I don’t trail ride, no really…a horse, a very large prey animal, out in the woods with…you know…preditors…seems a bit like smoking while pumping gas. Knowing that trail riding is akin to bungee jumping off a rickety bridge, I decided that I should face that fear and take my Keno horse for his very first organized trail ride. Maybe there would be safety in numbers…right?
Well, the day started with a bad battery cable in the truck which I quickly fixed, but not quick enough that we would not make the 10am ride out time. We finally made it to the the redevioux point after everyone had left.
Keno hopped out of the trailer a bundle of nerves! Oh crap, I don’t need his nerves to deal with, I have my own I cannot even control. It was a quick saddle and pay for the ride and we were off!
C’mon Keno, let’s have a nice and uneventful ride! If you have ever ridden with me then you know that I am prone to non-stop chatter…but, to be clear…I was talking to my horse…and no, I am not crazy! Really, I am not.
Either way, we started out on a gravel road in the middle of the pack. “I can do this” I thought to myself….”we can do this”. Our ride was a nice mixture of gravel road, logging road and game trail. I can do gravel road and logging road…game trail…well, that is just terifying!
You see, for all the time I have had Keno, I have only ridden a handful of times and only once out on the trail. And because it started so easy, I was lulled into believeing that this would be a nice meandering ride over the mountain. The first actual hill we encountered was up…not terrifying…not terifying at all…nope. Ok, maybe I did want to cry a little. But, Keno got his rear in gear and pulled us both up the hill. We survived!
We spent the first half of the ride mostly up. While I felt bad for my little spotty that he had to haul me up the hill, I was so impressed with his stamina and willingness. But, you know what they say..what goes up must come down.
Down…wait…like we have to go back down what we just came up?? No? Thank goodness!! Apparently, I spoke too soon! We did have to go back down, but down the other side…oh Lord!
It was the half way point that Keno had his fill of hauling my big butt all over the mountain side and his head tossing and foot stomping was very clear that he was OVER this trail horse thing. I am sure that he was probably also done listening to me whine about the hills and him not picking up his feet.
But he and I both knew that down meant done and we were both ready to be done. And, down started on a logging road so I stupidly assumed that it would be and easy meander back down the hill. I was right for a while and suddenly my worst fears were realized!
The wide road almost suddenly gave way to a narrow one horse trail. We came around a bend to a black riderless horse. The rider was trying her best to get her horse through what was arguably the most terrifying spot on the entire trail. Narrow, rather steep decent into a small creek bed followed by a narrow steep ascent out of the creek bed. Her horse was not about to face certain death and in an instant I knew that I was totally on the horses side in this one. What unfolded was absolutely terifying!
An older woman with a previously broken leg standing before the Creek of Death in front of her horse and her younger riding companion on the other side with her horse. I looked at the scene in horror. There was just no way that my very green horse was going to safely get his plus sized and completely terrified rider across this horrifying obsticle.
The younger woman tied her horse and the when to the aid of the older woman. The older woman handed her horse off to the younger woman and climbed to safety. Then the young woman coerced the big black horse across the pit of death. In an instant, that woman was knocked down by the terrified horse and it stepped on the back of her thigh ripping her jeans! The horse came to a stop pretty much on top of the girl! In unison we asked if she was ok. That tough little cookie jumped up with her jeans ripped and the two of them were off on the trail in the blink of an eye!
“I AM NOT DOING THIS!” I screamed! Melinda calmly said over her shoulder, “well, you don’t really have a choice…”. In my heart I knew that this would be the end of my time on earth. I mean, I have seen Keno lose his shit over a folding chair…this thing is front of me was genuinely terrifying!
I began to just mutter over and over and over, “I can’t do this”. I watched as Melinda got her scaredy cat across with just a little coaxing…and true to his Arab spirit chose to scale the rock face because trails are for common horses.
Then it was Eli and Escapade. She was darling…and the two of them walked across with little issue.
Then it was my turn. I could feel the tears, my heart was pounding and I way praying for the rapture in that second so I would not have to endure the sure hell that I was facing.
Well, Jesus didn’t come back and there I was standing next to my horse on the edge of what was the most horrific thing that he and I have encountered together. Knees shaking, I may or may not have made a pact with God that if he got me through this unscathed then I would never trail ride ever again. Then I took a breath and began to walk down the embankment.
Keno was an absolute trooper. It was scary for him, he had never seen anything like that. With his nose down investigating the abyss, he inched forward. Snorting that “don’t mess with me scary thing” snort, he summed up his surroundings and then slowly walked right through the pit of death and then up the other side!
He did not panic like the black horse and run us over, he took a minute to size up the situation and then put one foot in front of the other until he was no longer in that scary place.
I don’t know how many times he needs to prove to me that I can trust him, but I know with 100% certainty that had I of stayed on he would have safely gotten us through the death pit and much more safely than trying to lead him through. But, I was panicked and I did not want to get us both killed!
The Kathy, Dillon and Tim made it through and there we were…all on the right side of the pit and none of us were worse for wear!
As the adrenalin began to subside, real panic set in. Oh crap!! I am ON THE GROUND! My horse is about 16 hands tall and I am short and fat! I committed the ultimate short-fat-girl-with-a-tall-horse trail sin! I was on the ground and I needed to be in the saddle! I had no idea if we were 5 minutes or 5 hours from “home” and I needed to get back in the saddle.
I found a burm on the side of the trail and positioned my trusty steed next to it, one foot way up in the stirrup and bounce…1,2,3 up! Well, that is how it is supposed to work. The reality is that bounce, push, no where near getting in the saddle. On the third attempt, I went to put my free foot onto the burm and missed it and there I was…under my horse! For those of you keeping track…that is 2 times in one week that I ended up on my back under my horse!
I laid there laughing at myself and instead of getting up, I took my right foot and gave Keno a big belly rub for being such a patient boy! I think it is clear that he would rather me be under him than on top of him because he barely even notices when I am laying under him…THANK GOODNESS!
Still laughing, I rolled over and pulled myself out from under my horse using him back legs at a hand hold. He was still not even moving a muscle! Seriously, there is a special place in heaven for this guy! He definitely got the short end of the stick when he got me.
It was a bit of a hike to find a higher step, completely out of breath from the hike, I mustered one last push and I was in the saddle again!! It was a relief because I really didn’t want our group waiting for me to walk my horse off the mountain!
I praised Keno all the way down the logging road, until we saw it! The gravel road!! We are almost home! I can see the road! No more scary spots! Wait, that is a gate! How do we get past that gate?
Then I see Melinda dive off the trail straight up a hill! “NO!!” I cried!! Please, for the love of all that is good and Holy!!! NO MORE HILLS!!
Melinda, who I am sure was ready to strangle me in that moment, explained that we just have one more up and down. In fact, it think there will be a Patti Marcotte clause in her contracts in the future where whining or crying on a horse will result in a fine…but for now she puts up with me for some unknown reason.
Ok, that up isn’t horrible…I can do this. Once at the top, I realized that the down looked simply terrifying! It wasn’t long, but it was steep! Oh lord it was really steep! There I was on Mr Trips Over His Own Feet, 4 hours into an exhausting ride and I was going to ask him to be mindful of his feet while keeping the two of us upright….ya right! Panic set in, but instinct took over.
“Ok buddy, I am going to give you the rein, I expect you to keep your feet under you and walk…nice and slow…walk”. I let the rein loose and clucked. He put his head down and began to inch down the embankment. It was loose footing so it was one step, slid a little, one step, watch his feet…just like an old pro! We were both spent, but we made it to level ground!
It was about 10 minutes on the gravel and we were back! I quickly unsaddled to find that he was drenched with sweat, his back legs cut up from the rocks and sticks and brush, the breast collar had rubbed two large sores on his chest, simply…he looked like he had been in a battle!
I was exhausted, but felt so accomplished that I had survived something that scares me so. I can promise that I will never be a trail rider, and I know that I will be most happy on wide flat logging roads with no obsticles. But, Keno and I learned a lot about each other. I learned once again that I can count of him when the chips are down…and that is more important than anything. And, he learned that I am as comfortable underneath him as I am on top of him!