Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Backcountry Season Has Arrived

Finally! Time to truly make tracks. No bugs, no hunters. It's Croatan season!!

Saturday couldn't have been more ideal. I got to the barn around 10. It was cool out, but hardly any wind and no clouds, and I knew it would warm nicely in the next hour or so.

A flock of ibis (plural sp?) greeted me on my way to grab Razz from the outer paddock. This walk is really starting to get old. At least today I entertain myself with the birds. These guys sound like geese with a cold. They also remind me of a trumpet with one of those cap accessories on the end to muffle the tune. The ancient Egyptian god of wisdom was depicted with the head of an ibis, and I have always considered them friends and good luck charms due to the association.

Also the white sand in the bottom of the photo? That is where the chronic mud hole at the barn gate was filled in. So for now the tip toe dance around the edge is on hold for me, and I can actually clean my boy's legs up nicely for a change. 

I made makeshift crossties for the first time today. Razz has been in crossties his whole life but since moving here I've attached him via trailer safety tie to a hitchin' ring. And he uses it as a pivot point to swivel back and forth when I groom. Jabbing my thumb between a couple ribs stops him from shifting, but only temporarily. That ends today. Utilizing the hitchin' rings (because I can't bring myself to call them hitchinG rings, no one using them refers to them in that manner) on either side of the aisle, I snap a lead rope to the ring and tie a knot on the other end. In front of the lead rope knot I attach the heavy duty snap end of my trailer ties. The opposite end of the trailer ties have the safety release latches that I hook to Razz. Instant, safe crossties that make my life so much easier. Barn owner likes everything returned to the neutral position, as if you were never there, and I can set up or break these down in less than thirty seconds. Perfect!!

The boy wasn't too dirty but I still followed through with the full ritual, being extra meticulous about his lower legs. Lately we've been coming back from our rides with cleaner legs than when we left. That stupid mud hole at the gate was haunting my dreams and ruining Razz's chrome. Not today, the mud hole is gone. All groomed and tacked, I'm headed to the Croatan with two of my barnmates.

We take off just after 11. I mostly brought up the rear on the way over. Razz is so lazy leaving the barn. He's doing well in the micklem. Today's ride is #10 in the new bridle. Sill don't know what to do about the reins. Much to my surprise I really like the rubber. They're too short for the boy though. I believe some of you affectionately refer to this as dinosaur neck. I will probably put the old laced reins back on (boooo *thumbs down*) since a decent pair of longer reins are at least $60 and I don't need to spend that right now. I just got plenty of new pony toys. Too bad I can't use my totally lux plaited reins on him. Razz has a super strong head & neck and the braided leather acts more like elastic, giving me very little resistance to work with. 

My group is still using the lesser traveled side path to get into the Croatan. Those gravel at the main entrance are atrocious and we are forced to take the long way in. No big deal, I generally take the long way around on horseback regardless of where I'm at. Today I'm joined by a Peruvian paso gelding and an appendix mare. The mare hates Razz, but I don't hold it against her. We go on and off trail, meandering here and there, enjoying the beautiful day. At the first water crossing Razz is called upon to be the fearless leader. We stayed in the lead for the next half hour or so. 

After following the deer trails and our internal compasses, we make it to the four-wheeler paths. These paths are nice and clean. That is, until you approach the low lying areas where they flood. Once again Razz is asked to go first. We get a few steps in, then he changes his mind. The boy decides it's too deep and too far across, and he puts it in double time auto reverse. I coach him back in the water a couple more times with the same results. I remember saying out loud "I hate it when he wins". 

I was determined to get him across the water, and focused completely on the boy. If the other two struck off and rode elsewhere i didn't care. But they hung by and waited for me to work it out, knowing if we made it across our trail ride could carry on. I make him turn a few really tight circles and ask again. He goes in a bit farther. We stop and I pat him & brag about how brave he is. A few more steps, more patting and bragging. We do this until it's closer to go straight on to the other side rather than turn around. At which point Razz decides its no big deal & heads right on out. My two trailmates follow and we dismount for a break to reward all three ponies for their accomplishment. 

We are now in backcountry territory. The part where no one else is coming through unless they have chest waiters on. And I don't think anyone is doing that. The thicket opens up to a similar wooded area like the one found at the end of the gravel road. There are a couple options for our route, and we decide to head toward the railroad tracks and down to a flat sandy area where everyone can play. The shoulder of the tracks is relatively debris free and easy to traverse. The three of us follow the tracks for about a half mile, and the playground is on the right.

I'm not sure what the story is with this patch of land. There is a wide, grassy road that curves around back toward civilization, and it's lined with piles of sand & retention ponds on either side. We canter as far as the path takes us and end up behind a small private school. I immediately pull out the cell & take a pic. None of my non horsey friends will ever believe I made it this far without the pic. The horses were given a chance to catch their breath, and off we head, cantering back down this path that seems as if it were made for horseback riding. We tear in and out of tiny clearings between ponds, up and down the man made sand piles, and through the crystal clear standing water that covers one of the sandiest spots. 

behind the school

cantering the water

and climbing hills 

On our way home we have no problems getting through the water, ponies charged right on in. Considering we'd been out for 4 hours they were ready to get home. I filmed us going back through, so that when I mention "flooded" or "mud hole" in the Croatan you get an idea of what I'm referring to. 

Worst part of the whole day was getting back and finding this hole in my sock. :/ I like these comfortable socks.


  1. Oh, god. That water crossing. There aren't alligators there? I'd be more afraid than Archie of being eaten. I'm pretty sure he'd get away.

  2. You are too funny. I haven't even thought about gators in there but you're right, we have some around. This path was dry last time I came thru in sept. i heard my first rattlesnake in the wild on that trip.