Friday I asked Ruth about getting together this weekend to ride out somewhere. She was game so we tried to think of where to go. She was a little tired of Bennington Lake and thought we could try a location near where Sinwaan is boarded. It sounded good to me but then I remembered that Ernie Schrader had invited me out there to ride sometime, so I dropped him an email to see if he was home.
Ernie called and left me a message this morning saying that he was in town and planning to do a ride this evening and we were welcome to come along if we had a way to get there. So I called Ruth but she didn't answer so we headed over to Matt's grandma's for lunch. The craziest thing, on the drive over there I realized Ruth's truck was ahead of us. So we got along side her and I motioned that she should check her phone because I had left her a message. We ate lunch and came back towards home, I stopped by her place and she said "let's do it!" and I said "great!" so I came home and called Ernie to verify. He said he wouldn't be ready to ride out until 5 pm so Ruth and I decided she would pick me up at 4 pm.
I got changed into my riding clothes - jodhpurs and my HOTR t-shirt, and took the dogs out. While outside I realized I felt warm - too warm for a t-shirt - so I came back in and changed into a tank top.
Ruth pulled up with Topper in the trailer and we headed out to pick up Sinwaan. (I noticed she had her HOTR t-shirt on and was glad I had changed. How goofy would that look if we showed up dressed alike!?) We loaded him up and grabbed my tack in a flash. We were on our way! I had asked Ernie how long it would take to get out to his place from College Place and he said a half an hour. I put his address into Google maps and sure enough it said 30 min exactly (16 mi). We arrived at Ernies just about 5 pm. He had told me on the phone to drive past his place, use the school bus turnaround and then come back and park out front. So we did that and then walked up the driveway to meet Ernie and figure out what to do from there.
Their place is surrounded by four-plank brown wood fencing, a huge entry sign that said Schraders with Candy's name on one side and Ernie's on the other. A beautiful large home nestled on a hill at the edge of the trees. The driveway splits and to the left the drive goes to the horse barn, framed by more brown fencing. At the end is a 4-stall barn with paddocks, a grassy field where they park their horse trailers and a full dressage arena. Candy waved at us from the other building between the house and the barn and motioned to come on up that way. Ernie met us half way up the lane, pushing a wheelbarrow of manure. "I didn't get my chores done earlier so I am doing it now" he grinned and I introduced him to Ruth. He said since we had a small trailer we could go ahead and pull in the driveway and park next to his trailers. He didn't know what to expect and the larger trailers have a hard time turning around once they get back there. So we followed him back down the drive and got back in the truck and pulled in.
There is a creek running along the edge of their property so we crossed a wooden bridge (with no sides) pulling in. I wondered how the horses would do with that if we had to cross it. Once we had parked Candy and two people visiting her came over to say hello. It was then we realized the 'visitor's' were Kathy Tatro and her husband Steve. Kathy works with Ruth and I. Small town! Steve talked to me a little bit about how he knew my mom from school. Small world!
We unloaded the horses and quickly groomed and tacked up. Just as I was putting on Sinwaan's bridle Ernie rode around the corner. He was on Captain Calypso tonight, aka "Spot." He said Spot had just completed a 100 mile ride last weekend (and placed 3rd, ridden by Australian Melissa Longhurst) and usually he would give him two weeks off but since we should be riding pretty easy he should do fine. Once we were mounted up Ernie asked "do you want to do 10 miles tonight or 15?" And I replied "Uh, we should probably stick with 10." And I could hear Ruth behind me say "Yes, 10 please." (We had to be back home before dark).
Ernie grinned and said "ok!" and off we went at a trot down the driveway. I noticed when I was alongside him that Spot's color is also red. Good choice. (grin) Across the wooden bridge and had no trouble. Ernie said he would keep it to an easy trot and we should holler at him if we needed to slow down. Ok! We made a right turn onto Blue Creek Road and rode along the shoulder until we reached a fork and we took it to the left. This road was gravel and we could ride down the center. Ernie turned back to me and said "We're going to go up a hill pretty soon that will really get your horses' rear in condition." I said OK! He asked me if we rode with a Heart Rate Monitor. I told him I always do on competitive rides but haven't been lately because I usually just do an easy ride around the barn. He said he wished he would have known, he could have lent us BOTH a HR monitor for the day. Darn!
I wasn't sure if we would be turning off the road for this hill, but soon realized this road WAS the hill. At first it was gradual, but it got steeper as we went along and Sinwaan's trot got slower and slower and then he was walking. He was huffing a little so I let him go at his own pace and Ruth even got ahead of us. I told her to holler up to Ernie that we had slowed down. Ernie stopped for a minute and then said he would go on up and wait for us at the top. By now Sinwaan was stopping and breathing and then he would walk up a little more and then stop and breath and then walk a little more. Poor guy is in worse shape than I thought! At the same time I look up and see Spot pick up a canter and just float on up the hill.
I want to take a minute to talk about Spot. What an amazing animal. He is 1/2 Arab and 1/2 Saddlebred and is a pinto with one blue eye. His movement is truly a beauty to behold. He just FLOATS along. His trot is effortless and Ernie tells me when he moves out he can trot 16 mph. He is incredibly fit and it was a honor to ride alongside of him.
At the top we turned left again onto Spring Creek Road. This was a mostly gravel road with wheat fields all around. The views were incredible. Ernie told us another ride he likes to do is a 25 mile round-trip on up the mountain to his cabin. After being on this road for a short distance I asked Ruth if she would like a photo. The scenery was breathtaking, hills and mountains and fields of all colors. Ernie offered to take a photo of the two of us. So we posed as best we could and Ernie took a couple. He didn't give us any warning so I don't know what kind of an expression I will have.
At one point we came to a downhill and without hesitation Ernie hopped off and started jogging downhill along side Spot. I decided to do the same thing since Sinwaan had a hard time coming up I figured he could use any extra energy I could give him. He trotted along next to me quite nicely. Ruth stayed aboard and walked part of the way down so Ernie and I let the horses graze along the roadside and chatted while we waited for her to catch back up. We talked a lot about endurance and a little about Dean Hoalst also.
We passed a house and there was pavement again so we kept to the right on the shoulder. Apparently it was only paved a short stretch in front of the house and then we were back to gravel again. That house had some pretty aggressive Boxers and I was glad for the fence between us.
After that it seems we turned onto Meiners Road and it was another climb. Ernie jumped off again and started tailing Spot on up. I told Ruth I was going to try it. She asked me if my reins were long enough...well no, but with my extra popper it should work. Sinwaan was last in line here and I was hoping seeing the other horses leaving him would be enough to pull him along but that didn't work. I told him to trot and he took off but he didn't like me hanging onto his tail so he swung around fast in a big circle and I realized I needed more training before doing this, I didn't want to lose my horse out in the middle of nowhere. So I got up near his head and took a chunk of mane in one hand and started running alongside him. We jogged up about half of that hill and then I had to slow down. I was breathing hard. At the top Ernie was showing Ruth how well Spot knew voice commands, but I didn't know that so I asked for them to wait up so I could mount up. Ernie pointed Spot at the wheat and said "head down" and Spot happily munched. I put Sinwaan in the gutter between the road and the wheat field and hopped on easily with the foot or more of a boost. Then we stood around and let the horses eat for a couple minutes before resuming our ride.
The weather was perfect, we even got some light cloud cover. As I rode along I thought of my poor aunt Kim trying to condition two horses in Virginia with a heat index of 110. How lucky am I to have these glorious trails and comfortable weather!? (SORRY KIM!!)
As we trotted along, Ernie put Spot along the edge and told him "head down," and Spot, never breaking his stride, dropped his head and started grabbing at stray wheat strands. Amazing! There were a couple of times that Ernie said he was going to move Spot out and he would wait at the turn or come back for us, which was fine. I found riding with him to be quite educational and he is a kind and courteous rider.
Coming down another knoll we saw a pickup on the side of the road and some guys tinkering with an ATV. Getting closer I noticed a track in the road where they had peeled out and spread the gravel out in a half circle. They had all their vehicles turned off and a dirt bike as well as a 4-wheeler. Spot acted up a little going past them and once we were far enough away Ernie commented "I bet there is a warrant out for their arrest. Spot doesn't care about dirt bikes, but he knows bad people!"
Here we got back on Mill Creek Road and trotted along the shoulder a couple of miles. Sinwaan needs more work in this area, he kept wanting to pull to the left back onto the pavement. Ernie told me to lead so he wouldn't be pulling us along the whole ride. I was content to follow him but it is always good for horses to take turns leading. With Sinwaan pulling and Ernie in the rear pushing, Ruth reported that Topper did really well and seemed to like that arrangement the best. I kept the pace to a trot, probably 6 mph or so. Before I knew it I could sense we were almost back. Just when I thought we would see his house on the right, there was the turn (left again) for Blue Creek Road. Ah, another mile or so yet. Ernie got back in the lead when we crossed over the road to the opposite should in one tight spot.
On Blue Creek Road I saw a dead possum. I don't recall which road it was on but close to home Ernie took a right turn into an archery spot that led up to the creek. He said the horses could have a drink here. Sinwaan stood in the water but wasn't interested in drinking. None of them really were. We stood there about five minutes and then headed back out to the road.
Once back at the Schrader's place we untacked and Ernie offered to let us use his hose and magic wand to get the sweat and grime off the horses. He asked me if I wanted warm or cold water. Options!? I asked him what he thought and he replied the horses would probably appreciate the cool water, so cold it was. I think he was right, Sinwaan didn't jump or balk at all when I turned that cold water on him. He stood there and seemed to enjoy it (a first!)
Then Ernie asked us if we would like a wine cooler or soda or anything to drink. I said I was fine, I had my water still. Ruth said she was ok too. So then he asked if we would like a cold water. Well I couldn't turn that down so I thanked him and said that would be great. Off he went to the building in the center of their property. He came back with two gatorades and two wine coolers. Said there wasn't any water in the fridge. He asked if we were sure we didn't want a wine cooler? I asked him if he didn't like them and was trying to get rid of them. He said no, and opened one and drank it down. So then he went in the LQ part of his horse trailer to look for more drinks. He found a root beer (which sounded really good to Ruth) and an "ice-cold" water. Well the water was mostly ice but there was some water around the edges. (grin)
Then Ernie put ice boots on Spot. He asked me if I knew what they were. I guessed correctly and told him I had never used them. He said that normally he would not use them after an easy ride like the one we just did, but that since he just got done with the 100 last weekend, it was more of a precautionary measure. He said it wouldn't hurt any to put them on, and just might help. He said they were the best kind to have and could be used on people also.
Ernie had told me I could come out and ride sometime if I wanted to go along with him on one of his horses (so he could really move out, no doubt) and that sounded good to me. I think it will be helpful to ride a different horse before I head east for that ride and hop aboard Red Dog Dan. So Ernie pulled Marquis out and took him to the dressage arena and put him through his paces for me. He showed me the voice commands he knows (walk, trot, canter, turn, stand, stay, follow me) and even crawled under him to show how quiet he is. He is a beautiful bay Arab gelding with a blaze and some white feet. He said he was 11 and they had gelded him about 6 years because they just weren't set up for stallions. He said "think you could handle this horse?" and I said it would be pretty sad if I couldn't.
By now the sun is setting so we loaded up and headed home after many thanks to Ernie for sharing his place and trails with us. He invited us out to ride any time, even if he wasn't home and said he would like to show us the other trails sometime also. Said we need to come out and do the 25 mi one before winter ("although with you two that one would take all day" - said thoughtfully, it didn't feel degrading)
We were trying to figure out on the way home how long the ride had taken us. Since Ruth picked me up at 4 and we were heading home at 8, minus an hour of driving time, and minus an hour of tacking up/down and talking with Ernie we figured we were probably on the trail about 2-2 1/2 hours. Not bad for out of shape horses.
What a great day. Ruth said she had a blast also and we were glad we went. Thanks Ernie!! And thanks Ruth for the ride and the photos!!