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Our Second Iowa Ride

Published: 6/24/2012
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Editor's Note: Mainers Away! is a new NickerNews category which features the travels and experiences of Maine horsemen and women. For more Mainers Away! articles, CLICK HERE.

By Maddy Butcher Gray

With experience comes confidence. So with one big ride behind us, the pony and I were game for anything.

Bring it, Iowa!

Iowa brought a banquet.

CLICK here for First Ride (with video)

SCROLL DOWN for new video.

The second ride started with a shriek.
We were all set: tacked up, bottle of water tied to the saddle, treats in my jean jacket. I reached for my armitas. A black spider, big as my fist, crawled out from them and scurried toward my leg.

Now, I’m not a killer, but I made an exception here. Then I took another five minutes to look for any of his family members. Maine doesn’t have big, black, hairy spiders.
We got going and headed down the county road, a long, mostly straight road that leads through miles of Hawkeye Wilderness Management area along the Iowa River.
It can be a busy road with farmers and boaters driving fast and trailering all kinds of equipment. They were unfazed by horse and rider, of course. But the sounds of truck and trailer on gravel rattled Pep. So did the random rocks flying out from their tires. And the thick plume of dust enveloping us as they passed was a new phenomenon, too.
And then there was the firing range.
I have a whole new respect for Mounted Cowboy Shooters and their fine horses!
Dozens of gun owners visit this firing range every day to get in their target practice. They shoot everything from revolvers to assault rifles. It sits right next to the road. There is no going around it.
We managed to move past, but not without ample discussion. There was a bit more deliberation when we discovered the shotgun and archery range at the next mile.
Behind the archery range, we found a huge swath of field bordered by woods and water. The Department of Natural Resources leases out thousands of acres each year. Some fields were full of wheat and many had soybeans and corn on the way. Those farmers used mighty big equipment – two stories high, with big shiny teeth and mammoth tires.
Let’s just say the water crossings were the least of our concerns.
But along with the rich soil of the flood plain comes fabulous footing for riding. We trotted past cottonwoods and listened to scores of birds: Orioles, Cardinals, Indigo Buntings, Towhees, Meadowlarks, Vesper Sparrows, cowbirds and blackbirds all make their homes here.
We stopped for snacks and lingered in the sandy footing of an Iowa River tributary.
At one point, we followed a path through a belly-high field of wheat right near the Iowa. We met a man bow-fishing for carp. It was sport, he said.
Carp aren’t good eatin’, he told me, then pointed up river to a tree where a large bird perched. “Except for the eagle. He’ll probably be down here in 10 minutes, grabbing what I caught,” he said.
Pep can live up to her name. When the road is open and friendly, she finds stopping or even going slow distasteful. On this ride, once we started galloping, she saw no need for any other gait. Slowing her with no rein contact is a work in progress, so I was thankful for the space to slow by pulling her around in a circle.

On our Maine rides, we had more natural barriers. Maine has trees. Lots of them. They smell great and provide a woodsy intimacy to our rides. We get good at hugging horses’ necks as we duck low branches. We push off from tree trunks as we pass so our kneecaps won’t get crushed.
But apparently, we’re not in Maine anymore.

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7/26/2014 S. Davies
I too recently acguired a small farm of 10 acres and want to ride down the road also. Haven't done it yet but your video makes me want to! I have two horses that still need more exposure to my rhythm, feel and balance. I liked the video very much and your stories!

"There are no problem horses, only problem riders" - Mary Twelveponies