The Trail Ride

Honey, Yore Horse Don’t Know Yore Ugly

by Mary Haley, Editor

Sunny My Trail Horse

I have a thing for horses. I always have and don’t see that ever changing. So when a friend suggested a three day trail ride instead of my usual one day excursion, I didn’t hesitate.

This was an organized trail ride so the first step on the agenda was to get registered. That’ll be $200, please! Now don’t panic – that includes two meals the first day and three meals for the next two days, water and hay for the horse and unlimited port-o-potty privileges (An absolute necessity, no matter the cost).

I would also have to bring enough of my own brand of horse feed for the three days, but there would be a wagon to haul it. So, I just whipped out the plastic and I was registered. Everything was easy enough so far.

The next item for consideration was modifying my regular trail ride packing list. In no time at all, I had expanded my list from the usual few items including bottled water, snacks, horse treats, wet wipes and Band-Aids, to only 50 of the very barest necessities. I was sure I was overlooking something, so I asked my friend to review my list.

After some heated debate and negotiation, we came to an agreement on the following: the horse treats, wet wipes and Band-Aids stayed on the list, we added my Coleman solo tent, a sleeping pad, a blanket; one change of outer clothing, two changes of underwear and socks, one bar of soap, one wash cloth, a toothbrush and toothpaste, and a large bottle of analgesics for my sore muscles. (Ok, so the make-up and curlers weren’t crucial). The fact that shampoo was crossed off the list would “come home to roost” later

I was forbidden to pack without strict supervision, just in case I should weaken and try to smuggle some frivolous item or contraband into my pack. As I stood looking at the twelve and a half pounds of gear that would be my only comforts for the duration of the ride, I came as close to an anxiety attack as I ever have. I need more stuff just to get ready for work everyday! But with an “Aw, suck it up and quit being a wimp.” from my friend, we loaded our horses in the trailer and we were off.

By the time we reached the campground, the earlier anxiety was replaced by the excitement of a new adventure. It was evident this would not be a weekend of relaxation, but I was up for the challenge. The horses were old pros at this trail ride business, and would prove their worth over the next three days. With packs secured, we stepped into our saddles and eased into the long line of other horses and wagons.

That first evening was like trying to function in a tornado. The routine went something like this: unsaddle, take the horse to the stock tank for a drink and a good rinse. Then get the horse back to camp for feed and hay and either hobbled or tied for the night. Put up the tent, lay out the sleeping pad and blanket then, and only then, head for the chuck wagon for supper.

After supper, back to the tent for the washcloth and soap, and back down to the stock tank for a “spit” bath – as momma called it. We were delighted to find that a few of the riders considered guitars, French harps, or other musical instruments as absolute necessities. But after only a few cowboy songs, the day began to take its toll. It was time for me to hit the hay.

The next morning’s alarm clock for the riders proved to be infallible. The smell of scrambled eggs, fried bacon and biscuits was an absolute eye opener. However, seeing to the horses came first, so I took my horse down to the stock tank then back to camp for feed and hay. Now it was the riders turn to put on the feed bag, and it was well worth the wait. Breakfast was followed by packing up camp, saddling up and hitting the trail again.

We had 20 miles to cover before making camp for the night with a stop for lunch mixed in somewhere. Cell phone batteries were running down and conversation among the riders was picking up. Acquaintances began to cement into friendships and tall tales, jokes and homespun advice was the entertainment du Jour. That evening was much the same as the previous night, except that some of us saved ourselves some walking by taking our baths when we watered the horses. Not that it mattered, we all smelled the same by that time, and I was having withdrawal symptoms from the abandoned bottle of shampoo.

Well, I was feeling pretty bedraggled by now with no make-up, incessant trail dust, permanent sweat and stringy hair in a pony tail and ball cap. I guess it must have been written all over my face because one of the more experienced female overnight trail riders sidled up to me and said, “Honey, yore horse don’t know yore ugly.” Whew! Like I was really worried about that? Never the less, my spirits got a big boost.

As the third and last day dawned, many of us found we had adapted quite well to the horseback and camping routine. We completed our morning chores, breakfasted, broke camp and saddled up for the four hour ride to the finish. The whirlwind of activity was gone, replaced by a quiet confidence that comes with experience.

The ride back to base camp was full of “should have” and “if only” from us green horns with a few “I told you so” from the old timers. The best advice they could have given us was – caring for your horse is first and foremost, otherwise you’ll find yourself hoofing it home. Pun most definitely intended.

Plans for our next big adventure were in full swing. There are trail rides scheduled for most every month of the year and many of them are overnighters. Each one has its own unique attractions. Some are on public lands while others are on private ranches. Either way there is a lot of beautiful country to see and for my money, the way to see it is on horseback…

This article may be reprinted with permission so long as no changes are made to the text and the following credit appears: 2006-2008 Horse Resource Organization Information, products and resources related exclusively to horses. Author: Mary Haley.

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