Riding Log Corral


It’s not very often I get a chance to ride mid-week — a self-imposed reality, since if I’m not working, I’m not making $. But when Stephanie asked if I might be available to come ride her horse Ash on a training ride at the Log Corral trail, I didn’t have to think about that very long. I’ve been taking on some extra work of late (by choice) in the form of some weekend jobs with my dad in his carpet cleaning business, and then working on my Masterson Method fieldwork and subsequent session write-ups “homework.” And my mental state was telling me I really needed to take a day, or at least part of a day.

The Log Corral trail is also one I’ve been wanting to ride for a really long time now — it’s a popular training spot for a number of people I know, and for good reason. It’s an 18-mile round trip, an out-and-back that starts at a trailhead/parking area just off a highway, and follows a 4×4 road all the way to the east side of Bartlett Lake…a gradual 5 mile climb to the high point, and then a 4-mile descent down to the lake…then turn around and reverse that. The first mile or so out from the trailhead is a bit rocky, as it winds through a creek bed, but once on the actual Log Corral Trail, it’s lovely, decomposed granite footing the whole way to the lake. So the chance to finally ride that trail (and get the all-important GPS tracks of it for future reference) was something I really didn’t want to pass up.


Ash, meet Ash. That sure simplifies things when you and the horse share a name.

It’s a fabulous trail, a hidden gem and oasis in the desert, with the bonus of having the lake as the turnaround point. Apparently that part of the lake is also swimmable, so word on the street is “bring swimwear” next time.

Ash was a lovely ride — super experienced, and very well trained (dressage background), so it was really fun to figure out all the buttons he has installed. (Methinks dressage lessons will be in the cards with any future ponies, because I am loving riding these horses that have previous dressage training. Leg yields and half halts all day long.)


Skeptical of the lake. It was breezy, and creating tiny little waves coming at us, which he wasn’t wild about. Not exactly uncommon when it comes to horses vs waves.


Go on, tell me my desert is dry, brown, and boring. Oh, and that “Arizona doesn’t have trees.”


Desert Oasis. There were a couple of stream crossings, plus the lake, so lots of opportunities for the horses to drink.

I was really glad I broke my usual routine and took advantage of the offered opportunity. Great ride with good friends on a good horse…that was exactly the mental health day I needed this past week.



I’ve mentioned the Salt River before, and the numerous trails around it. It’s becoming one of my favorite places to ride, not only for the abundance of different trail options, but also for the fact that the river is so accessible. In the summer, it actually makes riding in the heat feasible, even bordering on pleasant. (If you’re  a heat-conditioned desert rat who thinks anything below 70* is cold.)

I got to take Khan out yesterday on the Stewart Mountain loop. Decently early start, lots of water, semi-cloud cover, breezes on the ridgeline, and artificial breezes from trotting and cantering the washes made for a pleasant ride.

Wading in the river with the horses when we were almost finished made for a great cool-down, and the chance to just have some fun and enjoyment.

looking down at the Salt River
such a good, fun boy to ride

on the ridgeline, looking out to Saguaro Lake

This was my first time really going into water with a horse. Mimi and I have done stream crossings, and she’s gone maybe mid-cannon-deep into the river when I’ve taken her there, but she’s never been what I would consider fond of water.

It was a blast! We didn’t actually swim — Khan likes standing in the water, but not keen on the swimming idea — but we went wading until it was about chest-deep on Khan. It was a great way to cool off both horses and riders, and based on the splashing and pawing, the horses seemed to enjoy it too.

best-laid plans

“No ride plan ever survives first contact with reality.”

It’s a Monday morning, and I’m insufficiently caffeinated to come up with a witty title about best-laid plans going awry and whatnot.
When we last left off, I was getting ready to go to Man Against Horse to ride the 25 on Liberty. Well, long story short: See above about “best laid plans going awry.” I didn’t end up going to the ride, which is a bummer, but part of endurance riding is the ability to be flexible and willing to have plans change at the last minute.
And after yesterday, I am now harboring suspicions that my pony got wind of my plans and jinxed me so that she would have the chance to go out and ride.
And ride we did!
Angie came down and fetched me again, and we went off to Usery Mountain Park. Mimi was super-happy to be out again and has decided Angie’s gelding Patrick is no longer “babysitting charge” but rather “newest and bestest boyfriend” material. 
Normally extremely territorial about her precious space bubble — and woe to any horse who dares even look at her food — she was letting Patrick nuzzle on her, share food out of the same hay net, and in general act like a dopey, lovestruck teenager.
It was hilarious, and slightly disturbing — but better than the alternative of seeing her “hellbitch” face.
the equine equivalent of whispering sweet nothings
It was a perfect day to be out — breezy, temps in about the 80s, clear skies. The park was surprisingly un-busy — I’d figured on having to fend off tons of other trail users since it’s a popular place, especially on weekends. I think we encountered maybe half a dozen other people out there. Go figure. 
a nice clear section of trail
The worst part about Usery is the prolific amounts of cholla that grow not only ridiculously large, but very close together — cholla groves, so to speak. One of these days I will remember to actually pull out my camera and get photos of said impressive cholla groves, but for now, take my word for it — this isn’t an area for horses with questionable steering. A clear grasp on right and left is a very good idea, and leg yielding even more of a plus.
And since even the best horses can’t always avoid the vegetation that bites back, carrying a “desert survival kit” is a saddle pack essential. It can be tough to pull those cholla bobble out — you grab them and they just stick to you. Easiest way to get them off to to flick them off somehow — my weapon of choice is a mane comb that you slide between body and bobble and flick it away. Other people I know carry hemostats, pliers, or even a dinner fork. Cholla are also one of the main reasons I ride with half chaps.

which way?

The Usery trails tend to be shorter mileage, but they interconnect in such a way that its easy to end up with a decent mileage ride. In our case, we pretty much did a loop around the southern perimeter for a total of about 10 miles.

twin cactus

And the footing tends to be a mixed bag. Parts of the trails are super-smooth and very barefoot-friendly.

leaving cool hoof boot tread impressions

And then other sections are quite rough and rocky, necessitating a slow-down in pace, and hoof-protection for the more tender-footed.

enough rocks to make them watch their feet

By the time we were done, Mimi was revved up and ready for more. Her oncoming winter coat had her rather sweaty, but she was bright-eyed and bouncing back at the trailer, including completely forgetting all of her ground manners and trying to run off with me when I did a post-ride in-hand trout out. Gold star for enthusiasm, minus ten gold stars for demonstrating complete lack of grey matter between the ears.

But look at this happy face:

Go Pony loves to go

Despite my normal insistent on excellent ground manners, I couldn’t even get mad at her…I was too busy laughing at her enthusiasm. You wouldn’t know she’s 20 years old…not when we had moments when I was threatening her with a running martingale, or being absurdly grateful for grippy reins when she thought “canter” meant “blast back to the trailer.”

Conventional wisdom says, “20? That’s kind of getting old for a horse…” and then I remember Snappy was still doing all day long shows and lessons (including gymkhana and low jumps) well into his mid-20s, and didn’t go on “lesson lite” duty until he hit his late 20s/early 30s. He too was a half-Quarter Horse POA with a work ethic the size of the western half of the States. So based on that, I should have some good years left with Mimi. Even if we never do a competition again, she’s far from being done as a trail horse who is safe, (mostly) sane, and just a flat-out blast to ride.
After all, what’s a Go Pony to do but go?

pre-ride shakedown cruise…for the rider

Today involved a fantastic, 18-mile ride on Khan again with Lancette. Parts of it were entirely new-to-me trail, as well as reinforcement of some trails previously ridden. (It’s an area of criss-crossing and intersecting trails, sand washes, and service roads — keep heading in the general direction of your intended destination and you’ll probably get there in some form or fashion.)

It was good timing, too — one last big ride before next weekend’s Man Against Horse ride. I’ve stayed in good riding shape all summer, so I wasn’t concerned about that part. But I did have some new gear I wanted to thoroughly test out before going into a ride environment, including new stirrup leathers.

new stirrup leathers passed the mileage test

I’ve been riding in Zilco leathers, but the stirrup bars on my saddle make it impossible to ride with the buckle at the bar — the pressure point it creates on my thighs is pretty uncomfortable after a short while. I can get around that by rotating the leathers so that the buckle is at the bottom, on the stirrup top bar. The downside to this is the flopping tail of stirrup leather, solved by covering the whole apparatus with fleece stirrup leather covers. The problems with this set-up: It’s harder to adjust the stirrup length, which I frequently need to do depending on the horse I’m riding, and the fleece adds extra bulk under my leg.

A couple of weeks ago, on a whim, I ordered a pair of stirrup leather from Schneiders Saddlery. They’re the kind with the buckles riveted to the top of the leather, and they’re supposed to be thin and low-profile and not bulky. The price didn’t exactly break the bank, and if they didn’t do exactly as I hoped for log-term use…well, it never hurts to have an extra pair of stirrup leathers around.
They passed last weekend’s arena test, although I recognized that an hour in the arena wasn’t anywhere near the kind of workout a good distance ride will give them. I’m happy to report today’s ride did just that. Ton of trotting and cantering, ups and downs, twisty single-track and wide-open roads. How I feel tomorrow morning will be the ultimate test, but I didn’t feel the buckles under my thigh while riding, and I don’t have any soreness or bruising now. It was kind of nice to be able to ditch the fleece covers — that much less between my leg and the horse now. The leathers are nylon-lined to prevent them from stretching, and they have some nice “give” to them, so I wasn’t feeling any shin pressure either.
I’m definitely comfortable enough to leave them on the saddle and do the ride next weekend in them. I’ll probably bring the fleece covers just in case, but if I did 18 miles without a problem, it’s only 7 more miles for the 25.
wild horses at the trailhead

We saw a number of wild horses today! Apparently there are bands of them that live down by the river. I’d heard of them, but until today, I’d never seen them. We came across them three different times today, and I think it was three different bands. They were vaguely curious about us, but very wary and preferred to move away from us when in doubt. It was fascinating to watch the stallions do their rear-guard duty, and the body language between the herd members.

They all looked healthy, so whatever they’re living on out there, they’re doing okay.

Lancette and “Hot Lips” playing in the river.

We went down to the river as the halfway point and gave the horses and drink and sponging. I never get tired of river-time and it will always remain a novel concept to this desert rat.

The river was running really clear today, clear enough to see to the bottom.

Obligatory response photo for those who say
“hoof boots can’t do water.”

I sank Khan’s Renegades in about 3′ of water for a good 10 minutes, then we turned around and went back up the sand wash, up a very steep, rocky climb (which we trotted the last part), and then took off trotting down a service road. Boots didn’t budge the entire time.

It’s like a “Where’s Waldo?” photo.
Can you find the hidden shoe?

Right about the time I was admiring how crystal-clear the water was, and how it would make for a great “boots in water” shot, I looked over to the side and saw a horseshoe wedged under a river rock. In the photo, it’s below the center of the photo, just above the blobby bits of green underwater vegetation.

One of the more unusual bits of river debris I’ve encountered. Much more typical is beer cans.

Horse ears. Sunshine. River.
Some views never get old.

The river was absolutely gorgeous today. Running a bit higher and faster as a result of monsoon season, but there is a great area to water the horses that is quiet and shallow and sandy. There was a ton of loose water grass being carried with the current, and Khan greatly enjoyed reaching out and snagging the floating grasses. Yummy.

looking downstream on the Salt River

Pony time for me tomorrow, then before I know it, I will be Prescott-bound for Man Against Horse! I started some packing and organizing today when I got home, and will get more done tomorrow in the form of cleaning grubby tack after the pony gets done adding yet another layer of grunge to it.

my little go pony

Miss Mimi is as happy as a clam after getting to go out two weekends in a row. Gotta say, I understand the feeling. There is nothing quite like one’s own pony. :)

A came down and chauffeured us again, which I am so, so grateful for.

heading out from the trailhead

 The weather cooperated in that there was a nice breeze most of the time, and the sun would duck behind some clouds every so often, so it never got too unbearable out.

doing the “big wash”

 The worst part was probably in the wash, which doesn’t get much breeze…but fortunately there were treese and high rock walls, which meant we weren’t baking in full sun.

mountain range overlooking the wash

 Mimi was “on” today. I rode in my Duett again, and the way she was acting, I don’t think saddle fit is an issue. If anything, I think her reluctance in the arena has been sheer boredom and being fed up with circles. Not that I blame her. It does us both good to get out again.

trail signage

 I also took her out in her Myler kimberwick today, after she demonstrated last weekend that she was being a bit strong in her s-hack. Every so often she needs a reminder about giving and softening, and apparently she’s on one of those reminder cycles now.

She was forward and eager enough today that I was glad for the bit, since it meant all I had to do was give finger taps on the reins when she would try for yet another sneaky trot opportunity. She really wanted to go today.

lunch break!

We did two loops: the first was a 9-mile, all walking (except for the sneaky trot opportunities), then came back in for a drink and snack, then went back out on a 4-mile loop that was more trotting.

I was so happy with how she did today. She’s out of shape for hills, since we’ve been doing nothing but flat arena work, but she’s one game little pony. She was still bright-eyed at the end, and eating and drinking with gusto. She did her customary “drop her head and snooze, I’m so tired” routine after she was untacked and somewhat cleaned up…but perked right up for an in-hand trot-out, then jumped right into the trailer to head home. Back at the barn, she proceeded to drag me up the barn driveway, then trot back to her stall as soon as I’d dumped all of my bags and stuff at my car. She dove into her hay and water back at the barn, got a shower, had a good roll in the sand, and went right back to her food.
I’m still tickled with how well she did today. She’s been on her new joint supplement for a week now. I don’t know if it makes that big of a difference already, or if she’s just in a happy place mentally with getting to go out again…whatever it is, I’ll take it. When she feels good, I feel good.