Monday, July 5, 2010

Lostine vs. Chipmunk

I checked my ads for trail riding buddies at the feed store and no one took one with my contact information on it. People around here seem to be really paranoid about riding with other horses and riders. I guess they've all had bad experiences. So, Lostine and I set out on our own again.

I was counting on all the people I didn't want to meet on the trail being at home in bed with hangovers this July 5th. I was right. The trail was the quietest I've ever seen it. You could hear the birds, the bees, the bugs, and the critters scurrying about. No voices, no people whistling for their dogs, no kids running and screaming...

We were completely and utterly alone all the way up the mountain. However, by the time we headed down some of the regulars started showing up with their dogs. The trip was pretty uneventful, which is good, until a chipmunk burst out of the brush and tried to run under Lostine's belly, but instead accidentally ran into her hind leg. Lostine whipped around and tried to bite the chipmunk, but it was too fast for her. Just a warning, if your horse suddenly whips her head around to touch her hind leg, your outside hip and oblique muscle get the brunt of it. One side of you gets smashed while the other side has no choice but to strrrrrreeeeeetch.

After the chipmunk incident, Lostine was hanging her head low to investigate the bushes alongside the trail. She was swinging her head back and forth as if on patrol for critters that might try to take her by surprise. I'm sure she was ready to bite the first thing that moved before it could bite her.

I met up with a man who was cleaning dog poop off the trail. He was with the Trails Association, and Monday was his day to clean. I asked if people are pretty good about cleaning up after their dogs. He said, "Some days are good. Some days not so good."

I said, "It's probably worse after a holiday when people from out of state visit, and they don't bother to read the signs and learn the rules."

He said, "Yeah, the locals are really good about following the rules."

The man was holding a big black plastic trash bag and wore those loose clear plastic gloves on his hands. He approached Lostine. I thought, "This should be interesting."

But then I remembered that Lostine is the only one of my horses to pass her plastic bag desensitization tests. The man first cautiously petted her with his crinkling plastic glove, and then when Lostine didn't show concern, he began rubbing her all over her face and neck, saying, "This is a really nice horse! She's so well behaved. Much nicer than a lot of the horses I meet on the trails. I don't think she's afraid of anything."

Of course, I just smiled to myself at that comment, knowing how many spooks and bucks I've had to ride out and how many balks I've had to push her through to get her to this point. Those were sweet words to hear. I almost got all teary-eyed thinking back to our first trail ride and how far we have both come in our confidence.

I told the man that if I'm leading my horse, I'll stop to kick manure off to the side of the trail, but if I'm riding, it's hard to get off to deal with manure, because unless I can find a bench or a boulder, I can't get back on. He said, "Oh, don't worry about it. We're not concerned about the horse manure at all. It's biodegradable and it blows away on its own to fertilize the plants. We just want to make sure the dog poop is being picked up."

That was good to hear. I'd hate to lose use of a trail because too much horse manure is piling up. It turned out he was in charge of the Tahoe Rim Trail. He recommended that I ride there. I mentioned that I was just hiking the Spooner Loop Trail yesterday to see how far I could go on a horse. He said all the trails in Tahoe are designed for horses and I am welcome to ride on any of them. I didn't tell him about the signs I saw that said, "No horses past this point."

He also said that the Trails Association conducts public workshops in which they educate hikers and bikers on how to behave around horses. He says they train them to speak to the horse, step off to the side to let the horse pass, but stand in the open where the horse can see them. That is exactly what most people do, so their workshops must be successful. I thanked him for all of his work in creating and maintaining places for people to ride. I said that the Fairgrounds are no longer a good place for horses since the county built a motocross track across from the horse arenas. He said, "Yeah, motorcycles aren't exactly conducive to helping out the horseback riders with their hobby."

Unlike the county, the Trails Association understands that, so they don't allow motorized vehicles on their trails. He told me when and where his association meets, so I could volunteer some day. I explained that I'm working 60 hours a week at the moment, so I have little time to spare, but I'm hoping to change careers so that I can free up my time and get more involved in the community. I was actually thinking of joining the Backcountry Horsemen's Association once I get more time, but I think volunteering for the Trails Association would be a good thing too, because I do like to hike a lot and I may as well help maintain the trails while I'm at it.

Lostine says she'd be more than happy to clear the trails of chipmunks.


fernvalley01 said...

Yay for you and Lostine ! a nice ride and positive contacts in the trail comunity

Sydney_bitless said...

OK I noticed the 2nd and 3rd picture lostines ears are the same. The 4th and 5th, the same, and 6th and 7th. Photoshop ears hahaha. :P

Chipmunks along with squirrels, random morning doves, red wing blackbirds, three legged dogs and another assortment of non-threatening animals are out to get those horses.

Leah Fry said...

I think it's the "elephant and mousse" thing. They get really concerned about small things that move quickly.

Glad you had a good ride. Sometimes being by yourself is best.

Katharine Swan said...

Ha ha -- go Lostine! She is hilarious. Most horses would have hit the roof at an small animal running under them. Lostine tries to eat it. LOL

Dreaming said...

Doc says he doesn't blame Lostine loss of composure over the chipmunk one bit. He doesn't particularly care for little rodents either!
It sounds like it was a great ride, though! Good for her with her attitude toward Mr. Glad Bag!

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

lol! Go Lostine! Get those chipmunks!

Yay you! You've done a great job with Lostine. You should feel proud and teary-eyed. You've both come a long way together, especially since she's been your only horse you've never really felt as close to as Gabbrielle and Bombay. Do you feel a bond between the two of you since you've been riding out alone together, having to rely on and trust one another, more often?

Perhaps, the reason why noone has taken you up on your ad offer, is that noone has even looked at the bulletin board? I know that I rarely, if ever look at our feed store's bulletin board, unless I am looking for something in particular.


word verification: spers

Another way to spell spurs

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Lisa - I meant to mention that Lostine seems to want to hang out with me now. She used to run away from me each time I entered the paddock, but now she follows me around. Whether she admits it or not, I think she feels like these outings are a treat for her.

My comment about people's paranoia wasn't just about no one responding to my ad on the bulletin board, but also the way people behave when I approach them and ask if I can ride with them. I just instantly see this barricade go up behind their eyes.

Alex said...

what a beautiful view! And thru your horses ears none-the-less! Looks like a great ride- ok, minus the alvin episode!