Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Crossing the Grand Canyon

Today I went on my first ever honest to goodness trail ride! And what do you think we saw? The Grand Canyon. But, more about that later.

Today was such a beautiful day and dry for March. Uncle Dad has been working on trails since last summer. There was a logging crew in the woods last year and they left some trails, and a lot of tree tops, so he has been working in there cleaning up, cutting fire wood and grooming riding trails. He even drew us a map to help us find our way. Of course, I'm not real good at reading maps, so today he offered to give us a guided tour.

He met us down at the corner of the field by the gate to point the way. You remember the gate with it's scary muddy ruts. I did much better today. I had to think about it for a minute, and kind of give myself a pep talk, but once I've learned a lesson, I remember it and I even went through it face first! I was ready to go the same way towards the open pasture, but Brita turned me along the muddy trail towards the woods. Uuummm, OK. My sense of adventure and curiosity won out over my aversion to mud.

Any of you who are familiar with Saddlebreds will probably realise that we like to sound a little warning with snorty blows. This is so we don't accidentally sneak up on any monsters. It's better if the monsters know you're coming so they can get out of the way ahead of time. Uncle Dad called after us to turn right at the fence and meet him at the tree stand. The deeper I got into the woods, probably 25 feet or more, the scarier it got. I began to have second thoughts. Maybe this wasn't a good place for a horse to be. I recognise horse places. They are usually level with sand and have harrow tracks in them. This didn't look like that. It had mud and ruts and tree branches. Brita made an executive decision and pointed me towards dry firm ground. Things went OK for another 50 feet until I saw it. The Grand Canyon.

Now those of you who know me know that I don't like drop offs much. They're dangerous. Even what looks like dry firm ground can suddenly drop out from under you. Well this was the biggest drop off I'd seen yet. There was a river running at the bottom of it full of huge boulders the size of houses. I decided this might be a good time to renegotiate our route. I stopped and explained in horse language that I thought we'd better scrap this idea and detour right towards the gate. I pointed with my ear and engaged reverse. When that didn't work I even stomped my foot for emphasis. "I'm not kidding, this is a bad idea."

Brita tried to explain to me that this wasn't a canyon. This was a ravine. A baby ravine not even as old as she was. In fact, not anywhere near as big as the ravine over there which we'll get to next month. What?!? Apparently the real Grand Canyon is like a million years older and thousands of times deeper. But how was I supposed to know? I don't have anything to compare it to, and if we're expecting me to make judgement decisions, we're going to err on the side of caution.

So, she called over to Uncle Dad who was waiting at the tree stand and said I needed to be carried over. Yeah right. Carried. I was glad to see a friend though. I was beginning to think we were lost. She told him to stand at the bottom of the canyon so I could see how deep it was. Well that helped! All of a sudden things swam back into perspective and I realized those boulder the size of houses were really only pebbles. Thank God! We're not going to die!

Now I knew I wanted to try, but I was still a little scared. Uncle Dad started up the other side and I started to lose my perspective again. But I got right down at the bottom by what turned out to be a trickle of water, and I prepared to leap for the other side. My knees began to wobble, and my fanny started to waggle. "Watch your back" she says "He's coming over!" Mid flight I realised the other side was a lot closer than I thought, so I only ended up with a little hop. Uncle Dad said that was a lot of preparation for what turned out to be a "little fairy flight".

I took a deep breath and accepted my praise. How am I supposed to know how to do this? I've never even seen anyone do it, and I'm out here alone improvising. I followed him out of the woods which opened up into a lovely field which looked like it would be great for a romp. The ground is still a little soft. He pointed out two or three places trails went off so next time we could try some new places. Brita thought I needed to relax a bit and just stroll around that field. She laughed when we got back because she said I missed all the stuff that would scare normal horses like the web electric tape added to the fence line for visibility that was fluttering in the breeze. I was too busy rubber necking over the fabulous new view. I can't wait to explore more territory.

Uncle Dad suggested we go back an easy way but Brita thought I could handle that ravine, so back we went. When I got there, I started to look around for a better place to cross , or preferably go around. After all, Uncle Dad was off to our left on what looked like a short cut, so he had to come back down and walk across with me again. This time I made a much more impressive leap which surprised even me. Brita stuck pretty good up there. She's good at giving me all my rein and somehow staying with the saddle on her own. I had no idea she could ride like that. I'll have to make things more exciting for her.

We made it back out through the mud hopping over a fallen tree and had a nice gallop through the corn field so I could release some of my tension. The riding ring was freshly dragged so we went in there and did a little stretching and schooling, but I never realised before how boring that can be. I remember when I was just a kid going outside to the ring was new and exhilarating. Now my horizons are expanding and I can't wait to get out and see more of the world.

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