“Kate. Why are you walking?” Kate had just emerged from under an oak tree. She was on foot, leading Dancer. We were on route to the Artemas Gintzon Pathway and, as I often do, I had ridden ahead a bit on my bike.
“He got scared. Did you see the Halloween decorations?” I had. It was October first. I’d ridden past the mini graveyard with emerging skeleton, a collection of plastic pumpkins and a couple of glittery bats and thought, “Here we go again. Well, at least there’s nothing moving.” I hadn’t noticed the hanging phantom, which not only moves, but has a spooky voice recording to go with it. These decorations will be alarming the horses for an entire month.
Between Halloween decorations, birthday party balloons, tree grinders and the occasional siren, most of the riders have gotten accustomed to having to dismount every now and then. Annoying, but most of the time it’s worth it. Saturday’s ride definitely was. It was a perfect, crisp, fall afternoon. Little or no traffic and a light breeze with fresh horses. By the time the girls were on Moody, I was trailing them again. There are a couple of pathway segments on Moody that are removed from the road, which we always take at a good clip. After the first segment, I didn’t catch sight of them again till they were half way up the Artemas Gintzon, though I could see the fresh tracks and hear their laughter.
The Artemas Gintzon path takes off from Moody and winds through a preserve at the perfect rate of rise for more fun canter. After cantering single track through oak forest, there is the half mile gallop road at the end of it. Our route then takes us through Westwind Barn, after which we re-enter the preserve and canter through open pasture to the top of a hill that overlooks most of the bay. With the angled, fall, late in the day light, flying up a hill on horseback with views that spread for miles, the world feels magical. But it comes at a cost.
Los Altos Hills is not so much dangerous as it is tiresome and tedious. “Everybody stop now so I can remove the poop.” “Turn and face while this truck passes.” “Just ignore the barking dog.” “We have to go the long route today because they are tearing down a house.” It seems absurd, at first. Truth of the matter is, most parents aren’t up for driving an hour or more, through rush hour traffic, to Gilroy or Santa Cruz or Half Moon Bay, places where it seems like there’d be more room to ride so stuck with the complexities of negotiating traffic we are. Although I can’t help but think what it might be like elsewhere.
I actually get a lot of helping thinking about what it would be like elsewhere from my friend, Clara, who lives in Eugene, and from my dad, who lives in Carson City, and from my niece, who lives in Bend. This help comes in the form of Zillow, Redfin and WesternOregonHorseProperties links: Barn with twelve stalls; 150 X 200 ft covered arena with new footing; turn out pastures with vinyl fencing. The rural treats are dangled in front of me like a carrot in front of a donkey. There’s also the fact that, at some point, KidsLoveHorses could, with short notice, find itself without a home. It’s a small chance, but one that I want to be prepared for none the less.
Most people in Oregon drive Dodge trucks, not Ford. In California, Ford trucks rule. If they aren’t driving a truck, they are driving sedans, though seems like pretty much everyone owns a truck. This was my observation after having spent three days driving around the Willamette River Valley. My friend Clara says they all drive trucks because they are always pulling something; boats, dirt bikes, campers, and, of course, horse trailers. Oregon has an extraordinary number of outdoor activity options. Southern Oregon is a hub for endurance riding enthusiast for good reason. Unfortunately, to take advantage of these options, you have to hitch up your rig and drive for two or three hours.
First of all, a rig; truck and trailer; is $50,000 to $100,000. Second, driving 10,000 lbs of truck and trailer with live animals on board through traffic or on rural roads, is not exactly a cake walk. Third, who has that kind of time?
The last thing I thought a trip to Oregon would do would be to make Los Altos Hills look good, but it did. Even if I did move KLH to Santa Cruz or Half Moon Bay or Gilroy, I’d have the same problem: no trails without trailering.
In Los Altos Hills, the horses have a large fan base. Many residents take pride in the fact that there are horses being ridden about in their community. I know this because they tell me so on an almost daily basis. Yesterday, on my way to Clark’s field with a group of girls, I was stopped by a hills resident who told me enthusiastically just how much she loved seeing the young riders out with the horses; how beautiful it was. She said, “I can’t think of anywhere else that you can see this.” I think she may be right.