Sunday, June 22, 2014

Best Trail So Far

Today we did the Chatfield Reservoir today. We left the trailer packed yesterday so it was fairly easy to pull the horses out and load them. Loading has become a complete non-issue for both horses. I turn Ashke toward the trailer and we walk in, then N leads Cali in and as long as I am out of sight, she walks right in. We pulled out and headed south.

As we pulled into the parking lot at Chatfield, the sky became somewhat grey. That was okay, though, because it cooled off the temp and made the ride that much better. And it gave us the opportunity to take a picture of Verga. (For Saiph).

 Verga is a weather event when rain starts to fall from the clouds, but it is so dry that the rain evaporates before it hits the ground.

Today it was raining and the humidity level was only 19%. Colorado can be very dry.

It sprinkled long enough and hard enough to coat the ground and dampen our clothes, but not hard enough or long enough to make anyone uncomfortable.

J was a trooper. I think she is more and more interested in learning to ride a horse. Our trails are getting more and more technical, although today was easier than yesterday.

We started South along the South Platte River, but there were a ton of mosquitos (add Cutter to the list of items we need in the trailer) and the path petered out, so we headed north along the res.

Most of the footing was excellent. We rode mostly on the edge of the path and it was dirt with scrub grass and minimal rocks.

We rode close enough to the reservoir that Ashke got a bit tense about the waves washing up on the shoreline. He was not interested in going closer. According to Terry, it used to be possible to ride and swim your horses in the res. I am planning on asking the next time we go, because that would be fun.

We got ourselves situated in an area between the marina and the campgrounds (where the horses aren't supposed to be, I guess) and although we could have turned around and backtracked, I really didn't want to. Instead we headed south and a bit east (I think) and found the Highline Canal.

The Highline Canal is one of my bucket list items. I rode my bike with T on back when he was two from a friend's house to the Reservoir to play on the beach. I've wanted to ride on it after I got Ashke. It is a two lane dirt path from Waterton Canyon to Sand Creek in Aurora, linear distance of 71 miles. (Some of it may be closed to horses, otherwise I would ride the length of it.) 

The footing was great and we did a lot of trot and canter along here. On one of our trot sets I suddenly halted and Cali just about crashed into us. There was a snake on the ground in front of us and I just couldn't get the word out to warn N fast enough (she yelled at me. I must get better at using my words.) It was a five foot or so long bull snake and I am pretty sure it had already been ran over and killed by a bicyclist. Bull snakes are non-venomous and are important to the ecosystem, so it was a sadness. We gave it a wide berth and then started down the canal again. 

On one of our canter sets, there was a dark blur to my right and Ashke spooked hard to the left. I heard N calling out whoa to Cali and brought Ashke to a halt, waiting to hear what had caused the spook. It was a silent but deadly German Shepard in the yard of one of the houses that backed onto the canal. It was the only real spook of the day. Although he did start something serious when a horse in a field (in a fly sheet) raised it's head and looked at us. I don't think he realized it was a horse.

We rode the canal with the intention of riding to Waterton Canyon and then following the Platte back to where we were parked. I was pretty sure from looking at both the map and the GPS on the EquiTrack map, that there was both park access and a trail from where we found ourselves and where we wanted to go. N was nervous. She is directionally challenged and I think the idea we might have to back track was making her uncomfortable. She wasn't looking at the map or the GPS, so she had to rely on J and I interpreting both. I wasn't worried, since I was pretty sure you could access the Highline canal from inside the park (from the websight) and J is pretty laid back when it comes to exploring with me. I still think we could have ridden the canal until Waterton and then taken another path back along the Platte, but that will need to be explored next time. We rode along a street for a bit and then found the access to the Reservoir exactly where I suspected it was going to be.

The grass was chest high. Cali was having the hardest time not eating. She had missed lunch, you know. 

N has discovered she loves to trail ride and that Cali is much more willing to work on her dressage stuff on the trail. We've all discovered that J is a Rockstar on her bike. I'm pretty sure I would have killed me if our positions were reversed. She is thinking more and more seriously about learning to ride.

You can barely make out J in the grass. There was a lot of sand and it was tough going for her. There was a lot of grass and it was tough going for Cali. 

For amber waves of grain

Ashke did not want to canter through the grain. It was wild oats and about knee tall on me (sitting on my horse). It was hard to see what was in the grain and Ashke kept getting surprised by small aloe and sage plants that forced him to stop and gaze at them. I let Cali and N go ahead, which is one of the things we need to work on when we are on the trail. Yesterday, that resulted in a fight. Today, I put Ashke behind J on her bike. He was concerned with Cali, but he knows the rules when following J. N put Cali into a canter and rode up one of the hills. When we maneuvered past J, I asked for a canter and once around the corner, let him gallop up the hill. It was a good compromise and a much better result than yesterday. Slowly but surely, we are getting there.

Er, I mean Poisers.

We had to cut cross country to get back to the trailer. J had to portal her bike a bit to get back to the road. 


 A year ago, our average speed was 2.75 mph. This ride it was 4.2 mph.

Today we did two more miles than yesterday with almost the exact same amount of riding time.

There is so much more to explore.

I am loving this app.

Based on my history, I could do a 25 mile ride in about six hours.



  1. Dressage on the trail is becoming one of my new favorite things. My vet does it with her horses - though more of a western aspect to it - and has inspired me in the past year to want to do it with my horses, too. When her boys start acting up, she has them collect and work on a lot of lateral exercises to refocus them. Something about having a place to go while they're doing this seems to give them more interest and motivation to perform correctly.

    Thanks for teaching the verga terminology. I'd witnessed that in Montana two years ago, but had no idea there was a certain term to match the phenomena!

  2. Thank you for the verga photo!! Fascinating. I'd been telling Charles about that after you and I had talked about it. I'll show him the photo tonight after work!

    And yes, dressage on the trail is fantastic. Whenever either of my two act up, they get to work on lateral movements and collection. It really does give them something else to put their energy into instead of just forward.

    Awesome progress with the cantering behind Cali, and what a great idea to get Ashke more calm about it by incorporating following J into the mix. J must have legs of steel to be able to bike those trails! All those muscles will make horseback riding a piece of cake when she finally does take the leap. ;)

  3. Your trail pictures always look so amazing and it looks/sounds like you guys are having so much fun!

  4. I love all of the pictures! You are so lucky to have J along to take them for you. :D I'm so jealous of your lack of humidity. Today it was in the nineties with seventy percent humidity and that's a cool day lol. I haven't been riding because I'm having problems tolerating the heat for some reason. I guess I need to start getting up earlier. Those verga photos are awesome!