MOUNTAIN RANGE RIDE
Beware of horseback riders in front, and back…
My friend Karen planned a trail ride with a group on a mountain range in Eastern Kentucky without my knowledge—I thought it would be just the two of us riding at some nice spot in the woods she had chosen.
It was a fine sunny morning when we pulled into camp in my pickup with horse trailer being pulled behind, and to my dismay, I saw a large group of people unloading and saddling their horses.
Against my better judgement, we soon were saddled up too and ready to mount our horses. I felt this was going to be an unforgettable ride. Being cautious was top priority according to this group, so I began to think it would be fun, and at least a very safe trip for my horse and me.
We started out and immediately went straight up the side of a mountain. Mind you, I don’t mind the climb up, but hate traveling back downhill.
Riding one-eyed Jake, a good old walking horse, he climbed the mountain just fine, no problem at all for him. He had a strong heart that would not quit. I was sure glad when we reached the top, thinking the trail would probably flatten out for several miles ahead.
A few of us gathered for a brief rest at the top, while other stragglers were still climbing, including my friend Karen. She insists on riding an English style (slick) saddle, and had lost one of her stirrups on the trip up. Her horse, Snooch, (a Saddlebred) got excited among the other horses, and wouldn’t stand still for her to reattach the stirrup when she dismounted. Needless to say, when she reached the top, she was huffing and puffing, and spewing a few cuss words. Her face was blood red, and with her hair matching, she gave all fair warning: Don’t tangle with me now!
At last, her composure was collected, and we were ready to proceed.
Twenty feet away was my worst fear, a straight down the mountain journey that looked like it ended in Hell. I couldn’t even see the bottom. My heart was in my throat. I thought how am I going to deal with this treacherous decline?
Several were in a straight line traveling down the decline with no problem. I let the man in front of me take his horse down, and clear a fallen tree lying across the trail before I proceeded to urge Jake to take his first step off the edge of the mountain onto that sandy bank going straight downhill.
Holding my breath, I gave Jake his head. Both my hands gripped the back of the saddle as I leaned back as far as possible with both stirrups forward, hanging on for dear life.
Jake stepped over the fallen tree just fine, but suddenly the line of horse and riders had stopped in the middle of the decline. Jake stopped on a dime, but his nose was still touching the Paint horse’s rear in front of us, and before I could warn the others to hold back, I felt something hit me in the back, and Jakes rear.
Oh Lord! Within seconds, I realized Karen was lying on my back. Snooch had slipped in the sand crossing the tree lying across the trail, tripped on it with his hide feet, and threw Karen over his head, and onto my back.
As I looked backwards, Snooch was on one knee with his neck and head on Jakes rear end. At this point, I’m laying on Jakes neck looking and hoping this doesn’t cause a domino effect down the line of other riders. Jake never lost his composure, and stood steadfast with both front feet dug into the sand like a bulldozer. Dang, I was proud of him.
Quickly, I pulled Karen off me to the side, jumped off Jake, and began stomping saplings down to make way for us to remove ourselves from the line of riders coming at us from above. No one knew the line had stopped until Karen and I had the big pile up.
I was yelling for everyone to wait, which thankfully, they did. In a few minutes the other riders rode past us giving us a look as though we were villains. Karen gave them plenty of lip service as they rode past sneering.
Relieved that we were okay, we decided we were finished riding with this group in the mountains, so Karen and I left the pack, rode back to the horse trailer, and went where we knew it would be safe to ride. So much for trusting the “Group Plan!”
We only had one huge problem and that was: climbing back up that steep decline we had just come down. The horses had real problems climbing straight up in the sand. They were spinning their feet like tires would on snow and ice. At last, off their backs and holding on to their tails while urging them to climb, we all made it to the top.
Exhausted, sweating, huffing, and puffing with some choice words flyin’, we rested for about thirty minutes. We figured out we could take a short cut away from the mountain we had just climbed, and get safely back to camp.
I must admit, I’ve had many great horseback rides, but this one was the worst, and it left a lasting impression. I learned to beware of who rides with you, and where you ride. You cannot throw caution to the wind when riding in the wilderness, miles from 911 emergency-rescue, (that’s if you can even get a signal up in those mountains!)
Brenda Clark Pike