In October I set off for Driscoll Island with Gandalf, Sierra, Pippen and Quincy. I was a little hesitant about crossing the Okanogan River as I'd heard of a man who had drowned his horse while attempting to cross last year.
When planning Freedom Rides, I give careful consideration to the mood of the horses on that given day, their relationships with one another, and the terrain in which we'll be working. None of us had been to Driscoll Island and, not knowing what to expect, I needed horses who came when called and who did not play games of evasive maneuvers. When working in areas where there may be old barbed wire fences, I also am careful to have horses who will give to pressure rather than rip their way out of trouble. Quincy is the weakest member of the herd in terms of working safely around barbed wire.
In the end though, I chose Sierra and Quincy because they come when called and Pippen because he adds fire to the mix without adding stupidity.
Okay... Well... Make that fire-- and water!
We casually walked along the sandbar up river to an area where we could go no further. When Sierra, Pippen and Quincy finally caught up with us, we stood around until they had begun to nibble on grass. We strolled away, but they were too quick to respond. Over and over we tried to slip away from them, but for the longest time, they stuck to us like velcro. Eventually the bond loosened and we were able to get some wonderful Fall shots.
Pippen spotted some horses pastured across the river. He pointed them out to Quincy. "Let's make friends," Quincy suggested and Pippen, who's always game, agreed. Together they waded into the river.
I watched, horrified, as I assessed their intention and implementation. They had chosen a confluence above a snag in what appeared to be a swift, deep section of the river. The bank on the opposite side was a steep cut bank that appeared to lack structural integrity. My fear was that they would attempt a landing on the opposite shore and the bank would collapse on them. Or, they'd abort and be swept into the snag.
Gandalf and I sprang into action. I whistled to Sierra who seemed to share our anxiety. She came immediately and we beat a hasty retreat in order to lure our explorers upstream and back onto our sandbar. Our strategy worked. The two, who were now swimming, turned their attention to their herd and hurried back to shore.
The sky, which had been threatening rain, finally let loose. I wrapped the camera in plastic bags, collected the horses and we returned to The 3-bell Ranch much elated from our outing.