Monday, July 16, 2012

Continuing Education - Equestrian Style.

Ok, so for someone who had never ridden ( and had no desire to do so!) until after her 50th birthday, life is getting a little weird. I find myself wanting to ride all the time.  Really.  All the time.  Even when I am on vacation in Canada...which means, of course, riding "real" horses which everyone says are so much different than riding Mongolian horses.  I have recently had the chance ( twice!) to put that theory to the test and am happy to report that riding skills learned in Mongolia do translate to riding horses elsewhere.  Phew.  That's a relief because I wasn't sure how I was going to bring a Mongolian horse back to Canada when we eventually move back!!

Last week I had a chance to explore this burgeoning obsession with riding take a couple of trail rides through some wonderfully beautiful spots out in the Cariboo...which is the central part of British Columbia close to my home town in Canada for those of you not familiar with the region.  So, this is a peek at what it looks like where I grew up...more or less.

It was my first time riding with Western tack and saddle bags for my camera.  Excellent idea as it turned out.  And, suffice it to say that as a result I am now the proud owner of my own saddle bags....if only I can convince my Mongolian horse that he really likes saddle bags! And the Western saddle and stirrups were really comfortable!  One of the saddles I was riding on was over a hundred years old!  Who knew saddles could last that long?  Well...likely everyone except me, but as I keep rolling along through this new hobby, I keep learning stuff!
 I rode at the Triple J ranch just north of Quesnel  which offers excellent trail rides around their 800 acres...lots of gorgeous scenery  and wonderfully calm horses...although I did find out first hand that Canadian horses, just like Mongolian horses, will move rather smartly in an unexpected direction if, while ambling along a forest path,  a stick sticks them in the butt !!  My first guide, Martin Dillabough, was the owner of the ranch, which has been featured on "Man Tracker" for those of you familiar with the show. Martin himself has been the "local guide" twice on the show and does a stellar job  not only of tracking down prey ( a skill he learned as a youth from a First Nations Elder ) but also of taking out  tourists and teaching necessary riding skills.  Curiously enough, one of his life long dreams has been to come and ride the Mongolian Steppe! It was pretty cool to be able to tell him I do it twice a week and to  talk to him about all things equestrian as well as his work with disadvantaged youth here in Canada.  He's a pretty cool guy and if you get a chance to, head up and see if you can book a ride with him.  I'm hoping he gets over to Mongolia to have the flip side of the experience he was able to provide me!
 There were lots of rustic views....and by rustic I mean the quaint cottage - not me!
...and acre upon acre of flowers!

and, of course, the horses! Tons of gorgeous, sleek horses!

Mongolian horses won't even eat sugar or apples...but this guy was hanging out for some coffee.  Yes, you read that Straight from our guide, Amber's hand...

He was so adorable!  Every time he had a "sip" he would make this lovely face and then head back for some more!

My second trail ride was just Amber and me...on the lookout for bears. Yes bears. Real bears.  The previous day she had seen a mama bear and two cubs in the field next to this cabin. Hmmm...riding through the great outdoors and coming upon a mama bear and her cubs... I thought I had better develop my skill set to cope with this eventuality! So ...I asked her what the horse is likely to do if he sees a bear.  Run, right? Right??? Wrong!!  Well...not really wrong - the horse will run.  TOWARDS the bear!!  And, if they catch it, they will try to stomp on it!!  The prospect of it made the ride that much more.... exciting...or something!  So I asked the next logical question..."So what do I do if the horse takes off in pursuit of a mama bear defending her cubs?"  Amber's answer?  "Hold on tight!"  Words to live by - hopefully.
Fortunately we didn't see the bear so I didn't have to test that portion of my riding abilities ( although I did file it under "information not to forget when out on a horse in the wilderness! )  and was able to just amble through some truly picturesque scenery and enjoy that freedom to explore that is unique to horseback.

Oh, and get a photo of the International Equestrian Club of Outer Mongolia's ( of which I am a founding member!) official club jacket which will hopefully be included in our "The Jacket Around the World" photo book...someday!  
We went over hill and dale and through the forest to a lovely little waterfall where the horses got a well-deserved rest!

and I got a chance to stretch my legs and try out the hiking capabilities of my newly purchased riding / hiking boots.  Happy to say they passed both activities with flying colours!

And then it was through some more gorgeous flowers and back to the ranch.

Thanks to all of the folks at Triple J ranch for a great couple of days and a chance to (hopefully) stay in shape for my upcoming 8 day Mongolian Wilderness Ride with the International Equestrian Club of Outer Mongolia.  But that will be another blog...or two.  Until then... Happy Trails!  ... sorry, I couldn't resist!