A beautiful sunny Saturday and a big turnout for a trail ride, 19 equestrians from the Horse & Mule Trail Riders of the 805 MeetUp and Los Padres Trail Riders gathered at a private home to begin our adventure.
We rode for 2 hours and went 5.35 miles, a scenic stroll through the open space of More Mesa and then alongside some of the great estates of Hope Ranch.
Afterwards we had a wonderful luncheon catered by a generous hostess, and left with enthusiasm to ride together again soon.
Every trail ride starts with a cheerful meet and greet.
Old pals on new horses, former members of clubs eager to rejoin and once again ride in good company.
Many of these women rode these trails as wild teenagers together, so there was lots to catch up on now that they are retired ladies of a certain age!
The trail began with a hill, so up up we went to start our ride with a work-out for Tobe Mule and his companions.
Hope Ranch is an unincorporated suburb of Santa Barbara, set out as an equestrian community of estates on the coastline.
It has 27 miles of riding trails, mostly access passageways between the property borders. 10% of the property owners are owners of equines.
Directly adjacent to Hope ranch is More Mesa, 300 acres of coastal bluff mesa consisting of open grassland and oak woodlands preserved from development and giving the community access to valuable animal habitat and miles of informal trails.
The spring flowers are tiny, but a careful observer can see them in the grassland. This is the best possible time to ride here, before the summer heat begins to turn it into dry pale weeds.
The trails are "informal" and fairly well maintained, but a mule or horse needs to keep a sharp eye where they are stepping to avoid the ground squirrel holes.
Wild nasturtiums cover the shade underneath the oaks as we turn to follow a path alongside a drainage creek. The sounds of bird song fill the air, trilling and chirping in the branches above.
Dappled light is a nice rest for the eyes after the bright glare of the Mesa sun.
This massive oak snapped in half could have blocked the trail, but fortunately it fell in such a way as to allow careful passage through.
Out of the woodland, we doubled back on an access road at the Mesa's edge.
And once again the caravan of 19 riders went up and over the Mesa trails.
The islands are obscured by maritime haze on the horizon out to sea. But we have the pleasure of strolling across a natural grassland at the slow and steady pace of equine travel.
Then we returned to Hope Ranch, for a tour past some of the massive estates that look like hotels. They are bound by the community covenant to maintain trails alongside the roads, so that equines may pass safely without fear of the drivers of very expensive sports cars.
In most places it is effective. Not all.
At this seaside property Tobe was absolutely riveted by the sight of a pony and a donkey. How the other half lives!
Then finally we descended back toward the home of our lunch hostess, where we feasted and almost immediately the wind picked up to fulfill the "wind advisory" warning .... we got off the trail just in time.
How very fortunate we all are to be able to spend a day in perfect weather in good company on safe trails and well behaved steeds...... something few have access to. Gratitude is in order.
"Gratitude is a sign of noble souls"
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