I’ve been a horse enthusiast since I can remember. Growing up I begged my parents to let me have one of my very own. We had more than enough yard space to keep one and I even volunteered to put up the fence myself- quite an unreasonable feat for a young’un, but my desire and determination lit quite the fire within me.
I was relentless. I presented my parents with detailed budget plans which covered costs for feed, tack, and miscellaneous expenses. I remembered pitching the idea that 2 acres of grass was more than enough to feed 1 lonely horse and having said horse would eliminate the time, effort, and expense dad would spend on mowing every week and suggested that we could use that savings towards the miscellaneous costs for things like de-wormer and potential vet bills. I was also going to ride bareback which meant I didn’t need the money for a saddle, and I could crochet my own halter and lead ropes because I did that for my stuffed animal horses already, so I was practically a pro.
None of my persuasion tactics nor my puppy dog eyes worked. The only response I received was to find a friend with horses. And that’s exactly what I did.
Now, 20 years later, I’m still following that same advice.
A friend of mine loves all things farm life. She has horses, cows, chickens, pigs, dogs, cats; she had goats at one point, but determined she despises them, which I don’t understand because I love goats, but that’s neither here nor there.
Back in January, my farmer friend invited me to go on a long weekend camping trip with her and a friend of hers with their horses- once the weather got warmer of course. She said I could ride her daughter’s horse. You guys… I had been looking forward to this trip for months!
We left on Friday morning and returned Monday afternoon. Our destinations: the mountains of northern Tennessee (Big South Fork to be exact). My friend’s horse trailer has a living quarters with a king sized mattress that her and her other friend shared while I brought my own tent and air mattress. The campground we stayed at has stalls for the horses at each campsite, so I practically slept with the horses the whole weekend. Can you say dream come true!?
When we first arrived we set up camp and saddled up for a quick ride through the trails before dinner. We figured we’d be gone an hour or two, tops. Boy were we wrong.
We headed out on the trail around 4:30- map in hand. We rode for about 2 hours and made it to the river which we hadn’t planned on seeing on this particular outing. We pulled out the map and found out that we were a little over 10 miles from camp which meant we had to book it back before it got dark.
Somewhere along the way we took a wrong turn. By this time the sun had already set, so what little light we had left was fading fast. We rode up to an intersection where the trail crossed a gravel road and debated our options:
Option 1: stay on the marked trail with washouts, windy paths and treacherous conditions (due to excessive rainfall earlier in the week)
Option 2: stay on the road with more room to maneuver, more level travel surface, potentially a straighter path, and risk the potential for a car travelling too fast around a curve and startling the horses, or worse
My vote was to stay on the trail purely for the markers and signs pointing the way to our camp, but we ended up staying on the road. After riding the road for some time, we lost what little light we had, so we broke out our 1 emergency flashlight and 2 cell phone lights we had with us. After the horses became acclimated to the lights, we rode on.
We came across another intersection with another trail and decided to continue on the trail this time, hoping for a trail sign sooner rather than later, to tell us how far we had to go. Around 9:30 we came to a dead end. We were all tired, hungry, and quite scared, but we all kept calm and figured out our game plan. We pulled out the map and made an educated guess as to where we were and figured out our route before hopping back in the saddles.
We came to a part of the trail we had crossed going up earlier in the day that had proven quite difficult for the horses, so we decided to dismount and lead them by hand to go down. One of our horses lost his footing and ended up falling, pinning my friend’s foot to a rock face for a split second. We did a once-over on the horse and rider before continuing on.
We finally made it to the trail head around 10:30 where the campground owner was waiting. He said he was getting worried about us and that he was getting ready to send out a search party. Oops! Once back to camp, we figured out we rode over 20 miles!
We woke up late Saturday morning and took our time getting ready and hit the trails around lunch time. We rode about 15 miles, came back, ate some dinner and got a little drunk. Okay… it was alota drunk for me and my farmer friend.
Sunday, we woke up late and made a hardy breakfast to help with the hangovers, saddled up and hit the trails again. We rode about 10 miles and got a little rained on which was quite refreshing. Back at our site, the campground owner came by for a visit and brought us some illegally made moonshine. If you’re not familiar with moonshine, it’s like drinking lighter fluid. I had flashbacks from the night before and quit while I was ahead.
Monday morning we woke up early to get a ride in before we left for home. We rode out to an overlook that had an amazing view of the valley and the river. Round trip for that ride was only 5 miles. We went back, packed up, and hit the road.
It was an amazing trip with some awesome ladies and I can’t wait to do it again. We’re already planning on going back in the fall! 🙂