Sunday, August 10, 2008

Jumping and Dumping

Friday August 8 2008

Jumping And Dumping


This heat wave on the Eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains was thankfully replaced with days of dark clouds, thunderstorms, scattered showers, and heavy foggy mist - and, the temperature dropped 20 degrees (hooray!!).

Bobbi Richine and I postponed riding on Thursday for the weather, and Friday at noon we decided to give it a go.

I'd visited her and ridden with her a few years ago at her place near Larkspur, but she'd since moved to another fabulous place in the mountains outside Woodland Park. She's nestled on 34 acres up against thousands of acres of Forest Service land, pine- and fir-forested Rocky Mountains, at 8400 feet. I asked her how she ever discovered this place: "I looked all over the United States before I found it!" It was a big fixer upper, but now it's fixed up, and a little slice of heaven.

Bobbi used to own Rocky Mountain Training Center, and had dozens of endurance horses coming and going for sale at any one time. She also had a bed and breakfast. She's done with all that, (for now, anyway...), and while she still sells a few horses here and there, she has about 5 right now.

Three horses were waiting to be saddled as I drove up; 14-year-old Sophie was riding with us. Bobbi had recruited her from the dressage and jumping world to endurance. Sophie had competed a bit in the ring, but it wasn't really her cup o' tea... "Everything had to be perfect. You had to do this perfectly, you had to sit this way perfectly, you had to wear this, you had to do that." Which is precisely one reason why I wouldn't even be allowed in a show ring. The other reason is, I'd have to ride with my Raven, and I expect I'd get a few points deducted for that. Not that I'd have any ring skills in the first place.

Anyway, Sophie just started endurance riding with Bobbi less than a year ago, and she loves it. She sure looked at home on the forest trails. And superb trails they were - soft two track, or single-track trails, winding around through the forest, very few rocks underfoot, with some great hill training. My mount (and the Raven's - residing in the saddle bag) Catnap was really huffing and puffing up the hills and sweating. It was a cool day though still and muggy - with dark clouds all about, and you know what muggy and still can mean in the mountains on a summer afternoon.

I was quite happy to be going out for a ride with someone who said she had no desire to ride in a lightning storm, either. These were two riders I knew wouldn't lie to me when I asked, "Was that thunder?" (Since I can't hear it until it's much too close.) Bobbi decided that, since the clouds did look ominous all around, we'd do the shorter 7 mile loop and see how the weather held.

We trotted along the trails, gaily zipping through the cool and quiet forest for a couple of miles, when we came to a fork in the trail, and Bobbi said... "Uh oh."

I could tell by the tone in her voice that the Uh Oh had nothing to do with horses or trails or wild animals. "What!" I asked. "Thunder?"

"Yes!" OK, so we took the trail that led toward home, and even then I could hear a rumble of thunder, which meant that it was pretty close. I wasn't nervous yet, until Bobbi said, "We can go up onto this ridge where we'll have a view of Pikes Peak." A view - great - on a ridge in a thunderstorm... uh oh...

Thankfully the thunder, which I could clearly hear now, appeared to be over the ridge to our right (nevermind the fact that lightning can strike 9 miles away from the cloud), and I wasn't seeing any flashes, though the clouds dead ahead, as we climbed, were DARK. And we still had a ways to climb...

We hit a warp trot, and, suddenly, there's a log over the trail - log! Wait! I recalled something about "Catnap likes to jump" being said before I got on, which made me think I'd just go around any logs, since I don't jump, and suddenly, here comes a log, but wait! I don't know how to jump, but then it was over before I could say anything (and I should mention, this was about a foot high, though Catnap leaped though it was 3 feet high), and we landed galloping after the other two, wheeeee! and for the next 50 yards I forgot about being afraid of lightning.

We finally reached the top of the ridge, where we got off to lead the horses down. (Down, yay! ... though lightning doesn't always strike the highest points, it's still a mental relief to lose altitude). We still hadn't seen lightning, and in fact, the thunder had died off too. We stopped for a few pictures in a little meadow with Pikes Peak in the background, then we mounted up, just when raindrops started to fall. Bobbi and Sophie put on raincoats, then we continued zipping along the trails, with go-go little Catnap in front - with "two more jumps coming!" Bobbi yelled behind me.

AHHH! OK the first one was 10 inches high, which Catnap trotted over, and the next one was a big whole 16 inch jump, which we were flying at and we leaped over - really, I have no idea how to sit these things, so I just didn't worry about it - and we landed and kept cruising right along.

And quickly, we were back at the home gate, with the rain already coming to a stop. Almost a shame to be done already, but, we'd lucked out with the storm, and it was probably for the best, since it was still heavily overcast.

Catnap and I closed the gate, and our horses walked the last bit of downhill. Just as the road flattened out, there was a big rumble of thunder ("OK, I heard THAT!") which ended with a loud CRACK. "I saw two lightning bolts," offered Sophie, and Bobbie said, "Well let's just get moving!"

As soon as we picked up a trot, the raindrops started falling again, and, escorted by another loud crack of thunder, we whipped around the corner and up the little hill to the tack shed. Just as we jumped off it started raining in earnest. We quickly pulled the saddles, and jumped under the little roof shelter just as the heavens opened up, and it DUMPED rain. Like a monsoon, it poured in buckets and sheets and it beat on the roof like a thousand drums.

We turned the two mares loose (and fed the gelding, who didn't care about the rain, as long as he had grain to eat), one of whom crowded with us under the roof. A bright lightning flash brought a loud crack that made us all jump, humans and horses. And it just kept dumping, 15 minutes of momentous unadulterated rain. And it was a cold rain - without a raincoat, I'd have been quickly soaked and very chilled. (Reminded me of another thunder/lightning/hailstorm I'd been caught in unprepared in the Sierras, with 3 horses...)

Finally the rain let up a bit, and we ran to the house, where Bobbi whipped up some coffee and tea, and we watched from indoors as it dumped another unbelievable monsoon drenching of rain.

When I left later, the sun had come out briefly, darkening the deep blue storm clouds to the east, and making sparkling the surrounding crisp cleansed forest - the forest smells so perfect after a rain.

I inhaled and inhaled till I got a mountain high, to hold onto that aroma till the next time I'm back home in a forest.


DarcyLynne said...

I am going to have to turn you into the Raven Rescue Group. I noticed that you did not have adequate protection from the storm for Raven II. There is no excuse for having forgotten his raincoat and rubber boots!

The Equestrian Vagabond said...

Ya know - I've just got no control over that Raven! And PS - he's not scared of thunderstorms, it's just me : )