We didn't have any puppies along this time (see the report from last year's trip), but there are several more kids than there were the first year. Right now the numbers are 6 kids to 6 adults - even steven.
Our picket line has grown over the years as well. The horse trailer has reached max capacity.
Unlike last year, we actually had beautiful weather. Warm, sunny, breezy weather with verdant green scenery and cool creeks to wade in. Family, camping and horses... life doesn't get much better.
I don't think our kids know how good they have it, but they do seem to enjoy themselves tremendously. In fact, they had so much fun riding horses all weekend the first thing I was requested to do Monday morning was call the ponies back up to the house and give them riding lessons in the arena. Which, of course, I did. I can't resist the combination of kids and horses.
This is every girl's dream:
Just living the cowgirl life.
Though we are not able to all hit the trail together, due to multiple young babes hanging out in the campsite, we manage to take turns riding and babysitting. Which actually seems to work out well because after a couple hours of hard riding it sounds pretty appealing to sit around and watch the kids play. Tim & Sharon headed out first while we took turns giving the children pony rides all over the campsite. Children riding sweet little ponies get lots of attention, and Saturday was packed. There were horse trailers everywhere you looked.
By the time we, the middle generation of Dodsons, hit the trails most people had finished their morning rides and we had the woods to ourselves. We explored the northwest corner of Lead Mine, noticing wild flowers, shiny green beetles, butterflies, tadpoles and box turtles; crossing creeks and jumping over logs.
Here Clay and Ben water their horses at a creek crossing. This is where we encountered a cute little water snake the next day, swimming straight towards the horses right after we were discussing the unlikely theory that horses splash in the water to scare away snakes. Apparently that water snake didn't get the memo from Chico's vigorous water antics.
Saturday evening Clay and I took a test run with the kids in the buddy saddles:
Half way through the ride Margaret started giving me a nice back massage. Just when I thought life couldn't get any better. Yet another reason to love the buddy saddles.
After we got back from that test run we saddled up Samson and took him for a test run - his first time trail riding....actually the first time riding really anywhere besides the arena. Clay rode on Lady to give him an experienced horse to follow. He only really had one little spook/bolt incident, which was under control quickly, and besides that did awesome. He's an awesome little guy in general.
A successful first day of trail riding under the belt. We enjoyed a late dinner, settled the kids in the various tents, relaxed around the campfire, and then hit the hay. After listening to the sleepy sounds of horses nickering and stomping in trailers, robustly singing whippoorwills, crickets chirping in the immediate vicinity of my head, and a various other assortment of nighttime noises I managed to fall asleep after a couple hours. Shortly afterward.....well, long story short, I was thankful to squeeze in a few hours of sleep. Fortunately the day time festivities made it well worth it.
Next morning, Amelia looked how I felt.
And so did William, as he watched his bacon being cooked. A boy without his bacon is like....well, actually that might be too horrendous to contemplate.
A couple pounds of bacon and a few glasses of coffee later (or hot chocolate, according to age), we were all feeling a little better.
Poor Susannah missed out on the piles of bacon, but she seemed pretty happy with her baby cereal. Note that her bib says "feeding time" and pictures a couple of horses running. This was a gift (to her older sister) from her equine vet auntie. We like to encourage a horse obsession early in life.
Even Sackett got a slow start in the morning.
Sackett, do you realize how many little kids are in love with you?
(I'm pretty in love with the little boy in this picture.)
Here is the 2nd annual Dodson-kids-in-a-tent picture:
I can't resist horses in the morning light.
Here William & Tramp pose for a new "The Black Stallion" book cover.
After breakfast, dressing, some packing up camp and some last minute hoof trimming, we were ready to hit the trail again.
This time we hit the trails with the buddy saddles and Samson. It was a big trip for everyone involved, and it couldn't have gone better. This was the first long (2+ hour) trail ride with the kiddos, and they loved it. I was so proud of them for being cheerful and tough the whole way, even being brave enough to try a few long trotting stretches!
Not only that, but Margaret went over her first jump - off-roading with Clay & Chico.
William was John Wayne, naturally. He also, very astutely, noted that though we had a Buddy saddle for him, Margaret needed a Sweetie saddle instead.
Now, this is the part of the blog where I gloat about my two little equine proteges. So for those of you with absolutely no interest in horses whatsoever, feel free to skip the next couple paragraphs.
I couldn't have been prouder of Chico and Samson this weekend. Chico only had one little flare-up concerning a rather intimidating yellow jeep (fortunately, while I was riding him). He was perfect the entire rest of the weekend and took excellent care of my husband and first born. He'll always have his *charming* Chico personality, but he's getting to be quite the nice little family and lesson horse. And I have to say, I'm pretty fond of his constant groaning and grunting as we travel down the trail....
Sammy boy was fabulous. He seemed to actually enjoy trail riding, which is a special gift for some horses. Though he was much more relaxed when following other horses, he also happily took the lead for long stretches and seemed alert but calm, happy, and positively adventurous. The only times we had to have another horse take the lead again is when we came to creek crossings and the ginormous log across the trail. Such a fun horse to train.
We made it, hot, sweaty & happy back to camp where we recouped with lots of water and iced coffee.
Then, just before leaving, we took the kids to wade in Jake's Creek to cool off. What a perfect way to end the weekend.