My husband and I accidentally happened upon Fort Valley Stables after we went mountain biking at Tasker's Gap this past weekend.
The property looked clean and the man who greeted us was very pleasant.
We shelled out $76 bucks for the two of us to enjoy an hour and a half trail ride.
Now this wasn't my idea of typical horseback riding. Mind you, I'm not a rider. Infact the last time I was on a horse I think I was around 8 or 9 years old.
I expected to gallup through beautiful open fields of green like they do in the movies...but no.
We were obviously still in the mountains. This was going to be a "slow ride" the trail guide told us, "up and down the mountain trails."
"I can handle that," I tell my husband.
We anxiously waited to see which horses we'd be riding.
"You'll be riding Captain," the guide says as he brings out this beautiful brown horse. I like Captain immediately.
"And you'll be riding Outlaw." the guide says to my husband. "You know the difference between an outlaw and a mother-in-law don't ya?"
We both stand there waiting for him to deliver his punchline.
"An outlaw is wanted."
The guide helps me onto Captain and walks us over to a "waiting" area. I'm then warned to keep my distance from the horse in front of me because that horse is known to turn around and "go after" Captain.
Ok. If you know two particular horses don't get along very well...why in the world would you group them together like that?
"Oh and one more thing," the guide says to me before we head out..."Captain is actually short for Captain poops-a-lot." Great. "But don't worry...." he continues, "Outlaw has the worst gas ever...so be glad you're not behind him."
My poor husband.
He thought he was going to have the coolest ride, after all, he was riding the mustang "outlaw"...but it turned out, he was riding one of the slowest and gasiest horses ever and happened to be riding behind me and Captain poops-a-lot. The view probably could've been better.
Just before we start the ride, the guide shouts out some directions that I can barely hear and we're off.
As we start out on our 1 1/2 hour trail ride, I notice that Captain is stomping his foot onto the ground anytime we stop. Maybe his leg was sore, maybe he had something stuck in his horse shoe...but to me...it really felt like impatience.
Anytime I had to pull the reigns back to slow him to a stop, he would turn his head around and look at me like I was some kind of idiot. "Woman..." I imagined him saying, "I know when to stop. I've been doing this gig for years, so let me do my job."
I quickly realized that Captain and I weren't getting along.
He would stop when he was supposed to (sort of), but he wouldn't start again when I told him to. I would let loose on the reigns and give him a little nudge on the sides....nothing. I would shout, "Go Captain! Go!" Nothing. I would give him a harder nudge on the sides...nothing. "Please Captain?" No, not even begging worked. The guide noticed that we weren't moving and shouted to me that I needed to really "kick" him on the sides. I don't know about anyone else, but I couldn't bring myself to do it. I can't intentionally "kick" an animal unless it's threatening my life.
So we sat there a good minute or so before I completely gave up trying to get him to move. When I stopped trying, Captain turned around, looked me in the eye and then decided to go. Again, it was as if he were trying to prove a point. "Lady, I understand when to stop, I understand when to go. You don't run the show here. When I want to move, I'll move."
"Captain," I said. "If we're going to do this, we need to understand each other." My husband starts giggling behind us...assumingly because I'm having a conversation with a horse or because his horse is farting so much it seems to be pushing them forward up hill. =)
I start petting Captains neck, hoping he'll realize I'm not a bad person. He swishes his tail up and whips the back of my arm. Ok. Obviously we're not going to be friends.
The ride was long and arduous. I felt extremely bad for making these horses carry us up and down mountains...yet at the same time...I really was enjoying the challenge of working with an animal to get from point A to point B and trying not to piss it off.
Here are a few things I learned about horses for all you "non-riders".
-If there are trees, bushes with really sharp thorns or low-hanging branches with huge scary spider webs anywhere near a trail...horses will put you in them.
-If a horse puts its ears back...he's not happy. You best make him happy quickly.
-If a horse puts his ears forward...he's listening to something. Don't interfere.
-If there is mud, a horse will stomp through it and get you dirty.
-If the horse in front of you stops to take a poo, you better stand back at least 12 feet. This should be self-explanatory.
-If a horse pulls his head up high while making a sound similar to that of a really good zerbert, he's irritated with you. Leave him alone.
-If a horse stops to pee, get comfortable...it's going to be awhile.
Overall, it was an ok experience, but not someplace I'd go again. After the ride I learned that my husbands horse was missing two shoes. Not very nice for the horse.
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