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April 10, 2014 Horse Trekking: Musings about Going Solo

And a splendid day was had by all. The trails won’t be good for riding much longer – at least for the next few weeks. This was what enabled me to rationalize what turned out to be a good decision, which was to take Tinni and the dogs on a longer outing, riding the lower loop. I chose to take this particular horse and the dogs because I figured that it would be easier to deal with them than with Raudi and Hrimmi. Plus, getting the dogs out is always the first priority. They’ve never, ever done any damage when inside, because beforehand, they’ve gotten exercise. But still, I thought what might go awry? Well, older horse might punch through the snow on the trail and break a leg, or a dog might get caught in a trap. There was also the likelihood that no matter who I took out, I might get lost if I ventured too far from home.

The route Alys, Tinni, and the dogs took

This all gave me reason to pause. But I decided to do the ride because I had an easy out. I could, if I foresaw trouble of any kin, always turn around and head back in the direction of home. I, of course, felt this way until I reached the point of no return, which was a little ways past the ride’s halfway point. And, all had gone well. The dogs were sticking close, Tinni had remained lively, and the trail was firm.

We continued on. Amazingly, even the lower trail was hard packed. And the recent snow had stuck to the ice, so there was no apparent overflow. I kept going, this being a loop, left turns. ATVs had recently plied the trail, so the tracks affirmed that I was headed in the right direction. I was about a mile or so beyond the halfway point when I came to a place where the trail was more defined going to the right. I went left, about a hundred yards, and then because it didn’t feel right, I backtracked and went right. As I suspected, the trail took a jog and then went to the left again.

I had another moment of uncertainty a mile further. The trail going to the left was somewhat used, the trail to the right being far more used. Tinni and I went a ways, then the trail we were on petered out. I got off him and walked back in the other direction. We returned to the turnoff, and went right. Sure enough, we soon came to a very familiar steep downhill.

There were yet to come, a few more moments of uncertainty. However, I kept making left hand turns. After all, wasn’t it Horace Greely who once said “go left young woman, go left.” All the while I kept thinking – you can ride a trail solo, or with someone – but both rides will differ markedly. This is because there’s no one to confer with when going at it alone. Some say that border collies and Icelandic horses have incredible homing instincts. But here’s the catch. They will head for home of their own volition in their own time. An Icelandic horse might hone in on last year’s leaves, and a border collie might decide to follow a scent, in which case the rider might actually become really, really lost.

I wasn’t ever lost. I could have backtracked at any point during my ride. I just wanted to take what after the half-way point was the shortest distance. But I did get to thinking that it would be sadly ironic if the local search and rescue was sent out to find me. If so, I’d undoubtedly be found by Vicky Parks and her dogs Bettles, who I think are the best k-9 team in the state. If Bettles did locate me, I’d do as I’d been trained to do – wait for her owner to tag me, then give her her toy and play with her, all the while telling her what a good dog she was. The dog would be puzzled because I’m usually a subject.

I finally came to Four Corners, the place where two trails intersect, and breathed a sigh of relief, for I now had absolutely no doubt where I was. Tinni, feeling my seat soften, snorted. And the dogs, seeing my shoulders relax, all fell in behind me. In my head, I began working on a dispatch, the first line of which was “and a splendid time was had by all.”

Next: 101. 4/11/14: Horse Training: Raudi’s Eleventh Birthday