Drinking my morning coffee, I watched the mist settle over Lake Martin at Wind Creek State Park. A small fishing boat glided silently out of the mist. With a fisherman standing at the front, it reminded me of a carving on the prow of an ancient Viking ship.
It was the first full weekend of February, one of the last sunny days before this Siberian storm settled over the Eastern half of the country. Scratching my tick bites, I reflected on the events of the previous day. It had been perfect weather for trail riding. But neither my pony, Jazzy, nor my friend, Betty, were perfect for the treacherous trails we encountered. It had been 16 years since Betty had been on a horse. I doubt that Jazzy had ever been trail riding with other horses. We thought we could whip both into shape with two half-hour spins through my own woods during the week. It took a trip to the emergency room to see the flaws in our thinking.
My OutbackTrail Riders club had scheduled a day ride at Wind Creek, but like many in the club, I have a horse trailer with living quarters and decided to make a weekend of it. Betty came up from Tallahassee, Florida, to join me.
We left around 1 p.m. Friday so we could set up camp before dark. We easily found the horse camping section that the trail club secretary had mentioned in the newsletter and several emails. We noticed right off, however, that there was only one other horse camper there, the sites weren’t pull-throughs, and there wasn’t much room to park the horses. I had to back my 22-foot gooseneck into position, something I hate, but with Betty directing, I managed. We put up a picket line on uneven ground between two trees, and tied the horses to it.
Saturday morning, I started making phone calls to determine where riders were supposed to meet. It turned out that we were in the wrong camp site. The club secretary had sent out old information, and everyone but me knew it. Others were in the overflow section, which had a big field for picket lines and temporary fencing, and camp sites that you could pull into. We missed the fish fry and fellowship of Friday night because of this misinformation.
We were but a short distance from the others, but the park wouldn’t let us ride the roads, so we were to meet them on the trail. I’m directionally challenged, especially in unknown woods, so a nice day rider came and got us. However, his trailer was smaller than what my horses are used to, so it took 30 minutes to load them.
Fortunately, no one was ready to ride out at the usual 9:30, because they had stayed up late partying the night before. We rode out about 10:30, and I could see almost immediately that the trail would be a challenge for Jazzy and Betty. Both were huffing and puffing in just a few minutes of hill climbing. We stopped to rest several times, but I was still worried about Jazzy. She was sweating profusely. I had planned on turning back at lunch, but thought it might be sooner.
Shortly after lunch we encountered problems. Trees were down in several places, forcing us to climb incredibly steep hills to get around the debris. Then Jazzy got her hind legs caught in some vines, bucked, and Betty came off. She landed with a thud, the breath knocked out of her. A rider radioed friends who were fishing, and they came into the slew at the bottom of the hill and picked her up in their boat. When I got back to camp, a park ranger came by to tell me I owed more money, also the result of misinformation, then offered to call an ambulance. We readily agreed.
Fortunately, the emergency room x-rays showed nothing broken or cracked, and my friend got a prescription for pain killers. After having the Rx filled, we headed back to camp. Even though she urged me to ride the next day, I knew the Saturday day rider wasn’t available to pick me up Sunday and I didn’t trust my GPS skills to find the other riders on the trail. So we stayed in camp.
We’re planning another trip, once my tick bites heal, the swelling in Betty’s knee goes down and she gets over the pneumonia, which I suspect was a direct result of bruised ribs not allowing her to breathe deeply. Jazzy needs more trail practice, too, and so does Betty. Hers may have to wait until she has that knee operation. Jazzy’s will have to wait until warmer weather.
All in all, it was still a good weekend.
All in all, it was still a good weekend.