Monday, September 14, 2009

Weekend Away

I have been remiss in my postings this last week, because I went on a whirlwind trip to Idaho during Labor Day Weekend, and I have completely failed to find time to write about it.

First of all, I flew, on Horizon Air, to Pullman/Moscow National Airport, which is about 45 minutes from K&A's house, so I didn't have any dogs with me. Even if the plane had been a normal size one and not the turbo prop, neither one of them would fit under the seat in front of me, and I think they'd both be traumatized by an experience in the luggage compartment, even if it were only a 50-minute flight. I know I would be.

Second, K&A were there, so I didn't have endless hours of alone time to either study maps or write pithy summaries of my activities.

Third, even though I arrived back in Seattle long before bedtime last Tuesday, Spackle had just developed a red, weepy eye issue (he currently looks like he has basset hound eyes) and so we ran off to the emergency vet, which seems, from the patient's point of view, to be equally efficient to the human ER. I made it home just past midnight, and just too late to text my friend C and my cousin T birthday wishes on the 8th, their actual shared birthday. Since then, blah blah blah, I've been busy.

The trip was great, though. I went specifically to join the fundraiser trail ride that they've been organizing for years, which formerly involved playing cards and was called the Poker Ride, but which currently just involved K&A leading trail rides in the morning and afternoon. I stayed two nights, but the flight from Seattle arrives at 11am, which offered plenty of time for the three of us to take a trail ride on Sunday afternoon. I rode Shadow, of course, but I used a Western saddle for the first time in about 20 years, and it really felt like there was NO WAY I could fall out. It felt practically like I was strapped into a carnival ride, compared to perching on top an English saddle. This is in no way meant to ridicule people who do fall out of Western saddles—it's just clear that they are meant for roping and herding and all sorts of things that English saddles aren't. A rode Sikem and he acted like an untrained, prancy noodlehead—which I'd actually never seen before, but which I guess is the behavior that their daughter W doesn't like. Naturally. K rode Snickers, who had had a stone bruise earlier, but she seemed to be back to being perfectly sound.

Sikem had never been a noodlehead like that for me, though, (much to all our surprises—misbehaving for his mom, I guess) so the next day on the trail rides, I said I would take him.

The morning ride, about two hours long, went very well. I really don't understand how other people can hold it so well in the morning, but I had to take myself up an unused spur trail and piddle about one hour out. Sikem stood there and let me—all the horses are used to this strange behavior from me. The only issue when we were actually underway on the ride was that he wanted to be by his mares—not mixed in with the trucked-in riff-raff, but he has a slow walking pace, and so he went at a slow western jog the whole time, meaning I was basically doing the sitting trot for two hours. A had said the day before that trail riding doesn't really give you the core workout that you get in arena riding, but two hours of sitting trot sure does.

It sprinkled a little over lunch, back at the ranch, and then we went out for our afternoon ride, which was planned to be 3 or 4 hours. A stayed behind to tidy up and prepare for dinner (lunch had been potluck and dinner would be lasagna). Everyone else took what raingear they had (mine was a high-tech lightweight shell, of course, being the city girl that I still am, which meant that my lap was not covered at all and got very, very wet) and headed out. Much to the surprise of K and me, a new fence had been built right across one of our trails, within 15 minutes of starting the ride. I was surprised because I'd been there a little over a month before, and disappointed, because that way led to a perfect canter spot—gentle, uphill slope, grassy, wide with no overhanging trees—for people (i.e. my inlaws) who want to canter but don't get to ride very often. Rather than retrace and go toward our destination on a different trail, K led us up and over several peoples' pastures and through several barbed-wire gates. At each, he dismounted and handed me Shadow's reins, and she, pretending she was just giving Sikem a sniff, would nip him in the neck. He did not like this, and once when someone unknown (on a horse) got a bit too close behind him, he kicked (but missed).

Just as we arrived back on track, after 40 minutes longer than the original trail would've taken, the storm that had been brewing hit, with frozen drops as big as jelly beans. K was on the ground, I was riding Sikem and holding Shadow, and the sudden downpour freaked everyone out. "Run for the trees!" yelled K, but there weren't a lot of them right there, for 10 horses. Sikem started dancing and noodleheading, and I was still holding Shadow, who started to prance, and I dropped her reins, into which she immediately stepped.

"Whoa, girl," said me and several other voices, and Shadow stopped dead. I leapt off and ran over, dragging my circus horse, and met K to get the reins undone. He then went off to check everyone else and I sheltered for a minute with my two charges.

The rain slowed marginally, and K came back and mounted, and rode off. Well, this did not appeal to Sikem at all, and he danced around and danced around, tall, wet and whinnying, and would not stand still for me to remount until someone yelled at K to stop. He did, Sikem stopped for 10 seconds, and I got up. At that point in the storm, of course, sitting back into my saddle was like sitting onto a sponge. I.e. really uncomfortable.

Sikem then really noodleheaded, sidestepping and cantering slowly in place on the slick, muddy ground, petulant that I wasn't letting him just run to Shadow, his protector. "He thinks he's a Lipizzaner!" someone called out, which would've been fine if not for the risk of him slipping and falling on me. "K, HOLD ON UNTIL I GET UP THERE!" I finally yelled, Sikem resumed his place, nose to Shadow's tail, the rain lifted, and we went on.

K took a vote and people decided that 25 minutes would be better than 5, since it had cleared, and so we continued on our way for a while, nevertheless falling far short of our intended destination (and getting stuck in another squall). Back at the ranch, most people decided to load up and head home to warm showers and dry clothes instead of staying to dinner, and a couple hours later after we'd dried off and dried off the clothes of close friends from far away who were staying, seven of us enjoyed the lasagna.

On Tuesday, A and I rode again—me on Snickers for the first time ever and her on Sikem, to see if he was still noodleheading the third day in a row of being ridden, and aside from a bit of a stiff back from requiring about 4 hours of sitting trot out of me the day before, he seemed to be back to his normal self. On high alert, but not being an idiot.

We enjoyed a glass of wine and some prosciutto in Moscow on the way to the airport (and ran into friends of K&A), and they dropped me off 25 minutes before the plane was due to take off. There were three of us left to board when we arrived (one of whom knew K&A, of course), and I heard someone murmur to her husband as I walked down the aisle "these must be the locals!" As much as possible! I thought.

I was pleasantly surprised to be offered a complimentary glass of wine—how civilized!—as we flew west across the darkening state, and I determined I would definitely do this trip, in this way, again.

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