It's been years. Maybe ten? Maybe more. So long I can't remember what it feels like...I've always wondered, what does Koda feel like bareback?? 

Koda has no idea what a human feels like on his back, will he like it? Does any horse? I don't know, never asked one. I wanted the time to feel right to try riding Koda bareback. No rushing. No judgmental eyes. No pre-planning. Just letting it happen, whenever it might... 

Last night we enjoyed a misty outdoor arena ride. Altho we try to adjust our timing on weeknights, our rides tend to land during feeding time. Our boys are never very thrilled. What horse wouldn't rather eat then ride at supper time? They all know the signals and sounds. It's hard for them to stay focused, but they do. Doesn't matter if we ride inside or out, there are still signals.

I've been working on several things with Koda, mainly continuous movement. He makes me work so hard! I have also been asking him to listen more to my legs, and less to my hands. Needless to say, we have a long way to go. Side passes are better, but now our turns have gotten sloppy. There is always something to work on!

I have thoroughly been enjoying our rides, and last night was no exception. We typically end with one of us humans asking the other "are you done riding?" cuz if we asked our horses, we all know what that answer would be! When I got the "not sure" response from the husband, I saw my window of opportunity. I was done riding. Koda did everything I asked. So we unsaddled.

The look on Koda's face was priceless...he wondered why on earth are we going back into the arena? Did I forget something? He was too cute, silly horse!

First things first, how the H am I going to get up there with no stirrups? Koda stood like a rock by the mounting block for me, as I slid on....aww, my Koda is so warm - and 'um bony. Holy high withers! 

Couldn't remember if it was better to sit towards the withers, or further back? I shifted around, until it felt right. Bareback lessons from back in the day started flooding into my memory...toes up count, even more so.

We slowly sauntered, weaving around obstacles. My legs hanging, yet gently wrapped. I loved feeling Koda's strong shoulders shift, slowly from side to side. I wasn't ready to try faster gates. No need to rush into things. The idea wasn't to work anyways. It was to re-connect. To feel something different. Something special, like those big beautiful eyes gazing at me...


four hundred posts later

With some encouragement, in April of 2009 I started blogging. Not much has changed over the past five years, and then again a lot has changed…

Some things that have not changed:
  • In the very first paragraph of my first post I said “…makes me want to work in the equine industry...I'll keep thinking about a nitch I may be able to fill, that combines my design skills and my love of horses…” Yep, I am still thinking. Sigh. 
  • All three original horses continue to be a big part of our lives, and will be forever. I still don’t get to see our daughters horse Harmony very much. 
  • I continue learning new things about being a horse owner, and wholeheartedly believe the not so little things done during the early years set the foundation for your horse’s entire life. 
  • I'm still getting limited responses on my posts, altho people are viewing them. Five years later, my blog continues to be reflective in nature and non-controversial. Responses or not, it’s how I roll.
Some things that have changed:
  • Koda did not end up being our son’s horse, as I had predicted. He no longer thinks that “Koda’s a beast” now he just thinks horses are time consuming and expensive.
  • None of our horses live on the family farm anymore. 
  • Blog authors/past readers disappeared. Some have gone the way of Facebook. Don’t be fooled it’s apples vs oranges. Hope someday they’ll be back. 
  • Nemo’s color
photo from breeder
photo from three days ago

Have things changed a lot, or just a little, since you've started blogging?  

Of course there are a lot of other things that have changed for me since 2009, and yet much is the same. It would be silly to recap them all into one post, that's what those 399 links are for in the sidebar. Maybe I'll reorganize my posts someday? But then again,

“Life is a journey, not a destination.”

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson     


Sunday Stills ~ Fall Colors

We planted two Maple Trees in our yard, with hopes of someday getting syrup...until then, we enjoy their colorful Fall leaves:

Maple Leaf

Last week I shared many colorful Fall snapshots taken while exploring the Nicolet National Forest in Northern Wisconsin. See Sunday Stills ~ Landscapes or Fall Colors me Happy posts 1-3 of a series, for more Fall Color.


Fall colors me happy ~ part 4 of 4

It's our last night at the ranch. The empty cabins are slowly filling up. While my hubby was deep in campfire conversation, I snuck away with camera in hand to do some visiting of my own. But not before I put my long lens on, because the ranch residents have never come up to greet me...but wait here they come, all of them. Standing just inches away. I try changing positions, but wherever I go, they follow me. What the heck? The fuzzy residents usually run the other way. 

The owners grandson joins me for two minutes, and then goes back to playing with his friend, before rejoining me just as fast, to say "it's because your holding something in your hand". Smart kid. Apparently holding a camera makes me really interesting to all living things, and is code for "I am friendly, and won't harm you". Grandkids, dogs, donkeys, ponies and even their cat come out of nowhere to greet me. Only Thor, the big Percheron, keeps his distance. The camera doesn't fool him.

I've been trying for years to pet the cute herd of mini donkeys. They were so darn close, I couldn't take any photos. I had to walk back to our cabin, to switch lenses. Go figure. Hope the donkeys will still be as friendly when I return!

I put together a quick slideshow of the fuzzy residents cuteness, and Thor in action:

In the morning, we woke to steady rain and never did take that last bonus trail ride. We always pack up first, and then decide if we will head out for one last short ride. Mother Nature decided for us, and made it easier to leave. The rain didn't matter, after three wonderful days of bliss.

Several things became apparent to me on this trip. Spending time in the north woods can unknowingly change your demeanor. Each day unfolding another layer. Clearing the mind, of that which does not matter. Fueling the soul, and making my heart sing.

The essential joy of being with horses
is that it brings us in contact
 with the rare elements of grace, beauty, spirit, and fire.
- Sharon Ralls Lemon


Fall colors me happy ~ part 3 of 4

After an early evening, we are ready to hit the trail and ride up to the Lookout! Welllll, some of us are ready...

...Nemo is content right where he is. It took a lot of convincing from Brad to get him up & going. It's starting to cloud up, but looks like we are in for another day of beautiful weather. 

Remember that souvenir we missed out on the first ride? By the end of the trip, my hubby found no less then four keepers! Me, I didn't spot a single one. It's the first year we've ever seen any railroad spikes on the trial...

finding treasures

...guess it's true, my head is always in the clouds...dreaming. Can you blame me? I feel like I am riding in a painting...

...it's so quiet and serene in the woods. I can hear myself think. I ponder this and that, and thank my lucky stars to be engulfed in nature, with my loves. If only I could put into words how it makes me feel. It would include words like...alive...grounded...spiritual...and grateful. The feeling evoked, stays with me forever. It is who I am.

Along our ride, we come across things that bring me back to reality. We have never run into anybody, or anything scary, in the woods. Which is good, when you see things like this...

Bear or Porcupine?

It's always amusing when Koda & Nemo do what they do so well, switch places. They are total opposites. Do they make an agreement on who is going to be at which end of the spectrum? I think it's what good friends do for each other. Fill in the need. I doubt it's much different for horses. On this ride, it turns out Nemo needed a bit more encouragement. It gave me a chance to get photographs other then over Koda's ear, or of Nemo's butt. I try not to stop the momentum for pictures, it's just not what trail riding is about for us. So then, you end up with tilted pictures like this...

We get to another common Y intersection, and for some reason Koda reeeally wants to go right. We humans can see it's clearly an abandoned path, and the Lookout is the opposite direction, but why not do a little exploring and let the horses have fun too? Koda is so happy when he gets to pick a path, just look at those interested ears...

...the path gets harder to maneuver...I wonder if Koda still likes the route he has chosen?

We progress to riding along a quiet backroad called Bonita, headed towards the Lookout. There is a slow creek that runs parallel to the road. We shuffle along the roads edge, covered in leaves, and eventually get back onto the forest trails. Once we get past the pines, there is noticeably more red in this area. Unfortunately the couple pics I took turned out blurry.

It's always a guess which trail actually takes you up to the Lookout. The path is even sandier then I remember. I listen for the beating drum sound, but there was none. I wonder why? 

Once you are on the right route, it's a short trip up. Before I know it, we are gazing across a tapestry of colorful trees...

...As you can see, the 1,530,647 acres go on forever. We only ride a tiny, tiny portion of this magnificent forest. I posted a wider shot of the lookout for the Sunday Stills Landscape challenge. 

Brad dismounts & takes a break. There is no even footing. In the distance, is a glimpse where the ginormous boulders even off somewhat, and you know you've reach the top/begin to descend. Navigating them is not for the faint of heart. 

Since he dismounted, I ask my hubby to take a picture of Koda & I, and this is what I got...

got one

guess it's good to take two...puzzled about the angle tho

he's making me laugh

I love my Koda, even at an angle...

Me: what the heck are you doing?!
Brad: I'm taking pictures like you do

Ha ha, very funny...yes, my hubby is upside down.
I still can't look at these without cracking up!!

...we head back down, and meander towards the cabins...even after three days, the colorful forest is still amazing...

...when a breeze kicks up, golden leaves come raining down around us. Suddenly I realize how fun it would be to try catching them! Wish I had thought of this sooner.  Try it some time, it's a challenge. 

We have a relaxing campfire that evening back at the cabin, and I make some new friends at the ranch...we will try to squeak in one last short ride tomorrow, before making the drive back home...


Fall colors me happy ~ part 2 of 4

In the mornings, I grab a cup of coffee and head outside to find the fire pit stoked and happy horses munching. I really enjoy the start and end to our day's up north. The smell of wood burning, the soft sound of our boys just a few feet away munching hay, the fresh nip in the air, and being all warm inside...

We used to bring muffins, but have since found a favorite breakfast spot called Four Season's. It's in a quaint renovated church. Like most everything up north, it's a family run business. When we go there, they recognize us and ask about our trail rides. If that isn't welcoming, I don't know what is. The reasonably priced food is sooo good & plentiful, it holds us until supper - perfect for riding the trails! 

As planned, we head north to take the trail marked by the "big rock". Which is pretty humorous, considering the area is known for it's big rocks - 'er boulders. We instantly noticed someone's been clearing this trail. All the fun logs to ride over have been removed, and deeper in some selective cutting had been done. I know it's good for the forest, and will eventually fill in...

...the northern part of the forest gets slickery when wet. The previous rainy week, left multiple puddles and water holes of various sizes. Some crossable, most not. There is mud, and then there is slippery mud - and this part of the forest has the latter. We were reminded of that when Nemo's back legs slipped crossing the first mud puddle we encountered. His concern about mud lingered for the rest of the trip. Can't blame the guy, it's unsettling to have your feet go out from under you. He didn't fall, instead lunging forward and crossing them safely.

There are a fair amount of hills in this area, and it didn't take long for Koda to get winded. Not sure why, we've been riding them consistently. I wondered if he was just being lazy & playing me? However I watched his breathing, and when warranted, erred on the side of caution. Needless to say we took lots of short breaks on the first part of this ride. At one point Nemo got tired of waiting for us, and suddenly decided they should go off the beaten path. Silly boy! Maybe Nemo knows how much his human loves riding off the trail? When our horses are being mindful, we will let them make some decisions. After all, it's their fun too... 

...Nemo & Brad riding way ahead...

...after a while the breaks were getting ridiculous. We walk 98% of the time. I could see Koda's breathing was no longer labored. The next break he asked for, I stopped and simply didn't ask him to go. We just sat there. Watching Nemo & Brad ride out of sight. Koda wasn't too thrilled. I told him if he doesn't like it, then it's his job to keep up!  Sometimes I think Koda understands English, because that sluggish horse I was riding disappeared for the rest of the trip. It wasn't too long before Koda decided to take the lead... 

...we came across some unusual things. An old girls bike was displayed up on a mound. The American Pickers in us came out, and we had a good time telling tales about the bikes history...

We explored several less traveled paths, where there are always turns and decisions to be made. We crossed a road, and entered a different section of the forest...

...someone was having waaay too much fun, when I tried taking blind pictures behind my back...

...I noticed the path was worn with tire marks. Eventually we came across something we haven't run into before - logging...

...thankfully it wasn't active. But it did raise a couple questions: Do we turn around and ride allllll the way back? Are we going to get in trouble, and more importantly, is it safe to ride through? I didn't see any posted signs telling us to stay out, so we took on new unexpected trail challenges. Challenges that raised more then questions, they raised our horses ears. 

Koda wasn't too sure about the stacked logs. He prefers his trees standing, me too. The further we rode, the higher the stacks got. He bravely led us through, and we rode around and over some challenging obstacles. At one point, we rode among towering piles of logs, and side passed over a couple huge logs left on the ground. We were very careful, and so proud of our boys! 

We thought the logging was behind us until we rounded a corner, and found gigantic downed trees, blocking a sloping curved downhill path. One, two, tree - I stopped counting and wondered if we could get past them all while going down a muddy hill. We decided to try, and our trusty mounts carefully took us down safely.

last few trees at the bottom of the hill

It wasn't long before we were back among a beautiful mix of birch trees, surrounded by cheery yellow. I love birch trees! They remind me of our years riding among much larger Colorado aspens...

...we saw sheets of birch bark, worthy of artful words, and singing birds high up in the trees. We were surrounded by natures golden glory. I couldn't help but take a silly selfie, just look at the colors behind me! 

no color enhancement

Recognize my hat? Kinda hard to see, but I know at least one person will recognize it! Know that if your a regular on this blog, you ride the trails with me...you guys know who you are.

This was one of those days to remember. It ended up being the longest ride of the trip. By the time we got back to the ranch, all four of us were tired. We fed the boys, cleaned up and headed out for our supper club night out - always fun & delicious!

Hoping the weather holds out one more day, tomorrow we ride up to the lookout...


Fall colors me happy ~ part 1 of 4

We returned from our annual Fall Horseback Riding Trip feeling tired and happy. The trip was fantastic! Full of all the things we dream of, and more. Instead of cramming every wonder spinning around my head, into one long marathon post, I'm going to break the days up. To reflect, and hopefully inspire, both you and I to do more of what fuels our souls.

The long awaited day to head north to explore the Nicolet National Forest finally came. We packed everything we could think we might need, and then some. Rain coat, warm coat, light coat - it's better to have it, then wish you did. In Wisconsin, Fall weather is anybody's guess - and you might need all three coats on any given day!

With the truck & trailer loaded we headed up to Iron Horse to pick up Koda & Nemo, eager to put the traveling behind us. We arrived up north to find our cabin just like we left it. Warm, clean and welcoming. The cabin is not really ours, but it feels like it.

The boys were anxious to get out of the trailer. Koda & Nemo seemed to instantly recognize where they were, before they even stepped out. We got their paddocks set up, with hay bags & water, and quickly unloaded the truck. We saddled up, and headed out - wasting no time getting out on the trail. It was mid-afternoon, and there was only so much daylight left.  

In years past, heading out on the trail was a much lengthier process. We would typically lunge, then warm up riding in the outdoor arena, and then head out. We started coming to Spur of the Moment Ranch when the boys were three, they are six now. What a difference a couple years makes! From being young bug-eyed, thinking rocks and everything else are going to eat them, snorting at everything, high-headed, random backing/refusing - to being generally aware and wonderfully willing. I am so very grateful, we have such wonderful horses in our lives.

All rides start out on the multi-use trail, an old railroad bed. You have to take it to get into the forest. We weren't on the trail headed south for even five minutes when we came upon our first ATV's. I thought "great way to start off on cold horses" not fully realizing how much our horses had grown-up. But you know what? Our horses didn't care about the ATV's this time either. For the past three years, all the four wheelers we have encountered slow down, giving friendly smiles or saying hello. It helps that the trail section we ride has a 10 mile per hour speed limit posted. Most of the time the multi-use trail looks like this...

...as we shuffle along my hubby notices something on the ground. Whoops, whatever it was I rode right over it. Brad double-backs, wondering what it could be? Turns out to be a rusty old railroad spike. Cool! I think to myself, I'll pick it up on the way back. It would make a great souvenir. 

It wasn't too long before we made it into the forest along beautiful route 64...where a mosaic of trees intermix. Birch, evergreen and hardwood co-exist in an ever changing pattern. A soft carpet of red, orange, and yellow leaves blanket the greenish paths. Some more pronounced then others. Brown leaves crunch, crunch, crunch, crunch methodically, as we walk along with a familiar steady beat... 


...we round a bend, and everything changes from a golden yellow glow to a warm red glow. Sigh. Notice the difference in the trees...I am absolutely fascinated by them! There is no place I would rather be...

(no color enhancement)

...this first ride is pretty quiet, as we soak it all in. We get to the end of 64, and resist the urge to forge onto another trail. Getting lost in the forest in the dark, isn't something I aspire to do. Instead we turn around, and the shadows get longer...  

...looking up, the trees are sooo tall! Hard to capture height in a photo. 
Majestic trees tower over us, reaching for the sky, in all their colorful splendor... 

Funny how the same trail can look so different from year to year, add changing direction & light - and it's a new trail all over again! 

We head back to the ranch the same way we start, and get passed by another ATV. Nice guy, clearly a local puttering along. Wait - what is he doing up ahead? He stopped to pick up that railroad spike we saw earlier. Bummer! I tell Brad I was going to do the same thing, apparently he was too. Oh well, can't lose what you never had. 

The ranch is quiet. It's mid-week, and we are the only ones in the cabins. Koda & Nemo go back to munching hay, and we go out to eat to do some munching of our own. After the past rainy week, we are blessed with beautiful Fall weather and a great start to our trip! Tomorrow we head out and ride north...


Sunday Stills ~ Landscapes

View from above the Nicolet National Forest in WI 


a memorable rainy day

You find a day that aligns, and make plans weeks in advance. Those that need to, put in for a vacation day from work. It's officially on the calendar, we are going on a group trail ride! The first & only one this season. Plans are to take three experienced horses, two of which are Nemo & Koda, a rider with fear issues & her mount, a trail horse that needs some re-training, and two young newbie horses, one of which is Cierra. The weather has been great, and everyone is reeeally looking forward to doing something different!

We pick a place to ride with easy terrain, and make plans to grill for lunch so we can double the riding fun and head out for a second ride. We carefully watch the weather as the day slowly approaches. Darn! Looks like rain is predicted. Not one day before, or after, just on the chosen day. Go figure. Weather patterns can and do change, so we hold tight to our plans. The forecast did change, for the worse. Not just rain, but now "violent storms" are possible. I don't mind riding in the rain, but violent storms... We try to reschedule the group trail ride, but things just don't match up. So what do you do? You come up with Plan B. If the storm front doesn't blow over, we'll ride in the indoor arena, grill out, and try to make it fun/different. 

The "trail" day came, and so did the rain. We hauled our trailer up, just incase. Complete with roping dummy (no, not me - the plastic steer head mounted kind) and our equine soccer ball. As to be expected, several riders cancel. Oh well, we can't change the weather. The girls working at the barn were excited to ride regardless of the rain, and that makes anything fun!! 

Several horses got introduced to the equine ball, and a little soccer happened with those that liked it. Koda learned to share, altho he never took his eye off his, 'er the, soccer ball. Of course nothing ever goes as planned at a busy barn, phones ring, people drop in, and needs are met, but we take it all in stride. Riding happened, fun happened, and lunch happened...mmmm the smell of charcoal grilled brats!!

In the afternoon between rain showers, six of us headed out for a make-shift trail ride on the property. Including a new girl who helps clean stalls, and has done limited riding. I am thrilled she got to join us. I remember how special those rare rides are. She rode old Skip the lesson horse, who doesn't leave the ranch. 

The two young horses learned to cross water with a large hoof covering driveway puddle, the rest of us practiced. Cierra didn't want to get her pretty little feet wet, but with our trainers redirections it didn't take long for her to walk right in. 

Since the ranch doesn't have trails, we rode in the pastures. After we rode the perimeter of an empty one, horses were cleared out of another. I regret not having my camera for that second pasture ride! There was some fun terrain. A large deep muddy water hole, a swampy grass area, and even a fallen tree in the swamp to ride low (or high) over. We took turns trying to help young horse # 2 learn that the water hole wasn't going to swallow her. Nemo was a trooper, and did the not so fun job of being the wall on the edge of the water hole. Apprentice Sammy did an amazing job riding one stubborn young horse, while being coached by our trainer. She eventually rode in and through the water calmly.

We rode separate, together, over, and through anything we could find - no single file riding. We laughed, and then laughed some more! I am pretty sure the horses had fun too, even the young ones. What a great group to spend the day with! In many ways, this turned out to be much more fun then the planned trail ride. It went so fast, before I knew it we ran out of time and never did rope. Something to look forward to, rain or shine.

Young people have such a bright spirit, they light up with the smallest of things. Things we too often take for granted. It was such a refreshing, memorable rainy day!

Nemo & Koda, on a recent sunny day