Fall Colors Between Rhio's Ears

Fall Colors Between Rhio's Ears

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Fall Color Tour #2

Fall is such a brief season, at least here, and it is the best time to ride.  The cool, crisp air makes the horses fresh and eager.  The annoying insects of summer are gone, leaving us to ride in peace.  The vibrant colors of the leaves contrasting with the still-green grass and blue skies are a feast for the eyes.

Christine & I took our boys out for a short ride down the road just to enjoy the day and the weather, savoring another beautiful ride and storing it in our memories against the bitter cold, early dark, and deep snows which we know are coming.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


This past weekend I was at the Run for the Ridge endurance ride at Fort Ridgely State Park in southwestern Minnesota.  I wasn't riding and didn't have a horse with me;  I was filling in at the last minute for a vet who couldn't make it. This scenario is bound to make me a little grumpy, as I much prefer to ride than to vet, but it turned out to be a very interesting weekend for me.  This ride offered a 100 mile ride and was the first time I'd really been involved in a 100 in any capacity.  Four riders ended up starting the 100 at 5:15 am Saturday (in the rain and pitch dark), and watching them, their horses, & their crew throughout the day & night to follow encouraged me to consider making my vague notion of doing a 100 someday a real, honest-to-goodness goal.

I was impressed with the riders' and crews' cheerfulness throughout the hours, as the dark & wet predawn turned into a soggy morning, then a lovely afternoon, and finally into a clear, cold, and moonlit night.  They took the adversity of iffy trail conditions, many miles of boring gravel road, and missed turns in stride, somehow making it seem like fun.  I never heard a word of complaint from any of them!  The horses just kept on trotting, clearly well prepared for the job at hand.

Throughout the long cold hours after the rest of ridecamp was snug in their beds, several people opted to keep me company waiting for the last riders to return, and shared their own stories, advice, and encouragement of their 100 mile rides in the past, how to condition & prepare for them, how to choose a "good" first 100, etc.  The last two riders emerged from the dark at 2 am, on their ghostly grey horses faintly luminescent in the moonlight, and, although relieved to be done, were still cheerful and appreciative of our efforts in camp to allow them the privilege of 100+ miles (plus due to a few instances when they got off course) over 21 hours.

I was really impressed.  I want to do a 100 someday.

And now I need another nap!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Fall Color Tour #1

Sunday afternoon proved to be tailor-made for a romp in the woods.  Jodi & Rana, Gesa & Paco, and me & Rhio gathered at the new trail to enjoy the day and put some miles on our ponies.  Mostly Rana led the pack, giving Rhio the snarky mare face to keep him in his place, and Paco brought up the rear.  We travelled along easily together, letting the horses move out and talking horse talk as we went.  We crossed the bridge this time and continued on, hoping to be able to do at least 10 miles, but were foiled by a swampy section and turned back.  Gesa & Paco were now in the lead, and they jumped a small (8" or so) downed tree handily, so I let Rhio continue toward it at a canter just to see if he would jump it, too.  He did!  Oh, that was fun!

We decided to continue across the gravel road that we parked the trailer on and see how much trail we had going in the other direction before running into swamp - and got a little hill workout in that direction!  Nice!  The trail goes through residential areas for this section, and has been kept mowed and manicured by the locals - so the footing was awesome.

The "manicured" section of trail.  The top of this hill sounded hollow beneath the horses' hooves. 

Looking out over the fields where the trail turns and follows a fenceline - right into a swamp! So this was our turn-around point.

Heading back down the hill toward the trailer - the drivers in the cars zooming past seemed completely oblivious to our presence.  

Oops!  Gesa & Paco had a little saddle malfunction, which was quickly remedied and no one was hurt. 

Relaxing at the trailer post-ride (and wishing we'd brought some adult beverages with us!).

We ended up doing about 10 miles in an hour and 20 minutes, seeing a little new terrain, and thoroughly enjoying the fall colors.  Unfortunately, most of my attempts to photograph the beauty of this trail didn't really capture it at all!  I think part of the appeal of fall is not only the actual colors of the leaves changing, especially as they're accented by the dark green of pines and the white of the birch trunks, but the feel of the light filtered through and bouncing off those colors, and the smell of the leaves being crushed underfoot (under hoof!), and the sound of the breeze rattling in the dried foliage.  So I am rarely satisfied with my photos of fall - it is a sensory experience more than just visual.  

Rhio was a sweaty, frothy, muddy mess after this ride, and I decided it was a good day for his once-a-year bath with shampoo.  His nickname is "Pig Pen" for a reason, and I often bemoan the fact that I own a grey horse.  But on bath day, when his underlying magnificence is revealed (briefly) - he is gorgeous.  I like to gaze at him for awhile before I put him back in the pasture, since I know the first thing he'll do is roll.  

Brilliant, shining Rhio

Thursday, September 16, 2010

In The Nick of Time

Rhio wonders where we are

It's been at least 3 weeks since Gesa & I have been able to get out to ride together.  And it's been longer than that since Rhio's last fast ride.  Luckily, the weather & our schedules aligned to allow us a quick evening jaunt on some new trail tonight.

We're always thrilled to see new trail!

This is state snowmobile trail, and has been recently mowed in preparation for winter.  Yes, I realize it is only the middle of September, but snow flies sooner than we would like to admit here in northern Minnesota!  Gesa had the opportunity to explore this trail a bit previously and determined that it is high ground and suitable for riding.  Many (most?) of the snowmobile trails around here cross swampy, low areas which are fine in the frozen months but impassable in the summer.  It is always exciting to find new trail that is high ground!  

Due to circumstances beyond our control, we were almost an hour later getting mounted than we had hoped, but just decided that meant our pace would be fast and we'd just see how far we could get before dark.  Rhio was revved up and ready to rock-n-roll as soon as we picked our way around the gate ("No motorized vehicles except snowmobiles") and took off cantering up the first long hill.  I could have whooped and hollered with glee I was so thrilled to be out there!  

It's really too dark for picture taking, but here we are crossing the bridge and heading back to the trailer.

With Kelso tagging along, we made it nearly 4 miles and just crossed a bridge (for practice - both boys walked across and back again without hesitation) in about 35 minutes, then decided our light was fading fast and we'd best head back to the trailer.  Well, those ponies seemed to know exactly what we were thinking, and we were off like rockets!  We did the return trip in 25 minutes, if that tells you anything about our pace :)  It was a blast to be flying along in the gathering dusk - and it felt like we were going faster the darker it got, though I know we weren't actually speeding up.  It was just light enough to load up when we got back, and both horses were steaming in the chill night air.  

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Inspiring Sky

Wow - what a gorgeous evening sky we had last night.  I just had to go ride under that glow (the pics don't even come close to what it felt like to be bathed in that light).  

Cricket was out for his evening yard time, and I quickly tacked him up with the bareback pad for a few circuits around the outdoor arena.  He is an amazing ride - so light and responsive I was using mostly seat and a little leg to guide him.  He is so great because anyone can ride him, and he'll give them all a great ride.  But if you know how to ask, he can really perform.  I believe that he was mostly shown in Western Pleasure in his younger years - but I bought him at 23 when he'd been mostly a pasture pet and occasional trail horse for about 8 years.  I'm sure I don't even know what he can do!  I hope he can teach me a thing or two.