Riding the High Desert
By Audrey Pavia, Urban Farm Contributing Editor
Monday, February 21, 2011
Photo by Audrey Pavia
I had to laugh at the stark difference in size between Dan and Milagro on their way home from riding the High Desert.
Every once in a while, I’m lucky enough to get a lift from a friend who owns a horse trailer, and Milagro and I get to go somewhere. Even though there are 90 miles of trails in our urban farm community, it’s nice to ride someplace new.
So when my friend Kathy told me she had entered two competitive trail rides, one on Saturday and one on Sunday, and asked me if I wanted to come along, I jumped at the chance. Both rides were close to each other in southern California’s High Desert, about 75 miles from L.A. We’d arrive at 7 a.m. on Saturday, camp overnight and then ride the other event the next day. Both events were being held at horse-rescue facilities, each of which would benefit from the rides’ proceeds.
Getting up at 4:30 a.m. on Saturday morning—2½ hours earlier than I typically get up for work—to get picked up at 5:15 was my first obstacle, but I managed. As I prepared my horse for the day in the darkness of my backyard, I watched the crescent moon and Venus rise above the hills. Something, I reminded myself, I would not have seen if I’d slept in like I do most Saturday mornings.
Kathy showed up on time, I helped her load Milagro in the trailer next to her huge Clydesdale, Dan, and off we went. I laughed at the view in front of me as I followed the trailer in my car. Dan is 18.1 hands high, and Milagro 14.3. It was quite a sight to see them standing side by side for the next hour and a half.
Our horses were lucky—they had nice stalls waiting for them in a beautiful barn after we finished the 2½ mile trail ride, which took us through the sunny, scrubby desert. Kathy and I, on the other hand, were going to spend the night in our respective SUVs. Temps were predicted to be in the mid to low 30s that night, so I was concerned about freezing my butt off. But thanks to a borrowed zero-rated sleeping bag, layers of clothes and a heavy blanket, I stayed warm enough to sleep through most of the night.
The next morning, we drove to the other horse rescue, just 5 miles away. Just as we mounted up at 10 a.m. to start the our Sunday ride, the wind began to blow. The High Desert is famous for its freezing winds in the winter, so I wasn’t surprised. I was glad the ride was short, though. Being out in that dry, cold wind can really wear you out.
We headed home in the mid-afternoon, me following behind the trailer as we sped through a handful of desert towns on our way back to our urban home. As we headed into the mountains and over the pass, it began to pour. By the time Kathy pulled up to my house, our horses were soaking wet inside the trailer.
Trips like this are necessary for me so I can check in to make sure I haven’t gone soft living in the city. Not every urbanite can camp out in below-freezing temperatures and be on horseback through the desert elements for two days in a row, all without the help of caffeine. Just for good measure—and to prove to myself I could do it—I cleaned stalls when I got home, despite the pouring rain. All this, and on Sunday night I was still wide awake.
Yeah, I think I’ve still got it.
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