7 days far from city life

Things have been quiet on the blog-front, and I do apologize. I’ve been living in a hay field, in a hammock, with no running water, no plumbing and a couple of horses and dogs for company. Okay well more like 70 horses and at least a dozen dogs. Oh, and some people. I spent my week off on the 5-Day Ride, put on by the Chesley Saddle Club.

5-Day Ride - trailers on the hill
Some of the trailers at camp

This is a ride I haven’t done before, and I’d say over all I enjoyed it, although there were many wrenches thrown into the plan. My friend Leanne has a young horse, Ellie, pictured below, so her older horse, King, is available for me to ride (I don’t own my own so I borrow whenever possible). We’ve planned this for a number of months, with my parents and another friend who also rides. I met up with Leanne in New Hamburg on Monday, and on Tuesday we packed up the nags and our gear and drove up to the camp, just north east of Wiarton, Ontario, on the Bruce Peninsula.

5-Day Ride - Crazy Eye Ellie
Crazy Eye Ellie

The ride is probably the biggest I’ve been on, not so much for the number of riders necessarily, but rather for the length and set up. The Club arranges for everyone’s food — three squares a day — and puts together a camper for preparing meals, a grill for cooking and a dish pit, as well as a big tent to sit under and entertainment on the Friday night. They provide hay for your horses, so all you have to do is bring your nags, and your sleeping arrangements. Most of the folks on the ride have pretty fantastic trailers, with living quarters built right in. My parents put a camper in the box of their truck which works really well. Leanne and I are still working on making our millions, so she had her tent and I had my sleeping hammock (see the image near the bottom).

5-Day Ride - dish pit
The dish pit
5-Day Ride - food tent
The food tent

My parents were expected to arrive early Wednesday, in time to join us for that day’s ride, but I got a voice mail just after breakfast that Dad had fallen the night before and injured himself pretty badly. It was the first of a few rough moments on the trip. I was pretty upset that a.) my Dad had hurt himself (again) and by doing something totally unnecessary (use a ladder next time!!) and that b.) they wouldn’t be coming. Leanne and I had a really good ride that day. As usual, King was a dream. Leanne had her hands full with Ellie, who is only four and gets pretty excited, but King is a gentleman and it’s such a treat to ride him, since I usually have either my Mom’s horse Chiachi or occasionally Rainman, my Dad’s horse (once upon a time he was mine). Both of them can be full of spunk.

But later that afternoon I got another call that my Dad was doing better (he’d been carted off to the hospital by an ambulance the evening before) and that they were going to come anyway. They had called up my 15 year old cousin Ann, who is totally horse crazy and has been getting some experience under her belt lately with some riding, to come with them. Dad couldn’t ride, but if Ann came, we could still go out with all four horses, it just meant I had to switch and ride Rainman instead. I was both happy they were coming but a bit bummed to have to give up my cushy hayburner King and instead take on a more challenging mount for the week, since Ann would need the easiest horse we had available (King).

Harvey, looking all handsome-like
5-Day Ride - our camp
Our camp, with our "guard dog" Lola

Thursday’s ride was pretty great; Ann had a really good day out with King, which was a relief since we weren’t quite sure how she would fare. It was her first time doing a trail, and in such a large group, not to mention a 5+ hour ride with only one real break. I did alright too, although there was some fighting for control between Rainman and I towards the end, as always. He’s a leader, not a follower, and he can’t stand being slowed down by anyone. I have two choices with him when he’s in a mind set to move; either hold him back and make him angry with me, or let him have his head, at which point he’ll crowd the horse in front and make someone else angry. I chose the former.

5-Day Ride - misty morning
Leanne walking Lola in the mist

Friday however, was another story all together. We were preparing to saddle up and Ann came running down to our spot in the field to tell me Mom had been hurt, and that she couldn’t ride. We were quite a way apart in our camp sites, so I hoped into Leanne’s truck and went to see what had happened. Chiachi, the brute that she is, had reared while tied and snapped her halter in three places, slipped, and came down on my Mom. She was pretty badly scraped down the back of her calf and her thigh. We think it was the saddle that got her, since Chiachi already had it on. Now I had two injured parents.

We debated which horse I’d take out on the ride but in the end I decided against going at all, since stable mates don’t separate well, and we knew if we had to separate them at all, Rainman would fare better being left alone in camp than Chiachi, and I was in such a foul mood by then that I decided against taking her, since she can be so difficult to handle and she had shown us the day before that she was in a seriously strong heat. That horse can be fun to ride but she is just as much a one-track minded brute of a beast with no respect for her handler.

It took me some time to calm down after all that. Perhaps it was the stress of having another near miss with one of my parents. I was also feeling a bit gypped on my long-anticipated holiday, as things were not working out as I’d planned. I was having a “poor me” moment, big time. I had to find a way to make the day useful and to get myself out of my funk, so I took Mom into Wiarton with Leanne’s truck and we ran a few errands, got some good drugs and some bandages, and found me some better gloves so I could avoid getting blistered hands from holding Rainman back, if we decided to go out again on Saturday. I also did some of the “chores” for Leanne and I, like pumping water out of the creek and cleaning up the manure. I also went and put gas in Leanne’s truck. By the time Leanne and Ann got back from their day out on the trail, I was feeling positive about things again.

5-Day Ride - Lola
Lola, in her undies (she's been shaved for the summer)

Mom got her courage to try going out again on Saturday, but we chose to do the short ride, since we didn’t know how her leg would feel. The short ride is about 3 hours as opposed to 5. I think quite a few people were getting tired by Saturday, since the short ride group usually only had about 5 to 10 riders on it, while that day there were about 22.

We had to cross a few cattle pastures on this particular ride, and for whatever reason, the cattle were extremely interested in the horses and came running up as a herd to the group. This caused a few horses to panic and one young girl fell off her horse. We got her picked up and remounted and out of the pasture, when another woman’s horse started acting up along the highway, and she fell off. No serious injuries but it had us stopping and starting a few times.

In the last stretch however, we had a pretty major fall happen, in another cow pasture with cattle who were very curious about the horses. This time it was an older man riding a horse that had been acting up the whole ride, towards the back of the group. We’d had a discussion the night before about how the club should be more responsible about injuries, and how we could better identify First Aid trained individuals on rides and so on. So, doing my due duty as a First Aid trained person, I hoped off Rainman and ran to the back to see if there was anything I could do. The man’s wife however was a nurse so she was already helping him. I instead took her horse from her, which she was still holding while also tending to her injured husband. The trail leaders got the group off and going to get out of the pasture and to call the ambulance, because we were just about a kilometre away from cell phone range. I opted to take her and her husband’s horse out of there, since there was little else I could do, and my Mom and I walked our two horses and their two out of the pasture. It was a scary situation, and there were some fears that he’d cracked a couple of ribs, but as it turned out, thankfully he was just badly bruised, and he was back at camp by that night. In the end, it was a model reaction for the members of the club, and will hopefully serve as a an example of how we can all respond to situations like it in the future.

5-Day Ride - King and Ellie
King and Ellie
5-Day Ride - Bo, a rare Gypsy Vanner
Bo, a rare Gypsy Vanner (isn't she just so cute?)

All in all it was a good vacation. Oh, except for the man from Pakistan who insisted on calling my cell about 30 times on Friday, starting at 6 a.m. I had to get him blocked; he just would not stop calling and leaving voice mails that said nothing and using up my limited battery life (not to mention costing me long distance charges). I had answered his call the first time which is why I knew he was calling from Pakistan but I told him he had the wrong number. Apparently he can’t take no for an answer. Now we have to pay $5 a month to block him. Yay Rogers.

5-Day Ride - sunrise after the rain
Sunrise after the rain

So now it’s back to work tomorrow. My boy is away in Baltimore for a conference so it will be a few more days until I catch up with him. Only two more weeks (and one of them is a short week!) until our two-week road trip to the East Coast. Can’t wait!! This working for a living is for the birds! Why can’t I always be on vacation??

My Hennessy Hammock
My Hennessy Hammock

More pics are available on my Flickr set, and you can see a few low-res Blackberry shots from the trail on my Twitter page, here, here, here and here.

One Comment

  1. Leanne says:

    Hey Sarah

    your pictures turned out great!!!!and even though our holidays did not go as planned it was still a great time.Yummy cold beer,great friends and some good horses.

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