My husband insisted we go horseback riding on this trip, so we went to the Estes Park Rocky Mountain National Park Gateway Stables to get saddled up.
Before horseback riding, we got cowboy hats.
My daughter on Elmer, the horse with no get-up-and-go.
My son on Cutter, another horse with no get-up-and-go. His dreams to ride off into the sunset on Mummy Mountain (an alpine peak) and find the elusive bighorn sheep were quickly fizzling.
Our guide, Alex, checking that all is secure.I'm on Ripple, the horse that breaks out into a trot! The rest of the family got slower horses.
I had wanted to bring my camera, but I was holding on for dear life since I only have one balance nerve! DH, behind me, took pictures when he could.
We rode through Horseshoe Park and made a 1000' elevation gain. As we left the trees to the meadow, a steep hill dropped down to our left. Alex said the grade was as sharp as the one the horseman takes in "The Man from Snowy River". I hadn't seen that movie since it first came out, but I vividly remembered that scene. The scenery surrounding us was breathtaking. The sky was deep blue. I wasn't tired a bit since the horse had to do all the work. (This was great!) We crossed the uphill side of a meadow, with a mountain beyond. Alex pointed out 2 coyotes, a mom and a pup. One of the kids saw another coyote. Alex said it was another adult. He kept a close eye on them. (Hmmmmm, should I be worried? Didn't Laura Ingalls Wilder and other authors talk about fearing for one's life because of coyotes?) Oh well, they never seemed to pay any attention to us. They were far off in the distance playfully jumping around, enjoying the lovely day. The mood was incredibly peaceful. Behind me, dh started softly whistling cowboy and praise songs. This was the life! Even the chipmunk, perched on the boulder nearby, seemed to enjoy the day, curiously watching us. In the distance we could see beautiful Ypsilon Mountain and Mummy Mountain.
We came to the woods again and had to negotiate muddy spots from the typical afternoon showers. The horses didn't like stepping in the mud, so they'd hesitate and we'd have to nudge them to proceed. Also there were times they chose a drier path, not the established muddy horse path. Alex told us to try to keep them on the horse path, because the RMNP rangers wanted to preserve the land and didn't want new horse paths made. Finally we had to start going down, which was tricky for me. I had had major head surgery years ago when a balance nerve was cut; now I struggle with keeping my balance. My lack of balance was definitely taxed on the downhill portions. A few curves were especially sharp. One of them was called Dead Man's Curve. Alex teased us, saying that's where we might need to pull the ripcord on the parachute behind us the rain slickers actually. We kept taking steps down which were exceedingly difficult. Ripple was an extremely thoughtful horse. He'd stop to think how to best negotiate the step down into the muddy area and the rocks and tree trunks. Then he would slowly and carefully proceed. There were a few times I had to use the reigns to guide him the way he was supposed to go. That challenged my lack of balance, but I was elated when he obeyed. DD also was challenged trying to get her horse to go the proper way. She did an excellent job nudging him on and trying to steer him properly. I was amazed!
When we approached level land again, Ripple got the sudden idea that it would be fun to trot! (Yikes!) Thankfully, I remembered what to do and managed to slow him down. That happened a few times. Thrilled, I couldn't believe I got a horse to obey me! We finally got back to the corral. A wrangler helped dd off her horse. Again she became a pretzel, not sure how to negotiate her legs. I knew exactly what to do, except I was just plain stuck! I was so sore! Alex helped me down and said, "Just swing your right leg over the back of the horse." "Oh I know what to do," oomph I huffed as my leg got stuck on the back end. "I just don�t think I can do it. I'm stuck." Chuckling, Alex helped me get off. I could barely stand! Alex asked if I was staying in at a place that had a hot tub. Longingly I thought about the soothing treat but dismally replied, "Oh no, we're camping." He told me to do lots of walking. DH had to come and help me walk out of the corral. The pain lingered for about 3 days. Surely, my back end was solid black and blue. I couldn't walk straight; I couldn't sit. DH and I theorized that my lack of balance caused me to use my legs extra hard to balance and resulted in extra pain. Would I ever do that again? Hmmmmm, yes, when can we go again? Ride 'em cowboy!