One vacation day, four young horses and a mixed bag of weather turned a Friday afternoon trail ride into an adventure! On the ride was Koda & Nemo, the most "experienced" trail horses of the group (at the ripe old age of four), Trooper, a five year old Haflinger-Paint mix, who had little to no trail experience (nor did his new owner), and the baby of the bunch was Rasta, a 3 year old Fresian-mix who had never been out on a trail - all in training.
None of us humans had ever been to White Mound County Park either, but we knew other riders who had. One trusted source said they wouldn't go back there camping, because the trails weren't long enough and only took an hour. After hearing that, I called and talked to the Park Ranger (again) and he assured me they had about 7.5 miles of varied terrain and had no idea how anyone could ride them in an hour. He was super nice, answered all my questions, and asked that I call him back after our trail ride to let him know if we had any suggestions. Camping is one thing, an afternoon ride is another. We decided to give White Mound a try.
We arrived to find a quiet scenic park, quickly got unloaded and tacked up. We saw a couple horse groups camping in the distance, but didn't run into any of them (or anyone else). My kinda place to ride.
|Rasta chillin' upon arrival
|Nemo is in the lead, followed by Trooper, Rasta and Koda
We started out by doing a loop right off the horse campground/unloading area, and yep - it took about one hour. We ended right back where we started. The horses were all well behaved. Young Rasta quickly found his feet, what an expressive (and tall) horse he is. So funny watching him look around, and wonder. We were all glad Patty was the one riding him. His first trail experience may have been different otherwise. Rasta needed a confident rider who knew him, to keep his young mind at ease.
It began to rain pretty hard after that first loop. We took cover under a tree, and eventually moved under a very small park shelter with two benches - enough for four people and four partial horses. It was cozy.
The rain stopped, and we headed out to explore the main trail that winds around the perimeter of the park. It was pretty, with varied terrain. We rode into/out of the woods, through prairie's and up/down hills.
The rain made for a new experience - slippery muddy hills. If it hadn't been for the rocks, it would have been impossible to maneuver. Twice we all dismounted, and two-by-two we picked our way down the steep winding slopes. For some reason both times Koda & I were last to slide, I mean walk, down the hills. Probably because Trooper was on forward march most of the ride, Brad was frequently up ahead trying to figure out which paths to take, and you can't have the baby in the back during scary stuff.
We were spread apart on the muddy hills for safety reasons, at any given time two riders were out of site. It was kinda scary. There were times when Koda would slide past me, he looked at me worried, but waited. There were times when I would slide past him, that worried him worse, but he waited. I was SO proud of Koda! We made it down the hill together. It could have gotten ugly for any of us, but it didn't. The horses all behaved amazingly well!
The trails were well marked once you were on the right one, but the crossroads (of which there were a lot) were impossible to tell which direction to go. We were lost more often then not. It was pretty funny, all we could do was laugh. We had a trail map, but it wasn't accurate - how did we know? They told us...and then we found out first hand. Brad is a walking GPS unit, Troopers owner is an avid hiker, and Patty & I - well, we gave our input when all else failed. What really helped was using the sun as a guide.
Three quarters of the way into the ride we took another trail loop where we suddenly came upon a huge fallen tree. Brad hopped off Nemo, handed him to me, and went to clear enough of the branches so that we could dismount to lead the horses through the gnarly mess. We didn't turn around, because that would have made us lost-er.
It was our turn to pick our way through the trees. There was an overhanging branch that caught Koda's saddle horn just as we were about to maneuver through the worst part of huge fallen tree. Patty was behind me and yelled "you're snagged" just before a good sized branch snapped loose, with a super loud crrrack! Once again I was so proud of how my boy handled another scary situation. He held it together, even when the branch snapped wicked loudly above him. We were in a tight spot, with no where to go. I continued leading him off to the side as much as I could. He picked his feet up high, while choosing where they best fit in between the large branches. All the horses did great, no one jumped or panicked, and we all made it through. Whew.
We had checked the map and knew that path wasn't a horse trail, so we didn't take it - but, the marked horse trail we were on looped into it. When we made it out, we discovered we had been on it afterall. We eventually made it down to the road, and took that back to the trailer. The trail crossings didn't make any sense, the bugs were coming out and sun would be setting soon. Over four hours later, the trailer was a welcomed sight We had some pretty tired horses, and riders - but we all had a fun experience!
I was reminded:
I was reminded:
- Paddock boots and muddy hills don't mix
- Can't count on cellphone GPS, we had no reception on the trail
- Maybe my horse does trust me after all
- Keep my trail camera on auto-mode, no time to mess with settings
- Pack snacks, even if you think it might only be an hour
- Adventures are fun!
- Adventures are fun!
I will be calling the Park Ranger to let him know we really enjoyed the park, and the flowering trails were beautiful, but they seriously need to mark the crossroads. Had the horses been acting up/worse weather - it could have been a much different experience. For any local folks, White Mound park is a mini-version of Governor Dodge - without the crowds & trail bikes. It's great for day trips, not sure if I would suggest camping there. The horse sites are pretty close together. Regardless we all agreed we would go back. I can't wait!!