On Thursday morning, Kendra and I headed out to Oak Flats for a trail ride. This was our second trail ride at Oak Flats, and the surrounding Cibola National Forest Trails and Open Space lands, for Kendra and I, and for me it was my 3rd. .
Some of you might remember the last time, a few weeks ago, that Kendra and I went on a TRAIL RIDE AT OAK FLATS with our horseback riding friend, Peggy. We had gotten terribly off track, requiring us to call Kendra’s husband to come by and pick up the horse trailers and meet us at the trailhead we ended up at. And worst of all, Peggy’s horse colicked! Thankfully he was just fine a couple hours later, but the experience did teach us to be even better prepared while trail riding.
This time Kendra and I were hoping to figure out where we had gotten off track and finally triumph over the crazy network of trails, many not even posted with signs or listed on a map. We had almost ended up not riding on Thursday because when I woke up, the weather was threatening to thunderstorm. But when the sun came out we loaded up our horses and headed down the road to explore the Oak Flats trails.
We chose to ride on Mahogany Trail, thinking that's what we had ridden last time we were here, but it didn't seem to be going in the direction we believed it should have been. The trail was dropping lower into the canyon and was curving sharply towards the west.
We didn’t see any wildlife, including deer or bear, but we we were still prepared and carrying a gun. The only people we saw on the trail was a bicyclist and a guy on a dirt bike. Both were very polite, stopping and pulling off the trail, and in the case of the dirt biker, turning off the noisy engine, as soon as they saw us.
I was a little nervous when I heard, but didn’t see, the noisy dirt bike somewhere up ahead, and although Apache was very alert, she wasn’t alarmed at all. We walked right on by the friendly dirt bike guy, chatting the entire time.
I’m so grateful to finally have such a calm, brave, and willing, trail-savvy horse.
There was one point, though, just a little ways after we passed the dirt biker, where Apache refused to move forward. The trail veered down into a gully lined with rocks, and that may have been what caused her to pause. Or perhaps she sensed the impending storm that was rolling across the mountains.
But I squeezed, kicked, clucked, kissed and swung my reins over her withers (I forgot to bring my Quirt), and she finally reluctantly took a few steps. It was the dirt bike finally starting up and revving it’s engine behind us, that motivated Apache to get herself into gear.
The wind picked up, which felt very refreshing and the sky became darker. We ended up choosing to turn around at one point because the dark clouds were dropping lower and we heard the sound of grumbling thunder and felt a few raindrops.
But wouldn’t you know it?! Soon after we turned around, the sun peeked out from between the clouds and, even though it remained a mostly overcast day, the rain clouds rolled on towards the East. That's New Mexico Monsoon weather for ya!
We still decided it might be a good idea to stay close to the Oak Flats Picnic Grounds and the horse trailer, so we just rode around and explored the trails in that area. Apache really likes Bailey and he seems to like her, too. And he also likes cookies. hehe!
Riding around the picnic grounds was a lot of fun because we discovered a unique obstacle course to play on and challenge our horses.
We called it the Picnic Table Graveyard as there were over a hundred concrete picnic tables placed in a circle in the area.
At first Apache wasn’t so sure it was a good idea to enter the Picnic Table Graveyard and balked when I asked her to go forward.
Kendra and I realized that the picnic tables gave the illusion of getting narrower in each row(and some rows actually did become narrower), which probably made the horses cautious about getting stuck in a tight spot and unable to turn around.
But I kept asking my Apache to go forward into the row and she finally agreed to try it.
And then after I praised her profusely, she was eager to weave, circle, bend, back up, and squeeze through the rows of picnic tables.
There were also some unusual objects to desensitize our horses to, including large bear-safe dumpsters and big black grills.
After playing in and around the Picnic Table Graveyard, we explored some of the trails in the picnic grounds and then had fun trotting and cantering around bushes and trees in an open meadow. Our horses were grateful to have nice, green grass to snack on, too.
We finally and regretfully decided that it was time to ride back to the horse trailer and get the horses untacked and loaded up, but as we rode on the asphalt road that encircled the picnic grounds, and neared the truck and trailer, both Bailey and Apache leaned and pulled away, clearly communicating to us that they didn’t want the ride to end either!
We decided to drop our reins and let our horses decide where they wanted to take us, and it was so interesting and exciting to experience our horses making decisions on their own on where we should go. Bailey was especially curious about investigating potential side trails.
But soon our horses entered back into the center grassy area of the picnic grounds, and I saw a huge, flat boulder that I thought would be fun to play on. I invited Kendra to try it out with Bailey and she laughed and said that she really doubted that she could get Bailey to hop up onto the boulder. Boy was she surprised!
Kendra was so proud of her Bailey boy!
And yes, there were cookies and hugs!
And after Kendra praised Bailey like crazy, he was plainly very proud of himself. His eyes were so soft and happy. And I think he was smiling!
Of course, I wanted to take a turn with Apache, too. I wasn’t sure if she would hop up onto the boulder either, but there is one thing I’ve learned about Indian Reservation Range-Bred/Mustang horses, and that is, that it may take them a long time to trust someone and build a bond, but once they do, they give you their heart and are willing to try and do just about anything you ask of them. This is my Apache mare.
I love my Apache mare!
Yes, there were hugs and cookies afterwards!
Kendra and I have the most awesome horses!
I’m so grateful I didn’t give up on my mare over 2 years ago when we struggled through our trust issues together. I am so glad that we were both able to open our hearts and forgive one another. Our relationship has grown so much closer and I can truly say now that Apache is my heart horse.
So…..We all enjoyed a really terrific day, even though it wasn’t what we had originally planned to do. But, it looks like we'll have to make another....few more trips to Oak Flats to figure out those trails.
Good thing they are basically in my backyard, if it weren’t for neighbor’s fences, I could access the trails right from my house. But still, the drive to Oak Flats is only about 10 minutes from my house, so it’s still good.
It’s great to have such a fun place to ride close by, especially one with so many wonderful miles to explore.
I remembered to take my GPS and turn it on while we rode on Thursday. It’s quite entertaining to see our route, especially when we were wandering all over the Picnic Grounds. (If you zoom in, you can even see the Picnic Table Graveyard!)
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