Monday, September 7, 2015

Famous Last Words

BTW, 800th post. Yippee!!!

Remember when I said we would never ride Buffalo Creek or the Colorado Trail again? Yeah, that didn't last long.

It was going to be hot on Saturday, so I suggested we go to Buffalo Creek and just ride the Forest Service road out to Wellington Lake. It was going to be in the low 70's and the ride should be comfortable for W (K's husband) and J. I was looking forward to the long stretches of trot and canter we could ask the horses for.

Saturday morning saw us running late. Neither J or myself have been happy with our energy levels or recovery and we think part of the issue is the food we are choosing to eat for lunch. PB&J is not cutting it. K had started packing meal bars and they seemed to be working for her, so we decided to try some different options. We went to Natural Grocers. J found a meal bar, which she thought was dry and I thought tasted like straw, plus a Gingersnap Waffle cookie by Stinger. (OMG!! The gingersnap waffle cookie was awesome! Had two of them on Sunday.) I picked an Epic bar, with Buffalo, bacon and cranberries (it was freaking amazing), and added a "lunchable" of tabouli, hummus, pita and falafel (it added the carbs I needed, but was difficult to pack and eat on trail). We also grabbed a couple of Tanka meat bars to try. We liked the buffalo and cranberry one, but made K eat the one with apple and orange peel. On Sunday's ride, J had a tanka bar and a Stinger energy bar (which she loved) and I went with an Epic bar and hummus with veggies. I think next time I will have an Epic bar and a Stinger energy bar, since it was very tasty.

Anyway, we were late getting to the barn. Ashke needed to be rinsed off, since he was covered with urine and then we loaded and headed to get K. We got K's stuff loaded, and while she was putting her purse and bag in the front of the truck, I took Eddy. He likes me fairly well. K finished loading and came back where I had the trailer open. I handed her the lead rope and she gave me a funny look and said "I thought you were going to load him." As she was saying this she was walking away from me, looking over the shoulder that was furthest from the trailer and Eddy was still standing next to me. The next thing we know, Eddy launches himself into the trailer, pulling K around in a half-circle. We both started laughing. He loads without K even asking him to. What an amazing change in the boy.

When we got to Buffalo Creek and pulled into the turn out area, we could see that the parking lot was completely parked up and there was no where for us to park. Not only that, but if we had pulled down there, we wouldn't have been able to turn around and pull out. There was a small private lot at the top of the turn out that we used to turn around in, and we headed up the road. There is an endurance ride called the Colorado Mountain Meadow that is ridden out of the Little Scraggy Trailhead and I figured that meant we could park a horse trailer there. When we pulled into the parking lot, I marveled that they could run the race from there, but my guess is they do it from the ranch just across the street. We parked and got the horses set up.

Our riding options were a bit limited. We had planned on riding a flat forest service road and W was not equipped to ride the more aggressive trails where we were parked. Getting down to the Forest service road would require about 1200 feet in elevation loss, which also meant riding back up that elevation. We decided we would ride down the road that led to Wellington lake.

K and Eddy with W on his bike behind them. Leaving Little Scraggy trailhead.

We started on the road, which made for great footing to trot down the hills and canter or gallop up them. But there was fairly heavy traffic that was moving pretty darn fast, so we started riding on the edges of the road.

Ashke was a little off. Just a hint on the front left (or right rear) and he seemed stiff when turning. He moved out nicely though, with his ears up and a lot of lift in his stride. I couldn't tell if he was just stiff (hasn't been ridden in a week), if he tweaked himself in his run or if his feet were bothering him. I had booted all four but he was still just a little off. He may always be a little off. It didn't slow him down much though.

J and W on the road. It was mostly downhill. A lot.

The footing was excellent and both horses were fresh. We were able to canter most of the uphills and trot down most of the downhills. And the scenery was magnificent.

J was doing really well on the downhill, but both she and W were worrying about the ride back.
Going home uphill is much more difficult the longer the ride goes on.

About an hour into the ride, we found a nice place to eat lunch. It was off the road, with shade and a place to sit down. The ponies liked the deep grass, although my silly boy wandered over and helped himself to whatever he wanted from our lunch. He liked the meal bar J had, but was not impressed with anything Garbanzo related.

After lunch, J headed back. She had reached her limit and wanted to turn back before it got any worse. W decided he would press on and see if he couldn't reach the access road to Wellington Lake, but about a mile down the road, which went downward sharper and sharper, he turned around and headed back. It wasn't the best option for our overall ride, but they both made it back to the trailhead in great shape. K and I continued on. When we reached the Forest Service road (which intersects) I turned to K and asked her if she wanted to ride the Colorado Trail back to the Trailhead. I had been thinking about it since J had turned back and once W headed back, K and I were free to ride wherever we wanted. She was all about taking the trail home. We stopped for a brief moment at a portapotty and then found the Colorado Trail at about the same spot we had joined it the first time we rode it. We did find access to Buffalo Creek before hitting the trail, although neither horse was really interested in drinking.

On the trail, at a trot, with Eddy leading. 

K has been wonderful about letting Ashke and I work on our following skills. She and Eddy will lead until I can't deal with the fight between Ashke and I, then we move back in front. Sometimes Eddy would decide he didn't want to lead any more and we would move back in front. This process of retraining Ashke seems to be working and he got better each time we tried. At the end of the ride I was able to keep Ashke back on a fairly loose rein without fighting with him.

The mountains are stunning.

The trail presents some varied terrain. Singletrack, slick rock, drop offs, rocky trails and sand. There were several creek crossings, most of which did not have enough water for the horses to drink from.

There was an Eddy incident. K had her collapsible bucket tied onto her saddle and it came loose. The bucket was swinging at the end of a rope that was still attached to the saddle, flipping around and whacking Eddy in the flank and butt. We had been cantering when it happened and I heard K saying "Whoa, whoa." so I stopped Ashke. Eddy went past us (luckily there was room) and I realized what had happened. K got Eddy stopped (she was convinced that it was because Ashke stopped - I think it was also because Eddy has gotten much better at trusting K) and we untied the bucket and I put it in my saddlebags. I reminded K that Eddy had dumped her in the indoor arena the last time something was flapping next to him and that he has made great strides in listening to her and not losing his mind.

Some video from the trail. I am going to get the GoPro charged so I can take better video. Sorry it's shaky.

We trotted and cantered for almost two miles, I reckon. Ashke was lathered and both horses were breathing heavily. We walked until their breathing was back to normal, then we picked it up again.

Some of the trail was pretty rough.
Ashke was still just a hair off, especially on the rocks, even in the boots.

The fairly dried stream we crossed in the video (at the very end) was a problem last time and a place I had to go back and pony Eddy across. This time he went over it like no big deal. K has been riding consistently on the days that she can, four days a week, much of it on trail. It shows in the increased maturity Eddy has displayed on trail.

It is such a pretty trail. When we were almost to the top, there are a series of steps that have to be negotiated up some pretty gnarly rocks. Ashke's favorite method of going over them is to launch himself up in a series of lunging jumps. On one of the roughest parts, he hooked the edge of his glove on the edge of a rock and ripped off the boot. The velcro tore at the seam and the boot came completely free. K yelled at me, so I stopped to retrieve the boot. When I realized it couldn't be put back on (must carry a small roll of duct tape) I removed the second hind boot and we went on. Amazingly, Ashke was much better without them and that little bit of off I was feeling was gone, for the most part.

Ears still up and forward.
Both horses still had a great deal of energy.

Ashke following on a loose rein. K was practicing directing Eddy from her seat and legs which he was pretty good at right up until they almost hit a tree. K got stopped in time and we laughed. He did really well overall.

The rock formation over Wellington lake. Up close, it looks like a sleeping dragon.

The last bit of the trail we rode on.

The Colorado trail crosses the road we originally rode out on, so when we hit it, we turned toward the trail head and cantered most of the last 3/4 of a mile. The horses trotted into the trailhead. We stripped gear and sponged them off, then I took their heartrates. Ashke was at 45 twenty minutes after we hit the trailer and Eddy was at 54. We had done just about 15 miles and both horses had plenty in the tank. One of these days, we will then get back on and do another 10 mile loop. Maybe. :)

J and W had done a bit of exploring and J had discovered that the Colorado trail is fairly flat in that area, so we have two more trails to explore - Little Scraggy and the Colorado trail heading north.

It was a really fun ride and a great trail for us to take at what speed we could manage. I do need to make a decision about his boots though. I can't keep the back ones on, so for now I'm planning on just booting the front. Ashke got tucked in with a dose of Bute and a nice feed of hay.

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