It was a little overwhelming, both for us and the horses, to go from one day riding in the woods to the next riding right smack dab in the middle of a city. The tension did not help my worsening back pain.
We weren’t expecting that Salem was going to be as city-like as it was. There were no side streets that went for any worthwhile length in the direction we were going, so we stuck to the main 4 lane road. It was exceptionally busy and congested.
The horses were on edge all day and we had to ride with pretty tight reins to maintain control of our horses. But they held it together except for one exception- the life size pig statue. Yup, for some unknown reason, all our horses are deathly afraid of life size or larger than life statues of animals! And we have never been able to get them over this because they always seem to be in our path right in the middle of a busy city where we can’t hold up traffic to train our horses! So without warning, our horses cut sideways across 3 lanes of traffic to avoid this horse-eating fake pig. Several bumpers were inches from our horses during the 5 second mishap. But all involved- freaked out drivers included- proceeded unharmed and we continued on our way.
Shortly before we arrived at our pre-planned destination at the Automotive Frame and Collision Repair shop on Lynchburg Tnpk, we pulled off the road so a group of school kids could come outside to visit with us and the horses for a little bit.
Then once we had highlined the horses out back and set up camp on the breakroom floor at the auto shop, we enjoyed a great evening with a friendly reporter and visiting with and hopefully ispiring a group of girls from Teen Challenge. Danny, the shop owner, had prepared a BBQ for the special occasion.
In the morning, the Roanoke Police Department showed up at the shop ready to escort us through the city. While Richard enlisted the help of the officers to pack our horses, I received a complementary treatment by the owner of Roanoke Rossiter Center who did therapy on my back and shoulder. It was pure misery to go through the pain, but I have been completely astounded in the ensuing days of how much it minimized my pain. Rossiter treatment is different from chiropractic which works on bone alignment and massage which works on muscles because it focuses on connective tissue. I had never heard of Rossiter before and it is not common to find a trained practitioner, but I am grateful and amazed at the difference it has made in my comfort level after just one treatment.
The ride through Roanoke went smoothly and we were completely grateful for the police who spent the better part of a day and sandwiched us between the safety of their escort cars. The only challenge we had was that I rode Chance since Apache needed the day off. We had attached Apache to the last pack horse and at one red light, Apache went around the wrong side of a sign, got hung up and broke the rope that attached him to the horse in front of him. The “piggin” strings are meant to break in a situation like that, otherwise Apache would have a broken nose. But it did cause him to fall down when the rope broke, skinning his hocks (joint on his back leg) badly. Thankfully though, I was already on the ground walking Bella with the leash and leading Chance when it happened, so I grabbed the loose horse and, with only two hands, led two horses and a dog through the most congested part of the city until we came to another red light where I was able to quickly re-attach Apache to the pack string! It was a little intense, but again, we had the relative safety of the police in front and behind us.
The most interesting logistic of the ride through the city? We had to remove the manure. We had been unable to find anyone willing or available to follow us with a shovel and bucket to be our official “pooper scoopers.” So, undeterred, we did it ourselves. It was a little humiliating to get off my horse every time any of them dropped some “road apples”, hold up traffic- especially if they conveniently left the pile in an intersection, scoop it up with the dustpan I was carrying for that purpose, put it in a plastic bag, and mount my horse with the bag of warm poo in my lap. It gives a whole new meaning to ‘having a load in your pants!’ Thankfully, the officers had pity on me and allowed me to put the bags in their truck when they started getting heavy. I don’t think I’ll forget the motorcycle rider who, stopped at a red light while I was scooping poo, looked over at me and said, “That’s why I ride an iron horse!” At least we don’t have to do this all the time! We’d never get anywhere! Thank you to the police who kindly let us do it ourselves though, despite it taking a bit longer. It saved us at least a day’s ride to go through Roanoke instead of all the way around. You guys were AWESOME and your time was super appreciated! The Roanoke police handed us off to the Vinton police, who finished helping us get through the city area. We passed under the Bluegrass Parkway, and then they took their leave and we continued on our own.
Our stop that night was planned ahead too, and it was at another auto shop- GT Performance. Ricky, a worker from the last shop, brought his family to meet us and showed up with feed for the horses. We were glad for that, because we are having a rough time adjusting to it getting dark so early. It’s pretty hard to keep track of hobbled horses when you can’t see them! One of the officers also brought his family when he brought supper for us. The local coffee shop that we passed just before arriving at the auto shop brought us lattes. It was nice to have the boost of energy after a draining day. Then another local lady excitedly brought us to her nearby home for much needed showers. We slept like babies that night on the floor of the office, knowing that we had made it through the city safely and had made many new friends in the process.