The kids and I had a rare free Saturday yesterday, and we decided to take advantage of it by going for a little ride at Eagle Island. This ride was special for me and Annabelle because Batman had decided to accompany us. His participation in equine activities has always been sporadic, and the time between his rides has grown greater and greater over the past months.
Annabelle was, as always, eager to show off her riding prowess, and she wasted no time in planning how the day would evolve. When we discussed horse assignments she volunteered to ride the pony and let her brother ride Grumpy, as the pony had not been ridden for a couple of months and she was “a lot better rider than her brother.”
We caught the horses, and I saddled Reno first. After I lunged him around for five or ten minutes I thought he would be safe for her to climb on. She mounted up and started trotting him around in small circles, bending his head and bridling him up to get him to listen to her. All seemed like it was going well, but I watched carefully for several minutes before I went back to saddling. I knew the pony could be fractious after time off, and it was a cold winter day out there.
I was on the other side of the trailer removing mud from a less-than-thrilled Grumpy, and I kept glancing around the corner to check on progress. At first, Reno seemed pretty compliant.
After about ten minutes though, I heard an alarming sound…..kind of a yelp/scream from my little girl. I rushed around the trailer just in time to see her launched off the back of the little black bastar bad boy and land on the frozen ground on her back.
I ran to my baby girl, who was actually crying. She has been bucked or fallen off of more horses than most children her age will ever ride, and she almost never cries. So I was really mad at that pony.
I got Annabelle up and asked if she was all right. She answered in the affirmative, but made it clear she wasn’t getting back on. After a long hug and quick check of body parts, she trudged off to get some grain in a bucket so we could catch Reno. He has proven on more than one occasion that he enjoys a little freedom now and then, and it is almost impossible to catch him when he’s on a rampage.
I tried though.
And ran some more.
Although I knew I wouldn’t likely catch him without the grain, I couldn’t stop myself from chasing him. I tried to head him off by jogging around the side of the horse trailer, where Spice was tied rearing and bucking in place from all the excitement.
Reno was thinking about running me down when suddenly Annabelle appeared behind him, rattling the bucket.
The pony screeched to a halt and his entire demeanor changed.
He turned and walked calmly to my now-smiling little cowgirl.
Who is the most forgiving person on the planet.
She patted him on the nose and said “Good boy Reno!”
There was no talk of cancelling the ride from any involved party, so we carried on with our plans. I got Spice and Grumpy saddled, and we loaded up and headed for Eagle Island. We decided en route that Batman would ride Reno, since the pony is always a perfect gentleman on the lead line, and Annabelle would regain her composure on her trusty Grumpy.
When we finally got on the trail it was a beautiful ride. Although we are in the depths of winter, there is plenty of wildlife to be seen at the lovely state park. We saw several blue herons, and the kids marveled at their long wing spans.
We even saw a heron sitting in a tree along the river. I had seen them on the ground many times, but I had never before seen one in a tree. It was pretty cool.
We stopped after going through one of the many gates we had to pass to take a photo of the team.
And speaking of wildlife, one of the funniest moments of the ride was an encounter between Winston and a big flock of geese sitting in a field.
Winston looked at the geese for a long time trying to figure out what to do.
He finally talked himself into approaching the flock, and moved toward them cautiously.
Batman was beside himself with excitement. All ride long he had wanted nothing more than to “catch a bird” to take home to daddy. Although he has gone hunting a few times, I don’t think he has the concept that you have to actually shoot a bird to capture it. He was sure that Winston would catch a goose for us, and that it would be “the PERFECT PRESENT for daddy!!!”
Winston wasn’t so sure about that. One of the geese honked at him, and he turned around and high-tailed it back to us.
We laughed at him for a while, and when it was apparent that he was not going to approach the birds again we started to walk back down the trail.
Suddenly the crazy dog got a flash of inspiration, turned around, and took off for the birds at a dead run. He ran right into the flock, who took flight at a leisurely pace.
The geese in the park are so used to dogs that they glided only about ten yards away and landed again. Winston was so proud of himself that he didn’t care if the birds actually flew away. He returned to us wagging his stump of a tail and smiling with his whiskery face.
He is a funny dog, that one.
Before we got to the trailer, we had one more gate to go through. Unlike all the other gates, this green metal swing gate could be opened and closed while on horseback. Annabelle was intent that she was going to do it herself.
Because she had been planning on riding Reno, she was not wearing her spurs, so she had to work hard to get Grumpy sidled over so she could reach the locking arm. I asked if she needed help. You can guess the answer.
When she got the gate unlocked, she swung it wide so that Batman and I could pass through.
Batman waited placidly for his sister to maneuver the gate. He was disappointed that we had not “caught” any birds, and he was ready to get in the truck.
After we passed through, it took a while for Annabelle to get Grumpy side-passed over and to where she could shut the gate. I asked again if she needed help, and she said “NO MOMMY! I can do it myself.”
She shut and locked the gate all by herself, and rode smiling over to resume our trek.
I know she is my daughter and all, but dang she is cool.
Once we got the horses loaded and climbed back in the truck, the cold and activity took its toll on four-year old Batman. He fell asleep before we hit the main road and although I know he must have been roasting he slept for the entire 45 minute drive.
Gloves and all.
It was a fun winter day. We all appreciated the fresh air and relatively moderate temperatures, and it is always rewarding to do a physical activity with the kids.
So remember, we offer pony rides…..
……..with a 50% discount if you have good insurance.