I took Red out for a spin yesterday, and hopefully this is the start of some regular posting on my blog again. January was difficult with my old dog being very ill (he's so much better now! I can't believe I nearly euthanized him just a few weeks ago) and then going to Florida for vacation. I have photos & stories backed up from December that never got done, so here's to a fresh start going forward.
We had about six MORE inches of fresh powder to traverse on our outing yesterday. Slogging through the hayfield is getting to be a bit ridiculous, actually. Our trail was a trough made by his belly dragging in the snow! I realize he's not the tallest of horses (14.3) and he's got a bit of extra winter belly hanging there, but, geesh, leaving a belly print is a bit extreme. We did make our way gingerly down the road for about 1/2 mile as well. Going away from home, this worked well. Our road hasn't been plowed yet, so the edges are untouched by vehicle traffic and the ice beneath is fairly well covered. We walked sedately along. Then we turned around. And the trouble began... because of course Red hasn't seen what amounts to open ground in a long time, and he was itching to fly. My constant admonishing to "watch your feet!" "slow down, it's slippery!" and "knock it off!" fell on completely deaf ears as we jigged toward home. About 50% of the time I managed to get a speed walk, but as soon as a foot would slip, he'd use that as an excuse to break into a trot or veer into the center of the road which was obviously icy. Grrrr! I had contemplated going all the way back to his barn on the road, but decided to go back through the deep snow. I decided the danger of falling on the road was greater than the possibility of getting bogged down or injured in the deep snow. He did try to trot (bounce-bouNCE-BOUNCE I went!) and even canter in that deep, deep snow, but we made it safe & sound.
It's not like I don't want to be flying down the trail, too. Our days are longer, the sun is warmer, and ride season is approaching! I started keeping a ride log for Red in 2005 and every year except one I have been able to get out on the gravel roads and do some serious conditioning miles in the first week of March. We sure have a lot of snow this year, and it just keeps coming, so I would guess we may have to wait a few additional weeks this year.
Sunday, January 30, 2011
Friday, January 21, 2011
|Me & Gracie enjoying the Florida trails|
Meet Gracie. She's a flea-bitten grey Quarter Horse mare who's real job is barrel racing. And her owner's name is Taryn! Gracie was nice enough to carry me around the trails here in sunny Florida with my friend DeAnne and her leased horse Streak.
|DeAnne & Streak|
DeAnne boards Streak at a little facility about 15 miles from her winter home in Ft Myers, FL and Gracie lives a few miles down the road. Gracie was ready and waiting for me with Streak in his paddock when we arrived Thursday afternoon. We located her tack (Western! yikes!) and got the ponies ready, then headed over to the little park across the road, which is open to horses, bikers, and hikers, as well as fishing in the several "lakes" - we'd call them ponds. Gracie is not big as far as Quarter Horses go, but I can tell you the ground looked a mite further away than I am used to! She was willing and relaxed going down the trail at a walk, and DeAnne & I had a grand time chit-chatting away. She gave me one unexpected huge spook which I managed to hang on through, but otherwise didn't put a hoof out of line. Interestingly, during our first ride I was unsuccessful in getting her to trot. She has a lovely very slow and rhythmic lope which she much prefers to a trot, and it was very nice to ride. I aspire to have a gait like this at my fingertips on my own horses! However, being a trotting gal at heart, I was craving a nice long trot.
|No doubt she's a Quarter Horse!|
|My first view of FL trails (it's really flat here!)|
|One of the "lakes" in this park|
|The horses got along great for not ever having met before, both led & followed, and when Gracie crowded Streak, he did not mind.|
|A tiny elevation change with a soggy bit of ground that Streak had to check out carefully (he's a FL horse and knows what might lurk beneath its murky surface)|
I really enjoyed the different vegetation here in Florida. This park was full of palmetto (small to large shrub sized), long-leaf pines (which are deciduous and are the tall trees you see in the photos), and a red-berried shrub (non-native) which is called "Florida holly." The park is completely fenced in (and closed on Wednesdays for cattle operations - the sign states that it is a cattle lease, though we saw no evidence of cattle - no tracks and no cowpies) and as most of south Florida, there are "canals" or water courses with raised ground all around (after all this whole part of the state was originally swamp). The canals are vibrant habitat for the thousands (millions?) of water birds everywhere. The horses weren't fazed at all by the enormous white egrets and wood storks, small white ibis, great blue herons, and prehistoric-appearing anhingas, but I got a start a few times when one took flight right next to us.
We finished up our ride and headed back to DeAnne's for some wonderful steaks on the grill, a few adult beverages, a shower, and bed! Friday it was threatening rain, and we stopped at the feed store to pick up some hay for Streak. Hay here is $13.50 per bale (average size bale) for timothy/alfalfa mix!!! Now that's a shock to my system - and made me want to sweep up every tiny piece that fell off the bale onto the ground as we were loading it up. The weather looked like it might hold, so we saddled up again for a shorter ride, as we were due back in town by 2 pm. This time Gracie was a little less enthused about the whole outing (I am not sure how much time she spends on trails), and gave me a nice little jog trot when I didn't let her break into her wonderful lope. We ran into a small group of other riders on beautiful, sleek horses (no winter fuzzies around here!) and made it home before the skies opened and dumped a short but intense rain storm on us.
|$13.50 per bale hay!|
We didn't see any scary critters (gators, wild pigs were topping my list of things I did NOT want to see while riding!), my bum was only mildly uncomfortable from the western saddle (yeah for DeAnne's sheepskin seat saver on Day #2), and I was really pleased with Gracie's gracious behavior.
|Gracie, with Streak & DeAnne in the background|
Many, many thanks to DeAnne for a wonderful horsey interlude, and to Gracie for a couple of great rides. Oh, and Gracie's for sale! She runs 1D times (which is fast, I guess).
|Streak munching feed with the little open-air barn in the background|
|Gracie chowing down near the "run-in shed" which is just a roof! It goes without saying that the climate is much, much different here.|
Saturday, January 8, 2011
For my birthday every year, I take Red out for a spin. This year the weather semi-cooperated, and we spent about 30 minutes tootling around the back woods. To give you some idea of how snowy this winter has been already, Dave got the bulldozer out to plow. That's called pulling out the big guns! Red was of course scared of the large snow boulders lining the dozer trail, but it did erase the icy crust and make the trails very passable.
Seven years ago when I first moved Red to his barn, I had to ride with a crop to get him to pass scary objects. I usually just had to show it to him, once he'd had a good look at the object and determined that it wasn't all that scary, but maybe he could convince me that it was. One of the crop-necessary objects was the bulldozer, which usually sits out near the entrance to the back woods trails. I can't count how many time I would ride to the dozer but never get him to go past it in those first few months. Red and I have come a long way in our relationship, and a ride like today's is icing on the (birthday) cake for me. (We walked past the dozer twice without even a ear flick.)
Temperature: 10 Fahrenheit
Sky: sunset into pink dusk
Footing: lots and lots of snow
Number of layers: 3 (silk, polarfleece, wool)
Friday, January 7, 2011
My first ride of the new year was January 5. Our great winter riding conditions have been severely damaged by a day of freezing rain New Year's Eve. Our deep snow now has a crunchy layer on top, which Kelso can mostly skim across but the horses definitely break through. It makes riding in the snow even more difficult and a little bit dangerous, too. The crust does not give fast enough sometimes, and Rhio really struggles to get those front legs up & out of the entrapping snow. We had a few dramatic stumbles, but luckily he is agile enough to catch & right himself, and I was lucky enough to stay on (this time anyway). No more trotting & cantering through the deep powder, which was so fun! We are now stuck at a slow, lurching walk.
In anticipation of the risk of abrasion from the ice crust, I decided to try riding in polo wraps for protection. This resulted in utter failure, basically! We lost both front wraps somewhere out there, and one hind wrap was bunched around his pastern & hoof when we got back. Oops. Guess I won't do that again! Hopefully I'll be able to find the missing polos when I head out there on my snowshoes later. Thankfully they are bright red, so they should be fairly visible - I hope. He did acquire one tiny little scrape on a front cannon bone from the crust, but nothing significant.
Our companions for this experimental ride were Kristi & Winston.
|On alert! We'd hand walked up to the house to fetch Killian so he could come along with us. This required us to "run the gauntlet" between the goat/alpaca pen and the cow pasture. SCARY!|
|The steer is actually much more afraid of Winston than Winston is of him, only Winston doesn't know it.|
|The friendly white one|
|Letting Winston break trail and leave tail swish marks on the snow!|