Snowy Trails, Soapy Tails and How We Almost Became the Donner Party

A couple of weeks ago Annabelle had a four-day weekend, and we decided to take full advantage of the time off of school for some outside riding.  With the bad weather we have been having lately, all of us, including the horses have been cooped up, and it was time for some fresh air and scenery.

Day One:  Snowy Trails in the Eagle Foothills

I was happy to be able to use the new packs that DH had gotten me for Christmas for the first time.  My trusty Ruger fit just perfectly in the holster on my front pack as we set out.  I truly felt like a well-dressed equestrian!

EF Well Dressed

Although we were experiencing a big weather warm-up from previous weeks, it was still on the chilly side up on the hill, and we walked through some snowy patches as we climbed.

Still a little snow

Annabelle had made us some sandwiches for the trip, and she was only a few hundred yards into the ride before she dug into her lunch.  Note that she is carrying the large back-saddle bags that we got for Christmas.  She loved being in charge of the food.

EF Yum Yum

And the drinks.

EF Now for a Drink

It was beautiful at the top of the hill, with the snowy mountains outlined behind us.

EF Top of Mountain

I think the horses were glad to be out, and they remained perfectly behaved for the whole trip.  Despite her relative inexperience being ridden in the wild wide-open, my little mare Freckles was an angel.  And oh so beautiful!

EF Pretty Girl

I couldn’t resist a bunch of shots of Annabelle with the snow behind her.  She was all smiles as we finished up our two-hour trek.

EF Snowy Backdrop

On the way to the foothills we had passed a small shop  that had opened some months ago.  The shop features consignment and “gently used” horsey items, as well as a selection of new stuff.  As we passed the shop, Annabelle spied on the front porch a beautiful, bright pink mounting block, or step stool as she calls them.

All the way to the hills she talked about the mounting block.  Since we really did need a mounting block for her for her, and I had been promising one for some time,  I told her that if the store was still open after we rode we could stop to take a look.

All the way home she talked about the mounting block.  How much would it cost?  Was that a lot of money?  Did I have that much money?  If I did have that much money would we buy it?  You get the drift.

As you can see, Yes the store was still open.  Yes it was (kind of) a lot of money.  Yes I did have that much money, and Yes we did buy the block.

Isn’t it purty?  I think Freckles is impressed, though you can’t tell much from the picture.

Pink Step Stool

Day Two: Soapy Tails

The second day of our four-day weekend, we decided to go ride in the arena where Freckles is boarded.  It was a beautiful and (relatively) warm day and Annabelle was just itching to use the new shampoo and washing items that she (meaning I) had purchased from the silent auction at the cow horse banquet a couple of weeks prior.

We rode around for an hour or so, then went to washing.  I had forgotten my camera, but indeed even if I had it I’m not sure I would have photographed the occasion, because of the “relative” part of the warm day description.  I washed Freckles’ tail, she washed Grumpy’s, and with a couple of brush outs and a braid we were done.

I took some photos with my phone, but they didn’t turn out that great.  This is Freckles though, standing in the sun after her tail dried.  I think she is expressing surprise at the pinkness of the step stool.

Isn’t she purty?

Miss Freckles

We had a big ride planned for the next day, and we were hoping that the gorgeous spring-like weather would hold out.  Which leads to:

Day Three: We Almost Become the Donner Party

Our last ride of the weekend was by far the most eventful.  We were excited because our friend Kristi was going with us, and we were headed to the Hard Trigger Wild Horse Management Area south of Marsing.  Wilson Creek, as the area is called, is a beautiful place to ride, and the possibility of seeing one of the wild horse herds that lives there is just a bonus.

We also don’t go to Wilson Creek very often, because Annabelle has a strong fear of getting lost while out on a trail ride (oh c’mon – it has only happened once, alright?) and she refuses to go anywhere unfamiliar with me alone.  Even though I had been to Wilson Creek on a few occasions with my friend Teresa, Annabelle still flatly refused to discuss going there with just the two of us.  The fact that Kristi had never been to Wilson Creek before did not deter her.  Just having another (undoubtedly more competent) adult along eased her fears about riding in a new place.

Kristi came over bright and early bearing fresh donuts, which made not only the kids but DH and me very happy.  After loading up on sugar, we loaded up the horses and set out.  A brief stop by the Maverick station for diesel, along with pepperoni sticks, chips and water for the saddle bags, and we were off to  the trainer’s to pick up Freckles and be on our way.

Although it was a fairly sunny morning, a brisk breeze had come up overnight, and it felt downright cold out there as we unloaded in the parking lot.  We hurried and saddled and off we went.  Kristi opted to mount Miss Freckles, while I saddled up a very hairy Spice.  Annabelle climbed on Grumpy (with the help of the new pink ‘step stool’ of course) and we were off.

It is really a very lovely place to ride, and we were having fun looking at all the interesting rock formations that abound in the Wilson Creek BLM Management Area.  If you look closely at Grumpy’s tail you can see the pink and brown leopard tail wrap that is braided into it.

Pretty spiffy for Owyhee County!

Through the Rocks

We rode for about an hour and stopped for some lunch from our saddle bags.  The girls perched up on some rocks for photos.  I just love this one, both because it is great of Annabelle and Kristi, and because it shows the horses’ personalities so perfectly.  Freckles is always “smiling” with her ears up and trying to make friends; Grumpy is, well, grumpy.

Grumpys not amused

After they climbed down and we started to eat our snacks, Annabelle had plenty of company to help her with her lunch.

Whatcha Got

Naturally, a couple of group photos were  in order as we continued along.

The Fam

The girls looked so pretty on their sorrel ponies. Once again, check out the horses’ expressions.  It cracks me up!

Pretty Girls and Ponies

After we ate lunch, we came to the point where I had in the past turned “left” to go back to the parking lot when riding with Teresa.  Despite the ever-sharpening wind, Annabelle did not want to turn left.  She wanted to go straight.

Never listen to a six-year on a trail ride if you are not sure how to work your G.P.S.

Yes, that’s right, I did have my Garmin clipped to the front saddle packs, right next to my Ruger.  But, again, I didn’t really know how to use it.

But I didn’t know that at the time.

Anyhoooo, away we rode.  Happily pointing out each sign that there were definitely wild horses in the area.

Namely, big piles of poop called “Stud Piles.”  These are large piles of manure that are a definite sign of wild horse bands.  We saw several of them, and though it seemed a little odd to try over and over again to get the perfect poop picture, I did it anyway.

Stud Pile 1

I made Annabelle stand beside a couple of them so you could get a feel for the size.  This one was huge!

Grumpy Says Wow

Stud Piles are created by wild horses, not just the stallions but the dominant mares as well, to mark their territory.  By the number of them we saw that day I was somewhat surprised we didn’t see any actual horses.  But we didn’t.  Just lots of poop.

Another Stud Pile

After about two hours of riding we were getting pretty cold.  It was windy, and though sunny, the temperature hovered around the forty degree mark.  We were ready to get back to the truck and go home.

We only had one problem.

We didn’t know where the truck was.  I thought the trail we were on would eventually turn north and then west, to where I estimated we were parked, but I became increasingly unsure.

So we rode.

Shoulda Tyrned Left

And rode.

The Badlands

And as we rode, I tried to consult the G.P.S. to see which way to go.  I had marked our truck as a waypoint, and I told it to return to the waypoint.  It gave me a marking that was the trail were on, and an arrow that was us, but the problem was I couldn’t see where the WAYPOINT was.  Knowing which way we were traveling on a blue trail was extremely unhelpful.

And a little nerve wracking.

Despite the fact that both Kristi and I were starting to get a little concerned, Annabelle retained her good humor, laughing about our straits and completely oblivious to the increasing clouds and decreasing amount of time until darkness.

Whats so Funny

Eventually we stopped for a bit so that I could look at the GPS more closely.  The horses spent the time conferring with one another over which way to go.

The Horses Confer

Annabelle gave the sound and not-unprecedented advice that perhaps we should just go the way the horses wanted to go.  Not the way the G.P.S. said to go, (as if I knew what way that was) and certainly not the way that I wanted to go. 

Fair enough.

We set out, continuing down the sandy trail in the direction that Spice chose.  I was seriously a little nervous, and felt near tears, though of course I didn’t show that to the two younger girls.  Eventually we ran across a mountain biker, who told us to keep going in the direction we were currently headed.  After about fifteen minutes we came across another pair of intrepid knobby-tire riders, and they confirmed the previous directions.  With only one small detour out of our way (corrected by Kristi, for your information) we eventually made it back to the trailer.

We were tired, cold and hungry.  I was sure glad that we had Grandpa Vernon’s chicken enchiladas to eat at home instead of Winston-sushi on a wind-swept hill surrounded by howling wolves.

I’m pretty sure that neither Annabelle nor Kristi will go riding at Wilson Creek with me again.

I can’t really say that I blame them.

Categories: Life in the Country | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Snowy Trails, Soapy Tails and How We Almost Became the Donner Party

  1. Hi! I’m at work surfing around your blog from my
    new iphone! Just wanted to say I love reading your blog and look forward to
    all your posts! Carry on the fantastic work!

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