July 11, 2011 at 12:15 PM
"Trail Riding Santa Fe in Springtime."
By Susie Morgan
Hoof Prints in Santa Fe
Susie Morgan is a lifetime lover of horses, the outdoors and lives for adventures. She lives in Las Campanas, and is reconnecting with horses after working 27 years in New York City.
Spring in New Mexico means two things: my herb garden is bursting back to life, and strong gusty winds have arrived. Dodging New Mexico spring winds is critical for a pleasant trail ride, but they have been whipping hard all week. We decide to chance it anyway. We meet at Bishops Lodge; the oldest horseback riding stable in Santa Fe. We are tagging along with a group from Las Campanas Equestrian Center; two wranglers and 5 brave souls undaunted by the winds.
Bishop’s Lodge is located in the mountains of the Sangre de Cristos providing plenty of hills and trees to block the vicious winds and the strong New Mexico sun. As we unload, the temperature is still in the 40s, but we realize – no wind. Nestled in this canyon, we are out of reach of the wind and the dust it carries. We are riding on multiple use land, so we are hustling to get out on the trail by 9am, so that we are far beyond the skeet shooters that take aim at 9:30.
As we pass the skeet shooting area, the marksmen warn us they begin shooting in 5 minutes, but they grant us leeway as we hustle to pick up Little Tesuque Trail and drop down out of range into a canyon. The narrow single track trails are shrouded in Piñon trees. Some are more than 150 years old, having eluded the deadly beetle infestations more than once. These old trees remind us we are just passing through while they lived before and will likely remain after we become dust in the wind.
There is no room for second thoughts on these narrow steep trails. The horses keep a sharp watch on their footing as we navigate the ups and downs and switchbacks. Within 30 minutes we come to our first crossing of Little Tesuque River which we will cross three times in the next hour. Already the sun has come out to warm the morning so we are wiggling out of jackets.
As we wind our way through these technical trails, one Piñon reaches out and snags one riders jeans ripping from top to bottom. In the language of Janet Jackson, ‘we have a wardrobe failure’. While it is probably not quite warm enough for the rider to appreciate the unplanned air conditioning, this is our only mishap of the day.
Crossing over to Big Tesuque trail, we encounter mountain bikers, who happily yield the trail to the horses as we approach the Big Tesuque River. Big Tesuque is about 7 feet wide but no more than 12” deep. So far, none of the horses have balked at the water crossings, but this one has mud at the trail entrance and one horse slips. The rider wisely turns the horse and chooses another approach to the crossing as a mare stands in the river pawing and splashing; annoying everyone within reach.
Successfully completing our last water crossing, we head for Bishops Lodge Stables. As we crest a hill, the stables are below us. We are grateful the winds did not find us and we smile up at the sun appreciating this beautiful warm spring day.
Bishop’s Lodge Stable is open daily from 8am to 5pm. Special event rides include the BBQ ride, sunset rides, and rides oriented to children.