Horses are not my specialty. A couple of years ago I took my nieces to a dude ranch in CO. While it was fun and the food amazing, I only rode in the mountains one day. The rest of the time I took lessons in the indoor arena. I wasn’t a great student; my horse would only go backwards. Oh, I also rode a pokey donkey once.
So when my neighbor, Debbie, asked if I would like to go down to the Ozarks for some bushwhacking trial rides, I said, “Why ma’am, I’d be much obliged if you’d find it in your heart to drag me along.” Debbie has 8 horses and is an excellent trainer and horse breeder.
She had me over a few times beforehand, to get used to Tim, a 14.5 hand Rocky Mountain, which is a lesser known breed from the Appalachians in Kentucky. They are known for a single-footed gait, which is more comfortable for the rider. I’m all for that! We rode around fields and trails in our area, with Debbie giving me pointers.
A couple weeks later, I dusted off my boots and hat, loaded up Olga, my trusty motorized Roadtrek RV steed, and took off from Kansas City. I met Debbie and her husband, Vic, and another couple, Lee and Sandy down in northern Arkansas. The two couples drove trucks with horse trailers that have small living quarters in them. I was surprised that my Roadtrek had even more living space than theirs.
We stayed at a very small horse camp, which had 8 outdoor stalls, 5 RV hookups, and a bunkhouse. Debbie and Vic opted for the bunkhouse while Lee and Sandy stayed in their trailer. Of course, I chose comfy Olga!
In the morning, it was nice waking up to the chickens scratching around outside, the horses nickering and the farm kitten coming up for a leg rub. Debbie and I left, just before dawn, and drove down the road to see elk herds that were conveniently grazing in a field right next to the road. It’s mating season so young bulls were sparring and we enjoyed their weird bugle calls. It was misty which made for a dreamlike setting. Wonderful!
I learned that horses are a lot of work! There is no lounging around later, watching the little birdies. There are water buckets to lug around, feedbags to clean and stalls to muck. Luckily, Sandy made some great pumpkin spice pancakes while I worked. (She is an old hand and got her horses done while we were ogling the elk.) After inhaling as many pancakes as I could in 5 minutes, I had to go back out and saddle up. The movies make it look so easy, but saddles have to go on just so- plus they are heavy!
The first day, we rode 6 hours. I was sore but really happy that I had managed to stay on. Sandy was riding a Fox Trotter that stumbled and she did come off, but only bumped her head slightly on a rock and was fine. I was just too naïve to be worried so I was able to enjoy the riding. There were a lot of hikers and we got lots of attention. I pretended I was a pro, but since I was the only one in a helmet, I don’t think anyone was fooled.
It was peak season for fall colors down in Arkansas and we were in national forest on the upper Buffalo River. We took our lunches and stopped at an old miner’s cabin to rest, with the horses tied up to trees. We crossed the river and stopped again so we gals could hike up to a waterfall. Vic and Lee (who suffers from Parkinson’s) rested with the horses. The Ozark Mountains are about 1-2,000 feet so the scenery was amazing with the colors and sunshine. A perfect fall day.
An aside- if you want to see some really spectacular photos of the area, check out Tim Ernst Photography on the Internet. He also happens to be a Roadtrek owner and uses it regularly for his work!
Back at camp, we had to unsaddle, groom, feed and water the horses. Vic and I unloaded big hay bales and heavy bags of oats and grain from the back of the truck. Then we all went into the bunkhouse for dinner. Vic complained of heartburn before we even ate. He sat in the easy chair and could not be induced to eat. Lee got him some antacid, but Vic just sat then went to bed. Debbie asked if he was all right and should we run to Harrison (about a half hour away) but he said no, he’d be okay.
Next morning, Lee and Vic were both tired and told us gals to go ride, while they went to Harrison to get Vic’s nitroglycerine prescription filled. He’d had a triple bypass about 10 years ago and has never needed to take it, but it might help. So we gals saddled up (with cell phones) and rode off. We were out for about an hour when Debbie received a text from Lee, that Vic was being transported by helicopter to a hospital! They’d gone to the small emergency room, thinking the prescription would be filled faster, but the docs ran a test and found he was having a heart attack.
We rode as fast as we could back to camp, where I simply unplugged Olga, and drove Debbie an hour and a half to Springfield, MO while Lee and Sandy took care of the horses. To unhook the trucks and trailers would have taken a bit of doing, plus we weren’t sure if the truck would be needed to move the horses- we just didn’t know how it was going to play out. The RT was the ideal choice.
Vic was in Emergency, but looked surprisingly good and was giving the nurses heck. We stayed overnight at a hotel, and next morning they put 3 stents in Vic. We stayed most of the day to make sure he was okay, then drove back to camp to take care of the horses. The next morning, Lee and Sandy packed and left camp to take some things to Vic and visit, then went home. Vic stayed the night for observation but came through like a champ, having had only bruising on his heart and not any serious damage. Whew!
Next morning, we loaded up and I followed Debbie back to the hospital where managed to find a spot large enough for her truck and trailer in a remote parking area. I was able to park much closer and then go to the entrance for Vic, so he wouldn’t have to walk. Again, we were lucky to have the handy and mobile Roadtrek along. I followed them 6 hours home and helped Debbie unload the gear and horses.
Vic is fine and back in the swing already! He is one of those over achiever types and needs to slow down a hair, but plans to live a long, long time. He’ll be back in the saddle soon.
Me? I loved riding! And I happen know the Roadtrek can tow 5,000 pounds. Let’s see…. horses weigh about 1,200 pounds – small, one horse trailers can’t weigh very much – plenty of room in the rig for a saddle, tack and buckets……Hmmmmm.