Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Loss Of A Friend.......

The other week I found out that we had lost my friend Debbie Devita. She was a great and fun person to be around. Creative and bright! She kept her horses at my favorite place in the world, Leatherwood Mountains. I met her years ago while riding up there and would email her when I was coming up to see if she had time to come and ride with us. She would join us usually on Sunday mornings with her horse Tyrone. A long time endurance horse of hers who is a beautiful Arabian. My friend Bev met Debbie on one of our rides and thought she recognized Tyrone, turns out she has known the horse her whole life. She is friends with the lady who bred him and was there when he foaled. (SMALL WORLD) After a while Debbie also got a new horse to train and ride. She named him A.J. after her fathers initials. She would sometimes ride Tyrone and pony A.J. to get him used to the trail and fit.
Debbie was also a VERY Talented photographer. She took portraits and wedding photos so beautiful. www.devitaphoto.com
Debbie made friends with everyone she met instantly. She loved her animals and always took great joy out of them.
They had a memorial service for her at Leatherwood on July 3rd. My parents and Molly were visiting but I felt I had to go. Molly went with me and we took off with the mules to attend. The plan was that several people would be on horse back for the service but once we got there and saw how many people had come I felt it would not be safe to ride in. Between 250 and 300 people attended. Many people, including many of my friends who work at Leatherwood got up and gave testimony to the great friend she was and how much she will be missed. It was a very nice service!
Afterward I visited with some of my friends and also talked to several of the people who were at the service. I met a childhood friend of Debbie's, some riding buddies and a nice couple with a young baby whom Debbie had befriended when she took wedding photos and then baby pictures for them.
Abbie and the whole Leatherwood crew did such a great job pulling off the event. We found out later that Abbie also had to coordinate a wedding later in the day. Strange but true to real life that some things end while others are just beginning.
Molly and I went to eat lunch at the Saddlebrook Grille with Carolyn and then took a ride for a few hours before heading home. It was a very long day but I felt I needed to be there to bid a friend farewell and hug some other friends that are hurting!

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Visit From Some Friends!

Phyllis and Joan with Navarre.

On June 12th two of my friends I met while working at the College of Veterinary Medicine came by for a visit, Phyllis and Joan! We finally got together and they made their way out to the Red Mule Farm to meet the mules and donkeys. They brought carrots and soon made fast friends with each one of my long ears! Phyllis's family had mules when she was growing up and you could tell because we was very comfortable around them. We took some photos but did not hang out too long because, as usual this year, it was VERY HOT! I had tied the mules and donkeys under the big oak tree in the front yard and we did have a light breeze. Joan and Phyllis took turns leading the mules and then the donkeys out to the pasture, then we went out for a nice ladies lunch at the local steak house! It was so nice to visit with them both and be able to finally introduce them to my long eared herd! Thanks so much for coming to visit and for lunch ladies!

Not "Happy Campers" at the Blowing Rock Ride

Well let's just say that we had fun anyway! Most of the group arrived at about the same time around 11AM on Friday. We were all told to our dismay that we all had to park our big trailers in the very upper level. This is not what we all had in mind and as we had to take turns going up and figuring out where to park and in what order so we could all get in, things got interesting to say the least. Teddy and Luann's trailer had to roll over a big hump to get into their parking spot. This caused the camper door on the trailer to jam. Teddy tried to open it gently but ended up denting it open. He was not a "Happy Camper". Mean while the nice flat, easy to get into camp group below sat empty the whole weekend. They would not let us camp down there because they said another group was coming in on Sunday? This was also the first time and without warning that Blowing Rock had decided to assign camping spots. It has always been first come, first served and that is why we all arrived early.
As the dust settled and we started saddling up things got a little calmer, till we rode out. We had a nice ride and every one's mules behaved very well but the Park Service for Moses Cone has seem to have forgotten that the trails are for horse and mules to actually ride on. I would say that 50% of the trails are now covered in large gravel. Bigger than Crush and Run that people use in parking lots. Just perfect for sticking up higher than your mules shoe and giving him a nice stone bruise.
Teddy said, "Boy I would like some of this type of rock, on my drive way!" As we rode and I could tell in parts where others have pulled their horses off to the side of the trail to get them off the rocks. This makes an secondary path that in in the grass and mud and will cause more erosion in the long run. That night a few more mule campers arrived and some how we got them parked up on the hill.

Saturday morning we gathered in front of the office. We had two carriages and about 25 riders. We headed off for Rich Mountain. It was a beautiful day, warm for Blowing Rock but not too hot. Rich Mountain is a nice look out place with a trail that wound around and around till you get to the top. At the top there is a round wall filled with dirt to sit on and eat lunch and plenty of places to tie your mules. I took Sadie's bridle off and put her hobbles on. She hopped around for a while until she came up to the wall. It was about 2 1/2 foot in front of her. She started eating the grass on the other side of the wall. Next thing I knew, with hobbles on, she had jumped up the wall and was grazing like it was no big deal! Amazing Mules!
That afternoon when we got back to the barn we got some free entertainment. A man and his wife arrived and while she was checking in at the office he chose to drive down and around the barn where the horse was to be stables. Holly saw the whole thing. The last turn was too sharp to make it past the corner of the barn. So he hit on the top corner of the trailer. She said that rather than stopping, getting out and backing up he just gunned it forward three more times. Each time getting the trailer dented and more stuck on the barn roof. She said he then seemed to get angry and through the truck into reverse and gunned it backwards. Because the trailer was so stuck on the roof it just jerked it sideways and into a tree. By now the wife was running down through the parking lot yelling at her husband to stop! Keep in mind that there is a poor horse still in the trailer too! Now they could not get the horse out because he trailer was still stuck on the roof and now wedged up to a tree in the back. Our friend Blue went down to see if he could help out. When he told the guy that he thought if he dug down about 8 inches under the tire it might bring the trailer off the roof enough to pull it free and the guy said. "I'm not doing that, that's too much work!" Blue left. The barn crew was on it's way down and had to cut a 45 degree angle off the brand new barn roof to get the trailer unstuck. I could not believe my eyes so of course I had to take a photo to share!Earlier that afternoon I was walking back from taking a shower with Reuben on the leash (As we had been very sternly been told by management to do) and the managers dog ran up to us and started attacking poor Reuben. I kept the dog off for a second and yelled. The manager just call her dog back and told him "Bad Dog!" but never apologized or asked if Reuben was OK. Let's just say that I was not a "Happy Camper!" at that point!
We all took off for dinner about 6PM that night. We tried a new Barbecue place. The food was good but it was very cramped and hot in the restaurant. We all cooled off afterward with a trip to the ice cream store! We all enjoyed a nice camp fire with watermelon that night. The next morning majority of us, including me had decided we had, had enough of this "Happy Camping!" and headed home. There was some discussion about whether or not we would return next year.

Sauratown Trail Mule Ride

On June 4,6 & 6th my friend Bev Duval hosted the Carolina Mule Association for a ride on the Sauratown Trail System. I could not come until Saturday morning but Holly and Jane met Bev to for a ride on Friday. They had been riding for a little while when Bev's horse (Yes, she was riding her horse and not her mule) tripped in a large tree root. She and the horse hit the dirt unfortunately not in a very graceful way. Lito the horse was OK, but Bev was hurt. She had a bloody nose, the wind knocked out of her and her neck hurt. Holly stayed with her while Jane took off on Val to meet the EMTs that had been called and then led them back to Bev. Good thing they took all those precautions because poor Bev was really hurt. Once the EMTs took her off to the hospital Holly and Jane ponied Lito back to the barn where they were all camping.
Bev's friend owns the barn where the ride took off from so she was able to take Bev's horse home and then run to the hospital to check on her. They did not let Bev come home until early that morning so we did not see Bev until later the next day for an injury report!
Saturday morning I left the house at 5AM so I could make it to the barn by 7AM and be ready to ride by 9AM. Most of the group lives locally so they started arriving and parking up on the hill and riding down to say hello. We had a pretty good group to go out even thought the day was VERY HOT! We rode 6 or 7 miles to another parking lot that is part of the Sauratown Trails for lunch. Along the way we rode on many different types of trails, our favorite ones were in the trees and by a rolling creek. As we went along the trail passed some very green grass off to the side. Everyone was pointing as they went by it. As I got closer there was a baby deer, with big round eyes laying in the grass. It was staying very still and I don't think the mules even knew it was there.
This is the technique that Mother Deer use to hide their young as they go out to eat. The baby deer are born with almost no scent so they will not be sniffed out by predators. I just hoped that the deer would not move till the whole group got passed. It was strange to this this now, twice in just under a month. Seven nearly stepped on a very young baby deer just a few weeks ago.
When we arrived at the parking area people took advantage of the many tie rails to secure their mules. We also took advantage of the nice covered picnic table for lunch and I laid down for a nap. I could hardly get up after about 20 minutes but my back sure liked the stretch. We rode home with the day still getting hotter!
When we arrived back at the barn we were all surprised to see Bev! She had two black eyes a bloody nose and a neck brace on. You could tell she was sore all over! Turns out she cracked a vertebrae in her neck and is very lucky to even be here! The barn owners surprised us all by having cold drinks for everyone and home made ice cream! Wow what a treat and a surprise!
The next morning Holly, Jane and I packed up and drove to meet Teddy and Luann, Max and Lu and their son. We rode out from a different area of Sauratown Trails and part of Pilot Mountain State Park. The ride was mostly down to the Yadkin River and back up. Teddy, Jane, Holly and I all crossed the river which was very wide and flowing pretty strongly! It was really neat to be out in the middle and see nothing but water. It did not seem to even faze Sadie Mae who was more worried about keeping up with Jane's horse. On the was back she grabbed a branch off a tree and carried/ate it as we crossed back over. Bev continues to get better each day but I am still glad she was not hurt worse than she was!