After a short distance we came to the French Trail turnoff and I realized we were now heading straight for where the bear was! Needless to say, Sweetie was very hesitant. I listened for rustling noises, and sure enough, we heard them and stopped and waited for them to fade into the distance. I looked down and saw fresh, still wet bear scat! It looked like the bear had been eating some kind of dark purple berry. I don't know what the bear was doing up in the tree, but it was gone now. All the way up the French Trail Sweetie was on the lookout, checking out every large object we passed as a potential bear, boulders, logs, everything. Hey, she's no fool, she has the Mustang defense mechanisms going for her.
She never panicked, I never felt her heartbeat through the saddle, but I would've liked to see what her pulse reading was while she was looking at that bear. Unfortunately, I had the monitor all hooked up but had left the watch receiver at home. About a month ago, riding with Sue, Raven was on a mission to explore new trails, and tried to turn off every side trail we came to. Suddenly he took off down a game trail, dragging Sue through branches in the process, and disappearing into the woods with Sue yelling all the way. Sweetie tried her best to follow him, but I was damned if I was going to let her do that, so she spun around and started to panic. It was then that I felt her heart pounding through my treeless Sport Saddle. I hate it when they do that! I talked her down and did my best to calm her until finally Sue got Raven turned around and came back. One of these days I'll get a heart monitor reading of that pounding-through-the-saddle heartbeat.
A week ago on a Sunday, Sue and I set out for ride, and not twenty minutes into it, Raven sideswiped a branchy tree and scraped Sue right off. She fell hard on her side right in front of him and hit her un-helmeted head on a rock! I yelled, "Are you alright?" and Sue said yes, but when I jumped off and went over to her, all she was concerned about was where her iphone was. It was a couple of feet away on the trail and I handed it to her. She had road rash on her upper arm but was otherwise OK. She got back on and decided to go a different way at the next intersection, cutting her ride short and telling me to do as long a ride as I wanted. She still went and rode for two hours. I told her she needed to start wearing a helmet.
I continued on alone after fighting with Sweetie to keep her from following Raven. We went all the way down the French Trail and then took the Robie Trail in a southwesterly direction. When I got near the creek crossing I started hearing singing. It turned out to be a big group of Japanese tourists marching along with walking sticks and singing in Japanese. They pulled over to let me pass and the last one saluted me. I saluted back. They cracked me up. The two Mounted Assistance Unit riders I caught up with a few minutes later felt the same way.
Eventually I met up with the Dead Truck Trail, which really does have an old 40's truck down the side of a ravine. How it got there I don't know. The trail must have been much wider many moons ago. I continued towards Poverty Bar, the Tevis Trail crossing. There was recent trail work there by the Tevis Trail work crew and it was much wider and not rutted anymore, thanks to the trail machine provided by Echo Valley Feed.
Soon I reached the spot where the Quarry vet check is, and there were a lot of hikers and riders in the picnic area there. The weather was great, in the 60's and spring-like. I chatted with a couple who were also on barefoot horses, one of which was a BLM Mustang like Sweetie. He was wearing a fancy tooled breastcollar that said "Mustang". There's a lot of pride in gentling and training a horse that was formerly wild.
I can't wait to start training my own BLM Mustang, Taqi. He's about four and a half now, give or take, and I've had him for 3 years. He's well halter broke, I can touch him all over and trim his feet. He's from a special herd known as the Sulphur Mustang, from the Mountain Home Range in Southwestern Utah. They are almost 100% pure original Spanish Conquistador horse due to being in an isolated area. They were discovered in the late eighties and were DNA'd because they had unique characteristics. They come in various shades of dun with zebra striped legs. They are descendants of escapees of horses stolen by Indians from the Spanish missions in Southern California and driven up the Santa Fe Trail. They are genetically identical to an ancient breed called the Sorraia that still runs wild in Portugal and used to be in Spain as well. They are the predecessors of the Andalusian and the Lusitano, were used as war horses in ancient times, and are known for their bravery. The picture below was taken last summer.
My Future Tevis Mount
Taqi is in fact, fearless and quickly dominated his two pasture buddies as soon as he was turned out with them, even though they were 3 times his age. They both had patches of hair missing all over for the first two weeks, and Taqi was left unscathed. In a few years he will be my next Tevis horse. He is a silver grulla with black points. He has zebra stripes all the way up his front legs and on his hocks, a dorsal stripe and a black mane with blonde streaks. He is very unique. I may mess with people who ask what kind of horse he is and say he is half zebra.
There are more pictures of him on my Facebook page. I hope to have him under saddle this summer. If things go really well he might be ready for a limited distance ride in the fall. We'll see. That's probably wishful thinking. First I have to get him moved up to where I'm living in Penn Valley, once the horse set up is finished in a couple of months. He's only 13.3, but they are late bloomers. He seems like such a midget when I visit him after riding Sweetie.
Two Tevis's ago I spotted another Sulphur Mustang at the Foresthill check. It was a red dun mare named Lakota that was also only 13.3 and ridden by Victoria Saitta of Southern California. The mare looked great, but unfortunately was pulled at the Quarry for lameness about 8 miles from the finish. I looked up her record and was very pleased to see she was a consistent top tenner on fifties, with a couple of best conditions. I hope Taqi does as well. It shows you that size isn't everything.