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Trail riding as good as ever

Published: 10/22/2012
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By Maddy Butcher Gray

More than New Year's or the beginning of summer, the transition from summer to fall always gives me pause. It’s a reflective time as daylight shrinks and animals uproot themselves from summer climes and move on.

Trailriding is fun in a different way; rides are quiet and more subdued, but noisy and frenetic in patches. Horses are calmer and more conditioned, but the crisp air combined with new smells and sounds can make them fresh and on edge.  The partnership-building and months in the saddle start paying dividends now.

Iowa is an insane avian thoroughfare this time of year. There are clouds, not flocks of birds. Their sounds are so intense it startles the dogs and horses. If you stop near these masses or if they linger around you, their thousand-voiced calls make for loud, pleasant white noise.

Grackles, blackbirds, starlings, and swallows float on invisible rollercoasters. They seem to search out and descend on each other, combine in droves, and then take to the air again. They turn a field from brown to black when they land. Telephone poles, trees, and shrubs seem to hold them all, but on closer approach, scores more spring up from the ground and grasses.

Not coincidently, there are hoards of raptors, too. On today’s ride, I saw at least 20 within an hour. There are Red Tailed, Sharp-Shinned, Cooper’s, and Marsh hawks along with Bald Eagles, and many others.
The foliage, many of you may like hearing, is duller than in New England. But nice and not without exceptions – some trees perfectly glow with leaves.
In June, I was shocked by the bright green hues of Iowa’s grasses and planted fields. That landscape palette faded as a summer of heat and drought set in. Now, we have gorgeous reds, yellows, purples, and browns as plants close up shop for the season.

Like Maine at this time of year, there’s a refreshing dimension to riding through the woods. You can see. And by that I mean, you can see beyond the next turn. You can see animals before they find cover. You can see nests they've left behind.
After deer season (From the way folks are talking, it may be more dangerous and foolish than in Maine. If that’s possible.), I'm looking forward to more exploration. With the woods opened up, bushwhacking is more fun. You can maintain a quick pace even if you’re wandering, getting kinda, sorta, not really lost.

Happy Trails wherever you are!

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10/25/2012 Linda Bailey
What a wonderful time of year to ride. For those of us who like to ride with company it would be great to see listed some of the organized rides before winter. The more rides that are listed the better chance of a ride scheduled close by. The leaves are gorgeous!
10/25/2012 Jane (UK)
Sounds like you are livin' the dream Maddy...autumn is so beautiful!...intrepid exploration and bushwackin' favourite thing! :)
11/19/2012 DAWN BRENNAN
Here in Montana, it is lions and turkeys and bears oh my that frequent our riding trails. Luckily my horses have at least smelled/seen these various creatures several times as they have passed through their pastures so meeting them on or near the trail isn't quite as scary.

"Here lies the body of my good horse, The General. For years he bore me around the circuit of my practice and all that time he never made a blunder. Would that his master could say the same." - President John Tyler's epitaph for his horse