Tales from the trail #341
Suddenly, the forest heats up. Chaco and I are meandering down a narrow path. I put my reins on his withers and pull my hoody over my head. Chaco is the most sure footed horse I have, so I don’t worry about doing this on the trail until it gets stuck on my head and I can’t see for a few seconds. I ask him to stop, and despite my muffled voice, he does on a dime. I finally get it off, tie it around my waist, and off we go.
Chaco, despite his stifle injury from his racing days, has the most fluid walk. My hips slide with his, and his rhythm hypnotizes my mind into silence. I listen to him breath, I feel his footfalls, and I’m completely aware of how blessed I am to ride such an amazing horse. My dogs Chewy and Winx are ahead of me, and Bella follows behind sniffing everything when suddenly Chewy and Winx scatter.
Snapped out of my reverie, Chaco and I find ourselves face to face with an elderly couple and two dogs. Ever since Covid, it is next to impossible to go for a ride in the forest without coming across another human. Rides where I never saw another human are suddenly filled with them. Also, a lot of the dogs accompanying humans have never been around horses, and this can be a dangerous mix. Luckily, my horses love dogs, so it keeps things calm.
Chaco curls his neck with his chin to his chest as he tries to see the two dogs sitting at his hooves. “This can’t be happening again,” I mutter to myself.
I back Chaco up, and the dogs follow. One stands on Chaco’s hoof looking up to him wagging his tail in glee. Chaco is immediately smitten, but I worry about him stepping on their paws by accident. I look at the owners with a big smile, and say, “You really need to get your dogs.”
They look at me flustered. The woman speaks in gaspy sentences, “Well, but….he’s a horse! Will he bite me?”
Oh my gosh, the female version of Bill Abendroth is standing before me. Bill is a friend that went to the same high school I did a few years ahead of me. Several years later, never mind how many, we are friends. He is absolutely sure that horses are carnivores, and I found his unknown biological twin. Here she is standing in front of me sweating terror down her face.
“No, if he were mean, you’d know by now. He is a gentle giant. You can get them. I have a hold of him. I really don’t want to move him, because I don’t want him to accidentally step on your dog’s paws.”
She looks at me in utter fear, and it appears her stomach may be ready to join in. Her husband is behind her, and he is as immovable as a petrified forest. I try to help by backing Chaco. The dogs follow him, and the same dog now tries to reach his nose up to kiss Chaco by propping himself up on his hind legs and leaning his front paws on his left fetlock.
His owner makes several feeble attempts to get her dogs. She reaches out to them while standing frozen to the ground gasping something. Her voice is dried up. I back up Chaco again and turn him around to try and ride off. Her dogs are on his front hooves immediately.
I could get off Chaco, but I don’t want to. I’m in an area of the forest where there is no place for me to climb up on, so I can easily climb back on him. He’s really tall. I didn’t wear my stretchy jeans. I wore my normal jeans, and if I get off, these jeans are in trouble. I can get my toe into the stirrup, but the amount of effort to catapult myself on would mean my jeans would rip, and I’d be riding in my underwear. Nope, I’m not getting off this time. They can get their dogs.
I’m about to turn Chaco around to face them again when Winx sweeps in from out of nowhere and herds her two dogs off back to them. My hero! They pick up there dogs yelling sorry scuttling off in the opposite direction.
I love on Chaco for being such a good diplomat. He really is a gentle giant at 17.1 hands. I decide then that he will be the one to help train Sueño for trail riding. Nothing phases him, and he moves so comfortably and confidently through any environment and situation.
We ride off into another area of the forest luckily finding no one else ahead of us. The forest desperately dry still brings me some sort of peace. I gaze upwards through the aspen and pine trees at the clear blue sky popping through here and there. There is nothing like riding a horse through the forest. I always feel as if I’m reaching back through time reconnecting with one of my ancestors who once upon a time did the same thing. Or at least I imagine it to be so.
Winding our way through the forest I hear the couple’s dogs bark. Chewy, my scaredy cat dog, takes off at a full run back for the truck, which is a half mile away. No amount of calling stops him. I know that he will jump into the back of the truck waiting for us, but…..
I don’t like this at all.
I only wanted to walk Chaco, but now I gather up the reins clucking at him to step into the trot with moving into the two point position. I cluck again to ask him to long trot, and off we go. He flies over the trail with ease. I barely feel his hooves touch the ground. Are we touching the ground, or riding through the clouds? I need to crouch over his neck to keep from getting hit by pine boughs, yet he doesn’t change his gait. His ears are on me and the trail ahead. Chaco has the most beautiful gaits, and I often say he is the four legged version of Mikhail Baryshnikov.
Riding him is a privilege. My thoughts blow away with the wind he creates as we quickly move over the ground. I feel his foot falls gently touching the earth. I feel the muscles in his neck, my breath moves with his, my body and his become one as we fly threw the forest in a magical moment I will never forget. Reluctantly, we stop when I see the truck. I lean forward wrapping my arms around his neck. He brings his nose back to my foot holding my toe in his mouth.
I look at the pickup, and I see Chewy sitting on the tailgate panting wondering where the heck we’ve been.