Rhio & I did a quick 6 miles down Arnold Rd to the county gravel pit, up & down the gravel pit mound, and around the trails to the south of the pit - all of which we did twice - then home via the trails out back. It's a nice little loop. Rhio was happy to move out and we spent a lot of time in our favorite gait - the canter. I don't like to canter on the road too much due to the excessive concussion - for Rhio's feet & legs, and also for me on the rare occasion that I land on it unexpectedly! The trails were in good shape except for a few soggy spots.
I didn't bring my camera, however, as I was expecting a short ride. On our first trip up the gravel pit mound, we crested the top to see a big mature bald eagle sitting on top of the neighboring mound, probably about 50 feet away. She was just sitting there, completely unconcerned about us. She would look around, then down at her feet (or something she had in her talons? I couldn't tell.) Rhio & I sat there for several minutes just enjoying our proximity to such a big, beautiful bird.
Rhio also got his first hosing off of the season after our ride, removing at least a little of the grunge from the winter. We had a sunny gorgeous 60+ degree day with a warm south wind, so I figured getting him wet wasn't a bad plan. He doesn't particularly care for hosing, but he's pretty good about it. Luckily we have warm water in our hose. Of course, seeing my lovely gray horse shining white is already a distant memory, as he immediately dropped & rolled in the dirt as soon as he got back to his pasture. Before & after photos would have been appropriate.
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Yesterday I went out to catch Red and found him snoozing comfortably in the sunshine with his buddy Rusty watching over him. He wasn’t in too big a hurry to get up, and we spent a little time saying hello while he munched the carrot I brought him. Carrots are absolutely his very favorite treat. On our walk in to the barn, he stopped to pee a small amount. This has become a fairly regular habit for him – I’m not sure if he really has to pee, or he’s anticipating a long ride, or it’s just a stall tactic to delay the inevitable being tied in the barn & then work. Really, though, he definitely enjoys his work! Another habit of his is to poop pretty much as soon as I tie him to start grooming. This happens every time, unless I actually want a manure sample for a parasite test!
When I tied him, he could not stand still and even whinnied for his buddies a few times. “Uh oh!” I thought to myself, this is going to be a “fun” ride. It was very windy, and that typically makes my spooky boy Red even more spooky than usual. I think the wind provides two challenges: 1) he can’t hear as well to locate sounds & get early warnings of things approaching (like traffic) and 2) objects in the environment are very mobile and the movement startles him. Even on windy days, though, he usually stands very quietly when tied. After two passes up & down the barn aisle to retrieve various things from the car, I discovered why Red was so jumpy in the barn. There were scary monsters living in the stall across the passage from him! Scary monsters that say “baa!” Carol picked up a few lambs yesterday to raise for meat, and they’re in the stall next door. They’re little enough that I couldn’t see them when I walked past, and they hadn’t made any noise, so I was surprised to discover them. Apparently Red didn’t even want to come in the barn for dinner last night because of them.
I struggled a bit to get the Easy Boot Epic on his right front, which for some reason has gotten much wider since last fall. His left front foot has always been less round and therefore narrower than his right front, and so the boot went on that foot relatively well. It is still a tight fit, even in these broken in boots, and I use a rubber mallet to bang them into place. I still don’t have a 2nd set of boots for hinds (although I have a “fit kit” in route from Easy Care so I will be able to pre-fit the Easy Boot Gloves before I order them), so he had to go barefoot back there. Red’s feet are tougher than Rhio’s and he doesn’t usually complain about the loose, sharp gravel on the road like Rhio does, so barefoot behind isn’t usually too much of an issue for him. In fact, I have done individual loops and several entire limited distance rides entirely barefoot with Red, depending on the course. He really just needs the hoof protection for all our conditioning miles, the majority of which occur on the gravel roads.
We’re finally ready to ride, and head out down the driveway sans Kelso. Kelso no longer chooses to come on rides down the road, although I force him to sometimes when he really needs the exercise. Today, I declined to torture my dog because we did a long hike yesterday, and let him stay in my car to wait. I don’t know whether he gets out of the car to play with the farm dogs or wander around while I’m gone, but he’s always laying in the back when I return. I leave the back open for him and make sure my interior dome lights are off so as not to drain the battery. He is happier being left in the car than being left at home.
I was pleasantly surprised as we started out that Red seemed calm & steady – not at all what I was anticipating. The wind was at our backs for most of the first half of the ride, and although we were startled by a few vehicles that we didn’t hear coming and by a pair of ducks that flew up out of the creek, Red was his normal self. Normal for Red includes shying from puddles, wet gravel, deep tire marks, cracks, culverts, remnant snowbanks, and the like and we travel down the road in a “drunken” line. He was also particularly fond today of gazing down driveways and drifting into them as he did so.
All was well until we started running into more scary monsters, albeit inanimate scary monsters this time. The first was an abandoned shopping cart. How it made its way to a quiet gravel road 10 miles from the nearest store with shopping carts is beyond me. It won a concerned stare as we trotted past, but went better than I expected.
The second scary monster was by far the scariest and actually required me to dismount and lead Red over to it and then past. Someone has dumped a twin mattress & box spring right at the corner of Church & Pioneer roads, where we make the turn to start up the “sheep hill.” Red was quite sure this scary monster was going to eat us, and put all senses on high alert despite my assurances that we were not about to be devoured.
The last scary monster (of course, we had to pass them all again on our way home, so it wasn’t really the last) was a pile of cut & split wood right beside the road. From the sawdust in the road, it was clear that the tree had been down across the road and someone cleared it. This scary monster was on the minimum maintenance road portion of Church Road and was very near our turn-around spot. Red loves to turn for home, and always give me a big, bold trot when we do so. Amazingly, his fear of scary monsters also quite diminishes on the way home, and we were able to trot past both the pile of wood and the shopping cart, although we still walked as far away as possible and stared intently at the mattress & box spring.
I didn’t spend nearly as much time growling at him to “Knock it off!” when he gets goofy & spooky as I had expected, my helmet stayed on my head despite the wind’s very strong effort to remove it, and we got a nice, slow 8 mile ride under our belts, so I was pleased with the day. I wasn’t so pleased, however, with the tiny, nearly imperceptible “offness” I could feel in his gait. Red has had some soundness issues in the past with his neck (something I acupuncture him for on an ongoing basis) and a hock, so I am hyper-vigilant about anything that seems not quite right. Red got an acupuncture treatment when we got home, and I hope to ride him again Wednesday to assess how he’s feeling.
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Kevin & I were just finishing up discussing Rhio’s feet (verdict: still have to wait & see what happens with the crack that is obviously developing from his injury – we suspect it will spread horizontally; also I will try to keep it clean & apply a sealant to it) when three barn buddies showed up to ride! Yeah! Steph took Cricket, I rode Rhio, and Kathy on Winston and Christine on Tomas rounded out our group. It was quite windy and we decided a jaunt through the woods might be just the ticket – the trees block a lot of the wind.
Kathy & Winston (L) and Christine & Tomas on our lap around the field
Steph & Cricket using the bareback pad
I booted Rhio in front (only have 2 functional boots right now – I’m waiting on a “fit kit” from Easy Care to determine what size Easy Boot Gloves to order – they have a trade-in program where you can send in up to 2 boots and order a new style of boot for 50% off, so I’m sending in my old Bares that have the gaitors torn off in favor of moving to their latest model, the Glove) and off we went. I currently use Easy Boot Epics on the front hooves – this pair is Red’s but actually fit Rhio ok as well. According to the Easy Care fit charts, Rhio shouldn’t really be successful in their boots – his feet are almost perfectly round & don’t fit their size measurements very well. But, I have found that he does fine in the Epics on his front hooves. I haven’t tried hind boots on him in several years, so it will be a learning curve this year. If worse comes to worse, I can shoe his hinds and boot his fronts. Kevin & I don’t think we will be able to shoe his fronts because of the hoof crack emerging from his injury. Rhio doesn’t have much tolerance for rocky going, and since I travel the gravel roads for most of my conditioning miles, he requires some hoof protection. I’m really excited about trying the Gloves because they are very lightweight, hoof-hugging boots with no hardware. Most of the reports I’ve read from other endurance riders are extremely favorable about this boot.
Rhio modeling the Easy Boot Epics post-ride
Our trail ride was highly successful and granted us several opportunities to teach our horses new things (or, to remind our horses that they could still do these things). The first challenge was a water crossing through an area that in the summer is swampy & impassable. Currently, it is a large puddle over frozen ground – so I knew the horses wouldn’t get bogged in it and we could safely school them on water crossings. Rhio ambled right into the water (I didn’t test it, but it had to be only barely above freezing!) and proceeded across with no difficulty. He has typically been quite good about water, but I was happy to see that that hasn’t changed. Winston went next, and required a tiny bit of encouragement, but crossed quite willingly. Tomas was definitely refusing at this point, but Cricket came across easily (with a look of disgust on his face, I do admit – he didn’t enjoy it, but he did it!) and now he didn’t have much choice unless he wanted to be left behind. So Tomas made the right choice and crossed the water in a controlled manner. Good job everyone!
Cricket showing Tomas the ropes on the water crossing
The rest of the trail ride provided smaller challenges such as ice in deeply shady areas, sucking mud in soggier areas, and a few downed trees to step over. All the horses get gold stars for their good behavior and willingness to learn new skills! We even crossed the water with no real hesitation on the way home. Steph had the “Cricket Grin” that everyone gets when they ride him – and Cricket was puffed up & proud of himself. Winston was gaiting smoothly and walking out readily. Tomas only had a few minor incidents of frustration/confusion, but nothing that Christine couldn’t handle. And Rhio was a good boy – although his challenges were yet to come. First, Rhio & I continued right down the driveway when we got back, even though the other horses were headed back to the barn. He didn’t like that much, but continued on when I asked him and didn’t give me too much guff. We turned west and headed down the road into the stiff wind. I dislike riding in the wind because I can’t hear traffic as well and am not as aware of our surroundings. Luckily, it doesn’t seem to ruffle Rhio much at all. I zipped my jacket up tight to my chin to keep the chill out, and away we went. I had my GPS on, and although Rhio gave me a very pokey 5.7mph trot, he was trotting. Rhio very much prefers to ride with another horse, and to start a ride with his buddies then leave them was really a challenge for him. He did great! We continued along the freshly graveled section of Pioneer & Church Roads; he was definitely seeking the softest footing he could. His hinds were not only bare, but he was freshly trimmed, so the new gravel was not to his liking. The deer obviously couldn’t hear us coming, because we scared up three of them who ran parallel to us for a while before cutting across a hay field. Rhio just kept trotting along, looking at them with interest. I concentrated on changing my posting diagonals, since we were trotting slow enough that I was actually posting. I really tend to forget to switch diagonals, and at our faster trots I do a two-point “hover” kind of thing instead of posting. We got to the “minimum maintenance road” portion of Church Road (a favorite spot) and headed down the now-open road, prominently posted “Road Closed in Winter.” It is closed to vehicles but open to snowmobiles, so we typically run across some interesting things back in there – this time it included a severed deer head lying in the middle of the road. Yuck! Rhio was more concerned with the funny-shaped melting snowbanks (looked like fossilized creatures sticking out of the ground to me) than the head, and Kelso trotted right past it. We turned around at about the 3 mile mark, and Rhio quite happily bumped his trotting speed up into the 7.5mph range (or, as I like to call it, the “going home” trot) and away we went. He cruised along, tossing his head and eager to head back to the barn. We stopped along the way to visit with 3 little kids and their mom out playing in their yard. The little girl is clearly horse crazy, and I love to encourage that – plus leave a good impression on the non-horse folks in the area since I ride on the public roads so much. Rhio was very amenable to having his nose patted and obligingly lowered it to 4 year old height. It was school bus time as we were nearing the barn, and 2 went past us very courteously, slowing way down. Of course, they don’t bother Rhio in the slightest, but I am very appreciative nonetheless. At the driveway, I fetched the mail from Rhio’s back (a first – took a couple attempts to get him close enough that I could reach, but only because he REALLY wanted to go down the driveway) and then hopped off at the wide wooden stairs leading to the farmhouse. I am not sure why, but I got it in my head that I was going to teach him to walk up and down those steps. He was having none of it, and kept staring off longingly at his pasture mates. I probably didn’t pick the best time for a schooling session on stair mastery! But, we did 1 step up, and 1 step down, and crossed several stairs horizontally back & forth a few times, so I was happy with that. Something to work on!
Look! Three feet on the bottom step!
Overall, we did 8 miles today, Rhio’s first in boots this spring. The boots stayed in place, he had no rubs or marks from the gaitors, and had only 1 tiny interference mark on the back of his left hind fetlock. It clearly had only been hit once, not repeatedly over the course of the ride, so I’m not going to worry about it. Several years ago when I first rode him in boots, he interfered so badly that we came home from our first booted ride bloody on all four legs. Granted, he was only wearing front boots today, but I was pleased anyway, as I hadn’t put any leg protection on for today’s ride (I’ll often use splint boots on him when he’s in the Easy Boots just to be safe). If the weather forecast is right, I probably won’t get him out for a ride again until next week – it’s actually going to be a below average high (and 20+ degrees colder than today!) for the first time in March.
(note: ride was Wednesday March 24)
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Yesterday Cricket turned 28! To celebrate, he got a good pampering (well, I got as much mud & loose hair off as I could) and a whole bunch of baby carrots (they're easier to eat than big carrots when you're running low on molars). I combed out his mane & sprayed some detangler/shine stuff on it (he probably hated that part) but quit before I got to his long, gorgeous tail to go ride with Jodi :) We took her young mare Rana & an older Arab mare, Cameo, out for a spin because it was a lovely evening. We saw plenty of deer and both mares did great.
Monday, March 22, 2010
You may be able to tell how much new, sharp gravel is now on our road - Rhio doesn't tolerate this footing at all!
Rhio & I attempted a conditioning ride down the road today, but had to abort the mission about a mile into it, because the county had graded the road & added a layer of fresh gravel. Rhio is barefoot (I didn't think to dig out the boots yet this spring - guess it's time!) and doesn't tolerate that sharp gravel. Bummer! We did a little work in the outdoor arena when we got back, and called it a day.
foot update: last trim 2 1/2 weeks ago, when the arc to take the hoof wall out of weight bearing below the injury was redone - we've been riding so much that the hoof has nearly grown the arc out already! Exercise increases hoof growth.
and a better view of the injury itself. The coronary band is looking great, but I'm not very happy with the large hoof defect that does seem to be forming.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Just a quick 5 miles today, since we only had an hour to ride. Christine & Tomas came along for their 2nd official conditioning/road ride and did awesome. Tomas wasn't all that thrilled to be leaving the farm, frankly, but he decided it was fun about 1/2 way through the ride.
Today's ride really impressed upon me the differences between Red & Rhio. Red is strong & powerful, and riding him gives me a sense of harnessing some awesome force. I also have to really keep my eyes open to anticipate all the things he will shy & spook at. Red's gaits are bigger and bouncier, and it takes more energy to ride him. But, I also completely trust him and know that although he may dump me accidentally with a big spook (which happens all too frequently), he won't buck or rear or take off with me. Red loves to trot and once he hits his stride will maintain a steady pace without any reminders from me. Red also prefers to travel down the center of the road, with deviations to either side as we have to swerve around the multitude of scary things (I expect people behind us think we are drunk.)
Rhio is light on his feet and riding him feels effortless. His gaits are smooth, and it sometimes surprises me how fast we are traveling, since it doesn't feel as fast as it is. He doesn't have as big an "engine" and hills are more work for him (Red flies up hills), but it feels as though he expends no energy while we eat up the miles. I don't completely trust him, though, as he has bucked me off a few times. He is very sensitive and pushing him too hard is a bad idea - I get bad behavior like bucking & rearing in response. So I don't feel quite as confident with him when he starts acting up; head tossing is his #1 expression of discontent under saddle. Rhio loves to canter, and typically has a lower heart rate at the canter. Unfortunately, I don't like to canter on the hard gravel roads too much, so I require him to trot more than he would like (hence the head tossing). Rhio spooks only rarely and never at the ground-surface irregularities (dark spots, lights spots, wet spots, dry spots, etc) that Red swerves away from - so I often begin a ride on Rhio micro-managing our path to avoid those things before I remember that he doesn't care. He prefers to travel on the edge of the road, and travels in a very straight line.
I love to ride both boys, but they are very different and require totally different things from me as their rider & partner.
The lighter-colored almost circular area in the center of the photo is a dry spot on Rhio's otherwise sweaty back
Unfortunately, although Red's saddle seems to fit better than Rhio's own saddle, I am getting these dry spots on both sides of his withers after every ride. Dry spots indicate too much pressure from the saddle, and in this case I think the saddle is slightly too wide for him. He is not sore, but pressure points are not good. I definitely won't be able to compete him in this saddle. I am going to have to commit to a solution soon - either send his saddle back for refitting or buy a new saddle. I can't afford a new saddle unless his saddle sells, and I haven't had any seriously interested parties. I would like a new saddle, both to try something different and to get something lighter weight. So I wait...
Monday, March 15, 2010
Kristi & Cody entering the barn after our ride & a little cool-down walk
Heavenly bodies aligned to give us perfect weather and willing horses for a nice conditioning ride today. Barn buddies Christine & Tomas and Kristi & Cody came along for a 6 1/2 mile road ride. I was a little late for our arranged meeting time, as I had to take a detour on my way to the barn due to a house blocking the entire road on my usual route. That's not an everyday sight!
I really wasn't sure at all what sort of ride I was in for, as Red put on quite the show galloping to & fro in the mud before allowing me to catch him. He was huffing like a steam engine when I did catch him (really, I just wait for him to stop being silly - then he walks up to me) and completely splattered with the mud he'd been throwing up. What a mess! I just knocked the majority of the mud off the areas where tack goes and called it good - he was a very dirty boy today! Sometimes he's so wild after an episode like this that a ride becomes a unwelcome challenge, but luckily today wasn't one of those times. And I couldn't find my reins with the rings for his running martingale, so I didn't even have my extra insurance along in case I needed it. I find I need a running martingale in the spring and also for the start & first loop of an endurance ride. Red likes to throw his nose up when he's really amped up, evading the bit and taking control. The running martingale works perfectly to remind him that he can't do that.
Red & I quickly covered the mile to meet up with the others, and we set off down the road. Since we were all riding geldings, Red was happy to lead and only put his ears back once early on to remind Tomas that he was just a young pup along for his first long-trot road ride and he'd better defer to Red's supreme experience & control in this situation. Red is extremely deferential to mares and doesn't like to lead with mares behind him - one little mare glare and he's a puddle of apologies for deigning to invade her space or offend her in any way. He's quite happy to rule the geldings, however, and lead almost the whole ride.
We started with a few walk-trot transitions to get everybody comfortable and make sure Tomas in particular remembered that he had several gears & gaits and was quite capable of using them all. We settled in to a nice trot for the majority of this ride, with occasional breathers at the walk. Cody, especially, was pretty tired on the way home. Overall, we did the 6 1/2 miles in just under 1 1/2 hours, which was a nice pace for a first conditioning ride of the year. I used my GPS to keep track of our time, distance, & speed. It's remarkable how quickly our average speed dropped when we slowed to a walk. Our average trotting speed was about 8 mph, but our overall average speed was 4.3 mph. We walked in the last mile as cool down.
About 2 miles from home on the return trip
Red was very good, going a comfortable speed & easily rated the whole ride. He gave me a couple of decent spooks, including one where he was looking at a pink ribbon, tripped, and dropped to his knees. He popped right up & carried on trotting. What a silly horse! He's certainly seen tons of ribbons (not in that exact spot, though), as our endurance rides mark trail with ribbons. The most entertaining spook, according to C & K, was the spook at the culvert, while I was simultaneously chatting on my cell phone. I carried on my conversation after a brief exclamation and Red kept trotting, so it couldn't have been that serious :) I didn't have a heart rate monitor on him today, but these are the sorts of things that don't typically cause any change in his heart rate - so I know he's not really afraid of them.
Sweaty & hairy boy!
We hung out with the girls at the barn for a bit upon our return before carrying on and returning to Red's barn. It was such a fun ride on such a beautiful & extremely unseasonably warm March 15. I hope it bodes well for the rest of the spring & the whole riding season.
I was happy to note that Red didn't develop any girth rubs. He is prone to rubs only during the spring & fall, when he's shedding either his winter or summer coat. I use a fuzzy sheepskin girth during these times, but a braided mohair girth during the summer. The fuzzy girth sure does collect the shedding hair!
What he did develop, however, was squared-off toes from how he breaks over. Even though the gravel roads are soft currently, they are still abrasive enough to cause very noticeable wear to his toes. He breaks over just off of center on both front feet. My farrier won't be very happy with me, I expect! I'll have to start booting him up for our road rides.
Instead of being a nice arc, Red's worn his toe into his favored breakover position
I was unable to resist the temptation to get Rhio out for a spin today, as well. The weather was too enticing at 60 degrees in March in Duluth! I just know winter will have the last word, and we'll get hammered with something unpleasant. So Carpe Diem & make use of the opportunity when it presents itself! Rhio & I did a little speed work, 3 miles in about 25 minutes. He was very good working at speed with only minor headshaking.
Sunday, March 14, 2010
Kristi riding Cricket
What a beautiful day! We took an hour for a wander this afternoon, finally able to get around the gate into the county gravel pit. Everyone had a grand time. We had lots of mud & water, plus still some snow to negotiate, which was great practice for Tomas who is still fairly green on the trail.
Rhio, Kelso & I are inside the gate already, discussing how best to get everyone else around the gate - snowbank on one side & a signpost on the other both threatening riders' knees
Christine & Tomas came through the snowbank - knocking it down a little more for an easy return trip
Not sure what he's looking at - this is on top of the small hill that I always have the horses climb when we're in the gravel pit (every little hill looks like extra conditioning to me!)
Monday, March 8, 2010
Ok, so my hair looks a little goofy sticking out from my helmet! You might also notice how Red looks a bit like a raccoon right now - he has shed his lighter colored winter hair around his eyes and his darker summer coat is showing there. This is a common Arab trait.
Heading north from the barn. If you look closely, you'll see Kelso ahead right by the snowbank. It's amazing how much he blends into his surroundings. I guess know I know why so many hunting dogs come in spotted coat patterns!
Red & Kelso & I headed up the road to Rhio & Cricket's barn 1 mile away to ride with Christine & Tomas and Kathy & Winston. The three of us then headed out into the snowy trails out back. The three horses did great together, and we were able to trot a fair amount. We traded off positions in the group and everyone seemed content. We did about 2 1/2 miles in pretty deep snow, so the horses got a decent workout.
Kathy & Winston - just sitting on our ponies and chit-chatting :)
Christine & Tomas enjoying our powwow.
Killian came along, too, and insisted on bringing his favorite rubber dumbbell. He did drop it out in the hayfield, but picked it up again on the way home.
Notice the dumbbell in the lower right!
When he's not carrying it around, he's rolling on it.
Sunday, March 7, 2010
Much melting has occurred even since yesterday, and Rhio & I were able to trot the entire 7 mile route that we attempted today. It was just our basic home training route, an out-and-back on Pioneer & Church Roads. We started the ride with Becca & Kaos, and Katie & West, plus dogs Cash & Gunnar.
Katie & West (L) and Becca & Kaos (R) with Kelso in between - Rhio was actually leading at a walk! I think of him having a slow walk, but he was very forward today.
After about a mile, however, Rhio, Kelso, & I continued on while the rest of the crew hung back. We had a lot of gas in our tanks & places to go! Of course, once Rhio realized the horses weren't coming with us, he was less enthusiastic. After not too long, however, we continued along our route at a nice easy pace and had a really great ride.
Why do I own a grey horse?!?! This is what he looked like after trotting 7 miles on wet, muddy gravel roads.
And Kelso's sporting quite the mud splattered look as well!
As it's spring now & we're starting back into serious riding, I'm making tack adjustments. Today I changed Rhio's hackamore noseband cover from a fuzzy sheepskin which has seemed SO itchy for him (and he has an itchy head in general, anyway) to vetwrap. The underlying noseband is stiff coated rope, which is too harsh & too abrasive for the long hours Rhio spends wearing it. So far, the vetwrap seems like it's going to work well.
I also rode him in Red's Synergist saddle for our first long ride in it. Interestingly, he exhibited his leg-lifting behavior while tacking & mounting, but he seemed completely at ease in motion. I wasn't completely happy with how his back looked at the end of the ride, though. He had zero soreness, but a small patch of rubbed hair on the right side of his withers which was somewhat dry (indicating too much pressure there, I think). I will have to keep a close eye on this.
Not only does the vetwrapped noseband seem less itchy to him, it's also a cleaner silhouette, which I like. Now if finding a new saddle were as easy!
Saturday, March 6, 2010
Jodi & Ranna
It was nearly 50 today, and the spring melt is in full swing. Now, I'm not fooled into thinking winter is really over, mind you - I have lived here most of my life and I know we're in for at least one more big snow storm. March did "come in like a lamb," so we all know what that means.... But as long as this weather holds, I am going to spend as much time on my horses as I can. First competition is 8 weeks away and we have winter flab to burn off!
Today I rode a horse out of Jodi's herd, Gypsy. Gypsy is TALL (at least to me!) and all leg, but I did manage to mount from the ground. She's a very good girl with tons of hair! She was as slow as molasses in January on the roads, but our brief excursion down the snowmobile trail revealed a new side to Gypsy. She was light on her feet, and offering a beautiful canter for most of the trail. Once we were back to the road, pokey was her middle name. I also noticed she disliked being on the pavement and tried to always stay on the muddy shoulder. She was solid as a rock, though, for all the mechanized modes of transportation we encountered and didn't step a hoof out of line all day.
Jodi rode her young horse Ranna, and I was impressed with how Ranna took most everything in stride. We started our ride on the shoulder of a paved road, and had icy patches & moderate traffic, including several big dump trucks. Both horses were a little balky, but nothing significant. We then did several miles on the mostly clear Church Road, including our favorite "home" training hill by the sheep farm (no sheep in attendance today, as they are probably as tall as the snow in their pasture is deep - so we'll be seeing them out grazing probably sometime next month).
Jodi & Ranna looking ahead to the hill - the sheep live on the left.
We crossed the highway (it was totally clear & we couldn't even hear any traffic - odd!) and continued down the paved road until it became gravel, then decided to chance the snowmobile trail. The footing was pretty good, with the horses only punching through occasionally. We can't ride this trail in the summer because it crosses a large swamp. We hoped the trail was deteriorated enough that we wouldn't run into any sleds, but that wasn't the case. The groups we met were mostly very courteous, and although Ranna thought she might want to make a fuss about them, she was really very good. Gypsy just stood there like these whining machines buzzed past her every day of her life. We also saw a mystery animal up in a birch tree across the swamp - its profile looked rather like a porcupine, but it was really too far away to tell.
We trotted & cantered most of the 2 or so miles we did on the snowmobile trail - a first for Ranna (long trotting!)
Overall, we did about 10 miles very slowly, in about 2 hours 40 minutes. It was a grand day to be out, and my first sustained forward motion down a trail on a horse in months, so I was happy. Ranna gets a gold star for her performance today, and steady Gypsy was the perfect companion for a youngster on a long & challenging outing like this. To cap off our successful & enjoyable ride, we sat on the deck in the sun & enjoyed adult beverages with bare heads & bare hands!
Friday, March 5, 2010
Yet another wonderously warm March day! Christine & I took her kids Abigail & Carter out for a trail ride. Abigail rode Cricket (and begged to go Western, even though the stirrups can't be shortened enough for her) and Carter rode the pony Mo. The kids groomed their own horses, but tacking & untacking fell to us "big kids" who can reach their backs and lift & carry the saddles. Both kids did a great job piloting their mounts through the snow with smiles on their faces. Even the horses were smiling, I think!
Abigail & Cricket
Carter & Mo
Abigail in the lead, with Christine & Carter hot on her heels
You can almost see all her missing teeth that grin is so wide!
Carter's big grin
Abigail & Cricket bringing up the rear - their favorite place to be
Rhio didn't much care for being made to hang back & go slow, but he did it.
Just a little trotting to catch up