The day dawned clear but rain was expected in the afternoon. I left home earlier than usual because I knew a large crowd was expected. As I pulled up to the “fee box”, I noticed a large area had been taped off at the edge of the trailhead across from the box. The ground was wet and muddy. I wondered if it would cause a problem for folks to maneuver their rigs to get into the trailhead the more crowded it became but we have good drivers in our club. Ambrose and Wendy were already there as well as Tram, who was the trail boss for the ride. Herb was behind me. Tram told me his horse had been lame all week but seemed ok now but asked if I would lead the ride if Harley wasn’t able to handle it. Of course I agreed. As it turned out, there were two rides: one for slower horses and one for gaited horses. Tram led the gaited group on Harley on the west trail and Linda led the slower group on the east trail. I usually ride the east trail so I was looking forward to riding the west trail. We hadn’t gone very far when word was passed up that Tram had to turn back. So, Sadie and I were put in charge and the rest of the riders were Ambrose on Sally, Herb on Buddy, Tonya on Dusty, Lavater on Bucky, Mike on Sage and Marti on Deliliah. (Marti is the recreation specialist for the Talquin State Forest and looks after the Ft. Braden trails; she said the mud is due to a pitcher pump to be installed for us to have water for the horses!) The first thing I discovered was the trail turned down the last jeep road instead of continuing on toward the lake. This cut out a beautiful part of the trail that used a firebreak and then followed a small creek that is absolutely awesome. (On another ride out there I’ll be glad to introduce folks to it because it’s not too far from the new turn.)   As we continued down the jeep road, Herb’s horse started spinning like something had bitten him but soon settled down. We then turned into the woods on the single track trail that wound up and down small hills. It wasn’t long before three small deer crossed in front of us. We waited to see if more would pass but they were by themselves. It soon became obvious that we need to have a workday to replace signage as many of our markers were on the ground so we relied on the treadway itself. We spooked another deer as we continued our way down toward the lake and I then pointed out some large holes and explained that I had been told two different theories about their existence. The first was that Indians dug for clay there; the second was that boy soldiers during the Civil War dug the holes to be prepared to fight the Yankees if they came up the river to invade Florida and capture the Capital. As we continued toward the pavilion, I stopped to get everyone together and noticed a small turtle. When Sadie saw it, she snorted at it and she and it moved in different directions. I think she has a phobia about turtles because the only other time she had seen one on a ride, she whirled and somehow I stayed on. When we got to the pavilion, we took a small break and wondered if the other group had arrived and left before we got there. We decided to continue to the next road and Ambrose led out. We wandered through the woods to the next road where Ambrose said goodbye because he was going to ride more. As we took the road back, three big deer crossed in front of us. When we got closer to the trailhead, we saw the other group returning on the east trail so we actually got back at the same time! All in all, I appreciated the opportunity to lead the ride but want to acknowledge Tram’s big disappointment in not being able to follow through as trail boss. We’ve all had experience with lame horses and I am sure there will be other rides he will lead for the club!