Friday, September 18, 2009

Visitor From Across The Pond

Donna riding Sadie Mae and Shannon riding Seven.

I finally got to meet my long time email friend Donna Taylor! She came to North Carolina to visit some friends and stayed with me for four days. I made sure they were four action packed days!

I emailed Donna after several years of reading her monthly article in the Mules and More Magazine that used to be called Sweetheart's Life in England. Donna had traveled to the US several times to the Red Rock Ride in Utah and fell in love with an older mule named Sweetheart. The owners allowed her to purchase the mule and she imported her to England. After Sweetheart became old and had some lameness problems and had to be put down, I email Donna my condolences. As just a side item I asked her if Little Chalfont, England was near Chalfont St. Peters when I lived and learned to ride at Brawling Stables. The two towns are right next to each other and that struck off a long line of emails.

Donna meets Navarre and Chester at the St. Clair Red Mule Farm!

Donna arrived at the airport in Raleigh on Friday around Noon. Lucky for her she has been in North Carolina visiting other friends for the last few days so she was on this time zone! I picked her up and took her for a quick introduction to my farm and the Long Ear Crew. We soon loaded Seven and Sadie in the trailer and headed for our first adventure! Night riding in the Hoffman Gamelands Sandhills. As we neared the area and took a smaller paved road that quickly turned into all sand Donna mentioned how different everything looked. The pine trees, sand and underbrush is different from any where else in North Carolina. When we arrived we where greeted by my friends who helped us get parked! Kenny Tyndall htpp:// and Bernie Halberts , Ronald Hudson, Danny Tart and others rounded out the group. As the sun settled and the moon began to rise we saddled up as the "guys" harnessed the mules. We set out at 8:30 with five wagons and three riders. We moved quickly down the long straight trail and I know Donna was wondering what she had gotten herself into when I gave her this piece of advise. "If all Hell Breaks loose and it looks like there might be a wagon wreck, head for the trees and hide!" She asked me if I actually thought there might be a wreck. About half and hour into the ride C-130's (BIG GIANT AIRPLANES) started coming over just over the tree line from behind us! Oh, yea, I remember we are heading to Camp McCall and the Army takes advantage of the full moon by doing their night jumps! Oh this is going to be fun! Donna got Sadie figured out and everyone settled in.
We got to Camp McCall, Donna and I got our photo taken by the abandoned Tank. It was just seconds after that I noticed Ronald and his wagon with two mules making circles in the dark. Things did not look good. Before I could say anything to Donna the wagon tipped over and Ronald went flying in an arch about 15 feet, landing in the sand. The wagon tipped over and then back up again. The two mules broke the axle in two and took off, straight for us! Seven was already dancing around wondering which way was the safest place to be. Sadie stood steady like a rock while the two mules whooshed right past her and Donna, taking off down the road. Ronald was ok and Bernie who was in the wagon with Ronald was ok once he found his pipe. The wagon was beyond repair so it was pushed over to the side. One wagon took off down the road to look for the loose team. Ronald's black mule was found still hooked to the broken axle, wrapped around a tree, so they tied her there. Polly, Bernie's mule was not found that night. Jokes were told that she was headed back to Mexico. (Bernie and Polly just finished a trip from North Dakota to Mexico).
As Donna and I were watching the whole scene we noticed the full moon and paratroopers gliding down on their parachutes in the night sky! WOW!
We followed, a more dependable wagon owned by Don King, on a longer trip home. The moon light got so bright it was like a Wal-Mart parking lot at some points. One road we traveled was just spectacular! Tall trees on each side and the moon light shining down from in front of us, lighting the whole area!
We returned to camp and they had still not found Polly. We left about 12:30AM and got to my house around 3AM. I learned my new saying from Donna that morning, "I'm Shattered!" Meaning, Oh so tired!

We slept in and relaxed around the house for most of the day Saturday. We packed for the Leatherwood trip for Sunday and then left around 3Pm for a trip to Deby and Tom Cochran's place on the other side of Raleigh. They are the proud owners of several Champion Mammoth Donkeys and Mules. They offered to let Donna take a spin on Pauline, a Mammoth Jennette who just won her fourth year in a row, HIGH POINT DONKEY at Shelbyville, TN. The Great Mule and Donkey Celebration is one of the top mule and donkey shows in the country. Pauline graciously gave Donna a great ride! There is nothing like riding a great mammoth donkey! Then she was offered a ride on Coal, Tom's multiple world champion mule. He is 16-hands, black mule, who showed Donna how to spin, side pass and turn on the forehand. Donna was so tickled with Coal's lope! (ME, I was jealous the whole time!)
Afterward Tom and Deby treated us to a nice Mexican dinner!

Donna riding Pauline, owned by Deby Cochran! WHAT A PRETTY DONKEY!

Sunday morning it was off to Leatherwood. We met Bev Dual and her new mule Gypsy Rose for a ride. Leatherwood is my favorite place in the world! We took Rodo Gap to Frog Pond Pass to the top part of Roberson Trail. We stopped at the over-look for a late lunch before heading back down Ramblin Trail.
That evening two of Donna's friend she was visiting earlier in the week came down from Jefferson and we had quite a crowd for dinner!

Donna with Sadie Mae and Seven at Elk Creek trail Over Look at Leatherwood!

Monday most of the trail riders where packing to go home. We had to get Sadie's shoes tightened by my friend and farrier Perry before riding. We messed around some in the arena and Donna tried out Seven before we headed out on to the trail again. We hated to leave but headed home that evening.

Donna and Sadie Mae cross a bridge on Roberson Trail at Leatherwood.
Donna plays with Seven in the arena at Leatherwood! Here Loping in fine style!

Donna and Sadie Mae climb a hill on Rodo Gap trail at Leatherwood.

Tuesday I took Donna to work with me at the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine. I think she got the best tour ever. We headed down to the Podiatry area so she could meet Dr. Mansmann, Kurt the farrier and Andrew. They where working in a very interesting case of a reining horse. The owner is a Judge and once I explained that Donna was from over seas he was willing to let me show her about his horses conformation, Dr. Mansmann showed her the problem they were working on and the owner even showed her how the sliding plate shoes work. Then we got to see a horse being put out for surgery, a dog getting an MRI. To top it off she got to see two surgeries going on in the small animal area!
After that we left for lunch and I took her to the airport.
What fun we had! Can't wait till she can come back. I had to pack it all into just a few days so we were both "SHATTERED!"

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