J rode her bike. This is my way to encouraging J to get a horse. :)
For the first time in ever, there were no cars parked in the trailer parking spots at the trailhead. I'm thinking Boulder County is ticketing cars parked in the trailer parking area. We saddled up, booted up and started down the trail. Ashke did a canter piaffe for the first quarter mile at the speed of Cali's walk.
We rode down Dowdy Draw, which looks steeper on horseback than it appears in the photo. Ashke would have blazed down this trail on a loose rein, except that he walks so much faster than Cali, he would have dusted her. Cali was getting anxious when we got to far ahead and so I asked Ashke to slow down.
I love my hydration pak. It's an Osprey, Raptor 14, and carries 100 ounces. I have it worked out so I drink almost all of the water I carry by the end of our ride. I turn it upside down before we start and suck all of the air out of the bag, which makes it not slosh. Or bounce. And the bag straps tightly to my back without rubbing. I carry my phone in it (although I have discovered I can not check the Equitrack app without it crashing) and clip my camera (Pentax shock-proof, water-proof, dust-proof and drop-proof) to one of the loops on the pak. N has tried four different hydration paks and hates them all. The water and the weight and the movement throw off her balance. Someone needs to come up with a hydration pak that fits in a saddle bag, so the horse can carry the weight, with a tube and nipple that reach the rider.
It was definitely an ear's forward ride. The drop off to the right of the trail was pretty steep.
Not too unhappy going downhill.
You can see how much faster Ashke walks than Cali. He is pretty sure footed, too. Cali, either because of her age or her breed, is a little less sure footed, which did not help with N's confidence on a trail that scares her pretty good.
Don't you want to come ride with me?
Ashke is getting very confident at being ridden with one hand, especially on the trail.
The draw has a long downhill with one switchback. It comes out of the trees, then curves back the way it came. The brush along the side of the trail is small scrub with a fairly significant drop. This was where N became very nervous and worried and is the primary reason I don't think she'll ride this trail again. She is more scared by a drop on her left side, than a drop to her right.
This is the point at which the trail switchbacks and heads down toward the valley.
Most of the trail is single-track and there are a lot of rocks. Between the footing and the hydration pak N was carrying, we walked a lot of the trail.
Poor J. We started at the top of the draw and rode down for a long time. Then we had to ride back up.
Not bad looking butts, eh?
Ears forward and tail up
My favorite photo of the day.
There were several bridges we crossed - the first one without rails or edges - just a flat walkway over a stone culvert. No problemo.
The Community Ditch starts just at the brown building in the background. The underpass they are building along Community Ditch isn't done yet, so we had to take the long way.
The parking lot along SH 170 where you can park to ride in Eldorado Springs or on the trails toward Chautauqua Park in Boulder.
We rode along the verge of SH 170 from the parking lot to the junction with Hwy 93. About a mile and a half. There we stopped at the corner store for a snack. Then we crossed Hwy 93 to the trailhead at Marshall Lake and headed on the second part of our loop.
Now for a series of butt shots of J. She's riding on T's bike, because it has better tires than hers, but is a little big. I'm thinking he's 5'6" now.
Another no rail bridge
We traversed some slick rock.
My horse loves to trail ride. Can you tell?
Still smiling, despite the heat and the length of ride and the very scary downhill.
We've had so much rain that it was incredibly green still.
J leading the way
Climbing back up to the headland.
On the canal or in this case, Community Ditch
We cantered along here quite a bit. We had cantered the uphill to reach the Ditch along a single track trail. Ashke was leading and as we got to the top, he spooked hard to the right away from a wooden post surrounded by rocks. Very dangerous, you know. N started laughing and said, "you know, he is a very consistent horse. He shies at the same things. Strange bushes, shadows across the path, rocks and wooden posts." It is very true.
When we moved onto this trail I discovered a new Ashke. For the first time, ever, Cali could canter away and Ashke didn't fight me to race after her. We cantered, but it was controlled and when I asked him to return to a trot, and then a walk, he did so without freaking out. He was tense until he saw her again, but he wasn't trying to race past her or stay on her heels. Even after she was a long ways in front of us, I asked for a canter and he gave me a very sweet one. Either he was too tired to fight, or we have found a new level of confidence and maturity. I am hoping for the latter.
Because everyone needs an awkward picture of their horse's shoulder.
Giving J a head start so we can canter without running over her.
Almost back to the trailer. One more long uphill to go.
J coming up an incredibly steep piece of hill. She was such a rock star. I would have quit miles ago.
The trailer and parking lot are just ahead and to the right.
The path typically goes from the parking lot where we parked, down to the light where you can cross 93, then along a trail that meets with the road we were riding on. There are two small spring gates that you can use to access those trails. Both of those gates were padlocked. The first was fairly easy to negotiate around, to get back to the crosswalk. The second, however, meant we had to ride along the verge of Hwy 93. Luckily, the verge was very wide and we weren't at risk, but J rode her bike on the edge of the road, which made me nervous.
The total ride was about 10 miles, although not an easy 10, at all.
At the end, for whatever reason, Ashke had rubs on all four of his feet from his gloves.