Saturday, October 19, 2013

Back Away From the Jacket

N and I went for a trail ride today. We got to the barn at 11:30 and got tacked up. It was pretty cool out, about 50, and we had jackets, water and sandwiches for the ride. We had talked about wanting to ride the Mesa loop (didn't I say last time I wouldn't ever ride it again?) and agreed that if she rode the loop I would go to the dentist (where N works and a terrifying deal for me). The wind was blowing and both horses were a bit up, to say the least.

By the time we reached the top of the Mesa, the edge was gone from the horses, and they were going well. We did some trotting and a short canter (in which Ashke fought me and tried to run away again.) He can't seem to do a collected or controlled canter on the trail with Cali; he always wants to race. We need to work on it in the arena. About half way across the Mesa top I needed to stop and take off one of the saddle pads and attach it to my saddle bags. It was a mistake to try using both the long blanket and the saddle pad, so I took off the pad and left just the blanket under the saddle. As I was swinging off of Ashke, my jacket hung up on my water bottle. I slipped down and ripped half of my saddle bag off completely. So a five minute adjustment ended up taking me about 20 minutes to rig the half saddle bag back on. Then when I attached the saddle pad to the straps on the back of the saddle bags, the straps tore off. It took me some time to fix everything back onto the saddle so we wouldn't lose anything.

After all of that, we decided to eat lunch. Our horses helped. They both seem to like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. After lunch, we remounted and headed for the far side of the Mesa. When we hit the canyon with the trail down, I took off my jacket and tied the sleeves around my waist. Out of the wind it was pretty warm. We did pretty good on the trail down, with only a brief dismount through some rock. When I rode this trail last time, that part had been constructed of wood poles and dirt in steps, but the thousand year flood we had took out the trail and Parks and Rec filled in the holes with rocks. We mounted up and continued on.

N did a great job dealing with the height thing. She was calm and was having a great time. Both horses were having a great time and doing a super job with the trail. We had been pretty lucky with the number of bikers we had run into up until we got onto that trail. Then they seemed to come out of the bushes. And on the side of the mountain, if they are running downhill, they don't go slow. We were coming around a corner and there was a guy flying downhill. When he saw us he braked hard and then swerved to the side, hit a huge rock and fell forward, flipping his bike at us. Ashke about had a heart attack. The rider was kind of weird about falling, jumping up and cracking jokes. N was off Cali about the time the bike was hitting the ground, which was a great idea for her, since we didn't need two panicked horses.

Cali and N on the side of the mountain, overlooking Golden. The Mesa across from us is South Table Mountain.

Ashke loves being on the trail. He did great today. Even when it gets scarey he just follows me without any issue. Sometimes he bumps me with his nose or lips the back of my shirt. Such a great horse.

Such a great pic of Cali. This is the epitome of Cali's nature. I don't think either horse was tired at the end of our ride.

After our photo shoot, we continued on and met a pair of mountain bikers on a tandem mountain bike. Interesting, right? We continued around the side of the mountain, until the trail that leads down from cottonwood pass (part of North Table Mountain). At that point, I got back off and we were hand walking. N said, "We could ride this part. It's not so bad." I told her that I wanted to walk it because the trail was very narrow with poor visibility and we didn't want to risk running into a mountain biker going a thousand miles an hour.

Two minutes later I stepped over a rattlesnake.

You know, the biggest issue with snakes is that you don't see them 100 feet in advance. You see them as you are hand walking your horse over them. I stammered and stuttered back at N and she figured out what the hell I was trying to say. She stopped.

At that point, we were in quite a pickle. Cali and N were on one side of the snake. Ashke and I were on the other. And whatever snake magic had allowed us to walk over it in the first place was gone and the snake was both awake and a bit pissed off. I tried tossing a couple of rocks at it in the hope it would slither off downhill, but instead it moved uphill until it was hanging on the very lip of the hillside overlooking the trail.

That was worse, because we then had a pissed off, coiled up snake at the lip of the overhang, about shoulder height on a very narrow trail. And it wouldn't move. All it did was coil tighter and rattle.

And because nothing is true without pictures:

It was pretty good sized, with seven or eight rattles. The front of the photo is where the hillside drops straight down about three and a half feet to the trail. Snake was longer than that. Where is Steve Irwin when you need him? I considered channeling my inner crocodile hunter and grabbing the snake by the tail and flipping it down hill, but knowing my luck I would have flipped it at one of us instead. Throwing rocks wasn't working and the snake was refusing to move.

By the time the snake was curled and ready to take out anyone who went past, there was a line of bikers waiting behind N. She wasn't moving and the trial was so narrow they couldn't get past. She couldn't head back up the trail to the Mesa, in part because she couldn't turn around and in part because Ashke would have lost him marbles. I couldn't continue on for the same reason. Our horses wouldn't have left without each other and it would have gotten very dangerous if we had tried.

I know it sounds silly, but I really didn't want to hurt the snake, either. It was mostly scared and had just been sunning when we showed up. However, I also wasn't willing to risk either horse or ourselves to save it. I took off my jacket (fleece lined zip hoody from Costco - thank goodness I wasn't wearing my Halo sweatshirt or we might have still been there) and flipped it over the snake. (Ok, it wasn't that simple and did result in the snake striking at the jacket - I was tempted to take a picture but thought someone would kill me if I did - but I finally managed to manuever the jacket over the snake.) We all walked by without incident.

During all that time, neither of our horses freaked out because of the scent, sight or sound of the snake.

One of the mountain bikers asked if we were just going to leave the jacket there. I told him he was welcome to retrieve it if he so desired. We told everyone we saw not to pick the jacket up, since it was now the hidey hole for a decent sized rattlesnake. I really hope no one decided it needed to be carried to the trailhead.

From the moment of the snake until we finally reached the canal, N was not happy. Not. Even. A. Little. Bit. There were lots of bikes and the trail was steep and there were snakes. She was scared and a lot pissed off. I didn't take it personal. I just walked down the trail with Ashke, trying to be cognizant of how fast Cali was going so we didn't leave her behind, and remembered why I hated that damn trail.

I am so going to the dentist. I'm sure N will make the appointment on Tuesday and let me know when I am expected.

When we got to the canal I asked N if she wanted to mount up and she stomped down the canal trail and said NO!! I gave her a 100 feet to get on or I was getting on anyway (solidarity only goes so far - I knew it was still a couple of miles home). She stopped and mounted and we headed back. Our trip back was without incident.

We laughed about it afterwards.

Longest trail ride to date with both horses. They came back still pretty fresh and ready to run. Ashke felt great and sounded like he was sound (sometimes it's easier for me to listen than to watch). Neither of them was sweaty, except when we climbed the thousand feet up the mesa.

The snake was at about the mile six marker. Actual ride time was probably 3 and a half hours. Spent at least half an hour figuring out how to get past the snake.



  1. I probably would have peed my pants. That's a big, scary snake!

  2. Goodness grief. Rattlers are so melodramatic about everything. Great thinking with the jacket. Bummer to have to leave it!