Monday, February 13, 2012

a 32-mule ride

Major and I were heading out with new friends, Cisco and his owner S. She is in more serious training for 50-mile rides, but we thought we'd see how the horses worked together. I wasn't sure if Major could keep up: Cisco is big and flashy, and loves to show off in his paddock, while Major usually stands around like a slug.

But we headed up the road, and were surprised at the staging area completely packed with trailers! I know the weather has been nice, but this was crazy. Then I noticed a trend: "Haulin' Ass," "Nice Ass," mule silhouette...hmmm? Maybe a club? Well, hopefully they left much earlier or went the other direction.

Headed down to the main trail, with Cisco in the lead. And he is quick, but so is Major, and we trotted along at a good pace. Major slows for rocks and downhills, and I often ask for a walk in areas, but S is a determined rider, and we kept going, though it wasn't anything beyond Major's abilities. In the beginning Major seemed a bit taken aback, or tired, but I think it was just different circumstances, and soon we were all rolling along.

Then, halt! When we see the tail end of 32 mules! Cute palomino one in back riding drag, nice guy told us the club name (which is something like elegant longears), said he'd let them know we wanted to pass. Umm, this is all singletrack, so it may be awhile. But trail riding is all about adapting to circumstances, no use worrying about it.

It was nice though that we were pretty close to Rattlesnake Bar, and after about 10 minutes behind the mules (and a few "short ears") were able to pass them by taking the lower road. We trotted along parallel to them for quite a while, 32 mules is a long line! S had a plan to do about 15 miles, so we headed to Avery pond (with some good cantering mixed in). I do like taking a short canter or walk break, just changing the gait and using different muscles (horse and human). We passed the pond and across the Mormon Ravine bridge, where the stream is roaring, and the powerplant outlet is usually under water! The water level is unbelievably low in the lake, and in this section looks like river (like before the dam went in).

Water level usually up, closer to the top! This was deafening (though it looks small here!)

River barely seen through the trees, should cover gravel and opposite bank

We kept going, meeting a few runners, then headed back. The horses kicked it into another gear, but were a well-matched pair. We again passed the mule group, who had stopped and were having a picnic, tableclothes on tables and the mules tied up to trees. We took a short detour up a hill, and S needed to adjust her saddle, so we dismounted. Major stood there quietly (and ate some poison oak stick before I could stop him), while Cisco danced around being silly. We noticed Major was less sweaty, and wondered if he is in better shape, or just sweats less, or is lack of anxiety the cause? So many factors in every ride.

And we kept going, passing the staging area and taking the canal trail. We took a break and walked a bit, but both horses recovered well and we decided to do the whole loop. So through the sand, then turning for home, a bit quick but some semblance of control going home. Major lost his brain entirely a couple times on the trotting trail, But I pulled him up, and we finally cooled them out and walked home.

My GPS said 19 miles, which is one of the longest rides we've done. I gave Major a snack and hosed him off, and began leading him up the hill, when he was prancing and silly. So I made him listen, down to the arena, and I turned him loose, where he cantered away, bucking and twisty-head, no lack of energy!

After this I feel more confident about being able to do the mileage part of a slow 25-LD, but there is the emotional part (me and Major's!). That is the hurdle. I'd like to spend some time in the next month trailering out, going on a short ride, practicing with my high-tie, water buckets, feed pans, etc.

wet horse, and the only blue sky I saw all day

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