I think half the town of Neal gathered to help us get ready to go in the morning. Plus Bonnie, her husband, Babe, and their niece all came over from Eureka to help again too! The horses had obviously enjoyed their evening in a small pasture. It’s been mostly small corrals lately, so they were definitely happy ponies.
During the ride yesterday, Apache biffed it again. There was this small foot and a half ledge off the side of the road in the grass where we were riding. We didn’t see it very well because the grass was tall. Richard was heading back up to the road to go around a drainage ditch and Satchmo half tripped, half slipped off this rock ledge. Remember… we are used to nothing but flat riding along the side of the road in Kansas so this took us by surprise! Richard yelled back to warn me so I went further down with Apache expecting to go around it. Well, where we went off it, it was less steep, but unfortunately muddy. Apache slid down the short drop, then slid real bad on his back legs and fell down on his hocks and butt. Once again I was concerned for his soundness. He seemed to be ok, but when I put him in the pasture last night, he limped ever so slightly as he trotted off.
Thankfully, this morning he looked to be sound. It was his turn to have a day off anyhow, so I rode my sweet little Fiddle. I haven’t ridden her in a while because I try to work on training Tiska on Apache’s day off. But it was time for me and Fiddle to have a little bonding time. I just adore that mule!
We had Neal and Eureka locals grooming horses, carrying saddles, carrying saddle pads, putting hoof boots on, weighing bags, lifting the packs on the pack horses to help save Richard’s back- you name it- they were there to help! We were appreciative for the many helping hands, but we were most touched by the large circle that gathered around us to pray for our safety and success before we got on the horses and rode off.
It was another gorgeous day- low 60’s! Couldn’t believe it was actually January! Our journey that day took us across a substantial bridge over a river lined on both sides with many trees with hawks nests in them. We heard and saw many hawks as well as two bald eagles. We got to have a mid-ride break at an actual rest stop with real bathrooms! I could have used that on some of our colder days!
We tried an interesting idea of Richard’s today. You may recall many months ago that we were having trouble with Fiddle’s pack saddle cinch rubbing her. We aren’t having problems with that anymore, but we have noticed that anytime we ride her, it seems to rub her hair off in her armpit. So Richard came up with an idea to use the back off-billet (leather strap that holds the back cinch on) as well as the front billet to create a customizable positioning for her cinch. This would hold it back further and keep it away from where it was rubbing. It’s totally unconventional, but it worked like a charm! Even this many months into the trip, we still have to constantly be on the lookout for rubbing and adjust things, be creative, think outside the box, and do what it takes to keep the horses comfortable. It’s a constant battle, but at least we have learned to be real creative!
Our hosts that evening were the Irelands on 80th road. Highway 54 curved up north a ways and we had no desire to add more miles, so we waved goodbye to the noise of a busy road and headed to the quiet country roads that would take us straight east. This father and son duo ran a bachelor house and a many generations old family cattle ranch. We were offered a small pasture for our horses which they shared for the night with a few renegade cows who had busted through the nearby fence and weren’t supposed to be in there. Joel, the son, had put feed out there for our horses and was surprised that they would let the cows eat with them. He said his horses were meaner than that. Well, our guys have learned to be very flexible and friendly in any situation and with any non-horse pasture-mates, not to mention they weren’t about to expend any extra energy chasing cows off!