Sunday, September 11, 2016

50 for 50: 3 -- Horseback Riding with Cousin Heath

I am well and truly wiped, but if I don't get today written down, I may forget it.  You know how you sometimes have such a busy day that yesterday seems forever ago?  Right now, 2:15 seems like forever ago.

I hit the road around 7:45 this morning, because I am in Baltimore but was headed out to the other side of the State.  It was about an hour ten minutes of Google Maps saying, "yeah, keep going West; I'll tell you when you're there."  I ended up at Elk Mountain Stables, which is just this side of West Virginia.  More on that later.

It was a gorgeous day for horseback riding.  Cousin Heath had suggested it (and it was on the list!) long before we knew that yesterday would be well over 90 degrees, but today topped out around 80.  It was even cooler in the morning, when we went for our ride.

It was me, Heath and Heath's 8-year-old, Aidan (and 11 other people we didn't know), accompanied by three guides, for an hour-and-half trail ride up through the mountains.  We saw nature!  (Two deer!)  (And a big ol' spider in the bathroom.  Honestly, I'm pretty sure that waiver of liability we had to sign -- which was pretty much how nature can be scary and we think we're in control, but we aren't -- had to do more with using the restroom than actually riding the horses.)

I've been on a bunch of trail rides in my life, and someone always has the "difficult" horse.  This time, it was me.  Sequoia was a hungry beast, and I was warned not to let her eat grass even before I mounted.  And (because I'd actually taken three whole horseback riding lessons which ended up focused on Making Recalcitrant Horses Behave), I did an okay job of keeping her from eating.  A couple times she just used all her strength to put her head down and bite off half a bush -- I'd be yelling "No!" and pulling sharply on the reins, but, let's face it, in a game of tug of war, she's always going to win.  She'd look back at me, mouth full of salad, as if to say, "Try all you want, Monkey Girl; I'm eating this."

There was a secondary problem with Sequoia -- I kept leaning to one side on her.  They had to stop the ride about four times to readjust her saddle.  When I asked what was going on, they said she's so fat, the saddle won't stay on.  At that point, I patted her and called her "Big Boned."  I think she liked that.

In the meantime, Heath was riding ahead of me on Mystic.  (Aidan was in front of him; I missed the name of his horse.)  Heath said he didn't think Mystic trusted him; this may have been true -- it looked like Mystic tried to brush Heath off his back by walking him into some trees.

But between Heath dodging trees and me not sliding off the side of my overweight horse, we had a lovely ride -- the nature really was beautiful (I mentioned the deer, right?) and we were far enough away from civilization (we even loss data signals) that all we could hear is nature -- the whoosh of the breeze, the hum of the insects, the clip-clop of the horses, ... and me yelling, "No!"

This wasn't just a ride; it was a brunch ride!  When we got back, there was cowboy french toast, a rather tasty homemade egg and cheese dish, hash browns (more cheese) and some yummy bacon.  It was all very hearty, and I was pleased to see the strawberries for dessert, because this meal made me think their kitchen had never seen a fruit or vegetable.

Aidan's a good kid.  (He's also a good rider.)  Friendly.  Inquisitive.  When Heath and Aidan arrived at the stables, Heath introduced him to me, saying he didn't think I'd met Aidan before, and I realized THAT's what this 50 for 50 activity was really about -- not just spending time with Cousin Heath, but getting to know his son I'd never met.
I would love to end this entry on that note, but have to add that I had a couple hours to kill before the next activity, and we were so close to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, Heath suggested I drive on over there to fill the time.  I agreed; not so much because I was dying to see Harpers Ferry, but because I'm sick of answering, "Um, maybe?" whenever they ask about West Virginia on one of those "How many states have you visited?" things.  So, now, I've definitely hit West Virginia.  As a bonus, Harpers Ferry has some old stone steps which (according to the sign next to them) are part of the Appalachian Trail.  Believe me when I tell you that "Hike the Appalachian Trail" is not on my list.  But I did walk up and down the steps so I could say I walked a part of it.  How much we'll just keep secret.

No comments: