Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Icelandic Horses, and camping in San Juan Capistrano

I took a weekend off and went camping with my friends at Caspers Wilderness Park in San Juan Capistrano. Starr Mesa Equestrian Campground had fabulous facilities where you don't ever have to back up your rig and turn it around!  We arrived Friday afternoon and rode four times over two days. The weather was perfect and the horses were full of steam. We had 7 Icelandics, 2 Fox trotters, a Gypsy Vanner and three quarter horses, so it was an unusual mix.

I am lucky because Ari can go out with the slower horses and he can also keep up with the gaited group. Some Icelandics, and a lot of gaited horses of other breeds, just can't slow down enough to enjoy a ride with everyone. So Ari and I did a little of both.

Our first two rides were out with the Fox trotters and quarter horses and we saw beautiful scenery. The trails are wide and well maintained. Even the single track trails are in perfect condition. We rode up to the East Ridge trail and had a fabulous view. There were signs warning of mountain lions everywhere, but all we saw (thank goodness) were deer. The trails are so well-marked it is hard to get lost, and the maps were very accurate.

On Saturday afternoon we did Mr Toad's Wild Ride with the Icelandics. It was probably the most fun I've ever had! One horse tolted at top speed and several of us tried to keep up. Then there was a slower group behind by several hundred yards. Ari never tolted so well and so fast in all the time I've owned him. He was inspired by being with his Icey friends again.

It was interesting that the Fox Trotters couldn't keep up with the fastest tolt without breaking out of gait. I didn't realize it, but their running walk can only go so fast (which is plenty fast, believe me). The Icelandic tolt is like you'd see a racking horse or Saddlebred do. Very fast and knees pumping like a sewing machine. Watch a video here of Icelandics in action. And a Fox trotter here.

On Sunday morning we did a slower gaited ride (but still pretty quick) and took in the scenery we missed the day before. The giant oak trees and deer in the woods made it worth slowing down!

I've had a few accidents over the years, and I was marvelling as we flew down the trails that I never once was afraid on Ari. I never felt out of control, I always knew that if I asked him to stop, he would. I could just sit back and enjoy the ride. My riding has improved a lot, but the real truth is I just have the best horse in the world.

I definitely recommend Caspers for miles and miles of easy riding, and more challenging rides if you want them. It is also open for day use riding, and is located in South Orange County, about seven miles east of San Juan Capistrano.

© 2009 Terry Albert. All rights reserved.


"Ice Pony Girl" said...

You lucky ducks! What fun!!!

Anonymous said...

Great re-cap, Terry. What you described with Ari is how I feel with Aska. She LOVES riding with Iceys. I am a timid rider but I feel safe with Aska, and actually thought Saturday's ride was a little slow...I LOVE Icelandics!!!

Terry Albert said...

Saturday's ride was a little SLOW??? Oh my God, I need to get out with you guys more often! Icelandics were born to fly- I think Pegasus must have been an Icey.

Ron Robinson said...

Thanks for sharing this account of your recent trip. Enjoyed Casper's in the past, but it's been a few years. I recall one location where the oak trees grow over a single-track trail creating an enchanting portal to a wider connecting trail. Very cool ride.

Terry Albert said...

That must be the same trail as in the top photo. It was truly beautiful. We need to go back and explore some of the other trails!