Sunday, March 30, 2008

The invisible floods, part two - Sunday

But Sunday was definitely memorable! Sunday we went back out with Champ and Handyman. The whole weekend was warm, but Sunday was really nice - high in the 70s. On our way to the trails, we noticed that the usually-locked gate was still unlocked! Back down the trails, all the way down the field to the river, and back south along the river. Once we got to the river, Champ snapped out of his "oh god my feet are getting wet" funk and decided he was Taking Us Home. Obviously the humans are not to be trusted to get us home, or something. We trotted and gaited through the puddles to the river, and I barely had a chance to ooooh over the height of the river (bank-high when it's usually 20' below the banks!) before Champ sailed past Handyman, took a hard left, and headed for home. He'd finally figured out where he was or something. We went ripping through the forest trail.

Going down forested trails at top speed is really one of my favorite scary things to do, and I don't get to do it that often. Champ is the only horse I trust to be surefooted and responsive enough, and I won't scare whomever I'm riding with. That means that if I'm out with Chrissy, or some random "take me trail riding!" person, I can't go fast. But if I'm riding Champ with James - we can tear ass as fast as we want. That day, it meant "no trotting in the water, no cantering unless you can get three full strides before we have to slow down again."

We dashed through the forest part of the trail and popped out of the woods at the railroad bridge. A train was slowly pulling away over the bridge, and we got to wave to the engineers in the engine at the end before we were off at a canter down the straight path through along the tracks. Champ and I are never going to get this jumping thing figured out - we came up on this fallen log that we usually jump, I leaned way forward for him to jump it, and the bastard just cantered over it. We made it about halfway down the length of the trail before we ran into some serious flooding.

I was pretty sure Champ would slow down and give me the "WTF?" ears when he saw all that water on top of his trail, but he surprised me and kept going. We plunged off into the water without a moment's hesitation. I let him keep going because he wasn't panicked and I knew where the trail was and that it's a safe trail. The worst potholes are only a few inches deep.

We saw a TON of those ant balls you normally only see on National Geographic. Imagine a British guy explaining that "when the colony is threatened by flooding, the ants cling to each other and float away in a giant ball." They looked like normal tiny black ants, not vicious evil army ants or fire ants, but I kept Champ well away from them anyway. Running into a clump of pissed off fire ants would be a nightmare that would really get us hurt.

Champ learned a new trick in that water. The water was deep. Really deep. Champ's 15.2 or 15.3, and the water was all the way up to the soles of my (rubber) boots. This kind of water is annoying to my horse because it makes him go slow when he wants to go fast, so he learned to bounce through the water. You know how when a Lab is heading off full speed into a pond to retrieve a tennis ball, he runs to the edge, leaps off into the water, bounces like Tigger through the shallows til he can't touch bottom anymore, then swims to the ball? Yeah, Champ learned to bounce like Tigger. It was hysterically funny and hard as shit to ride - if I didn't stay two-point, the force of the leaps would send my ass like 6" above the saddle. I had to control my giggling and actually grab his mane to stay put.

We made it to within 50 feet of the only bridge on that section of the trail when we gave up and turned around. We couldn't see the bridge at all through the water, and the creek it usually spanned had vertical 6'+ sides. Riding a horse off the edge of that would have been Very Bad. James and I are admittedly stupid, but we're not quite that stupid.

So back we went. Champ was really pissed - he was perfectly willing to keep going and maybe miss the bridge and have to swim. I used the Logical Reasoning Executive Veto and back up the trail we went. We slogged back to the end of the water and there was a puppy. A small young yellow dog, a little smaller than Cersei. (Cersei stayed at the barn for all of these rides; asking her to swim miles and miles is not fair.) James was in the lead at this point and for some reason he decided the best way to potentially catch the puppy would be to chase the puppy, so off we all went. James and Handyman took off after the puppy and of course Champ wasn't going to let some other horse run faster than him so we took off too. We ran the entire quarter mile of mostly dry trail. The puppy took a right, swam across a stream, and disappeared over the old roadbed. Can't say I blame the poor little guy. I felt bad for chasing him - I'm sure we looked like monsters from another planet to him! I'm hoping maybe I can find him again and tame him. James would take him home I know!

Anyway, we were back at the river by the railroad bridge. We could go right and work our way back out the same way we came in, or we could go left, down the trail on the other side of the RR, turn towards the highway, and then take a left and get out onto Millington via the usually-locked gate. Getting the horses through all the water on the trail to the left would usually be a challenge - but today they didn't seem to mind the water at all. We went left.

Champ had gotten over his sulk and was ready to go again, so we tore ass through the forest again. We popped out of the woods at the end of the pipeline road. This is normally a place where we can let the horses gallop for miles - fast, straight, and dry. Today it was just straight. The floodwater started about 50' from where we came out of the woods. The horses plunged right in, and off we went.

We saw two buffalo fish, easily 18" long, fighting or fucking in the shallows at the edge of the trail. If we'd had nets, we could've caught them.

The little bridge we needed to cross on that side of the tracks was fortunately above water. It was the only piece of land, aside from the RR embankment, for miles around that was above water. (It's one of those built-up bridges, where the road builders made a dirt mountain on either side of the creek then built a bridge off of the dirt mountain.) On the other side of the bridge, the water started to get really deep. It had been maybe two feet deep most of the way so far, with the deepest water coming up to the soles of my boots. Once we crossed the bridge, it got a lot deeper. The water came up over my feet, with splashes of water soaking me up to mid-thigh. We made the turn to head out to the unlocked gate, and the water came up over the tops of my boots.

I just need to say this again - the water came to mid-calf on me as I rode my 15.3 horse a mile from the river. I don't know how much water it takes to float a horse, but I'm pretty sure if it had been a few inches deeper, Champ would've been swimming. He was really buoyant as it was. Also, I will never believe my horse again when he tries to convince me he's scared of the water.

We made it out of the water safe and sound. We had to stop twice on the way back for people in cars to talk to us - the first guy just wanted us to please call the MPD if we saw a gold-beige Ford Explorer with both door locks punched in, and the second guy was a boarder at the barn just saying hey. James and Handyman almost got smacked by a pickup. We saw the truck coming, and Champ and I stayed in the opposite lane near the edge while James and Handyman moved off into the grass on the other side of the road. Except Handyman saw an invisible monster and leapt sideways directly into the path of the truck. James was cussin and yankin and kicking, and the truck slammed on his brakes, and we all waved at each other with a huge sense of relief. Handyman's supposed to be a runnin' QH but I suspect he's half-Arab - he's spooky and he has a really pretty little Arab head.

We avoided any further brushes with death that day.

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