I live for Estes' return from winter pasture. About the middle of the winter, I start going into horse withdrawals, which is no good at all. I get the winter blahs and all I can think about is how long it's going to be until Estee comes home.
A couple of weeks ago, we brought the horses home, but had fence to mend and a snowstorm rolled in on top of us. Our first ride was delayed by more than a week. Once the snow went away (mostly), Mom and Bill were able to go out on the geldings, leaving the mares behind. Because I've got a grown-up job (darn it!), my riding is limited to the weekends, so the weekend after we returned from Yellowstone I headed up for my first ride.
It was fabulous! Estes has shed out beautifully and the winter on the fat pasture did her a world of good. She came home easily a hundred pounds heavier than when she left. I'd wanted my first ride to be bareback, but then decided that maybe I did want the security of the saddle because I wanted to go and with bareback, I'm limited to a walk and slow trot. I just don't have the confidence yet for other gaits.
We decided to head on down to the Willow Tree trail - heck, why not start off the summer with a ride that can kill you? - just because we could. You might remember that the Willow Tree trail is where, a few years ago, Meeker decided there were bad things in the willows and that we should not go in there. I think I've only been on that trail once or twice since, simply because it is not a trail we can take novice riders one.
Guess what? The Willow Tree trail should now be off limits to all but very experienced and confident riders. It needs to come off of the dude trail map for the liveries. The years and erosion has not been good to it and it's in much worse condition than I could have imagined. The pictures don't do the ruggedness of the trail any justice.
We carefully picked our way down the rock, between the willow branches and rock face and back up the side of the mountain. There were many, many places where I was very thankful that Estes is barefoot. The thought of crossing all of those rocks without my horse being able to make contact puckers me right up.
After picking our way through the Willow Tree trail, which was extraordinary, just rugged, we were running short of time, so we headed back, stretching the horses out to a slow trot (for Estes; a lope for Ranger) until Bill found a stretch of trail that *had* to be fixed. Estee and I waited impatiently while Bill re-routed the run-off.
At the base of the switchback, a realtor had placed a sign with a box full of flyers. On our way out to the trail, Estee and I had sidled up to it and taken a flyer just to see if we could. Bill decided that he and Ranger would attempt the same feat on the way back. They were successful, thanks to Bill's long monkey arms and Ranger's short stature. Ranger saw absolutely no reason whatsoever to cozy up to that stupid realtor's box and kept swinging his rear end away from it.
Back at the lodge, I hopped on off of Estes, feeling better than I had in a really, really long time and easily thirty pounds lighter. What is it about being free in the mountains that has that effect on people?
It's a good thing I was feeling so good and light, because when I went to uncinch Estes, I found that her cinch was more than a little loose. There was room for Bill to put his fist between her belly and cinch. Thank God for all of the time we spent bareback, otherwise I may not have stayed on during our return trip.