Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Riding in a Shooting Range

Shar and I needed to go riding.  Not just wanted, needed.  And needed a good trail ride after riding from home and in lessons the last few rides.  So we trailered to a new spot for us--not far from the Henderson Flats OHV area--a little further north and west from where we park to ride there.  We just drove till we found a dirt road off to the side that had decent trailer parking.  I unloaded the horses before Shar jockeyed the trailer around too much on the bumpy land, so that was a bit of an adventure, handling both horses myself while she stayed in the truck (no good parking brake on it), but it worked out fine.  The two mares get along fine.

So yeah, got the girls unloaded, Shar got parked while I stayed out of the way, and we tacked up.  We had seen what looked like a "cowboy" gate (barbed wire and a post, not an actual gate with a hinge, so you have to be on foot, with the horse well out of the way, to maneuver it) in the fence not far off, so our original plan was to ride through it and explore east of it.  So I mounted up while Shar stayed on foot, since she can mount from the ground better than I can.  However, when we got closer, we realized that while there were posts that strongly resembled a spot where you'd put a gate, they had steps going over the fence instead, and no way to get horses through.  So we decided to ride north along the fenceline instead, and see where that took us.  There was even a deer/cow trail there to follow somewhat.

The view from the trailer as we were tacking up

Same spot, panorama covering the western horizon

As we crested the hill, we saw a vehicle parked on another side road, and soon realized they were there for target shooting.  I hoped they either started shooting while we were still far enough away that it wouldn't make too loud of a bank and startle Arya, or that they wouldn't shoot at all while we were nearby.  Thankfully, it was the latter.  I'm not sure whether they saw us soon after we appeared (we were behind where they were aiming) or if they just coincidentally took a break in shooting, but they didn't shoot.  We went ahead and approached them to talk to them (if they were actively shooting, we just would've given them a wide berth without approaching them), and they were very nice.  It was a few adults and a couple kids.  The kids wanted to pet the horses, so we sat around for a bit to let them.  A dog popped out of the back of their pickup, and it had ear protection on (earmuff style)!  So cute, and safety-conscious, too!  So we communicated with them on which direction they were shooting, where we were heading, and they said they wouldn't start shooting until we were well out of range of it being super loud.  They were so nice, and I really appreciated their consideration for our flighty animals.  Then, as we were riding away, I heard one of the adults tell the kids that since they weren't going to be shooting for a bit, they were going to pick up litter.  Wow--really great folks!

Eventually we came to an L in the fence that sent us headed in the "wrong" direction, but with still plenty of room before the busy highway, so we went ahead and went west.  No biggie--we were just out exploring, and as long as we were with our horses, and safe from shooters and/or highway traffic, we were happy to be out exploring.  We came to a less-busy road (the one we'd driven in on ourselves), and considered riding along it, but decided to cross it and continue bush-whacking and finding sort-of trails to follow rather than deal with potential traffic (I'd seen a couple cattle trucks on that road going rather fast while we were tacking up).  We kept our eyes open for random holes (gopher holes to wells to possibly lava tubes--you never know around here!) and wire strewn about.

We were both kind of dealing with slightly problematic horses--Dalai wanted to go, go, go, and Arya was incredibly frustrated by walking through all this food and me not letting her eat.  She'd try to put her head down, I'd prevent it, and she'd get pissy and toss her head.  She'd give up for a minute, then try again, getting a little bit pissier each time, it seemed.  We were thoroughly bushwhacking at one point, but with pretty clear spaces between lots of bushes that were spaced apart, so I purposefully wound her all around the bushes in random patterns, making general progress following along behind Shar and Dalai, but doing LOTS of turns.  That did distract her from eating, so that was good.

Soon we saw that the fence was retreating away from where we were riding, plus there was a dirt road alongside it we could ride on.  I was happy to be able to relax on a loose rein without having to keep Arya from eating at every step, so we took that option.  We trotted for a bit, and Shar asked if I wanted to try a canter.  Now, if you've been reading this blog for long, you know I have huge fear/nervous nelly issues.  So I tried really hard to think about whether my gut reaction of "no" was justified or just me being scared.  But I think it was justified--it was a rutted dirt road, so I really REALLY didn't want her to trip (and didn't want to have to worry about tripping), so I opted for no.

We came to a fork in the road, and Shar told me to pick which way we went.  I chose left, which took us up a hill.  Good views from the top, though there was quite a bit of litter on the ground.

Cool rock formations to our right

And good views to the left

And a picture of Shar taking a picture, for good measure.  She was leaning back in order to get Dalai's ears in the shot 

We came to another junction, and took the option to the right.  It soon came to the crest of a hill that descended VERY steeply.  Shar actually remembered having been there before, and how steep it was to drive up.  So yeah, we took some pictures there, since you could see Haystack Reservoir in the distance, but didn't attempt to go down the hill.

You can see the water of Haystack Reservoir to the left of Shar's helmet, off in the distance.  Maybe.
We skirted around the top of the hill to another road that descended, which was less steep, but still steep enough.  We dismounted and led the horses down, which also made for an opportune time for a potty break before mounting back up.  At the bottom of the hill, we came to a nice smooth dirt road, which we suspected was the road that came in from the highway to Haystack Reservoir.  The road was nice and smooth, not rutted at all, so we were trotting along, and Dalai trots quite fast.  In, fact, I was nervous at first about going so fast, but then realized, "So what if we're going fast?  What's the worst that will happen?  Arya breaks into a canter?  Fine!  Or we just trot really fast?  What's wrong with that?  Actually, we're going pretty fast right now and this is actually a really nice rhythm, and the posting is practically effortless.  This is actually pretty nice."  Ha!  And at one point, I went ahead and asked for a little more speed and she DID canter.  For all of a stride or so, not long enough to even tell if she was being organized about it or discombobulated or what.  But yeah, she cantered and I didn't freak out.  Yay, us!  Shar was ahead of us, but could hear the footfalls and also congratulated me on cantering.  Woo!

It was mostly downhill, so we did a lot of walking, too.  Eventually we came to a cattle guard, and at first we worried there might not be a way around.  There actually was, but we decided to turn around anyway.  Maybe if it was hotter we would've felt like trying to make it to the reservoir to give the horses a drink, but it looked like we would've had to ride along roads without much shoulder space (though granted, also without any traffic currently), so we just called it and turned around.

Of course the way back was mostly uphill.  We trotted quite a bit.  At one point, I was out in front of Shar and Dalai, and trotting Arya.  She'd slow down more and more, and I'd urge her faster.  I was kind of curious if she'd canter.  She would not, at least not while we were in the lead.  She'd get a pretty fast trot going, then slow down as soon as I quit asking her to speed up.  Dalai and Shar cantered past us, though, and Dalai has a big problem with cross-firing (cantering with one lead in her front pair of legs, but the opposite lead with the back pair), but she was cantering properly.  Yay, Dalai!  Now, with Dalai in the lead, I asked for the canter again, and this time Arya cantered TWO whole strides before slowing back down.  That's fine.  She's young and I'm a scaredy cat, so teeny tiny baby steps are absolutely fine.  We walked and trotted our way back, this time veering off at a road that took us to the bottom of the steepest option from before, but we skirted the hill instead, and ended up at the junction where we'd chosen to go up the hill before.

This whole time, we were hearing gunshots coming from a couple different directions, but always pretty distant.  (We're pretty sure we heard when the family we talked to started up again, but were over the hill and far enough away it wasn't TOO loud.)  As we were walking along this stretch of road, we heard a fairly loud, fairly close gunshot.  Arya got startled, and my heartbeat and breathing rate increased, too, and I'm sure my posture reflected my startled-ness, too.  So she startled for a second, then checked in with me, and since I was startled too, she kind of did a secondary startle/spook.  Luckily in place or without breaking stride or whatever, and we both recovered.  Shar said Dalai didn't even flinch.

We continued back mostly retracing our steps, except instead of the bushwhacking leg that roughly followed the road, we actually rode on the shoulder.  Only a couple of trucks passed us, and they were fairly polite.  As we topped a bit of a grade, it started feeling like Arya was "wobbly."  Not like she'd actually fall over, but like that feeling you get at the end of a long hike, like your legs are jiggly?  We had done a bit of steep downhill, and most of the ride was either uphill or downhill instead of flat, but it wasn't SUPER intense.  I mentioned it to Shar, and she watched her move and didn't notice anything too obvious.  I was worried Shar would think I was just making stuff up, but she believed me.  :-)  At one point it did feel kind of like Arya was thinking of letting her legs buckle and dropping down to the ground (as she did once before while I was riding her!), but she didn't.  I thought of getting off and walking her, but that would have taken longer, but vowed to do so on the downhill part if she still seemed wobbly by then.  But she ended up feeling better, or I just got used to it or something, so I rode her all the way back to the non-gate just before the trailer.  The only other weird incident that happened the rest of the ride back was that she broke into a trot for no reason I could discern, but she slowed down again right away too.  Just unlike my lazy pony, especially given how tired she seemed.

But yeah, it was a nice ride.  When we got back, I made sure Arya drank well before turning her loose to eat her food, and while she was drinking, I did my best to get some pitch/sap out of her mane so it wouldn't become a giant dreadlock.  Then Shar and I soaked in her hot tub for a while (I stashed a swimsuit in her spare bathroom a long time ago for just such an event, or a last-minute decision to swim in her community pool, but hadn't used it until now), and I went home and crashed.  And became VERY sore for the next two days.  The fronts of my thighs, so either from posting (and we didn't trot THAT much more than I'm used to) or the short but steep downhill hike.  I suspect the latter.

Oh, and for mid-November, it was very warm, and not too windy or anything--VERY nice weather for a ride.  I was wearing a long-sleeved but not particularly warm shirt under my safety vest, and actually felt too warm a few times.  Yay for unseasonably awesome weather, as well as good friends and good horses.  :-)

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