Category: trail riding

Have horse will travel – what have you done lately?

Hornets, blown out tires, random farmer pit crew-like help, is this trip ‘doomed?’  Reggie swims most of a river trip, alcohol laden friend with expansive ideas on the amount of time available in the day and really sore muscles. Memorable, oh yeah!

Hay snack before ride.
Cola has a hay snack before being tacked up for the ride.

There was a gigantic paper wasp nest in the tack-room of the horse trailer under a patriotic red/white and blue saddle blanket. It took several dark flash-lit nights of Raid spraying expeditions – light, hold breath, spray-ay-ay-ay, then visit in the morning light to still see flying stingers, try again to quell the poor sleeping wasps living there. But one nest gone and thinking I’m home free and really ready for travel; not so fast pilgrim, another medium-sized one tucked in between the ceiling supports. Can’t load, fly spray, vaccination, stinger hating Cola into wasp hell, so I sprayed it down, swept it out and moved the trailer hoping that the ones out in the world wouldn’t find us again.

Tire check – 60 psi, 58 psi, 55 psi and 4 psi – what? One of the four tires on the old Featherlite horse trailer was reading less than 5 psi, not good on a 65 psi tire. Air it up and spray with Windex (the Greek, and maybe Italian answer to all things) showed a fizzling sidewall leak, ugh, not repairable. So with a call in to the Schierl tire place in town and a promise they would mount a new tire when I got there, off we went. Morgan horse loaded, Jack Russell terrier crated, sky is blue, air is warm, and myself packed and kind of ready to go on a 3-day riding, boating and partying weekend (OK so I don’t party that much, I don’t drink that much, haven’t been riding much this summer, I’m a married woman, but this is a single, partying girlfriend from teenage days which means reverting to old behaviors, kind of, and I’ve missed out on horse camping weekends this summer – it’s time and I’m committed).

The tire place was quick and with $100 less in my small brown leather purse we headed south with one new tire and three older ones.  I watch in my mirror for any tire weirdness, wobble, loss of rubber; which I don’t want to see, but did see 40 minutes, only 30 miles later. I just missed being able to turn off on a cross roads on hwy 29. There was heavy, speeding traffic as I got out to look at the hissing, disassembling tire. I’ve got about 75 feet to back up the trailer to get back to the crossroads, a little scary with the zoom of semis and cars whizzing past us. I don’t know, is this maneuver even legal?

Did it, only scrunching into one of those reflector posts slightly (the post was undamaged, my trailer fender and little fender light was crunched – oh well, I’ll need to replace the light and I pulled the bent edge of the fender back into place). Drive forward and back the trailer around that seemingly useless metal post and up into the intersection – yah, did it. Then across the 4-lane highway to a pretty white-painted farm.

ReggieAugsept2013 004
Reggie in his blue superdog cape.

Nice, friendly woman at the farm (if I was a hobo in the old days I’d put up a smiling cat sign by her drive) she used to have horses and was wistful about not having any now. She called her husband, he was at another farm up the road. He came in his green John Deer gator and had everything he needed except Raid – and I had that ready. He was fast, obviously had changed a lot of tires. I was impressed. Reggie and I played fetch, the nice farm-wife wished her daughter was there to see the cute terrier play, the pit-crew-farmer came to a stop when behind the spare there was wasps – Raid, sorry little striped stingers. Thank you. All I can say is thank you, that was sooo nice.

So now I don’t have a spare, two new tires on and two older ones. Keep going? Yeah sure, a little adversity – I’m still committed, but now I was running up against a time crunch for the first trail ride planned. Phaugh!, they’re always late, I’ll be able to make it.

And it was true, they were not even done unloading their horses when I drove in. I drive for three hours with delays, multiple emergency kind of delays and they drive for 15 minutes and we get there at the same time. I figured I had time to let Reggie do some fetching and Cola do some hay eating before I needed to saddle up, and it was true I had entered the time warp where everything runs slower and together, but many things have to be skipped.

We set off on our trail ride, along hwy 21. Eeoww, along hwy 21 there was some highway trash, a dead deer, a dead dog – one of the women riders thought she’d seen an advertisement looking for a lost husky – bummer, maybe we’d found him. OK, so this is a different kind of trail ride than I’m used to, so deal. Cola got real calm about semis swooshing by, that’s a good thing maybe.

We get to our destination, a person’s house, a very nice house. I turned Cola loose with the other horses we rode with and there was some horse posturing, horse exclamations timed with front leg fake strikes, but everything was good – the mares thought he was hot stuff. He thought he was hot stuff. It worked for them.

We had salty snacks (I mostly avoid salt) and alcohol (I don’t drink if I’m riding), the discussion swirled around alcohol induced verbal and judgement errors – many, and dismay over gay male beauty being a waste (I didn’t understand that reasoning although I’ve heard it before from other women).  The little dogs of the household milled about and barked often (Reggie would have fit in if he was there) – I had iced water, lots of it, it got dark, I did say dark – then we trail rode back along hwy 21 against the headlights.

Hmmm, good for one time and we didn’t get smashed on the road and turned into large road-kill. Cola was rather upset (just this side of a horse melt-down, I guess his day was too emergency filled) about two-thirds of the way back, we were walking too slowly, so I let him up front to stride out (burn up some stress) – still at a walk, and he was happy again and I breathed a sigh of relief. It’s always good to skip the I can’t see anything, road-side equine bolt.

Then it was time to figure out where Cola would stay for the night. My girlfriend thought he could stay in one of her pastures. I was thinking his trailer, as it was dark and I didn’t want to put him in a new pasture when he didn’t know where the fencing was with the chance of him going through it and injuring himself and needing to be found and vetted. We went to her place, she had wire fencing, no white tape, perfect for putting a real good injury on a horse that didn’t know where the fence was when other horses who lived there started chasing him. I said nope, he could just stay in the trailer. She said there was a round pen available which gave him more room and was still safe at a friend’s place, the same one we had ridden out of. It was only after I had him set and was ready to leave that I found out that barn had break-ins. Well Cola isn’t all that friendly to strangers and I hadn’t left a halter on him so I thought he’d be safe, please.

Eleven p.m. and settling in at my friend’s house, with Reggie walked, run, barely exercised – this is a Jack Russell, Benedryl’d -he’s got allergies this month, pottied and then crated next to the bed … tomorrow’s schedule included a morning trail ride, afternoon river kayak trip and evening dress-up dinner. Could we do it? My thought was, it was unlikely. Sleep, hmm, the bed was comfortable, but no I didn’t sleep much – first night in a new place, oh well and Reggie needed some extra night-time walks.

What do you eat at a girlfriend’s house where there is only chips, salsa, candy and beer. She obviously eats out. No fruit, no other vegetables, no breakfast stuff, but there was toast and butter and jelly and water. So next time I will bring my own food. I stopped at Kwik Trip for coffee and bananas, it was already after 9 a.m. The packed day was starting late.

I petitioned for horse schooling instead of trying to trail ride (because trail riding on the Bannerman trail out of Redgranite would take at least 3 hours and we were supposed to be north of Wautoma with kayaks at 1 p.m. – before which I needed to haul Cola back to the place with the round pen and leave the horse trailer there, the kayaks needed to be loaded and we would need to change clothes and hopefully have some lunch).

Schooling we did and my friend got focused on teaching her horse to load in her trailer and load in her trailer and load in her trailer with my help and my help…. It took pretty long. My efforts to prompt an early ending on a good note were ignored. I abandoned the trailering project and went to ride circles and squares with gait changes and starts and stops and lateral movements, because I needed to school Cola after that rather crazy hwy 21 trail ride.

Time to get going, time to get going – it’s 12:30 we’ve got to get going, ah, we can catch up to the other kayakers as they sit on sand bars and drink. Lunch? ah, nope. Oh, OK, I forgot, foodless time warp.

The Mequon River is a brown trout stream, cold, medium fast, clean, clear, sandy bottomed and Reggie wanted to swim it, not ride in the kayak. So he swam and kept up with the kayak and I paced myself next to him so if he got in trouble I could help him out of it. The banks weren’t always easy to get up on for a short dog, I swooped him up to give him a hand and warm him up as he shivered – cold water, warm sun, lovely day with a wet, anaerobic-stinky muddy, bouncy and determined to get back in the water 18 pound, well muscled dog on my lap. I lassoed him in the lime green Emotion kayak with his leash wrapped around my pale mud gritty leg, put a red, soggy PFD under him and clenched him between my dog-toenail-scratched knees until he quit shivering and relaxed. He still ended up swimming for a couple of hours, he was the entertainment and I was his keeper. It kept me occupied and grinning ‘cuz, you guessed, I wasn’t drinking or smoking. Smoking while kayaking, who knew? I guess it goes with drinking on sandbars.

The put in and take out were only about 2-miles of roadway apart, but about 4 hours of river-time. Did you say 5:30 p.m. dinner reservation? We put the boats in at 1:30 ish. Relax, time is flexible and it wasn’t really my deadline.

It was beautiful and everybody else was drinking (this is Wisconsin, the home of beer, and mixed drinks in plastic jugs) and there was no way we’d be done in time to do the dinner at the restaurant at 5:30. And I was starving, but who cares, it was beautiful and fun and beautiful.

We got to the take-out spot by the bridge at after 5:30 – surprise, the time warp doesn’t really extend to all areas. The sun was warm, the mud at the edge was particularly black and slimy and looked ever-so contrasty against Reggie’s otherwise white coat. Need to wash the dog off thoroughly, but not in this spot of muck.

It took a surprisingly long time for the rest of the party to catch up, and then to figure out how to get the put-in point vehicles. I was quietly amused, I had gone to the other side of the bridge where the bank was rocky and the bottom sandy to wash Reggie up, come back to the bridge top and realized he still had a muck area that  needed to be washed off, down to the river again. That didn’t matter, the others weren’t moving. They still didn’t seem to know who was riding with whom to go get their cars.

Finally people got into cars and seemed to know where they were going 20 non-time warp minutes later. But what about the dinner reservations? and the people expecting us? Too bad, it wasn’t happening. The decision, just go the quarter-mile into Dakota and eat at the bar there. Voila, problem solved, kinda. So how much did they drink on the river? A lot.

The bar we went to is a Wisconsin old-time bar with fish on Friday. It used to have a dance hall upstairs and downstairs it had been a store and a bar. The upstairs dance hall was closed after one of the drunken patrons fell down the stairs to his death. It was deemed the second floor’s dance hall’s fault.

One of my high school friends who was on the river trip bought several plates of fish, yeah bar food! I had a couple of rum and cokes on an empty stomach, whoa, needed food, any food, even deep-fried food. I checked on Reggie several times – untethered in a spanking new truck, but he wasn’t excavating anything. Reggie spent about an hour looking out the window of the shiny white pickup at the bar doorway, then he sacked out, since we were still inside, and slept. Slept deeply as only a tired Jack Russell who has conquered a river can.

My inebriated girl friend’s petitioning of the 6’8″ manager (I’m guessing on the height, but he was a skyscraper) to let him come into the bar was not successful, the dog needed the sleep anyway. The  river trippers were still amazed at his antics in the river, swimming, stick searching, root pulling. At the start, and many times after that during the trip people would tell me, “He’s stuck, he’s stuck!” with serious concern in their voices and I would have to tell them that he was hanging on – yes, I know his head is underwater, he’s bubbling. He actually did a flip when a root he was pulling on let loose suddenly – I missed it, but the story was told several times in amazement … that’s what he did in the sandbar pauses, root pulling and searching for stuff to pull up from the bottom. Very busy little guy – good fodder for bar talk.

It got stupid – as sitting in a bar will. There were negotiations on the price of bar T-shirts and a historic bar button-down shirt, minor food throwing – where in a piece of buttered rye bread was stuck to the recently painted white wall and unwanted fish got transferred to someone elses plate, threats of paddling with a wooden paddle that had hearts cut into it and long deliberations on what the inscription on it should be, and the historic shirt became unflattering head-gear (move over lampshade).

When I realized early on that I was buzzed, I stopped drinking, but the rest of the river crew didn’t and the eve went on. Talking to drunk people, they don’t remember anything, it’s repetition and laughs. I was obviously going to be the designated driver.

“Why do you have the keys to my truck?” was the question.

“Cuz it’s best that I drive.”

“OK, I still don’t know why, but that’s OK”

It was a very new white truck with some cool improvements – I’m still driving a ’96 4Runner, so I’m not up to date. I drove and listened to, not my favorite, Barry Manilow for the sixth cycle of the CD and sang along – why not? Reggie slept on.

I drove to the place where Cola was in the round pen to add hay and water, my friend just kept texting, turning the overhead light on so it was difficult to see and making apologetic calls about missing the planned dinner (it would have been better if she didn’t, but oh well). And wondering why we were taking the long route home – the horse, remember my horse?

Night 2, I slept well after a little while. Had to take a shower to get the mud and some pine sap off my feet. My girl friend was asleep immediately, no surprise there. Reggie was ready to continue to sack out also, good dog.

Woke up on another gorgeous day, heavy dew on the grass, crows making noise, but I had bananas and some yogurt from Quik Trip. Yeah, food for breakfast! But sore, scratched and bruised, sure I want to go riding for several hours this morning, just let me put on some padded pants (hey I’ve got them and they work, thank goodness). No hangover on my head, so sorry about yours. Ha ha, OK, not so sorry.

Bannerman trail is flat wide, grassy, lined with trees, lined with poison ivy in places – so take care on potty breaks, a nice trail. We have to ride through Redgranite, past the quarry, to get on it and Redgranite has a rule that horseback riders must wear reflective gear – got it.  A couple of hours of riding was enough, my friend declared that her horse was too stupid to learn more stuff. OK. Day 3, last day, did I say sore muscles, time to make the long uneventful drive back home. Uneventful.

Do you do crazy trips? Have old friends taken a different life path that you can visit sometimes?

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Beyond – photo challenge

Oct1colors &Timm'sHill,2011 015This is Timm’s Hill trail, open to horseback and anything else non-motorized. If you keep going you arrive at Timm’s Hill park and the highest point in Wisconsin. This sounds a bit more awesome than it is, but it’s a great trail.

Horse Camping in Chequamegon National Forest

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Camping with horses is more detailed than just going for a trail ride; it’s more detailed than going camping; it’s more work, dirtier, smellier and it’s more fun. Last year was the first year I ever went horse camping. I took Cham (pronounced Sham) the first time because he is my oldest, most experienced horse and I thought that he would like it and he mostly does. He got to go again this last weekend, September 14-16. Partly because it was his turn and partly because his boots fit the best (Chequamegon’s trails are very rocky) and I didn’t know if there would be mud, there wasn’t. The run-off stream beds were even totally dry, that surprised me as usually there is quite a bit of water in the low areas on this trail ride.

We had all the things we needed: hay, water, tack, electric fencing, batteries and my air mattress, sleeping bag, extra blankets, food, water and riding gear. When I first went camping with this group last year I brought my tent (got really rained on the first night) and significantly more camping gear, but others have much bigger rigs so I quit hauling things like a camp stove and pots/pans and changed to sleeping in my SUV (it’s easier and I have screens and magnets for hot, buggy nights). This weekend the weather was amazing, some of the trees were turning brilliant, but a lot of the leaves were falling off because of the drought. There were basically no bugs-well I did have one tick on me (which makes me itchy just thinking about) and yellow jackets were buzzing people’s drinks around the campfire. It was cold enough at night that all the extra things like jackets and towels were piled on top of me in my sleeping bag for any extra warmth they would provide.

This campground in the Chequamegon is off of Sawyer road and Forest Road 555. It is unimproved – no water, no power, no toilet. So the club rents a porta-pottie which is much better than the alternative. We each haul in our water for ourselves and our horses. Members also mow the center of the open area to help reduce insect life…ticks and mosquitoes and toxic botany…poison ivy and have a substantial stack of firewood ready and waiting. Usually the club members have three to four ride weekends out of this campsite per year.

Horse camping from base camp goes like this: get to camp Friday night (some go find a fish fry at a local bar-Wisconsin tradition) and sit around the campfire talking, drinking wine or beer, playing guitar after you’ve set up your site and your horse enclosure. Saturday morning (some people are very early and somewhat noisy risers who get the campfire re-started) breakfast with the group by donating eggs or bacon or sausage or hash browns and group cooking it (I like oatmeal, fruit and nuts so I bring my own stash-I have extra, but so far no-one has wanted any, I still bring bacon to donate) and coffee (I like hot chocolate), clean up, and get ready to ride by 10 a.m. Ride for 3-4 hours mostly at a walk on a looping, trees down, hilly, sometimes very narrow or fairly steep trail, get back to camp, settle your horse and eat a late lunch of your own making, go out for a second short ride later and prepare for chili dump (you and everyone else brings something for chili supper and it gets dumped into a large stew pot and heated). After supper and dessert (several people usually bring some sweet treats to share) comes drinking more wine or beer, singing and story telling around the campfire. The night music includes hounds (hounds are early morning music too because of bear hunters), coyotes, owls and skittering rodent type sounds. Then into your sleeping quarters when you’re done watching the fire and the stars. Sunday morning repeat, although we had blueberry pancakes and maple syrup (thanks to Lauri), yum. The trail ride on Sunday is usually shorter and not everyone stays after and eats lunch. But everyone cleans up their area, packs up and heads home.

Secrets to being able to ride that long include: having a good saddle, maybe a fleece saddle pad, riding pants with less inseam bulk, using Desitin or other nether parts unguent, and having time in the saddle otherwise. Also taking a break and walking on your own feet can help. For your horse: being fit, good fit saddle, clean pad, clean horse, boots or shoes and if there’s a rub change tack or add lubricant.

The age of the riders is quite a spread, from 5-years-old to in the 70s, this time there were no kids and the oldest rider was 66, but it still is a group with different ages all together.  There were eight to 10 riders this weekend, some people just drop in instead of camping, often there are up to 20 riders, but then we tend to go in groups instead of all together. And there were no ‘rodeos’ – everyone’s horses was well behaved. Ah well no real adventure, horror stories to tell this time, no bears in camp or midnight searches for escaped horses. Maybe next time.

Cham (sham), saddled in his dressage saddle because the other saddle caused a rub.

Sting, Sting, Sting! Hop horsey hop!

Image The sound of in-your-ear too loud buzzing, the prickly anxiety when a bee, wasp or hornet comes too close, or worse yet is interested or irritated and persistent. Attracted by bright colors, movement, moisture, sweets and meats hornets and wasps can get your attention just by being there. They get irritable in droughts, heat, and at the end of summer when their lives are coming to an end (wasps and hornets, except for the queens, do not live through the winter). Wasps and hornets can sting and sting, not like honey bees  forfeiting life after one attack.

It’s the end of summer, a drought filled summer that was very hot. I made a goal, at the beginning of summer to avoid getting stung this season. It wasn’t a very strong goal, I’m not allergic. It just seemed that I never get through a summer without getting stung. Well, I’ve failed at that goal. Early on in June on the beach, I stepped on some kind of wasp with quite a vigorous sting. Very memorable and extra painful as I had to walk on the spot with each stride, but that’s not the end.

Last weekend prior to horse camping I found a small hornet’s nest in the trailer’s tack area, I knocked it down and killed the queen. I loaded Scout into the trailer and then saw more hornets in there with him. He was vigorously unhappy, I got stung by a fly-by hornet, which wasn’t too painful. Maybe less venom is injected that way. I got in the truck and drove off pulling the trailer with the idea of blowing the remaining ones out, or having them just bail out. I don’t really know which because I really don’t understand them. After about a mile I stopped to check, no hornets and Scout seemed unworried. When we got to the campsite I didn’t see any spots on him that were swollen, but he’s a horse and doesn’t tell me everything.

The next day started sunny, hot with a breeze. Scout and I were at the tail end of the group following the cart pulled by a pair of Belgian horses. He needed practice seeing a cart (it’s a horse thing). We were on a grassy trail next to some 9-foot-tall corn on one side and a young woodland forest on the other. He got stung on the belly about 30 minutes into the 3 hour ride. He kicked out and did some wild dancing and tail swishing but settled into animated trotting, then walking after only a few minutes. The ride through the woodland was shady, breezy and uneventful. The cart had to take a different route as we went down into the creek bed and walked in rock strewn water from inches to 3 feet deep. Scout seemed pleased with the water walking.

About an 1hour and half into the ride on another grassy roadway and after crossing a ditch Scout exploded into some vigorous bucks. Another rider felt that she would have been on the ground if her horse did that. I thought he may have just been still peevish about the sting and also another horse had approached from the rear rather fast and close. However, only a few strides further and we were hopping and kicking at ground bees, so maybe the original explosion was more venom being injected.

I moved him in a large circle and stopped him so I could get off quickly, then moved him off further as he resumed hopping, kicking and swishing. Once we were far enough I sprayed him down with fly spray, which I don’t think helps against bees or hornets as they aren’t landing for a meal. Scout is of the opinion that fly spray is a good idea, he knows it stops biting flies and he relaxed after I sprayed.

Feeling like we had been unlucky enough and not wanting to ride more bucks, I moved up in the horses, closer to the front where we’d be less likely to be the victim of jostled yellow jackets. And we didn’t get attacked any more, a different horse did though, but with less reaction…she was 22 years old and tired from the long trail ride. This was good since it was an 8-year-old girl riding her.

We finished the ride and I put unguent on Scout’s welts on his belly, his groin area he didn’t want me to touch (this is unusual since he usually likes being scratched) there were lots of bumps there. The next day dawned overcast, cooler and it had rained overnight. We had a great ride, no stings.

Most people who ride have stories of being thrown or seeing someone else thrown by a horse getting stung by hornets or wasps (they are often nesting low). The main thing when riding a horse that starts bucking is to believe you can ride it out and stay back behind vertical, not forward. Push yourself back, I used a quick push against the crest of his neck to get myself back into place (if its not quick it’s too late). If you think you’re going off, you are. I surely don’t want to be on the ground with a bunch of angry wasps. Move your horse out of the area, have him taught to stand still for dismounting, but dismount quickly and then move on further. And if you really want to avoid wasps, ride in cooler, wetter weather and towards the front of the group where you’ll be irritating the swarm but not getting the consequences.

Maybe next year I can make it through without getting stung. Scout hopes so.