Sunday, July 17, 2011

Like Riding A Bicycle

 The view from the end of the line.  And no, it's not an illusion - 
I really WAS sitting up that much higher on my horse 
than Princess Yakyak was on hers.

I guess it's true - some things you never forget once you've learned them, like riding a bike - or a horse.  And, like riding a bicycle, I proved this weekend that I could still ride a horse competently and comfortably.  Never mind it's been something like 17 years since I last went riding.  I promised Princess Yakyak that we'd go for a trail ride this summer, since our last try at scheduling a ride was foiled by heavy rain earlier this year.  This week the weather, timing, and payday all aligned perfectly, so we scheduled a one-hour trail ride for Friday.

 Princess Yakyak on Oklahoma, and our guide Carter on Magnum.

We had a great time.  The weather was perfect, and the stable wasn't hard to find south of Syracuse.  The place didn't look like much from the road, but the horses were well cared for and the staff were quite friendly.  We were the only ones signed up for a ride at that time, so we essentially got a private ride, just us and our guide.

I'm not a small person, so I was relieved when they already had saddled up a larger horse before meeting me, and brought him out.  His name was Texas, and he's a 21 year old Belgian draft horse, used for both riding and pulling a cart.  He was a gentle giant, a country gentleman with one speed, an ambling walk.  He was quite tall, but not really broad, so he was actually a very comfortable ride for me.  Thankfully they had a mounting block - I'm not sure I could have mounted him from the ground.

Princess Yakyak was given a small mare named Oklahoma ("Okie" for short).  They were a perfect fit, and PYY was delighted that she could ride without needing a lead rope to a more experienced rider.  The stable requires that kids under 12 wear a helmet, and suggested she bring her bike helmet.   I had asked ahead of time about the trails and explained that while I had some experience, PYY was a complete beginner.  I was assured that the trails we'd take were very easy - gentle hills, woods and fields, all at a walk.  Just a nice, relaxing amble through the countryside - perfect for us.  The guide demonstrated the basics of steering her horse for her, and we were off.

It was Princess Yakyak's first ever solo ride, and it was a long one.  We paid for an hour, but our guide gave us some extra time.  We also got to choose which trails we wanted to pursue, so I let PYY make the decisions.  We rode up through fields and into some woods.  We saw some deer resting in the shadows, and the herd of horses kept by the stable (working, boarded, and rescued).  We had a wonderful time, very laid-back and peaceful.  We took several short breaks on the hills, to enjoy the views and let Texas get a breather.

A view east across the valley.

When we got back to the stable, Princess Yakyak and I fed our hard-working mounts some horse treats.  It was her first time feeding horses, and she was a bit nervous that they'd accidentally bite her, but I showed her how to do it so the horses could lip up the goodies without any effort at all.

 I'd love to go riding there again.  If I had unlimited money, I'd go every week.  I remember being totally horse-crazy at my daughter's age.  It was nice to do this special thing just with her, and I hardly ached at all afterward.  We'll try to go again in the fall at least once. 

My buddy Texas.

Home Sweet Home

We retrieved Safety Guy from Boy Scout Camp yesterday.  We were very late picking him up, but he handled it well (for him).  Here's what happened:  while my husband and I were discussing a difficult issue in our extended family, my husband (who was driving) was distracted and we missed our exit off the thruway.  That meant a very long detour to get up to camp (25+ miles out of our way by the time we got to the next exit and took another route).  The plus side (I was trying to be positive):  it was a nice drive into the Adirondacks.  The down side:  trying to get hold of someone at camp to tell Safety Guy that we'd be late, and hadn't forgotten about him.  No answer from his Scout Master or Safety Guy's phones.  (Turns out one had no reception, and one was out of battery power.)  Finally we caught up with SG's tent mate/friend's dad on the phone, who said he'd tell SG we'd be there in a while.  When we eventually arrived, Safety Guy's response to the debacle was, "Nice, Dad."  Still, that's better than a wholesale meltdown or more scathing commentary, so we decided we'd gotten of lightly under the circumstances.

Next was another up side/down side issue.  The down side:  we were late enough we missed the BBQ.  Hey, there were a couple hundred Boy Scouts there, we didn't seriously think there'd be much food left when we were 45 minutes late for dinner.  Safety Guy got to eat, but we were out of luck.  The plus side was that we decided to drive on into Old Forge after we packed him up and eat at the same tavern we ate at when we dropped him off last Sunday.  (Although he'd already had dinner, Safety Guy had a side order of french fries there, which he proclaimed the best he'd ever eaten.)

We were pleasantly surprised that Safety Guy was in a pretty good mood when we arrived, with little to complain about.  He was chatty and happy to describe his camp adventures to us through dinner, and unusually patient with his sister talking about horses and her trail ride as much as he talked about camp.  

I had made a tactical decision before we got up there:  we'd let him ride shotgun in the car on the way home, because I was pretty sure sticking him in the back seat with his sister right away would be a bad idea after his long, stressful week.  He was thrilled to sit up front.  I had also brought his Gameboy in the car, which he greeted like a long-lost friend.

At the last minute we decided that I'd drive the return leg of the trip, so my husband got to relax in the back seat with Princess Yakyak (who enjoyed the novelty of having Dad sit next to her).  It was a gorgeous evening to drive home, with a lovely sunset, the pine-woods fragrance of the Adirondacks flowing through the open car windows, and the full moon rising.

We were home very late, almost 11PM, but we still insisted Safety Guy take a shower ASAP.  Oof, he really needed one.  (He was well aware of that; in fact, at dinner, when the waiter asked him if he'd like dessert, Safety Guy's response was, "I need a shower!")  After he was clean we let him have 15 minutes of computer time, something he'd been dying for all week.  He enjoyed his 15 minutes, then happily went to bed in his own room.  He slept in this morning, and got up cheerful.

In the interest of letting him unwind from his week, we gave him as much space as possible today.  He had his computer time, listened to his music, played with his electronics, hung out with the little boy across the street (who is three, and adores having a big kid pay attention to him), got into a water-gun battle with his sister and the kids next door, and enjoyed having his Nana and Papa over for dinner tonight.   It was a very low-key day all around.  I guess I'm still waiting for the backlash meltdown to occur.  Maybe it won't happen at all (which would be some sort of miracle, but I'm still hoping).