Me, all prepared to mark trail.
Me, riding Splendor beside the Rio Grande while marking trail for the most recent ACTHA Competitive Trail Ride in San Acacia, New Mexico.
Shelley asked if I’d come down on Tuesday and help her and Dacodah mark trail for the ACTHA CTR.
Shelley riding Guru, another one of Dacodah’s horses.
The three of us planned to be out for 4-5 hours marking about 8 miles of trail for the ACTHA CTR taking place that weekend.
Two of Dacodah’s dogs and Shelley’s dog tagged along. My Dobbie Girl came along, too, but it got too hot for her and she turned back after less than a mile and went back to the old Schoolhouse to wait for me to return. Dacodah gave the smaller dogs rides throughout the afternoon when they became too tired and hot to continue.
Shelley prides herself on discovering obstacles as trails are marked. The obstacles are usually always natural and very creative…..like the obstacle that was placed beneath this old trestle bridge (a Vine Obstacle…with real vines that we brought in and attached to the railings)
Here we’re discussing how to set up the Vine Obstacle. And…yes, trains still use this trestle bridge :)
It was about 90F degrees, so the shade that the trestle bridge provided, was sure welcome.
Dacodah releasing Shelley’s Fox Terrier, after giving him a ride when he became too hot and tired to keep up.
My photo of the old Trestle Bridge.
Dacodah took a photo of us, on the two grays, as we left behind the trestle bridge to ride in the dry Rio Salado Wash, towards the Rio Grande.
Finally arriving at the Rio Grande.
The cool, refreshing water was a welcome relief from the sun and heat for all of us: dogs, horses, and humans.
Shelley, letting Guru take a nice long drink from the river, as we all discuss the water obstacle that will be located here.
Dacodah, Shelley and I discussing the Water Obstacle for this location.
It wasn’t all work and no play. We all enjoyed playing in the water, especially the horses. At one point, Dacodah cantered his horse up to Shelley and I, ala Shamu-style and splashed us with refreshing cool water.
A man, his horse and his dog, surrounded by the Rio Grande River. “No Man is an Island”
While crossing to the other side of the Rio Grande, we discovered some Swallow Mud Nests.
Talk about apartment living! I was immediately reminded of Taos Pueblo.
But soon it was time to forge on. We’d only marked about half of the trail and 4 of the obstacles.
This little guy was sitting beside the Rio Grande. Of course, we had to break into song “Rubber Ducky, you’re the one! You make marking trails so much fun!”
As we were leaving the river, three feral horses emerged from the trees and brush. They were abandoned by someone who couldn’t afford to take care of them anymore.
We watched the feral horses for a little while as they watched us, but it was soon time to get back to work marking trail.
Anytime we stopped for any reason, the three dogs took advantage of any shade they could find.
The trail we chose traveled right beside the Rio Grande. The sparkling water was mesmerizing.
But the aggressive, invasive Salt Cedar we soon encountered was a scourge! And it prevented us from moving forward many times. We had to literally leap and push our way some of the thicker sections. At one point, I even lost my cell phone that was attached to my leg in a holder. (Thankfully, it was recovered by Dacodah, the very next day when he and some others went out to clear that section of trail…whew!)
The Salt Cedar Maze was my least favorite section of the trail (until it was cleared…and then it was awesome!) and we were truly bushwhacking through it, even while placing pink ribbons all along the way. The horses were getting impatient at times, especially when Dacodah would leave Shelley and I behind so he could forge ahead and see if the trail opened up ahead at all.
And then at one point we had to leave the dense Salt Cedar and hop down on a narrow ledge, lined with a thick wall of Salt Cedar on our right, with the Rio Grande on our left about 4 feet down. And then we had to wait patiently while Dacodah cut down most of an Olive Tree (another invasive species in New Mexico) that blocked our way forward. Let me just say that my horse, Miss Splendor wasn’t very patient and kept trying to turn around or back up. Not a wise thing to do on such a narrow ledge!
Thankfully we were able to leave that narrow ledge, and after another half hour of trying to make our way through the Salt Cedar, all while marking the trail with pink ribbons, we emerged into the open and discovered the location for our next obstacle: Sherwood Forest!
This ended up being the obstacle that I chose to judge for the ACTHA ride on Sunday: The Deadfall, which was basically an obstacle where riders and horses maneuvered their way over downed branches and logs.
After marking the obstacle and each of us testing it out a few times, we moved on to the final section of trail to mark, as well as the last obstacle: The Gate.
But as we made our way down the trail, we were instantly stopped by a loud rattling sound and soon spied the slithery creature who had made that noise.
We kept a distance of at least 10 feet as we admired this fellow, and the horses weren’t concerned in the least. But Shelley’s dog gave us all a heart attack when he wandered within inches of the rattlesnake and we were sure he was going to get bitten. Thankfully, the snake gave pardon to the careless dog, sparing him a painful, life-threatening bite, and Shelley’s dog was able to live another day. We were all happy to leave the snake to his business and finish our work of marking trail.