While I never stopped, naturally I had to look down. The Biddies told me the movement of the horse going forward and the river going horizontally would give me vertigo like I’d never experienced – clearly, I needed to experience that. Needless to say, they were right. As Jean-Luc moved along the river rocks like a champ, the sight of the water going past and feel of the forward motion brought on the dizzying feeling promised. It didn’t take long to make me promptly lift my eyes back to a spot I’d picked on the other side of the river and motor on through.
Near the end of the ride, the Biddies and I were getting hungry. We found a leafy soft spot off to the side of the trail and tied up. When I pulled out the spread for lunch the Biddies seemed impressed. “Okay, you are officially always cook-on-the-go,” they dubbed me.
We ate our pitas, grapes, carrots the mounted back up for a few more brilliant vistas the mountains had in store for us. We’d done it! Despite the horrible weather predictions, the Biddies and I were blessed by those aforementioned trail gods and our day were beautiful!
No sooner did we ride back into camp did the temperatures start to drop and weather turn. That night we decided to stable the boys rather than leaving them out in the pasture. It ended up being a good decision for sure. While we enjoyed Biddy 2’s yummy Chicken Divine for dinner and watched the Wizard of Oz on TV, the horses enjoyed a warm comfy sod bed.
We also had a visit from a local man the Biddies used to ride with. He regaled us with no less than five different stories all of which should have resulted in his death. He told us of poorly planned river crossings, runaway horses, and downright crazy escapades. The man truly had a gift for storytelling.
Eventually, I was ready for bed. The rest of the weekend was relatively uneventful. Overnight, the weather took a turn for the worst, so we took our time waking in the morning, decided not to ride, loaded up and went home - but not before Biddy 2 found a gorgeous saddle that fit her and her stocky Quarter Horse like a glove. She’d apparently been looking for a new saddle for seriously a decade! Thus, it was a HUGE deal when the Custom Tucker Trail/Pleasure Generator II came home with her!
The Biddies invited this Biddy Apprentice to join them back at EJ’s for the June Rhododendron Ride. It goes without saying, I CAN’T WAIT. Learning from them is something I feel blessed to have the opportunity to have done. Their care-free attitude is something I pray I will continue to learn, and eventually, have my own group of Biddies to escape with when I’m their age. Until then, I have much to learn, and am honored to be a Biddy Apprentice!
The cottage we stayed in was called “The White House”, but in my opinion should have been named the “House of Hardwood.” The old, refinished farmhouse had an impressive 6 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms, but not a lick of paint in any of them. I mean it – none! The ceilings were even covered in hardwood going every which way. It was an OCD person’s nightmare, but fun to try and find the patterns. Regardless, the place was cozy with all the comforts of home. Sleep came easily that night and dawn perhaps too soon.
Eventually, EJ himself arrived with maps in hand. Because he has trails for any and everything, he wanted to ensure our ride was exactly what we wanted.
EJ is approximately 70 years old, over six feet tall with large features and kind eyes. He is a true West-By-God Virginia Mountain man that’s lived in the foothills of Pocahontas County all his life. Every time I saw him, his white hair was capped with a dark oil-skin cowboy hat. Though age may have made him a little portly, he seems to work as hard as ever. On the property we regularly found him tinkering with one of the many hobbies in his large shed.
We picked out a route that was about 12 miles and would take us between 4 and 6 hours (we walk most of the trails because we’re really there to chat, and watch the world go by). EJ marked the orange lines and showed us the connecting blue trails, then he told us he had a few more things he’d like to get done before the end of the day and with an authentic tip of his oilskin, he departed.
The rest of the evening was spent sipping on warm spiked salted caramel cider, heating up Biddy 1’s out of this world butternut squash soup, and “fellowship”. Biddy 3 quite literally used the term “fellowship,” a few times when discussing the importance of what rides like this mean to her. I had never really given it much thought before (Biddy Apprentice here), but the word is defined as “friendly association, especially with people who share one's interests.” It is an important part of the experience and I believe how these women have remained so close for so long. Fellowship with them was a beautiful thing. It was truly something to just sit back and listen to their stories as I watched the boys play and much on the grass in the pasture from the screened in wrap around porch.
The following day I climbed out of bed around 7 am. The Biddies told me we were going to get on the trail by 10 am, so there was really no rush. I awoke to find that Biddy 2 had already fed and watered our boys. It was an unexpected delight and one I was truly thankful for.
At that point, I began working on my single responsibility for the weekend – lunch on the trail. I knew the Biddies gave me this job because it was easy if mattered little if I screwed it up. After all, who needs lunch if know a killer casserole dinner is waiting for you in a few hours? That said, I was glad they put me in charge of this because little did they know that years of working on the road have made me pretty good at the food on the go.
I had planned Honey Maple Turkey Pitas with deli sliced Munster Cheese, carrots, and tri-colored grapes. Because we’re all riding somewhere we knew little about I pre-made two pitas for each person and tossed a box of white chocolate and cranberry Cliffbars ® into my saddlebags. As an aside, the Biddies have a reputation for getting… lost, thus if I was in charge of our stomachs, I made sure we were covered.
After a deliciously savory egg, sausage and veggie breakfast casserole prepared by Biddy 3, we were ready to start getting dress. This was honestly challenging because the sun was shining and defying all weather forecasts. We needed to pack for possible, however, the present for forty-some-degrees and pleasant.
Layers were the name of that day’s dressing game. Because of the forecast was calling for rain I tugged on my fleece lined Roxy Snowboard pants anyway. I think I’ve used those pants for nearly everything but snowboarding in the past several years. Built like a fleece lined pair of Dickies work pant, they’re just great for EVERYTHING. By the end of the ride, all the Biddies wanted a pair.
Before I knew it Jean-Luc and the rest of the boys were saddled and the only thing left to do was ride out. I kept thinking to myself, “man is this just easy.” Often I believe I over think things. The Biddies are old hats. They just know what needs to be done, and what doesn’t. No need to mess around. Just saddle your horse, add your bags and climb up.
With one final look at the map, we were off on the Greenbrier River Trail. The horses took turns trying to decide who would lead, but it came as no surprise to me that Jean-Luc ended up in front. He likes to lead, and his gaited nature makes him quicker than the others. Honestly, I was really proud of him.
There were a few times I was nervous about our pace since I knew the Biddies didn’t like to go too fast.
“Everyone good back there?” I would ask.
“You guys are doing great!” a Biddy would yell up.
The best compliment of the day came through when Biddy 1 started discussing how impressed she was with Jean-Luc and how far we’d come. “He’s really good at leading the group. He’s turned into the perfect horse for you,” she hollered up.
I thanked her for doting on us, and the three of them laughed about how worried they’d been for me when I brought Jean-Luc home for the first time. “YOU have done so well with him,” they emphasized.
My ride was made for the rest of the day! I mean how could it not be? I know the hours I have in with Jean-Luc, but these women saw the before and recognize the after. A person can’t help but be
filled with pride.
The hours in the saddle passed as we covered some of the breathtaking scenery West Virginia has to offer. One of my favorite things involved riding straight into a rhododendron jungle. Rhododendrons are West Virginia’s state flower, but truly they’re more like a tangling bunch of bright green vines that can be impassable unless a proper path is cut – and it was! Riding through the emerald green leafy tunnels made me feel like we were in some sort of fairy-tale, Narnia. The Biddies and I agreed that it would be magical to come back during the June when the Rhododendrons are in full bloom with the purple and pink flowers, and thus promptly agreed to do so.
This ride was also my first big river crossing on horseback. At one point, near the end of our ride, we came to a spot that required us to cross a 100-yard span of Greenbrier River. “Whatever you do, don’t look down and don’t stop,” the Biddies told me.
EJs Stables Trail Maps:
Friday, November 17, 2017, Jean-Luc and I embarked upon possibly one of my favorite adventures yet. A few weeks ago my BM asked if I would like to join her on a ride up at a place we’ve all talked about, but I’d never been – EJ’s Stables in Green Bank West Virginia. (* FOOTNOTE: Yes, it’s also the home of the National Quiet Zone and where Jodi Foster’s filmed First Contact several years ago… needless to say, it is known for being “remote.”)
I was pretty excited to be invited on this ride because the group that was going is sort of an “invite only” group of gals. They’re not “click-ish” by any means, they’ve just been riding together for so long (we’re talking decades here), and that it was a big deal for me to be invited on one of their “Girls’ Weekend” rides. Also, I am pretty sure this entire event just added more fuel to the fire that I am known for having an “old soul.” Let’s just say that there was also a few decades difference between me and the rest of the gang – not that it matters! They call themselves the “Biddies.” (FOOTNOTE: Biddy/Bitty - n. "old woman," 1785; meaning "Irish maid-servant" (1861) is American English; both from Biddy, pet form of common Irish proper name Bridget.- Quora.com)
By the end of the weekend, I was christened a “Biddy Apprentice,” something even my BM said was an honor. “We had a lot of fun with you, you can ride with us anytime. And believe me, we don’t just extend that offer to anyone,” she chuckled to me as we turned our boys loose on Sunday – but that’s getting ahead of ourselves.
Friday afternoon, I met BM – Biddy 1 and a woman I happen to also work with Biddy 2 at our barn. Though suffering from a sinus infection I was determined to not miss this ride! Literally, it was as if the trail gods were testing my resolve. The group had debated all day on whether or not to even go on this adventure because the forecast was calling for high winds and rain. Plus, if we were determined to go ride trails near Green Bank, I also knew that meant SNOW!
Despite all signs pointing to crap – we loaded up our boys and began the unnecessarily long journey over the mountains. I say unnecessarily long because Biddy 1 put Biddy 2 in charge of directions. . . A trip that should have been maybe an hour and a half wound up being two and half hours and all kinds of wrong. Remember, the trail gods were testing us.
Finally, in the last few moments of daylight, we arrived at EJ’s Cottage’s and Stables to find Biddy 3 pretty worried about us. “Where have you guys been!” she exclaimed.
We shared with Biddy 3 the ridiculous rout we’d taken to get there, and because I actually spent three years of my life living in the area, determined I was in charge of directions on the way home. Hugs were exchanged and the horses – Jean-Luc, Oliver Biddy 1’s Kentucky Mountain Horse, and Cody Biddy 2’s Quarter Horse (and Jean-Luc’s BF he seems to have an unhealthy love for) were turned out with Biddy 3’s beautiful Mustang/Dun Sage.
EJs Stables: http://www.ejcottages.net/trailrid.html
Because last week was mostly a wash week when it comes to riding, it resulted in me just feeling like a whiny baby for not doing more with Jean-Luc. Regardless, it is what it is. On Friday, however, I had a rather unexpectedly pleasant experience.
My husband, who is about as far from “horse person” as it gets, was going out of town for the weekend. Knowing we wouldn’t see each other for a few days we went on a date to our token obligatory small-town America date spot – Applebee’s (Can’t beat that 2 for $20/ half-price appetizers and happy hour!)
After a pleasant meal, I started talking to my husband and how much I wish I had gone out to the barn this week. “We have more time before I have to go,” he said. “Would you like to go out now?”
“Despite the cold?” I asked confused. The temperatures were in the low thirties, and the wind didn’t make it any warmer.
“Sure,” he replied.
So, after eating we headed out to the barn. Together, we bundled up in what few extra clothes I kept in my car, grabbed Jean-Luc’s halter, and marched into a freezing field. Once we were about fifteen feet away from Jean-Luc he came to us and quickly devoured his apple treats.
“Let me give them to him so he will love me,” my husband asked.
I handed over the treats and lead Jean-Luc back to the barn. The extra hand was nice for simple things like opening the gate and conversation. We laughed at how absolutely disgusting my white and champagne colored horse was – black… literally, there were places that were actually BLACK!
When we got back inside the barn we warmed our hands and I handed my husband Jean-Luc’s bit to warm up while I started cleaning the dirt off of him. “You treat your horse better than me!” my husband remarked. I said nothing. (Don’t we all?)
Eventually, we were ready to walk around in the indoor ring. I hopped on Jean-Luc all the while discussing my actions and reasons for them as I went with my husband. I believe the mark of a good teacher is one who can break actions down to the finest steps, all the while explaining the rationale behind them without coming off as patronizing. This is always extremely difficult to do with loved ones, I feel.
After a few moments and several laps around the ring, I could see my husband was actually excited to ride. “Would you like to hop on I asked.”
He replied with a simple, “Yes.”
Before I knew it, his leg was in the stirrup and he was up. I lead him around a little, to be sure neither of my men was going to freak out, and then they were off. The two of them seemed to really make some sort of connection immediately – something I have rarely experienced among new riders. I think Jean-Luc truly enjoyed having my husband as a rider because, like Jean-Luc, my husband gets bored easily. Though the arena is small they were having a ball going in tight circles, doing figure eights, and serpentines. Honestly, my mind was a little blown. Sure, he has much to learn – posture, feet, etc., but all in all, it wasn’t bad.
Before I knew it, our short lesson was coming to a close. “One more lap?” he asked me.
“You are going to be late?” I questioned back as if he was sure he didn’t care to be late to get on the road.
“One more lap,” he repeated. And by one, he meant five. During his last few laps, he kept expressing to how impressed he was at how more calm he thought Jean-Luc was. He told me that when I first brought Jean-Luc home, he never thought he would ride him because he seemed crazy!
We eventually untacked and started home. I can’t believe he enjoyed his ride as much as he did, but there you have it. My husband also told me how proud he was of me and how different Jean-Luc seemed. Not that I needed it, but it was nice to hear him acknowledge the difference and all the hard work we’ve put in.
“I get why you like to do this,” he told me.
Sitting on the back of Jean-Luc, with some sort of beverage in hand watching the world go by is one of my favorite ways to see the world. I regularly say that and the sentiment has only grown stronger in the months since I’ve had Jean-Luc.
I am thrilled because this weekend is another opportunity to hit the trails with a few of my favorite people from our local riding club. Five or six of us are coming together to ride along the Greenbrier river trail at a place called “EJ Stables,” in Pocahontas County. Though I know it is going to be cold, I cannot wait to stay in an old rustic cabin and hit a few rail trails with my man!
This week has been basically a wash. Thanks to the weather, I’ve had a massive headache since Sunday. Typically, each year I get weather related pain in my sinus cavities as the temps drop. Typically, it only lasts a day, but this has been insanity! I am not one to complain, however not being able to see straight because of a needle-like pain above my right eye, forehead, and jaw lasting nearly a week is too much. I spent much of this week kind of feeling like a failure because I just can’t find the motivation to push through. (Sorry Jean-Luc, but momma has been slacking).
That said, last Saturday we did accomplish something new - walking (semi) relaxed in the field while another horse jumped and did their own thing in the center. Though Jean-Luc whinnied his obnoxious noises once per lap or so, I managed to push through his ressistance and complete 5 laps around the field (nearly 2 miles). Every attempt to do so until then has ended in a ruckus and usually I lost.
I would like to credit the new IMUS bit, but it was only the second time using it.
The bit itself seems to allow Jean-Luc to relax his body more than the Myler bit (a good thing), however, the trade off seems to be that he requires a stronger hand when using it. In the long run, I think “more relaxed” will be worth it. After all, I should be using more leg than hand anyway.
Today looks to be another wash day considering the pain just doesn’t give me the focus, but we will see. The trade off means losing a warmer day for a much cooler one in the future. The entire weekend outlook is showing 30s. Ah, horse people problems.
No matter what, I would trade anything for this week-long headache to subside! Cheers to more success in the week to come.
This past week is one that I find hard to really describe. At work I continue to find reasons to be thankful all around me for switching jobs. At the barn I was blessed to compound on friendships made and continue to build on the bond Jean-Luc and I have begun.
Thursady, a coworker, my Dad and I all three went on a great little ride. We don’t have the trails we once did, but my coworker even started to recognize that anytime in the saddle going anywhere is good for the soul.
After our ride I arrived home to find Jean-Luc new bit! So, despite yesterday’s rain and fog, I had to try it. I headed out after work and grabbed my sopping wet horse.
I dried Jean-Luc and despite him looking gross, was ready to try out his new IMUS bit. Would it really do all the wonderful things it says it can?! Would he relax with all the free tongue pressure and would it encourage him to gait away?!
Because of the rain and muck we stayed inside mostly. I honestly think it is too early to tell if this bit is all it’s cracked up to be, but I did see some relaxation and he was really bringing his hind feet up under himself like he should. He stayed in his gait rather than a pace much easier. His responses to turns were less than with the Myler though. That said, there were a TON of distractions happening last night (old horsey friends coming back to the barn, pounding rain, and things moving around everywhere in the barn because of it).
We will see what the weeks to come prove, but with the little experience we had, I am feeling like this is a good direction for us.
My name is Chelsey.
Generator's Cuevo Gold, or as he's known around this barn, "Jean-Luc Ponycard", was foaled in 2004 from Generator's Hurricane & Cheyenne's Little Bit.
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