Lots of fun-no pictures. Yes, I had the camera (in my pocket) but couldn't/wouldn't let go of a horse to get it for pictures. Sorry. I had a lot of fun, although I'm not sure my friend will ever forgive me. I met her at the ranch driveway near the corral, in hopes of getting the horses down to the corral before the skies REALLY opened up. It had been snowing at the Lodge when I left, but at this elevation it was only rain. The plan was to get up the mountain, collect them and get back quickly, knowing we would have to cross the river in the process.
Good luck was that the horses were down by the river, so we didn't have to traverse the mountainside at all! I pulled into the driveway next to my friend's car, grabbed her and we drove back to where the horses were, maybe 1/2 mile. We snagged 3 halters and snatched up Washoe and Jesse in short order, then played Pied Piper to the first gate, one of those barbed-wired wonders that has the end pole slipped into wire loops at top and bottom. I had decided by this time that we needed to halter one of the ranch horses to make sure they all stayed with us, so I slipped a halter on Dutch (the sweetheart of all horses), opened the gate onto the quarry property and slipped all the horses through. Oops-missing one. Ranger.
Round One: Ranger's favorite trail to go UP the mountain is right next to that gate, so up he went. I tied poor Dutch to a bush, handed both my grays to my friend, snagged a treat and headed after him. A short way up he had noticed that no horses had followed him; only me, his nemesis. After a bit of coaxing he took his treat and followed me back down to the gate, huffed at the gate and charged through, managing to not get caught in the barb wire that he insisted on trampling. Round One: won.
Round Two: the gate. I know the secret to re-fastening those gates. Ever try doing it with a horse in hand? Plus, that is one tuff little bugger of a gate; it takes two people at the best of times. So I had my friend come help. Told her to just drop Washoe's lead rope and put a foot on it. I did the same with Jesse and we put ALL out effort on the gate...and finally managed to barely get it hooked again. Bad news is, we lost both horses. Ranger and Doc had chosen that moment to be playful and charge the nicely standing horses; we had inadvertently lifted the weight off our feet on the ropes, and the grays were gone with the rest, except poor Dutch still tied to the bush and too much of a gentleman to pull free. Round Two: partial win (gate latched) but set us up for Round Three.
Round Three: recapture the two with the lead ropes and lead them the correct way through the quarry without them taking to the high country again. Problem is the playful Ranger and Doc just couldn't seem to quit racing around and charging everything: stray equipment, mud holes, other horses, even puddles. We just kept walking in the right direction and talking to them as we went and finally Jesse came strolling over to see what I was muttering about. Snagged her lead rope which meant she would keep the others coming in line. I really love having a dominant mare who can send out signals to other horses. Soon they were all in line again and Washoe came by, wanting his lead rope held, too. Round Three: won.
We walk the rest of the way across the quarry and head down the road to the trail leading to the river. So there's this really nice big, grassy meadow between us and the river. The loose horses can't understand why we are staying on the road. Ranger races into the middle of this huge grassy area, lays down and starts rolling, back and forth like a big dog. For some reason, this delights Doc who has to show off his bucking and jumping skill, and Peanut gets involved, racing back and forth between all of us. They looked like a bunch of kids who had never seen a playground before. Thankfully, the ones on leads kept their manners and stayed with us. I would have loved pictures, but I was not about to turn loose of either horse and expect them to stand still!
Round Four: the river. Once the rowdies settled down a little we headed for the river. Now remember, this is spring, which equals runoff. The river at this point is usually quite wide, but not very deep and we were both expecting to get wet feet. With a gray on either side of me, we stand there staring at the water, realizing just how fast it was going, and OK, maybe more than boot deep (like knee deep). The free horses decided to quit waiting on us, charged across nonchalantly, and stood on the other side watching us, obviously wondering what we were waiting on. I told my friend to let me cross first so she would know the path. I took a deep breath, and both grays and I stepped into the water at the same time. By the fourth step the water was mid-thigh on me and I just hung onto both horses, who bravely pulled me to the other bank. They literally kept me from being swept off my feet. Whew! I turned to tell my friend to stay on the path and hang onto Dutch, she had already headed into the water, upriver from us. Too late, she realized her mistake in trying to walk on underwater rocks - very slick and with the turbulence, she didn't stand a chance and down she went. She ended up chest deep and fortunately Dutch kept her head from going under. She hung on and Dutch, who is small and a light-weight himself, struggled to keep his footing and pulled her most of the way, but she was heading for more rocks. I turned loose of the grays and yelled for her to turn loose of Dutch before she hit her head. She landed on her knees and I headed back into the water to help her get out. She now has this wonderful goose-egg bump on her shin from landing on the rock she slid off of, and a slightly twisted knee, but it could have been so much worse. Of course, by the time we are standing on the other bank, we are laughing uncontrollably at what we must have looked like. Talk about a Keystone Cops episode! Round Four: won.
Round Five: We had turned loose of the horses and they were again racing across the next large grassy meadow - headed for another trail that would take them back to the high country. We groaned at the thought that this was all for naught. I started running across the field yelling at Jesse to go to the corral. Dumb, right? Thinking you can yell directions to a horse? By the time I had run across the field to where I could see which way they were going, I stood dumbfounded as I watched my horse turn them from the upper pasture back towards us, right past the corral - a really long way from us. I told my friend to stay at one path and I started on another, in case they came racing back to us. When I got further, I realized that Dutch had actually gone into the corral, and the others were milling around outside, deciding what to do. Dutch is one of their older ranch horses and has been picked up many times from that corral, so he probably went in looking for hay. Jesse spotted me and started coming to me, so I hollered for her to stay at the corral. She actually turned back and herded the rest back and kept them next to the corral fence until we got closer. My friend said she couldn't believe what she saw. When we got about 100 ft. away, Jesse came prancing up to me - no lead rope, by this time - knowing she had done the perfect job. I hugged her and praised her, then we walked over, shooed everyone into the corral and closed the gate. Round Five: a HUGE win.
My friend and I stood in amazement that the job had been done in less than an hour, then realized that cold river water and mountain breezes can chill you pretty fast. We headed to her car, drove to my car and headed for the Lodge. Hot tub time, then ice packs (for the goose-egg bump and knee) and a nap, dinner and a good chair by the fire! Stuffed the boots with newspaper to dry and reflected on 'cowgirl days'. What an afternoon.
Later, to finish off the night, my hubby comes waltzing in about 10:30 pm from his Santa Fe trip, where he had been helping a buddy guide 7 days' worth of rides. He had decided he would head home right after the last ride (a 7 hr. drive). Great finish to a great day.