Wednesday was a two horses and two rides kind of day.
A couple of my friends were heading down to San Acacia to go riding and invited me along and since I rarely ever pass up an opportunity to ride, I loaded up my stuff and headed down to the Rio Grande Valley.
When I got there, the horses were all tied to the rail and my friends Cheryl, Kendra, Shane and Dacodah were getting the horses brushed and tacked up. Cheryl had brought her sister Karen, who is from California and is disabled, for her first New Mexico trail ride. Typically, I usually ride my favorite ARA horse, Splendor, but Dacodah likes to put beginners and special needs riders on her, because she is so careful with them and does such a good job babysitting them.
But the great thing about Splendor is that she is one of those kinds of horses who instinctively knows the abilities of her riders and will match her energy and skills to whomever is on her back. So, if you’re a beginner or are a cautious rider, she will move slowly and calmly and won’t ask for a trot or a canter. But if you have some experience, she will up her energy and be very push-button with offering up the trot or canter. In fact, Splendor is the fastest horse that Dacodah owns. About a year ago, he had a policeman friend use his radar gun to clock her and several of his horses, in the valley on the flats. And she clocked in at 55mph! She’s really a worth-her-weight-in-gold horse and I have such a fun time riding her.
So, I when I found out I’d be riding a different horse for our first ride, I was surprised that I only had a small pang of disappointment and was actually Iooking forward to trying out a different horse that day. Dacodah set me up with a 19 year old Standardbred/Thoroughbred cross gelding, named Ranger, who, even though he was the tallest horse I have ever ridden(my first horse Baby Doll, whom I thought was tall, was 15.3hh), had such soft, kind eyes, so I somehow just felt safe with him.
(This was me on Ranger just after I mounted. You can see Dacodah helping Karen get comfortable with Splendor over to the right.)
Dacodah put my friend Kendra on a nice gelding named Festus. Here she is in front of the old San Acacia Schoolhouse, headquarters for Acacia Riding Adventures (ARA)
We rode down along the ditch bank roads out to the desert mesa and rode around out there for about a hour and half.
Ranger was calm, relaxed and a joy to ride, even though he tended to stumble and trip quite a bit. He preferred riding alongside the road in the sand and when we’d make it to a section of sand out in the desert, he would ask to trot and boy howdy! What a huge trot he had! Posting was required. There was no sitting that trot unless you wanted to feel like a popcorn kernel. lol!
(A photo of Ranger and I, that Kendra took with her cell phone. You can see Splendor’s cute little ears behind me…awww!)
Riding Ranger reminded me of the camel ride I took 2 years ago at the Rio Grande Zoo. The camel feeling came from being perched up so high and the way he sashayed and swayed as his long legs stretched out as he walked. Dacodah referred to him as a Snuffleapagus and I would have to agree. Ranger is just a big rambling, swaying, shuffling, loveable old man. I was honored to ride him because he will soon be going off to a retirement gig at a Therapy Riding Center where he will be loved, ridden and doted on by children with Autism and Special Needs.
(Enjoying the desert and mesa views around Indian Hill)
(Enjoying the view from atop Ranger)
(Dacodah and his dog Ciento, and a horse in training)
And then we crossed the train tracks and rode beside the Rio Grande.
(Kendra on Festus beside the train tracks with Indian Hill/Black Butte in the background)
We were hoping to ride in the river because it was only about 6” deep, but the river operators, inside the little operator’s shack, were planning on releasing the waters in a few minutes to break apart a section of silt and mud that had built up in the dam, and the river would soon be running fast and deep. So instead we stood above the river, taking photos and watching water birds, hawks and eagles hunt for the wiggling, jumping fish in the shallow water down below.
(Photo of me on Ranger)
(Photo of Kendra on Festus)
(Photo of Cheryl on Ladrone)
(Photo of Dacodah telling us funny stories)
And then we all headed back to ARA. (Cheryl up front, Kendra behind. Bright green alfalfa field in the background)
When we got back, my friend Shelley had arrived at the schoolhouse, and was there waiting for us. She got a kick out of seeing me on Ranger, because she’s used to seeing me riding Splendor whenever I’m down riding at San Acacia. Dacodah had an appointment in Socorro, so we all just hung out with the ponies, nibbled on some snacks, and relaxed in the sunshine until he returned. And boy did he! Dacodah came back bearing gifts: 3 pizzas, breadsticks and sodas! After chowing down, it was time to get the ponies tacked up so we could head out again. We were going to be planning the trail for the ACTHA CTR being held in San Acacia on April 29th.
Cheryl’s sister, Karen didn’t want to ride again that day, so I got the opportunity to ride my Splen Splen mare.
(Sisters, Karen and Cheryl)
Seven of us rode out onto the trails surrounding San Acacia: Dacodah, Cheryl, her daughter and her daughter’s friend(who had only ridden a horse 4 times in her life), Kendra, Shelley and me.
(Kendra, Dacodah, Cheryl’s daughter, and her daughter’s friend)
Dacodah put Kendra on one of his horse’s in training, Tupoc, a Tennessee Walker gelding.
Shelley brought along her trail dog, a Fox Terrier named Grommit, and rode a relative newcomer to ARA, Guru, a grey gelding.
And of course, I rode Miss Splendor. I just have to say how great the feeling it was to move from Ranger’s back onto Splendor’s back. It felt like putting on a perfectly-fitted, comfortable pair of old jeans. My seat just slipped deep into the saddle and my legs and hips felt like they had come home. Does anyone understand what I mean?
Here we are looking out across the salt flats (notice the old pink ribbon left behind from a previous ACTHA CTR and Grommit taste-testing the salty, alkaline waters)
We rode around trying out different trails for about 3-4 hours and had several mishaps. The first one happened before we even set out. After we had all mounted up, one of Dacodah’s wranglers had placed his own heavy western saddle that fit him perfectly, on one of Dacodah’s smaller mare’s and she was not. happy. at. all. She immediately went to bucking and backing up, and caused all the rest of our horses to scatter, including Splendor. How exciting!
The wrangler fell off and then he jumped back on and rode that mare all around the schoolhouse running, bucking, twisting, and jumping up into the air bronc-like. Dacodah told the wrangler it was his saddle that was causing the trouble, because it just didn’t fit the horse. The wrangler at first was upset because he had spent a lot of money on that saddle and it fit him and he wanted to use it. But he finally listened to Dacodah: “First fit the saddle to the horse, then the rider”, and he switched out his saddle for one of Dacodah’s. And wouldn’t you know it. A completely different horse emerged without any western rodeo, wild bronc attitude.
I always learn something each time I ride down at San Acacia, but this was an obvious eye opener for me. We always hear about correct saddle fitting and how it can literally make or break a horse. Well, in this situation the signs were obvious.
The second mishap ocurred when Cheryl’s horse tripped and fell as she was cantering down into an arroyo right in front of me. The horse fell down, partly on Cheryl’s leg. Scared the crap out of me, but Cheryl and the horse were uninjured and we continued riding.
The third mishap happened when we were all cantering across the desert into the wind. Dacodah had switched horses with Cheryl’s daughter, because she was having problems controlling her gelding and he kept wanting to gallop, hop or buck. Dacodah said that much of the Appy’s issues had to do with the more aggressive training bit that his owner was using, which was too much bit for trail riding.
So she was riding his Arabian and he was riding her Appaloosa. We were all enjoying our fun canter (well, those of us in the back weren’t enjoying all the flying dust and sand in our faces, though. lol!) when all of a sudden, Dacodah’s horse just dropped and rolled. The horse got up and I heard Dacodah groaning and boy was I worried. All these worst case scenarios kept running through my head as we all checked out him and the horse. At first he was having problems getting his eyes to focus and it seemed like he had sustained a head injury, but soon he was walking without stumbling and was able to joke around like his usual self. He sure gave all of us a scare, though, and I don’t think I would have been able to climb right back on a horse after a fall like that, can continue riding. But that’s just what he did.
(There’s Dacodah in the background on the Appy. Kendra was giving Tupoc some much deserved cookies for showing her how fun a running walk gait can be)
As usual Splendor took great care of me and she rarely ever stumbled or missed a step. I did notice she was shod on all 4 feet now, and I meant to ask Dacodah about that. I hope her feet haven’t been giving her any problems. They still look as strong as granite.
Shelley and I decided it would be fun to pose beside the Rio Grande with ARA’s two matching greys, Splendor and Guru.
I like this photo because you can see Dacodah down in the river, but Guru looks goofy with his head down and his ears all wonky. lol!
While the first ride was a nice relaxing amble down the trail with just a little trotting, the second ride, was a go-go-go kind of ride and much of the ride was spent trotting and cantering. It always surprises me when I see one of Dacodah’s beginner rider client’s ride Splendor. She is so different for them…so cautious, careful and slow, and then when I ride her she’s forever asking me to move up in speed and go faster. Of course, it’s mostly my fault because I do encourage her to trot and canter because it’s just so darn fun! At least I know I’m not messing her up for Dacodah’s beginner rider clients, because Splendor knows her job and she seems to know just what the ability of every rider is who gets up on her back.
(Dacodah and the girls down in the river)
It was getting late in the day, but Chery;s daughter and her friend were wanting to take a ride across the river since it had leveled off in depth and was moving a little slower. The rest of us had crossed the river many times before and didn’t feel like crossing it, just to get to the other side and the come back, so we waited up above the river. Splendor was pretty good and patient for about the first 10 minutes and then started pawing and shaking her head in attempt to convince me to get us to head back to the schoolhouse. But it’s a wide river and we had wait another 10-15 more minutes, so Splendor and I argued off and on while chatting with Kendra, Shelley and Cheryl, until Dacodah and the girls returned.
Then we rode back along the ditch bank road and Splendor insisted on trotting the entire time. It didn’t help that all of the horses were energized to be going back home and were doing their versions of walk/trot/prance. I allowed Splendor to trot, too because I got tired of constantly slowing her down to a walk, only for her to ask for a trot again. So, my job was to just keep her at a controlled trot, which at times almost felt like prancing-in-place kind of trot. And it was fun to be able to ride side-by-side with other riders chatting while our horses trotted down the road.
When we got back to the schoolhouse, some clients had arrived to do a guided sunset ride and Dacodah invited all of us to come along for the ride, too. Kendra, Cheryl and Shelley decided to go along, but it was getting dark and I was already tired after riding most of the day, and had an hour and half drive ahead of me to get home, so I opted out.
Wednesday was another great day spent on horseback with friends. Now I’ve got to prepare for this weekend’s back-to-back ACTHA CTR’s on Saturday and Sunday. It’s my Apache mare’s first ACTHA rides for the year and I’m really excited! I hope she enjoys the weekend of riding, too.
What are your plans this weekend? Do you have some fun stuff planned with your ponies?