Fall Colors Between Rhio's Ears

Fall Colors Between Rhio's Ears

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Pony Adventure

After nearly a week of holiday busyness and not having any "me" time, it was time to get out in the woods on my horse. And it was time for the dogs to get out for some serious exercise as well. I decided to take Kelso, Killian, and Cricket with me.  

Getting the boys ready
I know from previous experience that getting myself mounted while holding a second horse can be a bit tricky.  Everyone involved behaved themselves impeccably, and we set off in good order with the dogs leading the way and Cricket ponying along like a good boy.  Rhio is my best pony horse - he doesn't mind the rope touching his flanks, rump, or legs and doesn't get too upset if it gets under his tail, either. And he has always been very gentlemanly to the pony-ee, never giving off the "stay back" vibe that can make one feel much like Gumby while ponying.  He is also easy to control one-handed, leaving my other hand free to deal with the pony-ee's leadrope.  

Setting off - Kelso is the tiny dark speck in the lead. 
We walked through the deep snow out to the hayfield, made a loop around it, and meandered our way back via the back pasture route.  All of us reveled in the sparkling day, sighting a bald eagle in the tall pines and generally just soaking it all in.  The snow was knee-deep on my boys, and the dogs flopped down in the middle of the trail to chew ice balls out of their feet numerous times.  My finger tips were beginning to tingle with cold when we got back to the barn - just the right amount of effort for old man Cricket on his first outing in the snow this winter, and just enough time for me to find my center again. 

Catching our breath out in the hayfield.

Cricket: "Hey, man - thanks for carrying her around so I didn't have to!"
Rhio: "Dude, if you want, we could go again, and RUN this time?!?!" 

Friday, December 17, 2010

Mr. Snorty

I love it when my horse looks up from his hay, sees me at the gate with his bridle in hand, and comes right to me.  Red usually meets me at the gate unless he's way out grazing, or the times I catch him napping.  I hustled him into the barn for a quick once-over (a-ok) then threw the bareback pad on and slipped his bit in (nice and toasty warm from being snuggled in the front pocket of my Carhartts, under my "Nanook" parka).  Was I ever glad I did that last thing - putting his bit in!  I knew right away from the way he was softly snorting & blowing at familiar objects while tacking up what kind of mood he was in - pent up and ready to run.

And run we did, with his ears going every which way like radar gone haywire.  We walked (a little), jigged (a lot), trotted, cantered, and boogied along through the deep snow & tractor ruts out in the back woods. We took a lap around the hayfield (at a gait which I can only describe as "bounding"), and I did make an unplanned dismount at one point where he 'geed' and I 'hawed,' but luckily I am getting pretty familiar with all the just-tall-enough stumps, trees, etc that serve as mounting blocks.

I decided his energy level might benefit from some lunging in the arena, so when we came around the loop into the courtyard at Rhio's barn, we slipped into the indoor and spent a few minutes working in nice footing.  It was good to see him move, as I really can't tell how he's moving at all when we're in the snow.  Even though I haven't worked on his neck since August, he looked great!

We then headed back to his barn, and he was happy to comply with all my requests to walk, and we had a second joyful bounding lap around the hayfield before making our way home.  Kelso got pretty bogged down in the snow trying to follow us around the field, so he ended up just sitting in the middle and watching us.  When we came to our exit point, I couldn't see him as his red-and-white markings blended perfectly into the snow and background of trees.

I usually find a mental escape from the daily grind every time I ride, but sometimes I spend my ride pondering life issues.  Not a on ride like today's, though!  This kind of ride puts me entirely in the moment with my horse as I have to concentrate utterly on him to make sure I stay in the driver's seat. I have no concept of time passing, and really couldn't tell you how long we were out there, but I can remember the exact timber of every snort, the wild way his forelock stuck up between his fuzzy ears, the tiny snowflakes that fell and didn't melt on his mane on our way home, and the feel of his muscles working beneath me.  It is exhilarating and peaceful at the same time.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Nanook of the North Goes Riding

You can't tell under my Nanook of the North jacket - but I am wearing my helmet! 
Heat wave!  The mercury hit 15 balmy degrees today with full sunshine and no wind, so of course after the farrier's visit, I hopped on for a quick ride.  We just walked through the woods in the deep snow, but I was so thrilled to be riding after all this intense cold we've been having.  Rhio definitely enjoyed getting out as well.

Rhio did balk at one thing today - crossing an area that is normally wet muck in the summer  to head up a trail that we don't ride except during the winter due to its wetness.  Of course the crossing is well frozen now, and I've been snowshoeing across it when I'm out with the dogs, so there is an obvious trail as well.  But Rhio absolutely refused to cross.  So, I dismounted and lead him across (he followed willingly enough - it will be interesting to take him back to that spot and ask him to cross it again and see what he does).  The only problem with this plan - what can I stand on to get back on??  I found a down tree that was about mid-thigh height on me, and was able to clear the snow off enough to climb up on it.  Rhio, however, would have to "parallel park" to get lined up next to it between a growing tree and the bushy top of the down tree.  He didn't quite get what I wanted him to do, but sort of came into the tree at an angle enough that I was able to flop on my belly across the bareback pad, then shimmy around to a seated position as he backed out of the spot and we were successfully headed back down the trail.  Sometimes I am glad that I ride alone!  Here I am telling the story, but I'm sure it would have been amusing & embarrassing if witnessed by someone other that Rhio & Kelso.

As we headed back to the barn at sunset, I noticed how riding in the flat white expanse of snow felt a lot like riding across a river - I got a little dizzy if I focused on the ground.  The ride was just long enough for my nose & toes to register a definite tingling by the time we returned, but also just long enough to soothe my need to ride for a little while longer.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Winter Wonderland

Snowy apple tree
Yes, it is technically still autumn according to the calendar, but when you live in northern Minnesota winter comes early!  We have had snow on the ground since the end of October at the farm.  Seriously.  That's early even for us.  We have been lucky, however, to have calm winds and for the snow to have stayed where it fell - including gracing every nook, cranny, and tree branch with its sparkly splendor.  It is truly a winter wonderland, and what better way to enjoy it but to get out there and ride!
Jack, a.k.a Mr. Intense (he had dropped a stick at Red's feet hoping he or I would throw it for him)

Last Saturday (yep, bit behind on posting!) Gesa came over to ride with me.  I went over to get Red before she came.  We set off through the woods to the farm, only to be delayed by never-before-seen-horse-eating-monsters!  Jack had come to greet us at the barn, and so the four of us (Red, me, Kelso, & Jack) set off down the straightaway (actually a former runway for small planes) to the woods.
Winter Wonderland!

Dave has been gathering firewood with the tractor, so we had a cleared path to follow.  Red was happy & relaxed, having met me at the gate with a whinny, eager to do something.  Merrily we ride along the path, me ducking snow-laden branches to avoid the icy slide of wetness down the back of my neck.  All of a sudden, sheer panic!  What is that?  We must flee - NOW!  Red spun & bolted, which he hasn't done in a very, very long time.  Somehow I managed to stay on (thank you, sticky velcro suede bareback pad!) and get him to stop, reconsider his flight for the safety of the barn, and haltingly, nervously make our way back to confront the terrifying horse-eating monster on the trail.... The Tractor.
Terrifying Tractor blocking our way
Finally Red did approach the tractor (which he sees around the barnyard all the time) and Dave (who feeds him) and realized he was familiar with both objects.  Silly boy.  His heart beat finally became imperceptible again, and he came back into his right mind.  The tractor was disabled right over a wet, marshy area of the trail which has a culvert, meaning there was no good way around the tractor except to dismount and lead him past it on about 16" of snowy trail beside the drop-off to the marsh and the edge of the culvert.  I have seen too many legs sliced up by stepping into the edges of culverts to count.  Here's to hoping Red would be his normal self and follow my lead exactly, trusting me to keep him safe while asking him to shimmy along the side of the tractor when the expanse of white snow looked perfectly passable (though I knew the marshy ground beneath was not frozen solid - we got too much snow too early to freeze these soggy areas as they are being insulated by the blanket of snow instead - the northern conundrum of cold snow keeping the ground warm).  Success!  Red is a good boy and does exactly what I ask.  And luckily, not too far down the trail, there is a convenient tree stump to use for remounting.  I find mounting the bareback pad very difficult unless I have something quite tall to stand on, as it is so sticky that I can't slide a leg across it - the same quality which gives me such a secure ride once I'm mounted.  Everything comes with a compromise, I suppose!
Kelso leading the way
Jack stays with Dave, and Kelso, Red, and I make our way over to the farm, riding into the courtyard just as Gesa drives in.  I quickly get Rhio ready to ride, transferring the bareback pad over so that Gesa can ride in my saddle.  Partly this is trying to give her the best gear for riding (saddle vs. bareback pad) since she is riding a horse she is not used to riding and a saddle is more secure, but partly this is selfish since I know how much warmer I'll be sharing Rhio's body heat through the pad.
Gesa and Red out in the hayfield
We set off with Kelso in attendance, retracing Red's & my steps from his barn and again having to dismount to lead around the still-disabled tractor.  The boys are happy and easily directed around downed trees and into the woods to bushwhack around otherwise-impassable blockades of tangled, snowy trees.  The downside to all the gymnastic moves we & the horses make to maneuver through this snowy landscape is melting snow everywhere - the horse's faces, manes, necks, & rumps, as well as our thighs, become quickly moist then damp then outright wet with the melting snow.  We get brain freeze from the cold snow on our necks and faces.  And we grin, laugh, and quietly relish every moment spent out there in the beauty of the north woods.

Gesa, Red, and Kelso on the trails across the road
We finally admit we are getting a little cold, and head back to the barn.  Red & Rhio have worked hard trudging through the deep snow for several hours, and are dripping with melted snow, so they get covered in coolers with piles of hay to munch in stalls while we head inside to steaming mugs of tea and continued conversation.  After we all get dry, warm, and fed, Red & I head back to his barn and discover our way is now clear as Dave has evidently fixed the tractor, so we joyfully trot and canter along the tractor trail as the light fades.  Red is eagerly anticipating his dinner, and I am just plain old happy.
Looping around the back pasture

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Best Kind of Therapy

By this afternoon, I was crabby and out-of-sorts, for no big reason, and many small ones, all of which will look inconsequential in hindsight but at the time were looming large and irritating.  It was also the warmest, most pleasant day we've had since October, so despite the quickly waning daylight, I tacked Rhio up quickly (bareback pad, not saddle) and we headed down the lane between pastures toward the woods & freedom.  Kelso & Killian tagged along, and Rhio seemed eager.

The landowner here has a new snow toy to play with, and has been plowing tracks all over the place.  Each of the pastures has a big loop, which is great to spread the hay out very sparsely (a flake here, a flake there) and make the horses "graze" their way through their hay ration rather than standing in one place with a heaping pile of hay in front of them.  He's also plowed the trail out to the hay field in back, and the untouched snow is about mid-cannon deep so definitely still passable (and it's still soft) - so we went merrily around the field and through the trees until we reached Red's barn's land, where they've been gathering down trees for firewood with the tractor.  Tractor tire ruts are well-packed and just the right width for trotting!  Yay! We had to skip a few of our favorite little loops due to down trees, but had a grand time motoring around the woods.  On our way home, I followed another of the plowed tracks, and discovered it'd been cleared in a loop all the way around two pastures - and the footing was perfect for cantering!  So, I asked Rhio to move out and off we went, flying around the corners and scooting along the fenceline (oh, did we get everyone all riled up!).  It was so much fun, we just had to do it twice more - and I had a grin plastered to my face worthy of a denture commercial.  The sun was setting behind the bare trees, painting the sky pink, purple, and orange, as we cantered up to the barn along the last straightaway and I slipped off Rhio's back to give him a big hug and a huge "Thank you!" The twinkle in his eye let me know that he had had as much fun as I had had, and magically my bad mood had simply evaporated.

He was wet & steaming from his exertions, and my legs were quivering with the effort of riding fast bareback, so I threw his cooler on him and we walked into the twilight with the dogs until he was dry and my legs were loose.  I can think of nothing I'd rather do than this.  Ride.  Be.  Breathe.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Free At Last!

Winter wonderland

The woods are ours again, with the orange-clad hunters stuffed back into their alter-egos as regular folk once again (though you do still see quite a few pickup trucks around town with a blaze orange cap on the dashboard, or someone out clearing snow in his hunting jacket - I totally get the desire to hang on for just a little longer, refusing to believe it is over for the next 50 weeks).  Tuesday was our first bright, sunshiny day in a very long time, and Rhio, Kelso, & I were all itching to hit the trail.  It was only about 15 degrees, so bundling up was a necessity - with toe warmers in my boots and mittens instead of gloves, the only part that got cold was my nose!
We were the first to make tracks across the unbroken snow

The open areas were somewhat crusty as we'd had some freezing sleet before it switched to snow, and Rhio didn't care for trotting through the crust.  The trails in the woods were totally soft, though, as the ice seems to have formed on the trees and not really made it to the ground.  Rhio was thrilled to trot and canter where we could - though that wasn't very many places due to all the downed trees and overhanging branches & shrubs.  In fact, we got to practice our side passing many times, as small trees were laden with snow and leaning over the trail; Rhio & I sidled up to them so I could reach out & grab them, shake the snow off to lighten them, then push them up while we ducked under.  A couple of times we had to do this in quick succession, pivoting around this way and that way to reach the smaller diameter, unattached-to-the-ground tops which were actually movable.  I was very happy to have chosen to ride in my saddle (for more stability while doing all these contortions and reaching) and was extremely pleased with Rhio's responsiveness to my requests for lateral movement.  It is something we've only been seriously working on recently, but he seems to "get it."
You can see the sparkling ice in the tops of the trees

We rode all the way to Red's farm, where Thanksgiving turkeys were being distributed (yay! no more wading through that flock of gobbling, strutting birds to get my pony from his pasture! well, 'till next year at least...) and visited with some of the turkey buyers and the dogs.  I could have brought a backpack & picked up my turkey, but I hadn't thought of it - that would have been fun, though!  In the end, I got a 16 pounder, so I probably wouldn't have wanted to ride home with that much weight on my back (it really throws my balance off to wear a backpack I've found, especially a heavy one).

We got home just as dusk was falling (4:15 pm - ugh!) and in time to feed the ponies before retreating to the beauty of electric illumination and central heating for the duration of the long, dark winter night (which, yes, includes the afternoon here in northern Minnesota!).

Monday, November 15, 2010

Cookies and Cream

The horses are bundled in their blankets enjoying their hay despite the weather
Winter storm "Buck" (yep, that's right! One of our local TV stations is naming our snowstorms now, apparently) was petering out Sunday afternoon, and we just had to get outside and enjoy that expanse of fresh, clean snow.  The kids wanted a snowball fight and to build a snowman; we wanted to ride!  It's STILL deer season (the longest two weeks of the entire year if you ask me), so we were stuck with making patterns in the pristine snow of the outdoor arena.
His wind-knots always appear in this exact location and pattern - every time.  
Rhio was sporting his favorite dreadlock look, so had to unwillingly submit to having his mane detangled.  Rhio takes great pride in his appearance, keeping his dirt patterns fresh and new with frequent reapplication.  He resents being fussed over, primped, polished, washed, or generally gussied up.  So of course it is his long tresses that get routinely tangled, not Red's or Cricket's, both of whom enjoy a grooming session.
Ah - beautiful! 
Once we had the hair situation under control, we headed outside to meet the new lord of the outdoor arena - a very large, very squat snowman with tantalizing horse treats as eyes & nose.  The horses were mildly curious about him (or her - I'd say its rather gender-indeterminate), mostly in trying to assess the best angle at which to nab those tasty bits.
Giant snowman

Kaos & Rhio trying to figure out how to snatch the apple-eyes and/or carrot-nose

The three of us talked and laughed and joked while asking our horses to carry us around the outdoor arena, churning up the unbroken snow with hoof-sized chunks coated in the sandy dirt footing of the arena.  After a couple passes around, the snow-and-chunk mixture took on the exact appearance of cookies-n-cream ice cream!
Becca & Kaos and Christine & Tomas just enjoying the day

The footing was wonderful, and we all enjoyed cantering our horses through it; I really noticed how soft Rhio's footfalls were in the snow.  We played follow-the-leader a little bit, and just generally goofed off.  It's nice to know that we are all still kids at heart - enjoying a good romp in the fresh snow. Though now our hot cocoa is dressed with flavored liquor instead of marshmallows - yum!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Calculated Risk

Normally, I lay pretty low during the firearm deer season (it's only two weeks out of the whole year after all!) and only ride in the arena or yard.  This year, however, the weather has been so gorgeous in early November, that I just can't force myself to stay home.  I still won't ride out on a weekend during deer season, but I figured midday on a Tuesday was pretty safe.  Bedazzled in blaze orange and staying completely out of the woods & fields in favor of a road ride, I figured we were as safe as we could be!  I worry a little more with Red, as he's close to the same color as the deer (albino deer are pretty rare so I feel slightly safer on Rhio, though it's probably a false sense of security considering hunters can't seem to tell the difference between a bipedal human in blaze orange and a deer sometimes!).  
One of these guys will be on my family's Thanksgiving table!  And to be honest, I find the whole flock following me in the pasture, gobbling and strutting, to be a little creepy. 

Red was napping in the sun when I arrived, so after guiltily waking him up, we waded back through the flock of turkeys to the barn to tack up.  My "spooky" Arab is so used to the turkeys that he completely ignores them, even as they "graze" right along with the horses - whether this would translate into calmness during a wild turkey encounter on trail has not yet been tested!  We don't actually have wild turkeys this far north, but we do encounter grouse frequently - which make me jump when they "whir" up more than they startle Red.  

Booted all around and with his blaze orange rump rug in place, we set off on our usual route down the road.  We were passed by several of the boarders at the barn, and they all reported that we were very visible and didn't look anything like deer!  We did have an encounter with a particularly rude motorist - which is actually fairly uncommon in our neighborhood.  We were halted waiting to cross a paved road; I had one hand on the reins and one hand signaling Kelso to "Whoa!"   A pickup truck flew past us, laying on his horn.  Nice one, dude.  Appreciate that.  What point were you trying to make, exactly?  Neither horse nor dog moved a muscle - what good boys!!!
Lots of freshly cut ends of trees line the road from our wind storm several weeks ago; Red noticed every single one and gave each a WIDE berth in case they were carnivorous with a special fondness for horse.

The stream which frequently harbors exploding ducks (not today though!)

Red and I apparently had differing expectations of what our afternoon's outing would entail.  I thought a nice medium trot to work up a light sweat and get us in the zone was in order.  Red thought we should zoom along as fast as we could go, skittering sideways at the slightest irregularity in the road surface or in the vegetation along the edge.   Hmmm, maybe today would have been a good day to put that running martingale on!  

Only having an hour, we did about 5 miles and returned to the barn in time to meet the farrier.  Every nice day, and every ride, in November is a stolen one.  Ahh - heaven is the wind that blows between my horse's ears! (to paraphrase an Arabian proverb) 

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Rider's High

We've all heard of a runner's high, where a long-distance run induces a state of euphoria in the runner.  Science seems to point to the release of endorphins (a.k.a. "happy chemicals") as the root of this euphoria.  I would like to respectfully submit that there is also such a thing as a "rider's high" and that today I experienced a massive one.  My brain was positively dripping in happy chemicals.  I was drunk on riding my horse, which luckily does not come with the morning-after ill-effects (unless you count the burning desire to repeat over and over again as an ill-effect!).

While a large proportion of the Minnesota populace is sporting blaze orange in its quest to bag a big buck, the three of us donned our blaze orange to make sure no one mistook our ponies for deer and set off for a nearby state park.  Blue skies, calm winds, and the anticipation of new trails lured us to Jay Cooke State Park - none of us had ridden there before.  The horse trail is short (three loops for a total of about 4 miles) but blissfully devoid of hunters.

Stormy, Paco, & Rhio
a friend graciously allowed us to park in her driveway (much to the consternation of her 6 llamas, who did NOT appreciate the intruders!)

Kathy & Stormy, and Gesa & Paco, heading down the road to the trail access - hopefully looking not at all like deer!

As I was told, it is impossible to get lost - the trails are well-signed and are all loops, starting & ending at a paved bike path (with a grassy shoulder for the horses).  We quite enjoyed the rolling hills and scenic vistas over deep ravines and the St. Louis River.  I imagine that it is quite breathtaking in the spring as the green starts to appear, and of course in the fall with the vibrant leaves.  It was still gorgeous with bare trees all around.

Ah! New trail to explore! 

"Hemlock Ravine" overlook

One of many spots where we had to ride along the paved bike trail

We encountered a set of roller-skiers on the paved path, which were of some moderate concern for Rhio, as well as a large group of horsewomen also out enjoying the day, and several hikers.  Rhio preferred to lead most of the ride, and set a lovely forward pace.  We cantered where we were able, and he gave me lovely transitions between trot and canter.  We were also able to leave the other horses behind, letting them recede out of sight, and continue with forward motion - this was a nice skill to practice as he really prefers to be with other horses.  The weather could not have been more lovely, especially for November 7, and was near 60 I think.  I even saw a lone fly, and 2 swarms of gnats!

What a pretty overlook!

The out-and-back trail along the ridge top to the overlook

We did the entire trail system twice, and ended up with about a 10 mile ride - not too shabby for so little trail!  Upon our return to the trailer, the horses gave pony rides to the kids and Rhio got to meet a llama up close and personal (boy do I wish I'd had my camera ready for that! He looked gorgeous arching his neck and gingerly sniffing noses with the strange scary creatures.).

Rhio giving the girls a ride

We headed home supremely satisfied with our ride, and tried not to wonder if this was the last nice day and the last good ride for the year.

Oh, yes, we'd love to go this way - thanks little tripod horse!
And P.S. - Rhio's been loading perfectly the last several times we've trailered, both in the stock trailer and in Jodi's 4-horse slant-load.  It'll be interesting to see what happens the next time I ask him to load into the 2-horse straight-load (which probably won't be until next year). 

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Saddle TLC

My saddle got really soaked at Point Chaser, since it rained pretty much the entire 30 miles on Sunday.  I'm always amazed at how bad my saddle looks after it has been wet, and then dried.
The saddle appears dull and dry.  
It sat in the living room to dry, then I cleaned it.  I use a weak Murphy's Oil Soap solution and a rag to clean it, per instructions from Synergist when I bought the saddle.

Dirty water after washing the saddle - Ewww! 

Once it's dry from cleaning, I start oiling the leather.  I use olive oil, since that is what Synergist recommends.  Plant-based products are apparently healthier for the leather than petroleum-based products (plus better for the environment!).  

Really, it doesn't need to be organic olive oil - this is just the bottle that I have that is only for saddles - don't like to mix the kitchen with the tack room (too often). 

I lost track of how many coats of oil I put on, but suffice it to say it was at least 3 days worth of multiple applications per day.  The leather soaks up the oil almost instantly.  I continue adding oil until it doesn't soak any more up (or until I'm tired of the whole process and just want to ride!).  

Shiny, happy saddle once again!  

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Wow, was that fun!  The three culprits were found standing around and staring at their handiwork. 

Monday, November 1, 2010


Got treats? 

My horses are rarely bored.  They may wonder about my sanity, but they oblige my whims and generally play with or investigate most of the objects I give them to play with.  Today's object was an old foam mattress - which I have also used as an "obstacle" for mounted work, teaching them to walk across it.  Yesterday during our Halloween party, all the horses were very interested in the mattress, and so I decided to put it in their pasture this morning for some free play.

The boys enjoy new objects

Rhio and Tomas were interested, pawing at it, sniffing, and lifting it up with their teeth.  Kaos just kept eating her hay, occasionally looking mildly interested.  

The three amigos (Kaos never left her hay pile, letting the boys  investigate the mattress and run around like fools)

Then, I starting jumping on the mattress and that really got them going!  

Yep, the horses think I'm nuts.  But, I think we're all amused by each other.  

Sunday, October 31, 2010


The helmet & the green bridle kind of ruin the look, but it seemed best to use both those pieces of equipment!

I really do love to dress up - it must be my inner child shining through.  This year, instead of a regular old Halloween costume party, I planned a barn party and tried to induce my fellow boarders to get creative with their horses.  We had fun, but only one other person really got her horse into it.  

Christine on Tomas, me, Carter on Cricket, Becca on Kaos, Kristi on Cody, and Leah on Centarus (the skeleton horse)

I dressed as a sorceress, and Rhio went as my "renaissance pony."  Originally, he was going to be a unicorn (a "white" Arabian - what could be more cliche than turning him into a unicorn?), but we had some technical difficulties with the horn, so abandoned it.  Rhio was a pretty good sport about it flopping all over his face, but I didn't think it wise to ride him that way.  I was surprised at his "goosey-ness" when I mounted and got my long skirt and cloak all draped over him.  He is used to wearing a rump rug, so I assumed the cloak would be no problem, but he was a little concerned about it to begin.  Also, I was carrying a "wand" (a.k.a. riding crop covered in silver ribbon) and he couldn't take his eyes off it, so I had to abandon that as well.  
I was amazed at how warm it actually was under the cloak - Rhio's body heat really kept me warm.  I also realized why ladies used to require assistance to mount, dismount, etc - it is difficult to manage all those miles of cloth! 

Post-party, I decided to ride down the road to Red's barn, and go trick-or-treating!  I suppose I'm technically too old to trick-or-treat, but I've never done it horseback before, and I figured I might as well get a little more mileage out of my costume.  

Not your traditional trick-or-treaters :) 

What fun!  Rhio & Cody scored apples, and we got sweet treats, too.  Thanks to everyone who came, helped, took pics, etc - but I want to see you all in costume next year!!!!!