I Pulled My Horse Off Trail

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Reflections from our 2017 Colorado Trail

Sitting and reminiscing. I learned a lot on the Colorado Trail. In this picture, we had just rode over the Continental Divide descending down into this beautiful meadow. It was so pretty there! We set up camp, and the horses had so much grass to graze on for the rest of the day.

I think back to the end of the Colorado Trail with Makani. I have never really posted about it. Though, I’ve replayed it a million times in my head wishing and thinking of anything that I could have been done better to avoid it.

Day 23 (recap)

At the end of Segment 23, we camped across from a huge, herd of sheep. Those stupid sheep. And I’m talking hundreds of screaming sheep running around on a mountain. Makani was terrified. She was so worried about the sheep that she barely ate or drank that day. I remember trying to hand graze her further away, but nothing helped. Tied her to a tree at our campsite, because she was definitely not going to stay in camp as worried as she was. It was unfortunate. We had a difficult segment in the morning, but I couldn’t calm her down enough. I do believe this greatly affected the next day of our ride.

Day 24 (recap)

The next day started off okay, though. We had to ride by the sheep and by then I guess Makani was finally tolerating the sheep because she barely paid any attention to them when passing right by them. A few hours in, we finally parted from the Continental Divide Trail and started a lengthy descent back down of about 4000 ft. Segment 24 was by far one of the most beautiful segments of the whole trail, though extremely difficult.

After the descent, there was another 2000ft climb up. We crossed the Animas River over a large bridge and then grazed the horses for a bit. Makani was hungry. If I could go back to this day, I would have made sure to stay there much longer and just let my horse rest and graze.

But we started up the switchbacks. Makani and I were getting behind. I was leading her by then. I told the group to go ahead and not wait for me. We knew where we were going to camp… I’ll catch up eventually.

So we parted ways.

There began the longest, two mile climb for us. I stopped many times to let Makani rest and graze at what little we found on a single track trail. Food was also a problem for me. My stomach was not handling our dinners very well, and I was extremely sick to my stomach hiking up since I had quickly ate through the food I had with me that day (and Makani ate my granola bar because those are her favorite). But we kept moving.

Every time a hiker passed descending, I would ask how far the big horse group in front of me was. They kept getting farther away. We were climbing slow.

At the top, we took a long break. Makani grazed and I just sat there checking how many more miles we had to go. Only about three… but those three miles took forever! By then, the group should have already made it to camp or at least was really close. We were a couple hours behind.

We continued walking. I had accidentally missed a turn, but in the end it was probabaly meant to be because we come across some much needed water. I tied Makani to a tree and went back until I found the right path.

Then we kept walking. And walking. And walking. Until we finally saw the highway. Were close to the end of the segment. But it kept going and going. I swear it felt like we weren’t getting any closer. By then, Devan and her dad had started walking back on trail to find me. Devan grabbed Makani’s lead, and I’m pretty sure they had some food for me. I was exhausted and out of it. We had about half a mile or so until we reached the campsite.

Day 25 & 26 (recap)

We rested there 2 days. The horses grazed and rested. We went into town and ate REAL breakfast for the first time in like 20 something days.

Segment 25 was next. When we started off, Makani felt great and back to normal. Early on, I stopped to fix my saddle. When I got back on Makani, she took off running to catch up to the group. She was feeling like her wild self again. We rode about 14.5 miles and camped near a waterfall. I remember as soon as we had the tents up a huge storm came rolling in. We all just hid in our tents. All the horses were lose. We didn’t tie any of them up. Thankfully, they all stayed nearby – soaking wet, but grazing. This campsite did not have much to graze on. I hand grazed Makani where we could find grass and picked extra grass for her while she ate. I always picked grass for her to have on the highline before heading to bed.

Day 27

The next day was the worst. We rode 5-6 miles to finish up the segment. Devan’s dad met us at Celebration Lake with refreshments. The horses were grazing, but I noticed Makani stopped and wanted to go down. I walked over to her. Respiratory rate and pulse were high. Way too high. Saddle came off. We were crushing up Tums and syringing it into Makani’s mouth. It was kind of a blur for me. We were worried about thumps and… well colic. There was no trailer access where we were. Definitely would have not been able to get a vet out there.

Everyone unsaddled their horses. Camp was set up. We weren’t going any further that day. I knew as soon as the saddle came off Makani what I was going to do. What I had to do. I think everyone else knew too, but they kept quiet and allowed me to come to terms with it.

After about maybe an hour or so, Makani started drinking and eating. I left her loose. She stayed around with the other horses grazing and resting. I hiked up part of the trail of segment 26… we had cell service up there. I made some phone calls. I talked to my parents. I cried. I cried a lot. I felt like I failed. Not the whole trip. By then, I didn’t care about me getting to the end of the trail; It was the fact that I failed my horse. My best friend. I didn’t get her to the end of trail. Two segments left… I was devastated.

To me, it was my fault. I know, I know. Sometimes things happen that can’t be controlled, but I blamed myself. I still kind of do.

But my horse was a warrior. She gave me her best. The wildest, toughest, and most reactive horse I have trained so far… no one thought she’d be ready to even ride by the start day of our Colorado Trail ride. All the blood, sweat, and tears leading up to that first day on trail on July 1st, 2017. She was a WILD, little thing.

She liked to lead out on trail every morning setting a nice pace for the morning. She took me over some crazy, tough trail. She took care of me. We learned to trust. It was time for me to take her off trail and take care of her.

I think we all cried. That night sitting together in one tent as I told the group that I would not continue on trail with them the next day.

Day 28

Heading in the opposite direction of the group was hard that morning. Makani wanted to stay with the herd, but our ride was over.

There was no easy trailer access to our location. The only option was to continue on trail for the next 10 mile segment or head down – I believe it was 5 miles – down a road until we reached a spot where a trailer could pick us up at. I chose the lesser mileage. It was also a descent… no climbing. It took us hours to get down. We got down to the spot we needed to wait. Unsaddled. Dropped all my gear and we just stayed there waiting. Our ride was done.

Makani had a good 5 or 6 months off when we got back to Texas. She was treated for ulcers. Aaaannnnd she’s still pretty wild! Fat and sassy right now.

I wanted to go back to Colorado to finish the trail this year. It wasn’t time for it though. One day. One day, I would like to finish with Makani. We’ll just have to see. Since then, we have contined our training and exposure to new things. I recently took her on her first solo camping trip, and she settled in on the first day. A few weeks later, we trailered to a new place to camp to again camp by ourselves, and she was settled in right away.

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Young women promoting courage, tenacity and grit. Relive our 2017 trek across the Colorado Trail and follow along as we prep for a ride on the Pacific Crest Trail in 2021.

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