November 1, 2013 at 8:58 PM

True Out West Adventure

'A sure sign that fall has arrived was morning frost on the horse trailers.'

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.

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This week, Bishops Lodge hosted a group of local equestrians on a ride in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains on Little Tesuque Trail. For locals and visitors alike, this is one of the best out west experiences around Santa Fe.

A sure sign that fall has arrived was morning frost on the horse trailers. We had anticipated this and delayed wheels up until 9 a.m., but the trailers were still iced up. Once loaded up, our four horse trailers met at the shooting range at Bishops Lodge and tacked up to ride with Head Wrangler Jeff Kennedy. Wrangler Jeff rides a magnificent black and white paint horse that reminds me of Little Joe’s horse on Bonanza. The clear air had a fall chill to it and the horses were on full alert and frisky. Many of us prepared for varied temperatures, and have put on layers of clothes to cover all scenarios.

Little Tesuque Trail is solid single-track and mountainous, with tricky footing over tree roots and rocks. At times, the trail was literally the stream bed itself, which turned to mud after several horses passed through. At several points, the trail traverses the edge of a steep arroyo. Those traverses were scary to many of us, even though the narrow path along the edge did not seem to faze the horses.

After snaking downhill for half an hour, we began a steep accent of switchbacks to reach the summit – the sign read 7,734 feet elevation. From here, we learned that we could see Colorado as well as many famous New Mexico landmark mountains – a true 360 degree view. After a good rest for the horses, we started down the other side of the mountain. Our horses had rarely seen such technical trails. However, we have rented a couple of extra horses from Bishops Lodge for spousal-units, and these trails are old hat to the Bishops Lodge horses.

After about a two hour ride, we realized we had ridden full circle as we approached the start of the trail. Within 5 minutes, the trailers are back in sight. Wrangler Jeff told us he has planned a picnic for us as soon as we secured and groomed our horses. Picnic to us means sitting on coolers or trailer fenders and eating piece of cold chicken with a red Solo cup of beer or wine. Jeff had a big surprise waiting for us.

We took care of our horses, put up nibble nets of hay for them to munch, and walked down the path to see what was in store. We arrived at the Bishops Lodge fire pit where they frequently host summer cowboy BBQs, bonfires and dances. At this time of year, the fire pit is cold, but waiting for us was white table clothed picnic tables with black linen napkins, real stemware and a full chuck wagon BBQ. Two cooks and a bartender had prepared bratwursts, hamburgers, and BBQ chicken to accompany baked beans, coleslaw, and potato salad along with beer and wine.

Over lunch, we shared stories from the trail with Wrangler Jeff. Once we had our fill (and seconds), we returned to load the horses back into the trailers, and head back down the mountain. But not before vowing to return again for one more adventure before snow blankets the Sangres for winter.

Established 95 years ago, Bishops Lodge Stables has long been a special landmark of Santa Fe. It has a well-deserved reputation for amazing trail rides year-round, and creative custom events, on their horses or BYO. Built into the foothills of the Sangres, this is an ideal location for quick access to Windsor and Big and Little Tesuque Trails. For more information or for reservations, contact: http://www.bishopslodge.com/horseback-riding/

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