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Stagecoach, Nevada, Trail Ride

Rike: A cross between a ride and a hike, where you ride your horse for a while and then get off and walk for a while; sometimes done involuntarily.

Stagecoach, Nevada, isn't the most inviting place to take a trail ride or even a walk, for that matter. The terrain is rocky and the ground is hard, except where the ground squirrels have dug holes. The sagebrush and rabbit bush harbor a passel of critters and every kind of crawly thing, from horned toads to rattlesnakes. It can be a challenging environment whether you're riding or walking.

My wife, Diana, and I had no other place to ride, since we'd not yet acquired a horse trailer. We decided to test our horses' surefootedness in the not-so-distant hills just north of our place.

Diana was riding her green-broke Tennessee Walking Horse filly, and I was on my big, black Missouri Fox Trotter mare, Stormy.

We'd ridden about two miles when we came to our first hill. I took the lead, and Stormy went up the hill like a champ. I was as proud as a peacock, and felt there was no mountain so tall that Stormy and I couldn't climb. My wife's horse was hesitant at first, but made it up the hill and then down the other side we rode.

At the bottom of the hill, we came to a steep-sided dry creek bed with debris lodged in the large boulders that dotted the wash. I started Stormy down the steep side, thinking after her performance on the hill that this creek would be nothing for her. Wrong!

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Stormy moved smoothly down the slope, but as she started up the other side, something spooked her bad and she started crow-hopping. At first I didn't take it seriously, in fact, it was kind of fun. But then she started to dislodge me with her twisting movements. This only lasted a minute or so, but it seemed much longer.

I started getting uneasy. My wife was trying to control her green horse and yell advice at the same time. When Stormy finally settled down, I quit the saddle as quick as I could. As I hit the ground, that spooked Stormy again, and she hunched up like she was going to kick out. I pushed away from her to a safe distance and dropped the reins in the process.

This is when the rike began. Stormy, just a tad barn-sour anyhow, saw the opportunity to leave and took it. She bolted down that dry wash at full gallop. She stopped once at the bend of the creek to get her bearings and took off again, heading for home, we hoped.

Diana, usually my riding mentor, suddenly became my walking tormentor. She lambasted me about letting go of the reins, how this was now a negative experience for her green horse, and on and on she went. I was aghast at how quickly it happened, and now I had a long walk home.

I was also wishing I'd worn boots that didn't have holes in the soles. Diana had decided walking wasn't enough penance for me to pay - she rode alongside reminding me of all the mistakes in my riding skills. It was only two miles, but somehow seemed much longerÉ

When we finally got home, we found Stormy by the backyard fence grazing innocently. I gathered up the reins, stepped back into the saddle, and we finished our ride without incident.

I took that creek bed like I was John Wayne and walked home like I was Johnny Appleseed. But as we look back, we realize this situation could've been dangerous, and it comes down to a judgment call - to hold on and be in close proximity to a large, dangerous animal, or simply let go of the reins and take a rike.

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