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Extreme Trailriding - I can't believe we survived!

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  • Extreme Trailriding - I can't believe we survived!

    I think after this weekend my horse is looking to trade me in on a new owner; the feeling is not mutual and I hope he’ll reconsider. All 3 of my rides this weekend were troublesome.

    Friday my horse and I rode alone; he was extremely balky the entire ride. I know it’s a phase and this too shall pass. My boy is pretty athletic and can go from forward trot or canter to running backwards. It’s really helping me to remember to keep my eyes up, shoulders back, and *not* hunch forward. When I finally got him forward someone had cut a 2’ deep and 2’ wide ditch in my galloping lane. He cleared it beautifully! It looked like a coffin jump, and it was on a slight up hill. Very nice setting, I plan to go clean the footing up a bit so we can jump it more safely in the future.

    Saturday my horse lost both his boots at the furthest point from the barn. I had to hoof it out there on foot, was late for a derby party, eventually found them, got eaten up by bugs. I hate hoof boots. Seriously hate them. My horse is going to get shod next month.

    Sunday… Well, Sunday was quite a ride. A friend and fellow boarder and I went to South Mountain State Park. http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UT...5619c588a1ce43 – For those of y’all not familiar with this park there’s a good bit of elevation change, but the horse trails are nice, wide, some hills (okay, lots of hills!), but not a bad place to ride. I’m conditioning my boy to go to Leatherwood at the end of the month, and a good ride at South Mtn is good for that! The trails are tough, but not extreme – or so I thought!

    My friend is older and a good, sensible, but not crazy rider who is willing to go most anywhere, though he hates single track trail. His horse is a good match with mine – both are hot, fast, and get along well. My guy is older and while he’s hot and fast, he’s really a sane, good, safe horse and he really saved my tail.

    We started out with a plan that would put us doing around 15 miles in 4 hours – a nice pace since my guy is coming back from some stifle issues. And, in the beginning things went well. We went up, up, up, and up more hills. My horse’s boots would *not* stay on. I tried everything and finally came to the conclusion I couldn’t long trot or extend his canter without loosing boots. So, I stuck with collected and slow trot and canter. He was starting to really get tired by the time we got up on top of the ridge – about 6 or 8 miles into itand it was raining and really windy. So, my friend and I consulted the map and the trail signs and decided we could take the ‘Possum’ trail and it would cut off about 5 miles for us.

    The trail was marked with a sign that said ‘Equestrian Parking 3.0 miles’ and there were no ‘No Horse’ signs to clue us into this being a *hiking* trail. At first the trail was nice, then it got narrower. Then it got to be a single track. Then it got narrower. And, narrower. It might have been 18” wide, with sheer drop on the left and mountain on the right. I was behind my friend and my horse was tired, but he was still doing pretty good. Along the way we met some hikers who were unfamiliar with the trail, they managed to let us pass. About 100’ later we came to a rock outcropping that was like really steep, tiny steps, with a 90 degree right at the bottom to keep from falling off the cliff with a tree growing over the trail immeadiately after you made the turn.

    My friend went through the rocks and his horse struggled with it, sliding, almost wiping him off on the tree. I decided to dismount and walk down, but my horse had a different idea – he leaped off the top as I was dismounting and I knew, just knew, there was no way we would make the turn at the bottom. It was one of the few times in my riding career that I have ever been truly terrified. I managed to get back on, no stirrups, no reins, nothing, just a handful of mane. Dave said I screamed like a little girl, I think that’s a fair statement. Somehow my horse made the turn and I survived that little section of trail. We decided that this was not a horse trail, and after more map consultation realized it was a hiking trail.

    I lost a boot somewhere in the mad leaping down the mountain, so I dismounted and climbed back up to find it. When I went through the rock cliff I had a WTF feeling and a huge feeling of thanks that I had survived with my horse intact. Never found my boot, hiked back down to the horses, and decided to finish the trail on foot. I hadn’t taught my horse to tail, but being the good boy he is, he picked it up pretty quick. The trail was so narrow and so steep I didn’t want him behind me. I’ve ridden Leatherwood, Old Dominion, Big South Fork, and I’m no wimp about terrain and extreme trails. I have never taken a horse through anything like this, and I never will again. Hiking that trail I don’t see how we made it through.

    Finally got to the bottom and take a left towards ‘Equestrian Center Parking’ only to find a ONE TIMBER BRIDGE as the only way to ford the creek. :roll: There was no way into the creek. My friend wanted to go back up the trail we had just come down, but I couldn’t do it. Just could not do it. So, we turned around and went on another hiking trail. Thankfully the bridges were a little wider, maybe 18”? one or two were 2’ wide. And, then we started climbing. Sometimes over big boulders that my horse had to kind of rear and lunge over. The trees were so narrow I had little to no clearance at times. Almost to the top of the first ridge my horse lost his footing and slammed my left knee into a tree. It started swelling immeadiately and was extremely painful.

    We made it to the top of the ridge and started climbing down the ridge, only to have to climb up another ridge. At times the trees were so close together I had to sidepass and do turn on the forehand and haunches to get my horse through them. The entire ride he was listening to me. I tied my reins up to my breastcollar so he could have his head and I held onto his mane at his withers and rode with my legs. Several times on the uphills he would just stop. And stand, panting. Poor boy, this terrain was something else. As close as I can figure from Google Earth we did about 7000 ft of altitude changes!

    Finally the trail leveled off a bit and about a mile later we got back to the horse trail. At this point my tender footed horse had one boot and I couldn’t post. He’s 5 gaited, but doesn’t gait well in 2 boots, much less one. I got off to fix my saddle pad and barely managed to get back on with my knee. So, about a half a mile later when we picked up the pace to a trot I couldn’t take it anymore and dug a Vicodin out of my pack and took it on an empty stomach. Made me sick as a dog and slightly loopy, but I managed not to puke. Loosened my left stirrup a little bit to make it more springy – I’ve got flexion stirrups on the saddle with adjustments for how much the rider weighs. Those saved me a lot of pain. My normally hot horse didn’t pull, he kept right up with my friend. I still had his reins tied up and when we were trotting I was holding onto his mane or the breastcollar to hold myself up in two point. My left knee was useless at this point and I was so weak that I couldn’t post or two point without holding mane.

    A little while later his boot came off and my friend picked it up. Once he was barefoot and the footing was nice he started racking and cantering a bit more, maybe out of self defense for his back? We finally made it back to the asphalt road, and despite the big “NO HORSES” I rode the asphalt road back to the trailer. At that point I couldn’t walk, my cell phone was dead so I couldn’t call someone to get me out of the woods, my horse had done almost 18 miles with most of it uphill, in a very humid hot day – if park services said something to me I was going to politely request a ride to the truck!

    My friend who’s over 60 fared well and both the horses seemed okay once they cooled down. My guy looked tired last night. My knee is purple and swollen, my hands are cut from holding onto his mane. My left hand got caught in a tree and tore it up.

    I called park services this morning to file a lost and found for my boot and asked to speak to a ranger. I told him what happened and he said he was going to go check the signs at the possum trail and make sure there were “NO HORSE” signs on it and maybe add a sign with a little stronger wording. Had our horses not been surefooted, pretty fit, and experienced and had the riders not been experienced horsemen/women I don’t think we would have survived. I have never been as terrified as I was coming down that little stretch of rock – the drop off the trail at that point was over 500’ into the gorge. One misstep on those rocks, one stumble, and my horse and I would probably have died – or at least been seriously injured.

    And, THAT’s my story for the weekend! I believe I’m going to scratch Leatherwood until fall, I’ve had my fill of extreme trail for a while!

  • #2
    I'm glad you made it out safe, but remind me not to ride with you!

    Have you ever had problems with the boots staying on before?


    • Original Poster

      Originally posted by pnalley View Post
      I'm glad you made it out safe, but remind me not to ride with you!

      Have you ever had problems with the boots staying on before?
      I haven't had them that long - until Saturday I hadn't had any issues with them.

      We're going back to shoes and pads, his traction is better, his gait is better, and I don't have to worry as much about losing them.

      If you ride with me I promise not to take you down any hiking trails.


      • #4
        It truly made my heart pound to read about your ride! I can't even imagine being caught in this situation.

        My horse is not a trooper, and I would have been in serious danger had I stumbled on to this situation. (Which is why we don't go out much. You really never know what's going to come up.)

        Thank you for calling the ranger and informing him of the dangerous situation you encountered! It might prevent the next person from being seriously injured.
        I have a Fjord! Life With Oden


        • #5
          You really are lucky to be alive.

          I'm too chicken to go on new trails that I don't see hoofprints or horse poop on.
          There is no snooze button on a cat that wants breakfast.


          • #6
            I'll stick to my rolling farmland and tractor roads, thank you very much!

            Hope you feel better soon!


            • #7
              Great story, glad I wasn't anywhere around! I have a "thing" about drop-offs!

              I sure hope you heal up soon.

              I don't know if will help with your particular situation but until you get shoes, you could try a layer or two of tape on his foot before you boot. Just to take up the room so they are more snug.


              • #8
                I also hate drop offs(fear of heights). Sounds like you have a great horse. Glad you didn't suffer any greater injury.


                • #9
                  I'm glad you had a great experience and a safe ride.

                  I've tried the boots. But I just can't get them to stay on either. Mainy because thats the kind of stuff I ride too often. Boots stay on at awalk or trot, But not a big trot or a canter. And they don't do well in the rough stuff. Especially where they horses are twisting or turning their feet. I've come to the decision they will either survive totally barefoot or I will go to shoes. Boots just are not the solution for rough country.

                  Do this a few more times and your horses will become naturals at rough trails. And you will be looking for the adrenalin high.



                  Steep drops offs



                  • #10
                    Wow, my heart was pounding, too! Give your horse an extra apple


                    • #11
                      Dang! I want to go riding with you!


                      • #12
                        Holy crap! Glad you're mostly ok. Sore No More on that knee will feel good.
                        <>< Sorrow Looks Back. Worry Looks Around. Faith Looks Up! -- Being negative only makes a difficult journey more difficult. You may be given a cactus, but you don't have to sit on it.


                        • #13
                          Sounds like a great memory to enjoy and tell in your older years.

                          I've never been one for manicured trails, love single tracks and hills
                          but does sound as if that might have been a bit much.
                          Hug your horse, he's a good boy and hope you heal quickly.
                          Thanks for sharing the story, I really enjoyed it!
                          You know why cowboys don't like Appaloosas?" - Answer: Because to train a horse, you have to be smarter than it is.


                          • #14
                            If boots aren't staying on, THEN THEY DON'T FIT! Regardless of the footing and terrain, you should not be losing boots and you definitely shouldn't be having to ride slow so the boots don't fly off. They must be way way too big for your horse. Please get a professional boot dealer to help you with your boots and get ones that fit your horse!

                            Your story reminded me of an endurance ride where we took a wrong turn and the same deal - trail kept getting skinnier and skinnier. There were 4 of us all together, and we ended up climbing this tiny little 18" wide ledge/sheer cliff kind of deal, only to find out there was no room to turn around at the top. We had a stack of horses standing on each other's feet, trying to get turned around and get back down. Also did one with a skinny ledge and a sheer drop down into a gravel quary. Got stuck in a super soft creek bed - horse sunk up to her belly before we could get out (but she never lost a boot!). But your ordeal sounds WAY worse than anything I've experienced, wow!

                            Man it's amazing trail riders live as long as they do I'm so glad you made it out safe! Your story was giving me the chills.


                            • #15
                              If boots aren't staying on, THEN THEY DON'T FIT!

                              That's not neccessarilly true. My boots were fit by an authorized EasyCare professional. It's never been mud that pulled them off. It's just extreme riding. It usually has to do with the horses putting lateral forces on the boots. As long as they just move straight forward, I have no problem But quick turns, changing directions at speed, and of course, just traversing extremely rough terrain, seem to snag and pull the boots.

                              When we go through very rocky areas, the boots get wedged between boulders and Pop off. When we go through blown timber, the seem to catch the boots as the horses lift their legs over the blow downs Stuff like that. And when ever they come off it tears the gaiters and I'm done. I just got tired of having to spend $20 every time I went for a ride to fix a gaiter or buckle or cable. Or even worse $50 to replace a lost boot. Understand that when I go riding, I'm usually taking 4 horses. So I am loosing/destroying one boot off of four horses.

                              If you ride down easy trails, ride in an arena, even down gravel roads. I think the boots do great. They just don't handle getting off the trail and chasing cows through the rough stuff.

                              Here is what a set of boots looked like after 10 miles, I've since changed out to all Gloves or BARES, at least with those, I don't have any buckles or cables to break and fix.

                              Rocky trails like these used to destroy the old Easyboot Epics. But the gloves do much better on these rough trails


                              • #16
                                There's nothng worse than a trail ride where you are dealing with equipment failures, and then to top it off that trail sounds like a story to save for the grandkids. I'm glad you made it back alive, even if you aren't quite in one piece.
                                You might consider going to the doctor for that knee.
                                Courageous Weenie Eventer Wannabe
                                Incredible Invisible


                                • #17
                                  Wow. You're lucky those danged boots didn't get you or your pony killed

                                  Your story was great. It definately was a 'cliff-hanger'

                                  Sounds like your horse really stepped up to the plate for you. Good pony. Glad you made it back. Where is that photo on the rocks taken - in NC? I have heard about some of the terrain in NC. Like don't just ride (or walk) off into a rhodedendron forest.


                                  • #18
                                    [QUOTE=Painted Horse;4844773]Narrow

                                    I can't even look at this picture without feeling fear. I can't imagine being there with a horse!
                                    I have a Fjord! Life With Oden


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by Painted Horse View Post

                                      I can't even look at this picture without feeling fear. I can't imagine being there with a horse!
                                      Thats the pic that scared me the most! Talk about claustrophobia!!

                                      Gorgeous country though...
                                      MnToBe Twinkle Star: "Twinkie"

                                      Proud member of the "Don't rush to kill wildlife" clique!


                                      • #20
                                        Wow SteffiC, What an experience to say the least! Glad you made it out of there safely.

                                        What boots were you using?

                                        Please don't tell me they were Cavallo simple boots...
                                        MnToBe Twinkle Star: "Twinkie"

                                        Proud member of the "Don't rush to kill wildlife" clique!