(Grab some refreshments and visit the potty first. Lots of photos and stories in this post)
On Saturday we had an even bigger group of riders and horses show up for the San Lorenzo Canyon Trail Ride. But we wouldn’t all be riding together. There was an early group of about 20 riders who headed out at sunrise, a High Ridge group of about 40 riders that would travel along the top of the canyon, and finally a group of about 30 Canyon Bottom riders who would be exploring the lower reaches of San Lorenzo Canyon. Shelley and Trish would be doing the High Ridge ride, while I chose to ride the Canyon Bottom.
And D shared some of his horses, all tacked up and ready to ride, one of which was my own mount, Splendor.
There’s Splendor’s big white bum at the trailer.
Before we loaded up there was some pre-ride dancing by “Pandito” and Dora, one of the planners of the Centennial Trail Ride.
And some dipping, too!
Most everyone tacked up at the Old School House and then loaded up their horses for the short drive over to the canyon.
With over 80 horses to be hauled to San Lorenzo Canyon, we had quite the line-up of horse trailers in the tiny village of San Acacia!
In fact, we had a horse trailer convoy!
I was riding with Shelley, Trish and a gal named Amanda (whom I discovered owns a warmblood stable just 3 miles from my house. We’re neighbors!), in Shelley’s truck, hauling 3 horses. Thankfully we didn’t have to drive onto the Interstate highway at all. Instead we drove under it.
Horse trailers in front.
And horse trailers behind…as far as the eye could see!
We were almost there!
I had to take a potty break before I mounted up, so I walked up a hillside to find a tree and took this photo along the way. This is our base camp near the mouth of San Lorenzo Canyon.
While everyone was unloading horses and checking tack, Dusty from Followed Dream Ranch took his 3 horses for a little jaunt up to the top of a ridge above our base camp. Dusty’s 3 horses are all rescues that he trained himself. He rides all 3 of them and takes them on the trails where they stay close together, even though they are never on a lead rope. When Dusty calls each of them by name, they always stop what they are doing and go to him. They each have a custom halter printed with his ranch information as well as their names. Dusty is an amazing horseman and it was an honor to ride with him and his fine horses all weekend.
Seeing them up there together seemed like the perfect photogenic moment. Looks like Dusty thought so, too.
Surprisingly it didn’t take too long to get all the horses ready and everyone mounted up and we were soon headed on down to the trail.
Splendor and I mostly rode by ourselves or with one or two other riders. I learned quickly the day before that Splendor doesn’t like other horses crowding her and she WILL kick a horse that ignores her warnings to respect her space. I’m used to this behavior and it doesn’t bother me, because I usually ride mares and I’ve found this is pretty typical. I like my personal space, too, and really don’t like nose-to-tail trail rides, so I can fully appreciate where they’re coming from.
Friday’s ride up to Black Butte included a few horses that were all jacked up and excited in such a large group. Several of the riders that got behind us kept allowing their horse to get right up on Splendor’s rump. I warned them to allow some space between Splendor’s butt and their horse, when I could feel her tense up and she pinned her ears, but I was surprised when they would answer, “That’s ok. If my horse gets kicked that will be a good lesson for him” I wanted to say, “You’re the one who’s supposed to be in control of your horse…..hold him back! I don’t want my horse to feel threatened enough where she has to keep defending her personal space”
One specific rider kept ignoring my warnings so I just tried to keep moving Splendor off the trail so they would go by, but they would constantly pull in behind us again. Finally Splendor had had enough and I felt her back end coil, lift up and then heard a loud WHUMP!. Yep, she had made contact with the pushy horse behind us. Suffice it to say that we didn’t have any more issues with that rider or horse again…in fact we didn’t see them for the rest of the ride. lol!
I chose to ride the Canyon Trail with the smaller group of riders. I’ve always enjoyed hiking in canyons, especially slot canyons, and doing it on horseback is even better!
There was still snow and ice in the shadowy sections of the canyon washes.
It was a cold day, but the canyon walls blocked the wind and the rock walls absorbed the warmth of the sun and made it feel much warmer.
The rock formations lining the canyon were incredible.
At times wandering among the canyon walls reminded me of the planet Tattooine in first Star Wars Movie. I kept expecting bands of Tuskin Raiders to throw spears at us, or for Jawas to scuttle from the shadows.
Several times I felt someone watching our group as we traveled along the canyon wash……and I was right. It was the Canyon Ridge group riding along the edge high above us!
And this is the view that they saw as they looked down into the canyon where we riding (photo taken by Steve Komadina of CHAMPS)
While they were up there in the wide open spaces, we were riding down below cradled by rock walls. (Photo taken by horse friend Peggi Johnson) That’s me with the fleece horse print jacket and blue helmet cover.
We all took a little break, ate the lunches that we packed in our saddlebags, and took some photos.
And enjoyed the views….
Sweet Splendor had a rest, too.
Then we were traveling down through the canyon again.
And up, over and around… (photo taken by horse friend Peggi Johnson)
There were lots of photo taking opportunities around every bend.
It was a very relaxing and enjoyable ride.
With always something interesting to ride up, over, under, around and through.
The sound of hoof beats resonated off the rock walls and felt like we were riding inside of a cave.
It was difficult to put my camera away. There was so much beauty to see al around (Thanks new horse friend, Marilyn for this photo of me. I like that I didn’t even know you were taking it. I wonder what I was thinking about.)
The snow added just the right accent on the rock. It was really quite stunning. This is my new horse friend, Marilyn. She’s addicted to photography, too.
The horses were all very patient with us riders and our photo taking moments.
This fascinating shelf of layered rock caught my eye.
We soon left the canyon floor and climbed up to the top of a sandy hill…….
And enjoyed some wide-open vistas of San Lorenzo Canyon land.
I took a photo of Marilyn.
And she took a photo of me.
What do you see, Miss Splendor?
There’s Dacodah riding in the canyon wash, looking for the Ridge Rider group who are supposed to meet us near this spot so we can ride back out together.
Looks like he found them. There’s one of Dusty’s horse’s leading the way.
And there’s some of the riders, too.
And here’s D riding back up to lead us down the hill back into the wash.
Beautiful color and light with the sun going down. There’s the canyon floor below us and where we’ll be heading in a few moments. Looks like a steep route down…hmmm..
Yep, it was steep. There aren’t any official trails in San Lorenzo Canyon, so you have to bushwhack and make your own.
Back in the canyon wash again.
Me, Marilyn’s husband Tim on his mustang mare, and a cowboy named George, known for his stunning “Trojan Horse” with the Baroque head and roached mane. (Thanks Peggi Johnson for this photo, shared on Facebook)
This is the section that I really had some fun. I don’t know what prompted me to do it, as I’ve never done it before. But as one of my cowboy friends called it when he saw me, “Looks like you’re playing Dances with Wolves”. Yep, kind of. I dropped my reins and spread out my arms like I was flying, and just used my legs to steer. I think I was grinning from ear to ear! (Sorry no photos of me flying, I was in my own little world. lol!)
I was thrilled to catch up with Dusty and his 3 amazing horses.
Dusty decided to turn around and head back towards the rear of the group. He called his loose horses and they never hesitated, just turned and followed.
I’ve ridden with loose horses before and they have usually been knuckleheads, and just plain pests. But these horses are more well-behaved and polite than many dogs I know.
More lovely rock formations, made even more beautiful with the warm light from the setting sun.
The way the snow accented the rock was just stunning!
What a strange creature I’m riding. Looks like she came from Star Wars’ Tatooine, doesn’t she?
But my little mare knew we we’re heading back to the horse trailers and she asked if we could do some trotting and cantering. So fun!
And before I knew it we had left our group behind and only had a handful of riders in front of us.
In this video we had just finished a fun canter through a section not far from the mouth of the canyon, and then I asked Splendor to trot. We didn’t get to trot very far, though, because the three riders in front of us were blocking the trail. But soon we passed them, too, and there were only two riders in front of us…..
And those two riders were very special. They are Andre and Frederique of France.
They are goat cheese farmers, but decided someday to explore the U.S, but not in the usual touristy way. Not only did this fascinating couple ride bicycles from New York to Los Angeles and then up to San Francisco last year, but they also bought some horses in Salman, Montana and rode all the way down to Hatch, New Mexico, arriving last month. Then after meeting D, they decided to visit for a while, and have him help them sell their 4 horses before they head back to France.
Andre and Frederique are officially Long Riders, and I had the great honor of finishing my San Lorenzo Canyon trail ride with them. Wow!
The last section of Canyon trail ahead.
This cowboy was taking photos of everyone as they rode though the mouth of the canyon. Splendor and I cantered through, so it should be fun to see those photos when or if he shares them. I like this photo of him and his horse because it shows how tall some of the canyon walls really are.
We were the first to make it back to D’s horse trailer, so we had a little snack, a granola bar for me and cookies for her. And I decided to have a portrait session with the lovely Splendor. Isn’t she cute?
Before long all of the riders returned to base camp and this crazy fun guy, Antonio, went around offering post-ride celebratory ‘shots’ of some good cheap wine: Wild Cherry Boone.
Shelley, Trish, Amanda and I each took a turn at the bottle. It actually brought back some old memories and some funny conversations, too. lol!
After we got back to the old San Acacia School House, un-tacked and fed the horses, it was time for a wonderful catered dinner of BBQ brisket and chicken, old time cowboy music by the Sons of the Rio Grande, dancing and lots of trail stories shared by the campfire.
(Karen, D’s girlfriend with “Bandito”, Andre and Frederique, and Dusty with ?)
(Good ol’ “Beel” with Janet, a new horse friend from Utah. See those hand-beaded leather pony tail bands on her hair? Janet makes those and is going to make me one in turquoise for my own hair. Yay!)
(“Bandito” with Karen)
And there was also talk about the very special surprise trail ride planned for the next day, Sunday, and if the weather would hold out or bring snow and rain instead………
By the way, did you know that San Lorenzo is the Patron Saint of Chickens?