Saturday, September 15, 2012

Horse Camping in Rhode Island Part

Last weekend, I went with my friend Megan to the Arcadia Management area in Escoheag, RI to meet two of our other friends and their horses for a weekend camping trip. I took Secret, since she is wearing shoes and the trails there can be rocky. It was her first camping trip, so I was uncertain how it would all go, but was looking forward to a weekend away.

The best thing for me about going horse camping was not running around from one thing to another. My schedule lately has been intense, and it was fun to have a couple of quiet days and the opportunity to spend hours in the saddle and sit and talk with friends afterwards. Our friend Esther, who was there with her husband Jim, says that as much as she loves competitive trail rides, that the pleasure rides bring an entire relaxing element.

We arrived at the campground around 11 AM on Saturday, and set up the paddocks for the horses. I assumed Secret has seen electric fence at some point in her life, and she was great. She munched her hay, said hi to Cocoa and didn’t carry on at all.

We set off on a trail ride at noon. We headed out on the dirt roads that we’ve regularly ridden while doing competitive rides at Arcadia. Esther and Jim have ridden there a lot, and Jim was carrying a map, so we figured we were all set. Our plan was to ride for three hours and then go back to camp and relax.

Secret was a little bouncy heading out of camp. When we picked up a trot, she promptly bucked three times, but then settled into her work. After the first couple of miles, she settled right down and followed the other horses. After we had ridden two hours, we needed another hour of trail. Esther asked if we wanted to do more dirt roads or go back into the woods. I said, let’s do more woods and we took a left onto a side trail.

Before long, we ended up on what the map called a “multi-use trail.” It was rocky, and more like goat trail with all of the rocks and turns, but the horses were handling it well, so we continued. We came to a fork in the trail, we could go straight, or take a right. Esther said to go straight because the trail looked like it had seen more use. There was horse poop on the trail, so we weren’t worried.

Twenty minutes later, Jim said, “According to the map, we should have gone right.” Esther replied, “I’m curious to see where this goes now.” So we continued down the multi-use trail. The trail got pretty sketchy with the amount of rocks and narrow turns. Secret was handling it like a pro though, so I wasn’t too worried. I knew she was getting tired because she did slam my knee into a tree at one point, but since we were only walking, I figured she would be okay. Of the four horses, she is the least conditioned, the other three were doing 30 and 50 mile trail rides all summer. Her ears were still up and she was happy, so we kept following along.

At some point, Esther started to get a bit worried, since we were going in a straight line the entire time and hadn’t made any turns. Her curiosity soon turned into real worry and she wanted off the trail. Secret and I bushwacked us a trail through a lightly wooded section (we’ve had practice making our own trails at home!) and we found a dirt road. We headed back towards Arcadia on that, until we found it was a dead end. We turned around, and followed the dirt road to the Whispering Pines Recreation area. There was a wedding there Saturday night and we asked numerous people for help getting back to Arcadia (basically a faster, less rocky trail than the one we came down). Everyone told us we were near route 102, and it would take us ½ an hour by road to get to Arcadia and we would need to go down I-95.

Not happening. Secret and I bushwacked us back onto the multi-use trail and we took off at a trot to get back to camp. Secret led for a little while after bushwacking us in; until we got to a hill that went straight down and she thought it was a better idea to let Mackie go first. It’s really surprising how many hills are in Rhode Island, I think we rode them all that day. It only took us 40 minutes to get back to the dirt roads of Arcadia, thanks to the light feet of our horses. We walked the rocky areas and trotted everything else.

We stopped at the Flat River to water our horses. Upon exiting the river, there is a long, steep hill up the dirt road on the way back to camp. The other three horses knew where they were and took off at a gallop. Secret cantered along behind them for a minute, before slowing to a trot, and then she just stopped and watched them gallop away. I couldn’t get her to move. The look on her face said: “Are you kidding me?”

She finally picked up a slow trot and climbed the hill. Luckily the others had noticed that we weren’t behind them anymore and stopped to wait. When they heard Secret stopped dead and wouldn’t move because she thought they were crazy, they laughed. Once Secret saw the trail back to camp, she seemed to realize what their hurry was!

Overall, it was a great day. It was the first time I was ever truly “lost” on a trail and I thoroughly enjoyed myself, since we weren’t in a hurry to get anywhere, had maps and cell phones, and were never really lost, just didn’t want to go back the way we had come! We rode 16 miles that day, and we all ate well at camp that night.

Secret and I are behind Esther on Mackie.

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