Iowa, the Natural Gait

5/7/14 hauling to Iowa
Yesterday I decided to let the girls have a day off since they didn’t get one this week yet and the hills here worked them pretty hard, at least harder than they have been used to lately. I hobble grazed them for an hour on a beautiful grassy hill spot with a serene view. I got a lot of great shots of them and the morning started of quite well. I loaded up my ton of laundry and drove to Vermillion to a laundromat that John had recommended. I found my wayward puppy at Earls house on the way there and got to meet him finally. He is an old cowboy, a real one. He told me he had just lost his 39 year old horse, what a testament to horsecare!

The laundromat even had wi-fi! and I uploaded the last few states journal and photos. I was able to figure out an error I had made on my route regarding the order of WV and VA and emailed those 2 camps to switch them which will save me a bunch of miles. I have gotten so dependent on google maps, I couldn’t figure this out on my atlas. Ahhh what the internet has done to us, it has made our minds lazy I guess, or at least mine. I remember part of drivers ed I took in high school back in Sandy Springs GA where we had to plan a long trip with overnights. Measuring the highway miles with a little piece of paper and a pin to follow the curves. I remember enjoying that project a lot.

I got a propane tank, filled up the gas tank and got a few items at the grocery store. It all took longer than I thought it would. Typical for me. I got an ice cream cone at DQ, I haven’t had ice cream in a long time, it was great, I got it dipped in chocolate like I used to get when I was a kid. The kid in me is returning. I keep a photo of myself from when I was little in the trailer. I remember hearing you should do this to always remind yourself about the kid in you. Its of me in my underwear, washing a baby doll in a toy bath tub. Funny, my daughter loved this play activity as well.

I went to Brenda & John’s house to do the radio interview on the phone there. Gary Holt made me feel very comfortable and asked good questions. He played 3 relevant songs that I had never heard before. 2 were by Templeton something and the other artist I forget but I really liked them all.

John gave me a tour of their property which adjoins the camp property, it is so beautiful here. I got to meet all of their 16 horses. Including a few babies. Most of them are of “color”, either champagne, paint, buckskin. Flashy and stunning in the landscape. I got a lot of good shots I think. We loaded up my truck with hay and I even took 2 bales of alfalfa mix. I am pretty sure WF will load for alfalfa. Its so funny how nuts they are for it.

When I got back to camp I met the couple that just arrived from Omaha. While Tommy took advantage of the man’s tolerance of chewing on his boots, we talked. They have a feed store and board horses and come up here often to relax. Sounds like a nice life. Too bad I’m leaving tomorrow, I’d like to get to know them better. At 7 Brenda retrieved me to go to Earl’s and June’s for wine and cheese, which was lovely, outside on a picnic table with a cloth tablecloth and a pot of pansies in the middle. June has a super genuine smile on her face at all times. She brought out some asparagus (raw with mayo dip) from her garden, it was delicious. Earl gave me a book he had written of cowboy poetry. I asked him to sign it but he already had! Later I started to read it, he is really good, not your typical cowboy poetry. When I read the dedication my eyes teared up. The last line says “and to June–she, like the country, is always there”. And after meeting June I understand what he means. Oh how I wish I had had a love like this in my life.

Well, its 7:30 and we have all eaten, time to load up and leave this beautiful place.

I overnighted in Baxter, IA. Martha, the owner spent some time with me. She has had a rough few years and told me about loosing her mom, her long time partner and 3 bouts of cancer, one of which she just returned from Mayo Clinic treating for 3 weeks. She used to raise and train race horses here until her partner died. The indoor arena is 1/10 mile long for galloping.

When I woke up in the morning I remembered a very disturbing dream about being in the small old house in Illinois that we spent 4 years in while Bill was in CA with his new company. Anyway, in this dream we were discussing that the beams holding up the house were rotten and we never fixed them and we shouldn’t let the kids play in the basement since it could collapse on them. I was confused as to why the upper floors wouldn’t endanger them if the house collapsed. We came upon an secret room in the house and the inference was that I was exorcized in that room, but it wasn’t clear, what happened in this room? I have had dreams before about unknown rooms in houses. I couldn’t make sense of the dream but I think I do now.

5/8/14 near Minona, Iowa. The Natural Gait
We loaded & hauled without any trouble today, expecting a short haul but it wasn’t, especially because we missed a turn on the gravel roads approaching camp. But someone answered the phone number I had and talked me thru it. I am the only one here I think. A guy was here earlier cutting the grass but he left. Its pretty windy but 74 degrees so its nice, a little drizzle on and off and thunder. Since I have zero G4 nor wi-fi I don’t know the forecast, but I’ll try for a radio station on the trailer’s radio soon. I scouted around and there are tons of pasture here, but nothing completely fenced off, so I hobble grazed them for an hour. Their pens are decent sized and have a cover so they have shavings. They seem comfortable. WF’s legs got a few pink spots from the hobbles today so I need to figure out how to do this better. She does her hoppy gallop thing too much. Maybe the flat mohair ones are best after all, the twists on the cotton rope are I think what are doing it. An old truck pulled up while they were grazing and 3 guys headed out on the trail in camoflogue clothing, hmm. Tommy went up to them barking but came back when I used my whistle eventually. It looked like one guy petted him. Between the wind howling and my hay tarp flapping I can still hear a ton of birds and crickets, all sorts of different songs, its quite beautiful.

The Natural Gait has a lot of things here for families, frisbee golf, bicycles, an arena, boating in the pond…that kind of stuff. It is very isolated and no one working here I guess. Everything from shavings, firewood and stuff in the general store is on the honor code. Now that is different. It looks like a great place for a family reunion, kind of like the retreat we went to in Wisconsin years ago with the Schippers. Pat was my running buddy and Billy was best friends with Brian. Valerie was close to Rachel and Tommy swung between the two groups. It was a super good memory for us all. Husbands were not along with us.

Its a good thing we prerecorded the radio interview, I had no cell at all driving here. That meant that I didn’t get to listen to it either. And no hope of doing so here anyways. I wonder how it sounds.

As we got into eastern Iowa, it turned so beautiful, rolling big hills and very green. We passed thru several quaint bed & breakfast worthy towns. Not at all what I expected for some reason. Can’t wait to see the trails. They have a big trail system and they say they are all “groomed”, so I am hoping for no boots required, we’ll see.

OK, I ate dinner then wandered around with Tommy. The chirping of the frogs, crickets and birds are interrupted by something howling once in a while which is kind of scary but probably just a coyote? But its not a pack sound, its a lone animal…are there wolves in Iowa? Either way we kind of rushed back to the trailer just before it got completely dark.

Well this is what we discovered: There is a huge indoor arena (and an outdoor one too) with seating, a kitchen and dining room, shower rooms (and NICE ones) laundry, computer (not sure about internet tho) and a store with tons of really nice merchandise including lots of books, at least one nice western saddle. And everything is on the honor system. I can’t seem to wrap my mind around this. I know its not NYC but really? Don’t people steal stuff in the country at all? Everything is built first class, lights go on when you enter a place. Not like rustic nice either, I mean super nice, like I would live here! I want to see inside the cabins now. There is a really old but obviously used horse barn, a decent sized house either being rehabbed or just incomplete right now. I did find a huge (by my standards) grass pasture completely fenced around it. I know where my mares are going in the morning, don’t tell anyone, not sure if its allowed, but there is NO ONE here.

What really puzzles me is WHY is no one here, this is truly the most beautiful place and setting that I have ever seen. I just don’t get it. After studying the trail map and trying to figure out the scale, maybe there aren’t as many miles of trails as most people want? Or the hills are too tough? The scale is about 2-1/2” long and it says 918 m. Meters? So then I do know a 10k = 6.2 miles from my running days but is 1k 100 meters or 1,000 meters? Darn I can’t remember and don’t have internet. I think its 1,000 so if that’s right, the entire trail area is 2 miles x 1 mile but the trails snake around and there are multiple intersecting and linked loops. Not set up for endurance riders or some of the all day gaited riders I’ve met, but plenty for me! And there must be a ton of hills since the camp is in the middle and out my window it looks like an enormous drop, I can see tiny houses and barns down there.

I think I am going to have a BLAST here! I am riding tomorrow!! Holy crud, it just got super windy and is rocking the trailer. I still haven’t found a local weather report on the radio. But I did find a Wisconsin NPR station which is cool. I am pretty close to Wisconsin now. I think this is a storm. I’m going to bed. Better to storm at night, give me the sun for riding please!

5/9/1
My daily devotional reiterates Let go, Let God. Boy this keeps coming up lately. I was dwelling on that disturbing dream last night and this morning…the wreckage of my marriage and the innocent babies. And yesterday I had a very uncomfortable phone chat with my mom who has been moved into an assisted living facility in NJ. My poor sister is on the front line there. My daughter moved into my friend’s house yesterday in CA for the summer and Bill must be feeling abandoned, and altho most of our time together I wished him paybacks, I feel sorry for him. My middle son left college and is working for Bill, a situation which I understand but worry about because of the hostility I have witnessed between them. Dad had chemo again yesterday. And altho I have not heard anything serious from Billy in some time, I worry about him. There is no one here. I have no internet which shouldn’t be a big deal, but I have come to find comfort with my on line friends. But I have no control over any of these situations. Let go, Let God. It is becoming easier to do.

It is still windy but moderate temps and overcast. The mares look good, Tommy is chewing on an old milk bottle outside. There is country western and cattle prices on the radio. And I am all alone. This is what I wanted. I wanted to be left alone and I am not lonely. My devotional ends with “Trust Me, and watch to see what I will do.” It is getting easier to do.

I put the horses in the fenced pasture I found yesterday. Boy are they happy. I started a walk with Tommy but was interrupted by a young woman who manages this place. She told me no one else is coming in. A group of 12 just cancelled due to the virus scare. She said she won’t be around all weekend either. And no, the computer’s internet is off now. But I can do what ever I want she said, including using the pasture. Her husband had been one of the guys I saw when hobble grazing yesterday. They were mushroom hunting. He told her my horses were loose and he was amazed that they were just following me around. That would be cool, but they were hobbled and I told her that. A maid is here working on the cabins I think.

Well I was going to ride but its in the 50’s, windy and the mares are so content in their grass pasture I don’t have the gumption to go saddle up. I am tired, weary tired. My mom has fallen her first day at the assisted living facility. They took her to ER and found that she had broken her hip and needed surgery. The doctor told my sister this morning that he was doing her labs over because he thought an error had happened, her kidney function was not normal. Well its not. Its at about 8% of normal. They said she is not a candidate for dialysis and sometimes it gets better on its own. They won’t do surgery on her hip until it is normal. Another doctor said something about ethical question of dialysis. That sounds like living will stuff. It sounds like we don’t have all the information yet, they are talking to her regular internist and Liza will get back to me when she has more info. When I talked to dad it sounded like he was crying. They have been divorced for 40+ years and he had remarried, but Bobbi died a few years ago. He has always been so generous with mom, I don’t know if you can ever let go of someone you were married to a long time and had children with.

Just caught the tail end of a weather report, all I heard was 70‘s & rain for Mothers day. Maybe I should ride today and tomorrow and rest Sunday. But maybe he said rain every day? Its not raining now, but it could, it looks like it. But its kind of cold and I am weary. I guess I am so sad. My mares have been on the grass for 3 hours now, should I remove them? That’s an hour more than they are used to. I brought water and hay over to them but they aren’t interested. Maybe a light ride would be good for me. I don’t know, I feel like going to sleep but that’s probably just trying to escape what’s going on with my mom. Let go, Let God, its hard now.

I am trying off and on to start the Nebraska painting. I love the shot. But I can’t seem to get going, I really don’t want to get depressed again. I need to remember: eat, sleep, ride, walk, paint, do something, MOVE. But I don’t feel like it. Hold God’s hand, let go, let God.

I painted most of the day. I had trouble with it, but it is a very good distraction from what’s going on with my life, its the Nebraska one and I am done with it. Its a shot of the mares focusing on a tractor working on the next hillside. When I sent the pic to Tommy, he said “great shot”. But it was difficult because of the perspective and Dreamy blending into a tree line.

I can’t think too well right now…I have even less energy now. My phone will not send texts or work in any fashion at all. I reset the network settings 3 times and its even worse now, it says I have 3 bars but nothing works!!!@!@. I am worried my sister is trying to reach me about my mother’s condition but can’t. I don’t know what to do. I don’t have the energy to drive to a town, they are all at least 45 minutes away and I can barely walk and I am having trouble focusing on tasks. I don’t know what’s the matter with me. I hate my phone and straight talk. I guess I have to get a new one. I guess I need to go find a store somewhere but its 5:00 on Friday and unless there is a Walmart I won’t find one. But I am beyond tired and I did barely anything physical today. I think my mother is dying and altho I stayed away from her as her mental condition was declining (and I myself was falling apart after leaving Bill) it is affecting me much more than I thought it would. I keep thinking about me dying and how my kids will handle it and will they stay away from me too?

5/10/14
Bad night last night, got ill after eating dinner and went straight to bed. I guess I had a bug? I didn’t even check the horses, it was still light out. Tommy threw up on the bed 2 times and I let him out of the trailer too. We both ate the same Bertollis stir fry last night. I feel much better this morning. And upon waking, I remembered I have my inReach now, I can send and receive messages with it via satellite, so I sent Liza a text. I hope this works, haven’t done it since Utah. The SUN is out! What a difference for me. I always knew the sun improved my outlook, but I am noticing it more and more and how dramatic it is. I need to live in a place that has lots of sunny days. This is now a firm guideline in my home decision.

The horses were fine this morning, and cleaned up the hay for a change. Not much drunk but plenty of manure. I’ve decided that if they are grazing, they are getting moisture from the fresh grass and don’t need as much water. I hope I am right. They grazed for 6 hours yesterday, more than ever before. They grazed in their paddocks in FL, but this is thick grass and that was sparse weeds. I found out that the owners here made their money with native wildflower seeds, their company is called ION. All the grass here is super healthy for them I was told. I got this info from the maid, she not only does the cabin cleaning, she mows the tons of grass in camp, has a 5 year old daughter with out a husband and lives and works on a dairy farm with 70 head with her step father. Country women know how to work that’s for sure. She also told me they mow the 20 miles of grass trails, but someone else does that.

I saddled up Wildflower and ponied Dreamy around the trails. Its lovely and diverse. Woods, winding Yellow River, corn fields, prairie, pine forest, some good hills too. Tommy came along and was good. He did take flight after a deer for a while but eventually came back with out the deer, lol. After a while I got tired of holding the lead rope and took it off. I have never done this before but was pretty sure Dreamy would just follow us and she did. I have been playing with this with both of them here since there are no other horses or people here to distract them and cause trouble. They are like magnets. We rode for about 3 hours and got on most of the trails on this side of the river. I am not ready to do the river crossing without someone else that has done it. The manager had told me one of them was soft and a horse had gotten stuck in it recently. And I am not sure which one she said. We walked down to 2. The first one WF balked at and was sinking well before the shore. The next one we went down to and they got a drink. The flag on the other side is downstream quite a ways and it looks like loose rocks on the bottom. So I didn’t try it. I’m chicken I guess.

I put the girls in the pasture for the afternoon and drove to Prairie Du Chien to try and fix my phone or get a new one. After a frustrating conversation with Straight Talk about my CA zip code having an “outage”, and the sales clerk at WalMart, I got a no contract Verizon phone at Walgreens for $38 and $45/month. It will take me some time to get used to it, I have had an iphone since they started making them. Verizon has better coverage in camps too. Technology can be so frustrating.

Anyway, I am back in touch with my sister. My mom has kidney failure and is starting dialysis, and having hip surgery next week. She is still saying she just wants to go home altho she can’t walk with a broken hip and is seriously ill on top of it all. I was having panic attacks that she was dying and no one could call me. So I am relieved that its apparently under control somewhat, I wonder why that doctor said she wasn’t a candidate for dialysis in the first place.

A guy and his sister arrived and are staying in one of the cabins. He came over and talked with me earlier. He had seen me riding where he was hunting turkeys. I’m glad I didn’t hear him shooting, I hadn’t seen anyone. I thought there was no hunting on the property…everywhere you go people are hunting it seems. And driving around here I keep seeing the little veal huts they keep the baby cows in. It makes me sick. The maid has a dairy farm and was talking about it being 60 below for a week here and how the baby cows are bottle fed then run back into their straw stuffed huts. The babies are born all year round, they do that for milk production. But the babies never get that milk, we do. The babies are then contained to make veal with. I thought the babies grew up and became milk cows too. I never realized this before. The way we exploit animals for our food is repulsive to me. That’s why I was a vegetarian before. Not a strict one, but I’d just rather not be a part of it all. And I can’t help but think about it when handling raw meat. I heard this guy on the radio talking about a bill that CA passed, I assume for no cage chicken eggs. He said he can’t wait till CA runs out of eggs and they go up in price. I don’t want to even imagine what those chicken cages look like. I’ve heard even the free ones have an awful life.

At tractor supply the guy who loaded my shavings was telling me about another horse camp just down the street (Prairie Du Chien is in Wisconsin) so I went and looked at it. There is a bunch of horse campers there! Its definately not as pretty as here but it would be nice to have some company once in a while. I wonder why so many are there and none here. I had never heard of it before. Its called Lavierre (?) Horse Park. Hmmm, look it up when I get wi fi. I bet there’s a lot of little camps around like this that I may be missing. Most horses were on picket lines but there were a few pens. Maybe its cheaper? I wonder if there are more trails? The Tractor Supply guy also said to call him if I wanted to come to his farm and ride something different. Hmmm, but he didn’t give me his phone number, wonder what he meant.

Tomorrow is Mother’s day. I won’t see my kids nor my mom. Probably won’t even talk, might get a text or 2. Hmmm…When I was at home my birthday got rolled into Mother’s day any way.

Mother’s day
Today was odd. Not in exact order: I had a wonderful short 1-1/2 hour ride on Dreamy (except Tommy took off after a deer again, showing up back at camp much later, exhausted), got the horses’ feet done, worked them both for 15 minutes in the round pen, put them in the pasture for 6 hours again, tried to make some reservations for June camps with my new phone (but wasn’t able to connect to many on Sunday), talked to my mom (went well), got a text for mothers day from Rachel (nothing from my boys, but I am having technical difficulties here), hitched up the trailer and prepped to leave tomorrow, discovered my new Verizon phone has a mobile hot spot so I can use it with my laptop (but then it stopped working after an hour or so)…It started out sunny, at noon I got thunder and it rained for a while, then sunny again. Really odd weather here. But in the 70’s so I’m not complaining! Even tho it seems like I did a lot when I list it like this, I still feel like I didn’t get anything done today. Not sure why. The solitude here makes me very introspective which maybe I am not ready for. Even tho I am on this journey which should be somewhat relaxing, I feel the need to be super productive. I guess that’s just who I am.

The Illinois camp I am heading to is booked, what a difference it will be to have a bunch of people around. Tommy will have to be tied up probably (ugh) and the mares will be in stalls eating hay again (it was nice while it lasted here) and I will get to meet some people and maybe ride with them (social interactions are good for me). I think its rocky so I’ll have to use boots, glad I just did their feet, they stay on better after a trim. Actually now that I think about it, there were no campers at the last 2 camps either. Not since Oklahoma. I guess it is too early for most people. Well if I didn’t get started when I did, I wouldn’t be to the North West before it starts getting cold so, that’s they way it goes.

The Natural Gait is probably the most beautiful setting and facility I have been to. Could use some more miles of trails, but then again, if I had had the balls to cross the river, I could of gotten some more.

5/12/14
Well this morning was a first. Amid a huge lightening storm I loaded up and pulled out by 8am. It rained so hard I was not able to see the road at times so slowed way down with my flashers on quite a bit. It took me 6 hours to get to Peoria, IL, but we are all settled in, its warm here and sunny. The mares had a nice romp and roll in the outdoor arena and are safe in their stalls now, they are expecting a storm tonight, I think its following me around the country! Shawnee tomorrow!

hobble grazing

hobble grazing

so much green grass here its amazing to see

so much green grass here its amazing to see

Wildflower

Wildflower

IMG_6947

amazing evening light, and the nature sounds are deafening

amazing evening light, and the nature sounds are deafening

indoor arena used to have weekly clinics in it I was told

indoor arena used to have weekly clinics in it I was told

amenities are first class

amenities are first class

Nebraska painting

Nebraska painting

Yellow River

Yellow River

IMG_6979

IMG_6983

IMG_6988

taking a break

taking a break

lots of wildflowers in the woods

lots of wildflowers in the woods

ponying with no rope

ponying with no rope

Black Forest trail

Black Forest trail

view of compound from my trailer

view of compound from my trailer

view from a cabin porch on the ridge

view from a cabin porch on the ridge

IMG_7018

One thought on “Iowa, the Natural Gait

  1. Hi Kathy, I listened to your interview–very nice–good questions and good answers. You did a very nice job. I read your blog. So sorry about your Mom–just kind of what you were thinking, but the fall has made her time in care center so much more serious, along with the dialysis. I know it is such a terrible worry for you. So happy that you have been able to be in touch with both your mom and sister. Bless your heart–such a worry.
    I loved reading about The Natural Gait–interesting place. Your mares must have loved it. I’m learning about these horse camps from your writing–interesting. I have read about and heard about Shawnee Forest–think my sister-in-law has been on a ride there–was very impressed with the terrain. Hope it is a wonderful stop for you.
    I read all of your facebook. I’m so happy that you stopped at my barn. I enjoyed meeting you and visiting with you, and now I feel like I know you much better. I will be thinking about you often and will be anxious to know where you are and how everything is going. You are truly an inspiration–wish I had half the guts you have to do this. You go, girl!!!
    Love, Martha at Lone Oak, Baxter

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