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High Plains Ride

HIGH PLAINS RIDE by Joan Burns

After reading Joy's adventure, I became rather inspired and decided to share my January ride with you.

Having acquired a new young horse straight from the breeder I was a little nervous about taking her away on a week's trip but decided to bite the bullet and go anyway- Background on this mare is zilch, she was bred to race but they couldn't get a syndicate going so just turned her out at 2 years and forgot her I purchased her as a 4 year old and we spent 2 months doing ground work with her before I climbed aboard. She was lethal under saddle, man could she buck so I sent her to a breaker who, after 10 days decided she would be okay as long as I kept riding her for good distances, so I felt a week's ride in the high country should be to her benefit. I set about getting her fit, riding 5 times a week through the bush at home for a couple of months I broke her to hobbles and rigged up my own nightline as a test. She was ready and we had become good friends.

The truck picked her up mid morning arid I followed a few hours later. I arrived at She Sheepyard Flats (near Merrijig), greeted some old friend and set up my tent. I then wandered over to find my horse happily tethered on her nightline and she squealed her delight at seeing me. 1 felt good about this, the vibes were okay and she was very calm amongst the other horses. What would tomorrow's ride bring?? A bucking bronco or an uncontrollable idiot.

We set off about 10a.m. on a short ride, just to settle everyone in and for the Trail Leader to check out rider ability and horse compatibility & capability before we began our trek (I still don't know exactly where we went' only that we seemed to finish on the top of the world). Now where to place this horse. Middle to front sounded good so I just let her have her head and we settled in behind the leaders at a forward trot (the leaders being jiggy horses – Appy’s and Arab X's). We crossed a river for the first time, the only obstacle I had been unable to show her. She just followed along and I was pretty pleased about this. 3 hrs later when we got back to camp I knew I had a fit horse. She came back as keen and forward as she went out, but controllable.

That evening just as we Sat down to our meal there was a commotion of horse's hoofs and everyone jumped up and ran to see what was wrong. There were horses running up and down the nightlines, all panicky. Where was mine - standing still arching her neck down to sniff a Koala that was standing up on his hind legs to smell her. No one had a camera ready but it would have made a lovely post card snap. I think she thought it was a possum and she is quite used to them!.

Next day's ride was 35 km. with 32 water crossings. It was very scenic and we were directly opposite Mt. Bulla, winding our way up and up. This time I had slotted in at the tail end and we made friends with another young horse who was just taking it nice and quiet. This suited me as I didn't want to be pushed along by the jiggy joggers and besides, the school horses all kick and bite. There was one mishap on this leg. As we wound our way along, Indian file, the side of the cliff caved in and one horse went over.

Luckily his rider jumped off as this was happening but he did sustain a badly bruised leg and hip. The horse somehow landed on a ledge about 4 meters down and managed to scramble back up, unscathed. How lucky can you be. We stopped at a couple of high country huts for a look and finally arrived at our campsite named Bindaree, which was full of bindy eyes, and stuck to everything This camp site wasn't much and the river was only a stream but at least we had a proper toilet. The Parks people had erected toilets at all the camping areas and maintained them very well.

We set up our tents and soon had a fire going. Rugs were needed as the air had become quite cold. I was a little concerned about MarIo's feet as we had struck a tot of sharp rocks and I was wishing I had got pads put on her but she seemed happy so I went off to bed, only to be awakened some time later by a thrashing horse, mine to be exact. She was lying down groaning and I thought no, you couldn't have tied up. I had been so careful with the feed and water and she was fit so what's gone wrong. Stupid horse; she must have kicked out at the horse tethered behind her and somehow got its nightline caught up on her back leg. It was just lying across her toe and had bought her down to the ground. I quickly released it and stood back, waiting, waiting, waiting. She just kept moaning and groaning. 1 flashed the torch to her head and ran my eye along her lead-rope. Nothing was amiss, it wasn't around her neck or anything. I spoke to her and called her name, she sat up, looked at me then stood up. She must have winded herself when she went down but she was alright. Phew! Back to bed.

Morning came and I had a very sore horse. Nearside front was bruised but she could walk on it, back leg stiff. Nothing to do but press on. We had a 5 hr. ride to Lovicks hut and would this dirt road ever end. Eventually we cut up a track to the top and behold, the Bluff. What a view, mountain ranges all round and a clear blue sky. We rested about an hour and then beaded on. MarIo was looking lame on the front and those red and white steers looked menacing so 1 dismounted and walked. We had 2 spare horses, both school nags, one being led and one running loose. (this being the one that fell over the cliff, his rider having gone to hospital to be checked out.) For some reason the led horse was turned loose too and of course they both took off in the wrong direction - home. A couple of the boys gave chase but gave up and eventually caught up with me, so I had some walking company for the last few kms. Camp, at last. We had 2 corrals and a good sized hut with a shower and toilet. Reasonable grazing areas and a few spots to pitch your tent in privacy. Out came the hobbles for Mario and I collapsed onto my bed for an hour's rest before dinner.

This campsite was not to my liking in a lot of ways. The hoses were hooked up to the spring for our showers but we had to take the horses to the dam for water and this was awful. It was fouled by the cattle and had turned to mud with large tadpoles everywhere. Each time you tried to fill your bucket you had to scoop out tadpoles but strangely, the horses didn't mind. They drank it but oh for a creek or river for my horses feet. You couldn't stand in the dam, you sank, then the mud would set like cement. It was awful. Black dust everywhere but the snow gums were lovely.

I went to bed dreaming of Rowdy Yates and Rawhide and am positive there was a stampede during the night. Thank god I placed my tent to the side of the clearing. Those steers roamed all night and I lay petrified they would trample my tent.

The next day was an optional rest day and I wanted to do some washing but gave it a miss. I think I went back to bed at 10.30 am and slept for 3 hours, only to be woken by a convoy of 4 wheel drivers passing through, 15 in total. They roared along, not caring about the dust they created all over our tents. Marlo spent the day in the corral where she could stretch out and roll, and try and loosen up her stiff back leg. I was still worried about her front feet, no heat but they were badly bruised. I got Rob McCann to look at her next morning (yes, Horseland Rob who actually was on the ride last year too and came back for a second dose) and he seemed to think it was more a poor shoeing job, with the shoe being too close to the bulb, and the toe too short for trail riding. Well, she was still sore on the front but okay at the back but I didn't want to ride her.

We had a discussion and Hannah offered to lead her, (Hannah being the rider of the young horse we had got very friendly with). I rather felt that she could run along loose but others said no, she would take off and get lost. I didn't risk it so she was led and I rode with the luggage, and could you believe it, the riders beat us down to the camp at Pikes Flat. Mind you, I drove with Warren who has a very old vehicle and took the long route down. My horse had led beautifully and was happily tethered, surveying the scenery. I think this was my favorite camp. The river here was excellent with deep swimming holes and wide and shallow in other areas. I stood MarIo in the river for 20rnins. each time on and off for the remainder of the afternoon. She seemed to feel it was doing her good and was very happy just standing in water up to her knees. Next day was a rest day and very hot. I did the water trick with my horse again and she was walking evenly once again. My turn. We did all our washing and skinny dipped (well, sort of I wasn't baring my bum to all and sundry). We carried our chairs into the river, sat in a circle, drank and laughed all afternoon There was a very big fenced area for the horses and they all went in and grazed and rested in their groups, no fighting as they all knew one another by now and had sorted themselves out.

Marlo was pronounced sound next day and we set off on our last leg. 32 more river crossings and a treacherous cliff to maneuver. No mishaps and we arrived back at Sheepyard flats 4 hours later to find it crawling with campers. It looked like Rosebud during the holiday season. We had to spread out along the river with other campers in between us but quite a few new arrivals also had horses. We even met up with some riders from the Disabled Riders group that we knew from past rides so our final night was very merry and noisy. We also found our 2 missing horses, just grazing but I think they were glad to be found. I was delighted with my new horse and now have to face ARC and dressage although a cross-country course will be a romp in the park for us 1 think.

Happy riding - Joan.

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