Thursday, May 11, 2017
Deep into the fertile hills East of Paso Robles, California, the Cass Winery turns out world-class wines and also provides a destination spot for celebrations like wedding receptions. The West Coast Rocky Mountain Horse Club held their annual ride there on a sunny May day, and for the first time the mighty hybrid, Tobe the Rocky Mountain Mule, came along for the fun.
The ride was 7.5 miles in a 2 hour stroll, first around the vineyard, then out through a neighborhood of ranch houses, and a final stretch down a length of deep sandy river bottom.
A total elevation change of 163 feet, mostly a flat walk through a low valley.
A restful view, but I think Tobe Mule is thinking that he'd like a part-time job taking care of the weeds growing between the rows of grape vines
As always I got there very early, because getting Tobe dressed is a more complicated affair than slinging a saddle on a horse.
It was fun for us to finally be a part of the Rocky Mountain crowd, and for them it was their first chance to meet the design improvement, their favorite breed of horse crossed with a mammoth jack, making a Rocky mule.
Starting out we tracked around the vines, and what with stopping to take pictures and generally taking in the scenery we ambled along, and soon the horses were way ahead.
Walking through the vines I did notice Tobe Mule coughing a lot, and I have to wonder if the pesticides used on the grapes affect the delicate sensory apparatus of a mule.
The precision of care evident in the tending of the vines was fascinating.
There were no workers visible, except back at the staging area where some were inside a barn like structure filled with barrels.
For every time I have taken a glass of wine for granted, this was a chance to see the immense amount of tending required.
One of the riders was having some trouble with his horse, so we swung up into a neighborhood and he swapped it out for another of his horses. There were goats in a barn at the property, audible behind a barrier, and Tobe was not at all sure that was something he wanted to investigate.
Then we walked through the quiet rural streets and passed this paddock.
In it was a prancing white Arabian horse, a ditto for the gelding Tobe shares his paddock with, and I wondered if at first glance Tobe might have thought he was seeing a vision of Zo, stuck back at home lonely, waiting for his return.
Then into the river bed we went.
Endurance riders love this kind of footing, building up the musculature of their animals.
Tobe and I brought up the rear, after 6 miles on a hot day we were ready to be back at the winery in some shade.
This very well organized club has monthly rides like this, and they like to celebrate the members whose birthday month it is.
Here is the horse theme cake that was shared.
The rides are usually several hours away from me, so I have not in the past made the effort to attend. But we had a lovely time and I do intend to make it a point to ride again with this group.
And surely Tobe enjoys being with own type of horse, remembering his mother and the other mares in the Kentucky fields of his youth.