Archives for April 2014

Thursday, April 24, 2014 – Ride Day at Pace Bend

After a week of recovery and catching up, it was time to get the horses back on the trail, but since we had so much going on, we elected to just go to nearby Pace Bend Park. In search of new trails to ride, we headed north from the Day Use area along the edge of the beach. We passed through a few fields of beautiful blue bonnets and other spring wildflowers, a beautiful sight to see! As we reached the beach, the sand was firm for a short while, but then Apollo balked when the strip narrowed between the edge of the water and the base of the cliff, so Clio took the lead momentarily, but the sand was so soft, she sank in so deep her knees buckled and she essentially laid down, her belly resting on the sand. She didn't struggle, she just sat there waiting for help, so Hubby stepped off her, and she popped right up again. After re-mounting, we headed back up to the top of hill and followed it along the edge for a while. Eventually it curved around until we hit the perimeter fence, then we followed it down through some very nice fields on a narrow trail, with more wildflowers and a few cantering stretches along the way. Not a long ride, but a very nice one, it was good just to get out again. After so much riding last week, we don't want the horses' fitness level to drop any more than necessary!

Thursday, April 17, 2014 – Final Ride at Hill Country SNA

Got up around 9:00 today, had breakfast and hit the trail before 11:00, for our last ride here at Hill Country, at least for this trip. The only trail long loop left for us was trail #8, which looked very easy, a simple loop by the primitive campground and the group camp, and partially along a utility line, but was pretty rocky so it wasn't quite as much fun as we thought it would be. Couldn't get much trotting or cantering in because of the rocks, and frankly, the horses were quite a bit more lethargic today than on previous days, not used to getting ridden every day. Generally they would get a day off in between long rides, or at least no more than two ride days in a row, so I think by the third day in a row, they had had enough. Nevertheless, they were troopers, and we only went about six miles, mostly walking, so it was still a good ride. Saw some spectacular cactus blossoms coming out, saw some pig sign and then one black pig crossed our trail in front of us, getting just a little reaction from the horses, though their noses were up in the air, heard gobbling of wild turkeys as well, as quite a few birds were out today, too. It was pleasant, with only the amount of rocks being the only detraction. Got back before 2:00, got the horses settled in , had lunch, then went into town for a conference call regarding our meeting next week. Overall, it's been a great week, much needed for us to get away, and for the horses to face new trails for a change. Thoroughly enjoyed it, and will likely come back again, just to finish off the few minor trails we didn't get a chance to do. Glad we came!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014 – Another Good Ride

Slept later today, another sunny day, just a bit more wind from the south, warming things up a bit, though the overnight was quite cool. The gas furnace went off multiple times during the night, and it was only set at 63 degrees! After a late breakfast and a bit of computer work, we hit the trail about 12:30. Since we went 9 miles yesterday, with lots of tough climbing up and down on pretty rocky grades, we decided to take a nice easy ride today, mostly along the bottom land area. We covered a good portion of the northeastern side of the park, which was a lot of open fields and just a little climbing now and then, skirting along the side of some of the hills, which again offered some really nice views, digressed a few times as we elected to take some wider loops, getting in a lot of cantering, which the horses seemed quite up for, despite their long day yesterday. We started out with a plan of going about 5.5 miles, but ended up doing more than 8 once we took those wider loops. Great ride, though, but there were some pretty rocky sections again in the middle, pretty much par for the course here on the majority of trails, I'm afraid. Glad we have rubber boots for the horses, good traction! Got back by 3:30, took a quick run down to the Ranger station where they were kind enough to let me use the phone to return a call from our local client's staff as we prepare for a meeting next Monday, then settled down for a quiet evening.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014 – FABULOUS Ride at Hill Country SNA

What a gorgeous day!! It got quite cold overnight, into the mid 30's, so we weren't in any hurry to get out of bed, slept in until nearly 10 (after I turned the furnace on and warmed it up, that is!), then had breakfast, and were out, saddle up, and hitting the trail by about 12:30 or so. Today, at the suggestion of the nice Ranger we met on Sunday, we decided to do both the 4A and 4B loops, as they both were supposed to have spectacular views, and they did not disappoint! From the camp we crossed the road and crossed a nice field, which will be a perfect place to canter on the way back, but the horses were so rested after having a day off yesterday, they were walking fast and frisky for the first few miles of flatlands. We soon reached the group camp where they have stalls and an arena, and started climbing no long after that. While the bottom land was mostly dirt trails, the climbs were rocky, but our guys went up with no problem, their rubber bottomed Cavallo boots providing them with great traction. We saw a lot of marking from horseshoes, that looked like a lot of slipping. We like boots better, more protection and as I said, better traction. We climbed with no problems and were rewarded with gorgeous view after gorgeous view! We followed the trails faithfully, which were marked pretty well for the most part, except one section that I had traced on Google Earth using their trail map as an overlay indicated a turn to the south MUCH earlier than what the actual trail was. If you only had the map you'd be okay, but looking at my GPS and seeing us get so off-track was a bit nerve-racking, at least for a little while. But frankly, there was only one trail, and we never saw any turn-offs, so we get moving forward, and suddenly the trail turned southward, and I could breathe a sigh of relief. It turned out to be at almost a third of a mile farther north than marked on their map. I'm planning on mentioning to the Ranger, just to let her know. Anyway, we did the loops counter-clockwise, and there were several benches along the way. We stopped at one for a quick break and apples all around, then went a bit farther and came across another one with an even more spectacular view. There was one hill so far away, I swear we were looking at Mexico! Beautiful! Apollo seemed to be right in his element, no hesitation, completely engaged with the trail. Once again I had him in his hackamore, though at one point I put on some gloves because he was pulling so hard it was giving me rope burns. We finally reached the bottom of the valley again, and just before we reached the road, a great big black bird flew up right in front of Apollo, and in a split second his nose was where his tail had just been, and I didn't have a horse under me any more, and I ended up on the ground. Fortunately, it was dirt and not rocks, and I missed a dead tree limb by a couple of feet, so no damage done. Apollo just went over to Mama for protection, and stopped there. As always, I just dusted myself off and climbed back up again, and we were on our way. We crossed the road and picked up the trail that paralleled it, which took us to that open field again, and as soon as the horses saw it, they started racing across it! We were amazed they had that much energy after all those climbs, but I guess all that careful and cautious walking made them really want to stretch their legs, so off we went! It is so exhilarating to do that! It was one of the longest canters we've ever done, and the horses just seemed to want to do more. I am so looking forward to the rest of the trails here! We've gotten most of the hardest ones done, the rest will probably be a piece of cake compared to this one. What a great day! We got back to camp around 3:45, after doing almost exactly 9 miles in about 3 hours. Got the horses settled in, then got ourselves settled in for the rest of the evening. Exactly the kind of days we LIVE for, especially after having been in one place, without trails, for so long. Wonderful!

Monday, April 14, 2014 – Rest and Runaround Day

Woke up to dark skies, a spit of rain, and a cold wind, not exactly perfect riding weather. Despite a forecast that it would clear up later in the day, it was still going to be cooler than we like, so we decided to take the opportunity to run into town and pick up some horse feed and look for a new hat for me, as my white one is a bit worse for the wear. I keep looking for one, but hadn’t found one yet, but we managed to find a tan straw hat that fit perfectly in one of the little shops on Main Street in Bandera. The town is a bit on the touristy side for us, but enjoyable nonetheless. We wandered a bit, had ice cream at the General Store that had an old soda fountain, then headed back to camp and relaxed the rest of the day. It did get to clear skies by the end of the afternoon, but it was still very breezy, gusting upwards of 35 mph, so it never really got warm enough. Great forecast for the next few days, though, so we’re looking forward to the many more trails left to do!

Sunday, April 13, 2014 – Second Ride Day at Hill Country SNA

Woke up to an early alarm again, expecting hot weather and possibly rain later in the day, so after breakfast, we saddled up and headed out. Our plan was to tackle the big loop on Trail #4, but after making a long arduous climb up some quick rocky washes, we missed the intersection to take us there, and ended up on a challenging Trail #5. Very rocky, with lots of grades, which kept Apollo very engaged. I had forgone the bridle today, using my rope hackamore instead, since he's been very well behaved lately, and I think he really appreciated it, especially because it prevented any accidental pulls on his mouth going up these very steep and twisty terrains. Once I realized that we were on the wrong trail, I consulted my GPS and map and realized that #5 would take us directly back to the southern end of easy Trail #1, so the second half of the journey would be very easy, and the ride pretty short, but the fact that the first half was so challenging, and that we were planning on staying through Friday and riding every day, we decided to keep it short to keep the horses enthused about the week. It was a fantastic, albeit shorter than usual ride, and there were some great views. We were back by 12:30, so we decided to do our shopping today, and to have lunch in town, so we drove the short 10 miles into the cute little town of Bandera, known as the Cowboy Capital of the World, got gas for the generator, had lunch a delightful little restaurant call the Brick Cafe, and went shopping for groceries at the Market, and headed back to camp. We stopped at the Ranger station and extended our stay until Friday, having a conversation with a woman who, too, is from England (like Hubby), and was also a horsewoman, so we had a very fruitful conversation with her, discussing trail options. Back to camp by around 4:30, and settled down for the rest of the day.

Saturday, April 12, 2014 – First Ride Day at Hill Country SNA

Set the alarm to get up early, so we could be back from our ride before the heat of the day, as it was forecast to be near 90. Fortunately, it was cloudy, which helped a lot, and after a nice breakfast, we got the horses out, trimmed their feet a little bit, put on their boots and saddled up, and were out on the trail by 10:40. I had planned a short, easy ride, just over 4.5 miles. It began on trail #1, which was a two track dirt and sometimes gravel road, and was just what we needed to get ourselves stretched back into shape. Somewhere along the line I missed a turn (the print on the map was so small I couldn't make out my plan), and we stayed on #1 instead of turning onto #6, which added about another 1.5 miles by the time we were through, but it worked out okay. We got back onto #6 when we reached the middle of our figure 8 loop, and though it was a bit more difficult, it was nothing for our guys! What a great ride, though! The horses were brilliant, no rodeo-ing from Apollo, and several great opportunities for trotting and cantering. A lot of the trails were just dirt, which was a relief, though a few sections were quite rocky. The ranger had informed me that there were many caverns around here, and that when you could hear a hollow sound under the horses' feet, that meant we were over a cavern. We did, in fact, have that happen several times, which was pretty cool. Hubby faired well, and was only starting to feel a little twinge just before we got back to camp, even though the last stretch was probably the hardest, so no damage done. As soon as the horses were put away, we put another ice pack on it, and he went to bed and took a nap. I did some computer work, then decided to put up the 10X10 canopy we had over the horse corrals, to provide some shade. Despite instructions that said you need 3 people to get the canopy up, I managed to do it on my own, and the horses didn't seem bothered by it at all, just a short moment of concern from Clio, but she settled down at once. After Hubby's nap, he did a few more chores, and I did a repair on one of Clio's boots (the leather strap had worn, and only the velcro was holding it on), before we settled down for a relaxing evening, hoping that Hubby's back will be good tomorrow for another ride. We've already decided to stay past Monday, as my computer work revealed it would take at least 6 rides to accomplish most of the trails here, which are abundant. Might as well get 'em done while we're here, who knows when we'll be back!

Friday, April 11, 2014 – Postpone our First Ride for Rest

Well, Hubby overdid it the last two days, and we had to postpone our first ride so as not to aggravate the situation. Spent the day going through my computer and putting things back in order while he rested his back, icing it down and relaxing in his recliner. We took one trip out to fill up the horse trailer tank with water, as well as one of the portable barrels, which, unfortunately, still has a few small leaks in it, despite the plastic liner we put in it. He felt much better by the end of the day, and I was much more organized, so it was well spent, despite not getting a ride. Sure looks like we’ll be going tomorrow, can’t wait! And the horses will certainly be ready, having spent the day in those little corrals!

Thursday, April 10, 2014 – Travel Day to Hill Country SNA

Woke up bright and early, had a good breakfast, then did our final packing, finally pulling out around 11:30. Though the trip was supposed to be just over 2 hours, it was after 3:00 by the time we arrived, having to negotiate around some work zones, and stopping at H.E.B. For lunch and a few last minute items. We checked in at the ranger station, where we learned there was a planned club ride this weekend, and though we were invited to join, we declined (we're not exactly the "clubby" type. Then we filled our water tank with the non-potable spigot (well, actually, it's well water, but thanks to the latest regulations, anything not "treated" is considered non-potable, no matter how pure or safe it might be), and were soon heading down to camp. We had picked the spot at the far end of the loop, which turned out to be perfect, with two parking areas so the RV and the horse trailer didn't need to be right next to each other. The site had two 10X10 corrals, so the horses were home in short order. We opened up everything, got the generator going, and promptly set out to get the satellite dish up. That turned out to be a long project for some reason. While it seemed he had a clear shot, Hubby just couldn't seem to line it up right, and he was still messing with it at 5:30. He finally got a good enough signal on both satellites to satisfy him, but by that time he was exhausted again, and his back was aching from all the activity both yesterday and today. We finally settled in for the evening, with him putting ice packs on his back and taking acetaminophen for the pain, before heading to bed.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014 – Preparation Day

As our local client is now out of the country for two weeks, we decided to take the opportunity to go down to Hill Country State Natural Area, one of the most highly acclaimed horse trails in the area. We spent the day today getting ready, having spread out so much after being here so long, so we knew it would take some doing. Hubby greased all the bearings and changed out the hitch and filled all the tires, and all of the other maintenance that he’s been letting go as we’ve been just sitting for so long. He probably shouldn’t have let it wait until the last minute (as usual), because he was exhausted by the time the evening rolled around, and I was pretty tired too. I had gotten up really early to take my niece to school, as my brother had driven down to Houston to work on his boat again, with an eye toward selling it, as he doesn’t use it. I also ran out to get a few last minute items, including a large dog feeder for his dog, as he wasn’t sure if he was going to be back tomorrow, or stay for a few more days. Also picked up my computer, which Duncan had managed to completely revive, though we had to upgrade to a larger hard drive, as my old one was just too darn small for everything I had. So it went from 320 gigs (which I thought would be enough forever, goes to show ya!) to 750 gigs, because he didn’t have a 500, which is fine, I can always use the space. In any event, we were as packed up as we could get by 7:00, leaving only the necessities until morning. REALLY looking forward to some new trails, and a NEW BACK YARD!, even if it’s only for a few days.