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HI Spy: Trail Riding Tales

Read some tales from out on the trail and share your own!

4/17/2008

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Trail riding is an opportunity to commune with nature while on the back of your favorite horse. Sometimes, however, the ride turns out to be far more adventurous than planned. We traveled to Hidden Valley Nature Preserve, a park in Riverside County, Calif., that borders an undeveloped expanse of the Santa Ana River. A popular site for equestrians, many riders were eager to share their most memorable trail rides. 
 
Natalie Gass ran into trouble with coyotes on a ride
Natalie Gass often brings along her three Australian Cattle Dogs when she rides. A few months ago she almost lost Piglet, who at 10 years old is the eldest of the trio.
 
“As I rode back toward my trailer, which was parked at the staging area, I noticed four coyotes shadowing me and my dogs,” she explains.
 
In a rush of movement, the coyotes pounced on Piglet and dragged her into a tributary of the river that was clogged with an overgrowth of brush and grass. There wasn’t much Gass could do. She was outmatched by the coyotes and overwhelmed with trying to handle her horse and the remaining dogs.
 
“I galloped back to my trailer, hopped off, tossed my two other dogs in the cab of my truck, climbed back on my horse and galloped back to where I thought Piglet was. The coyotes were gone. I kept yelling for my dog, calling, ‘Piglet! Piglet!’ And then, just as I pretty much figured she was dead, she came walking up out of the water. I was so happy to see her! I scooped her up, set her in the saddle and rode back to the trailer. Amazingly, other than being wet, she wasn’t hurt.”
 
Gass is now much more wary about coyotes on the trail. And she’s become more protective of Piglet, who is no longer allowed on certain rides. “Coyotes will usually try to pick off the weakest animal,” Gass acknowledges, “And that was Piglet.”

Cliff Hollingsworth's horse Shorty became trapped in quicksand
Cliff Hollingsworth hasn’t had a coyote encounter, but he was faced with another dilemma when his horse Shorty stumbled into a bog that was filled with quicksand. 
  
“I scrambled off and undid the cinch and pulled the saddle off,” Hollingsworth says with noticeable emotion. He stood on the bank of the mucky pond and held Shorty’s reins, encouraging the horse to climb up and out. “But in a matter of minutes all that was visible was his head and neck.”
 
Because of the dense foliage and the wild environs of the park, there was little use in waving his arms to signal another rider or yelling for help. Instead, Hollingsworth coaxed Shorty into a Herculean effort to free himself.
 
“I was crouched down on the bank of the pond, holding the reins and pulling on them, just telling Shorty, ‘come on, you can do it!’ Finally he put his front hooves on the edge of the pond, kind of hooked them on there, and then made this one huge lunge. Right then it suddenly occurred to me that he might land on top of me.”
 
Fortunately, Shorty did not end up in Hollingsworth’s lap. He clambered up onto the dry, firm footing uninjured. “It was about a two hour struggle,” Hollingsworth recalls. “Needless to say, we avoid that area. But to this day it’s known out here as Shorty’s Pond.”
 
Have you experienced a particularly memorable day on the trail? Your adventure doesn’t have to include being tracked by coyotes or mired in mud. Whatever your trail riding tale might be, we’d like to read about it! Simply click on “share a comment” below and add your experience. Some of your comments may be included in an upcoming issue of Horse Illustrated magazine. 

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Reader Comments

Ashley    Pleasantville, NY

6/21/2012 6:36:38 PM

Whenever my family and I go away, we always trail ride. What better way to experience a foreign place than on the back of a horse. When we were in Colorado, we were trail riding in the evening through a flat meadow. The trail guide was explaining to us all the dangerous animals that lived there at night. I was terrified and I kept looking into the long grass expecting to see a mountain lion. Then, it started raining and we were heading back to the barn when it started thundering and lightning. That was the first time I was absolutely terrified on a horse. And it wasn't even the horse who was terrifying me!

Kaylah    Black Creek, WI

11/5/2011 7:57:24 PM

I was riding my 13 year old quarter horse and we had riden the trail earlier in the day with a big group. Later I rode with only my dad when the sun was setting and the signs were already gone. We got to a field with a nice stretch which I had ran earlier. I was content on showing him my new skill of running fast and smoothly. I asked to run and he told me to wait and see something. In a few seconds we got to a bunch of trees and deer came shooting out. That day I got a lesson and even though I'm glad I didn't go I also felt really silly.

Amy    Emporia, KS

10/12/2011 1:44:36 PM

A friend of mine and I went on a trail ride and I was riding my 4 year old gelding and I got off to open a gate. Usually he follows me and stays where I tell him. But that day he just walked off. After a while he final stopped. I just had to laugh at him when I caught him because just looked at me like "I'm going home, Where are you goin?"

Allysa    Midlothian, TX

10/7/2011 11:30:32 AM

Mine isnt a sad story at all. It was a time when my friend Chelsea, my cousin Hannah(on the back with me) and I of course went trail riding. We both had Arabians so yes they are competitive and mine was a gelding and hers a mare. We went to cross the river bank which was only 3 feet wide and super shallow. Both of our horses hated water with a passion. The can take baths but will NOT step into water. So we thought it would be a god teaching expierence. Chelsea went first on her mare Rockette and she flew over the water bank almost knocking off Chelsea but she hung on and made it Then it was time for Phantom, Hannah and me to go. Hannah is hanging on the the back off me so she doesnt slip I give phantom the signal and he moves forward goes right up to the water line and stops smells the water and then picks up all 4 legs and clears the water at the same time we yelled of joy it was so funny!

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