Dad and I rode with Jim and Cindy down at Bulldog Canyon near the Salt River yesterday. We had an absolutely fantastic ride, and if I had to sum it up in one sentence, it would be, “The Go Pony is back!” Whatever was ailing her last fall is done and over with, because she was strong and forward the entire day, easily keeping up with the bigger horses.
We met and Jim and Cindy’s and trailered up together. The trailhead is the only icky part of the trail, a small pullout right off the side of Bush Highway, which is a 2-lane highway that leads to the Salt River and Saguaro Lake. It’s exceptionally busy in the summer, when the river is clogged to the brim with people wanting to going tubing. In the middle of winter, it’s not as bad – at least there’s no shuttle buses. In the morning, traffic is pretty light. We had already put their Renegades on back at the barn and groomed them, so we just had to saddle up, and we were ready.
The trail starts out on some rocky single track that leads down into a really nice wash. We followed the wash for a while, then came out on a wider, more firmly packed double-track road, which was perfect for trotting. We came across a really large mud puddle across the trail – about 30 feet in diameter total, and knee-deep on Mimi. Mimi, of course, had to stop in the middle of the puddle and drink, drink, drink for about five minutes. That’s my good endurance pony. Her drinking habits, especially how early on in a ride she’s willing to drink, always impresses people.
Unfortunately, after slogging through the puddle, one of her front Renegade flipped off about five minutes down the trail. :( This is only the third time I’ve ever had a Renegade come off, and one of the other times was after crossing water. I think that there was some sand in them, and when it got wet, created sufficient weight to flip the boot off. That, and my Velcro straps are rather old – they’re still on there from Man Against Horse back in October, and they got rained on/ muddied up there. A bit of a pain when I had to jump off and retrive it, but considering I’ve been using Renegades for a year and a half now, and this is only the third one I’ve ever had come off, I think that’s doing really well. Especially when you consider that I once lost Easyboots six times during one 20 mile NATRC ride. And those were glued on.
Me retrieving my boot gave our group a good excuse to split up – Jim’s horse Panama only likes limited company, and Jim wanted to ride a lot harder, faster, and farther than the rest of us, so he continued on while Dad, Cindy, and I went back down the road towards the river. We did some more good trotting where the footing was good and the road hadn’t been too eaten up by ATV’s – a lot of the roads around there are for off-road use, and they really chew them up. Lots of up-n-down moguls, which is where Mimi lost her boot – she sort of misstepped, trying to balance through the mogul, and I think she must have trod on the side of the boot.
Eventually the road wound down to a large sandwash that we followed along the most spectacular cliffs overhead. I wish I would have gotten more pictures at this point, but I had three hands full of very energetic pony. Dad and Cindy had been taking turns leading, and Dad was in the lead at this point. Beamer rediscovered his “big trot,” most recently awoken at Land of the Sun (yeah, still working on that ride story) and again put in to use here. We followed the sand wash all the way down to the river, taking several intermittent breaks for a few minutes of walking to give them a breather.
The river is amazing. Normally, the Salt River runs at about eight cubic feet per second. Due to all of our recent rain, and the fact that the lakes were so full, they released some water a couple weeks ago into the river, and it was now running 2200 cf/s!!! The edge of the river was a good 20 feet higher up on the bank than normal.
While we were watering the horses, Mimi had her first encounter with kayaks! She wasn’t quite sure what to think. At first, she was very spooked. Fortunately, I was off her at the time, standing next to her while she was drinking. She did her best Arab impression, with ears pricked, eyes bugged, nostrils flared, poised on her tiptoes to whirl around at second’s notice. But then, when the strange floating thing started talking to her, she got curious. “What’s a person doing floating on a large skewer in the middle of the river?” I imagined she was saying.
Eventually, she took a breath and decided they weren’t going to have her for lunch. Fortunate, since another two of them pulled up to the bank about that time.
After watering at the river, we were only about two miles from the trailer, and Mimi and I lead the way home. There was a lot of up-and-down, so we just walked them in, but she had her pony power walk going, and was probably walking at least 4.5 mph. Beamer and Cindy’s horse Harley had to really move to keep up.
The pictures don’t do the mountians nearly the justice they deserve. The Superstition and Goldfield ranges are truly spectacular mountains that can’t be properly captured on film.
Overall, we probably did about 15 miles, or slightly over, in about 3 hours, including our water break. Oh, and why “The Dirty Grey Horse Ride?” Because Mimi, Beamer, and Panama are all grey, and they all could qualify to be registered as pintos right now. If the pinto registry took “manure, mud, urine, and grass” as acceptable registry colors. :)
Today, Dad and I rode at the San Tans. We did our big 12-mile loop, a mix of walking and trotting. Dad tried the S-Hack on Beamer today (I finished rigging up my backup one to fit Beamer) and he did even better than the first time. He’s definitely a hack horse, and Dad’s going to try it at the second half of the ride at McDowell. Beamer still needs his “security blanket” snaffle at the start of the ride, where a bit more precision control, and a nice ability to one-rein stop is vital, but we figure once he settles down after the first few miles, he’d be perfect.
This weekend solidified the decision in my mind: we are going to try a 50 again. We’re planning to go to the Valley of the Sun ride in McDowell Mountain Park at the end of the month. I figured if Mimi came out of this weekend – two back-to-back rides, one that was a lot of deep sand and a lot of trotting, and the other more hills and a mix of pace – and was still doing well, I was going to try the 50. She was still bright-eyed and bouncing at the end of today’s ride – even spooking at the construction cones at the trailhead, which she has passed at least a dozen times in the last month. :)