Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be lost on Mount Diablo, riding your show horse all alone after dark? For those of you who haven’t ridden Mount Diablo, as I hadn’t, it’s a beautiful, rugged mountain. Miles of trails, abundant wildlife and running streams challenged our show horses that, in most cases, had never seen water cascading over rocks.
GA Desert Sheik+ and I met our club members at the base of the mountain around 3 p.m. Half of us were ready, so we left. We rested at the midway point, waiting for the second group. When they didn’t come, the trail boss made the decision to move ahead. Sheik and I waited for the rest of the group.
When the sun dipped behind the rock wall, I grew concerned. I didn’t relish the idea of being alone on it after dark. Dusk brought four coyotes slinking down through the underbrush, close enough to smell. As the foursome stopped and stared, Sheik raised his head, and a grumble rose from deep within his throat. The coyotes moved away. I was amazed that a show horse, unaccustomed to the great outdoors, could commend so much authority.
Minutes later a bobcat approached from the underbrush. Sheik lifted his head, his body trembling and instructed the intruder to move on. When the animal slunk away, my eyes welled up with tears. I decided something had happened to the group and gave Sheik his head. Twenty minutes later it was black; I completely lost my bearings.
When we came to a narrow, steep trail, Sheik turned up it, but seeing no visible signs of horse droppings, I insisted we turn around. Later I learned that this was the way back.
Several frustrating hours passed. Every trail ended at a locked gate and we had to turn around. A heavy mist started to fall, and the temperature dropped quickly. Reaching behind my saddle, I untied the jacket.
As the cold and damp seeped into my bones, I despaired of every finding anyone when a husband and wife answered my call. They found a gentleman who knew the mountain well and he gave me directions.
When we came to the fence the man spoke of, I turned Sheik into the blackness. His hindquarters dropped beneath him and he slid down the precarious path through the underbrush. He came to a stop in front of a small gate just as a flashlight broke through the night. There I called the staging area and a trailer was dispatched to pick us up.
I decided to give Sheik a break. I reached up to remove his bridle, but before I could draw it over his head, the bit fell from his mouth — the Chicago screw and concho were gone. I’ll never know how long he held the bit in his mouth for me.