Sun Pony Ranch

Diary of novice (clueless) ranch owners

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Trek Day 1

Monday 3/3


Well, the first day of the trek arrived!  We had to pack our saddle bags - because this first night we would not get our luggage and would need 1 night's equipment to go with us.

Here we paused for the group shot, just before heading down to tack up the horses.

Immediately out of the gate Lincoln was very slow - heading up the driveway we were some 8 horse lengths behind already. You'll notice a certain theme to the photos - from the back of the pack.

We're Off!
We pretty much headed out the front drive and down the valley and back up the other side. No switchbacks here - the roads just go down and up! Not quite as steep as the hill sections that we'd practiced on on Sunday in the play area, but steeper than about any road in the states that we encounter. And it was a long way down, too- at least 20-30 minutes to get to the bottom. Half of that was  practicing the technique we learned the day before in the workshop:  leaning hard on the pommel to stay back in the saddle without over-weighting our stirrups. Your feet would go numb if you leaned only on them all the time.

The river at the bottom was gorgeous right under the low bridge - deep but crystal blue clear. It was a very pretty little canyon.  Beyond the fact that Lincoln and I were now slowing down Samina and Kaylee at the back who were bringing the pack ponies, we were also causing a bit of a stir because said pack ponies were being rather onerous and more than the girls could handle. One horse and pony kept trying to bite and kick at each other, and the other can't stand to be separated from the other pack pony, so was constantly pushing ahead of his leader getting them tangled up. Then a relatively flat section came up where Lincoln and I were trotting to try and catch up with the group. We dont know if it was me trotting that caused it or not, but one of the girls horses ran away with her and the pony. She was already one-reining her when they pushed past us, but she managed to get stopped before rushing up on Linda's (Leenda) behind - the rather pissy mare in front of me. Actually it's quite likely that it was Linda who stopped the horses from passing her more so than the rider.

Speaking of, there are quite a few emotional horses in the group, unhappy to walk next to, or in front of others. Or unhappy to be ridden period. These certainly aren't nose to tail dude horses!  A tico (Costa Rican man) wrangler named Ariel has been riding with the group for 4 years, started out to ride Paloma. But after a fairly extended bucking show in the round pen before any of us had even mounted up, Liz declared she was going to have to ride her. This all was pretty surprising to me, and made for a rather tension filled first 30 minutes on trail.

And then... the front of the group disturbed a bee nest. By the time those of us at the end of the line got to that bend in the road, it was filled with giant black things flying around. I didn't immediately identify them as bees, but as Ariel started to motion that we shouldn't be dawdling around the curve it was obvious they were getting active. Not a swarm on attack as I would think it, but they were big and out in force. Noelle, Ariel's horse, got bit and started bucking. Lancelot got bit and rushed past us with the other pack pony, and we all were just trying to get far enough out from under the tree to avoid more stings. Dave said he got stung too - way towards the front of the line. His sting hurt for the rest of the day, but pain killers that night and the next day it was just tender. I have to wonder if I would react extremely to these stings like I do bees and wasps at home - I'm really quite glad to not have found out. 

Samina was already fighting enough with her (new) horse Lancelot and the pack pony, that she had already been talking about dismounting before the bee incident - so she got off intending to walk them aways. The group rearranged and Ariel took the one pony up mid string and we continued. Only now the other pack pony was unhappy being so far from Blackie that Kaylee's job became twice as difficult.

And this was when we began the climb out of the valley. Very steep up - the type you hang onto the mane while your horse clambers beneath you. The path we on was still a road, but I can't imagine vehicles using it much. We never saw one on this section. And it was long - never ending. We took two breaks on the way up, but that just meant stopping on a very steep road and stepping to the side so the horses could eat a bit.

Finally we got to the ridge and had a bit of flat to go - with great views of the valleys to both sides.

We stopped for lunch at a locals house. They have a house right by the road with a small clearing across where we could tie the horses up. They run a little convenience store in one corner of their house.

They had cleared aside all the furniture in the living/dining/kitchen room to set up a table to accommodate the 11 of us, and served a fantastic meal of rice, black beans, stew and coleslaw. Several of the slaws we've had here have used a fantastic lemon based dressing which I find much better than the mayo based ones we have in the states. So much time on the horses - in challenging riding conditions, and we were hungry!

After lunch the hostess treated us by singing us a couple songs.  Ariel joined her, and her adorable little boy held her song book.

 Before mounting up again I lengthened my stirrups. This helped the pain that had been building all morning in my knees so that was better. But the saddle still fundamentally doesn't agree with my backside, and sitting was extremely uncomfortable. It wasn't what I'd pictured for a trek.

The afternoon's ride was down the road a bit further - through neighborhoods and breathtaking vistas.

A particularly nice view point.  Our route took us right through that town and past that church.

Closeup of the church.

This one is worth clicking on to expand.

We finally arrived at our overnight place. Funny, but we kind of did just pull over and take our horses into the carport. Well, some of them as most wouldn't fit, so we spread out down the road.

There also wasn't many places to tie a horse, so we teamed up and one person holds the horses while the other untacked and took their equipment to hang over night, get the feed bags, etc.

I have to say Liz does have the organization down quite well. The horse feed had been delivered, so they just scooped it into the feedbags which we all carried and gave to the horses.

The overnight pasture was just down the street.  Though getting to it was not anything I've ever encountered before!

All that remains of the once car bridge are the two steel rails the width of a balance beam - while the horses take the long route through the bottom of the ditch.

HA - no I didn't attempt the walk.

Our accommodations here were bedrooms in a pair of houses - one which must only have been used to house guests because there were no signs of domicile in it. We are the only couple in the group, so the others pair up and we usually get the double bed. There was a shower, with an on-demand heater attached to the shower head, but after hearing several other people remark that they had gotten shocked trying to fiddle with it, I didn't bother. Liz came in and said -- oh, no, there won't be hot showers again until Friday when we reach the beach. BUT - don't worry, starting tomorrow we'll be low enough in elevation that it will be so hot you'll crave the cold shower. Heh, we'll see. I braved the cold one regardless.

My pain, oddly, was only while riding. Usually I dismount and have a lot of stiffness to work out of my hips to walk, Not the case here - I would get off and feel good almost right away. It would be nice to say our pre-trip conditioning did something for me.

But the description of the next day's ride literally scared the bezeebus out of me. Monday we rode somewhere between 6 and 10 miles (I heard a variety of estimates) with 2 big down hills and 1 big up hill, In about 5 hours. We left 10:30 ish (quite late). Had lunch 1:00 ish. Left again 2:30 ish, and pulled in no earlier than 4:30. So conservatively that was 4.5 hours riding but I think it was more - I wasn't watching the clock. (course my butt may have just been telling me surely it was longer!)

Tuesday's route was to be 20 miles, with bigger downhills (the first one being 1.5 hours of that steep downhill) and bigger uphills. And some how that is to be accomplished in 9 hours with lots of rest breaks so that there is about 6 hours riding time. Something doesn't compute there to me. Granted, Tuesday is the longest, hardest riding day - largely because you get into a wilderness and there is no opportunity to stop for the night until you get to the other side.

Well, beautiful or no, I could not conceive of a scenario where I would enjoy myself, so when I heard a rumor it would be possible to sit that day out, I jumped at the chance and Dave decided to join me.  With that squared away I had enough energy only to hit the hay while the others went up to the house for dinner.



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