(Warning: This post is long and full of photos. Make sure to take a potty break and gather up some snacks and a beverage before continuing.)
Last week, my dear friend Kendra invited me over to ride on her beautiful little ranch called Ojitos de Dios, or Eyes of God.
Kendra even drove up to my house to hook up my trailer to her truck, and take Apache and I to her place, because Ranchman John needs his truck to commute to the Albuquerque airport to work in Phoenix.
Apache is always eager to load up and go somewhere. She seems to enjoy going new places, especially on trail rides, so it was all I could do to keep my girl from happily hopping up quickly into my trailer.
Kendra lives about an hour south of my house, just east of the beautiful Manzano Mountains.
The Manzano Mountains in the distance.
And when we finally arrived at Ojitos de Dios Ranch and unloaded my Apache girl, I led her into a roomy paddock beside Kendra’s barn where she instantly made herself right at home and munched on a flake of hay across the fence from Kendra’s 3 equine boys: Poncho, Durango and Bailey.
While our horses enjoyed their lunch, Kendra invited me inside her home and we had our own lunch of delicious egg salad sandwiches, provided by her flock of hens.
After she gave me a little tour of the property surrounding her house, we fetched our ponies to get them tacked up for our trail ride. Apache met me at the gate and was ready to get started.
I just love her calm, relaxed demeanor and her willingness when she knows we’re going on a trail ride. I hadn’t been on her back for over a week, but after she was tacked up, I just hopped right on and off we went.
I am so thankful and happy that she is the kind of horse you can let sit for days, weeks, months, even a year, and when you’re ready to ride, you don’t have to do a thing, just climb onto her back, and it’s as if no time has passed at all since your last ride. I love my Apache girl!
Kendra’s ranch is almost 60 acres and covers some varied and beautiful terrain.
We started off riding the more arid eastern side of her ranch, which was a nice warm-up for the canyon arroyo ride that would be coming next.
Apache felt right at home with her riding companions: me, Kendra and Bailey, and Kendra's Jack Russell named Felicity
But I think she secretly has a crush on Bailey.
And she adores Kendra. Here, reaching up to give Kendra a kiss.
And Kendra, previously not a ‘mare-person’, has made an exception for my girl. Here she is giving my Apache mare a kiss right back. *grin*
Most of her property was once a pinto bean farm and it was interesting to see some of the reminders, like the irrigation set-up, that was left behind. Her neighbors across the road run cattle and have given her an open invitation to ride on their land any time. I hope to be invited to come back down and explore over there with Kendra someday soon.
After riding the eastern side of her ranch, we headed back to her house, rode down her driveway and then made our way down into the deep arroyo that creates the southern boundary of her property.
We rode along the edge of the arroyo for a while, then crossed a dry rocky creek so we could head deeper into the coyote willows and cottonwood trees.
Apache took a deep whiff and proclaimed that there was once a lot of water in this arroyo.
Apache and I both enjoyed the interesting and slightly challenging terrain, because most of the trails we usually ride together tend to be flatter or gently rolling.
The coyote willows reminded me of a bamboo forest and they provided an environment of an exotic, mysterious journey as we rode alongside and crossed a babbling creek.
Here I am eating a leaf, while Apache enjoys some grass. *laughing*
And Apache was beside herself with happiness at the sight of all the tall, green, lush grass that was soon surrounding us with every step we took.
She didn’t even mind sharing with Bailey. *grin*
We stopped often to let Apache and Bailey graze in the shade while Kendra and I laughed and talked.
But we didn’t spend the entire day, just sitting on our ponies while they gorged themselves on grass. We also explored the beautiful shady trails.
To say we were thoroughly enjoying ourselves would have been underestimating our experience. I was thrilled to capture this shot of Kendra and Bailey leaping (flying!) across the creek!
It was a gorgeous, sunny, relaxing day. And spending the day on horseback with a good friend made it absolutely perfect!
Kendra proudly and generously shared her beautiful trails with Apache and I, and showed us some of the relics of the old bean farm, like irrigation systems that open up into the arroyo.
There were many interesting things to see along the way, like this cave-in of the arroyo wall.
Most of the year, this arroyo is dry. But during the Spring snowmelt, and when New Mexico gets her heavy rains during the monsoon season, this arroyo is not a place to be, as it will fill up with a deep torrent of water, more like a fast moving river. The water creates severe erosion, like what you can see around the roots of this old cottonwood tree.
“Hey, Apache, do you want to go inside and explore that little ‘root-cave?”…….“Um, no I would not. But you can go in there by yourself. I’ll just stay here and eat grass”
We soon arrived at a very special place on Kendra’s ranch: The Artesian Springs. This is the reason that some areas of her arroyo are able to produce water for most of the year, even when there is no snowmelt or monsoons. Apache and Bailey both enjoyed a long cool drink of spring water.
And then Apache wanted to go in a little deeper.
This was the first time I had ever taken her into water deeper than her pasterns. I think it’s safe to say that she really enjoys playing in the water. Me, too!
Apache and Bailey were very happy to just stand in the cool water and eat the grass growing on the edges of the creek.
They were also content to just nuzzle one another, too.
They did a lot of that throughout the entire day actually. They were so cute!
As we continued down the trail inside the arroyo, we crossed the creek several times.
And at one particular creek crossing, Apache and I had a little adventure. At this spot, the banks were pretty steep. The photo below is from our second attempt to cross the creek here, because during our first attempt, I made the mistake of trying to neck rein Apache while also taking a photo of Kendra as we were riding down into the creek. In the center of the creek, Apache seemed to get confused and chose to turn to our right, before I could put my camera away. As she turned right, she leaped up the steep embankment and I could feel her go down on at least one of her knees as we reached the top. Kendra was watching the entire thing and she was worried we might not make it up the steep embankment.
I have to admit that I briefly entertained the thought that we might fall down backwards into the creek, but I leaned forward and lifted my seat out of the saddle, and Apache gathered herself up and heaved us both onto the top of the embankment. I didn’t even pause at the top, but immediately circled her around the trees and asked her to go back down into the creek again. You can see in the photo below, she was cautious and not too sure that was such a great idea. You can also see the mud on her back legs and front right leg from her struggle up the embankment.
But my Apache mare trusted me and into the creek we went, but this time I was giving her more direction and my full attention. You can see the steepness of the embankment that we leaped up, over on the left side in the photo.
I just have to say that I was (and am) so proud of my girl for giving me so much try and trusting me. She was so brave and she never said no.
Kendra told me afterwards that she was impressed with how I handled that situation and thought Apache and I were a great team. Those words meant a lot to me. I also really appreciate all the great photos she took of my mare and I.
Later when we went into Kendra’s arena to play, Apache absolutely deserved her butt scratches.
We played in the arena for another hour or so. Kendra and I both took turns running around the barrels. Apache and I mostly at the trot, which she is now giving to me without as much prompting. My calves and thighs are much happier.
I even think Apache was having a good time playing around the barrels. Kendra and Bailey cantered around the barrels and looked amazing doing it!
They are a great team!
I had fun taking photos of Kendra and Bailey running the barrels, dragging a log, and practicing the barrel-board-pinwheel obstacle.
After a while, we left the arena and rode around close to her house and played some more. Kendra and Bailey practiced jumping over some logs.
And then we wandered around in what I called The Juniper Maze. It was good training for both Apache and Bailey, because it was easy to ride in different directions and lose sight of one another among the wide and tall evergreen trees. It was great to see how well they both did on their own without being nervous or worried when they weren’t within sight of another horse. And it was fun for Kendra and I because we started calling out ‘Marco!’……’Polo’! just to try and figure out where we both were. You can imagine how much we were laughing. *grin*
And imagine my surprise when Apache led me away from the direction that Kendra and Bailey were, and walked over to some colorful flowers, then stopped and stood quietly so that I could take photos of this beautiful Indian Paintbrush.
It was close to 6pm when we finally checked to see what time it was. And it was an hour drive to get me and Apache back home. So we untacked our ponies and she put Bailey in his paddock and I loaded up Apache.
We had such a fabulous day! It was so fun, exciting, relaxing, and just plain wonderful. I’m so thankful to have such a dear friend like Kendra to spend the day playing with our ponies.
And I’m also grateful for my sweet, willing, patient, fun-loving, gentle Apache mare, too.