Kickapoo Valley Reserve

You know those kind of days, when you are doing something you love, with other people that enjoy doing the same thing(s), surrounded by natures glory, and in all that wonderfulness, you discover a new favorite place to trail ride? Yesterday was one of those days, at Kickapoo Valley Reserve. Wow, what a gorgeous place to ride!! 

We headed out earlier then usual to pick up Koda & Nemo. Plans were to meet our friend Peggy (Checkers owner, from previous posts) at an unloading spot. She trailered one of her mares from home, along with her faithful canine companion Nell. Good thing we headed out early, shortly after we arrived at the campground trail head there were a steady stream of trailers pulling in. It didn't completely surprise me, with Saturday's yucky weather and the triathlon that was held at Kickapoo. Who wants to ride with 500 participants canoeing, running and biking, along with spectators, and all the hoopla that goes with it? Not me.

Fall colors were really starting to turn. We enjoyed them on the drive to/from, and found the reserve is a great place to enjoy them with it's varied terrain and treescape. 

Winnie, Nemo, Koda (L-R)

It wasn't too long before we arrived at a path appropriately marked "River Crossing Path". We meandered along, and then came upon one of the hardest things I've even done on horseback - cross the Kickapoo River. For some strange reason, the crossing is around a river bend where the current flows strong. It's so strong, that it can take your horses legs right out from under them.

Brad & Nemo went down to the river first.
Here they are trying to figure out the best way to cross.

With a little persuasion, Nemo goes in and heads for the bank.

 They made it across! 

Peggy has done this crossing before, altho not with Winnie.
They crossed so fast, somehow I didn't manage to snap a photo.
She didn't even get her feet wet!

Down to the river bank I went. Koda didn't like what I was asking him to do, and was resisting. There I was on the opposite bank, me, my horse, and the dog. Great. Nell was running around our feet, trying to figure out the best way to get across. Koda did try for me. In we went, and it was a whirling dizzy unsteady feeling as the current swept Koda's back legs away, holy crap!! We had turned mid-river, into the current, and started slipping backwards off a drop off...my boots filled up with water, as I felt my boy start to swim. I quickly cued him back to the starting river bank. In hindsight, we were too far to the left and didn't have enough forward motion. Going back to the beginning was probably another mistake, but after slipping down stream we were both nervous - I just needed to get out of there! I gathered myself, and tried to cross again, and again. We ended up riding up and down the embankment in our feeble frustrating attempts. Brad & Peggy were shouting encouraging words from across the river, like "take your time", "you are getting closer" and from my husband who knows me well, "relax..." !! My efforts were exhausting. I shouted back across "he isn't going to go, we may need a buddy". Of course my hubby came across to help not once, but twice. First as a lead horse at the river bank, and then at the top before you head down, where he asked me if I wanted him to try taking Koda across...it would make me feel like such a failure. I hate it when that happens! I decided to try one more time. I had to ask Koda with increasing pressure, but it was starting to work and he began listening to me again. At this point things are kind of a blur. A family group had ridden up behind me and was waiting, adding to the pressure. I was so focused on Koda, but somewhere in my efforts, I remember Peggy shouting some sage advice "look across to the bank and believe you can do it" and Koda went in again. This time he forged ahead, through the current, with his ears touching the sky. I didn't let him rush out and up the slippery muddy mess of an incline. We made it across, hurray!! I was so proud of my brave boy!

Now we had another problem. Nell was still across the river. The family that was behind me rode right across the river, first the dad, then each of the two young kids on their own mounts, and a lady or two. They made it look so easy. Trust me, it wasn't. I assume they are regulars at the reserve. Peggy wasn't too impressed with Nell not crossing. She said all her other dogs have jumped right in, gotten carried down the river a little ways, swam out, and rejoined the ride. Not little Nell, maybe she was too smart? No way were we going to let Peggy take her back to the trailer, we leave no one behind. It's just the way we are. Before I knew it, Brad was crossing the river again. This time to go get Nell...

Nemo get's sticky feet

Brad had his hands full, literally. It was hard to get himself into the saddle with Nell on it. Eventually he got on first, and she half jumped up so he could grab her. He couldn't see or steer very well with her in his arms, and Nemo had just about enough of this river crossing. He was not crossing again. Who could blame the guy? I suggested one of us come across to help. I started to go, but then realized Peggy would be a better choice. With the trouble Koda & I experienced we could end up adding to the problem. Winnie had crossed willingly the first time, Peggy agreed and they crossed to help. Winnie did amazing, she is around 10 and never been off their farm. We were very impressed with her. 

Everybody needs a little help once in a while.
All it took was a little tug from Peggy, to get Nemo to cross one last time.

Nemo, Nell and Winnie (L-R)

Enjoy this short video I made, and see for yourself how strong the current is:

The rest of our ride was much quieter, and prettier. We rode mostly in the woods, because we all like that best. Up, down, around and through huge beautiful colorful peaks and valley's, complete with boulder outcroppings. It's very remote, absolutely love this place!!

We did run into some sketchy slippery sloped spots, but now we know where they are. I thought I took more photos, apparently I was enjoying the ride instead. It was low 50's, cloudy and cool, and my feet were wet - but I didn't care in these breathtaking surroundings.

Winnie & Nemo (L-R) coming out of the woods

We saw four large doe in our path, so pretty watching the white tails bound away from us. One of my favorite area's in the reserve are the pines. The floor is carpeted with soft amber needles, the trees go on as far as the eye can see, and you could hear a pin drop...

Koda, Nell, Nemo (L-R)

It was the first time we've trail ridden our horses with a dog, we all loved having one along!! It was so cute how Nell & Nemo bonded after the river. She needs some reminders to get out of the way of the horses, and once Nemo even bent down and gently nudged her to the side. Nell would check up, and rode beside, all of us. What a great dog! The horses didn't mind having her inches from their feet, and sometimes in between. 


On our way back to the trailers we came across two recumbent bikers, with neon green flags bobbing high above their heads. None of the horses had ever seen them, and Winnie wasn't too thrilled but she got over it quickly. Peggy is a great handler. We opted to take a large suspended wooden bridge high up over the river, instead of through it, to get back. 

Over 5 hours and 10 plus miles later, we untacked, brushed and fed our horses, and before making the drive home we tailgated with some good conversation, cold water, specialty cheese, sausage, crackers and grapes - yum!!



The Dancing Donkey said...

Everybody needs a little help now and then:). I'm glad no one got left behind. It looks like a lovely place to ride.

Shirley said...

Hopefully Koda will get braver at his next river crossing! Very cool that Brad carried the dog across.

C-ingspots said...

Haha!! Glad you didn't give up and made it across. Love how the minute you changed your focus from worry to "being on the other side", Koda knew he could do it!! :) Thumbs up for you two!! And, pretty good "cowboying up" for Brad and Nemo to rescue the dog...love it!! I wanna go too!!

Grey Horse Matters said...

What a gorgeous place to ride. Not sure I would have liked the river crossing either.

Loved your video. Nemo is a hero as is Brad. I'm sure Nell appreciated the effort from them both. She's adorable and very sweet. Hope you get to go again.

aurora said...

Isn't that the truth Kris?!

Shirley, I was debating on taking Koda back across, and probably should have for the practice. But the first time in the river was pretty dramatic, so I opted to "end on a good note". I do hope next time goes smoother, and I can give Koda confidence with with what I learned.

Lorie, all I can say is "me too" - that and I wish you could ride with us!

Grey Horse, I look forward to going again. It turns out Kickapoo is not any further from the barn then the other trails we've ridden. I had fun making & sharing the video, thanks!