Tuesday, June 16, 2009

South Dakota

We went on our first group trail ride of the summer, in the Black Hills of South Dakota. It was fun to see a lot of the same people from last year, beautiful scenery and some fun and challenging rides. We had our friend, Misha, with us to ride Cody, and we enjoyed having him along. Unfortunately, there was quite a bit of rain, and between the rain and the mud it produced, conditions were not so nice.

It was raining when we arrived on Wednesday afternoon, and the stalls we were given for the horses were deep with sloppy, black mud. The campground did the best they could to improve the muddy road by covering it with gravel on Thursday, and that helped tremendously, but the stalls remained muddy.

There was a break in the rain and we were able to ride with a small group on Thursday morning. I got a taste of Brego's need to stay near Strider and away from other horses. Other than that, he was my champ, tromping right through mud and puddles. It rained all that afternoon, and we stayed in the trailer and napped.

Friday morning was beautiful. We went for a morning ride with a small group again. At one point, Tim was descending a steep incline and Strider got his rear foot stuck under a rock and went down--he just kind of sat. Tim got up, and Strider remained seated until Tim asked him to get up calmly, which was nice--good thing he didn't freak out and struggle with Tim's foot in the stirrup. Strider is fine--no injury.

The ride officially began with an afternoon group ride. The weather remained clear and was nice--not too hot, not too cold. I experienced more of Brego's interaction with other horses, which would be my challenge for the duration. Whenever Tim went off to the side or ahead of the line on Strider, it wasn't long before Brego had to follow. At times he would break into a canter, just worried that he was being left behind, I suppose. I found that as long as we were single file, with Strider either in front or behind, we were fine, but getting bunched up in a group of horses was uncomfortable for him (and therefore, for me). Eventually I knew I would have a problem, and followed Tim as soon as he veered away from the group. It was funny that at times Brego would freak out and try to canter to catch up, even though Strider was only a short distance ahead. We weren't sure if Brego was trying to get to his alpha, Strider, or his other alpha, Tim. At any rate, we will need to work on this.

The other challenge with Brego was to keep him a safe distance from the horse in front of him in line. When we followed Strider, he kept getting so close that Strider kicked at him 3-4 times. That should have taught him, but didn't seem to do the trick. He did stay farther behind Strider some of the time, but without as much distance as I would have liked. With any horse in front, I had to keep trying to slow him down, constantly, and it was ineffective. It was the worst on Saturday on the way home, downhill. At times the hills were very steep, Brego had his momentum going and I could understand him running into the front horse, but we need to learn to avoid that. Tim was also having similar difficulty with Strider--constantly pulling him back from the horse in front, which was usually me.

Saturday's ride was beautiful, and we made it to the top of Custer Peak, at about 6800 feet. We climbed about 1500 feet in about 7-8 miles, then back down again. Most of the ride was cross-country with little or no trail. It only rained a little, but the ground was still quite soaked. There were a couple of boggy areas we had to get the horses through, and Brego's butt was quite muddy from the soggy stuff being kicked up (along with everyone else's horses). The people in the back of the line complained that the trail was so trashed by the time they got there, that on some of the steep downhills their horses were basically sitting in the muck and sliding down. I'm glad we stayed near the front. We had to do a lot of waiting for the back of the line to catch up, on both the uphill and downhill slopes. The view at the top was beautiful, and Tim got shots of several people, but we didn't manage to hand the camera to someone to take our picture. Tim did get one of me with Brego at the top. Misha did great on Cody, and was like an old pro by the end. Everyone enjoyed Misha and complemented him on doing so well. Of course, he was on Cody! Cody was pretty sore by the end of Saturday's ride, and Tim felt badly that we hadn't conditioned him enough prior to the trip.

The weekend was nice in some ways, challenging in others. It was nice to see everyone, but with the rain and cold, we didn't spend near as much time outside talking with them. It wasn't as much fun as last year or as I had anticipated for this year. It poured during the night and early Sunday morning. The weather forecast for Sunday was for severe afternoon thundershowers, we wanted to let Cody rest, and we saw no point in staying any longer in the rain and mud. We skipped the Sunday morning ride and left around noon. Many people had already left, some as early as 4-5 am.

On the drive home we saw a beautiful double rainbow in Wyoming that was full and bright, and stayed with us for several miles. We enjoyed cleaning up and doing chores around the house on Monday, and Misha left in the afternoon.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Frisky Brego

It was rainy today, and Brego was frisky, playing with Cody and Strider.  Tim stepped out to get some shots.  Here's a few: