The past two weekends my husband Eric and I have gone for long high country rides in the unit we’ll be hunting in Colorado’s gorgeous Gunnison county. We are so lucky to live in such a beautiful area with so much public land and awesome hunting opportunities. After years of being horseless last spring I was given a beautiful grey mare we named Fiona and we found Eric a great Missouri Fox Trotter gelding named Remington. I taught Eric to ride and he has turned out to be a natural horseman. I grew up riding and competing out east in English and jumping so we both have learned a lot hunting and backcountry riding with horses. Back east where I rode horses were kept in stalls, they were let out individually in small pens so as not to hurt each other, ridden in indoor arenas and generally coddled and protected in every way possible. Here in Gunnison horses roam large pastures in herds, they are loaded into stock trailers fully tacked without shipping boots, and cuts and scrapes are almost an everyday occurrence. Rather than being fearful of the outdoors like our babied eastern horses, they are afraid of man-made objects and totally at home in the wild.
This winter the awesome backcountry horses I had become accustomed to seemed to lose their minds. Fiona injured her eye, cut a large gash in her chest and they both became terrified of everything from birds, nesting waterfowl, blue tarps, and the ranch goats they had walked past a million times at the ranch. One particular corridor of willows we aptly names the gauntlet which we had to ride through EVERYDAY was always greeted with terror alert RED. Any sign of movement would send them leaping through the air and riding them felt like riding a stick of dynamite. After Fiona healed we have ridden the heck out of our two crazies this spring and they have regained their composure. Two weekend ago on out ride I was trotting around a corner on a high country trail when I heard a thrashing through the brush. The large butt of a big cinnamon bear was bounding away from only 20 yards away. I exclaimed “OH BEAR!!” and the horses didn’t even flinch. Me and the bear were far more startled than the horses. This is coming from horses that can find an electrical box, trash bag, or a fly mask that has been hung from a fence petrifying. Stepping over a hose is akin to an anaconda, but a bear? No problem. Crazy horses.