That just seems like the best title for this post. Heck, it’s the best description for the entire weekend of ACTHA rides with my Apache mare.
I could not have been any happier or more joyful even if I had won the lottery.
And in a way….I have.
Beginning from where I left off………………
After about 15 minutes of waiting for our time slot to begin…just sitting on Apache’s comfy back while she grazed grass, enjoying the peace, quiet and beautiful day, the rest of the riders who had signed up for the 10:45am time slot finally arrived at the starting ribbon.
I was to ride with my friends Anne and Matt and I was really looking forward to it.
Even though they have been in several ACTHA rides, I have either been riding in a different group, volunteering as a judge, or Matt has been volunteering as a Safety Rider, so we just never had the opportunity to actually ride together.
(Shhh. Apache has a crush on Anne’s Clydesdale, Prince. If you don’t remember the adorable photos from last September when Apache and Prince shared a few special moments together, you can visit this link: The Odd Couple)
I’m glad I remembered to ask someone to take a photo of us on Sunday.
Well….I had hoped to ride with Matt and Anne that day, but things just didn’t quite work out that way.
Once our ride time started, we rode on down the gravel road and then onto the trail. And while Apache never balked, she rode very slowly, which meant that the 3 riders in our group, Matt, Anne and a gal named Dita, rode on ahead of us. So Apache and I brought up the rear….way in the back, to the point that we basically rode by ourselves. I explained to Apache that’s what happens when you decide to go too slow, but she, like always didn’t seem very bothered at having to ride down the trails just the two of us.
So we mozied on down the trail, me trying to keep track of the green ribbons that marked the trail we were to follow, and Apache just keeping an eye on where she placed her feet and enjoying being out on such a beautiful day…which just so happened to be Earth Day!! Can you imagine a better place to be on Earth Day, than out in nature riding your horse? Me neither!
Well, we finally caught up with Matt, Anne and Dita at the first obstacle, but Apache didn’t seem too pleased with the energy of Dita’s horse, who was acting like a fire-breathing dragon and just all over the place, huffing, puffing and prancing. Poor Dita had herself a little workout and had to keep circling her horse and trying to gain some kind of control.
Well, since we were just in the Buddy Division and didn’t have to complete the obstacles and because we were riding so slow that day, and I wasn’t wanting to ask too much of my mare (I wanted to keep her shoulder feeling good), and I just wanted most of all for she and I to have a great time together, I told Matt and Anne that Apache and I were going to head on down the trail while they completed the obstacle. So, we continued on down the trail just Apache and I, and focused on finding green trail ribbons. It wasn’t long before Matt, Anne and Dita caught up with us.
Hi Guys!! Glad you found us!
And we rode together for another mile or so, when we spied another group of 6 other riders, the one that had left at 10:30am, wandering around among the trees in front of us. They were lost.
So, we invited them to join our group so we could ride together. I was pretty happy about that because several of the riders in that group were friends of mine from volunteering at Walkin N Circles Ranch Horse Rescue. (In the photo below, from the left: Christine, Jackie, and Loeta)
My friend Jackie, and her mare Rosie, who is the first horse I rode after recuperating from my ACL surgery caused by falling off of my previous horse. I owe a lot to Rosie and Jackie. Rosie helped give me my confidence back after getting hurt, and helped me realize that I shouldn’t give up on my dreams.
My friend Christine, who bought her handsome Tennessee Walker about the same time that I bought my Apache mare.
And my friend Loeta, who is also Jackie’s Mom. Loeta rides a sweet Paso Fino Gelding.
Well, I still don’t understand why or how this happened, but somehow we left behind Matt, Anne and Dita and ended up riding in the 10:30am group with Loeta, Jackie and Christine. We could have just somehow missed some ribbons and got lost, or it could have been something else.
This may not sound like such a big deal, but when you consider that until this time, both during the entire Saturday’s ACTHA ride and the beginning of Sunday’s ACTHA ride, Apache was just strolling along at her own relaxed pace. Which was fine with me as we weren’t in any kind of race, but still! We were now keeping up with two gaited horses: a Tennessee Walker and a Paso Fino!
All I can figure out is that Apache remembered riding with them many times in the past (we rode quite a few times on that same ranch together when it was called Cedar Hills, and we also rode up in the Carson National Forest at Tres Piedras when we all went horse camping), and I wonder if she just felt comfortable with them and decided she wanted to hang out together. As you can imagine I was very pleased! It’s so much fun to ride with friends.
When we arrived at the second obstacle, there was another group there with more friends!
My friend Karen.
And my friend Anna of the blog DunAppy of Bluewater Rangerbred Appaloosas on her mare Baby Girl.
Here they are completing the obstacle: Slicker ‘n Water. I was so excited for them in that they placed 5th place that day!!!!
Here’s my friend Jackie and her mare Rosie completing the obstacle.
Now, I’m really not sure if my mare is gaited, but I have experienced a very special fast walk that my mare does and a sort of trot that feels like you’re barely moving, but she’ll be covering some ground, so I really do wonder. I truly love it when she breaks into that fast walk or gaiting trot. I love the way it feels…like I’m floating along…no bouncing, no having to post. It’s truly sublime!
(Five of the riders in our group, two are out of the picture, including me. Notice the two gaited horses out in front.)
Well, I surely didn’t expect to get any of that speed on Sunday because of how gimpy she had been the night before. But I guess that Bute really made a difference, and she was just feeling so good, because she broke into her fast paces and I was so thrilled that I couldn’t stop smiling! And the more I praised her for it the more she kept on with it. I think she may have been smiling, too!
(All six of the other riders in our group)
This wonderful gal in our group had only been living in New Mexico for 2 years after moving from Texas. She said she was in love with New Mexico….me, too. Her horse is a 19 year old Quarab….full of energy and spunk for an older gentleman!
This 4th obstacle is called the Barrel Board Pinwheel with a cow bell attached at the end of the board! The idea is to pick up the end of the board and circle your horse around the barrel 360 degrees and place the board back down. Sounds easier than it is!
This lady on the black mare, is actually a mountain neighbor of mine that I’ve only met one other time. She breeds and raises mules and is considering buying one of those Fjord horses that I posted about from Saturday’s ACTHA ride. Nice lady.
With the two gaited horses in our group, Apache and I mostly followed along somewhere within the group or at the end. But sometimes we’d still get to lead and search for green ribbons.
While waiting at obstacles, I reveled in the joy of being able to be on horseback on such a special day: Earth Day!
Riding around a bend in the trail and coming upon a little peek at the mountains was like a gift. I smiled a lot all day.
Sometimes we paused to enjoy the incredibly beautiful vistas and take a photo.
And enjoying the views from between my mare’s ears couldn’t be any sweeter!
Some of the judges were so much fun and everyone laughed a lot while cheering on the riders in our group as they attempted each obstacle, like at Obstacle 5: The Side-Pass.
With the indoor arena in the distance and only one more obstacle to complete, some of the riders in our group wanted to enjoy a nice canter across the field and asked if any of us minded. Of course not, I answered and encouraged them to have fun with their horses.
I wasn’t going to ask that of Apache, but if she had offered, I would have let her.
But alas, she was content with her relaxed walk and a little bit of her fast pacing walk. It was all good and we both were having a wonderful time. She didn’t mind riding by ourselves or with others. She was just enjoying being someplace new out on the trails, just as I was.
We caught up with our group at the last obstacle: Don’t Spray Me!
Horses were judged on how willing and calm they were while being sprayed with a water bottle.
Then it was time to follow the green trail ribbons back to base camp.
And once I removed Apache’s tack, brushed her down, gave her small dose of Bute, and checked her feet, I put her in her paddock where she promptly laid down and enjoyed a leisurely roll!
Ahhhh! Feels so good!
Looking back at the entire weekend, I have to conclude that I could not have been happier with my Apache mare. She was well behaved all weekend, loaded and unloaded perfectly, did everything I asked without complaint, she got along with all of the other horses, she led, she followed, she rode alone, she waited patiently, she was calm and relaxed, and she took the very best care of me while I was on her back. And most importantly of all, I absolutely believe that my Apache mare enjoyed herself just as much as I did.
And that is why I am on Cloud 9.
PS Even though we hauled Apache down to the ranch for the ACTHA weekend with our own horse trailer, Ranchman John needed our truck on Saturday to return to Phoenix for work. So I just want to shout out a big thank to my friend Roni, who lives just two streets over from me, for giving my Apache mare a ride home with her mare after the ACTHA ride.