Tag Archives: tips

Thru-riding the Colorado Trail: Week One


I spent the summer of 2017 riding 500 miles through the Rocky Mountains with my partner Rich and three horses called Pinto, Pepper and Numero. I’ve posted logistical information about the trip online for anyone with an interest in the journey or backcountry horsemanship more generally. All previous entries on this subject can be found here.

Just before my partner Rich and I set off on our 500-mile adventure, a problem with transport left us scrabbling to find a new arrangement at short notice. We were overwhelmed by how the trail community rallied round to find us a friendly local with a horsebox (especially Bill Manning, chief executive of the Colorado Trail Foundation, who made a lot of calls on our behalf). In the end, we received two offers of help – from Richard Johnson, an excellent horseman who came to pick all five of us (two nervous people, three unknown horses) up the following morning and dropped us at the trailhead, and from Pam Doverspike, a true trail angel who we would finally meet a month later at Spring Creek Pass. (Hikers call this ‘trail magic’. this generosity from strangers one meets along the way.)

Both were proven CT experts, Richard having thru-ridden the trail twice and Pam, a trail sponsor, having also completed the trail (on horseback) in sections multiple times. They passed on a huge amount of hard-won advice, which was much appreciated – setting off for a six-week expedition, unsupported, was a daunting prospect for both myself and Rich. I’d love to pay that favour forward, so have typed up extracts from the diary I kept throughout our journey in case it might assist anyone planning the same or a similar long-distance journey by horse. Entries from our first week on the trail can be found below. It was our wettest and perhaps our most challenging week, as we grappled with the basics of backcountry horsemanship and life in the outdoors.
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Ten things I’ve learnt from life in sub-zero conditions


  • Below -20°C, the insides of your nostrils will crackle with frost and any hair left uncovered will gain a grey sheen, as though you have aged fifty years in a few minutes.
  • Below -30°C, nipping out the house for only a few seconds without jacket, hat and gloves becomes extremely uncomfortable. Cold metal feels like burning on contact, even through magic gloves. Eyelashes will clump with icy droplets.
  • Bowls of water will freeze solid in minutes, so to encourage the dogs to drink quickly we must mix meat or dry food into a watery ‘soup’ and feed it to them throughout the day.
  • Fingers and toes may be cold to the touch and throb, but it’s not until you have difficulty in touching thumb to pinky finger that you have to worry. Continue reading
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