Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Where in the World Is... The Equestrian Vagabond

May 16 2006

If it’s May I must be…. In Bridgeport California, back for my 9th (!!) season working for the Forest Service. That’s where some of my letters come in: T.B., H.P., S.O.H., W.L.T. - Trail Builder, Horse Packer, Spotted Owl Hooter, Wildlife Technician. I worked on trails for 6 seasons, wildlife for the last three.

The best part of this seasonal job (and take note, after nine seasons I am still a very low peon on the governmental totem pole), besides living and hiking in some of the most beautiful country in the US - the eastern side of the Sierra Nevadas in California, and in Nevada - is I get to work with this district’s pack horses.

I’ve known these 5 horses (actually, 4 horses and 1 mule) for nine years now, more than I’ve known a lot of people, and I like them better than a lot of people I’ve known for that long. We’ve been through a lot of miles and adventures and bags of carrots together over the years.

Since our Wilderness Manager left 4 yrs ago, the horses have been underused and mightily underappreciated, except for me. I’ve donated hundreds of hours over the years to looking after them, providing plenty of TLC, and riding them to get them into shape each summer, because no one else would. Not that I am complaining – I was quite pleased to have them all to myself. I did get to take them on an 8-day pack trip into the wilderness last year… it was quite the educational adventure. It’s an entertaining chapter in my future book.

We have a new district ranger now who not only likes horse, but she rides! She’s not only planning to keep the horses around a while – if we ‘got rid’ of them, they’d have to go to auction, and, very possibly, slaughter, a very unfair FS policy, IMO – but she plans for several people to actually use them. I may use them for packing on a few of my surveys.

I’ve been taking them out on short training rides – a couple of miles up a long grade. I’ll ride one and pony 1 or 2, in a string, like I would on a pack trip, or, the DR will ride with me and we’ll get several out. A new range young con started this week, and she rides! And a new young seasonal rec person, and she rides also! I thought I might actually get a little jealous of these other people horning in on ‘my’ horses, but I am actually happy they are being ridden by people who I can trust to handle them well, if not as precisely as I know how to (my ego talking), having known and worked with them all these years. The horses will be in good hands if I’m not around to ride them every time they go out.

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