Well, it’s the “in-betweason,” when the weather is temperamental and you don’t know if you are dealing with rain or snow. You can run if it’s not too icy. You can ski if there is enough coverage. You can horseback ride, but the horses no longer have shoes on, so you have to go soft and slow for a while and you can’t go high.
My history with Blue Mountain is one of long mellow dog walks. I’ve only recently begun riding horses there, and not too frequently, as it can get a little crowded (of course, that’s relative, I realize). We wanted to get out but we didn’t have a lot of time, so we loaded the horses, drove to Blue Mountain, and meandered through the meadows.
It was a gray day (surprise, surprise) and the air was a little heavy. The cold was sinking in. We tucked our hands under saddle pads when our fingers started to ache. We mostly formed a pod instead of a line, which is always a welcome change.
From the vantage point of horseback, I could still see green left in the ground cover, close to the black muddy earth. I also had the feeling of meeting the horizon, at times struck by the richness of color—tones of blue bleeding from butte and mountain to sky, contrasted against the layers of gray in the clouds and white on the peaks.
At the top of the meadows near tree line, coyotes began to bark and yip and carry on. Our trusty canine companion raised her nose, then turned and ran all the way back to the truck. Our futile calls to her turned to laughter as she disappeared over a rise.
There are many days like this when I just want to slumber under the weight of the gray and that’s when riding horses can be especially enjoyable. They transform familiar landscapes for you as they carry you through them. You still must use your mind and body, but you are supported and the warmth of animal contact helps you generate energy. The sound of hoofs is muffled in the not yet frozen ground and the horses tend to relax into the quiet of the season—their busy time of summer ranch rides and alpine expeditions has passed.
We’ve had our moments of intensity this year. We’ve worked (and played) hard together to climb mountains and cover miles. But we don’t always have to do that, and sometimes I forget. Sometimes I forget how lucky we are to have these open spaces so close to home, where we can get outside and move—even for a just a little while.