Vacationing with horses on my mind

I just got back from a mini-vacation to the west coast that involved visiting family, spending a few days with a good friend, a couple of days of driving across the desert southwest and even some horseback riding. My thanks to Mikki for doing all the horse chores herself and to the Kid for keeping her company while I was gone. I’m sure there is a trip for her coming up that will have me in the barn doing all the chores alone for at least a few days.

Wherever I go, I usually bring a camera. Hey, I like to take pictures. I also knew I’d be driving (riding as a passenger, actually) across Arizona and California and thought I’d be able to snap some photos of horses and horse property along the way. I ended up spending a good deal of time with horses on my mind. Over the coming days I’ll post about some of the interesting things I saw/did, horse-related. One of the funny things I noticed myself doing is wondering how my horses would like it where I was visiting. I have this habit of thinking what it would be like to live in the places I visit. I’ve lived in both Arizona and California so this wasn’t much of a stretch. Except this time I wondered how I would get my horses there, where we would put them and what we’d have to do to keep horses in that climate. Oh, and how much it would cost to have horses in these places.

I had the opportunity and privilege to hang out with Gary and Jennifer, friends of my step-son Chris in Maricopa, Arizona who showed me just how different it was managing horses there compared with what’s common in Tennessee. For example, hay isn’t cheap in the desert and the hay available locally in Maricopa was of poor quality. Instead, they feed their horses pellets made from alfalfa and molasses. Also, this time of year, horses in the low desert don’t really need much in the way of shelter. In fact, most of the horse property I saw there didn’t include any overhead shelter. It just doesn’t rain there much and it doesn’t get very cold. And boy is it dusty! The dust is fine, like powder. I’m not sure if I prefer thick dust or the slimy red clay we have here in Tennessee.

One thing I realized on this trip is just how many people have horses in Arizona and the desert portions of southern California. I just never noticed it before. It’s kind of like buying a car and from that point forward noticing how many of those you see on the road. One of the neatest things about owning a horse in the desert is the sheer amount of space in which to ride. You could ride for days through state or BLM land on horseback. Gary and Jennifer were gracious hosts, allowing my step-son and I to ride a couple of their horses. This was one of the highlights of my trip. It was freezing cold, the sun was going down fast and Chris and I got to ride off into the sunset on “our ponies,” singing “Should’ve Been A Cowboy.”  Except for the temperature, it was perfect. The sun went down and the stars lit up, one by one. Chris and I shivered in our boots but it was worth it. How many people got to ride horses into the sunset in the beautiful southwestern desert today? Not many. I will remember that ride with fondness for some time to come.

A couple of other horse observations during this trip:

  • Desert horses seem to enjoy eating dry grass and tumbleweed.
  • Desert horse manure dries fast.
  • Desert horses seem to enjoy eating their own manure.
  • I prefer horses that neck-rein.
  • It’s exciting riding a horse in the dark.

More on this later but I do want to say thanks to Gary and Jennifer for saddling up their horses and entrusting one of them to me. Thanks to Chris for humoring me by agreeing to ride horses in the cold and dark.

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