Trudy Andrew | Canadian Author

Horse Tails

Ride the Trails

Endurance racing, and competitive trail aren’t easy sports, by any stretch of the imagination. A good deal of conditioning is necessary for both horse and rider. It’s imperative that one knows their horse very well indeed. Out on trails, there aren’t any sign posts or markers to tell how far you’ve gone. You have to know your horse well enough, to judge how far you’ve travelled, by the gait you’re in, and how much time you’ve been in it. It’s all about conditioning and pace.
Competing with a horse at the level of partnership required for endurance and trail, creates a oneness that’s undeniable. Success came my way often enough, which was surprising considering some of the horses I rode. Thow-ra was pretty wonderful and extremely competitive, but there were others that were far more of a challenge. Sundance Kidd was hot, snorty and imagined every rock was a cougar just waiting to pounce. I would manage to keep his vitals within acceptable limits, only to have his heart rate leap as other horses moved about. It was all just too exciting for the old boy.
Then there was Robin. Hate the wind in her ears, hate the touch of her own forelock and mane Robin, loathe the slightest graze of a leaf against her shiny, golden hide, Robin. That horse had more imaginary problems than I could shake a stick at, but as we formed a partnership and I put the miles on her, she decided to give up all the nonsense. It’s hard work to act the idiot, to goof around and tire yourself out then still have to negotiate many, many miles of terrain that could include steep climbs equally steep ascents and river crossings, as well as long stretches of cantering. The work had her drop most of the nonsense, and settle down to the job at hand. Together, we became quite the team.
People who are avid riders are the only kind of people who compete over miles and hours of riding. Really avid riders will take in a trail ride the day before then after as well. Many of us were that crazy about enjoying the trails and scenery as much as possible, but from what I can remember, I was the only one who did it all riding bareback. The only thing between me and the horse was a simple bareback pad, and it was to keep my butt clean. Well, as clean as possible, as I still rode without it quite often, too. It was also pretty great, not to soak a saddle when crossing a river. Those were some great times. Hours of riding, swimming in the river, camaraderie around the campfire, all made for a wonderful way to spend a few days.
Because we drove truck hauling gravel, hubby and I were often late getting away from home, and would arrive to camp late, often too late to even make it all the way to the campsite. Arriving at the Souris Valley Wildlife management area about midnight on a Friday, we ventured off the road and down into the valley. Not quite all the way though, as it was the blackest of nights, so black that even the night air seemed closer than usual. There wasn’t a star to be seen, and no light but for the headlights of the motorhome. After steadily, slowly working our way down the steep road for a while, we came upon an even steeper drop. It was like falling off a cliff into the dark unknown, and we hesitated to continue on, down into the dark unknown. It was our first time to Souris Valley, and we were completely unfamiliar with the terrain. Maybe we were on the right path, maybe we weren’t. Pulling a four horse trailer with a big motorhome at night wasn’t the time to be adventurous.
Wisely deciding to be somewhat cautious, hubby and my buddy Del thought it would be a good idea to go for a bit of a walk down that steep, narrow road to nowhere. As I watched the tiny pinpoint of the flashlight disappear into the inky black, I wondered if we were close. For all we knew, we were almost at the bottom and the rest of the competitors were just out of sight. It seemed like forever yet was probably no more than fifteen or twenty minutes before they were back, laughing in that nervous, excited manner that said something had happened. It wasn’t long before we learned that as they’d walked the steep road that was barely more than two tire tracks, they had heard a strange, rustling sound ahead. In the weak light of the flashlight, a beast of a porcupine appeared right before them, and it wasn’t happy. They decided to beat a hasty retreat back to where we waited. It was too dark. There was a giant porcupine in the way, and it was really late. We slept right there without driving another inch.
After a restless night, because we soon learned that every move a horse makes is felt in the tow vehicle, we woke at first light to carry on. It was a good thing we’d stayed put, as the rest of the way was no walk in the park, but that area, riding there, became one of our favourite places of all.

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About Trudy Andrew

Trudy Andrew lives on a small farm just east of Winnipeg, Manitoba, where she enjoys her Morgan horses. A dreamer since she was a child, its no surprise to those who know her well that her imagination would find an outlet in writing, as it has in the past through artwork.
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 Oakbank, MB