Sunday, November 9, 2014

Teller Trail

Several weeks ago, LM and I arranged a date to do a trail ride. LM is a woman I met at the Nuno Matos clinic in June, FB'd her and we've been touching base off and on since then. She rides a wonderful Arab-Oldenburg cross named Satori. Originally, we were both going to haul over to Flatiron Vista and ride Community Ditch, but 1) we weren't sure the ditch would be open (it opened Friday) and 2) LM's ride fell through due to a strained shoulder on the horse of the other woman we were going to ride with. So, we hauled over to her barn and rode the Teller Trail with her.

I rode briefly Friday night, then loaded all of my stuff and K's stuff into the trailer. We got back out to the barn about 9 (late) and quickly loaded Ashke and Eddy. Eddy is a Haffie of the dark red variety and right now he is a hairy, cute beast. K has had him about a year and a half and this would be their first off property (Table Mountain) trail ride. Ashke balked a moment getting on the trailer and I had K move Eddy to the front of the truck. Ashke walked right on and seemed happy to have the companionship of another horse. Eddy loaded quickly, but it took some doing to keep the door shut when he tried to back off again. I love slant load trailers, because the horse doesn't have to self load. Eddy was a bit uneasy when K got off the trailer and we fastened the door to go, but he settled quickly once we were moving.

The trip was uneventful, with the exception of overshooting our turn. We ended up turning around in a parking lot in Longmont and back tracking eight miles. The most ironic thing was the address was programmed into the mapquest app on my phone and I just hadn't started it. And the short cut I opted for was riddled with speed bumps, which are oh-so-fun when hauling precious cargo. We followed the mapquest app route home. Lesson learned. Follow mapquest.

The barn that LM and another woman, TS, from the clinic, board at was beautiful, clean and well-maintained. It had a trail that led from the barn to the Teller Trail and there was no haul in fee. We parked and unloaded the horses, then set to getting them ready to go. I set Ashke up with a mash of TC Senior for him to slurp up as I got him ready. After the scare of our last ride, when it seemed he was completely empty, I decided to implement a mash before and after ride for him. This worked really well for the most part. My only issue was when I was standing near his shoulder talking to J and K and he flipped his head, splattering my face and chest with gross, watery, TC Senior goo. He can be a menace.

I had issues with the new boots. Ashke's feet have flared and the boots are brand new. Not a good combination. I had to use a hoof pick to get the LF boot on around the flare (the hoof is starting to chip and a piece of the hoof was bent to the outside of the hoof wall) and then pound them on with the mallet. Once they were on, they worked really well. However, I think the back boots are too small due to hoof growth. I am going to have to bounce between 00 (right after a trim) and 0.5 about mid way through the trim cycle. Ashke got a pretty good heel rub on his LH because that boot was too tight. I hate tight shoes and can imagine how that felt. He was sound right up until the last mile and then I could tell something was off. J (brave soul) checked the gaiters for pebbles (that's what it felt like) but didn't find anything. I couldn't see it until I had the boot off. There didn't seem to be any bruising, just a rub, and he was sound when I trotted him barefoot on the grass.

Finally, we were ready to go.

J and Coyote selfie at the start of the ride

 Start of the ride

Before we really got going on trail I explained to LM and TS that K and Eddy don't canter. We could walk and trot, but she had only cantered him one time in the past year and that was in the arena. About a year ago, Eddy had employed the spook, drop a shoulder and spin method of dumping K off his back at a canter. She ended up with a concussion (she was wearing a helmet - always wear a helmet) but it took her several months to get comfortable with even getting on him again. Both LM and TS were okay with the slower speed and so we set off.

As a note, Ashke has always been a great horse to ride trail with, even when green. His spooks are more like a start and stand then a full-blown spook (he's had two hard spooks on trail and both were at a flag on a recumbent bike). He is brave and will cross whatever I ask him to, if I give him a moment to scope out the situation. If he balks and I give him a moment, then ask again and reward any shift forward with "good boy" he inevitably will go forward for me. He's a great horse to go on trail with for the first time. So was Satori and Merlin. The calm factor was high this day.

LM and Satori
Looking behind us

Single track next to an old rail line. I wish we had a more robust rail-to-trail system out here.

Turning from the rail line to the trail. The pic does not do the colors justice. There is a lot of deep browns and yellows and even some muted green that the camera is not capturing well.

Coming up to the trail crossing

 From back to front: TS on Merlin (Andalusian), K on Eddy (Haffie), LM and Satori, an old man on an old arabian and then Ashke and I in front.

Alright, I have to rant a bit here. The old man was probably in his seventies and his horse was in it's mid to upper 20's. The horse was not moving well, seemed off on it's RF, had gaunt and hollowed flanks, drank for a good ten minutes at the stream we crossed (they had just left the barn) and the guy was riding him rough. The horse stopped and strained, like he was trying to pee, but nothing was happening. The man had to kick hard and whack that gelding with a crop to get him to move out. LM and TS tried to reason with him, to get him to listen to his horse and turn around, but he did not listen. He finally forced the horse to trot away from us on his own ride. The horse was back at the barn when we returned, so he made it through the ride and according to LM, this is a common occurrence but still . . . what the hell do you do in a situation like that? We tried to reason with the man, but he wasn't putting his horse enough at risk to warrant calling animal control. They wouldn't have had legal grounds to do anything. Still, it made my heart sick to watch this old, valiant arab struggle to maintain his trot.

Coming up to the second water crossing

Our second water crossing. Ashke led across. The rocks you can see to the left are the edge of a causeway that was washed out in the flooding a year ago. The edge drops off sharply and you can't see the bottom of the lake. Ashke was a little cautious going across.

The terrain was stunning and this would be an amazing ride in the spring and summer as well as the fall.

Old man still trying to get his horse to break away from the group.

K and Eddy did fantastic and K said a couple of times that she was living her dream.
(I guess what she really wants to do is ride trails)

We finally stopped and let the old man get his horse away from the group, which made for interesting riding with Ashke. He jigged a lot for the next mile. It was good practice, since he doesn't need to be in the lead all the time. I know other riders hate it when their horse jigs, but I kind of like it. It becomes a very upward, very slow trot. Too bad I don't know how to cue him to do that.

This was an uphill and Ashke was very confused about why we weren't cantering it. He and I talked about it at length, but then he settled near the top and continued walking.

Gives some perspective of the hill. This is at the top.

"For Purple Mountains Majesty, above the fruited plains"

The white cliffs in the foreground were unbelievable, but so hard to capture on my camera.

I am beginning to understand that Colorado is not flat. At least not the parts we ride.

J couldn't get all four horses in the picture, but she did manage to get a great shot, none the less.

The last picture was from the top of a hill, then J bombed down and made the corner to take a picture of us headed up the next long hill.

You can see the trail we were riding up stretching into the distance on the left.
The corner, however, had a path on the left next to the fence post, an embankment on the right and a badly eroded gully down the middle. The embankment and the gully were muddy clay.
Remember this turn for later. It played a part.

Not for the agoraphobic.
Snow on the mountains.

So many trails, so little time
Can't believe it was the 8th of November.
The high temp was supposed to be 54, so I wore a thermal shirt.
It was 68. That's down right balmy.

 Impromptu meeting.
TS had to head back to take her daughter to the mall.
LM had to head back to go to her husband's Ukelele concert.

J, K and myself opted to continue onward.

Taking a telephoto shot on a moving horse is very difficult. 
Breath taking view, though

Long's Peak
It had snow on it at the beginning of the ride.
Not so much by the end though.

 Coming down the hill.
Ashke was walking fast enough that Eddy had to trot some to keep up.
When we got to the bottom of this hill there was a couple nice patches of dark green wet grass. We opted to pull bridles and eat lunch there.

Ashke ate the bread and jelly sandwich I brought for him. We offered Eddy some and Eddy flehmen'd in response, which cracked us up. Then a woman and her man came by and spent some time admiring Ashke. The woman was preggers with a boy and they were out from Georgia for their baby shower. They both seemed very taken with Ashke, who was okay with the admiration.

We went on after lunch for another half mile or so. 

 Headed west toward Lookout Road

The trail went along the road for 500 feet, then went west again. We opted to turn around and head back, rather than risk Eddy along the road.
It was also time to turn back because Eddy was getting tired.

K had that smile the entire day.

On the way back, when we got to the long gravel uphill, I extended Ashke into a trot, asking him to keep his head lower and really push from his butt. We trotted as fast as J could ride Coyote. Ashke has such a powerful trot when he works at it and it was like riding a cresting wave. Close to the top, J started to flag (it was a long uphill), so I moved Ashke over to her side, reached down and grabbed her hydration pak and then Ashke and I surged forward, carrying her up. She told me later she almost went over the handlebars. It didn't last very long, but it was enough to send us into gales of laughter. K said she could see J's back and butt lift up when I grabbed the pack.

The last real climb to the top of the hill. The rest of the ride was downhill. We trotted up some of this singletrack. I tried not to push heading back, since it was obvious Eddy was tired. He's done five mile rides, but this was their first over five miles.

At the top of this hill were two men and their bikes. They were taking a breathing break waiting for us to clear the singletrack. Behind us, which we weren't aware of, was a guy on a bike. J flew down the back side of the hill to the place where the trail turned to the left, with the gully and mud. Remember? I was almost to the turn when Ashke suddenly spooked forward. I pulled up and spun around as K started shouting "whoa, whoa". I got Ashke around in time to see Eddy careening toward us, mouth open and his eyes showing while all the way around. Kate was trying to pull him around in a one-rein stop (which doesn't work in a Tom Thumb). They barreled past me and skidded around the corner, with Eddy scrambling up the embankment before Kate got him turned to face back the way they had come. They were both shaken but safe. The bike rider who had flown down the hill behind Eddy apologized and said he thought he was far enough away the horse wouldn't hear him. I just think he didn't think about it, because he was at the turn a few seconds later. He stopped and waited while K got Eddy back off the embankment onto dry, flat ground. Then we let him go ahead. J said that when Eddy hit the gully he slipped and slid in the mud, scrambling to keep his footing. K did a good job getting him turned back uphill without either of them getting hurt.

It was close though, in my opinion. 

It will be something to be aware of, going forward, if I am riding with K. Eddy had passed several bikes without any problems, had J ride up behind him and become comfortable with that, but the bike flying down the hill behind him was a no go. This is the kind of thing that you have to expect with a new horse. I'm just glad K was able to ride it out.

Big Haffie butt. Little Ashke butt.
Perspective is everything.

J was able to ride Coyote through one water crossing. However, the rocks were too big and too slick for her to ride through this one. She tried on the way out and almost face planted in the water.

Loved the trail.

The St Vrain
I really wanted to go play in the river, but there was no access.

LM met us as we were walking through the field toward the barn. She had raced out to watch her husband play for ten minutes and then came back to meet us at the barn. We pulled tack, which is when I found the rub on Ashke's LH, and the bridle, which is when I realized the new chin strap scuffed the side of his mouth. As much as I love this bit, I can't keep using it. I'm going to have to move to the other bit I found with the same shape, that has a separate connection part for the chin strap. I rode him in it on Friday night and it was fairly decent, but he seemed more comfortable in the other one. Seems that I was wrong.

Ashke got another mash feed while I pulled his boots off. Eddy (I want to keep calling him Paddy) came over and helped finish it off. Neither horse was real excited about getting on the trailer. Ashke was given the choice of a third attempt to walk on or I was pulling out the rope, and he walked on. When we went to load Eddy, he was on and hooked to the trailer tie when he decided to back off the trailer. He pushed the door open with his butt and backed out, stretching the tie across K's face. I was telling her to unhook the quick release, which she did before the tie could break and snap back across her face. Eddy was walked around and then loaded again. This time we closed the door until K had him settled, then we cracked it to let them out. The ride home was uneventful.

All in all, it was a good ride. Ashke could have gone longer and faster, but it was good to slow down and take pictures of the foliage. I checked him this morning to make sure the rub wasn't swollen and that he was sound. It wasn't and he was. A storm is coming in, because all of my joints hurt. Hopefully, the storms will pass and we can do some kind of a ride on Saturday.


  1. Hi - I really enjoy reading your blog, I've been following silently for a while now. I live up north (144th/I-25) I think where you started out. I've ridden Teller a few times and really like it. We always start at the trailhead off of Arapahoe and head north but the last time we rode there you could only get as far as Valmont because the trail was closed on the other side. We assumed that the bridge was out because of the flooding but it's such a nice place to ride and the views are awesome!

    1. Welcome. You should find me on facebook - by my name - and then we should plan a meetup, or group trail ride at some point.

      I think you are right about the bridge that crosses the Vrain. The banks there were devastated (lots of big rocks and the river undercut the banks) but the bridge has been replaced. It was a fun trail. Good company.

    2. I'd look you up on Facebook but I'm one of those strange people who doesn't have a Facebook account. I'm always up for a ride though maybe in the spring with the cold settling in although it looks like you enjoy the snow/cold riding - brave person. What a great thing that J rides her bike with you - love that! If there's any other way to get in touch with you let me know! Sharla

  2. Could you just leave the curb strap off or would that take away all your leverage?