The first thing I noticed was her demeanor. I’m pretty sure that throughout the nearly three hours I was at Equine Escapes, run by Kelly, she never stopped smiling. She was smiling despite the fact that she was finishing up a trail ride, and for whatever reason she was walking, not riding, her horse, and about to head out for another, on what I can only imagine was yet another busy day in the foothills of the cascade mountains and on that day, it all came with a light sprinkling of rain.
Rain, ugh. I sat on the beach and got a touch of brown on my skin the day before! But Sunday, the day I’d booked my ride for, was rainy. I thought it’d be cancelled. I contemplated texting, calling, confirming. Then I realized, this is Seattle. I’ve watched enough episodes of Grey’s Anatomy to know it’s always rainy in Seattle. So I shut down my weather app and made the drive east on I-90, drove through Issaquah, and tried to ignore the droplets falling on my windshield with ever increasing frequency and gusto.
I parked at the trail head, bundled my camera up in its raincoat, did the same to myself, and got out of my car to meet Kelly. The second thing I noticed upon meeting the crew was her horses, these are not your typical trail ride horses. Not sure how to tell the difference between the good and the bad? I’ve written about that before. But a few things to note – There’s a line on the hind end of a horse which runs vertically, separating the two main muscles at the top of their back legs (the stifle) this line doesn’t exist on an over or underweight horse. This line is a sign of a fit, well-conditioned, healthy horse. Take a look at a race horse, you’ll see the line. Know where else you’ll see that line? On all the trail horses at Equine Escapes. They’re also shiny. You know how we all chase that beautiful, radiant, shiny mane on top of our heads? We spend a big buck on conditioner to make sure we gleam? Well, horses, though they may now know it, want that shiny sheen as well. But a horse’s shiny coat is not usually the result of an expensive conditioner (though it can be) but rather a healthy diet and good owner maintenance. And finally, Kelly’s horses looked happy, relaxed, and content. In the same way you might be able to tell if a dog has ever been hit in his life you can notice the same in the way a horse interacts with humans. If he’s skittish and wide-eyed, things are not going well in his home life. All of the trail horses with Equine Escapes were clearly unconcerned with the quality of their home lives.
So off we went, right? No, not quite. Kelly’s trail ride was the very first I have ever been on where all the riders are walked through how to actually ride their horses. There were seven of us. The youngest amongst us was probably six or seven years old. There were three riders who had never been riders before. In other words, it was their first time, ever, on a horse. So we went through the steps. Where do your hands go, how do you stop, how do you go, how do you turn, where do your feet go, what do you do when going uphill, what do you do when going downhill. Any questions? Kelly’s got you covered.
And, if you’re like me, and you’re perhaps more comfortable in a saddle than, say, at the wheel of a car, she’ll do her best also to accommodate you.
The quirky one, that’s how she described Thunder to the crowd. Everyone looked scared, ‘not me,’ they quickly threw out there. No one wants the quirky ones. I do. The quirkier the better. Especially if we’re going on a plod along trail ride.
But, amazingly, it wasn’t an entirely plod along trail ride. Though we did plenty of plodding, and the horses very happily would have gone tail to nose through the forest for an hour with absolutely no objection, I was not only allowed, I was encouraged to hold my handsome steed back and go for a bit of a trot, or as Thunder and I did, a pleasant little lope.
That was perhaps the most impressive aspect of Kelly’s trail ride. She managed to find that balance between making the youngest and the most inexperienced and terrified of us feel absolutely safe and happy, while also allowing those of us with experience who probably would have fallen asleep had we been forced in the middle of the plod along group to have a bit more fun. And that is no easy feat.
So no, you won’t be hanging onto the saddle for dear life dreading the moment you inevitably get launched into the air, and you also won’t be bored to tears. You’ll be allowed to find your place and your pace amongst the herds of elk whose brown you’ll surely spot throughout the deep, lush, mossy green of the foothill forests. And if you have any concerns you’ll be able to voice them during one of Kelly’s many
‘all right back there?’
‘how you doing in the back?’
So, saddle up with the confidence that with Kelly at Equine Escapes you’re in extremely capable hands on the back of a very happy, very healthy horse and get out there, go explore (but stay on the trails!).
The Country Jumper contains some affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, I will earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks for reading!