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Story long (trail ride not a race)

This is written by my Endurance riding friend Norma. hope you all enjoy

Misadventures in the Ya-ha-tinda

On June 21st I traveled south-west  with Elaine Delbeke and Myriam Jury,
an exchange student from France, to the Ya-ha-tinda Ranch for a mountain
trail ride. This is a government run ranch bordering the east side of
Banff  National Park where they raise and train the horses used by the
Park Wardens. It is in a beautiful valley  that was used by the native
Indians for centuries.
We were late leaving camp the next morning , all busy tying everything
on our saddles and ourselves that we thought we might possibly need for
a  ride in the mountains. We were all riding 7 year old mares that were
not yet well trained . I dropped my halter shank and the buckle hit my
horse on the forearm and she crow hopped around a bit. Elaine was quite
excited about that but luckily Ladybug does not know how to buck. At
10:30 I led the way south across the Red  Deer River (fast moving green
glacier water about shoulder deep).First river crossing for all three
horses. They were very brave. We moved out well through Ribbon Flats.
There is a boggy creek  to cross to go up onto Dogrib Mtn.  The Friends
of The Eastern Slopes Association have built a nice solid bridge just
wide enough for  saddle horses. Myriam tried first to take  Kelly
across  but she wasn’t sure of the high step and my Ladybug nudged her
aside and across we went. We crossed many times to get all the horses
comfortable with the bridge and then climbed the zig-zag trail up
through the conifer forest. There are a couple places where the trail
comes abruptly out on a ledge with a steep drop down to a small creek. I
am a bit uncomfortable with steep drop-offs but the view out towards the
flatlands is awesome(if you are brave enough to look back over your left
shoulder!) While we  were riding Elaine kept saying how quiet and gentle
Shatanna was and how she was sure she would soon be ready for anyone to
ride. When we came out in the open the wind was cold and we were aiming
to climb up top. Elaine started  to put her coat on and I said "Lets
stop." Elaine said "Keep going. We’re fine." I repeated that we could
easily stop -we weren’t in any hurry. Again Elaine said "No. No. She’s
fine." About 3 seconds later , Shatanna bolted  past me with Elaine’s
left arm in her flapping coat. She grabbed  the left rein with her right
hand  but her cinch was too loose and she pulled herself off balance to
the left . I thought she might be okay when she got past a couple large
rocks the size of a small car but she landed under a large spruce tree
with big roots sticking out of the ground. I left  Myriam with her and
caught her horse , however when I returned she was still only moving her
upper body and was basically in the same position. I tried telling her
to lay still. If she was hurt bad she might do more harm by trying to
move. She kept saying she had only bruised her  muscles. She was in a
lot of pain so we rummaged through our first-aid supplies and she took
some pain killers and some rescue shock remedy. It took an hour for her
to stand , then she could not walk, even with our help. I finally
grabbed  her by  the  shoulders , looked her in the eye and said "If you
do not  let me go  NOW for help , you might be up here on the mountain
all night ." I told her it would take 4 to 6 hours  to get help in, if
we were lucky. Finally, she agreed.  I helped  Myriam  make her
comfortable . I left my jacket and slicker ,water and first-aid kit. I
also left my white vest with Myriam with instructions to put it in the
open with rocks to hold it down in case it was getting dark when we came
back. Elaine did one better . She had 2 silver emergency blankets and
she had Myriam put one for marker and one over the coats she was covered
in. Also, Elaine’s helmet had 3 cracks in the outer  plastic shell  -
all I can say is "Thank God we were wearing them !"
I left them at 2:50 P.M.  While riding down the mountain I was very
aware of the responsibility I was carrying.  I had to arrive safely  and
quickly at camp, or otherwise it was up to Myriam (from another country)
to get help the next  morning. My horse, Ladybug, was  a  real trooper .
She never hesitated or spooked and was totally cooperative to whatever
speed I felt we could handle over the terrain. I had decided it would be
quicker to ask for help from someone who was not hooked to a trailer  so
I called into each camp as I went by then hurried to the next one till I
found  Leonard McKay from Olds . I had Ladybug unsaddled and in Elaine’s
trailer ( Elaine’s  idea !) by 3:00 P.M.  Leonard drove me  to the
Ya-ha-tinda  where we  were lucky - Marie and John Nylund were  in the
yard building a beautiful pine log training corral. Marie quickly called
Sundre Hospital from their mobile phone. Then it was up to me to relay
all the information as clearly and quickly as possible through all the
different channels until I finally got someone to call  STARS . Marie
had the G.P.I. (Global Positioning Indicator) numbers ready for me so
the helicopter  would know exactly where to pick me  up. I told everyone
I could show them exactly where Elaine was and that I needed  to help
Myriam bring the horses back down to camp. The operator called me back
and patched me through to the pilot and the paramedic so I could give
them as much information as possible. ETA was 25 minutes. It took 40
minutes. While I waited Marie served us tea and cookies. I also phoned
and left a message for Paddi Sprecher to get hold of Elaine’s husband
Wayne. When I boarded the chopper they asked if  I’d  ever ridden in one
before .I replied "No, but I had been up in small 2-seater planes. I
also had myself  mentally prepared  - I had to go get Elaine." Only
Paddi knows of my slight nervousness with heights (until now!) Then the
pilot added " Oh, and by the way ,it  is very windy up there. That is
why we are late. The chopper  will vibrate but we have to hurry because
we are now low on fuel." The pilot asked me to guide them over The Cone.
As soon as we came over top they spotted Elaine and landed close by. The
paramedic thought she was only bruised .One of the pilots asked me if he
brought his son in to the Ya-ha-tinda if I would give them a ride. Under
the circumstances I felt quite honored. I told  him  I did not live
there ( DARN ! ) but would let him know when I had a couple quiet horses
and was camping near Calgary. The pilot also took a couple photos with
Elaine , the paramedic and 2 nurses working on her  and of the chopper.
Sure hope they turn out. They informed me they were taking her to the
Foothills Hospital in Calgary.  I had brought Elaine’s purse for her and
told them I would look after everything else so  I had fun tying her
helmet ,chaps and  my slicker  on Shatanna  who was a bit spooky now of
flapping things. I  wore my vest , 2 coats and 2 fanny packs. Myriam
and  I ate and  drank everything  we could , fed the horses their treats
and squished our water bottles so we could get it all packed. When we
hit Ribbon Flats we tried to trot but Shatanna  was acting up so I
figured I’d better play it safe. One accident was more than enough,
thank you. Leonard McKay  was waiting for us when we returned . After we
looked after  our  horses  I asked Leonard if we could hire him to take
us out to Mountain Aire Lodge to the pay phone as  I really wanted to
find out Elaine’s condition. When Leonard heard Myriam and I mention
the  STARS benefit ride the Endurance riders and Competitive Trail
riders were hosting July 3 he told me to donate the money I’d offered
him to the  STARS  benefit . When I called Wayne he said  "Elaine’s
fine." I  asked  "Really?" "Well, other than her pelvis broken in 3
places and her tailbone broken, she seems fine." I was so sorry my
suspicions were right. But Elaine had  made me promise to stay in the
mountains with Myriam. The next  day we were very subdued as we rode
around Eagle Lake and James Lake. We dropped down to  Frontier Town for
a fresh piece of rhubarb pie. Yummy ! Then back up and took the trail
along the south side of the ridge (another of those beautiful places
that I love but don’t really like!) and on to scenic Bighorn Falls.
  On Thursday we again attempted to go up on top of the north end of
Dogrib ,but this time we tied in with 3 other riders . They asked me to
show them where we’d had the accident and when we got there it was windy
and cool again so I said "If anyone wants to put their coat on , PLEASE,
lets stop." A voice from the back said "Don’t worry about me!" However,
I stressed to Myriam that if either of us saw a safer way, please speak
up because the mountains aren’t very forgiving of human error. We
finally made it to the top and ---what a view!! And over the mountain
came a helicopter - I hoped they weren’t coming for one of us. Then I
explained the trail options and all voted to go down the front with me
leading our horses till we got to the Sheep Cliffs Trail. I had wanted
to take them to the end of the ridge for the view, but it started  to
rain and blow, so we came on down. A great day .Sorry you missed it,
Friday, Myriam and I rode up on top of The Hat . Thanks to Warden Frank
Coggins  and the Junior Forest  Rangers, just as you come out on the
open ridge (which is very slippery when wet !!) if you watch to your
right you will find ribbons and a cleared trail  through the trees which
will take you to the top a safer way.   There is a full 360 degree view.
We added to the  human-shaped  rock cairn  up on top, ate some lunch,
saw rain coming from Banff area and headed down the west side. We went
north towards the Clearwater River . Saw lots of cougar tracks  and
tracks of one wolf headed  north.  A large boom in the sky changed our
direction -time to go home ! Ladybug  tried telling me that we were
passing the trail  and I was lost. (I think she was telling Kelly  ,
Myriam’s horse,  dumb blonde jokes because every  so often she’d just
turn around and head back for the trail over The Hat.) She seemed quite
surprised  when we arrived back at camp.
Saturday, it was still raining  and we were brushing our horses and I
had just asked Myriam if she wanted to ride in the rain or stay in camp.
She replied "Let’s do something interesting." Just then Tim Barton from
the outfitter’s camp right next to Banff boundary drove by with his
stagecoach pulled by 4 bay  horses. I told Myriam to grab her camera - I
found something interesting. We went over  for a visit and while we were
there, in drives Tim’s covered wagon . Everybody piles out, loads their
gear in vehicles  and leaves Tim to take 2 outfits back to his camp. So
I volunteered to drive the wagon if Myriam could lead my horse. When we
got to The Outpost , Myriam said I really did find something
interesting. I never thought I’d be driving a team through the
mountains.  I was born a flatlander!  Tim’s cook ,Anne, had a royal
feast ready for us, then we had to sit back and  enjoy the fireside view
of the mountains  till our meal settled. Too late and wet  to go back
the south side  through the trees.
Sunday we headed  up behind Frontier Town to Eagle Creek (checked out
Morgan’s waterfall - where a friend took her 5 year old daughter ,
Morgan ,for a picnic the day before.) We met a man with a palomino horse
and a Border Collie dog . I think he thought maybe that blonde wasn’t
too bright when I told him we were on our way to Wolf Creek. There’s a
neat little trail that goes  along under the rocky ridge and above the
road and goes right over to the Red Deer River crossing and ties into
the Wolf Creek trail. The river crossing is better this way as you’re
not angling into the current. We had lunch at Wolf Creek Cascades, then
on to the edge of nowhere path following Wolf Creek to Ribbon Flats and
home again. But we hadn’t made it to Hidden Falls yet, so away we went
back across the river. Myriam was glad we had not missed it, and it gave
me the opportunity to try out another of Frank Coggins and the Junior
Forest Rangers new trails. On your way back , watch for ribbons to your
right - it’s a nice scenic way down.
Monday was sad we had to pack up and come home to Leduc. It was the
first time in 3 days we had no rain . That was nice. I would like to
say  a special  THANK YOU to Leonard McKay,  Marie and John Nylund and
the STARS staff who all helped in our emergency. Hope our tale told will
prevent someone else from having the same happen to them or to a friend
Happy and Safe Trails to all.
Norma Lovell.

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