Sunday, July 1, 2007

First big ride

The first day of July and also the first day for a long mountain ride. Dale and Kittee had planned to ride up to Tollgate Chalet and invited me along. I was so excited. I met them at 9 am and after an hour we were all ready to ride out. Kittee told me she was packing a revolver today since when they took the truck and trailer up to the Chalet Dale had seen a cougar with a tail as big around as a baseball. So they wanted to be prepared. The 'trail' was actually Lincton Mtn Road which is 11.7 miles from their house to the Chalet. Most of that is uphill, from a 10% to 30% grade, I would guess. Some flats and some downhill but probably 2/3 of it is climbing.

The first excitement of the day came for me when we saw in a distance some other people on horseback. As we got closer we realized there was a number of them herding calves. They had gone on a roundup to find some lost ones.

We were able to do a fair amount of trotting and even some cantering today but Sinwaan was quick to declare a break when he needed one and off again we went.

Many times there would be four wheelers and dirt bikes coming the other direction and they were all so very courteous and slowed down to pass. There was cars and trucks and a van that passed us at times also and they too were kind and would either stop and wait for us to go by, or would crawl by at a safe speed.

Once I looked down and saw a snake in the road and I was frightened until I realized it was dead. Thus began my snake count. I counted FIVE dead snakes in the road today. They were all about a foot long and looked like babies...maybe bull snakes?

Sinwaan also did THREE full body shakes with me astride in the course of the ride. AAAAGGGGHHHH. :)

We came across another two cowboys herding cattle with their dogs but they didn't seem very bright. A calf had gotten away from the herd and it seemed like the cowboy wanted to get it back but instead was blocking its way and the dogs didn't seem trained at all either.

Riding onward and upward there was a lovely cool breeze and just awesome views, from some points we could see all of Milton-Freewater in the distance down below. The elevation changes in this ride are approx 3,100'. Starting out at about 1300 and reaching a high point of 4400 , it was quite the climb.

Later we came across a herd of sheep grazing off the road and noticed there was no fence. Then we saw another two cowboys and one came riding over to us. "Are you here to relieve us?" he asked. No...sorry!

We were thankful that our ride was quite uneventful in that none of the horses had a bad spook. A few times there were some horse-eating rocks that Sinwaan would stare at and go clear to the other side of the road but otherwise no trouble. I had put on sunblock before heading out but apparently it was old as I still got a little burnt on my shoulders.

We finally reached the Tollgate Chalet at 2 pm. 12.5 miles of riding (uphill!) in four hours. Not too bad. By about mile 10 my saddle was starting to feel pretty hard. When we reached the trailer we dismounted and offered the horses hay and water. Nugget (one of the palomino QH) dug right into his meal and happily chomped away. Derby had a little water and a little hay but not much. Sinwaan sniffed at everything and had a few bites of hay but then started acting restless, and buckling his knees like was going to lay down (and roll, I imagine) right there in the parking lot! So I started moving him around and then used a lot of the horse water on his back to help with the dirt and grime that was surely making him itch. He was soooo tired. We loaded the QH into the trailer and I tied Sinwaan outside the trailer so I could keep an eye on him while we went into the Chalet for lunch.

We all went through two glasses of water right away, even though I had carried 2 bottles with me on the ride and went through those already. The Chalet is a kind of a hamburger sit down place and they didn't have any sort of vegetarian option for a burger so I just got a grilled cheese sandwich and fries. It was really good, the fries especially, and as anyone will tell you I don't normally eat fried food. Sinwaan was good, I was watching him through the window the whole time and he stood with his foot cocked most of the time. A couple of guys walked by and one guy went over and patted him and kissed him on the nose. I thought that was kind of weird. I love horses too but I don't usually go around kissing other people's horses. Then a senior couple went out and took photos of them before they left in their car. We figured out later they must have been taking pictures of Nugget and Derby with their heads out of the trailer on the other side.

When I was done eating I went out right away to tend to Sinwaan as he looked like he was getting restless. I offered him some carrots, which he ate (half-heartedly) and a few more mouthfuls of hay. Then we loaded all three horses in the trailer and drove them back down the mountain home.

As soon as Sinwaan was unloaded he started hungrily snatching mouthfulls of grass. While I was glad to see his appetite back to normal it does concern me that he doesn't take better care of himself away from home. That could be a problem at a ride. I used a wand on him and hosed him down and then turned him out. Of course the first thing he does is roll and get all dirty again.

I will be out again to ride on Wednesday as it is a holiday and I don't have to work. Lara and I are going to trailer him out to Bennington Lake. I am looking forward to that. The last time I rode out there was the moonlight ride with Dee. It will also be nice to ride Sinwaan on a trail on the FLAT for a change and see how that changes things. All these hills are great conditioning but the Lakeview Ride we are planning to do doesn't have many elevation changes and I want to see what he can do as far as mph on the flat/dirt vs hills/gravel.

After today's ride I have now reached 25 hours of riding in the AHA incentive rider program!

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