Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Little Too Confident

So, I've been riding Estes bareback, albeit at a walk, for a couple of years.  The little temper tantrum she had about the flag at the livery was always in the back of my mind (along with my disbelief that I managed to stay on).  On rare days, when I'm feeling brave, I'll push her up to a slow trot and on even more rare days, I'll let her slide into her beautiful little Morgan gait.  And I mean, rare, probably only two or three times since I've been riding her bareback.  I'm closer to forty than thirty now and I'm a little more conscious of how hard that ground actually is.

Last spring, Bill and I went out for a ride in the forest and decided to break trail.  Estes enjoys being out on the trials, but she loves breaking trail.  It must take her back to her cattle gathering days, because she loves-loves-loves it.  And I love-love-love being on a horse who's enjoying herself.  We'd spent the majority of the ride being good little riders and staying on the trail, but on the way home we decided to take the more direct route - straight up and over the mountain.

Thanks to Meeker, I've learned to grab a handful of mane when climbing hills.  Everytime I wind my fingers into her mane it reminds me of Alec and the Black (yes, I grew up reading The Black Stallion and loving every word Walter Farley wrote).  As Estes and I headed up the mountain, me with handfuls of mane and her with fire in her eyes, her bounding legs ate up the hill and took us straight toward a couple of dead saplings.  In order to follow the path Bill and Ranger were making, we'd have to crash through a small stand of dead saplings, duck under a branch and pick our way through some deadfall.

No problem for Bill and Ranger, as Ranger doesn't like things to touch him, so he always manages to dodge trees, live and dead.  Estes, however, is a firm believer that if you want to go where she does, you'd better be able to stay on.

We rapidly approached the saplings, but being dead, they wouldn't be hard to break through.  Or at least I thought.  The sapling on my right hit my boot, but didn't snap off as it was supposed to, knocking my leg back before it finally broke.  That wouldn't have been a big deal except that our next obstacle involved ducking under a low-hanging branch and I had one of my legs completely out of position.

The branch came up and the only way to clear it was to lay forward over Estee's neck, so I did.  By the time we slowed to pick our way through the deadfall, I was laying on her back like freaking Superman flying between buildings.  Trying to readjust myself on her back while picking through the deadfall was interesting to say the least, but I managed just in time for us to clear the deadfall and resume our bounding up the hill in persuit of Bill and Ranger.

Friday, February 26, 2010

March Schedule for Ride of the Week

Yay!  I had a good response (better than I expected) and have every Wednesday in March scheduled for our Ride of the Week!  I've got the RockCrawlinChef working on a button for me; once that's done I'll put it and the schedule in the sidebar.  For now, here's what the schedule looks like:
I've got some other "feelers" out there, but if any of you would like to guest post, please email me at

Thursday, February 25, 2010


Spending the summer riding Meeker bareback gave me some confidence to try Estes the following summer.  I love Estes, but I have to admit I have a healthy respect (I refuse to call it fear) for her agility and quickness, so it took even more courage for me to climb aboard Estes bareback than it did Meeker.

I started on Estes the same way I started with Meeker.  Once around the block, then twice around the block, then the Ski Road loop over the period of a couple of weeks.  It was all good, so one day after our short ride, I decided I'd just ride Estes to the pen, the heck with getting off and walking.

I maybe should have put a little more thought into my plan, but everything had gone so well, I didn't give the walk to the pen a second thought.  Never mind that in order to get to the pen we'd have to cross the street, go through an open gate (that hadn't been there the year before), and walk behind the livery horses tied to the rail to get to our gate to the pen.  The "yard" where the dude rail is located is actually a dirt road that runs in front of the livery, so the gate must be open to public access - the livery can close the gate, but cannot lock it to impede public traffic.

I've ridden across the street, through the gate, and behind the dude rail hundreds of times, but always in a saddle on my way to the forest access trail.  Because I'd ridden it successfully so many times, I didn't give much thought to doing it bareback.

Mom was walking to the pen alongside me and we were just chatting away.  We crossed the street without incident and reached the open gate.  The next thing I remember, Estes and I were nowhere near the gate.  Somehow, we'd ended up about thirty feet to the right of the gate, near the office and the guest entrance.  Estes was pretty worked up about something, but I couldn't figure out what at first, not that it mattered right then.  What I had to concentrate on was staying on top and keeping her from crashing through the office.  I consciously grabbed a handful of mane and started circling her until she slowed down.  I don't think her feet ever stopped moving, but she finally managed to stay in one place.

Once she was as calm as I was going to get her, I rode her back around and through the gate.  Going through the gate, I saw what had set her off.  Sometime during the day, the livery had put a flag up in the flag holder and it was "new".  Normally, "new's" not so bad, but "new" and snapping in the wind was not okay with Queen Estes.

It took me a while to calm down and realize that I'd managed to stay on during her little blow up, which consisted of bolting and spinning, but no bucking (Thank God).  Probably the only reason I managed was because I'd finally relaxed while on her back and wasn't tense.  Or it was luck.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

New Feature - Ride of the Week

I follow a lot of equi-blogs in many different disciplines, and though I only have a handful of followers, I can tell by my site statistics that I've got a lot more lurkers (or my followers can't get enough of my writing and read each post a hundred times).  I love reading different horse/ride stories and had a brilliant idea last night...what if I had a "Ride of the Week" featuring different bloggers?

So, in light of my brilliant, but not very original idea - after all, people have been doing guest blogs since blogging began - beginning in March I will host a different equi-blogger each week.  We'll keep the Ride of the Week going as long as people have stories they want to share.

Everyone who has ridden or spent any time around horses has a story to tell, so tell it.  You don't have to be a horse owner or expert; I just love reading about other people's experiences and memories of my favorite critter on earth and I'm sure other people do too.  If you are interested in guest blogging, please email me at and put "Ride of the Week" in the subject line.

Go ahead, email me,  I'm waiting...

Monday, February 15, 2010

My First Hill Challenge

After a couple of weeks of riding bareback on relatively flat ground, and a couple of successful trips around the Ski Road loop, I felt ready to tackle a small hill.  Ski Road has a long, slow hill which had given me some confidence that I could handle a small, slightly steeper hill.

That day had been spa day for the horses, so Mom and I spent a good deal of time washing and grooming.  The horses were looking good, so sleek and shiny and purty.  After the horses got their spa day, I decided I wanted to go for a short ride and maybe tackle a little more challenging hill than the hill on the Ski Road loop.

For some reason, Mom decided not to ride, but to walk while I rode.  I hopped up on Meeker and away we went looking for a short trail.  I knew that I was not ready to tackle the switchback to the trails in the forest, so we wondered around town.  Finally, Mom lead us to a trail that fit the bill.  It was a short loop with a short downhill and uphill section.

I had about ten whole miles on Meeker bareback, I was ready.  I mean, I had been able to re-learn to relax and stay balanced.  I'd even done the Ski Road loop a couple of times with its hill.  How daunting could a short - and I mean thirty feet max - uphill climb be?

We made it down the hill without any incidents, stepped across a small creek and headed up the hill.  Mom was walking behind us.  Meeker decided that it wasn't nearly as much fun to walk up the hill as it would be to lunge up the hill.  After the first lunging step, I realized that maybe it wasn't the best idea to get on her when she looked so sleek, shiny and purty.  By the time I grabbed a handful of mane, Meeker was almost out from under me and I was afraid I was going to end up sliding off of her back and landing on my mom.  Two more lunging strides and we crested the hill. 

Meeks was kind enough to stand still while I readjusted myself and my mom was kind enough not to drop to the ground laughing (though she did laugh - a lot).

I learned two important lessons that day: 1) maybe a sleek and shiny and purty horse isn't all its cracked up to be and 2) the mane is my friend.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


A few summers ago, I decided that I wanted to improve my riding ability.  Just because I put hundreds of hours on the back of a horse during the season doesn't mean I'm a great rider.  It just means that I put hundreds of hours on the back of a horse during the season.  I'd also realized that I'd ridden myself into a slump, taking the "easy" horses or horses that I knew wouldn't cause me any problems at all.  My parents put me up on Estes, who I fell absolutely in love with, but also re-inforced that I needed to work on my seat.

The best way I knew to work on my seat was to go back to bareback.  I hadn't ridden bareback since I was a kid, easily twenty years.  I shared my plan with my parents, who decided that they would join me in my quest to become a better rider.  Though we all knew that riding bareback was a sure-fire way to improve our seat, it took a little courage to actually do it.

Estes was unavailable to lease that summer, so I was leasing her daughter, Meeker.  Meeks is a touch more mellow than Estes, which was a good thing.  I'm not sure I would have had the courage to climb aboard Estes bareback without some practice under my belt.  Estes is quick; she can spin on a dime and change directions in the blink of an eye.  Meeker, while she's super agile like Estes, was not nearly as prone to spin out from under me.

We started out with very short rides.  Literally just once around the block and we were good.  I spent the entire ride reminding myself to breathe and relax, to let Meeker's legs be mine and just move with her.  It was tough.  The next time out, we went twice around the block, which was a fairly flat ride.  We repeated the twice around the blog thing for a week or so.  Our goal was to be able to do the one-hour loop in Roosevelt National Forest by the end of the summer completely bareback.

Once we were comfortable riding at a walk on flat land, we increased our distance and began to incorporate small hills.  In order to meet our goal of riding the one-hour loop across the street in the forest, we'd have to be able to climb and descend hills while staying on our horses.  We added in the Ski Road loop, which included not only gradual climbs and descents, but scary things like traffic and barking dogs.

More rapidly than I thought would happen, we began to enjoy bareback riding and in no time, tacking up our horses for a short ride seemed more trouble than it was worth.  As we increase our time bareback, we began to see improvements in our riding while tacked up.  My knees and ankles stopped hurting while I was riding in the saddle, because I was no longer bracing myself in my stirrups.  I hadn't even realized that I'd been bracing.  While taking out rides for the livery, of course, I couldn't go bareback, but I began to feel like the saddle was in the way and began riding with my feet out of the stirrups.

Over the course of the summer, we all saw changes in our riding abilities and were able to meet our goal of riding the one-hour loop in the forest.  Not only did we manage that by the end of August, but we continued to ride bareback until it was time for the horses to go down to winter pasture in November.  During our traditional year-end ride, I rode Washoe for almost four hours on the trails at Hall Ranch Open Space and had a ball!

I have to say that going back to the basics and re-learning how to ride bareback was the best thing I've ever done for my riding skill.  The increased balance and confidence has saved my rear-end on more than one occassion since then.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

...And My All-Time Favorite Picture

Mom and Jesse
In Roosevelt National Forest, 2007

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

More Favorites

Sand Beach Lake
Elevation: 10,283 feet

A narrow section of trail overlooks the beaver ponds in the Wild Basin Area

One of the few interesting spots on the way to Sand Beach Lake

This is the view that greets you as you follow the walking trail

The inlet on the west side of the lake

Looking south across the lake

My favorite picture of the lake.  I just love the lone tree in the foreground.

Monday, February 8, 2010

More Of My Favorites

Thunder Lake
Elevation: 10,574 feet

Ranger's cabin

View from porch of Ranger's cabin

Walking path to lake from cabin

Small pond to the east of the lake

A favorite fishing spot

I love this reflection picture!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Some Of My Favorite Views

Since I started this blog in August of last year, I've been talking about the areas I regularly ride in.  One of the things that I never left the livery without was my camera and extra batteries.  Today, I was going through some of my pictures, looking for a new header picture and found a whole slew of pictures that I thought I'd share.  I'm lucky to live in what I'm pretty sure is the most beautiful place in Colorado.  I hope you enjoy them.

Along Wild Basin Trail

Part of the Wild Basin Trail feels like an Enchanted Forest

Burn area on the way to Thunder Lake

Before a storm at Thunder Lake

View on the way to Finch Lake

Runoff at Indian Peaks