Is the concept of home travel a contradiction? In the U.S., the “staycation” has become popular as a “holiday” when people actually explore their home turf and do the things they normally regard as appropriate only for tourists. Or just revel in some of the delights that they have to forgo when closed in an office all day. It’s really a shame that we spend our lives working so we can enjoy free time in retirement. I don’t want to wait until I’m older and less fit and flexible to engage in the activities that connect me with the world.
So while I’m exploring and establishing myself as a consultant, I ride with my friend whenever the weather is nice. It’s a way to explore my local area, learn some of the history and the heritage (who knew Camp Woods was where George Washington and his army camped? AND is rumored to be haunted!) while connecting with nature in the best way, seated on the back of a sturdy little Connemara mare, courtesy of my friend.
One delight is seeing deer standing in the woods, curious about their fellow four-legged friends who have sprouted a human from their back. We humans are dismissed as an immediate threat when fixed on a horse allowing both parties to silently evaluate the other. Is it wonder? Or a kindred acknowledgement of another being folded in the quiet of the woods, with only the birds to break the silence?
Today we caught the attention of a small group of deer who spotted us as we slowly walked along a field. They patiently waited and once we hit their distance limit, they bounded off into the woods. Our horses watched, ears forward until the deer disappeared. Then their ears swiveled back into relaxation mode as we continued along the field’s edge. Later, we startled a fox who trotted away stopping occasionally to glance over his shoulder and track our progress. Again, Lucy and Flora watched but never stopped progressing down the trail. These animals were no threat to the horses.
The horses know the way and seem eager to stretch their legs in a quick trot along the meadows or a little canter on their favorite trails. Sometimes there are just the two of us riding but our group can expand to four when schedules cooperate along with the weather. I can’t think of very many things that make me feel like I’m a 12 year old girl, out on a pony adventure. It’s a bit sad to not see more people on horses using the trails as a way to enjoy nature. And I hang on the words of the women who grew up in the area telling the stories of long field rides and gallops, referring to each trail by the names of the original property owners, these names a part of their history and their memories even if the land has changed hands.
But of course, there are the sacrifices of pieces of land, the slow and disturbing disappearance of woods and fields transformed into another development in the name of progress. Preserving the horse trails protects tracts of land for the resident wildlife and means there are natural areas for the human residents to explore. I think it’s a way to share this treasure and perhaps convert more people into protection mode for the land and the wildlife. After all, whenever someone complains, “There are too many deer,” don’t you wonder if the deer are whispering, “There are too many people”?
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I like that “stable” photo shown here.