I recently had the pleasure of participating in a fundraising ride sponsored by the Alberta Equestrian Federation. The ride was held at the Rafter 6 Guest Ranch and was very well attended. I had not been on a group ride for many years so this was a new experience for me.
I must say there are good and bad things about this kind of activity. The good thing is the camaraderie in such an event — a group of like-minded folks coming together to enjoy their horses on some lovely trails with the added benefit of raising funds for a worthy cause. I went to the event on my own with my faithful trail horse but soon encountered lots of folks I knew as well as made some new friends. I particularly enjoyed one fellow and his son — I knew the Dad 30 years ago and had not seen him since! What a small world! After the ride we hoisted a beverage in remembrance of a very special friend known to both of us who is no longer with us — it was an emotional moment.
The ride took us through some beautiful mountain country — a shady trail along a river, a climb through a multicolored forest and yielded some great views of the Rocky Mountains. The weather was perfect and a good time was had by most of the participants.
There is a down side to this kind of activity. In order to participate in a group ride such as this, there are some basic criteria that you would think folks would consider before signing up. The main criteria is you and your horse should be of sufficient skill and competence to handle the challenges of group riding. Your horse should be quiet on the trail, comfortable walking in a group, able to walk without needing to crowd the horse ahead of him, able to handle basic trail obstacles (going over logs, through water, climbing and descending steep hills), able to stand quietly if someone else is having a problem. I was surprised at several of the riders who brought horses that were certainly not prepared for the activity.
There was one horse and rider who constantly were having a problem and ended up backing up or circling — this actually caused me and my horse to have a problem on a very steep hill with nowhere to go. This person had an issue at the top of the hill on a very narrow trail with a steep shoulder on one side and a rather significant drop-off on the other side.
But at the end of the day, it was a lovely ride and I thoroughly enjoyed visiting with lots of folks. I was pleased with my horses’ performance (despite the quick turn) , how he handled a variety of situations and trail conditions and look forward to many more miles going down the trail!