I WAS SO excited when I read the classified ad stating the owners of Blue Meadow Farm were offering guided trail rides on their rental horses.
Immediately I called the number and made arrangements to meet the owners.
As I got out of my truck I was given a warm greeting from Duke Moroz.
He pointed to his wife, Rusty Moroz, wearing a cheery cowboy hat and riding bareback up though a pasture on a beautiful palomino.
After a friendly greeting, she shared she was riding Kodak, a half Polish Arabian and halfquarter horse Duke bought as a gift for her 10 years ago.
“He’s so sweet and does just about everything I ask,” she said, showing me how well he moved for her to open and close a gate, backed and side-passed, responding mostly to her slight body cues.
“He didn’t used to be that way, though. He started off a real stinker,” Rusty said.
Through time and lots of training, and then going to a professional trainer who taught Rusty how to react and discipline (within three seconds of Kodak’s bad behavior), how to reward and to better communicate with her horse.
Rusty shared they both have loved horses all their lives, starting off with two and riding “all the time.”
She said they then got more for their family — they have four adult children and two grandchildren — and the couple was taking friends and friends of friends out on rides all the time.
“Then my husband suggested we start offering riding tours as a business,” Rusty said. “From there it took a good six months to find insurance to cover the business, and it was expensive.
“It’s quite spendy,” she said. “But we thought, ‘Let’s give it a shot and see how it goes.’ ”
They’ve been in business for two years. I mentioned I was surprised I hadn’t heard about them.
“I’m just learning more about marketing the business,” Rusty said a bit sheepishly. “Most of our business comes from word of mouth.”
Frequently I’m asked if I know of a place that rents horses for trail riding.
Before they retired I used to refer people to Sol Duc Valley’s Larry and Sherry Baysinger and their Rain Forest Horse Rides.
As Sherry explained to me, years ago it was the escalating cost of liability insurance that caused other rental horse businesses to close barn doors.
I learned about Rustic Riding when I happened to glance at the Peninsula Daily New’s classified section under the heading “Horses” and saw their advertisement.
From there I checked Facebook, found their page and gave them a call.
Most of their business has come from word of mouth and through a neighbor’s bed and breakfast.
“We’ve met so many wonderful people who came to ride. Tourists from out of the country, including a family from Switzerland,” Rusty said.
She and her husband can take up to six riders at a time on trail rides. All of their horses are gentle and good on trails.
New to the family is a little white Shetland pony/mini-horse they call Snow Mist, who is “everything you could ask for in a pony for your kids.”
Well trained, kind and sweet, Snow Mist lets the grandchildren grab her legs and love on her all they want.
A well trained, kid-friendly pony is hard to find. The Morozes searched a long time until they found Snow Mist in Ellensberg and brought her home to their 20-acre farm.
While Rusty and I talked, Duke was busy taking the engine out of his Titan bulldozer to repair the oil pan that burst while trying to remove a huge bolder in the ground.
Duke retired two years ago after working 27 years as a fireman in Port Angeles.
He said he had to learn how to work on the dozer himself because he “couldn’t afford to hire someone.”
Boy do I know that one.
When one owns a farm one learns how to do all sorts of new skills, and much of it through trial and error.
We agreed we are grateful for all the how-to videos available on the internet.
The two have recently taken on baling their own hay out of their pasture, a task Duke said he relishes and feels good about accomplishing.
He lamented they weren’t about to gather enough hay for the entire year for their herd of eight horses and one pony and still had to buy some from another farm.
He and his wife are both well-versed in emergency first aid which, he said, is an important asset when working around horses.
While all their horses are gentle and well-broke, and they haven’t had to use it, the couple feels it’s an important skill to have when working with people who have some fear of horses and when riding through forested trails and meadows, home to wildlife such as deer, bears, bobcats, coyotes and the occasional cougar.
Sightings of those animals are rare though.
Accidents are more likely to occur if a horse accidentally steps on an occasional wasp nest set in the ground and the little buggers come out angry and looking to sting.
I’ve certainly had my bad experience more than once with wasps on the trail.
The worse was when I went on a trail alongside the Bogachiel River with a group of Back Country Horsemen.
I wrote about it in my Aug. 12, 2009, Horseplay column titled, “Wasp Trot.”
I was riding my beloved horse Indy and just as I was dismounting to tighten up his cinch (loose after sweating on the uphill trail) someone from behind us yelled out, “Wasps.”
By then he learned we all start trotting to get past the nest faster.
Indy started to trot, the saddle slipped, I had one leg in the air and was trying to hold him back with the reins, he lost his footing on a slick rock protruding from the ground and he fell down on top of me.
It hurt, but it remains one of my favorite trail rides of all time.
Rusty said she and her husband started this business because they just wanted to share their beautiful trails.
“We can ride out our arena gate to the beautiful countryside; through forest conservatories and all the up to the National Park,” she said.
For her, it’s a chance to feel closer to God and his majestic creations.
She feels blessed to be able to ride there and likes to share it with others.
“My favorite rides are when I’m alone with my horse and riding through the forest,” Rusty said.
“It’s my church; my time to give thanks to God.”
Their moto is “Blue Meadow Farm is the place to learn safe Western style trail riding skills through Rustic Riding.”
It’s a private licensed and insured business and they have more than 40 years riding experience.
Blue Meadow Farm is located off Blue Mountain Road at 126 Phinn Road, Port Angeles.
For more information call 360-775-5836 or visit Facebook.com/rustic.riding.
Karen Griffiths’ column, Peninsula Horseplay, appears the second and fourth Sunday of each month.
If you have a horse event, clinic or seminar you would like listed, please email Griffiths at [email protected] at least two weeks in advance. You can also call her at 360-460-6299.