Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Curse of the Road Ride

Anytime my friends in Western Washington complain about the rain, or friends in Central Oregon complain about the cold, I have two words for them: Road Ride. 

You guys may be suffering from the weather, but it appears that you are riding on actual (somewhat) maintained trails and dirt roads. At most, you might come upon logging equipment or the occasional mountain biker. 

We are riding on the shoulders and in the ditches of paved, two-lane country roads—roads that lead to popular wineries visited by inebriated tourists in sports cars year-round. 

Semis are roaring by mere feet away as strange horses (or worse—cows and llamas) charge at the fence lines just a few feet in the other direction. 

Walla Walla is a cycling mecca. Bikes silently appear from behind out of nowhere. 

Lifted trucks driven by adolescent boy-men rev their engines and honk. Crotch rockets roar past without giving a thought to my fragile body, carefully poised on a living, breathing, fight-or-flight animal.

And before you remind me that I should at least be grateful that it was 65 degrees outside at the end of October, let's be clear. It was 65 and overcast when we started our 10-mile road loop. Five miles out, literally as far from the house as we could possibly get, it began to rain. Not sprinkle, not drizzle. Rain. Heather and I were both soaked. I wrung water out of my short-sleeve shirt. My seat saver was swampy. Our horses were out of sorts, trying to turn away from the rain. Every car, truck and farm implement that went by splashed and sprayed. I could barely see out of my glasses. Blue very nearly lost his cool more than once, including an out-of-control hand-gallop uphill on wet pavement. I didn't try to one-rein stop him because I prefer not to die.

Every road ride is a little adventure like this. And I'm starting to think that the amount of solid "work" that we are able to do is not worth the risk to life and limb. 

On the other hand, a road ride costs me much less fuel than a trip to Madame Dorian, Bennington Lake, Harris Park, Cache Hollow, or Ernie's loops up at Biscuit Ridge. 

But now that I've actually typed out the pros and cons and am reading them, the idiocy of what I'm doing is pretty obvious. I can always free up enough money for more gasoline. It is harder to scrape up money for a helicopter ride, emergency surgery, a lifetime of physical therapy and the amount of counseling that would make me forget what it felt like to live that scene at the beginning of The Horse Whisperer. You know the one.

The urge to condition my horse might—literally—kill me. How am I only just realizing this?!


  1. I finally bought a decent coat...which saves me from dying in the rain. It doesn't do much for traffic, though, sorry.
    um, it does have a highly-reflective stripe...a safety feature?

  2. Ruth,

    I deal with that here as well. People drive our little country blacktop road like it is the INDY 500, and cut zero slack to horse and rider.

    People in low traffic areas have NO IDEA how dangerous it can be riding the road, even on a well-trained horse. Years ago I had a guy purposely run my horse and I into a ditch with an evil grin plastered on his face. No amount of reflectivity would have save me from that! I do think having the ability to road ride your horse is an asset to training in mucky weather, but a green or reactive horse is surely a recipe for a helicopter ride to a major hospital. Journey so far is good on the road, but "I" always consider that she is a horse and there is risk with that. I'm doing a little road riding, but to say it is my comfort zone would be a big fat lie. ~ E.G.

  3. I do recall an incident years ago when I worked for an insurance agency, in which a rowdy young man crowded a horse on the road, honking and hollering.

    The horse took exception to the fuss and KICKED A BIG HOLE IN THE DOOR OF THE (restored, formerly pristine bright red 69 Mustang convertible) CAR, which belonged to the miscreant's father.

    Heh heh heh. It was a pleasure processing that.

    (The horse was unharmed, I checked).

  4. Hmm, yeah, I do that. Road ride. A lot. (Hey, it's what's outside the door!)

    But in my defense, I spend a LOT of time ground driving my greenies along the road so they're well accustomed to traffic before I ever get on their backs.

    Still, your point stands. It only takes once.