Friday, July 31, 2009

Not Quite a Hell's Angel; Still Got Pulled Over

Here you see the front end of the DNR truck that I saw parked along the trail as John and I returned from a 2 hour ride in Wrenshall this morning.

The Hell's Angels are holding a multi-day rally in the town next door to Wrenshall, and local media have been having a field day - either reporting in detail on how dangerous the Hell's Angels really are, or writing parody pieces about locking your daughters up in the basement etc. Law enforcement has made elaborate arrangements to contain any dangerous activities, so I was not surprised to see at least 4 police cruisers going slowly along the road where we were happily jogging in the bright sun.

Little did I know they were all looking for me and John, the outlaws of the day!

Here's what happened:

Along the trail, which is a multiple use hiking-biking-horse trail according to the DNR's own website, we had passed several other multi-users: a hiker who smiled and said hi, several groups of bicyclists who did likewise and two who did not. These two gave me and Johnnie a look that would have had our obituaries in tomorrow's paper if looks could kill. I wish I'd gotten a picture of them as their hi-tech biking gear was a dazzling sight to see - I particularly admired their neon-frame goggles.

However, they did not admire us and they stopped a few yards past us to begin furiously dialing numbers on their cell phones. I believe they must have made a general 911 call to produce the amount of law enforcement response we got.

The poor guys who finally got deployed to apprehend us were forced to drive their lovely truck across a deep ditch and through a very dense tansy patch, where they sat with all windows up (no doubt to keep the flies out) and awaited us.

I have to say they were as friendly as could be, and found it amusing that John wanted to climb inside the truck and change the channel on their service radio, or eat their doughnuts or something.

They told me some bicyclists had reported a dangerous horse on the trail. Here he is, just about to eat a bicyclist, or a daisy:

They also told me that horses are not allowed on this trail at all. I described in detail the DNR map I had looked at just last night, and they retreated to the position that "There's a guy back in the office who knows about this stuff", and gave me his phone number. I called him when I got home but only managed to talk to another staff member who deferred to this other guy's superior judgment and asked me to call back Monday.

This Mr. Deferment was nice too though; he said "Now you'll be stewing about it all weekend!" How did he know I am a total worrywort?

The good news: John was super about the big trucks passing, the bicyclists sneaking up behind us, the DNR dudes reaching out suddenly to pet him on the nose...he only showed a little opinion about the pace we should take on the homeward route. His idea was "Let me get us home as fast as possible; the Hell's Angels might be coming!"
And mine was, "Let's mosey so I can maybe see those neon goggle bikers again and say something passive-aggressive" -- such as, "I hope you are having a nice ride! {BITCHES!!!}" We compromised and made it home in only half the time it took us to get to our turnaround point, this bridge which I decided was not horse-safe:

This whole episode worries me because I feel the world is closing in on horses, somewhat. Will there be a day when horses have no trails left, when the neon-goggle crowd and the developers and the fencers-out have won?

My mean little fantasy: Perhaps a band of Hell's Angels apprehended the crabby lying bicyclists, stole their goggles, and forced them to ride with playing cards clothes-pinned to their bike spokes the rest of the day. Wapwapwapwap. SO not cool. :)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Spirit Mountain Sunday Ride

Overnight our weather forecast improved a lot, from all-day thunderstorms to only "partly cloudy"; so I was glad we had made a plan to meet at Spirit Mountain for an early Sunday morning ride.

The trails were in great shape even though we've had so much recent rain, and there were only a few flies so conditions were just about perfect.

It seems to have been a naked horse contest however. We had Laura who rides in a rope halter; no bit, no bridle:

We had Bridget who rides on a bareback pad (no saddle) in a rope halter, no bit no bridle:

And we had Ron who rides his horse with a saddle but only a string around the neck - no bridle, no rope halter, no bit:

And if we were seeing a naked horse contest, John was the biggest loser since he had not only the complete saddle and bridle, but even his granny ears fly cap. He didn't seem to mind though.

I wish I'd taken pictures of Bridget doing the bareback mount-from-the-ground demonstration. Her horse is cued to lower his head; she clambers over onto his neck near the withers, stomach down. then cues him to raise his head slowly. This slides her down onto his back, at which point she is over him like a sack of potatoes or a dead body in many westerns. She then wriggles over and upright. I don't think I will be trying it any time soon.

"Can you hear me now" Ron got a phone call from a faraway friend and had a nice long chat. Trail riding in the 21st century: Interruptions are always possible.

It was a good day for the view, all the way over into Wisconsin:

Spirit Mountain is so named because it contains land sacred to the Ojibwe; they have ancestors buried there and hold its beauty close to them. In addition to sacred Indian land and in tension with it, Spirit Mountain houses a big ski operation and an ever-growing number of 'mountain villas' and condos etc.

Whenever we ride there we get lost, and today was no exception: all of a sudden we are off the trail, bushwhacking, no direction feels supernatural somehow. Sometimes it has taken hours to find our way back from a planned two hour ride. It is a contested landscape.

None of this bothers John as long as he can get a bite to eat now & then!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Cows From Outer Space

Yesterday I rode out with Lisa, who owns the barn where I board. We left the back of their property and went on roads to meet up with another friend and ride a new trail system about 2 miles away.

On the way we suddenly came upon some curious cows. We had been in a kind of shrubbery tunnel and when we exited, there were these cows watching us intently.

John thought maybe they were Not Ordinary Cows.

He suspected something like this:

He did his spook-in-place routine, wherein he lowers his head and swings it away from the feared object without actually changing course. But then he didn't want to leave these cows. He apparently thought they should be kept under observation.

They thought the same of him so we had a nice long mutual stare.

It was a perfect day for a longer ride: clear, sunny, about 75 degrees F., and not too bad in the bug department. Lisa's friend belongs to the local mounted rescue unit and we had a nice visit with her. She wasn't able to ride with us but drew us a map of the trail system adjacent to her farm and we rode there with much enjoyment: wide mowed paths, ferny woods alternating with sunny grassy stretches, and nice hills so that John & I could practice not rushing downhill - a continuing issue.

On the way home I took a picture of one of Lisa's trail signs; this is for PonyGirl and PaintGirl, who have apparently been riding in a place like this lately where they are spotting mutant monkeys:

Mutant monkeys, space cows; thank goodness for horses who show us how strange this old world really is!!

And finally, here's a cute photo of the barn's little filly with her teeny filly fly mask on:

This filly was an accidental 'bonus' who came with the mare unbeknownst to the purchaser. Hope she gets some good handling and finds a good home; she will be a TBx?, poor little honey.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Neat and Safe Way to Dally Your Leadrope

If you like to ride with a rope halter and lead attached to your horse, as opposed to back at the barn when you suddenly need it!, here's a neat and safe way to keep your leadrope out of your way but still handy as you ride.

I like having a leadrope to tie John to a tree when we stop, because it's strictly forbidden to tie a horse by reins -- in spite of what we all grew up seeing on TV westerns. The horse's mouth could get badly injured that way.

But for several years I struggled with the lead wrapped around the saddle horn, coming unwrapped, slithering around, and being a general pain. Then a lovely lady showed me this trick which I am passing on in case you might not have seen it already!

STEP 1:Start with this:

You have looped the lead over the saddle horn, leaving enough on the horse end for him to move freely and stretch out his neck, but not enough to get a foot or branch caught.

STEP 2: Make a loop however you like; no knot!! just a loop of rope.

STEP 3: Pull a loop of the tail end of the rope through the first loop you made, but not all the way through; stop when you have a nice little second loop, like this:

STEP 4: Repeat Step 3, as many times as it takes to get a nice chain of loops leaving a reasonable tail length. It should just be out of your way.

STEP 5: Tail through last loop.
If you just leave your "crocheted" loops hanging, they will come undone as you ride. So the last thing you do is thread the tail through the last loop, just like you do with a quick-release knot to keep your horse from untying himself.

And that's that!

Your rope is right there when you need to undo it quickly and pop a rattlesnake on the head, or whip yourself for having such an expensive hobby, or even tie your horse.

In case you are wondering how I got John to stand still for these pictures since his lead rope is obviously not attached to anything! He is eating. The Second Coming could occur, with horns and earthquakes and celestial ladies riding on bulls, and he would go. on. eating.

This part of our trail system I refer to as "The Runway" because it looks like we could just fly out into blue sky from here. It actually ends in a steep slope down to a hay field.

On today's ride 2 neat things happened:

1. We saw bear scat right in the middle of the trail; John recognized it and acted a bit nervous and wary for awhile. And:

2. We were zoomed by a huge bird - I mean wingspan of about 5 feet. It came soundlessly down from behind us and almost touched John's ears. I was too scared to notice what kind of bird it might have been. "Birdus Really Biggus" I think would be the scientific name.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

ACK!! Actual Bears in my Vicinity!!

So I was out walking the dogs this morning and what comes lumbering down a driveway but Two Huge Black Bears!! This is not my photo - I didn't have my camera and am not sure I could have operated it at the time anyway. But they looked exactly like this except fatter and so, pretty much, did the driveway.

They were so beautiful. Their fur was so black, shiny, soft and deep that you could have buried your hands in it to the wrists. They had just finished dragging someone's garbage all around and could easily have eaten both my dogs in one bite.

Rufus, the younger dog, began his shrieking. I don't know how else to describe it - he just screams like a banshee, which attracted their attention very effectively. They both paused and stared.

I stopped still and considered what to do. Back away? Call for help? In the end I did nothing (default mode) and they grew bored and cantered off.

I did not know that bears could canter!! They had a nice rocking chair gait just a bit too much on the forehand. As they cantered, their fur rippled and blew in the breeze. My knees were shaky and Rufus and Gabe finally got over it; Cavaliers are NOT hunting dogs!! They were even scared by this the other day:

We had a little "Who is More Scared?" contest and I believe the dogs won, thanks to Rufus's operatic vocalizations. This dog is embarrassing. Good thing he is so cute.
That's Young Pavarotti on the right below, me in the middle, and Gabriel on the left, at the Rose Garden last week:

In this photo Rufus is wet due to having chased a stick into Lake Superior moments before. If anyone has any tips on training a dog not to sing like a panicking soprano, please pass them along to me.