Posted by Stacy Bullock on June 15, 2014
This article and story is about what riding the trail can teach us. Particularly the unknown trail. As I have observed and taught young riders who have only ridden comfortably in the arena, I have come to realize how important the trail is not only for skill and balance, but also for the trust and bond it strengthens between horse, rider, and also your riding companions!
A couple years ago, my sisters and brother in-law hauled our horses out to go camping in a forest well known for its horse friendly trails. We had a wonderful time riding through rivers, galloping through woods, jumping over fallen trees, through fields and back again. I even remember walking through the woods and hearing thunder, shortly followed by the sound of raindrops hitting the leaves of the 35 foot canopy above. We rode to the edge of the woods only to see a wall of rain headed right for us, should we turn and head back? We decided to take the opportunity to gallop into the meadow through the drenching rain and even got to race some deer that were headed for cover. While this was an unforgettable, and wonderful experience, I would say it was only wonderful because of some important lessons my sisters and I learned from awhile back.
I was 14 years old, my younger sister 13, and my older sister 23. We had hauled our horses to a nearby forest that was hundreds of acres of woods and rivers. We had begun to ride in the late morning. My older sister was on her 21 year old quarter horse gelding (Bear) who was an amazing leader and still full of spunk, my younger sister on a quarter horse mare, and I was on my pony Ziggy. We had been walking on very narrow trails, some right next to very steep drop offs. But our horses were sure footed and got us around every bend safely.
We came to a clearing of very tall weeds on each side of the trail, and a flat surface which looked a bit moist covered in short weeds. My older sister decided to be cautious and walk across on her horse first since he was the heaviest. Once she got out to the middle, Bear SUNK up to his belly! My sister got off and pulled and pulled on his reins with all her strength. In those terrible few minutes, we didn't know what we were going to do if he couldn't get out. There was nothing for miles! It took him about three tries to get his legs out of the sucking mud but they reached the other side. Unfortunately, there was nowhere for my younger sister and I to cross, we were separated from our leaders, and two young teenage girls, had to find their way back by themselves through the woods. We had already been on the trail for hours and hadn't even been paying attention to where we had been turning! Scared and worried we began to ride back.
When we came to our first turn, we tried to go left, but my sister's mare refused... she wanted to go right. So we listened to her. She took us all the way back to the horse trailer perfectly! She stepped up to lead when her leader was gone, and I believe our God took care of us that day in those woods which has a history of many getting lost or drowning in bogs.
If you are ever out on unknown trails, and aren't sure of an area such as we came across, just take a few minutes to hop off your horse, grab a long strong stick and check it out on foot. You may save your horse!