The weather has been so iffy lately (believe it or not it is snowing again as I write this) we weren’t sure if we would get to have our annual Bader Park weekend ride. Heck, some of the horses are still holding on to their winter coats. But Mother Nature took pity on us, I guess, and gave us our first real spring weekend. Twenty-some of my horse friends pulled into Bader Park for a weekend of sun, riding, food and fun.
Bader Memorial Park is nestled on the Platte River, just a few miles south of Chapman, Nebraska off Hwy. 30 – about 12 miles northeast of Grand Island. A few years ago, they put in electrical hookups in a pasture area near the RV camping area to accommodate equestrian guests. There is running water, shower houses and restrooms and yes, wi-fi! You must provide your own portable fencing for your horse, but it is an easy and safe place to set up.
There are several miles of trail within the park; it seems each year they add more to the trail system. And if the river is down, you can ride along the shoreline. For those not interested in riding, there is a swimming beach and playground and ponds for fishing. All sorts of wildlife; this year I even saw a bald eagle. The sunsets alone make it worth the drive.
After we lost Ritz and Maddie, I said my next dog would be a camping dog. Maddie camped with us in the early days but as her health declined over the years, we stopped bringing her. Occasionally we will bring Bo, but taking a St. Bernard camping is like bringing another horse. This would be Pip’s first camping trip. She was a bit disappointed when she was tied out while the other guests arrived – I swore she gave me the look as if saying “is this all there is to do?”
But once out on the trail, she was in dog heaven. One of the gals caught Windy smooching on Cinc’s neck. Pip photo-bombed the picture. It wasn’t without incident – one young horse kicked Pip when she got real close. But she quickly recovered. She chased turkeys and rabbits and a herd of deer. Once, when I saw a skunk, we quickly moved our horses into a quick gallop to get out of the area before Pip took notice of that, too!
The first day was a bit foggy when Pip and I walked early in the morning. I wish I would have taken my good camera with me – there were some great photo ops. I did manage to get some shots with my iPhone but wonder how much better they could have been with the real thing.
We rode out in jackets and gloves but by noon the fog had burned off and the temperatures reached 80°. We played in the water along the river and cantered through the open fields. Sounds like a storybook, huh? It really was some good riding.
We had asked all the girls to bring some arena toys and on Saturday afternoon, my friend, Joni, and I set up a trail challenge in the pasture by camp. It was amazing how it all came together.
Windy and I never do too well at these things. I should practice at home and perhaps we can make a better showing. We did have a good jump over the cross bars but just like the big fish that got away, no one caught it on their camera.
There is one trail at Bader Park that is usually under water this time of year. And it is our favorite trail! If you have a horse that is fearful of water, this is the trail to take them on. It has a good, solid base so footing is fine. On most horses, it isn’t up much over their knees. And when the sun hits it just right, it is just beautiful.
In the evenings, we had big potluck dinners. The great thing about camping with twenty other women is you don’t need to bring much food. By the time we combine everything together, there is more than enough for every meal. Of course we ate too much and many of us went for a walk that evening. I love this picture. Our group is multi-generational. We don’t see each other often but have such quality time when we are together.
Many of these women are participating in my healthy lifestyle plan. (We try not to say the word “diet”.) Since I am an early riser and this time of year, we don’t usually ride out until close to 10 AM, I invited some of the women to bring bicycles and go for a morning ride. A few joined me and we surprised ourselves by going about ten miles – all before breakfast. Those who didn’t ride missed out on seeing an eagle and a zebra-donk.
The last day we were at Bader Park, the temperature got into the high eighties. It truly felt like spring had sprung. We rode through the river and then down the new trail and I trotted with a couple other gals along the water.
We held up at the start of the water trail waiting for the others to catch up. I took Windy out into the water to let her get a drink. I took my iPhone from my pommel bag and put in my pocket, hoping to get some last minute pictures. Kathy caught the above shot of Windy and me. What is wrong with this picture? I remember Windy drinking and I recall hearing someone scream or whistle or a horse squeal. Before I could react, Windy was airborne. Upon examination of this picture that Kathy captured beautifully, you will see the right rein is down behind her left leg. My CSI investigation tells me that perhaps I dropped a rein and when she heard the whistle she went to raise her head and stepped on it, causing her to jump. Who knows. But damn, do I have a good seat or what! Looks like I am in total control! Right?
Wrong! I truly do not even recall trying to save myself. One moment I was in the saddle and Windy was drinking and the next moment – splash! I am in the water!
And in true fashion, I jump up and say, “I’m alright!” You can tell how worried my friends are since they continue to take pictures. I guess its karma for the pictures I have caught of others in similar situations over the years.
And then I remember…. son-of-a-b*! I just put my iPhone in my pocket! And even though there is wi-fi on the property, my phone wasn’t connecting. I truly did not care as much about the phone as I did the weekend’s worth of pictures. Well, as you can tell from this post, all was not lost. It was still working when I pulled it out of my pocket. When I got back to camp, I put it in the truck that was sitting in the sun. And it’s still working today. I’m not saying an iPhone is waterproof so don’t try this at home! But mine did survive the dunk.
Reluctantly, we all headed back home Sunday afternoon – a few of us staying just a little bit longer – we just weren’t ready for the weekend to end. Horses are what has drawn this group of women together; seriously, we would not have known each other in any other aspect of our lives. But throughout the years, it goes beyond horses. It’s a fellowship of sorts. A cleansing from our day to day life; to be a little silly and be ourselves – not someone’s wife or mother. It’s like being in high school again but being smart about it. It’s so much easier now to appreciate our friendships and each other. From commiserating about hot flashes to doing the squat challenge outside our trailer doors. Belly laughing so hard you forgot why it started. Truly a rejuvenation.