Fall Colors Between Rhio's Ears

Fall Colors Between Rhio's Ears

Saturday, April 21, 2012

One Dollar

A week ago, Gesa and I went for a soggy ride around home, after Rhio and Paco got shoes put on.  (ahem...do you recall that post about fitting boots?  I'll explain in my next post.)  It was actually really fun, despite the rain, and we did about 9 miles by riding our loop "around the block" twice.  I did get friction rubs on my legs, though, from wet tights meeting wet saddle - that part wasn't so fun.  What was strange about that ride, however, was finding a dollar bill impaled on a small branch of a tree right next to the trail we take as part of our loop.  And what's even more strange: we rode this trail twice that day, and neither of us noticed the dollar on our first time through, but it was pretty obvious to us on the second pass, hanging soggy and bedraggled on the tree.  Weird.  Was someone else out there on trail in the rain?  Was it there the first time and neither of us saw it?  Why would someone hang it on the tree instead of pocketing it?  Is it a message of some kind to someone?

This trail is really a connection between two parts of the same road, which was never put through, I presume because of the steep hill which would have to be conquered to do so.  The locals use it via foot, horseback, ATV, and snowmobile, to get from one side to the other - it's probably about 3/4 mile in length.  Although we see evidence of others using the trail, I've never actually seen anyone on it.

We left the dollar where it was, and rode home, pondering.

Yesterday, Red and I went out for a casual circuit of the loop "around the block," to enjoy the nice weather - and, guess what?  That dollar was still there.  This time I had my camera.  I still left it where it was.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Tail Wind

My last ride was almost a week ago due to some nasty spring weather and a busy schedule.  (You'd better bet I'm saddling up this afternoon to rectify this situation!)  But, it was a GREAT ride and Gesa and Dawn finally met.  Dawn picked us up early Saturday, and we headed up to the North Shore State Trail once again.  In the winter, the parking lot gate is unlocked and we have ample off-road parking.  In the summer, though, the gate is locked (I presume to keep ATVers off the trail - not that it is particularly effective) and we have to park on the side of the road.  This isn't ideal with horses, which then have to be tied to the trailer to be tacked up, but the road is nice and wide at this spot, and pretty quiet.  It works.  This day made me think, though, about the safety and practicality choices we have to make all the time with our horses.  They are a particularly reactive, and therefore accident-prone, species.  I believe this is because they are a prey species, and their defense mechanism is to run away, fast.  Their instincts tell them to run away from any scary or *perceived* (by them) potentially harmful situation - ask questions later.  This serves them well on the open range, when being pursued by a mountain lion.  It doesn't work very well at all in domestication.

To illustrate, this day we had a small trailering incident.  The fact that many (most?) horses will get into a confining, dark box and ride calmly down the road, bumping, swaying, and vibrating all over the place, is kind of amazing, really.  Of course we do everything we can to make it safe and "inviting," including rubber mats on the floor for traction and shock absorption, tasty hay to munch on while traveling (eating is calming for horses, and it's also good for maintaining gut function and preventing ulcers), and, if we can, a buddy to make a "herd."  But, the unexpected still occurs.  In Dawn's trailer, her mare was in the front straight-load area, with the dividing gate shut behind her.  We put both Rhio and Paco in the rear area, which is open.  We tied them on the slant, as they would travel in Gesa's trailer, heads to the driver's side. Both horses willingly loaded up and schooched in together.  There is no divider between them, nor any secondary barrier behind them, besides just the back door of the trailer.  This is the way they travel in Gesa's trailer, and many other trailers, without any issues in the past.  Today, we had an issue.

Upon arrival at the trail, we started to unload the horses and somehow Rhio and Paco had gotten their leadropes crossed over each other in the trailer.  Because it's an open stock trailer, I was able to reach through the slats and start untying them.  I did not do a good job of communicating what the issue was (totally my fault!) and meanwhile Gesa and Dawn opened the back of the trailer.  Rhio was loose at that point, but Paco still wasn't.  I was trying to get Paco untied (I should have just unclipped the leadrope from his halter - that whole hindsight 20/20 thing) and Rhio decided to scrambled out by himself - except that he had to pass Paco to do so, as Paco was the rear most horse.  Rhio tried to go under Paco's neck/leadrope, and Paco backed up to make space for him to do so - only Paco was still tied and stepped out of the trailer, scraping up a hind leg in the process.  The scrapes must have stung, as he was limping for a bit after we had them both sorted out, but he "walked it off" and with a little ointment to sooth the raw skin, we went on to have a fine ride.

We certainly don't set out to create an incident like this, and no lasting damage was done (both horses loaded right back into the trailer to go home without hesitation), but it is still scary and upsetting when things like this happen.  We will be hyperaware of this happening again, and probably go a bit overboard on prevention (for a while) - but I'm sure the next horse incident will be something completely unrelated.

Stopping at a puddle for a drink.

Rhio leads the group across the bridge.

The horses contemplate the trail.

Exploring a huge new logging road.
As for the ride, it was marvelous.  We rode & chatted for 7 miles, only turning around because of time constraints, and then realized we'd been riding with a stiff tail wind the entire way "out."  Oh, boy!  The wind was so strong coming "home" that I could feel my helmet slightly lifting off my head at times, and Rhio's mane and tail were streaming out behind us.  Luckily, it wasn't a cold wind, and we finished our longest training ride of the season, 14 miles in about 2 1/2 hours.  For the most part, the horses seemed compatible and we all really enjoyed ourselves.  I had less "race-brain" issues with Rhio coming home than the last time we rode in a group of three, so I was pleased with that.  He is fitter than he's ever been at the start of the season, and we have a total of 125 miles of conditioning so far this spring (most springs we're right around 100 miles by the first ride in May).

Saturday, April 14, 2012

17 Years Young!

Happy Birthday to my Red boy - 17 today!  I bought him when he was 7 - hard to believe we've been together for 10 years.

He has adjusted well to living at Gesa's and seems very happy.  He always whinnies to me and comes over when I show up - for a scratch, a treat, or to stick his head in his halter.  Today was his day, after watching us leave in the trailer yesterday with Rhio and Paco (he is fine staying behind with Sefi and Gimi, but he did seem to want to go), and despite the oncoming rain, we saddled up in the late afternoon.

He was eager to go and moving out readily, not minding the on-again, off-again rain, even when we turned around and had it blowing into our faces.  He felt great today!  I am surprised, and sort of "waiting for the other shoe to drop," as they say, since he's had sore hocks the past 2 years and has had to be injected for them each spring.  He has continued on Adequan, an injectable joint protectant, but I did expect to have to "do his hocks" again.  So far, not an off step!  He certainly feels years younger than 17, and I wish I had the opportunity to compete him again,  but taking him to rides just isn't in the cards right now (2 horse trailer, both spots spoken for...).

After our 9 mile ride, he got his birthday treat - a bag of baby carrots all to himself (and then some relaxing in his stall with a pile of hay and a fuzzy cooler on to dry off, while we warmed ourselves with hot cocoa and pizza).

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Out of the Fog

Last Sunday, we loaded up in the foggy, threatening-to-rain late morning and headed north to Brimson.  The big lake was flexing  her weather-making muscles and threw some actual rain at us on the drive up, but by the time we turned off the highway to make our way to our "secret" parking spot, we'd driven out of the lake's sphere of influence, and the sun was peeking out.

We both shed a layer before setting out under a blue sky for what we hoped would be a nice, long ride.  We haven't ridden up here since last spring, and were surprised to see the new layer of rocky gravel (big round rocks more than gravel, really) on the  1 1/4 mile access road we use to reach the lovely ATV/snowmobile trails.  The horses, even in their boots, did NOT like the footing and wanted to walk along the very edge.  Most of the length of the road we were paralleling a *very* fresh set of moose tracks - so fresh that I think we must have pushed it out when we pulled in to park, not that we saw/heard anything.  I was surprised to learn that Gesa has never seen a moose, despite living in northern Minnesota for some years now.  I will have to do my best to remedy that situation - I love to see moose!
The footing they didn't like.

Once we hit good footing, the horses were fresh and eager, and we settled in to a nice forward trot, cruising along beneath the pines and thoroughly enjoying the ride.  The frogs were singing madly (they are so loud, I always expect to *see* something for all that volume!) at the beaver-dammed pond, which has taken over a little bit of the trail - just enough for Kelso to cool off and the horses to have a drink.  We continued on through the logging area, then turned around rather than complete the loop with gravel roads.  We get enough road riding at home and felt like sticking to trails for this ride.  That turned out to be a good choice, as Paco stepped on the gaiter of his right front boot shortly after we turned around, ripping it to shreds and causing the boot to come off.  Gesa noticed right away, so we didn't lose the boot permanently, but Paco had to go boot-less the rest of the ride.
Our magical piney trail!

We thought we might go check out the Cloquet River - it's been so dry, perhaps it would be ford-able and we could go ride the ups and downs of the rolling hills in the clear cut area.  Perched on top of the steep drop to the river, though, and considering, we decided not to chance it and turned around.
Overlooking the Cloquet River.

Heading back, we decided to explore a trail heading off to the left which we'd never ridden before.  I love to explore!  It started out wide and lovely, with excellent footing, as most of the rest of the trails in this area are, but soon became a trickle of trail through a lovely portion of forest above the river and we couldn't help ourselves but keep following it, ducking and weaving our way through the trees and brush.  We lost heart at one point, considering turning around, but figured if the ATVs were using it, albeit infrequently, it had to go (or come from) somewhere.  And we hadn't met an impassable obstacle yet, so onward we forged.  Only moments later, we popped out onto the trail to the river!  Oh - so that's where we are!
Brave Paco leading the adventure - checking out new trail.
Content with our trail blazing adventure for the day, and mindful of Paco's bootless condition as well as Kelso lolling tongue and Berlin's probable full bladder (he was hopefully napping peacefully in the back of the trailer on a cushy bed of saddle pads and blankets) - and the fact that my stomach, at least, was beginning to growl - we headed companionably back to the trailer, taking our time on the rocky footing.
Happy dog!

The horses were totally cooled out and their sweaty, hairy coats were dry by the time we got back to the trailer, 2 1/2 hours and 11 1/2 miles later.  Poor Berlin was barking to get out, but otherwise our parking spot was peaceful.  We so rarely see anyone else out here that we do think of it as our "secret" place.  We were basking in the warm sunshine and the pleasant tiredness after a good ride, so out came the lawn chairs and the cooler, and we sat down to enjoy snacks and beverages in the early evening light.  I'll admit, we lost track of time in our conversation and post-ride relaxation, and it was 7 pm before we were loaded up to head home!  Daylight savings time is a wonderful thing, but I had a lecture to write for Monday morning's 8 am class, and it would be at least 8:30 before I got home... oops!
Berlin begging for carrot. 
Riding is such a joy for me; it transcends reality and is so restful to mind and soul (perhaps not so much for the body.)  The danger does lie in ignoring one's responsibilities, however, and "dropping the ball" in some other area of life.  In my case, I willingly sacrifice sleep, clean laundry, and a clean house to ride (but, Mother Nature, the occasional rainy day would probably be a good thing.)