Sunday, January 13, 2013

Cronan Ranch: good and very bad

I headed out with Major and C and her horse Friday for a fun new adventure at Cronan Ranch. It was three-quarters awesome adventure, and one-quarter absolutely terrible. The question is: how DO you desensitize your horse to parasailers on the trail?

icy parking

It was cold and icy when we arrived. We parked at the nice new Magnolia staging area. C had brought along some crack hay (alfalfa mix) for Major, so he never even looked up or moved as I saddled up.

delicious crack hay and ready to go
"connecter" trail, spelled wrong on every sign. But good signage otherwise!

And we headed out. The trails were a mix of mud, nice footing and ice. Sometimes frozen mud ice. But the views were worth it, the horses able to handle the mud and they handily trotted through much of it. We were both booted in front, barefoot behind, and had pretty good grip. And Major was SO excited, but good, to be on new trails. Ears pricked, he looked around every corner, wondering where we were going. No wonder he gets bored at home!

Add caption"Why am I standing in the freezing water?"

We happily trotted along, the trail under trees and along the river, crosses a creek, up a steep muddy hill. Down by the river is a lovely spot, which is inaccessible to the horses in the summer, when hundreds of river rafters (this is the south fork of the American river) converge on the spot every day.

not very patiently waiting equines

I'm so tortured

gratuitous cute face picture

We stopped and ate lunch, the horses were not happy to be tied to nearby trees, when they normally get to be in our faces while we try to eat. I still saved Major some PB&J.

old movie set

After lunch we headed through the valley. There is an old homestead, which is actually an old Michael Landon movie set. Then we took a fabulous ridge trail, with sweeping views, great trotting, and some gallops up the hills. I did learn to stay farther back from a horse galloping in mud, after getting a clod of mud on my sunglasses!

valley panorama from the ridge trail

A break for some photos on the ridge, where we saw horseback riders, hikers, bikes and parasailers in the distant valley. We headed down the hill, which was still completely solid ice at 2pm in the afternoon.

Last photo of the day, parasailer a tiny white dot in the distance

At the bottom of the hill is the first staging area, and a spring for the horses. They of course were totally not interested, and we began to take the Down and Up trail home. There was a parasailer far up on a hill, and another on the ground a few hundred feet away.The horses were just walking, and I was JUST thinking about getting off and walking, when the sail caught the wind and lifted into the air.

The next few moments happened so quickly, yet in slow motion. Major turned and bolted, I steered him up the hill, hoping it would slow him. I had his head turned, trying to stop him, and he'd slow to my whoas, see the monster/parachute behind him and take off again. And we were heading for a barbed-wire fence, which I'm pretty sure he didn't see or even care about. So I decided to bail off, and hold on, which I did, landing on my feet, with Major hitting the ends of the reins as I dug my feet in. He madly circled around, completely terrified.

And I looked for C. And didn't see her. And Major continued frantically run around, the parachute still in the air, I saw Friday down the trail, looking at Major. Friday saw him and trotted closer. And I saw C down on the trail, gingerly sitting up. I couldn't get nearer to her, as both horses were almost oblivious to me. I let Friday go, his reins over his neck, knowing he had already come back to Major, he probably wouldn't leave again. The parachute continued to billow. C managed to croak out that she was OK. Well, alive and not unconscious!

She was able to get up and hobble over, already a black-eye was forming. Friday was still completely an idiot, Major calmed down as we left the area. C was NOT going to be able to walk this off, and we were at least five miles from the trailer. So we decided I'd leave her at the closer staging area and ride back to get the trailer myself.

Major had no problems leaving his friend behind, but I did! I was worried, but there were people around if C needed more help. So I headed back, though I walked past the parachute area. I couldn't take that trail, there were still other parasailers out there. So I had to go back the long way. But Major was a rock star, calmed right down, and we trotted home, making good tine where there wasn't slick mud.

Luckily C called and got a ride back with another nice equestrian. So she would be able to rest at the trailer till I got there. The woman who dropped her off said it would be a long while till I got there. She probably isn't familiar with determined fast riders and horses, as I showed up fairly quickly. Major was still barely sweaty, the day was so cold, but he got a mash and his cooler. C was not moving so good, and we packed up the horses, and I drove us home.

Good things to know how to do:
  • be in good enough shape to run/walk quickly with your horse on trail, I could have hiked home the five miles no problem.
  • be able to drive another person's rig
  • have your cell phone ON your person (mine is always on my leg)
  • desensitize your horse to a parasailer
OK, on the last one, a bit hard to train for! Major is pretty trusting of me, and goes through and over everything I point him at, is one of the bravest horses I know. But was completely freaked out. I'm sure there are horses there who have no problem with it. Take him out to the area on a lead and expose him? That's the only thing I can think of. Anyone have a similar scary experience? Or a horse that handles parasailers? How?!

I'm glad C is only bruised and banged up. I have a sore shoulder, the horses are fine. It could have been much worse. So, a great ride, except for a few minutes...that's all it takes to ruin the day!


  1. Glad you are both, more or less,OK. That sounds like it could have gone really, really bad.

    I have no idea how you could desensitize to that sort of thing, unless you could find an area where they are taking off and just hang out there?

    I once had a helicopter take off right over head when I was on Cartman's brother, Taj. I thought for sure I was gonna die but he hardly paid it any attention. ???? Can't say he has the same reaction with random cut logs on trail or cows, unfortunately!

    1. Thanks. I'm glad we're mostly unscathed. I've had helicopters overhead no problem too, like you I thought for sure I was a goner. I wasn't too concerned about the parasailers, now I know better!

      I think I may take Major over to the area on a nice cool windy day and hope there are parasailers. A good strong halter, lead rope and gloves!

  2. WOW! glad you are ok and I agree with indeed can you desensitize a horse to that unless they lived in a pasture with crazy para-sailors!
    Falcon became desensitized to birds fluttering up out and over him when we lived in Virginia and the guinea fowl would flutter up unexpectedly and over his head to roost in the barn and it ended up saving me on the trail when quail would burst that he is a "city" horse...there is no telling!

    It sounds like you might need to spend some time camping out there...yikes!

    1. I think Falcon will get used to enough "scary" things in our area. And the guinea fowl experience will protect you from the horse eating turkeys!

  3. Phew! Glad you are all mostly okay and good advice for all.

    1. Yeah, and beware if I ask anyone to come riding with me. I keep trying to kill poor C (started her in endurance, then her horse sunk in a swamp once, I'm sure there is more!)

  4. Wow , this is your January weather... oh how jealous I am.. Great photos.. where is this ?

    1. We're having a cold snap (for us!) with lows of 25 and high of 45. Cronan Ranch is in Pilot Hill, CA, about 20 minutes from Auburn across the canyon. Lovely place!

  5. So glad you guys are okay, and ditto on the advice.

    We have kite boarders here - the bane of beach rides. If they aren't swooping down nearly right on top of you from the water, they're suddenly catching air and flying up on the beach.

    I think the unpredictability of their movement is what terrifies horses. Even the most bombproof mare I used to ride would just shake when we encountered one...

  6. Kite boarders, that sounds very bad too! I think you're right about the unpredictability, and the parasail was HUGE too, this big blobby sky monster.