In 2017 I had a mini horse named Oreo. I bought him out of a field with very little training. He was nearly impossible to catch but, if you could ever catch him, he was sweet as could be and loved attention.
I had fostered mini horses in the past, and they’re sometimes hard to find homes for because they’re too small to ride. I wanted to prove that mini horses are tough little buggers that are highly trainable and quite useful in the right setting. So I decided I would hike a portion of the Appalachian Trail, the only part that allows horses, and take Oreo along to be my pack horse.
I recruited my friend and her mini as well. Together we were going to prove what minis can do. The trip ended up falling apart, both minis went on to find perfect homes where they have jobs, and I never did hike that portion of the Trail. But something wonderful came out of that experience- I figured out that I really like hiking.
The section of the trail we had planned to do involved one day where we had to hike 13 miles. I was moderately fit at the time, still am actually. I’m very active, but I’m not a gym rat and I don’t count my carbs or eat like a caveman. 13 miles sounded like a lot to me! My friend and I both started hiking with our minis in the fall of 2017, trying to get ourselves and the minis in shape to do 13 miles while carrying a pack.
When it came time to make New Year’s resolutions, naturally I wanted to include something about hiking. I don’t know about you, but I love resolutions. I’m like Goal Setting Gertie over here with my pen and paper writing down all the things I want to accomplish. I usually have a ton of resolutions, because there are a ton of things I want to do and learn; some of them I stick to and some I save for another year. For 2018 I decided to keep it simple and have two very specific resolutions. I wanted to hike 100 miles and ride 100 miles on my horse.
To some people a hundred miles is small potatoes. For people who hike one of the long distance trails like the Appalachian or Pacific Crest Trail, they do 20 miles in one day. Endurance riders regularly do training rides of 15 or 20 miles, sometimes more. But I’m not a bad-ass hiker or endurance rider, so 100 miles seemed like a reasonable goal for me.
I hiked with Oreo until he went to his new home, and then I hiked with my mule, who was rehabbing from a ligament injury and just getting back into work. I also hiked with my dog, and sometimes all by my lone. In January I was only doing a couple miles at a time, a few days a week. As the weather improved, I started doing longer hikes and hiking more days out of the week. It’s July now and I try to hike 10 miles a week, minimum.
I bought a cute, cheap planner to record my miles and keep track of weekly and monthly totals, and to make notes about which trails I hiked and interesting things I saw.
Hiking 3 miles now is no big deal. Five or six miles still feels like a workout. I’ve become one of those people that gets grumpy if I don’t get my miles in. I’ve come to love getting out every day in all kinds of weather and putting one foot in front of the other. I haven’t totaled up my miles yet, but I’m pretty sure I’ve already passed 100. I got 50 miles in April alone.
I haven’t lost any weight, and wasn’t really trying to, but my legs are stronger. Physically that’s the only difference I see. The biggest difference has been mental. I discovered that I enjoy something that I’ll be able to do in my 80’s, something that keeps me fit, gets me outdoors, and takes me to beautiful trails.
I feel like I have unfinished business with that section of the Appalachian Trail that I planned to do with Oreo. Maybe I’ll do it by myself. Thirteen miles doesn’t sound so bad anymore.