Monday, March 3, 2008

My Trail Rides are Never Boring

Yesterday my sister Jill and I took our horses on a trail ride with my friend Natalie. Jill rode Topper, her off-the-track-Thoroughbred turned trusty amateur adult hunter and of course, I took Wally.

That's right. I said my sister rode her Thoroughbred hunter... although you'd hardly recognize him in his western saddle and bridle.

Natalie was aboard one of her foundation Quarter horses and served as our trail guide, since she'd been to this particular park before. Our destination? Bonelli Park, a rather rugged area in Los Angeles County that includes barely maintained fire roads, a number of water crossings, a pair of dark tunnels that skulked beneath underpasses, and a wooden bridge. Ultimately the trails traverse over several hilltops, around a lake, through a campground and alongside a municipal airport. Needless to say, it was a 3-hour adventure.

The trail head started at a riding stable and right off we had to ride through a dark, dank tunnel. I was lagging behind on Wally, trying to decide whether I wanted to wear my jacket or simply tether it to my western saddle. Meanwhile, Jill and Natalie entered the tunnel... only to exit backwards, thanks to meeting a group of mountain bikers coming toward them head-on inside the tunnel. Their two horses weren't too happy about being asked to go inside the tunnel again. Brave, macho Wally took the lead instead. I know he's never been through a tunnel. But he pumped himself up and stepped into the darkness. I gave him a big pat and we all headed up the trail, a trio of happy horsewomen.

So that I don't revisit the entire ride, I'll just summarize and say that our day included the following:

~ Encountering the entire spectrum of Mountain Biker Etiquette, ranging from one lone biker pleasantly calling out, "Hello, biker behind you," to another group led by an extreme pedaler who thought merely tinkling a little tin bell was enough warning before he rode his troop up Wally's rear end. (Thankfully Wally is officially Spook Proof about bicyclists).

~ Crossing muddy standing water that was up to our horses' chests; crossing clear running water that was slowly eroding the trail; and crossing trickling water that coursed through a tiny valley of sandstone and granite. Go ahead. Ask my sister how much fun it was to be astride Topper while he was trying to balance his little Thoroughbred feet on a boulder of wet sandstone. Ah yes, nothing like the unmistakable sound of aluminum shoes slooooooowly slipping down an abrasive surface!

~ Reaching an abrupt end to the trail at the back of the lake's dam, where the original trail that snaked high atop the earthen spillway had collapsed, requiring us to create our own detour. That was the moment that Natalie pulled her grulla gelding to a stop, pointed to some hikers in the distance and said, "We want to be over there." To whit I said, "But we are here, and I see no way to get there." Fast forward ahead and the three of us were starring in our own version of that long downhill scene in The Man From Snowy River.

~ Enjoying nature at its best: wildflowers in full bloom (wild mustard and lupine), clear March weather and an abundance of bunnies, squirrels and blue jays. Also enjoying nature? The naked man we rode up on. Yup, that's right: We were quietly riding through a verdant cluster of oak trees, the sound of our horses' hooves muffled by a carpet of golden leaves and acorns, when the trail took us alongside the river. The ever watchful Topper noticed the fellow first, and then we all did. And there he was, bathing in the river, him and his bar of soap."Well, that's something I've never seen before," Natalie said.

Our trail ride ended back at the riding stable. We hosed off our horses and let them have a long drink before we loaded them back up to head home. No sooner had Jill started up the truck than I turned to her and said, "So. At what point did you think you were going to die?"

We both started laughing so hard we had to sit in the parking lot for a minute. And guess what? We're already planning another ride. But at a different site. One without a lot of mountain bikers. And preferably without nude sunbathers.

Have a trail tale or any other comment to share? Just click on "comments" below!


Anonymous said...

Haaa! I started cracking up over the nekkid man.

I've been on trail rides quite a bit with my OTTB, Teddy (who's retired now.). We did a fundraise for our local therapeutic riding center once, and my barn raised over 2 thousand dollars. After all the money was raised, we all went on a trail ride.

I can't tell you how many time Teddy stared at a bush, leaped over water, and shied from logs.

And this is a hunter who has stared down terrifying jumps in the ring. =P I love horses who turn into a complete wussy on the trails (mine included!)

Nancy said...

I'm so envious! This winter we've had soooo much snow in New Hampshire - 110 inches so far, with 3 feet still on the ground - I fear I wont be able to trail ride until July!!! I'll have to live vicariously through your wonderful narrations!!!

Anonymous said...

I agree with you Nancy on living vicariously through Cindy. I've never been able to take Sas on a trail ride; however much I wanted to.

I loved the "Snowy River Hill" part, Cindy. I love it in the movie, but I'd never want to go down it, and I sympathize with anyone who has to.


Halsgal said...

That was so hilaroius! i'm literally LOLing right now! Sounds so eventful, the TB hunters, the nudity, the bikers, sounds like a wild ride.

Cindy Hale said...

Hey, it's my job to amuse and entertain! I'm going on another trail ride this Sunday, at a different park: a very family oriented, picnic basket kind of place. So stay tuned. Who knows what will happen this time...

Anonymous said...

I love the movie "the man from Snowy River"! Wow that must've been a steep hill!!

Anonymous said...

Trail rides are always fun and sometimes..."eventful" with the crew I ride with. Once while just beginning the Rails-to-Trails route in Cairo, WV we came to a T in the trail. To the right, about 20' was a tunnel and the the left, about 15' was a tall wooden bridge. My brave soul of a horse literally looked to his right, then his left and to his right again, then promptly turned left to bravely walk over this tall bridge. All the other horses gamely followed. It was hilarious! Then, about a mile down the trail we came upon another bridge. He refused to cross it! We concluded since he didn't have to choose between the scary, black hole or the bridge this time that I was going to have to dismount and lead him across. *sigh*
Living in WV we have our share of Snowy River trails too and they are a blast to slide down on short legged horses like my Mountain boy. Happy Riding!