Camping · Horses · Mel · Trail riding

You want to buy a horse?! – Part 3

Part 3 Let’s go trail riding

My dad loved to camp and fish.  I remember going camping when I was little.  I’m talking 50 years ago.  Camping meant you slept in a tent in a sleeping bag on the ground, you cooked over an open fire, didn’t worry a lot about personal hygiene, and usually used an out-house consisting of a bench with a hole in it.  As I grew older, I hated it more and more.  Luckily Mom tired of it too and she, my sister and I would stay home and let Dad and my brothers go without us.

I remember one camping trip when Dad’s brother, Uncle Charlie, arrived in a new camper-trailer with all the luxuries available at the time.  The following morning while Dad was starting a fire to brew his coffee, Uncle Charlie emerged from his trailer fresh and clean and proceeded to shave with a rechargeable shaver.  He made some unremembered remark to my dad and Dad replied, “That’s not camping!! You might as well have stayed home.”

Fast forward to when I purchased my horse.  After a year or so of riding at the stable, I decided I wanted to go trail riding so I could ride in different surroundings.  Mel wasn’t too fond of going around and around the arena and I’d ridden all around the property.  So I purchased a used 3-horse gooseneck with a dressing area.  And since I had to pull the trailer, I had to have a truck.  Then after a couple of years, my husband decided I  would be more likely to use the trailer if the dressing area was converted to living quarters.  While my trailer was off being turned into the little play-house I never had, I showed my son what my trailer was going to look like.  Now, my son was 5 when my Dad passed away – long after Dad’s camping days were over.  So, imagine my surprise when my son said “That’s not camping.”  To which I replied, “I’m not going camping – I’m going trail riding.”

I joined the Indiana Fox Trotters Association to meet and ride with other Fox Trotter owners.  The club was holding a Clinic/Fun Show and I was helping and participating.  The weekend of the show,  I rose fairly early on Friday morning and after breakfast and a little time on the computer, it was time to get going.  I packed my clothes and toiletries and grabbed a cooler and some frozen bottles of water to use instead of ice (no water to contend with when ice melts and you wind up with ice cold water to drink later).  After stopping for gas and to check the air in my tires, I stopped at the grocery store.  Then it was off to the stable.  Packed up my tack and horse supplies, grabbed a bale of hay, asked another boarder to help me heft it into the truck and took a break.  A bale of hay makes a great bench while you’re catching your breath and wiping the sweat from your forehead and neck.  Thank God it wasn’t too hot that day.

Now to hook up the trailer.  Crank up the gooseneck, lower the tailgate and back up the truck.  I’ve seen various inventions to help line up the gooseneck with the ball, but why spend the money when I could make one of my own.  After backing up and pulling forward 4 or 5 times, I made a note to myself to spend the money!!  Crank down the gooseneck, climb into the truck bed to hook up the ball and safety straps, climb out of the truck, load my supplies from the truck into the trailer.  Now there was no getting around it, it was time to raise the drop-leg on the jack.  This is the hardest part of hooking up the trailer because I have to pull the pin and raise the foot at the same time and it takes all my strength just to pull the pin.  (And yes, I have tried WD 40 and other oil.)  I tried sitting on the ground and pushing the pin out with my foot.  I tried prying the pin out with the turn crank while raising the foot.  I tried pulling the pin and raising the foot with my foot.  Then I started over until I finally managed to get the job done and took another break.  (Note to self: check into power jacks.)

The first time I loaded Mel into my trailer it took 5 hours.  I tried the Parelli suggestion of making it more unpleasant to be outside the trailer than in by making Mel run in circles every time he refused to load.  I tried tapping his rump with a whip until he became annoyed enough to go in.  I tried walking him around the trailer and right into the trailer without stopping.  I tried luring him in with an apple.  I tried yelling and screaming!!  I tried crying!!  I guess 5 hours was enough for him too, because he finally decided to go in and eat.  But this time, thanks to a great tip from Charla (a club member), I can now get Mel into the trailer in a matter of minutes.  So…we were off!!

After an hour’s drive I arrived at the campground and found a level-looking site.  I have discovered a thing about backing a trailer into a site.  Men and women approach this task totally differently – men use the side mirrors and women turn around and look out the back window.  I have tried using the side mirrors as I was taught by a man, but I just can’t seem to get the hang of it.  You turn the steering wheel the same direction either way, so it must have something to do with the left/right sides of the brain or Venus/Mars or something. After a few failed attempts, the campground owner parked the trailer for me.  I unloaded Mel and got him settled, then looked for the “out-house”.  (Note to self:  find the out-house first and then find a level-spot close to out-house.)  Now I needed to get Mel some water.  (Better note to self:  find the out-house AND the water first and then find a level-spot near the two.)  Then, since the campsite was primitive, I turned on the propane and started the refrigerator and moved my items from the cooler to refrigerator – then I grabbed a cold drink, flopped down on the bench and took a break.  I’m getting too old for this.

The rest of the group arrived, we chatted, exercised the horses and ate.  Apparently I was the oldest one of the group (or the most out of shape), because I was the first to go to bed.  And thus, the first to rise the next morning.  I pulled on some shoes to head to the out-house.  As I stepped out of the trailer, I noticed that all of the horses were staring at their respective owner’s trailers looking for some sign of life.  I grabbed some hay and gave it to Mel so he wouldn’t start neighing and wake everyone up and headed out.  The other horses watched me go past, only making quiet nickers, apparently aware that I wasn’t their feeder, but hoping I’d take pity and throw them something.  (Note to self:  wear leather shoes instead of cloth or you wind up with wet toes from the dew.)

I had purchased coffee in bags, just like tea.  Easy to carry and all you have to do is heat a cup of water.  Unfortunately, I forgot that this campground was primitive and so I couldn’t use my microwave to do that.  And, I had purchased 7-Up instead of Coke.  Fortunately, since I have been known to nod-off when driving, I carry “stay-awake” pills.  They have the caffeine equivalent of 2 cups of coffee.  So I took one of those with my 7-Up and sat looking out the trailer window.  My site was near a pond and the bugs landing on the water made it look like it was sprinkling rain.  As the sun came up over the horizon, it made the “sprinkles” on the water sparkle.   It was very pretty and peaceful – one of the benefits of rising early.  Shortly, I heard the others emerging from their trailers, feeding their horses and getting ready for the day.

Mel was a very good boy.  Actually, he has always been good on my camping er…trail riding trips.  Both standing tied quietly and going out on the trails.  I guess horses like to have a change of scenery too.  Maybe being ridden at the stable is too much like work.  But, like me, he was happy to head home.  He went right into the trailer and didn’t even “mess” the trailer.  That was a great surprise and made unloading and cleaning up easier on me.  The very worst part of trail riding trips is the unpacking and stowing gear afterward.  It might be different if I didn’t board my horse, but I have to do all that before I can take the 30 minute drive home.  I called my husband from the stable to let him know I was heading home and luckily he took the hint and had dinner started.  I was able to shower and then sit down to dinner.  Life can be good.

Here are some tips I’ve discovered when camping and/or trail riding.

  1. Take soap, toilet paper and paper towels with you to the out-house.
  2. If the out-house floor is painted cement, take a bath mat to step out of the shower on, or you might slip.
  3. Most facilities aren’t air-conditioned.  Talcum powder will help keep you dry after you shower.  Nothing worse than showering and drying off and then getting wet from sweat.
  4. Take a plastic bag with you for your dirty clothes and wet towel.
  5. Before using the toilet, look for spiders.  I didn’t and saw a big black one go down with the flush.  Ugh!
  6. Don’t worry too much about looking pretty – it’s wasted time and effort.  The sweat and dust from the arena or trails makes everyone’s hair droop and face dirty.  One of the benefits of camping is not having to impress anyone.
  7. Don’t worry about the small stuff.
  8. Take the time to appreciate nature.
  9. Give your horse a break from work too.
  10. Don’t set your soda cup or can on the post with all the bird droppings on it.

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