff as I could. We’ve decided that since there is rain coming in tomorrow, that we’re going to leave very early in the morning and try to get home before the rain builds up too much.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017 – Ride with Birthday Girl Callie

Woke up to a beautiful morning, fed the horses, and while I was waiting for them to finish their breakfast, played fetch with Lola as is our habit. After getting some amused looks from our neighbors across the road (Lola can be very entertaining to watch), I crossed the road for a chat and met, Max and Tracy and Callie, who's celebrating her 17th birthday today. We had a nice chat, and Callie took over throwing the ball to Lola for a while, until dirty looks from Apollo reminded me I had to take off his feed bag before he could eat his hay, so what are you standing over there for, Mom? As it turned out, Hubby didn't quite feel up to riding today, so I offered to take Callie along, since I didn't want to ride alone. She had never been on a horse in her life, though she had been planning on taking the ranch ride later this week, so it took a little extra instruction. After she helped me get the horses ready, we went through some basics, but I wasn't too worried, Clio is pretty much bomb-proof, at least usually. Of course, as we were walking past some corrals toward the trailhead, one of the horses kind of jumped towards us, and Clio stepped into a trot, then a bit sideways, not much, but just enough for a newby who forgot to hold onto the saddle horn as she had been instructed to lose her balance, and she did a slow motion fall onto the dirt and gravel road. She brushed herself off and immediately was ready to get back on, with just a scrape on her arm to show for it (more will come out later, I'm sure! 🙂 ). But she was actually glad it happened so early, it was the lesson she needed to learn how important balance is! We headed down the trail, around a field, then across the road to the REAL trails, which turned out to be a lot more challenging than I thought they would be, especially for a novice like Callie, but she had learned her lesson, and listened well to what I told her about going up and down hills, so we headed into the woods with confidence. The trails here are not very well marked, especially at the intersections, we got lost many times throughout the ride. I had made a GPS trail to follow, but there was one intersection (at least it looked like an intersection on the map) that we could never find, so we missed the trail we wanted several times. Our mistake actually turned out to be fortuitous, as it actually brought us past Loretta Lynn's actual residence, a beautiful, bucolic setting with a very modest house (for a star like Loretta!), guest house, barn, cows in the pasture, a really nice spot. Again, we couldn't find a trail marker, until we turned around and finally saw a sign across the road indicating a one-way horse trail. We headed down that, which followed along the river in the right direction, and finally came out at the end of the field where we had started. It was a great ride, beautiful country, though the trails were quite rocky (and naturally, one of Apollo's boot fell off and had to be re-installed), and even Clio's boot turned sideways at one point and needed to be fixed. There were some pretty good grades, which made it interesting, and Callie certainly learned a lot about balance today! No more falls, though, as she remembered to hang onto the horn! We were gone more about two hours, going just over 5 miles, just right for a determined novice, though I suggested she take some aspirin as a precaution tonight, as she was going to be sore! By now the hip where she landed hurt more than the arm scrape, as I suspected it would, but nevertheless, she was a trooper and was glad it happened as it did. She helped me rinse the horses down, and came over later to help me feed them as well, so I think she might be hooked! Hubby, bless his heart, had a cold beer waiting for me in our lounge chairs when I finished, and we sat and chatted with Cali for a while, until it was time for dinner when we all went our separate ways. She came back again, though, when it was time to feed the horses, and helped me with that as well. It's so refreshing to meet a millennial who is grateful and appreciative, and not afraid of work! Nice job, Mother Tracy!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017 – Another Ride Day from Owl Creek Horse Camp

Hubby woke up late, but feeling better this morning, and decided he was up for a ride, so after breakfast we saddled up the horses and headed back out on the orange trail, this time going in the counterclockwise direction in order to learn where we missed the trail last time when we took the wrong trail out of the picnic area by the bridge. The weather was perfect, the trail (except for the occasional patch of unnecessary gravel) was in good shape, though there was one large tree that had recently come down that we had to circumvent. This is really a beautiful area, single track trails that weave around in the forest, with some moderate grades, lots of small creeks, just a really pretty area. There is one section where there had been a fire that wasn't too pretty, and where they also seemed to have put more gravel down, so that was the only unenjoyable part of the trip, but fortunately that was short-lived. Unfortunately, one of my Cavallo boots kept coming off, and eventually the strap holder completely broke off the boot, making it only hanging on by the velcro ont the body of the boot, and that started slipping off, so I eventually just had to take the boots off. I hate to say it, but I've always been a fan of Cavallo's, but not so much lately. I don't know if they've stretched, or if the fit just isn't right anymore for some reason, but I've the boots have been falling off pretty regularly lately, and I'm getting a bit tired of it. Will have to look at my other options. I had originally bought Size 2 in the new Cavallo Treks for Apollo (because my previous regular Cavallos, the one with the double straps, were 2s), but they were too small and I had to return them for a 3. The 3's seemed to be a bit big, but unfortunately, last I looked, they didn't make half sizes, so it was the best fit I could manage at the time. When I get a chance, I'm going to trip Apollo's feet really well and try to fit on Hubby's 2's just to see if it's possible, otherwise I'm going to have to look for an alternate brand. Anyway, today we packed a lunch and reached the picnic area in due course, and stopped for lunch by the picnic area next to the bridge, enjoying a nice relaxing 15 minute break. Hubby was starting to feel a little bit pained in his shoulder, but he was determined to carry on, so that's what we did. It was another great ride, though, we really enjoyed it, even though Hubby really had to brave the pain by the time we arrived back in camp. It started to cloud up as the day went on, with rain in the forecast again, so we were so happy we were able to get a ride in before that happens! Another fabulous day on the trail!

Friday, April 28, 2017 – Fabulous First Ride Day at Owl Creek, AL-Bankhead NF

Woke up feeling very refreshed after a great night sleep, thank goodness! Waved good-bye to our neighbors as they drove off this morning, and shortly afterward, several day riders came in with their trailers. Guessing it's going to be busy this weekend! Anyway, after breakfast, we saddled up the horses, who seemed quite ready to take a ride, and headed out on the orange trail, an 11 mile loop, which we took in the clockwise direction. What a beautiful trail! Other than some patches where someone got a little carried away with putting large, sharp-edged gravel down, this was spectacular, a real gem of a trail! Entirely forested (though some areas had obviously experienced a burn, and others had been cut for timber a while back), most of it was near-virgin forest, with lots of rock outcroppings and caves and little streams and hills, single-track all the way, exactly the kind of trail we like the best! About 3 miles out there was a picnic area with several highline strings set up, and we stopped for a quick break there. Then halfway around there is a bridge over a nice little stream to another short loop (which also leads to another long 10+ mile loop) and next to the bridge, down a short trail, there is another picnic area that was even larger. What a lovely spot for lunch! We hadn't brought any this time, but we certainly will next time! After taking another break there, we headed out along the stream, but when the trail looked like it actually crossed it and headed away from the trail we came in on, I began to think we should have gone back up the short trail to the point where we started, so I headed uphill until I hit what I thought was the main trail. I started following flags, which seemed to be a newer trail, but that started heading us in the wrong direction. Eventually we found a trail that headed us back north again, and after a while, we were back on the orange trail. Nice to know there are more trails than just the one loop! That will require some more exploration! We saw several deer, and heard and saw lots of birds, which was a nice change. The last few rides, Hubby had been having problems with his legs, not being able to get them far enough out front, and his circulation (which isn't great anyway) was making his legs hurt, but he did a little modification on his saddle before this ride, and it made all the difference. He did the entire 11 miles and didn't have any pain at all! So I'm looking forward to longer rides, as we had been making them shorter for his benefit, but if he can handle it, we're going to do it! We got back to find one new camper parked near us, and within an hour several more had joined us. Also, we had met a couple on the trail toward the end of the ride who invited us to a charity lunch and auction the next day for a neighbor with breast cancer, and Hubby sounded enthusiastic, so we said we'd come along. I invited them to stop off at the camp if they were coming back in that direction, and sure enough, they did! We had a nice chat with them, as well as our other neighbors (one even brought a Weed-Eater to cut down the grass around their camper, which was quite long, with lots of yellow flowers in it, but a little prickly) and offered to whack our yard as well! So we've got a nice little weekend neighborhood going here. I love the South! Eventually we managed to get inside for dinner and a nice evening. What a great ride, a great day!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017 – Short, Solo Ride to Recover Lost Water Bottle

After a leisurely breakfast, I saddled up Apollo and hooked up Clio to a retractable leash in order to pony her along (these two have NEVER been separated, and if we tried, there would be blood, so no risky business here!) I headed out the same road we went yesterday, of course, and a walk and occasional jog. Hubby had things to do and didn’t want to come, so off I went! I knew for a fact that I had lost them within the first 3 miles, and I suspected I lost them going up the first hill once we got off the road, which was about two miles out. It was a long climb with numerous berms along the way, and we had leaped from one berm to another, so I figured that was the most likely place. I still looked along the side of the road, just in case, and I certainly did find lots of beer cans and other beverage containers, but no Disney metal water bottle! I soon reached the hill and headed up, and sure enough, about 2/3 of the way up I found the metal bottle, and a plastic bottle (for Lola), and a little notebook that had dropped out as well. Having already gone two miles, I considered completing the short 5 mile loop, but that would have meant a lot more climbing, and I was concerned for little Billy dog, as I had brought him along on this trip, and he was already looking a bit tired, so I headed everyone back down the hill and we took the relatively flat road back to camp. Billy still had trouble keeping up, poor thing! I so hate that he can’t go on long rides with us anymore (unless I decide to fix him up some kind of buddy saddle for him to ride on!), but he is at least 13 now (he was a stray, so we’re not quite sure his age) and it’s just getting to be too much for him. It was another beautiful day, though, and everyone behaved perfectly! We were only gone a bit over an hour. Our original plan was to stay here until Thursday, but the weather forecast is showing a beautiful day tomorrow and a very high chance of rain on Thursday, so we’ve decided to head out tomorrow instead, to avoid getting the alfalfa in the back of the truck wet. It’s only about 150 miles to our next stop (Owl Creek Horse Camp in the Bankhead NF in Northern Alabama), but we have numerous stops to make along the way. Fortunately, there is supposed to be potable water there, so filling all the tanks may not be necessary, but I’m waiting for a call back from them to make sure. If it’s a hand pump, I’ll be getting water before we get there!! Anyway, it was a pretty quiet day again, and a nice little ride with a successful end, but we’re looking forward to our next, new back yard!

Monday, April 24, 2017 – Ride Day from Mattox Hunt Camp, Talladega NF

Now that we're fully rested, it's time to go for a ride! Saddled up and were out by noon, figuring on doing the entire 10 mile loop, unless we ran into some trouble in which case we could shorten it to about a 5 mile loop. According to the map, several miles would be on forest road, which we assumed would be the dirt/gravel road like the one that went by the camp, but once we got onto the trail part, we would lose the gravel. Well, it didn't quite work out that way. Some of it became dirt and grass, but much of the "trail" as described in the map was still forest road with dirt and gravel, more than we usually like to travel on. Maybe three miles of the 10 mile loop wasn't on a dirt/gravel road, that's all. But the weather was perfect, the horses were perfect, and the day was a great one for a ride! Hubby thought Clio was limping a tiny bit at first, but once she was warmed up, she seemed fine. Probably just a little arthritis kicking in after standing around for so many days. Somewhere along the line, I lost a metal water bottle, so I'm planning on taking short ride tomorrow to see if I can find it, and maybe take Billy along, since he didn't come today. We felt it was too far for the old guy. Lola had a great time, though! Of course, even after ten miles, her first action when we got back to camp was to find her ball and start putting it in the fetch machine! Indefatigable, that girl! We had a number of nice canters and trots, and there were many ascents and descents that were a wonderful change from the flatness of Florida, and the ride seemed to go quickly with all the variety of landscape. We even surprised a couple of wild turkeys along the way, so obviously the hunters missed a few! Arrived back at camp just before 4:00, put everyone away, broke out the beer and relaxed until dinner time. A very nice day!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017 – A Lovely Ride In the Lake Talquin, A Diamond in the Rough

A quiet night last night let us have a leisurely morning, then we put the new tire on and replaced the spare back up under the RV, which only took about 15 minutes. We then saddled up and headed out, following a series of trails I had drawn from the map I got from the office the first day. Unfortunately, the first "trailhead" off the road was completely unmarked, and even though I thought I knew where it was from a map, I had to force Apollo up a sharp incline over a ditch to get into the woods, and then after two steps he tripped on something, and when I looked back I realized he had tripped over the bottom string of a barbed wire fence! The top strings had been removed, but I've never seen any kind of trailhead that had barbed wire across it, so we decided we must be in the wrong place, and stayed on the road until we hit Deer Pen Road, which was the next crossing that would get us where we wanted to go. Hubby didn't like being on the gravel road, but Deer Pen was grassy and dirt, so it was much better from then on. We eventually picked up the route I had planned, and the farther we got along the route, the less traveled the trails were, but it was lovely! We had some nice straight-aways for canters, then lots of un-maintained forest roads that had some deadfall, but nothing too hard to get around. On the way back from the farthest loop, we decided to try my original plan backwards, so we could see if we just missed the entrance on the other end. By now we knew what kind of condition the trails were in and could easily identify them, so we followed along, adding a few side trips along the way, until we finally came out at exactly the same location where we had tried to get on the trail in the first place! So my map had been right, but the trailhead was all but invisible from the road! And I've never heard of anyplace that hadn't at least removed the barbed wire from the entrance, or put a culvert of some kind over the ditch, or had some kind of trail marking that at least let us know we were going in the right direction! But once you're on the trail, it's lovely, just under-maintained, so a lot of downed branches. This place is really a diamond in the rough! I was told by a ranger that there is another equestrian trail that is still unofficial, but better marked by a local equestrian club with pink flags, but that's more on the north section, not near the campground. Of course, the group camp on the other side of the lake, with corrals and trails, but ONLY group camp, so we weren't about to stay there! In any event, we did more than eight miles before I took Apollo down to the boat ramp for a drink. Of course, Lola immediately went to find her ball to start putting it in the GoDogGo fetch machine, despite having just covered eight plus miles! We grabbed a beer and sat at the picnic table chilling for a bit, then Ranger Bill came along and chatted with us for awhile, and I shared some of my ideas for making this a much more attractive place for horse campers. Dinner and some chores preparing for our departure later, and we are ready for an early night sleep!

Saturday, April 15, 2017 – A Great Ride at Colt Creek

Another lazy morning, it's so quiet here, it's lovely to indulge in sleeping late! It was after noon before we started getting ready to go for our ride. Though the forecast had said upper 80's, it was just overcast enough to keep from heating up too much. Though we were staying in the State Park, we decided to risk taking Lola along, she listens well enough that I know she won't bother anyone. She's actually gotten in the habit of steering clear of any people or horses, going way off the trail until everyone gets sorted out, then rejoins us on the other side, a perfect trait for the trail, especially for those folks with horses that aren't used to dogs. She literally disappears long before we meet up! Though today, we didn't meet any other horses on the trail, we did pass a jogger, a couple of park rangers (who, thankfully, didn't say a word about Lola out the trail, maybe because she came to us instantly when I called her), and a family of folks picnicking and fishing at a pavilition, and who were evidently not used to animals, because when three of the kids saw Lola they started running away from her. Of course, she thought they were trying to play and started to follow them, but I called her back. When we got closer, I asked the adults if they wanted us to come and say hello, and they welcomed the teachable moment for the kids. One little girl was even brave enough to feed Clio a nugget! The rest stayed further back, but lots of pix were taken, and they seemed happy that we stopped by. Of course, that got us off the trail, and we missed a turn, which made us have to go right past a ranger building, so I stopped and put Lola on a leash until we crossed the road and started to head the last mile to camp. We made a great discovery today, though. Since our last ride a couple of days ago, where Hubby was getting short of breath often and we had to keep the pace really slow, today he brought along a bottle of 5-hour energy. Contrary to popular belief, it is NOT highly caffeinated, which would be bad for his heart, it's actually a vitamin B compound, similar to injections they give to provide more energy, to both people and horses. After the first trot, he got a little out of breath, so he drank half a bottle. Then, before he trotted and cantered her again, he would take a few deep breaths to get himself oxygenated. Since he always lags behind me anyway, we figured out that if he just prepared himself, then started off when he was ready, we could hear him coming from behind, and join him in a nice canter. He never got out of breath again the rest of the day, even though we must have cantered a dozen times! What a great ride! I'm so happy we solved the problem, because the last ride we took, having to go so slow was really frustrating for me, but whatever it takes to keep Hubby healthy, I'll do. Today, though, was fantastic! My horse tired out before his did, and even though he still kept shying at nothing along the way, we now have a path toward getting him over it, something we have never really been able to do before. By the time we got halfway through the ride, his horse had settled down to a lovely lope, also something that we've also never really been able to do before. This looks very promising for future rides! Of course, once we're away from Florida and back up in the mountains, the chances for canters will decrease somewhat, but, hey, we'll take whatever we can get! The ride was about 7.75 miles today, arriving back in camp around 3:30, just in time to have a chat with our neighbors, who were just pulling out. They had come in and tried to ride, but evidently were discouraged by the horseflies (which have hardly bothered us at all, thank you Bronco Fly Spray!) We chatted for just a few minutes before they departed, leaving Hubby and I alone again, naturally! We got the horses in, and started our evening, since it was just about beer-thirty anyway!

Thursday, April 13, 2017 – First Ride Day at Colt Creek State Park

Thursday, April 13, 2017 – First Ride Day at Colt Creek State Park

After a pretty good night sleep and a leisurely breakfast, Hubby and I saddled up and headed out on the trail, heading to a lake in the north section of the Hampton Tract of the East side of the Green Swamp Wilderness that the ranger had told us about when we first signed in. We took Lola with us, but decided to leave Billy home, as it was quite hot out, and the trip was going to be at least eight miles, and we thought that might be too much for him. The trail was more like a forest road, and at times, a dirt/sand road suitable for vehicles. It started out nicely in the woods, then opened up into a long stretch in the hot sun, before turning into the woods again for a bit. We started out slow, then started some trots and canters. Unfortunately after the second trot, Hubby felt a tightening in his chest that he said felt like he did when he was taking a chemical stress test at the doctor's last year, so we had to slow down after that. We reached the lake hoping to get the horses down for a drink, but the sides were too steep. We stopped at an overlook for a picture, and just as we were turning away, we heard a big splash, the kind a large alligator might make when getting into the water, so we were kind of glad we hadn't found a way down to the lake! As we headed back south again, we passed a small pond, and I noticed a little baby alligator near the shore about a foot long. After further inspection, I noticed half a dozen little alligators hanging around the pond, a regular little gator nursery! Knowing that mother wasn't probably too far away, we scooted on down the road. We tried the occasion trot and canter, just short ones, and Hubby felt mostly fine for the rest of the trip, with only a couple of minor problems along the way. As it got more into the heat of the day, Lola was rubbing her hot back on every patch of cool grass she could find, and toward the end, she was literally running from one shady patch to another. I stopped once and poured a bottle of water over her, which she really appreciated. We arrived back in camp around 4:00, grateful for another great day on the trail, and to be back on the road again, looking forward to all our new future adventures! Spend an hour with our neighbors again before settling down for the evening.

Sunday, April 9, 2017 – Final Ride with Brother Jeff at Riverbend

After spending the morning washing vehicles and packing up stuff as we prepare to depart our winter Florida "camp", I packed up the horses and brother Jeff and headed out to Riverbend to take him to the new (to us, anyway) trails that Hubby and I had found in and around Riverbend and Cypress Creek. We were saddled in short order, and took much the same route as Hubby and I had taken on Friday, doing one small loop backward for variety. Apollo was being a bit skitzy today for some reason, even though there was no wind, but all went well until we came across a peacock on the trail. For some reason, both horses were sure it was a horse-eating peacock, and we had a dickens of a time getting past it. I spent a few minutes schooling Apollo, and was actually backing him up in the direction of the bird, with my intention being to back him up right past the dang bird, and that was working until a guy on a bike came along and we had to stop to let him pass. By then, the peacock had moved just off the trail, so there was still a lot of snorting and prancing as we went by, but at least we managed it. Silly horses! As brother Jeff said, you would think that horses with as many trail miles on them as these guys wouldn't panic at the sight of a big bird, but there you go! Horses never stop being horses, do they? Anyway, all went well from there, and the rest of the ride was drama free, except once when Apollo tripped at a canter and nearly fell on his head, but he managed to recoup before he got to his knees. Gotta love the old fashioned four-wheel drive! Another beautiful day on the back of my horse, couldn't ask for more!