Monday, May 26, 2008

Survived Memorial Day Horse Camping Trip!

It was a great time - about 35 horses and riders from the Minnesota Trail Riders Association met at Foothills Horse Camp for some gorgeous rides. I am new enough at this that the sight of Johnnie on a tie line:

fills me with combined joy and dread: There's my horse, hanging out the way horses have for centuries, think of it. OTOH, that knot was tied by me. In the end only other peoples' horses got loose and wandered around, while Johnnie watched from his usual prone position in the moonlight. This leads to human sleep disturbances.

People brought out some beautiful horses -- this draft, another Belgian draft cross named Peaches who was so sweet and placid:

...the proverbial husband-horses.

The trails were challenging and I learned a whole new function for the riding helmet: branch-fender. Both my knees got slammed severely into trees in narrow pass-throughs. Johnnie got to practice his hill-climbing and we got to work on not rushing downhill. Our fearless leader went ahead at one point to test a crossing, and his brave horse Jasper got buried to his belly in slimy sticky mud. It was scary to watch the struggle, as horses do get quicksanded in these parts and there have been fatalities. We told Paul we were quite willing to take the long way around no matter how long it might be.

Wildlife we met: A huge turkey flew up Johnnie's nose when we were out riding alone the first day, and I have never appreciated my calm horse more. John seemed to find it intellectually interesting but no more. Then later: deer, about 4000 ATV riders, geese, ducks, songbirds of heavenly singing, pileated woodpeckers who sounded like jackhammers in the quiet woods.

I have to say: I know many people enjoy nature via the ATV, but the devastation they had produced on these state forest trails was very clear to see:

It seems to happen like this: At a low point in the trail, ATV's produce a lower point and mud appears. Later ATV's go around this mud when it gets too deep, producing a great empty space where nothing will ever grow because the topsoil is gone, blown away on a dry day. We could see great clouds of dust arising from bands of ATV riders in the distance: there goes green forever. There has to be a better way to enjoy trails and preserve them at the same time. Horses have an impact too though, and I know hikers who dislike the horseback riders. So it's a conundrum.

We rode for 2 hours Friday, 7 hours Saturday, and six hours Sunday; at that point I was beat and John's feet were getting a bit ouchy so we packed up and came home. I love to return a horse to his herdmates after a trip: that high-headed rush out to meet the pasture buddies just makes my heart ache with happiness.

Hope everyone is enjoying Memorial Day with loved ones and good food! Oh speaking of food, we had the best camp potluck ever on Saturday night. You know potlucks are sometimes weird assortments and there is the occasional time when every one brings tuna salad. This one was blessed by the gods because due to luck it had the perfect array of menu choices including: chicken pasta salad, veggie pasta salad with lime dressing (I brought), Buffalo wings, venison sausage, cherry jello fluffy thing,
excellent potato cheese thing, barbecue baked beans, and strawberry cheesecake & chocolate chip cookies. Can you beat that? There was one of those afternoon scenes in which everyone is bathed in radiant slanting sunlight, everyone is smiling and laughing, everyone looks celestial and I thought: this is a glimpse of heaven on earth, the only heaven-place I really believe in when all is said; earthly heaven at a potluck camp-supper with horses.


David said...

What a great weekend. Sounds like the ideal way to commune with nature - by using natural transportation. I take it Montana stayed home? Poor guy. Maybe next time....

Flying Lily said...

Yes, Monty does not so easily tolerate the trail challenges like turkey up nose etc. I need to work with him on this more. But it's hard because John is so mellow & brave, he is a joy on trail and therefore always the easier choice.

BrownEyed Cowgirls said...

Sounds like an incredibley good time. Had to laugh at your observation of the potluck-so true about sometimes everyone bringing about the same dish-LOL.

Callie said...

Wow, Sounds like a great weekend trail ride! The potluck sounds yummy. Making me hungry just reading! LOL

Rising Rainbow said...

I remember the first time I high-lined my show horse. I was a nervous wreck. But I think he really enjoyed the change of scenery and camping for the weekend. I got over my my concerns pretty darn quick.

Flying Lily said...

BEC and Callie: I have been too hungry ever since I posted this potluck description - I seem to wander out to the kitchen and forage waaay too much.

RR: I woke up and looked out the trailer window every hour on the hour. I couldn't believe the knot held and Johnnie stayed put. And when the other horses got loose and wandered about stealing hay and making mischief, it was freaky in the moonlight. Could not believe John just lay there & watched.