I will soon be headed off to spend nine days traveling via saddle in the Norse Peak Wilderness. The first four and half days a friend and I will spend camping and fishing. For the latter half of the trip, we will head over to camp at Corral Pass for the purpose of participating in the annual work party with Pierce County Chapter of the Backcountry Horsemen of Washington. When not enjoying good food and good company, we will ride daily to Echo Lake and the Arch Rock Trail for bridge and trail repair.
To say that I have been looking forward to this would be a bit of an understatement.
Just as you and I could not get off the couch and then go hiking in the hills for days on end without some prior conditioning, neither can a horse be pulled out of the pasture for the same. Therefore, Smokey has been on a steady exercise program consisting of a great deal of trotting and loping to firm up muscle and restore aerobic capacity.
And then he pulls up lame two weeks ago. While much of the country is enjoying summer, the damp, cold, miserable weather has been hanging on her in the Pacific Northwest. This wet is the mortal enemy of Smokey's feet. He has an abscess in his left front hoof. While the hoof may heal prior to the start of the trip, the break from training means, quite simply, that he will not be ready to go by the scheduled start date.
While disappointing, all is not lost. I will be taking our ten year old mare Bailey. Until this year, she was DN3's show and all purpose horse. Bailey is burned out on the show ring, which is why we picked up Petey earlier this year.
Bailey is, to be honest, better suited for a long trip than Smokey is. We call her the "Energizer Bunny" because she rarely sweats or breathes hard no matter how hard she works. And, provided she isn't the lead horse, she enjoys the trail, as much as a horse enjoys anything beyond eating, sleeping, and pooping.
DN3 is helping me "learn" how to ride her. While riding Smokey involves legs and use of the bit, Bailey has different, more subtle cues, and all of them involve leg pressure and torso positions. So I'm having to learn not to use my hands. It isn't that she doesn't respond to pressure on the bit, it just isn't necessary. No point in complicating matters.
While she isn't a big flashy buckskin, she is still an excellent horse, and I'm still looking forward to the trip.