Fall Colors Between Rhio's Ears

Fall Colors Between Rhio's Ears

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!!!!!  

Saturday, October 30, 2010

There Are No Pantyhose In Hinckley (Point Chaser 2010 - Part 2)

Coming across the bridge - we're soaking wet & cold but the photo looks great - thanks to the intrepid ride photographer Bob who braved the elements to take these shots
After our very successful 50 mile completion on Friday, Rhio settled down with his buddy Paco to rest & eat, with standing wraps + poultice on his legs (for the first time, as we've had stocking up issues recently). Gesa arrived in the early evening, and we were all invited to enjoy our camp neighbor's wonderful gourmet dinner (grilled beef tenderloin, asparagus, asian salad, garlic bread, plus numerous appetizers and homemade apple pie for dessert).  Wow.  Not my usual ridecamp fare!  After dinner I was able to take a hot shower (boy did that feel great!), we walked the horses (Rhio looked amazing - bright eyed and bushy tailed - like he hadn't done a darn thing that day), and snuggled into our sleeping bags for the night.  The trailer was cozy with the three of us plus Roger the rat terrier.

None of us were riding Saturday, with Rhio & Jodi's mare getting the day off, and Gesa opting to ride Sunday with me.  It was cloudy and threatening rain when we got up, so we walked horses and got them settled in with waterproof blankets, then spent some time warming & drying ourselves around the fire in the building.  Gesa realized that she had forgotten to pack pantyhose, which she wears beneath her tights to prevent rubs.  We had the whole day, and an extra vehicle, so off we went in search of a pair of pantyhose.

Little did we know, some 2 hours and about 70 miles round-trip later, that there are no pantyhose for sale anywhere in the town of Hinckley.  The gas station sent us to the supermarket, which knew for a fact they were the last ones in town carrying them but they didn't stock them anymore.  So, we hopped on the freeway and went south to the next town, which I was pretty sure had a Walmart.  Yep, a huge gorilla of a Walmart, even, with aisles stretching as far as the eye could see.  We found pantyhose (a plethora) as well as some funky bandanas to add to our collection (we both like bandanas either under our helmets and/or after riding to mask the helmet hair).

Crazy fun bandanas - $1 each at Walmart! 
Returning to ridecamp, the rain was finally giving us a break, so we saddled up for an easy ride to loosen the boys up.  Rhio's legs looked tight, clean, and cool beneath his standing wraps (yay!) and, other than being positively filthy (too cold to sponge off all that sweat, dirt, and grime), he looked great.  I opted to use my bareback pad (it was just going to be a walk-trot easy ride of 45 minutes or so), and away we went with Rhio in the lead, ears up, and very forward.  Uh-oh.  Maybe not the "easy warm-up ride" I thought we were going to have!

Ready for our "warm-up" ride
Paco eager to go down the trail

We mostly trotted and cantered (oh I love to ride his canter in that bareback pad!), managing to make them walk the last mile or so in to camp.  We unsaddled, and went over to the vets to for our pre-ride vet in for Sunday morning.  Both horses looked great, and we were cleared to go.  The scribe was surprised to find a number already on Rhio's rump (#11) - he certainly didn't look like he'd been ridden already this weekend!
Dr. Bonnie vetting Paco
Video of Paco's pre-ride trot-out.  Sorry about the poor quality (old, decrepit camera) and the shaking at the end (Rhio was nudging me for treats).

Saturday night was our potluck (nothing could have been better than the main dish of spaghetti!) and awards.  I chose a pretty pink & purple polarfleece helmet liner made & donated by one of the other MN ride managers as my completion prize - which turned out to be a fortuitous choice.  During dinner, the heavens opened and a major thunderstorm rolled through.  We headed back to our trailer & the corrals to find the horses standing in water and looking quite soggy (luckily we'd all left the waterproof blankets on them).  One more walk in the rain, and we retreated to the relative warmth & dryness of the trailer.  I say relative, because by that point, so much wet stuff had come into the trailer with us (jackets, gloves, boots, Roger the rat terrier) that it was beyond damp in there.  We cranked up the Mr. Buddy propane heater for awhile before bed to try to get it cozy & dry, with moderate success.

There was still rain drumming on the trailer roof when I fell asleep, so I was thrilled to hear the quiet when I awoke Sunday morning.  It wasn't quite time to get up yet, so as I cuddled into my sleeping bag for a bit longer, I was dismayed to hear the rain start again.  Being the last MN ride of the year, it wasn't going to deter me, and I was going to ride, but I wasn't very happy about it!

We saddled in the rain, and I dressed for the weather as best I could.  I have yet to find the best outfit for riding in the rain, and opted to leave my legs uncovered (just lightly-insulated fall tights), ride in my muck boots so my feet would be dry, and use my waterproof softshell jacket with polarfleece gloves and my new helmet liner.  I didn't have any waterproof gloves for my hands, anyway, and I know from experience that polarfleece stays pretty warm even when wet.  The horses were sporting their polarfleece rump rugs, and we were set!
Paco: "Who's that?  Where are we going? This is fun!"
Rhio: "Oh, man, not this stupid bridge again!  Mom, it's raining.  Are we there yet?"
Gesa & I let the front runners get out of camp, heading back to our campsite to use the picnic table to mount and give our boys the idea that our ride had nothing whatsoever to do with those horses.  It worked, until we caught up with a pair of riders just in front of us and tried to stay a couple horse-lengths behind them (we didn't want to go that fast - it was only Paco's second LD ride and the footing was mushy as best and slippery at worst).  Our inadvertent foursome then caught another group of 3, and then a single rider, and all of us played leap-frog for almost the entire first loop.  I was fighting Rhio way more than I wanted to (saying things like, "maybe you'll be doing another 50 today, buddy - CALM DOWN, KNOCK IT OFF!!!") and I had opted to boot him because I didn't want to make him foot sore as we'd never done this many miles barefoot in one weekend (well, never done this many miles in a weekend, period!).  The boots were a BAD idea - very slippery, especially on all the wet leaves, and his hind end kept going out.  We stopped at the designated water stop (a pond) - and of course the horses were way too concerned about all the other horses and not at all interested in drinking - and I was able to remove the hind boots (his Gloves) and tie them to my saddle.  Remounting proved to be a frustrating and difficult process, as Rhio utterly refused to stand still, but I eventually got my ass back in the saddle, just to have to get off to handwalk across a slippery bridge 50 yards down the trail.  I really hate trying to get on a jigging, prancing, spinning horse, but somehow I managed it and even got him to stand still for a millisecond (STOP MOVING YOUR FEET!) before allowing him to proceed down trail.  A horse that will not stop its feet is one of my pet peeves, and my horses are typically very good about standing.  Not so on race day!

We finished the little loop, came back across the slippery bridge (not that slippery, actually, so we stayed mounted this time), back through the water stop (didn't even offer this time), and onward down the trail.  Rhio was settling in nicely, finally, as we had a little envelope of space to ourselves (briefly) and voluntarily stopped to drink at several puddles (yay, Rhio's brain was functioning again!).  Paco was behaving beautifully, leading occasionally and not bucking, forward and happy.  We wound through a cut-over area and were caught and passed by the group of 3 again, and suddenly our fire-breathing dragon horses were back in action.  We flew down the trail hot on their heels, knowing we were once again going too fast.  Coming in to the vet check, instead of walking to get those heart rates down, we were fighting and jigging and prancing and trotting and generally not having a good time of it.  Boo!  These are just the sorts of things we've been trying NOT to let Paco learn at a ride.
Wow, don't they look great?! 
We pulsed down immediately, along with everyone else in the "pack," and headed off for our 40 minute hold.  It was still raining.  We went back up for our exit exam, and decided to wait until everyone else was back out on trail so we could ride our own ride this loop.  We stayed in camp an extra 15 minutes, insuring that we were the last ones out and with enough space that we couldn't catch the horses in front of us.  Rhio & Paco were willing enough, though I could tell Rhio was starting to believe I was crazy (you know it's still raining out here, right Mom?  You really want to go?  Well, ok...).  I had pulled his front boots at the check, and we were now barefoot.  The trail conditions had deteriorated significantly, and we had large sections with so much mud that we had to walk.  We also ran into a few new "streams" running across the trail - but, there was plenty of water for the horses to drink!  We took it very easy this loop, completing the 14 miles in a little under 2 1/2 hours.  Rhio progressed from wondering why the heck we were out there in the incessant, cold rain to making it perfectly clear that this was NOT what he thought we should be doing.  He kept swinging his head around to the left and giving me a look.  Sorry, Rhi!
 "Stupid human, what are we out here in the rain and the mud for? We could be warm, dry, and eating hay back at the trailer!"
By the time we finished the ride, dead last and happily so, I was soaked to the skin (except my feet & my torso) and frozen (except my head, which was toasty warm thanks to my awesome helmet liner!), and also wondering about our sanity.  Note to self: You REALLY need to find a new system for riding in the rain; besides being so cold, I also had rubs on both inner thighs from my wet tights sticking to my wet saddle. Our ride time was about 4 1/2 hours for the 30 miles, though officially longer because we went out late at the start and on loop 2. Gesa & Paco came through a challenging ride (mentally and weather-wise, thank goodness the trail was relatively easy) with flying colors - they really earned their endurance stripes on this ride!  Both horses vetted out with no issues (there were several horses with hind end cramps due to the footing and weather) and we let them relax at the trailer and eat while getting camp packed up.  None of us had any desire to hang around camp in the miserable weather, so an hour after finishing, with both boys looking great, we loaded up and sent them on their way home with Jodi.  Gesa & I went to take hot showers to warm up, and headed home in the car.

Everyone arrived home warm & dry, and pretty proud of our weekend's accomplishments. Rhio proved that he is more than capable of what I've been asking of him so far, and I'm looking forward to moving him up to multidays (if I can get to any - still dreaming of doing Shore To Shore) and that 100 is looming on our horizon as well.  Too bad our season is over, and our next ride won't be until May (yes, mostly I love living in northern Minnesota, but winter looks mighty long from this side of it...).


I'm upstairs on the computer this morning, and all of sudden the two dogs downstairs start barking crazily.  I walk downstairs to see what's up and find Berlin standing on the couch, barking out the living room window.  I walk over and see....

Cricket dining on the black oil sunflower seeds in the bird feeder

What?  They're tasty and the grass is all covered up with snow!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Last Hurrah (Point Chaser 2010 - Part 1)

End of loop 2, 50 miler
This is it.  The final ride of the MN distance season has come and gone. It was a great weekend of many miles and memories to tide us over the long winter till May.

Point Chaser is a 3-day ride, and I actually had the opportunity to go for the entire weekend.  Given that, I planned to ride the 50 on Friday, take Saturday as a rest day, and then ride the 30 Limited Distance on Sunday.  Rhio & I have never competed more than one day in a weekend before, and this was his first competition since June, so I wanted to maximize our chances of completing the 80 miles.

Start of loop 2, 50 miler
I started him on beet pulp about two weeks before the ride, so his hindgut would be used to digesting it, and added a small amount of alfalfa pellets starting several days before the ride, as a yet another source of readily-digested fiber and also for its calcium content.  Calcium is an essential electrolyte for muscle activity, and also can help buffer the acidic stomach environment to reduce the chances of ulcers developing.  Rhio has been prone to very loose manure at rides in the past, and I hypothesize he may be one of the many horses that develops some stomach ulceration with stress.  He also gets plain salt and a prebiotic/probiotic powder starting the Monday before the ride and throughout the ride (I replace the salt with a balanced electrolyte powder the day before the ride).  I only give e-lytes in his beet pulp mashes, and he eats it readily.  So far, this strategy has worked well for us.  At the ride, he gets as much hay as he wants, plus the beet pulp + alfalfa pellets + a handful of senior feed + electrolytes + probiotic mixture morning, night, and at every vet check.  Three of us travelled together for this ride (myself, Jodi, and Gesa), so there were three different hays for the horses.  They all seemed to prefer Gesa's hay!  Rhio's normal ration at home is hay (or pasture) plus a handful of "lite" pellets twice a day, and a vitamin E - selenium supplement.  So far, he hasn't need much in the way of extra feed for his endurance endeavors. And this strategy seemed to work well, as he did not develop the extremely loose manure than he has in the past.  Of course, other factors come into play as well, so it's hard to say if it's the change to his feed plan for rides or not.

Somewhere on the first loop
Point Chaser is held at St. Croix State Park in Hinckley, MN - about a 2 hour drive from home.  It's a nice horse camp with high lines, some corrals, and a building with electricity, bathrooms, hot showers, picnic tables, and 2 fireplaces.  The trails are flat, wide, and mostly grassy.  There are also multiple bridges to cross.  Due to AHA Nationals being cancelled, among other things, many more people wanted to come to the ride than had camping reservations.  There was a significant amount of frustration on the part of ride management, park staff, and competitors, but eventually most everyone was accommodated somehow.  We started with our horses sharing a highline with a friend's 2 horses, but ended up with Rhio & Paco sharing a corral (they're about 16' by 10').  The corrals do not have gates, and luckily we had a long rope in the trailer with which to pen them in.  I was slightly nervous as Rhio has a history of crawling out of non-electric fences, but decided with plenty of hay in front of him and his buddy to hang with, he'd probably be ok.  Thank goodness I was right!  It is always a relief in the morning to crawl out of bed and find your horse right where you left him.

Thursday night got very, very cold with a full moon and shining stars.  I was snug in my mummy bag in the trailer, and Rhio was snug in his layered polarfleece plus sheet.  There was ice in the water in the morning, and as we headed out just after sunrise into a frosty dawn, I discovered that water bottles can freeze while in my pommel pack and riding as a fast clip.  They were definitely NOT frozen when I put them in there in the morning, but the first time I tried to drink I discovered a healthy amount of ice in the bottle!  Someone said it was 22 degrees just before dawn.  I wasn't dressed as perfectly as I could be, but as long as we kept moving out I was fine.  I got chilled when we slowed to walk or graze the horses.  It took a long time for the sun to feel warm, but by the afternoon I'd shed a few layers and it had turned into a lovely day.

Early in the first loop - a good spot to let the horses graze some of the frosty grass
We started out with our buddies Tracy and Diego (we did our last ride with them too), and rode the whole day with them.  Diego didn't want to leave camp and Rhio wanted to catch all the horses we'd let go out of camp ahead of us (most all of the other 50s) - so the start was a bit more intense than I like.  Rhio gave a couple of little crow-hops, but no major tantrum.  I did ride most of the first 3 - 4 miles with a VERY firm grip on those reins, though - not the easy, relaxed way Rhio usually goes, but I guess somewhat normal for the start of an endurance ride, especially one that was so crisp & invigorating.  It seemed that everyone had more horse than normal this day!

With Tracy & Diego, finishing loop 2
Both horses were completely barefoot, and our first (and longest) loop of about 24 miles included a fair amount of gravel road.  Rhio didn't seem to mind it as long as he could stay on the edge of the road.  Everything was covered in dry, crunchy leaves and trotting through them created quite a noise; whatever wildlife may have been around to see in the early hours definitely found somewhere else to be when it heard us coming!  It was so loud it made conversing quite difficult.

We ran into two potentially difficult situations on the first loop, both of which turned out fine.  The first was a particular bridge with a rubber matting over it (to protect the wood from snowmobile tracks with studs, I presume).  This bridge was completely frosted up, and I made a dumb choice and did not dismount to lead Rhio across.  He willingly walked onto the bridge, but almost immediately started scrambling with all four hooves unable to gain any traction at all.  There was absolutely nothing I could do, so I did my best to stay centered & balanced, and out of his way, so he could hopefully cope with the situation.  He did a marvelous job, staying calm and getting us safely across the bridge. Whew!  Good boy, Rhio!

Crossing the big bridge for the first time, on loop 1
The second situation was really a non-situation - a tractor came up to and passed us along a gravel road, and was then working on the trail we were supposed to take.  A misplaced beaver dam caused some flooding earlier in the year, and the trail had been rebuilt, but the heavy equipment used to do so had left deep ruts in the trail.  The tractor guy was smoothing the ruts out when we had to pass him, but the horses didn't mind at all and he even turned his engine off.

The last few miles of the loop are two-way trail, and also the end of the 2nd loop for the 30 milers.  We were unlucky enough to arrive to this section during a high-traffic time, and Rhio was once again difficult to rate and not paying attention to anything but those horses ahead of him.  We had several people blow past us, which wasn't helpful at all.   This is a very frustrating situation for me, as it is not much fun to ride a rocket poised to blast off at any minute.  He shakes his head and swings his neck around incessantly and I can feel him throwing us off-balance.  I am afraid that we will fall sometime because of these antics, but if I let him go, which is what he wants, then we're racing down the trail too fast.  I even got off and hand-walked (with him spinning around me in circles) for a while, which helped a little, until I got back on.  And all this was at the end of the 24 mile loop - I guess 24 miles isn't enough to settle him down AT ALL!

Our first hold was one hour, and we were down as soon as we came in, so were able to get our pulse and head back to the trailer to relax immediately.  We had exit exams with CRIs all day, so headed back to the vets and had to wait in line to vet through.  Our turn came, and Rhio looked fresh as a daisy with a CRI of 11/10.  Off we went on loop two, about 11 miles long.  I was about 4 minutes late getting out because of the wait at the vets, and Tracy & Diego had headed out at a walk waiting for us to catch up.  Rhio knew they were up there somewhere, and the ride photographers got some great shots of him as he was totally focused on finding them.  

Heading out to catch Diego on loop 2
Diego gave Tracy a couple of big spooks throughout the day, including one self-inflicted when Tracy pulled an overhanging branch down and it fell off, smacking Diego in the rump.  She managed to hang on - to his ear!  After hanging there in space for what seemed like forever, she realized there was no way she could get back into the saddle from her position and allowed herself to drop to the ground.  It probably didn't help that we were both laughing uproariously at the spectacle!

A few miles later, Rhio stopped to drink at a puddle and the first cart on the competitive drive came up behind us.  The driver was very considerate & waited for us to finish drinking, then followed along behind us for a little while (that little horse of his could FLY!).  We moved aside so he could pass, as it became clear that his little horse could out trot ours for sure.  Rhio was a little nervous watching "the contraption" approach us, but as soon as it was in front of us, it became a game of "chase."  Boy did Rhio love that!  He followed the cart for a mile or two, happily cantering along to the cart horse's trot, until we pulled our boys up to let the cart go ahead.  I think Rhio was convinced he'd find that cart again, just around the next bend, for the rest of the loop.
"Chasing" the cart
We again came into vet check already pulsed down, and started our 40 minute hold before our third and final loop of about 14 miles.  Another exit CRI (12/12) and we were off!  Rhio and Diego continued to pace well together, and traded off the lead more on this last loop.  Previously, Rhio had led most of the time.  Rhio found cantering to be his preferred gait when Diego led, as Diego's trot is a little faster than his.  I had the heart rate monitor and GPS on all day, and was curious to discover that his fastest comfortable trot was about 10.5 mph and his nice canter was about 12.5 mph, but he did both gaits at about 126 beats per minute. So, on this flat course at least, he could travel 2 mph faster by cantering, but apparently expend no extra effort.  We definitely need to work on the canter, though, as I don't think I'm as good at riding it for extended periods as I could be, and Rhio only uses his left lead.  We don't have a lot of good cantering trails at home, as we have lots of hills and what is flat and open with good footing for cantering is gravel road, which I do not like to canter on (it's a pretty hard landing, for one thing, plus I think it's too concussive for his legs.)  So, something to seek out next year is more opportunities to work on long cantering stretches.
End of the day, on the way "in" on the third loop
We finished almost exactly at 5 pm, vetted right through, and got our completions!  Rhio looked like he'd been out for a walk in the park, and I was feeling great, too.  I do think the 50 miles barefoot had taken a little toll, as the trot-out area was all gravel and he was less willing to move out at his trot out on that surface.  In retrospect, it would have been nice to have his boots on for the first loop, with the most gravel on it, but also could have been an issue with the frosty conditions and slippage.  All in all, I was happy with my decision to ride barefoot.

Enjoying our buddies
Our moving time, according to my GPS, was 3:31 for the first loop (24.4 mi), 1:36 for the second loop (11.4 mi), and 2:05 for the third loop (13.7 mi).  Our total ride time was 7 hours 12 minutes, although our official ride time was longer.  Our average speed was 6.9 mph first loop, 7.2 mph second loop, and 6.4 mph third loop.

Way to go, Rhio!  What a great day :)

Yummy hay (munching at a vet check)
All done! Poultice & standing wraps in place, ready to go back to the corral to hang with Paco

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Rhio's right front today after a trim
It's official!  Rhio once again has four normal hooves.  The saga of his right front coronary band injury last January is now completely finished and I'm planning to stop obsessing, worrying, and fretting about his feet...any minute now, really!  

October 20, 2010
It's a normal hoof! 
For a quick review, here's a series of photos showing the healing and progression of his hoof wall defect over the past 9 1/2 months. 

Januray 31, 2010
February 23, 2010
coronary band is nearly back to normal, farrier has relieved any upward pressure by cutting an arc in the ground surface
June 14, 2010
Defect is about 1/2 way down hoof & we're still using the pressure-relieving technique to encourage downward progression without lateral spreading around the hoof

August 1, 2010
The back part already broke off and the front portion is actually loose.

August 1, 2010
After trimming - no more loose section but still not a lot of support on his lateral quarter

September 1, 2010
It almost looks like just a really badly chipped area! 
Rhio & I had a quick limbering session in the arena, bareback, after his trim, then he got to free graze in the yard for a little while.  Tomorrow we're off to Point Chaser!  We're planning to do the 50 on Friday, and if everything goes well, also a 30 mile Limited Distance on Sunday.  I've never ridden more than one day at a ride before, on the same horse, so I am really looking forward to it!  Gesa & Paco will be riding their second LD on Sunday, so we'll have a great time riding together.  

Enjoying the grass
Old man Cricket has been enjoying a lot of yard time lately, trying to gain a little more weight before winter, enjoying the last of the grass.  Also, it is good for his feet, which got "accidentally" trimmed by another farrier and are way too short.  He was booted 24/7 and on Bute for a week just to hobble around.  He is now sound on grass, but still very tender on any harder footing.  Poor Cricket!  And the farrier thinks he did me a "favor" by giving me a free trim (it was his mistake - he didn't realize the bay Arabian gelding wasn't a black Appaloosa mare...).  I am none too pleased, to say the least. 

Cricket checking for treats in my pocket before going back to grazing

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Red's Turn

Handsome boy! 
We just can't get enough of this weather! And neither can everyone else, as we ran into 4 separate parties of hunters during our ride.  Gesa & I managed to squeeze in yet another fabulous, fun evening trail ride this week.  Since Rhio is just doing light work to stay loose and rested for Point Chaser, Red got to go on this one.  What a rush to ride him again after concentrating on Rhio for the past couple of weeks!  He is such a joy - and also a challenge, sometimes.  

We walked, trotted, and cantered our way through about 8 miles of trail, thoroughly enjoying ourselves. He looked askance at a great many things, per usual, but only gave me one big, bone-jarring spook.  I have no idea what scared him, but he jumped the 16 feet or so from the right side of the trail to the left side so fast I barely knew what happened before we'd already continued on down the trail.  That's my boy!  At least when he maintains forward momentum, I usually don't come off.  

Enjoying the slanting rays of the evening sun
I always notice when I first get on Red after riding Rhio, that Red is significantly wider and feels much more powerful.  There is no effort as he powers up the hills in his big trot (and Paco has to canter along to keep up) and I can't help but break into a huge grin when he offers up a sweet canter.  I put his running martingale on, but I certainly didn't need it.  At one point, we were trotting along side by side and the horses eyed each other up, then started racing up a hill.  Zoom zoom!  

We managed to get home before dark this time, thanks to Red walking right on the trailer instead of Rhio's recent trailer loading shenanigans.  I almost didn't know what to do when my horse just followed me right onto the trailer!  What a pleasant change. 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Blazing Tamaracks

Rhio was happy to let Paco lead quite a lot of this ride
Third day out of four that Rhio & I trailered out to ride, this time with Gesa & Paco.  This is our last big work before the last endurance ride of the season, Point Chaser on October 22 - 24.  We had yet another amazing October day, riding in t-shirts and summer tights (and sweating) into the early evening.

Due to Rhio's rubs on the outsides of his hind pasterns, from the Easyboot Glove gaiters, I added a couple turns of vet wrap beneath the gaiters today.  We did about 14 miles, fording the Cloquet River twice, and the vet wrap stayed in place and his pasterns looked great when we were done (well, they were a little bit gray-tinged from the wet black vet wrap, but the already-present rubs were not at all irritated).

Rhio's hind boot configuration with vet wrap for pastern protection and interference boot because he knocks himself when booted. 
We didn't see a single person the entire time we rode, including exploring a couple of new trails connected to the trails we found the previous weekend.  We did find evidence of hunters having some success, one pile of exploded grouse feathers being the most obvious clue, and flushed up at least half a dozen grouse.  Kelso occasionally acts like a bird dog, and did some of the seek-and-scare-up for us.  He was more excited about chasing the red squirrels that would dash up a tree and sit scolding us for disturbing their space, though.

The blazing orange of the tamaracks was breathtaking against the dark green of the pines and the bare branches of all the other deciduous trees which have already shed their leaves.  Tamaracks are plentiful in this area, and really do look like trees ablaze, especially in the fading light of evening.  They vie for the top spot in my list of favorite trees.  Also, their needles are fine, soft, & silky and not at all unpleasant to brush up against while riding.  I brought home my share of tamarack & pine needles in unmentionable places (how do they get there?).

One of the magnificent tamaracks we passed by following the winding 4-wheeler trails.
We were forced to turn back after riding out an hour and a half, knowing we were losing light quickly and not wanting to get caught on the old logging road through the woods in the dark, with its plethora of low-hanging branches threatening to cut, scratch, and poke.  We were heading down as-yet unexplored trail (another old logging road, or as I grew up calling them, tote road) and I hate not being able to find out what's around the next bend!  It's also somewhat ironic that we didn't want to get caught in the dark, since riding at night is something I've developed quite a desire to do (and there was conveniently an article about it in Endurance News this month, full of advice from experienced night riders).  But this was not the place for night riding - I would definitely recommend picking a trail that is mostly free of face-threatening branches! This trail requires a fair amount of acrobatic skill to crouch over your horse's neck for the thick, immovable obstacles and dodge-and-parry the smaller ones with hands & arms.  

We got back to the trailer as the sun was setting, loosing hues of lavendar, pink, orange, and yellow on the world and highlighting the fingernail of moon rising.  

Postscript: Rhio was once again a bugger for trailer loading on the way home.  We had the big, open stock trailer (very horse-friendly) and he completely refused.  This time, he wasn't showing any anxiety, just calmly standing by the trailer with a hoof cocked, making no attempt whatsoever to load.  I was fairly aggravated.  With Gesa leading him onto the trailer, I waved a convenient stick at him and he hopped right on.  ARGH! I guess it's nice to know he's not perfect :)  

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Stolen Summer

Rhio's happy to cross the bridge several times to help Tomas conquer this obstacle
Yet another day of stolen summer in October - and we took full advantage of it with a quick jaunt on the snowmobile trail, Tomas' first bridge crossing.  It was very warm today and the boys felt pretty pokey on the way out, but the bridge was a new and scary obstacle for Tomas.  Rhio stepped out confidently across it, each hoof-fall ringing out on the metal grate covering the wooden planks.  "Danger!" screamed Tomas, and he whirled for home.  Rhio & I crossed back to their side, and Christine was able to hand walk Tomas across the scary bridge.  On the other side, she mounted up and rode back across it.  

View of the river as we cross
I am continually amazed by our horses' ability to learn and accept new things so quickly - even things that they initially find so scary.  It is a wondrous thing when a prey animal can trust and follow a predator (us). 

Tomas had opportunity to practice other trail skills, like puddle drinking
We turned back for the trailer, and suddenly the horses were full of vim & vigor!  Racing home induced a little competitiveness between the boys and Christine had several opportunities to exhibit her bronc-riding abilities.  Rhio was a little on edge about Tomas' craziness and dove towards the woods to avoid his antics, making for a less-than-relaxing trip home.  We made it, however, without any major mishaps. Rhio has been loading much better in Christine's trailer, and he'll get another opportunity to practice trailer-loading tomorrow when Gesa & I head out for another ride.  I just can't get enough of this weather!!

Post-ride sweaty


The ladies in pink enjoying our day with our boys
Yet another lovely warm October day, so Cody & Kristi and Rhio & I decided to play around a little in the arena.  Amid the many distractions of the day (the driveway is being dug up to lay new electrical wiring to the indoor arena), we worked on some trot poles, then decided to try our hand at a little jumping.  I did some jumping in lessons as a kid, but it's been many years and it was always with a horse that already knew what it was doing.  As far as I know, Rhio has never been pointed at a jump in his life!

We started with a very low cross rail and he was able to pretty much just trot right over it.

Our first attempt - just taking it in stride. 
We raised it a few notches total, in increments, and he had to actually jump it by the end.  He seemed willing enough and I thought it was fun, so I'm excited to try it again next week.  I'm sure my jumping form was awful, and I didn't shorten my stirrups so couldn't really do a true 2-point, but we got our feet wet, so to speak, and hopefully will add some small jumps to our repertoire for cross-training.  

I love how balanced he is in this picture.

Ok, yes, he knocked the rails and they're falling down here, but, look - we're jumping!