We've all heard of a runner's high, where a long-distance run induces a state of euphoria in the runner. Science seems to point to the release of endorphins (a.k.a. "happy chemicals") as the root of this euphoria. I would like to respectfully submit that there is also such a thing as a "rider's high" and that today I experienced a massive one. My brain was positively dripping in happy chemicals. I was drunk on riding my horse, which luckily does not come with the morning-after ill-effects (unless you count the burning desire to repeat over and over again as an ill-effect!).
While a large proportion of the Minnesota populace is sporting blaze orange in its quest to bag a big buck, the three of us donned our blaze orange to make sure no one mistook our ponies for deer and set off for a nearby state park. Blue skies, calm winds, and the anticipation of new trails lured us to Jay Cooke State Park - none of us had ridden there before. The horse trail is short (three loops for a total of about 4 miles) but blissfully devoid of hunters.
|Stormy, Paco, & Rhio|
a friend graciously allowed us to park in her driveway (much to the consternation of her 6 llamas, who did NOT appreciate the intruders!)
|Kathy & Stormy, and Gesa & Paco, heading down the road to the trail access - hopefully looking not at all like deer!|
As I was told, it is impossible to get lost - the trails are well-signed and are all loops, starting & ending at a paved bike path (with a grassy shoulder for the horses). We quite enjoyed the rolling hills and scenic vistas over deep ravines and the St. Louis River. I imagine that it is quite breathtaking in the spring as the green starts to appear, and of course in the fall with the vibrant leaves. It was still gorgeous with bare trees all around.
|Ah! New trail to explore!|
|"Hemlock Ravine" overlook|
|One of many spots where we had to ride along the paved bike trail|
We encountered a set of roller-skiers on the paved path, which were of some moderate concern for Rhio, as well as a large group of horsewomen also out enjoying the day, and several hikers. Rhio preferred to lead most of the ride, and set a lovely forward pace. We cantered where we were able, and he gave me lovely transitions between trot and canter. We were also able to leave the other horses behind, letting them recede out of sight, and continue with forward motion - this was a nice skill to practice as he really prefers to be with other horses. The weather could not have been more lovely, especially for November 7, and was near 60 I think. I even saw a lone fly, and 2 swarms of gnats!
|What a pretty overlook!|
|The out-and-back trail along the ridge top to the overlook|
We did the entire trail system twice, and ended up with about a 10 mile ride - not too shabby for so little trail! Upon our return to the trailer, the horses gave pony rides to the kids and Rhio got to meet a llama up close and personal (boy do I wish I'd had my camera ready for that! He looked gorgeous arching his neck and gingerly sniffing noses with the strange scary creatures.).
|Rhio giving the girls a ride|
We headed home supremely satisfied with our ride, and tried not to wonder if this was the last nice day and the last good ride for the year.
|Oh, yes, we'd love to go this way - thanks little tripod horse!|
And P.S. - Rhio's been loading perfectly the last several times we've trailered, both in the stock trailer and in Jodi's 4-horse slant-load. It'll be interesting to see what happens the next time I ask him to load into the 2-horse straight-load (which probably won't be until next year).