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December 3, 2013: A Long Trail Ride

A few years back, the winter before our 2011 trek – Pete and I did a handful of longer trail rides on what we call the larger loop trail. It was cold and the snowfall had been minimal, so the riding was quite good. Pete rode Siggi and I rode either Tinni or Raudi. The past two years we got too much snow to even consider doing any longer rides. Pete usually went cross country skiing and I rode the horses around the loop.

This year we’ve already gotten a few hard freezes and a minimal amount of snow, again making for good trail conditions. This year, up until today, we’d restricted ourselves to riding on the trails that we cleared this past fall.

Today we decided to venture further and check out the larger loop trail. I wasn’t super gung ho about doing this because I presumed the trail would be really punchy. Plus, I was worried about our having to deal with an open creek or two and at least one section of creek overflow. In fact, if we had a TV, I might have stayed home and watched it. However, I did not articulate my concern. Rather, I Said “let’s go,” when Pete suggested we do this ride.

The unknown is always an adventure. And adventures trump apprehension. I sometimes get apprehensive about doing shorter rides. But I get less apprehensive about doing longer ones. (Consider, if you will, the fact that I might balk when asked to do a day ride, but be up for doing a long trek). This is because in my head I make easy things harder than they have to be, and hard things – well they are hard, so I don’t have to make them harder. I just put the previous sentence in italics because it is a very important revelation and also absolutely true.

We prepared well for our outing. Pete put the saddle bags on Signy, and we filled them, and my pockets, with peanut butter sandwiches, dried fruit, horse treats, dog treats, dog leashes, extra gloves, extra toe warmers, and a hoofpick. (We included the latter so that we could knock ice out of the horses’ feet if need be).

We crossed overflow,

and dealt with the plow,

and then walked on the plowed road.

It was 5° F out, which was why I decided to experiment with footware. I put wool socks over neoprene socks, and wore my neoprene Bog boots. This was a precautionary measure – I figured that my feet would stay dry should I have to carry a dog across a creek. Conversely, Pete wore his Steger mukluks and put toe warmers in them. His feet remained toasty. Mine sweated a bit, so they remained at that in between warm and cold stage. This time, Pete was the one who gloated about having warm feet. It was, I later realized, better this than the other way around. Pete complains about having cold feet while I remain impervious to it.

We left our place around noon. The terrain was punchy most of the way. The snowmobilers had packed down the trails, but the ATV users had made ruts in the trail during warmer months, which after filled with water that became ice with a hollow cavity underneath it. This is where the horses’ hooves sometimes broke through. Of course, every time this happened, my heart was in my throat. Had there been more icy conditions, we would have had to deal with ice and punchiness both. This was not the case.

Both horses did extremely well. Icelandic horses have been born and bred to handle adverse trail conditions and cold. At the same time, they are amazingly calm most of the time. I rode Raudi – she followed Signy, and repeatedly avoided the places in which the lead mare punched through the trail. I remember in the past her bolting on portions of the trail. Not today. The thought crossed her mind once when the dogs were running around in the nearby spruce trees. But she thought better of it when I relaxed my seat and loosened up on the reins.

I figured that the adventure was over when we got to the Murphy Road trail head intersection. No so. We opted to take a break at the trailhead, and clean the horses’ hooves before heading back uproad. We’d both gotten off when Pete heard the snowplow. He handed me Signy, grabbed the dogs, and put them back on-leash. We then walked back a ways on the trailhead. Whoosh, the plow, a huge dump truck with a massive plow, went flying past. We had to wait about 10 minutes for it to clear our road, double back, and then come back down road. Then we again ventured out, knowing that it would again do another round. And it did. What we hadn’t figured was that the driver would also want to lay down sand. So we had yet another wait. Up and back it again went.

We were extremely lucky. Had we been riding on the road, or riding and walking dogs, and had the snowplow come up on us, we would have been toast. We were also lucky that it wasn’t all that cold when we were waiting for it to go past.

We arrived home safely at 3:30 p.m. By now, the sun was low in the sky. We had just enough daylight to get in yet one more outing. This time, we took Hrimmi, Tinni, and Jenna Dog out for a quick ride on the trails. Tinni was feeling chipper, and Hrimmi bounded about. Pete and Jenna walked on the trail behind us.

We came home, and put the remaining two horses away. I had just enough time to do the evening chores before the sun set. I cleaned the horse and the goat pen, and then I had Ryder herd the goats back into their pen. She moved them in, and then lay down outside the pen. This was very impressive – it was the sort of thing that after, one asks themselves, how did she know to do that?

It felt good to have spent so much of my day outside. I hope tomorrow that I can again do the same.

Next: 253: 12/4/13: Happy Trails