On Sunday Toby and I braved the unseasonable wind and ventured out into the unknown on our first off property trail ride. We followed Mel and Jake down the neighborhood lane where trash cans lurked around corners and large rocks stood as sentinels. The little paint looked at each new object with cautious curiosity but never spooked.
As we wound through the wooded path he eagerly stepped out, I think enjoying his new vocation. He flit from one side of the trail to the other trying to take in all the new sites, smells and sounds. It was like trying to ride a butterfly in the breeze. He carefully picked his way through the rocks but when it came to move around the long limbs of a cholla my leg cues became ineffective. I ended up dismounting and leading him around the cactus, there was no need to make this pleasant afternoon a disaster. When we made the turn back for home Jake began to jig and bounce. We stopped and Mel worked him through one of his nervous moments, Toby waited patiently like a seasoned trail pony.
Our decent down the hill proved to be my mounts biggest nemesis. Although he willingly accepts a rider, he’s still learning how to carry their weight. As my center of balance moved over his shoulders he naturally turned across the hill to traverse. I instead pointed him back down the slope and offered him steady support as he learned to bring his haunches under his body.
We retuned back to the barn with a sweaty saddle pad and an itchy backed horse. This big outing had left Toby tired and me with a list of arena work, legs cues there at the top. It’s back to schooling for us but Toby and I sure did enjoy our first field trip.
The red waters of New Mexico run through the salted desert like veins through an open hand. This photo was taken in the river bed of Ojito Open Space, where petrified trees and the bones of the largest dinosaur, the Seismosaurus, have been discovered.
Two Ears Tuesdays are back! Follow our journeys through New Mexico here each Tuesday. Come stay with us and discover these places for your self.
I am in the middle of a deep love affair with New Mexico. It began with the cotton wood trees that lined the lane of my childhood home, it intensified with the snow dressed mountains ripe for a ski bum teenager, and solidified by the banks of the bosque where thoughts can meander in the middle of a city. Even now in my seemingly grown up world, a desert sunset sends me into a moment of childlike awe.
When I came across this between the ears photo of the Rio Grande wandering through the Garrapata Ridge, I knew I wasn’t alone in my love for the Land of Enchantment. Pam McArthur, the owner of McAurther Quarter Horse Boarding Stables, captured one of these moments of awe. Scrolling through her Facebook page revealed her own New Mexico romance that incompasses Aspen groves, mountain lakes, and a sage brushed desert. Although she is located in the northern part of the state, near Taos, Pam has an abundance of diverse landscapes to ride through.
It is New Mexico’s wealth of varied terrain that I want to share with other equestrians. I’ve been asked many times why I started my business here instead of Colorado. It’s simple… I never ride in the same area twice. Although we ride the same trails with clients week after week, the land evolves, dilevering a new perspective each time. The sandy arroyos sparkle in early morning sunlight, mountain flowers emerge in pinks and purples maturing into reds and oranges, river banks overflow growing into salt cedar jungles.
New Mexico is an inigma to most visitors who invision our state covered in saguaro cactus and cow sculls. Yes we do have cactus but we live in the high desert that spans from grasslands to alpine forest. The plethora of open space gives the internal nomad a place to ramble. The afternoon thunderstorms that roll across the horizon, the sunset casting a pink hue on the Sandias, and the crisp blue skies that never end, all speak to the soul. For those who call this magical place home, wether by birth right or by migration, we love where we live.
To explore the wonder of the Land of Enchantment by horseback please visit Enchantment Equitreks to book your riding vacation.
All photos curtesy of Pam McAuthur and McArthur Quarter Horse Boarding Stables located in Rancho de Taos, NM.
This is a bit of a reverse Two Ears photo that captures the joy of riding an OTTB. Cash has been my first rescue, my partner in crime, my wings, my sanity, my most frustrating moments, my best friend. All horses make me smile but only this boy makes me grin.
Excuse me… there’s something in my watering hole!
Last week our outfitters, Mel and Paige, took a few Airb&b clients to Galisteo Basin. This red painted desert ride wanders by a few old stock tanks left over from the original ranch lands. While the horses drink and splash, the dogs jump in to cool off. Chloe, the rather large black beast in the middle of it all, is a three year old Black Russian Terrierr we adopted two months ago.
In January our 14 year old male BRT, Dodger, passed away leaving a huge hole in our hearts. Ten days later a female in Virginia came up for adoption. We flew out to meet the Russian beauty and instantly fell in love. Our journey home turned into quite an adventure when the airline refused to transport her due to over weight issues. Instead we made an impromptu road trip for two and a half days back to New Mexico.
It took a few months of conditioning for Chloe to slowly gain the strength and stamina needed to be a trail dog. She has been going on training rides from the ranch, but this spring day was her first time to trailer out and go for about three hours with clients. “She loved every minute,” Mel told me later, “but she bounded into the stock tanks to swim.” I don’t think Risa, Paige’s Appaloosa mare, was too entertained by Chloe’s attempt at fishing.
This big, shaggy, wet mop of a dog stole the show that day. You can even see in the video where Rain, the bay mare, was tying to splash Chloe when she wades by. She has become quite the addition to our rag tag pack of trail dogs.
What a wonderful spring like Tuesday to celebrate a few firsts. Today was my mom’s first ride after a full shoulder replacement and our new puppy’s first time out on trail with the horses. Today’s between the ears shot captured a carefree woman on a big paint and big black baby leading the way.
After her bionic joint was popped in, my mom patiently waited almost two months before she could get back in the saddle. Although she didn’t have the doctors express permission, I knew she needed the mental therapy that only comes from riding. I threw her saddle on our rocking horse Cisco, jumped on my bay mare Rain and ponied the little red dun Mia. We were about ten minutes away from the barn when I heard my mom sigh. It’s a sigh that realeases all worry, tension, stress and melts away all the weight of the world. I knew she need to ride. She’s even taking her own Two Ears shots.
As we wandered down the road the big puppy bounded past us with her tail wagging as fast as it could go. I use the term “puppy” loosely because Chloe is an eighty pound, three year old Black Russian Terrier that we adopted only a six weeks ago. Although she’s a big girl, Chloe scatters her toys about the house like a toddler and wakes me up every morning with boundless energy. Like any kiddo she needs a lot of activities to keep her entertained and worn out. After today’s big adventure she now lays at my feet sleeping like a babe. I was so proud of the Chloe bug today. Chloe’s First Ride and she never wandered too far, she’s learning to respect the horses space and absolutely loves to lead the way.
I’ll end my post with a little YouTube Two Ears video, Two Ears Tuesday, as we head back home with happy horses, tired dogs, and light hearts.
Happy Valentine’s Day! I chose today’s between the ears shot because of the love story behind the picture. A little over a year ago my mom came home from a buisness trip and excitedly explained that she had met my Tennessee twin. On the van from the hotel to the airport she saw the young blond thumbing through a few pictures of horses on her phone. As they chatted Katie told her about growing up with horses out side of Nashville and her upcoming trip to New Mexico with her boyfriend Derrick. Naturally Mel invited the pair to stay at our ranch for a few days and take them on a day ride.
On a stormy October day we trailered out to Galisteo Basin with Katie and Derrick. I love this area for its sandy arroyos, painted desert walls and unbroken vista views. Although Katie had been horseback all her life, much like I had, Derrick had only been riding for a year. His natural ability was evident as he became buddies with our Quarterhorse draft cross, Teddy. Derrick understood that horses are Katie’s passion and he invested his time into her passion because he loved her.
He not only learned to ride but proposed to her the night before. This was their first ride together as finances, as two people starting a life together with a mutual equine infatuation.
I still keep in touch with my cowgirl sister, her fiancé, and their budding equestrian business. There’s is the quintessential Valentine’s Day story of two souls falling in love from the back of a horse.
This winter has been tough on my riding schedule. It’s been nonexistent. I love riding with snow crunching under hooves and fat flakes catching on eyelashes, much like the day when I captured this lazy winter storm looming over the mountains. I live for these days, but they have been few and far between this year. Usually the afternoon sun peaks out, transforming snow into a sloppy, slippery mess unpleasant to walk in and undearable to ride through. However, I keep trudging through muck and mire, waiting for when the world is covered again in a blanket of white and the stillness is broken by breath puffing around my horse like dragon vapor. This winter can be a bit like life, mucking though the slop to grasp a magical moment, no matter how fleeting.
This pictures was posted a few days ago by a childhood friend. We haven’t actually seen each other since elementary school but with the ever updating world of Facebook I’ve been able to keep up with his beautiful family. Our dads were both team ropers and while I can swing a rope at a dummy, Reed still chases a few steers.
This photo should be in a magazine with big block letters across the top promoting a high performance suplement for horses. Instead it is a superbly captured moment of a horse ready to do his job. His eyes and ears remain pinpoint on the cow, intensity builds in his arched neck, he waits to spring as the gates slam open. Any cowboy will tell you that half the work is done by a good horse. This is a good horse that loves his job.
I wholeheartedly believe that domestic horses need and want a job. With the cold weather and shorter days setting in, my herd has spent most of the past month napping and eating in their paddocks. This may seem like the good life but, like kids cooped up in house too long, it makes for irritable, moody, and bored horses. Their manners begin to slip, nipping at each other at feed time or getting pushy at a gate. We often have to revert back to foundation training. “This is my space, this is your space, get out of my space,” kind of schooling. My horses love their trail riding job and in the winter months I have to employ a parental like ingenuity to keeping them stimulated and out of trouble.
Like Reed, many owners can keep their horses working year around. My horses work seasonally, which leaves at least 3 months of down time. I’m hoping to fill some of those days with romps in the new pasture when the weather is nice. Just getting horses out on the walker or out on a lounge line helps. How do you keep your horses fit and entertained during the winter?
With the cold weather and short days limiting riding most of my time with the horses is spent in the barn. Today’s photo is of Bozly patiently waiting for my mom to bring him his feed bucket. At 34, the old man gums a warm Timothy pellet and beet pulp mash twice a day. We leave the stall door open so he can peak his head out to nicker encouragement. When the wait becomes unbearable he wonders over to the feed room to observe the progress. As soon as his bucket is picked up he skips back to his stall and tucks into his feed grunting happily. Bozley’s pure excitement makes my day.