Sunday, April 12, 2015

Smith Rock

Shar has some new (and likely temporary, until they sell their current house and buy one nearby) boarders at her house, and they wanted to go for a ride today, so all four of us went for a ride today.  Shar asked if we were up for the Smith Rock loop, warning us that there was a "sketchy" piece of trail, and we'd have to cross the river twice.  Arya is NOT good at crossing water, but I said as long as Holly and Graham didn't mind a potential river-crossing lesson taking up a bit of time, that I was game for it.  Apparently they were, too, so we loaded up all our respective horses into our respective trailers, and made our way to the trailhead.

We tacked up and set off, and had to walk through a parking lot then along the road behind more parked cars to get to the trail.  We were about halfway through that experience when I realized Arya was doing GREAT.  We saw all sorts of people with all sorts of equipment, had cars moving past us a couple times, and saw a couple dogs, and she did great through it all.  Barely even blinked.  What a good girl!

We got to the trail, and it turns out it's the same trail most people walk down to get to the river and a lot of the climbing.  It was interesting taking our horses down the paved (first with asphalt, then with concrete) trail, with a bunch of tourists, but again, the horses did absolutely great.

Shar in front on Flash, then Holly on Ace (the grey horse, who is 24!), then Graham on Emma in front of me and Arya

We looped around on the trail at the bottom left of the photo

After a bit of walking along the river, we came to a sign that said "horses ford here."  So apparently we had to cross the river.  This is NOT Arya's strong suit.  I followed the horses in front of me right up to the edge of the river, but then Arya put on the brakes and said "Uh Uh."  I tried a time or two to get her lined up and pointed into the river, but by that point the other horses were most of the way across, so Shar said to just wait and she'd come back for us.

She did, and she suggested the same thing I'd been thinking--I hop off, and she would pony Arya into the water using the lead rope (I normally leave it behind, because I can use a the reins to clip to the halter if/when necessary, but we'd purposefully brought the rope along on this ride for just this reason).  I hopped off, she snugged Arya up on a pretty short rope, and headed toward the water.  She actually went in with very little coaxing!  Yay, Arya!  Shar circled back around toward me.  With the side she had Arya on, and the side of the river I was on, I was gonna have to mount up on the "wrong" side, if I was going to mount up while she was still in the water.  I've only done it once since getting Arya, and that was with the mounting block.  Arya was a bit lower than me (in the water, me on the bank), but not that much.  Plus she was a step or two away from me.  I tried, but couldn't get my foot in the stirrup at first.  Shar scooched Arya's butt over toward me, and I was able to, but it was still scary mounting up that way, knowing I could easily end up in the drink.  But it went fine, and I got on and even got my feet in the stirrups while Shar waited patiently for me to get situated.

She kept Arya on a short leash, and we headed across the river.  It wasn't very deep, but clearly had large round slippery rocks, as the horses would slip and stumble a bit once in a while.  Rather exciting, but it went fine.  Toward the other side, Arya put her head down toward the water a time or two, but I was worried about her wanting to roll, so I didn't let her drink.  I probably should have, in hindsight...

After a successful water crossing by all four horses, they got a bit of a break to graze (well, Ace and Emma got a LONG break since they crossed so well the first time!), then we were off down the trail again.  The trail was relatively level and smooth as it followed along the river, and there were a little bit fewer people, so we trotted a bit.  There were some low-hanging branches we had to avoid, though!  A tall girl on a tall horse is VERY glad she wears a helmet!  There was one branch so low I had to bend over all the way against her neck, and it still brushed my shoulder blades!

All along the trail, we kept meeting people, some with backpacks, some with dogs, and except for one dog that really wanted to chase the fun horsies (who Arya gave some side-eye to), she did great!  She looked and was curious, but I assured her I saw the strange humans, and we kept on going.  There was even a guy who was carrying folded-up pads on his back, a BIG cube-shaped package.  Ace was really curious about that, but once he sniffed and deemed it safe to pass, the others, including Arya, just went right on up the trail, no problem.

Then the trail started climbing and climbing.  We went up and up and up.  We came to a narrow stretch of trail with steep hills going up one side and down the other.  Then the narrow trail got steep itself.  And rocky.  There was a spot where the trail split--the uphill side was rocky, but more level, and the downhill side was smooth and flat-ish for a bit, but ended with a steep rocky climb back up to reach the main trail.  Shar had warned us to follow her on the uphill section, but Arya didn't listen, and I steered her too late, and we took the downhill section.  Climbing back up onto the main trail, my legs were so far back in order to maintain a vertical posture overall, and her hind legs were working so hard to climb the rock, that my heel made contact with her thigh or hind knee (stifle) or something.  Luckily not hard--I doubt she even noticed.  She was SUCH a trooper on that stretch of trail, and when I was over, I asked Shar if that had been the scary part she warned us of, and she said it was.  It really wasn't THAT bad, but probably because of all the hype, plus the fact we'd done other sidehill trails so I'd had some practice.  If she took me on that early on, I would have been MUCH more scared, for sure!

Soon after the scary stretch, the trail dumped out onto a double-track dirt road.  It was still really steep, and the horses were huffing and puffing, but it was much safer.  :-)  We rested the horses occasionally so they could catch their breath, and maybe so the humans could take some photos, too.  :-)

The cars parked all in a line on the right side of the photo are a couple hundred feet above the lowest point of our ride--they're on a plateau above the river bed.

The zig-zag trail to the left of the photo is Misery Ridge, a popular (and aptly nmed) hike.  Not for horses.  :-)  But we came from the river below it, around to the right, then up the road at the right side of the photo.

Panorama--click to embiggen

Holly and Ace led the march up the hill--Ace just ATE up the hill!  Shar on Flash is next in this photo, then Graham and Emma.  I'm bringing up the rear again--did so most of the ride today.

When we got to the highest point on the trail (we weren't quite at the very peak of the hill we were on, but close enough!), we stopped to give the horses a nice long break.  I loosened the cinch for Arya, took my helmet off, and even took her bridle off so she could eat unimpeded by the bit.  We all rested for a bit and took some photos.

From there, we set off on foot for the long, steep-ish downhill section, to give the horses a break.

There's a thing endurance riders sometimes do called tailing.  It's especially helpful going uphill.  While on foot, you hold the rein/lead with one hand, get behind the horse (don't try this at home unless you know the horse is up for it!), and grab its tail.  Going uphill, the horse can help pull you a bit, making it easier for the human without taxing the horse nearly as much as riding up the same hill.  We were going downhill, but I saw Holly practicing this skill with Ace and decided to give it a try with Arya.  When I grabbed her tail, she clamped it down and "glared" at me with her ears.  She wasn't amused.  Then it's like she thought it over and told herself, "Wow, humans are weird.  But if that's what she wants to do, no skin off my nose, I suppose," and she relaxed.  I hung onto her tail and she "pulled" me downhill (which was actually kind of scary when the footing got roly poly!), and her tail was quite relaxed, swaying as I swayed.  Nice to know I could probably take advantage of her help on an uphill section if I needed to.

When the trail leveled out a little (it was still going downhill, just not as steep), we all adjusted our tack as necessary and mounted back up.  Soon after that, we reached a stretch of trail Shar and I have ridden on during our other long hilly rides.  It was just a brief stretch of known trail, though, and we turned off to head back into Smith Rock State Park.  We soon spied the river again--more gorgeous views, but I forgot to keep taking pictures!  There was some more sections of sidehill, but not anything we couldn't handle after the stuff we'd already ridden today (and in the past).  We wound around under Monkey Face, and started seeing a bunch of people again.  A few times, I offered to let people pet Arya, since we were the last horse and could catch up easily enough.  There were a few spots where people were high above us at the base of a cliff, and she would kind of tilt her head up to keep an eye on them, but she handled all of this so well.

Words can't describe how pretty this ride was, and I can't believe I didn't take more photos!  We got back around most of the way back to the trail back up to the cars, and saw another sign telling horses to ford the river.  We turned, went down a steep hill, and got to the bank.  We were still pretty high above the river, with only a steep little gully going down into the river.  Holly even asked if that was where we were supposed to go in.  Yup, apparently so.  It also looked a little narrower, and therefore deeper, here.  Shar headed in with Flash, and Arya started following pretty much on her own, so I took advantage, kind of cut Graham and Emma off a bit, and stuck Arya's nose to Flash like glue.  She hesitated, and was actually quivering at the thought of going in, but between being thirsty and following Flash, she went in without much ado.  She put both front feet in, paused, and plowed the rest of the way in.  Holly and Graham were close behind us, and all four horses went right across.  It WAS deeper than the other crossing, though--we all got our feet wet!  I was SO proud of Arya for going across without having to be ponied and without much hesitation, even!  She got to graze for a little bit as her reward.  Then we hit the trail again, got back up to the main trail, hiked back up the concrete and asphalt and onto the road, and posed for pictures in front of the sign before heading back to the trailer.

Happy much?  :-)  Well, the horses don't look too amused, but they're TIRED.

When we got back to Shar's, I took Arya over to the water trough, and she drank for quite a while, even after Flash left.  I took her over to where her fly mask was so I could put that on her, and she drank some more from that trough.  Then she went and found a nice patch of dust and dried poop to roll in, then drank some MORE.  Oops, guess I didn't let her drink enough when we were actually IN the water!  Flash rolled, too (though he'd already rolled earlier when Shar first let him go), then Goodwin rolled.  Then we saw Graham hosing Emma off, and Arya and Goodwin actually walked over toward the fence to watch.  That was pretty funny.  :-)  I've been meaning to see how Arya does with getting hosed off, but oh well.

I left, went home, had some Mexican food with Nathan for dinner, then painted the hoof boots sparkly purple.  This color:

No more horse riding the rest of the week.  I plan to exercise by "wogging" on Tuesday (though weather may make me change the day), and spend the rest of the days this week packing for our first ever endurance ride we'll actually be riding AT this weekend.  We'll arrive Friday night to get the horses vet checked and attend the ride meeting.  I plan to walk Arya around and then ride her around at camp to get used to the hubbub a bit, but no more than a mile or two.  Then Saturday is the big day.  Shar will leave an hour earlier than me to do the 25-mile Ride, then Arya and I will set off on the 10-mile ride.  Sounds like Graham and Emma may join us, plus there will be plenty of other people I "know" from Facebook and probably even from our mock endurance ride a few months ago.  Watch this space!

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