Jan 10, 2016

Trail Riding in the Big Horn Mountains - Pt. 1

This past summer, John and I took a dream vacation to the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming.  In the days before Facebook became what seems to be the only way to communicate these days (and yes, I am guilty of it, too) I would have had each day blogged in detail and ready to publish when I found the elusive cell signal.  But I didn't and here it is in January, a good 6 months after our trip and I am finally getting around to posting what will ultimately be more of a pictorial than a blog.  I can't remember what I did last week; to tell the story of a half a year ago won't come easy or at all.

If you are reading my blog for the first time, we live in eastern Nebraska.  I think it was a good 12 hours to get up to Buffalo from our home.  We didn't want to wear the horses out before we got there, so we overnighted at the fairground in Douglas, Wyoming.  Easy in and out, nice pens and clean tanks.

Everyone warned us the road going into Battle Park was a humdinger.  It took us a good part of an hour to travel those 15 miles.  Just when we thought it would be around the next curve, it wasn't.  To those in Nebraska who drive to Halsey, THAT is a walk in the park compared to this road!

Our friends had arrived before us and we found a place and leveled out.  There were no corrals left, so we put our name on a waiting list and high-tied our horses.  Weed free hay is required and it was available at the camp for $12 a bale and it was nice hay.  Camping is primitive but who cares!  You are in the mountains with no humidity and a beautiful sky.

A bit of housekeeping first, because I'll forget when we get to the end of it.  Your horses don't necessarily need to be conditioned for altitude but they have to be conditioned.  Do not take your horse out of the pasture and expect them to ride the mountains.  And don't think you put 1,000 miles each year on your horse unless you GPS every mile.  We compete is distance riding and I have GPS'd every mile for many years and there have only been a couple years that I have actually rode over 1,000 miles, including competitions.  It's not as easy as it sounds!

With that said, set your horse up for success.  Start conditioning before you go.  Add speed and distance but not at the same time.  Listen to how heavy he is breathing and how quickly he recovers.  Make sure your tack fits so the horse doesn't get saddle sore.  You will need a breast collar - it is not optional!  And for horses without withers, you may want to consider a crupper.  Our horses were shod on all fours and they came home sound.  If I were to do it again, I would also include pads.  It was a lot rockier than I imagined and I would have hated to get a sole bruise the first day and ruin the trip.

The next piece of advice I have is to go with someone who has been there before unless you are equipped with maps or a GPS with tracks.  I am sure we wouldn't have seen half of what we saw without our friends who were Big Horn veterans.  And even after spending a week there, I am not sure we would try it ourselves.  I am sure John thinks we could but I can just about imagine the fights we would have on the trail trying to remember where to go!

The first day, we didn't venture too far.  About 15 miles round trip.  The horses had rested almost 24 hours and we felt that was a safe distance for the first time out in this altitude.  We rode thru some trees, passed a fishing lake and took in the sights.  The sky was sunny and the weather beautiful.  This day we were in short sleeves.  My GPS said it was 70 degrees.

We rode up to what is called the Lost Cabin.  Not too lost as it is obviously used for hunting with some amenities still on the shelves.  

Looking at our GPS tracks, we headed a little further out, made a loop and came back to camp.  A pretty ride and plenty of water on the trail.


Here is our Day 1 tracks and the link to Garmin Connect to view online.  https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/872161889

Go to Part 2

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