Tuesday, February 24, 2015
Riding the San Juan Mountains
by Dorothy K. Morris
In the early 1970s my husband and I went to the San Juan Mountains of Colorado for a horseback camping trip for seven days above 10,000 feet. Horses and all camping gear were furnished by the trip leaders and we only had to bring our personal saddles. After a flight from Virginia and a drive in a rented car, we were the first party to arrive at the meeting place at the base of a mountain. We found a tent already set up for our use and a string or horses attended by a couple of young wranglers. They were very friendly and suggested that we choose the horses we would like to ride.
We carried our English Saddles in saddle carriers and when the young men saw the small bags, they began to snicker…obviously. One of them quickly suggested that we saddle up and go for a ride. My husband and I went into our tent, changed from traveling clothes to our English Riding Breeches and boots and came out. The young men were both laughing by now.
Not knowing how to saddle up with our tack, they allowed us to do it. And then we all mounted our horses and my husband and I followed the wranglers out of the campsite and onto a path that led to very steep and rugged terrain. As soon as we came to the base they turned and galloped up, holding on to their saddle horns as their horses dug into the mountainside, assuming that we would not be able to follow. Finding a place to halt, they stopped and turned. We were right there with them, having galloped up the mountain right behind them…with no saddle horns to hold on to.
The shock on their faces was delightful to see. And so I informed them that we fox hunt in the Blue Ridge Mountains in these saddles. Certainly the Blue Ridge are not as tall and rugged as the San Juans, but a hill is a hill…up and down.
For the remainder of the seven days, riding through some of the most rugged and magnificent country in the US, the wranglers were astounded at how we could ride in those “little postage stamps—up hill and down—cross creeks and trot ahead of them”, without falling off. But we did earn their respect.
On the last day out they had become so friendly with us that they asked if they could try out our saddles. We agreed wholeheartedly. It was sad to see that neither of them could ride in them, losing their balance often and almost slipping off. They concluded that the Easterners were not such tenderfeet after all.
From Arizona, USA, Dorothy K. Morris is an avid equestrian and author. Connect with Dorothy to enjoy more of her intriguing writing and stories. I had the great opportunity to connect with Dorothy and interview her for Riding & Writing.
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