Mansfield May 24-28 Ride (Turkey Season!) A weekend of Firsts!
Mike and I arrived Thursday, at 1:00 p.m., to find that Don and Pat were on site. This was Mike’s first ride as a CSC member, and meeting the fine folks that I have had the pleasure of riding with for two summers.
After some jerry-rigging with our highline, the horses were fed and watered, standing comfortably in the shade under the large Red Maple trees. Mike, Penny (our lovely dog), and I walked across the field to introduce Mike to our host, Don Ruttan. Mike had the pleasure of meeting Pat two summers ago. Mike didn’t ride last year as he was recovering from a full knee replacement, but listened intently to my stories after each trip. Mike has heard the names of many members and he will finally be putting faces to those names. Mike is usually the only male in our small group of riders and is happy to be a member of CSC which has a large group of male riders. CSC has been a great way for both of us to meet new friends and riding partners with like interests.
June and John arrived and were quickly settled near us. As June & John (and horses) stayed at our farm last summer, all 4 horses were very comfortable highlined in the same group of trees. I was so blessed that Dillon, my new horse, had 3 calm experienced horses around him to ensure his first overnight highline experience was quiet and uneventful. Dillon (bred and trained by Jason Irwin of Northstar Livestock) turned 3 on May 28th, his calm and no drama personality shined all weekend!
Ralph arrived in time to join us for a ride on the Pink Trail, a well-marked 10 km loop through Mansfield’s densely mixed forest. The footing is excellent, so horseshoes are not required. A great conditioning trail, a two hour walk with hill work to get the muscles into shape for both horse and rider. Lots of conversation and laughter was had by all! A very pleasant evening ride! Ralph was ribbing Pat about the length of the ride, which I am sure you will hear about at the next campfire!
Pink Trail = 10 km
‘The early bird gets the worm’, and on this morning the Mourning Dove will surely eat first. It is lovely waking to the melancholy sound of Mourning Doves. With horses fed and watered, tea in hand, Penny and I headed out for our morning hike along the trail that starts on the southeast corner of the campground winding through the mature forest. Penny loves her morning walks in Mansfield as they are highlighted by chipmunk chases. The path is dotted with debris huts in various stages of construction, remnants of previous Mansfield Outdoor Centre excursions.
Per CSC standards, our ride started at 10:00 a.m. with the Blue Trail on our agenda, returning to camp for lunch, and an afternoon ride with those that arrived after 10:00. Mansfield trails did not disappoint as we travelled through this magnificent forest with scents of Lilac and Apple Tree blossoms along the trail! This trail criss-crosses a large portion of the forest. Dillon very cleverly spotted a very large porcupine a short distance off the trail, heading toward a tree and safety from the intruders. There are mile markers along the trail indicating how many mile back to camp. As each of us passed the ‘4 miles to home’ sign, we all had the same reaction – ‘How many?” After a short break, we continued on our path back to camp, most of us laughing as we realized the blue trail ‘must’ be longer than we thought. We all have a new respect for Don as he rode without complaining about his bruised tailbone, standing in his stirrups most if not the whole ride. Will nothing keep this cowboy out of the saddle? We were all supportive of Don’s decision to leave Saturday morning, and hope he is able to ride pain-free at Wiarton.
Ralph returned early to camp (and home) meeting Carol as she arrived. Carol rides in Mansfield a lot and is very familiar with the trails. When Ralph told her which trail we were riding she set out in hopes of meeting us at our lunch stop. As we thought the Blue Trail was a 6km ride, we didn’t stop for lunch, however if we had, Carol would have caught up to us. As the Blue Trail was 20 kms we did not have second ride on this day.
Mike had planned on riding only two days so we arrived in two vehicles. Mike headed home with Remy, truck, and trailer after our ride, unloaded, refilled the water barrel, and returned our rig for me to use for the rest of the weekend. Mike stayed the night and drove our car home Saturday morning, taking Penny with him so she would not have to stay in the trailer if temperatures reached their forecasted high. She is still upset about that decision , but what a great guy Mike is to do all of that so I could stay!!
Blue Trail = 20 km
John, June, Carol, Pat, and myself, with lunches and drinks packed, headed out on the Red Trail. At 20 km long there is not much this trail doesn’t offer! A lovely mix of single track and double-wide trails, which allowed easy conversation riding side by side. This was my first time on this trail, and it was absolutely beautiful. We asked John to stop for lunch at a clearing that had both shade and a breeze, all tall order but of course he did not disappoint. Once the horses were secured to trees, lunch in hand, we discussed how lucky we are to have camping with access to 2000 acres of Dufferin County Forest. The afternoon trail wound through mixed forest, on single track and off-season cross-country ski trails. Seeing a White-Tailed Doe bounding effortlessly through the bush was magnificent. The final hill was long and steep with deep footing, all of the horses needed a well-deserved rest at the top to recover their breath. Thank you, Carol, for selecting this trail today!
Red Trail = 20 km
The campfire was a great way to finish a fantastic day – we all brought wood, oh except Don who packed wood but forgot to bring it, John made kindling, arranged the kindling in a tee pee over paper and fire starters; In no time at all we were enjoying the warmth of the fire, good food and drinks, and great conversation.
Sunday morning was beautiful, heavy dew on the grass, birds chittering, butterflies floating along the tips of the grass, sun shining. After two back to back 20 km rides we decided to ride the 10 km White Trail. Three of the five remaining horses were showing signs of being tired. We planned to eat lunch back at camp. This trail starts off along the Red Trail and cuts through the centre of the forest along narrow and double wide trails, with a few hills. The footing was fabulous, toads were out and about, with the warm breeze carrying butterflies and scents from Lilacs and Apple Tree blossoms. The dew on the leaves kissed our skin as we rode beneath them. Dillon was trying his hardest to nibble the low hanging leaves, more often missing than not. We saw a small dog wearing a 10 km orange vest (it is turkey hunting season) hiking along a single-track trail. This dog was on a mission and politely ignored our calls. We stood quietly and heard his owner calling from the distance and hope he found his way safely home. We arrived back at camp at noon, each of us heading off to tend to our horse’s needs. We said goodbye to Carol, then gathered at June and John’s trailer for the afternoon.
White Trail = 10 km
Dillon was very tired, so at 5:00 p.m., I decided that we had had enough, and prepared to head home a day early. He travelled very well, Amber and Remy were excited for Dillon to be home safe and sound!
The forecast showed lots of rain and high temperatures, and we had both, but it was not unbearable. Friday’s rain didn’t last long, and I think it improved the footing on the trails, there was no dust on Saturday’s ride. The rain offered us time to read, to sleep, to get to know each other; Sharing conversation, food, and drinks under the awning. The heat provided dew on the leaves that kissed our skin as we rode beneath them the following day. The breeze kept the bugs away from the horses on the trail and in camp. We had perfect weather this weekend.
Every one of us has at least one thing in common – our love of horses. We all have horses in our lives, we all enjoy spending time in the saddle. Time spent in the saddle adds enjoyment to our lives, although this weekend I am sure Don would disagree. We take our horses needs into consideration before our own, we ensure our horse’s wellbeing is first priority. We rode a total of 60 km over four days; Although I thought Dillon and I were prepared for this weekend, I did not anticipate the number of kilometers or the amount of hill work we would complete. I learned two very important things this weekend: Dillon stands quietly when his highline rope ends up under his front leg during the night; and he doesn’t complain under saddle if his muscles are sore. Hindsight is 20/20, I should have sent Dillon home with Mike and rode Remy for days 3 and 4. I have learned from this experience, and have a plan to ensure Dillon is prepared for the Wiarton ride.
Although it was turkey hunting season, we did not see a single turkey, however we did see a large White-Tailed Doe, a porcupine, a dog wearing an orange vest, lots of chipmunks, and really and truly we believe John when he says he saw two mice!
CSC members have welcomed both Mike and I with open arms, literally and figuratively. It is a pleasure to belong to Chesley Saddle Club. As I have shared my first 2018, and Mike’s and Dillon’s first CSC weekend ride, I hope to hear about your firsts as we gather at each other’s trailers and around the firepits this summer.
Sheri & Dillon, Mike & Remy, and Penny!