Horseback Riding – For the very first time

Riding a horse has been on my life list for quite a while.

Actually, initially it was “Ride a hose” but obviously that was simply a misspelling. Horse was what I meant and when I arrived in Calgary, it seemed like a perfect place to have such an experience!  Riding a horse that is, not a hose. Just to clarify.

And it was awesome!!!

Sarah and I spent some time looking for a good place to book a ride and eventually we came across Moose Mountain Horseback Riding, a place where we could book an hour and a half ride into the foothills of the Rockies.  Not only was their website easy to navigate, but when I called, the woman who answered was incredibly friendly and helpful. After a number of annoying websites and unhelpful contacts, she was exactly what we were looking for and I booked our riding adventure on the spot!

Bragg Creek is a beautiful location! It was raining and quite wet when we arrived but rather than let it bring us down, we decided to embrace the rain!

The main cabin

We were grouped with two other people, a mother and daughter team, whose skill level matched mine pretty well. The mother had ridden before but was a beginner and her daughter was on par with me, the two of us having no previous experience.

Well, except for my ability to point and confidently say “THAT is a horse.” I could do that pretty well.

First thing we had to do? Pick our helmets!  We were already so excited that even helmet picking was fun! Otherwise, we’d come dressed appropriately. I think I reread their list of TO-WEAR a dozen times to ensure that I would be comfortable and ready to ride.

Once we were helmeted up, it was time to meet the horses.   Our guide, Justine, was awesome.  Very open to questions and understanding when we hesitated and needed an extra minute or two to work up our courage.

She introduce me to Emile, while Sarah got to meet Fury.

When we heard the names of our partnered horses, I think Sarah said something like, “Um, pardon? Fury?”

I would have said the same thing! Justine was very encouraging, however, and told us that Fury was a very understanding, experienced and docile horse.

Sarah and Fury became fast friends…had some good times, some laughs….

Sarah and Fury, two peas in a pod!

My partner, Emile, was laid back and cool.

Emile, just chilling 🙂

Unlike me.
I found myself much more hesitant than I expected.
When I tried taking a “Whee! About to ride a horse!” picture…I got this instead….

Um..yaay horseback riding?

Lucky for me, Emile was very experienced dealing with newbies such as myself and didn’t seem to mind my awkwardness as I fumbled with the saddle and tried to tell my feet where to go.

I’m sure at this point Emile was thinking, “Just get up there already!”

 

He also obviously was used to dealing with silly laugh-out-loud Fury!

 

I love how Emile is just standing there, practically rolling his eyes! Hehe!

We headed out into the foothills after a short introduction to riding: how to direct our horse, how to sit, how to speed up, slow down…the usual stuff.
Of course, our horses were very much used to following each other in a line, as this is pretty much what they do all the time, so hard braking wasn’t really needed.

Emile and I were last in the line-up.  I found my groove soon after we set out…relaxing my body, loosening my hips as I had been instructed and allowing myself to move with the horse. It was the most amazing feeling to be moving in tandem with such a large animal who seemed to respect that I was on his back and didn’t necessarily know what the hell I was doing.

He also took advantage of that fact, stopping to eat….often. 😉
Justine would look back to see us and instruct me to “Let him know who’s boss.” “Don’t let him eat…hold the reins and be in control.” I tried. I really did. I’d prep myself for his next snack and grasp the reins well. Then Emile would see a nice patch of greens, lean down to eat and practically pull me up on to his neck as I tried to stop him.

I was the boss? Suuuuuure. Tell Emile that. 😉

Riding a horse through the woods was one of the most amazing experiences. I felt at one with the rolling hills and meadows.  Rather than traipsing through the trees, cracking branches and making typical obnoxious human noises, we practically glided through the woods. We belonged there. The forest  welcomed us.

I really began to feel this way when we walked across a meadow and passed three young bucks and a doe. They watched us, we watched them, and then we both went about our business.

A blurry picture of the deer in question.

The most amazing experience for me, however, was when Emile spotted something in the woods and stopped in his tracks. He pricked his ears forward and gazed intently to the left. Everyone else continued on, unaware that we had paused.

I followed Emile’s gaze and saw a large brown, hairy butt half hidden behind some undergrowth . It moved. I immediately thought “Bear!” Or it might have been “Bear butt!”
I lightly tried calling Sarah, who was a little ways ahead and at that moment, the animal turned and looked at us. A young moose, as curious as Emile, stared at us for a moment, decided that our presence was acceptable and headed off into the bush.

Wow. Amazing. Mind-blowing. Holy shit! What do you say when you meet an inhabitant in whose world you are the trespasser? I gave him a silent nod of respect and we continued on our way.

 

It was an amazing ride that was over much too soon! It whet my appetite for riding , however, and I look forward to going again.  Now I just have to find some place close to Toronto where I can gain experience points.
Moose Mountain offers all sorts of riding adventures, including an 8-day ride that I would LOVE to do one day! When we arrived, there was a group of about 8 people heading out with a guide. They had necessities with them and a vehicle with camping equipment etc was going to meet them at each stopping point during their week-long adventure. So jealous!

Upon arrival back at the ranch, we were given as much time as we wanted to say goodbye to our horses, so Sarah and I spent some time just hanging out with them and taking pictures.

Emile and I saying goodbye

Then we changed out of our wet clothes and ran through the rain to the car!

Asshats!

So, how do you finish off a lovely afternoon of horseback riding? You go to a pub in Bragg Creek that has swinging saloon doors!

I’ll be back Bragg Creek. Count on it!

 

 

 

 

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Chick Check Off my Life List

My Life List of To-Do’s contains all sorts of activities that I would like to do in my lifetime.  From swimming in the Pacific Ocean to spinning thread from scratch, I add all sorts of stuff to the list, nothing is too ridiculous or trivial.

Holding a chick was on my list, along with to see one hatch. I completed half of that but I figure that means I can check it off.

The science teacher at my work had set up an incubator in his classroom where his students spent a number of days observing the eggs as they hatched. By the time I found out about the incubator, the chicks were dry and fluffy and running around, egg-free. So, I missed the hatching part.

I *did* get to hold one though, which was marvelous!  She was small and scared of course, peeping constantly for her siblings to save her, so I managed to grab a couple of pictures and then returned her to her family. I then tried to get a few shots of the chicks in the incubator, but somehow they knew that I was attempting photography and most of my shots only captured Chick Butt.

It was a simple experience that I found amazing and thus, my life list receives another check!

Chick Butt! It’s like they knew I was trying to get a shot!

St Lawrence Islands National Park: another item off my Life List

Recently, I spent a weekend visiting with friends in Gananoque, Ontario.  Well, technically we were out on one of the Thousand Islands, an archipelago of islands in the St Lawrence River that is near the U.S.-Canada border.

I actually spent a week at the same cottage last year and had a blast!  Little did I know until this past weekend visit, that a Canadian National Park was hiding, just around the corner from us!

If you haven’t seen it yet, I maintain a Life List…or a Bucket List (I just don’t like to call it that!)…or two lists rather; one lists all the things I want to do and experience in my life and the second notes all the places I would like to go.

A huge portion of the Places To Go list is dedicated to our Canadian National Parks, all of which I would like to visit at some point, so you can imagine that discovering that a national park was a short boat ride away was quite exciting!

St Lawrence Islands National Park is an absolutely amazing and beautiful park!  Sadly, I was only able to visit one island this time around and, considering there are 21 islands, I most definitely have to go back!  I’m not really sure that I can actually claim a *visit* since 1 of 21 means I haven’t seen much of the park.

But it’s a start…and it was lovely!

En Garde!

Earlier in January, I attended an Intro to Fencing course with B in Hamilton.  I had seen it listed in the college’s Continuing Education catalogue over a number of years and had always thought it would be fun to try.

The intro class did it’s job.  It piqued my curiosity in the sport and made me want to continue into the Level 1 course.  The instructor gave us a lovely review of fencing history, a rough idea what is involved in learning to fence properly, and taught us some basic footwork….I was hooked!

I will admit, after my first 3 classes in the Level 1 course, it is much more complex than I ever would have guessed!

There is so much to remember in terms of movement and focus.  You have to be aware of your foot position, your arm position, your hips that must face forward at all times…not to mention keeping all other parts still when you’re about to strike.  Oh, and let’s not forget the addition of an opponent (which I haven’t gotten to yet) that requires you focus on them and their body language, rather than simply focusing on controlling your own.

So far the most challenging aspect of the course has been the footwork.  Keeping my feet in their proper position and maintaining the space between as I step forward or back….Oh, and did I mention I need to do this while not looking down? 🙂  It’s interesting how distanced we are from parts of our own body, even though we use them constantly throughout a regular day.

Our feet take us to the grocery store, to the post office.  Our hands control our utensils, arrange papers on our desk, poke our loved ones….followed by our arms that hug them.  We just do these things, day after day, and take for granted that we can.

So then, to have to be fully aware of one part, in this case my feet (again, without looking!), or even my hips…my shoulders and whether they’re remaining still as I need them to…it’s all quite complex and difficult.  It’s a challenge.  And I think that’s why I like it.

I went onto Youtube the other day to watch some fencing videos and was blown away.  Our instructor has said many, many times that fencing is fast…extremely fast…I didn’t realize how quick until I saw these videos.  Their footwork?  I can barely see their feet!  Body language?  There must be some in that white blur that I *think* is a fencer but I can’t be sure!

There are eight classes in level 1 so I’m just about to reach the halfway mark.  So far, I’m loving it and it’s getting more challenging as we progress!  Sadly, there is no level 2 offered at the college.  I would have to move to another venue to continue training.

Ah well…as it is, I have five weeks to focus on perfecting my en garde position and learning how to put on my mask one-handed while not stabbing anyone in the process!

Level 2 considerations can wait!

Butt Free Ice Skating

Last night, I finally, *finally* got to go ice skating!

I haven’t been in many years…at least 10 or more that I can recall, so there was no guarantee that I would a) like it and b) be able to do it.  But for the past year and a bit, I’ve been wanting to try again.

Some friends and I went down to Nathan Phillips Square, where you can rent skates.  Figured it made sense to try it out first and be sure I like skating before putting out money for a pair of skates that I may never use.

We arrived around 9:20PM.  The rental shop closed at 10PM and had a sign listing the rental prices.  Ten dollars for a pair of skates for 2hrs!  They must be making quite the profit since I’ve been told that the rink tends to be almost consistently packed with people!

When I approached the window, I asked the guy behind the counter what the cost would be since they closed in 40 minutes and he said $10.  I think I responded with something along the lines of  “Seriously?”  He shrugged and apologized and effectively said, “Yup, I have no choice in the matter…sorry.”

I almost didn’t rent a pair.  $10 for half an hour!!!  Ridiculous.

BUT, then I discussed it with HRH.  We were there.  *I* was there, finally!  So close to the skates, yet so far!  All I had to do was shell out the  money this once and I’d know whether I should buy my own skates or not.  So I eventually (after 30 seconds or so…it didn’t take much convincing! lol) thought “Screw it” and went ahead and paid the man.

I am SO glad I did!  I had forgotten how much fun skating could be!  Sure, I was stiff and my arms were flapping enough that I think I rose an inch or so off the ice a few times *wink*, but I enjoyed it.  The footwork came back (I’m pretty sure my attempt at rollerblading a few months ago helped out) and I managed to skate around the rink a number of times at a fair speed.

You’ll notice in the pictures that I have no snow on my clothing!  Thus the proof that ne’er once did I fall!  No butt skating for this stiff, flappy skater! (Hmmm….those adjectives just sound weird in the that sentence….)

It was also helpful that the rink was fairly empty.  I think the temperature was hovering around -20C or so, which I assume kept some people away, plus it was later at night.  Night skating seems to be the way to go!

Anyway, as a result of a 40 minute go round…I am going to buy myself some skates in the next week or two!  It was really fun and I can’t wait to go again!

Snowshoer Extraordinaire!

One more item scratched off my Life List!

This past weekend, I finally got to try snowshoeing!  Sort of.

We went to Crawford Lake, which is north of Burlington, Ontario.  It’s a lovely place to go hiking, summer or winter and contains a lot of history.  The remains of 10 Iroquois Longhouses were discovered on the site (among thousands of other artifacts) and, as a result, there is now a reconstructed 15th century Iroquois village on site for visitors to explore.  Definitely worth the trip!

I admit, I was hoping for traditional snowshoes…the kind that I imagined would cause me to walk bowl-legged the next day. *grin*

Instead, we rented these:

They were easy to get used to, not as wide as I had expected, and a good introduction to snowshoeing…but I tested them in snow drifts and they didn’t allow me to walk on the snow.  The woman behind the counter had told us that proper snowshoes would be fitted to a person dependent on weight and that our rentals were more of an ‘all-purpose’ snowshoe.

So, I admit I was a little disappointed, but it was still a great experience.  And once we started walking down unbroken trails and carving our own paths, we really started to feel the burn.  Good exercise and a good time was had!  Not to mention we got to take some pics and practice our snowshoe ballet!

As a last reason to go to Crawford Lake (and really, like you need more of a reason!), it’s definitely worth mentioning that the snowshoe rentals were only $12!

  • Conservation Halton’s Website on Crawford Lake – Click Here
  • Wikipedia’s Crawford Lake entry – Click here

For more pics, click here!

To hold a baby chick, drive a skidoo and learn to knit…

Well, not all at the same time…although that would be interesting.

To begin this new blog…this window offering you a glance into my world, I figured writing about my Life List would be a good place to start.

Similar to a Bucket List, it’s a list of things I wish to accomplish in my life…big things, little things…short term, long term…and it is an ever-changing list as I add to it when things come to mind and cross out things when they have been accomplished.

To hold a baby chick is a new addition.  I’ve obviously seen images and I have been told that they are as soft as they look, but I would like to actually see one hatch and hold one in my hand. Ideally not the same chick in both instances as I’m pretty sure they’re slimy, not fluffy, when they first come out of the egg!

On a related note, I would also like to ride a horse someday.  My only equine experience happened when I was about 12 years old.  I was on Prince Edward Island and the resort we were at offered guided pony rides…Okay, okay, so technically a pony experience, not a horse experience….Anyway, the ‘guided’ part was that the ponies were actually hand-guided by a rope and a person walking in front.  So, no actual ‘riding’ took place and five minutes into it, my horse spooked and bucked me off.

Accomplishing that particular goal will obviously require the conquering of some nervousness.

Driving a skidoo?  Self-explanatory, I think.  Doesn’t it just look like a lot of fun?!

Learning to knit…well, I have already started that and I have to say that learning to knit from the internet is hard!

I am presently practicing casting on, the knit stitch and the purl stitch after having a friend demo them to me.  Eventually I will wander into the world of *gasp* actual creation!  Maybe a random sock…or two.  Really, what good is one sock?

One of the more interesting and challenging parts of my life list involves visiting every Canadian National Park.  Not only are there more than 40 of them, but half a dozen of them are in an extreme northerly direction.  I still have time to do it…but I definitely have to get my butt in gear!

This is much more to my list; these are just a few random tidbits.

There.  Blog started. *grin*