Monday, May 5, 2014

The Advertures of the Young Men from Snowy Mountain

It's finally spring time in the mountains: the trees are budding, there is enough grass to turn out the sheep and horses, lambs are skipping around ringing their bells joyously, and the chickens are scouring the yard and fields for the emerging bugs. It has been an unusually hard and discouraging winter, but now things are looking up.

One of the delights of the improving weather is we get to go trail riding again. Last Sunday we did the old fashioned Sunday drive. (Anyone else do those anymore? We extravagantly used almost a whole tank of gas!) We explored new areas to trailer the horses and ride in National forest. We have great plans for weekly rides and at least one overnight camping ride this summer.

Yesterday, I took the adventurous Bowman brothers on one of the as yet unexplored but mapped trails.  They unanimously agreed it was the best trail ride of their lives, but I must admit it would not be for the faint of heart! The trail was broad and grassy, perfect for riding, except for the fallen trees. Some were perfect for jumping, others could be stepped over or pushed through, but several were either too large, to low to go under, to high to go over, so like the old children's song, have to go around. And that's when the adventures started.

The trail was cut into the side of the mountain so leaving the trail required either going up the slope to the right, or down the slope to the left, and we tried both ways depending on the scope of the terrain and the number of trees down. This is the kind of riding that turns riders great and horses dependable. The children learned to keep their heels down so as not to go over the downward travelling horses' heads, and to lean forward and grab some mane and just trust your horse to find its way on the way back up. At one point I returned over the obstacle to take the reins of the obstinate pony and lead her over a jumbled pile of trees and brush; she was not taking her young rider's command to follow the others. I still appreciate a pony that thinks for herself, especially when ridden by such daredevils as my grandsons, but in this case we had all crossed the obstacle in question and she needed to come along. Later when a discussion between the two of them developed over leaving the trail down a steep incline, she was willing to obey.

Finally, after a little over 2 miles of this, the trail ahead became almost impassible because of the number of trees and the slopes to the side steeper both up and down. As it was becoming later in the day we decided to turn for the trailer and try again later in the season, after the trees might be cleared. That meant we had to traverse the trail in return, and we found that some of the uphills that were steep coming, seemed very steep downhills on the return trip. At one point boys were loudly exclaiming in excitment as horses tucked their butts and slid down the hillside. Just as much fun as any roller coaster! In the truck on the way home I reminded them of the movie excerpt from 'Man from Snowy River', and told them they are the 'Young Men from Snowy Mountain.'

As we neared the end of the trail, the youngest,(on the bratty pony) confidently announced that at least he hadn't fallen off this time. Now, I am not what I consider a superstitous person, but even I won't make statements like that while I am still mounted. I warned him of that danger, and shortly afterwards his pony took him under a low hanging branch and he was brushed right off! He just laughed and said, at least he didn't get hurt. I had already dismounted several times checking things and clearing brush and I told him that he had to mount by himself, that from now on that was going to be the requirement for anyone trail riding with me; they have to be able to mount alone. That was enough encentive and he scrambled up the side of that pony like a squirrel up a  tree.

We finished our ride pumped to do it again! I am interested to see how much improvement in their riding will be evident when they have their next ring lesson. (Congratulations to the Bowman Brothers, 11, 9, and 7 for tackling trails some adults would decline!)

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