Sunday, July 18, 2010

Dog parks vs. horse trails

It's funny how trail riding gives you a different perspective on dogs being off-leash. I didn't used to have much of an opinion of the latter, but I understand it more now that I've encountered dogs on the trail. I am probably pretty lucky that Panama doesn't freak out about dogs, because I have heard from a lot of people whose horses do — we've had dogs come right up to us, and I just halted Panama until their people catch them. He likes dogs, in general, and is more interested in trying to sniff noses with them than anything else!

Anyway, two state parks in the Denver Metro area, Chatfield and Cherry Creek, are going to be downsizing their dog parks. It's not much — 69 acres from 70 or 71 at Chatfield, and 107 acres down from 125 at Cherry Creek — but they will also be fencing in the dog parks and charging a minimal fee (a couple of bucks per day, or a $20 annual pass).

That's not bad, in my opinion — still gives them plenty of space, but protects others who want to use the parks without dogs running up to them. Both parks have riding stables that take groups of novice riders on trail rides.

Bob Hantschel, owner of the Paint Horse Stables at Cherry Creek, said the state park has become more dangerous for riders as the number of off-leash dogs has grown.

"When I see the continued degradation of the park, it's disheartening," he said.

In comparison to other states, Colorado is considered to be pretty dog friendly, but a lot of dog people are up in arms about this. I have to admit, I don't see what the big deal is, but I suspect that the groups who are upset are forgetting that they aren't the only ones using the park — and that non-dog people have just as much a right to enjoy the park as dog people do.

Board member Gary Butterworth noted that off-leash dog-park users at Chatfield and Cherry Creek will still have it pretty good, compared with other off-leash parks.

"I'm having a hard time understanding (how) 107 acres and 69 acres is rapidly diminishing the value of a dog park," he said.



Heat wave

Sorry for the lack of posts lately. Like much of the country, we have been suffering from a heat wave here in Colorado. Yesterday it actually made it into the triple digits — 102 degrees — for the first time since August of 2008. Last year was a fairly benign summer, and I think we were all a little spoiled.

Unfortunately, this heat has me not wanting to ride much. I haven't ridden since Wednesday, which is possibly the longest I've gone all summer without riding. I thought about going out to the barn today — we have a cloud cover moving in — but it's still hot, and I still don't feel like it. Tomorrow will start a new week of trail rides, so I figure it can wait until then.

For everyone else who is suffering through similar weather, Fugly Horse of the Day published a handy repost with tips for taking care of horses in the heat. If you have a black horse, a horse who doesn't shed out very well anymore, etc., it's good information to keep in mind!


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

I take it all back

Did I ever say I didn't like tons of grazing during a trail ride? I take it all back!

Today we went for our first trail ride since Sunday's fiasco. We went with our usual weekday riding buddies, the ones who like to do a lot of grazing at intervals along the trail. We did our usual loop, nothing new or exciting.

And we survived it.

But really, I think it was the grazing that saved me. As we left the property, I felt Panama's tension ride. We stopped to graze right outside the gate...

...And it all just melted away.

It was the slowest, most languid trail ride I've ever been on.

And it was just what Panama needed. It helped keep his anxiety levels low, and the familiar route gave him something that he already knows he can do. The only hiccup was when we had to pass a cyclist on the side of the bike path, with his bike upside down while he fixed a flat. The horses haven't seen bikes upside down before, but Panama held it together with only a mild spook, despite the fact that Shadoman spun and jigged and put his rider through a minor rodeo.

On the whole, Panama was on his best behavior. He held it together down hills (he knows I hate it when he lets gravity pull him into a trot), collected when asked, did a better job than usual of regulating his pace, and just in general tried to show Mom how good he can be when he wants to.

As if I ever doubted that!


Sunday, July 11, 2010

The second buck's the (bad luck) charm

I had the WORST trail ride EVER this morning, and by the title you can probably guess why.

It should have been an awesome trail ride. We went out early, and neither the bugs or the heat were too bad yet. There were five of us: Panama's buddy Voodoo and his owner, his loved-from-afar girlfriend Flash and her owner, and Windy and her two owners (the husband on a borrowed horse, Pawnee).

We didn't go very far before I got my first taste of the mood Panama was in. I noticed early on that Panama suddenly became very aware of Voodoo behind him. He was trying to crawl up Pawnee's butt, and kept turning his head and flicking his ears back to look and listen to Voodoo.

About ten minutes out, completely without warning, Panama stopped dead in his tracks — and started bucking! The first buck caught me off guard, and I lost my balance. I grabbed onto his neck, and probably could have pushed myself back into the saddle, if he hadn't bucked again. I don't remember feeling the buck that did me in, but he must have bucked, because do remember somersaulting. I landed some distance away from where he was — placidly eating grass, when I got up.

I was okay, but unfortunately, my friend (Voodoo's owner) had gotten kicked in the ankle. She said she was fine, though, and we kept going.

As we continued on, it became clear that Panama was ANGRY about something — something to do with Voodoo. Once, Voodoo was nowhere near his rear end, but Panama turned around and tried to back into Voodoo to kick him. A few circles and a boot in the ribs cured him of that notion, but he kept trying. Only when we took the lead, and Pawnee followed behind us, was Panama (relatively) calm.

The rest of the trail was nerve wracking — I could feel Panama's anger and anxiety simmering just below the surface, even when he wasn't trying to kick his friend — but we crossed the creek twice and a ditch once, and led quite a bit of the way.

The second creek crossing was pandemonium, though: I didn't want to cross with Voodoo and my friend, because of the way Panama was acting, so we were going to wait with a couple other horses while Pawnee and her rider took Flash and her owner across — Flash has been having problems with stream crossings. I didn't think that was a good arrangement, but I didn't feel like I had much of a choice. It didn't seem like anyone else was getting it — that Panama couldn't be with Voodoo, for whatever reason.

Anyway, Panama was happily munching on grass when he realized Pawnee was starting across the creek without him. In his panic, he jumped down the embankment onto the beach, shoved right past Windy, and inserted himself right behind Pawnee. And I just came along for the ride, because nothing I was doing had any effect on him, whatsoever.

After that we went along pretty smoothly for a little bit. We came to the public arena, which was essentially on the way back to the barn, but the others were talking about going on. "I need to go back," I said. We were just barely holding it together and I knew to go on an even longer ride could be disastrous.

"All right, we're going to keep going!" the others said brightly. I was dumbfounded. They were going to leave me, after how Panama had been acting?

My friend, Voodoo's owner, said she'd go back with me. I thanked her with some trepidation, since I knew Panama probably wouldn't react well to all the others going off and leaving him with his nemesis.

Sure enough, soon as they left he started flipping out again. He was trying to back up to Voodoo from practically 30 feet away, so intent was he on kicking poor Voo. I told my friend I wanted to take him into the public arena to ride him for a bit until he stopped thinking about the other horses having left, but Panama was shying at the fence (which is different than any other fence he's ever seen) and the bottleneck created by the arena and the hitching post and sign.

I kept trying to make him walk into that bottleneck, and for a moment it seemed like he would; then suddenly, unexpectedly, he shied hard to the left and took off, and I simply fell to the right. I was in such disbelieve as I fell: Twice in one ride! I jumped up and saw Panama standing at the top of a hill, perhaps 50 feet away, so I called to him. He stood there, facing away, looking at me over his shoulder for a long moment — and then ran off. It was so clearly a "Screw you, Mom," look.

One of the wranglers from the riding stables was leading a small group past when I fell, so he helped me find Panama (who, naturally, led me on a merry goose chase through thistles and weeds taller than my head). When I finally caught up to him, saying hi to the riding stables' horses over the pasture fence, he came right up to me. It would be his one act of contrition that entire morning.

The wrangler asked if I needed anything else, and I asked if someone could go with us back to the barn, as I was very worried about how Panama would behave if left alone with Voodoo again. He asked another wrangler to go with us, and we went back to collect Voodoo and his rider.

The wrangler tried to take the lead, but Panama quickly passed him by cutting off the trail, even though that meant stumbling through an invisible ditch and cantering up the hill to get in front. I confess that by that point I was just done — I just wanted to get back in one piece, and figured I could ride some sense into him in the arena once we got there. Luckily he was fine once he was in front, and led all the way back, with the wrangler between him and Voodoo.

When we got back to the barn, I took him right into the arena and rode for quite a while, but Panama calmed down only marginally. He rushed through everything, clearly wanting just to go back to his corral. I was getting frazzled, and even though he wasn't lame, I was also worried that he might have hurt himself falling into the ditch and that was why he was so anxious to rush through everything. In the end, I accepted the first good behavior he threw my way (not rushing the trot down the long side of the arena), made him do the same in the other direction, and then called it a day.

It has been so long since I've had a frustrating ride that I'd almost forgotten what it feels like — not that I've ever had one this bad. I have no idea where any of this came from — Voodoo is his friend, for heaven's sake, not to mention on Friday he was being so good that we practiced jumping. I'm anxious for tomorrow — I plan to get out there before our Monday-Wednesday trail riding buddies arrive, and ride him in the arena for a bit beforehand. If I can be sure he is going to behave himself, I'd really like a positive trail experience to remind him that he likes this stuff normally.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Mesa Verde road trip, Day 4: Black Canyon

After stopping in Ouray, we continued on to Montrose. Although it would put us into Aspen a bit later than we'd intended, we decided to make a detour and stop at the Black Canyon. I had seen the Black Canyon on our trip to Mesa Verde when I was a kid, so I was interested in seeing it again.

Unfortunately, it was getting pretty cold. It was around 40 degrees at the edge of the Black Canyon, and we were dressed for summer vacation. We look cold, don't we?

First overlook at the Black Canyon

First overlook at the Black Canyon

These pictures were taken from the first scenic overlook. (Amusingly, I still had service here on my iPhone, and was able to post to Facebook from the rim of the Black Canyon.) The weather got steadily worse as we visited each overlook, until we simply weren't willing to get out of the car anymore.

Black Canyon, near Montrose,  Colorado

Although it was cold, the weather sure made for some great pictures:

Black Canyon, near Montrose,  Colorado

Black Canyon, near Montrose,  Colorado

This was taken at the last outlook we got out of the car for, by a nice older man who offered to take our picture. It's the only picture we have of us together on the entire trip.

Black Canyon, near Montrose,  Colorado

It had been raining and misting on and off, but it was shortly after this that the rain picked up even more. We decided we'd had enough, and headed back to Montrose to get back on track for Aspen. The entire detour had been perhaps a couple hours at most, but I am very glad we made it... even if it was damned cold!


Friday, July 9, 2010

Mesa Verde road trip, Day 4: Million Dollar Highway and Ouray

I decided to split Saturday into two posts. Although most of it was taken up with driving, it does seem like the Black Canyon deserves its own post, so that will be tomorrow.

Shortly after we left Durango late Saturday morning, it became clear a storm was coming through. We were taking the Million Dollar Highway through the mountains, so it turned out we were driving in a lot of this:

Million Dollar Highway in Durango, Colorado

It's probably lucky I was blissfully engrossed in my book, because not being able to see the drop-offs probably would have made me nervous.

I love this picture I took of Silverton in the mist and rain:

Silverton, Colorado

We stopped in Ouray for a late lunch. The town is in situated in the bottom of the canyon, and is simply amazing. You first catch sight of it from above, and the highway slowly winds down the mountainside to pass through the town.

Ouray, Colorado

After lunch, Michael wanted a coffee. Of course, there wasn't a Starbucks in town, but the kid who sold us our lunch suggested Mouse's Chocolates. In addition to some fantastic coffee drinks and homemade chai, they had the most amazing homemade chocolates I've ever tasted. I got a chunk of mint fudge, and several homemade caramels with vanilla centers. If I'd known how good those caramels would be, I would have bought the whole basket — but luckily, I can order more online!

Stay tuned for our detour to the Black Canyon!


Thursday, July 8, 2010

Mesa Verde road trip, Day 3: Square Tower House and other cliff dwellings

After our hike on Friday, we drove Mesa Top Loop, parking at the more interesting overlooks. We had stopped at a few of the pit houses the evening before (before they started building in the caves in the canyon, the Anasazi had built pit houses on top of the mesa), and didn't find them nearly as interesting, so this time we skipped those in favor of the more impressive cliff dwellings.

The first we stopped to see what Square Tower House. You walk to the overlook and look down... and the cliff dwelling is laid out far below you. The cave this one is built in is more like an overhang, as the ceiling soars far above the tops of the buildings.

Square Tower House at Mesa Verde

The high ceiling of this cave is probably why they were able to build the tall tower. It looks like it was four stories high, and is the tallest ruin in the park.

Square Tower House at Mesa  Verde

Next we stopped at Oak Tree House.

Oak Tree House at Mesa  Verde

I think Oak Tree House is interesting because of how far back it goes into the cave. You can just barely catch a glimpse of the ruins back there. The sign said that some of the buildings in the inner alcove are as high as four stories.

Oak Tree House at Mesa  Verde

Here I am at the observation point for Oak Tree House, with the canyon stretched out behind me.

Oak Tree House at Mesa  Verde

The canyon is full of smaller ruins, too. The Anasazi built cliff dwellings in just about every opening, no matter how small. If it was large enough to fit a building with one or two rooms, they built there.

Check out this one. You can just barely see a small ruin on the ledge above the rest, over on the right hand side — probably storage rooms.

Cliff dwellings at Mesa  Verde

More small ruins on ledges:

Cliff dwellings at Mesa  Verde

Below is a view of the canyon, with Oak Tree House just to the right of the center. On the mesa above it, you can see the results of one of several fires that has swept through Mesa Verde National Park in the last decade.

Just imagine this canyon once teeming with life. There were people living throughout the canyons. Picture men tending crops on the top of the mesas, women on the terraced floors in front of the dwellings, preparing food or making pottery while the children played.

Cliff dwellings at Mesa  Verde

What I wouldn't give to see what this view of the canyon looked like 750 years ago!


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Attitude adjustment

I somehow had gotten a day behind in my blog posts, but I wanted to post about this today, so I'm pushing back the next Mesa Verde post until tomorrow.

Today was the first time I've turned around on a trail ride and gone home due to Panama's behavior. One other rider was having similar issues, so we went back and the other two went on without us.

It was a cool morning, only about 60 degrees, and it had rained overnight and this morning. The horses were feeling frisky because of the cooler weather, I think, plus the mosquitoes were really active. I think Panama was also on edge because the other horse who was acting up was our usual lead horse, and we were right behind him. Every time Shadoman jigged in front of us, Panama tensed up and I could feel his anxiety level ratchet up a few more notches.

So Shadoman's owner and I decided to turn back while the other two riders continued on. There was a lot of jigging at first on the way back, too, but I asked if it would be okay if Panama led. Once he was in front, and could no longer see Shadoman jigging, Panama calmed right down. I think we probably could have continued on if we had led, but it's okay that we came back, as it gave me an opportunity to show him what happens when he misbehaves on the trail.

As soon as we got back, we headed straight for the arena. Panama's head was sky high, and Shadoman was still jigging a bit. I asked Panama to trot and kept reminding him to focus on me. After a while, his head began to drop, and sure enough, I noticed then that Shadoman was relaxing too. The two of them had obviously been feeding off one another's anxiety levels. Panama and I were able to get some good cantering in, and by the time the others came back to the barn, he was acting like his normal, happy self again.

I probably should have taken him back out with someone for a little while, to reinforce the idea of behaving himself on the trail, but it wasn't until I'd dismounted and started untacking him that I even realized Zans's owner would have gone with me. Oh well. I am pleased with our successful attitude adjustment, and I think (or at least I hope) that he got the idea: Bad behavior takes work!


So that's what a buck feels like!

I have been very unsure of what a buck feels like, and whether or not I've ever sat through one, for a long time. I thought he might have bucked once or twice, but started doubting it.

Now I know for sure what it feels like, and I'm pretty sure Monday wasn't the first time, either.

A week or two ago, I'd asked someone on a trail ride if he had bucked. He hadn't; what I had felt was him propelling himself up a hill with a hard push from the rear end. Okay.

Monday morning we went on a trail ride. This was after the crazy storm and fireworks (and Panama's lick fest) Fourth of July evening, and all the horses were jittery. There was a lot of talk of possibly turning around and going back, but we didn't.

About halfway through the ride, Panama was acting antsy about being the third horse in line instead of the second, and started trying to push ahead to pass the horse in front of him. I circled him briefly to remind him to listen to me, but as I guided him back onto the trail, he lost his composure entirely. I felt him launch us into the air, and then he bolted forward, passing the horse in front of us after all. I pulled him down to a walk within a couple of strides, and asked the rider who was bringing up the rear what he'd done.

"He bucked, and took off."

The buck hadn't felt anything like what I'd expected. It felt like all of him shot upward, but I guess that's probably because he is a small horse with a short back. As one of our riding partners is fond of saying, small horses are like sports cars, with short wheelbases: They can spin or buck and start running away before you even realize what's happened.

Although I did come forward a bit in the saddle, I stayed on without too much difficulty, and the rider who was behind us said I kept my heels down. She also said it was a medium-sized buck — I don't know if I'd be able to stay on if he was trying to get rid of me, but I'm pleased to know I can sit through a decent-sized buck. I'm pretty sure he's done it before, too, and I just didn't realize what it was. For instance, I think he bucked when we encountered a swarm of mosquitoes on a new trail we explored last month. (We were dead last, so I didn't have anyone to ask.)

I assumed Panama was bucking because he was upset about me making him be even further back, but the rider bringing up the rear told me later that there was a noisy bike passing on the road behind us at that very moment. I think he probably was upset about falling behind, and the sound of the bike probably sent him over the edge. I didn't get him in trouble this time, because by the time I learned it was a buck it was much too late, but at least now I know. Next time he bucks with me on him, he will learn that it's not nice, and that he doesn't get his way for behaving like that!


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Licked clean

The Fourth of July is one of our least favorite holidays, so we usually don't do much to celebrate. One of the main reasons is that our white shepherd, Grace, is terrified of fireworks, so it doesn't seem right to leave her alone. The last few years, we have developed a routine: I go to the barn and check on Panama around firework time, and Michael stays home to keep Grace company.

This Fourth, Panama was the most upset I've ever seen him. There was a bad storm, and it was raining buckets when I arrived. The sound of the rain on the tin roof of his shelter was like a hundred people hammering on it all at once. At first none of the horses would go inside, but eventually the mares decided scary and loud was better than wet. Panama, however, remained out in the rain, looking miserable: back hunched, head down, trying desperately to figure out which way the rain was blowing so that he could turn his butt into it.

Finally the rain stopped, and I walked around the barn to check on all the other horses. The indoor horses were fine, but all of the outdoor horses (corrals and stalls with runs) were pretty spooked. I went back into Panama's corral to be with him.

He was acting extremely needy, which he tends to do when he is scared or upset. He kept trying to mouth, which he knows he's not supposed to, so I was scolding him for it — but then I saw him licking Daisy's neck. It occurred to me that licking or grooming another horse is probably soothing, so I held out my hands, palms up and fingers spread, and he started licking them.

Pretty soon he moved on to licking the sleeve of my jacket. I just stood there and let him. He licked me all the way up both sleeves, then moved on to my jeans. He licked me almost from head to toe. It was an amazing experience.

It definitely soothed him, and he started feeling a bit frisky. He chased off Daisy, who had been licking my flashlight — I think he was telling her I was his mom — and then started testing me with little nips at my jacket sleeves. He lost his licking privileges at that point, needless to say, but it had still been a wonderful bonding experience for both of us.

Happy Fourth!


Saturday, July 3, 2010

Mesa Verde road trip, Day 4: Petroglyph Point and Spruce Tree House

I have a lesson to blog about, but first, another installment of vacation pictures. (Click here for the full list of posts about our vacation to Mesa Verde.)

After taking pictures of the wild horses, we continued on to the parking area for Spruce Tree House. We'd left Durango later than intended, so it was already mid-afternoon. As a result, we decided to skip Spruce Tree House. We were much more interested in hiking the Petroglyph Point Trail.

The hike is nearly 3 miles. From the parking area at the top of the mesa, the trail takes you down into the canyon, where it splits — one way takes you to Spruce Tree House, halfway up the other side of the canyon, and the other way takes you to the Petroglyph Point Trail and another trail.

Petroglyph Point Trail in Mesa Verde National Park

The Petroglyph Point Trail winds along the canyon, slowly climbing the far side. Before you know it, you're up here:

Petroglyph Point Trail in Mesa Verde National Park

...and the parking area is way behind you, on the other side of the canyon. It was kind of an alarming moment for us, to realize how far away we were.

It wasn't a terribly difficult trail, as most of it was a gentle grade, but it was still darn good exercise. There were a few times you had to climb up or down through the rocks, but you usually had either makeshift steps made of big rocks (probably made by the park service) or the Anasazi's original toeholds, shallow depressions carved into the rock, big enough for my feet (barely) but not for Michael's.

Someone who passed us on the trail told us we were coming up to some ruins, but that we'd have to turn around to see them, as they would be behind us on the cliff. From down below the rock ledge, we couldn't see them, but once the trail climbed to the top, we could walk back onto the ledge.

There was a ancient stone wall that was low enough to climb over. I guess at one time it was probably a much larger wall, intended to offer some protection and seclusion to the people living in the dwellings. There isn't much left of the dwellings now — mostly just the suggestion of rooms. The ceiling of the cave is still stained soot black from the smoke of a cooking fire that was built 700 (or more) years ago.

Petroglyph Point Trail in Mesa Verde National Park

These little ruins are scattered throughout the canyons, but this is the only one we got to see this close, other than the guided tours.

The trail continued to climb. Although the day before had been hot and sunny, a rainstorm was moving in, and it sprinkled on us on and off throughout the hike. Once it rained much harder for about ten minutes, and we sat in a small cave — almost no more than an overhang — and waited it out.

We started getting closer to the mesa, and wondering when these petroglyphs would show up...

Petroglyph Point Trail in Mesa Verde National Park

...when suddenly there they were! They were made by chipping through the desert varnish on the surface of the sandstone, to reveal the light-colored rock underneath. The symbols are apparently very similar to modern-day Hopi symbols, so they know that the glyphs tell the story of either how the people came to Mesa Verde, or their plans to leave and migrate south.

And no, I'm not touching the petroglyphs — my hand is several inches from the rock. I just thought it was interesting that the hand carvings were about the same size as mine. I wonder what the purpose of the hands were — signatures of the artists, perhaps? Were they painted or left the color of the rock?

Petroglyph Point Trail in Mesa Verde National Park

Soon after we passed the petroglyphs, the trail took us up some more toeholds onto the top of the mesa, and we hiked back to the parking area along the top of the canyon. I loved seeing the flowering cacti that grew up here:

Petroglyph Point Trail in Mesa Verde National Park

The view was larger than life. My husband offered to stand at the edge for this picture.

Petroglyph Point Trail in Mesa Verde National Park

We had to hike around the curves in the canyon in order to get back. Once we got to the other side, we discovered that Michael had been standing right over Spruce Tree House when he posed for that picture.

Petroglyph Point Trail in Mesa Verde National Park

Spruce Tree House:

Petroglyph Point Trail in Mesa Verde National Park

We were exhausted by this time — the hike had taken us 2 hours, and although the way back was flat and easy, most of the hike was through the canyon. We decided to skip the other hike we were going to do, and instead just drove around Mesa Top Loop to get pictures of the other cliff dwellings throughout the canyon. I'll post pictures of those next!


Friday, July 2, 2010

Mesa Verde road trip, Day 3: Wild horses

Sorry for the break in vacation posts. I had a busy few days. If you've missed the first few posts, you can find a complete list of links here.

Having crammed two guided tours (Cliff Palace and Balcony House) into one afternoon, we were planning on doing some hiking and seeing Spruce Tree House on our second (and last) day in the park. The next day we'd be leaving Durango and driving to Aspen.

I had discovered by accident the night before that a Facebook friend and fellow boarder at the barn had just gotten back from Mesa Verde the week before. She mentioned on Facebook that there were wild horses in the park, and so we were looking for them the next day when we made the long drive in.

After spending some time in the gift shop, we headed out to Spruce Tree House, where the hike we wanted to do also started. On the way out there, we kept our eyes on the trees (many of them burnt from wildfires that swept through the park between 2000 and 2004), which is probably the only reason why we spotted the horses.

Wild horses in Mesa Verde National Park

We had our DSR with us that day — my brother-in-law gave it to us, and we are just learning to use it — so we were able to get some good photos with its huge lens. But even so, I still had to crop these photos. That tells you how far away the horses were.

Wild horses in Mesa Verde  National Park

One horse in particular made a good subject. The others were standing clustered together, but she was alone — or so we thought. Later I spotted a pair of ears in the grass next to her.

Her coloring is interesting, isn't it?

Wild horses in Mesa Verde  National Park

We also realized later, when we looked at the pictures on my computer, that she was expecting. At the time I thought she was just well-fed!

Wild horses in Mesa Verde  National Park

This is my favorite picture. The mare watched us nearly the entire time. She was the only one of the horses to do so — the others just sunbathed or napped while we took our pictures — so I wonder if she was the lead mare, looking out for her herd.

Wild horses in Mesa Verde  National Park

I could have stayed there and taken pictures all day, but I knew Michael was impatient to get started. As it was, we ended up having to skip our tour of Spruce Tree House and go straight to our hike... But I'll tell you about that tomorrow!