The Big River


Before Cruiser and Ranger entered their senior years, every Saturday and Sunday, we took them on our favorite long ride.  It was fast paced and fun.  Usually, we would ride about two and a half hours or so.  Sometimes, we would go a little further, too. 


Due to their age, some years ago, we went down to once a weekend.  Then we went down to occasionally and I’m not sure of the last time we did that whole ride.  The trails over there haven’t been well maintained, so we knew that we couldn’t do all the trotting and cantering that we used to do, anyway.  That helped us not miss those fun rides quite as much.  We still miss them, though…


Well, the park is in the midst of repairing the trail.  Unfortunately, the old guys are even older, now.  We are very careful with them.  I don’t think that we will be blasting down the trail with them like we used to.  No more fast and far rides for them.  We can do fast, and we can do far.  We just can’t do both.


That leaves Cole Train.


To get to the good trail, we have 2 more unfamiliar river crossings and a busy intersection with a traffic light.  I didn’t want to tackle all it on my own for the first time-- not because I didn’t think we could manage it, but I just wanted to do everything in my power to make the first time a success.  We have been planning this for awhile, but we have had issues with the weather and the river.  I didn’t want to cross the big river unless I could see the bottom.  We could avoid the crossing by going on the bridge, but that wasn’t the point.  I wanted to cross the river.


Finally the weather cooperated, and we had a clear river on the weekend.  We opted to skip one of the river crossings because there was a lot of stones on the bank.  The horses just had their feet trimmed a couple days before, and Ranger was very tender.  We did cross that river once before, so I didn’t need any help with it.  We decided to avoid the stones.


This meant crossing a river ford that Cole had never been on before.  Ellen rode, but I decided to lead.  This way, it would be easier for me to click him a few times during it. 


Ranger decided it would be better is Cole went first.  Thanks, Range.  Cole went right across, I clicked for good behavior and we made it to the other side.  The busy intersection wasn’t busy, so we crossed over to the other side.  Once I got into the trees, I mounted back up.  Next stop—the big river.


When I say big river, I mean it.  It is three times as wide as all our other crossings and a little deeper.  There are 2 branches to the Rocky River.  This crossing is just beyond where the 2 branches join and turn it into a real river.  It is not hard to cross, there is just so much more of it.


Ellen and I had mapped out a good route across it a few years ago to keep us away from the uneven, slippery slate bottom.  We were glad to see that it hadn’t changed.  Ranger went first.  As soon as we get into the water, we have to walk down stream, parallel to the land for about a minute.  Then we get to a level section.  We cross over to an island in the middle and then proceed to the other side.


Cole thought the bridge upstream looked odd, but other than that, he acted as if it was his first time crossing this year instead of his first time crossing—ever.


On the other side, we found the path leading up to the trail a little overgrown.  I guess it was because we haven’t been riding there like we used to.  They did repair the top of it where it had eroded badly, so this time, it was better that Cole went first.  He would be clueless about the change.  We then did a little trotting but mostly walked on account of Ranger’s tender toes.  This area was still stony.  We didn’t go far when we decided to turn back.


We walked the horses home.  It was as uneventful as the way out.  The intersection was a little trickier because we had to cross two roads this time and wait with traffic at the light.  No big deal for Cole.  It all went well.


And that is the lesson of the story.  The reason everything went so perfect was due to being prepared.  Cole was already confident with traffic, so crossing the busy ford and the intersection was easy for him.  He was accustomed to all the smaller river crossings.  This one was just more river.  Taking him with another horse was even greater insurance of success.  I would have been more surprised if things didn’t work as planned.


It rained that night, so the next day we couldn’t cross any rivers.  I didn’t mind.  It met my goal, and Cole and I have a long future of rides that are fast and far.  I just wish my sister could come with me…and Cruiser…and Ranger…

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