Saddling up at the Calgary Stroke Program

CSPSarah Blayney is a Clinical Fellow in the Calgary Stroke Program at Foothills Hospital, University of Calgary. She received a BGS SpR Travel Grant to help fund her fellowship.

As the branch flicked back and caught me full in the face, I saw another coming from the side just in time to throw my weight left and precariously low over the horse’s neck. We had left the trail some time ago after encountering more fallen trees after last week’s snowstorm; the temperatures had soared to the high twenties again but this far out into the mountains there was no one around to clear the trail. Narrowly avoiding my leg being crushed against a tree as we forged our own path through the undergrowth, I wondered quite what I’d let myself in for this weekend. The initial natural obstacles encountered on the lower level trails were nothing in comparison to those up here, and the gradient was punishing for both us and the horses.

Eventually we broke the tree line and took in a spectacular view of the valley below. Any breath left was soon gone after struggling up the last section: so steep here that we were out of the saddles and down onto our feet. After three hours of hard riding my legs were
in no shape to clamber up a rocky outcrop while trying to persuade several hundred pounds of horseflesh behind me to wait his turn, but a few minutes later I sank gratefully onto the coarse grass at the top. Once up there our horizon broadened further, taking
in the mountain ranges to the north and west. Far in the distance, a hunter’s rifle fired periodically and the echo bounced around the mountains for several seconds each time. It was the hardest and most exhilarating riding I’d ever done, and the view from the
top was outstanding.

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