Fall Colors Between Rhio's Ears

Fall Colors Between Rhio's Ears

Monday, December 2, 2013


Mane blowing, heading out on the 1 mile flat trail.

You are an endurance rider if...you decide 20-25 mph sustained winds with gusts to 40 mph is decent enough weather to ride, because, hey, the sun is shining, the trail is dry, and the nasty winter weather is coming in tomorrow!

E. and Leo were brave enough to join us on an adventure, exploring new trail.  We set off the usual way, crossing the pasture and out the back gate directly onto the trail.  This lets us have about a mile of perfect trotting (or cantering) along the flat, until we reach the base of the ridge.  Today we ran into C. on his run, and he took a quick picture before heading back to the trailhead (the wind was at his back, but in our faces at this point - he was making better time than we were!).  Once we reached the rocky ascent, Rhio happily led the way, albeit at a very sedate walking pace.  The trail is rough - though in comparison to the rest of the ride, it seems almost smooth!  The wind was ferocious, and a few gusts threatened to knock me off my pony.  I was very happy to have a nice snug chin strap keeping my helmet on my head, a bandana beneath it to cover my ears, and a windproof jacket.  It was 56 degrees with a bright blue sky and warm sun, but that wind made it feel 10 -15 degrees colder than that.  Several fellow trail users warned us against cresting the ridge, as we were actually slightly protected on the eastern side of the ridge, once we were on our way up, since the mighty wind was blowing from the northwest. 
In case the subtle differences between our rhyming boys deceive you - E. and Leo are on the left, and me and Rhio are on the right.

Just shy of the top, we took a left turn down the Foothills Trail, which neither of us had ridden before.  It luckily stays just below the top, and in parts was so protected from the wind we could even have a conversation!  Eventually, what went up must come down, and we started down the steepest, rockiest, narrowest trail I've ever ridden in my life.  No joke.  Rhio kept on leading, confident as always, and took every new challenging bit in stride like he'd been a mountain pony all his life.  I was amazed at how well he negotiated this trail, and how strong he was doing it, never losing balance or rushing down or feeling (to me) unsure of where to put his feet.  He stopped to consider a few spots, but then picked his route and my job was just to stay out of his way.  This trail, although designated for horses, was definitely not designed for horses.  The switchbacks are very narrow and very tight, as well as being ridiculously rocky - our little, flexible, sure-footed Arabs handled them, but I can't imagine riding this trail on a big, clumsy, inexperienced, or timid mount.  At one point, there was a sign warning of difficult terrain and recommending that riders dismount.  We did not and the horses handled it like the pros they are - but we laughed because we're not sure why the sign-placers singled out this particular section as opposed to the rest of it. 
One of the least technical bits - on the most technical bits, I was too busy riding to take pictures!

The view from the Foothills Trail - the green area is a wildlife research center and we were pretty sure we saw Bighorn Sheep and Elk down there.  Next to that is a water treatment plant.
We made our way all the way to the bottom of the ridge, along the bottom of the huge dam (one of the four mentioned in my previous post, holding back the massive Horsetooth Reservoir), and a little bit further along the trail, before deciding to turn around and head home.  Once again, up-up-up we went, back along the ridge, and then down-down-down again.  The wind was worse than it had been when we'd started, and our jackets were whipping around us like snapping flags.  The horses' manes and tails were streaming out horizontally, and all four of us, horses and humans alike, instinctively ducked our heads as the worst blasts of air hit us.  But those boys just kept on trucking down the trail, not balking or rushing or spooking or fussing. 
They had so many excuses to act up today, and almost nothing fazed them.  I have ridden Rhio in wind before, at home in Minnesota.  We have trees in Minnesota - lots of them.  No matter how hard the wind blows, it is always somewhat ameliorated by trees in its path.  Not so here - I have never experienced wind like this before, especially when I have willingly chosen to put myself out there in it.  As E. said, it was "OMG - this is insane!" wind.
Just happy to be riding!
Traveling back along the 1 mile flat stretch to the pasture, we allowed the horses to pick up a trot and wondered if that was a good idea (going home + insane wind + been walking a lot + horses that love to go = out of control mad dash for home?).  As we crossed beneath some high powerlines, the moaning scream emanating from them did give us a little extra boost of speed, but overall the boys were beyond stellar all day.  In just a few rides, Rhio has learned so much about negotiating these extremely technical trails.  His easy boots are a great thing out here; their traction on the sandstone is excellent and he has a lot of confidence because of it, I think.  Unfortunately, all this rock is wearing his boots out very quickly - so I doubt I will make it through our time here with just one set, as I'd hoped.  It's a small price to pay for secure footing and protection against these rocks, though.  I see why so many people out here ride in them. 
E. and Leo lead the way.
Tomorrow the winter weather sets in, going to lows below zero Wednesday and Thursday.  And so we rode, despite the wind and the challenges, and had a great day of it.  I think we all gained a lot of confidence in ourselves and each other on today's ride, and deepened our bonds.  Endurance is so much about being a team and trusting each other - we riders have to trust the horses to make good decisions about where to put their feet, and the horses have to trust us that we are going to keep them safe. 

Saturday, November 30, 2013

It Was a Fine Day!

Rhio and Leo hanging at the hitching rail pre-ride.
 Rhio moved to yet another boarding facility today, this one being only 3 miles from home and with direct trail access. It is also owned by an endurance family, and my new riding buddy E. keeps her boy Leo there.  Rhio will be in an individual run with a run-in, automatic waterer, and buddies on either side until a pasture space opens up (they have a herd of 15 on 100 acres with shelter and hay - sounds pretty much like pony heaven, wouldn't you say??).  I feel so much better having him here - closer to home, I'll be able to see him every day, and the riding opportunities are so much better.  Also, I was just a little uncomfortable with his last place (he was there 2 months) - nothing I can truly put my finger on, but he wasn't happy.  He lived with a mare who pushed him around a lot - not in a mean way, but still a stress, and way too frequently I found him still in his pen after several days in a row (I was lead to believe his group would get turn out about every other day when the weather was good).  He seemed quite happy to go into his run tonight after our all-afternoon ride, and he had all the lush grass hay he could eat, all to himself!

The weather was fine, and after E. trailered Rhio to the new place for me, we saddled up and took off across the pasture to the far gate - which lets us directly onto a trail, part of the Reservoir Ridge trail system.  This is a multi-use single track trail for horses, hikers/runners, and mountain biking.  It is steep and rocky - quite a challenging climb after a little warm-up trot across the grassy area at the base of the ridge.  Behind this ridge is a massive (over 500 billion gallons of water) reservoir (Horsetooth Reservoir) filled by a huge tunnel through the Rockies bringing water from the headwaters of the Colorado River on the Western Slope of Colorado to the eastern side, and therefore counteracting (and traveling beneath) the Continental Divide. Much as I hate to admit any admiration of a man-made body of water (I am a native Minnesotan, after all!), this thing is pretty dang impressive.  The drive around it is spectacular, particularly at sunset.

Horsetooth also forms a big barrier between the trail system we were on, and the trails at Lory State Park, which sprawls along the northwestern side of the reservoir.  Lory's trails are pretty great for trotting, and its a big treat after the long, technical climb to get to move out on them.  We work hard to get there, including some terrain I would not have thought possible to travel on horseback.  We cut down the west side of the ridge, cross the road and ride across one of the four dams that contain all that water.  This gives us access to a small parking lot, from which we can head downhill to the northern shoreline.  Now, the water level in the reservoir is fairly low and leaves this end with some exposed bottom and way to get between the cliffs and into Lory.  Large sandstone boulders and blocks lie in our way, plus a descent to an innocuous-looking dry creek bed, which we then go up to reach the Lory trails.  This whole route will be under water during higher water levels, but for now we and our trusty steeds can adventure our way to the reward that is a loop of trotting and cantering on the smooth trails of Lory in the late afternoon sun.  Ahhh!
Entering Lory from the east, after we've come up the little dry creek bed.

E. and Leo lead the way home, in the super technical middle section where we're heading cross-country around the northern end of the reservoir.
On the west side of the Reservoir Ridge trail system.
A nice mule deer buck, which we accidentally separated from his ladies, on the west side Reservoir Ridge trail. Lots of mule deer around - Rhio doesn't bother to even pause to look at them, though stopping dead and staring intently at people or bikes on the trails in the distance is a specialty of his.
We have just crested the top of Reservoir Ridge, about to begin the descent, gazing out over Fort Collins spread in front of us, with the sunset glowing upon the city. (It was really more impressive in person!)
I have been a bit dubious about multi-use trails, at least in such high-use areas.  We saw uncountable numbers of hikers, and several heaping handfulls of mountain bikers, in our 14.3 mile trek today.  For the most part, interactions go well and everyone obeys the rules of yield - all yield to horses, and bikers also must yield to hikers.  However, the nature of these trails (especially Reservoir Ridge, which is so steep and rocky) means that depending on whether the various user types are ascending or descending, their rates of speed will vary dramatically.  On horseback, we may overtake bikers going up, while coming down, they are definitely faster than we are.  Some folks seem knowledgeable about horses, and realize that its not just a matter of yielding the narrow trail so that we, or they, can pass - but also about the fact that we ride conscious beings who have their owns senses, drives, fears, and desires.  For Rhio, bikes are not an issue.  He is not afraid of them. E.'s boy Leo loves to chase the bikes and gets all excited when we see them.  But many horses are freaked out by bikes, and I worry that the directive to 'all yield to horses' does not give enough information to the inexperienced or uniformed.  So far, it hasn't happened, but I also worry about bikes coming down hill at a high rate of speed, meeting us as a corner or switchback when we haven't seen them coming.  I find riding here to be utterly exhausting - not physically, but mentally.  I am constantly looking everywhere for other trail users, so I can plan the best way to pass them, be passed by them, or otherwise interact.  At the same time, I really want to be a good "PR" person for equestrians, and have good, positive interactions with everyone we meet.  For instance, today I overhead a young girl ask her mother if she could pet the horses, as her hiking group was moving off the trail preparing to allow us to pass (we were going up, they were going down).  I stopped near them and said hello, then asked if she would like to pet the horses.  I have always been a rider that feels that anytime I am in public with my horse, it is my duty to leave a positive impression, if at all possible.  And, I was once one of those horse-crazy little girls dying to pet the pretty horsie.

It was a fine day.  It was a good ride with great trail buddies.  Rhio is all settled in and happy at his new home.  I get to see him again tomorrow, and the day after that, and the one after that, too! 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Almost Three Months

Rhio has been here in Colorado with me for almost three months now.  In that time, he's lived in two different spots and we have not yet ridden the same trail twice.  We rode in the Snowy Range in Wyoming, on national forest land at 8000' elevation in Colorado, and closer to home - at multiple state and county parks in the Fort Collins area.  We've ridden out down the road alone, faced down scary dairy cows (and, today - scary baby calves) and ignored school buses trying to pass us on a bridge.  We've ridden out with new friends, climbed big ascents, and stared out across sweeping vistas.  We've met fellow endurance riders, trail riders, bike riders, hikers, and runners.  He's jumped in strange trailers, crossed unfamiliar bridges, and survived the big flood in September without a fuss.  It certainly makes my life a whole lot richer to have him here, and certainly to have horses period makes my life richer. In this month of giving thanks, I am thankful for the moments I have with my horses and my horse friends, the memories I have made, and the world I've been lucky enough to see between my horse's ears. 

Rails to Trails trail in Wyoming - 22 miles round trip (we actually crossed into Colorado)

Looking for elk off-trail on the Wyoming rails to trails ride (in the company of fellow endurance rider J and his mount)

In the lead as the fall colors start - rails to trails in WY

At home in his first pasture - across the street from our house

Lady Moon trails, national forest land at 8000' elevation

Lady Moon Meadow

an old logging road at Lady Moon

One of the things I loved best about having him across the street was our evening time together - he got to feed his stomach, and I got to feed my soul.

Riding around our local "lake" - Watson Lake - which is really a reservoir (and is now closed due to flood damage)

The pedestrian trail at Watson Lake (this is about 1/2 mile from our house)

Pasture across the street

A ride on local roads - acting as mobile aid station for one of C's long runs.  These horses were afraid of us!

More road riding

Sassy pants

Happy duo after our 22 mile rails to trails ride (his longest ride since our last 50 in May!)
Running in his new pasture (to get away from the bully, who banged him up a bit but who he doesn't live with anymore, so that's good!)

A grazing break after a full day's adventure in Lory State Park and Horsetooth Mountain Park (with our good buddies K and Pippin)

looking at Arthur's Rock in Horsetooth Mountain Park

Riding the gravel roads around his new boarding place just north of Fort Collins
After we'd gone up, and up, and up on our Lory State Park - Horsetooth Mountain Park loop

Monday, September 30, 2013

Circus Pony?

This evening, I'm in the middle of a major clean on the house (you know, the moving-of-furniture kind) and there is a knock on the door.  The lady from across the street, E, who owns the property Rhio is living on (until tomorrow - when he moves to his new boarding place), is standing there and tells me Rhio has crossed the footbridge and won't go back.

There is an irrigation ditch running between the house/garage/driveway area of the property and the pasture.  The pasture fence runs along the near side of it and there is a lovely stout and generously wide bridge with big gates for access to the pasture.  There is also a small footbridge, about three feet wide and without any sides or railing, which extends from the backyard to the horse side, for access to the water tank.  The hose from the house can be easily taken across the bridge to fill the tank.  There is a cute wooden gate on the backyard side of the footbridge, but the horse side has no gate or rail or anything.  It is just a three foot opening in the fence.  The water tank is there, but about four or five feet away from the opening.

Can you guess what happened?  Rhio followed E right across the bridge when she took the hose back to the house.  E didn't know what to do, after she called him and he didn't come back to her and go back across the bridge.  Of course, he was happily munching the lawn grass in the backyard.  I'm not quite sure why it didn't occur to her to halter him, or throw a lead rope around his neck, and simply lead him back into the pasture through the normal horse gate.  But, it didn't.  So I went over with his nightly beet pulp mash (it was feeding time anyway - probably why he was hanging around the gate area in the first place) and he came right out of the backyard, via a small sidewalk between two stone pillars, to have his dinner. 

I wish I had pictures to illustrate this story, and while it is kind of cute and funny, I actually think the flip side is that Rhio is hungry.  Even with the recent rain, and therefore new flush of green grass, it is getting chilly at night  (requiring more calories to stay warm) and the pasture has been pretty sparse for a bit anyway.  He gets fed every evening, and I hand graze him in the front yard and along the driveway, but really he needs hay.  I have no interest in feeding the other 5 horses in the pasture my hay, and so without any way to augment his diet besides his beet pulp mashes, I have been  watching him like a hawk for adequate roundness of his belly (indicating that there is grass in there being digested and fermented as it should be) and using my weight tape to estimate his weight and watch for changes (none yet, he weight tapes at 916 pounds every week). Tonight is his last night there; tomorrow he will be tucked in with plenty of good hay (although minimal pasture turn out, unfortunately) and I will have something else to worry about (because of course I can't not worry about him!). 

E was amazed that a horse would cross that bridge.  I am not amazed that Rhio crossed that bridge. I am very glad the bridge was strong enough to support him, however!  He is a smart and brave horse, and a good bridge crosser.  I'm sure it seemed completely normal to him, given the green lawn grass enticing him on the other side.  We also practiced crossing flat bridges with no sides or railings yesterday on our ride (story to come!).  So perhaps circus pony or trick pony is his next career?

Gratuitous Rhio pic - looking a bit dramatic during yesterday's ride. Can you see this boy deciding to take it upon himself to cross a human-sized footbridge?  Yup.

Friday, September 6, 2013

It's All Thanks to the Donkey!

Both before and since Rhio's very short-lived (thankfully!) bout with conjunctivitis, he's been spending his days outfitted with a fly mask.  A week ago I bought him a brand-spanking new fly mask, because I couldn't find his older-than-the-hills-but-still-completely-functional one, which was lost somewhere in the 16 acres he shares with 6 other horses.  He's been losing the new one regularly (almost every day), but so far I've been able to find it. 

Sporting the new fly mask.

Not so a day ago - despite my best efforts, I couldn't locate either fly mask.  Argh.  And thus, I embarked on the great fly mask hunt.  Fellow horse owners will know what this means: a systematic search throughout the entire field for a dirt-color piece of screen hidden away in an inconspicuous place.  I count myself lucky that Rhio, as a rule, doesn't rip, tear, explode, or otherwise destroy his fly masks.  He just loses them in inconvenient places.  This usually happens when he rolls.  He considers his head to be the ultimate in itchy body parts, and thus enthusiastically rubs it along the ground when he rolls.  If the mask doesn't just slide off in the midst of this maneuver, it plops to the ground as soon as he stands and gives his whole body shake-off.  He then wanders nonchalantly away, without a backward glance at his now-abandoned fly mask.  You scoff, but I've watched him do it!

I did find his new fly mask last night, brought it home to wash, and outfitted him in it again this morning.  In my extensive search, there was still no sign of the old fly mask.  I knew that there was one major area of the field I hadn't covered yet, but as he can only wear one mask at a time, I called off the search for the other upon locating the new one. 

Tonight, as I went over with his nightly chow, all the horses were standing pressed up against the eastern fenceline staring into the neighboring pasture.  There are two horses that live there, and as far as I can tell, they are amiable cross-fence buddies.  Rhio turned to look when I called, but his attention was held fast by something, and he did not turn to walk up for his food as he usually does.  I tramped my way out to them to see what was up - and discovered a small black donkey in the adjoining field.  Ah!  Hence our herd's fascination.  I do not know why horses are so fascinated by donkeys, but unless the horses live with donkeys, they are either too scary to contemplate or utterly absorbing.  This little guy was clearly of the utterly absorbing persuasion.  Rhio has actually lived with a mini donkey in the past (albeit a white-and-brown spotted one, entirely different from a black one, clearly), but he was still crowded along the fenceline with his herdmates.  I do wonder how long they've been standing there staring at the little guy - who is, of course, completely oblivious to their presence. 
The adorable donkey ignores me and the horses.

Rhio decides the prospect of dinner is, in fact, more interesting than the donkey.

Rhio turned to follow me back to eat as soon as I was within about 20 feet of him, and what do I spy on the return journey?  YES!!!!  The old fly mask!  Intact and unharmed. 
It lies there so innocently, just waiting to be found.

So, temporarily at least, I now have both fly masks and am armed and ready for the continued onslaught of face flies and hot sunny weather (has anyone mentioned to Colorado that September usually means fall??). 
A happy sight.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


This morning, as soon as I neared Rhio in the pasture, I could tell something wasn't quite right with his face.  The left side just below the facial crest (bony prominence between the eye and the nostril) looked particularly dark.  It turns out it was dark because it was wet; it was wet because it was coated in tears.  His eye was swollen, painful, and leaking tears down his face (also he had been rubbing on his front leg, and his left carpus was discolored as well).  Poor guy! 

I brought him up to the gate, tied him to a post, and hurried home (across the road) to grab my eye-related supplies.  The first concern with any eye issue is whether the cornea is injured or not. I suspected not, since he was willingly opening the eye (except of course when I wanted to look at it - then he'd squint it shut tight like a clam shell.  Horses have incredibly strong eyelid muscles!).  With the help of a little sedation, I stained the eye with bright green fluorescein dye.  This dye will stick to any corneal injury, highlighting it so it can be seen.  As it did not stick to his cornea, it confirmed that there was no corneal injury.  The conjunctiva (pink membranes on the inside of the eyelids and eye socket) was very swollen and bright pink, and the likely source of the excessive tearing and soreness.  I flushed the eye thoroughly and looked for any foreign matter, like a piece of a plant, which could have gotten lodged anywhere around the eye.  With that search turning up empty, thankfully, I can confirm that he has a simple case of conjunctivitis, or inflammation of the conjunctiva.  This is a really common condition in the late summer, as the face flies swarm around the horses' eyes and feed off tears and secretions.   They carry bacteria on their feet and mouthpieces, depositing these in the horses' eyes and potentially causing minor infections and inflammations.  This condition is somewhat similar to pinkeye in kids (or cows). 
Rhio's sore and swollen left eye.  Note the upper eyelashes are pointing somewhat down to the ground.  This is a key indicator of a painful eye in a horse.
Normal right eye.  Note the eyelashes point out - parallel with the ground.  (also you can see his eye is fully open on this side)
Green fluorescein dye around his eye.  It would stick to any corneal injury.
The pink conjunctiva of his upper eyelid - swollen and bright pink. 

This is a minor condition with very little risk of future complications.  It can be easily cleared up with eye ointments containing broad-spectrum antibiotics with or without steroid (for inflammation).  A little systemic anti-inflammatory medication can help the swelling go down and make the horse more comfortable.  A fly mask will protect the eye from further contamination by the flies, and help filter the sunlight which can make a painful eye even more painful.  I have almost all of these things on hand, and was able to get Rhio on the mend.  But here's what gets my goat: Rhio has been wearing a fly mask during daylight hours since his arrival in Colorado.  The other five horses in his herd do not wear fly masks.  I am cognizant of the risk of conjunctivitis in late summer and take preventative measures.  So why is MY horse the one that gets it?  Geesh!

By this evening, his eye was much less swollen and much more comfortable.  He was waiting near the gate for his supper, and has clearly figured out how to get into the flowing waterway that borders his pasture, as his legs were muddy.  I don't know if he was cooling off in the water, drinking, or merely eating the lusher grass on the bank.  But it doesn't surprise me in the least that he's discovered the joys of the drainage ditch. 
Droopy lower lip - still a little sleepy from his sedation.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Ride N Run

Rhio is here!  And our first ride was Sunday, August 18, only a day and a half after he arrived in Colorado.  My honey aspires to be an ultra runner, a sport oh-so-similar to endurance riding.  He has gotten me jazzed about running, and as we run together, I find great joy in it (amazing, but true).  However, I am not yet (or perhaps ever) ready for his caliber of "long runs," but now that Rhio is here, we can still train together - albeit me on horseback and he on foot.  This was our first attempt at co-training, and it was so fun! 
This is about the widest shoulder we've got along a paved road - luxury!

C. left the house a bit before Rhio and I were ready, knowing that we would catch him, as our trotting pace is faster than his long-run pace (though our walking is slower).  As this was Rhio's first venture out in a new environment, I gave him plenty of time to look at things as we went.  We began along the bike trail (paved) which runs in front of our house.  This requires us to traverse three wooden bridges with tall steel railed sides.  The first is quite short and Rhio readily crossed it.  He was reluctant to cross the other two, both much longer, and so I hopped off to lead him.  We then had to traverse the very narrow shoulder of a two-lane paved road, and he was his normal unflappable self.  Strangely, our road has quite a lot of truck traffic (where are they all going?  the road heads up a mountain canyon, without an significant population center at its head), as well as copious bike traffic.  He was completely unconcerned.  In Colorado, most drivers seem cognizant of horses on the roadways, and both slow down and move over.  It is much appreciated!  We continued up the canyon road (complete with several stop-and-stares at alpacas and various spots with horses in fields, and a standoff with a pair of big white fluffy dogs which came charging out from a hobby farm), until turning off onto a gravel road.  We had to walk slowly, and stare intently, at a donkey pastured with a herd of horses (and obviously an intact jack, as he was making a very good effort at breeding one of him companions, who was, alas, several inches too tall for him to succeed) - but finally saw C. running along the road back toward us.  Due to several miles of necessary walking, it took much longer to catch up with him than anticipated. 

We continued along the gravel road, leapfrogging with C. as our paces did not match perfectly.  This allowed Rhio to walk as needed for scary, or potentially scary, things.  At the end of the road, a dairy facility loomed large on the corner and as a massive herd of Holsteins swarmed to the fence, Rhio freaked out.  I dismounted, and handled a heart-thumping, giraffe-necked Arab from the ground as we made our way past the very scary cows.  We had about another mile of gravel road (lovely for trotting!) before we once again had a narrow shoulder to utilize.  Luckily, this part of the route was quiet on the traffic front, and Rhio even grabbed a drink along the roadside drainage ditch (flowing water, so it seemed clean enough for horsey refreshment).  We had to cross a two-lane divided highway, and travel along the ditch about a half mile to hit another stretch of gravel road.  This was completely uneventful, as Rhio snatched grass and even had a nice pee while semi's roared past. 
Three of these four horses were completely freaked out by Rhio and wouldn't stop running around. Perhaps they've never seen a grey before?

The gravel road along the other side of the highway wound along the river for a bit, with some much-welcomed shade, before heading off for several miles of unrelenting sun.  Rhio and I, along with being companions for C. on his long run, were also a "mobile aid station," carrying human water/electrolytes and snacks for everyone.  After several refueling stops, and retracing our steps back to the highway, we were only a little over a mile from home.  All three of us were hot, sweaty, sun-exhausted, and ready to get home.  Our total route was about 14 miles, and it was fun to see Rhio "figure it out," and realize that we were traveling with C. as part of our herd, although we didn't travel in step together very much.  On the way home, Rhio would trot ahead, then slow and wait for C. to catch up, then start to trot again as soon as we were abreast. 
Team Awesome!

We three have our sights set on two future team endeavors - trying out the sport of Ride and Tie, involving two runners and one horse, and riding/running the Vermont 100, a 100 mile race with ultramarathoners and endurance riders sharing the trail together. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Journey

It has been a long wait, but Rhio is finally here in Colorado with me.  This is the story of our travels, with bottom-of-the-heart thanks to my friend D. (who is feeding, loving, and riding Red for me this year) for all her generosity of time and energy in getting us along the first leg of our journey.  We began on Tuesday August 13, when D. picked Rhio up at his boarding barn (by herself, as I was seeing patients) and brought him back to her place for a sleepover.  He and Red shared the paddock for the night, and seemed quite happy and content to be together.  Late that night, I joined her family for the night, and the next morning we were up early to head to the Twin Cities. 

Rhio and Red sharing breakfast.
Rhio traveled alone quite calmly, as usual.  We arrived at a boarding facility in Shakopee (Pine Ridge Stables), where Rhio had a cool and shady box stall for the overnight.  It was fun to have the barn girls ooh and aah over his Arab cuteness.  That afternoon, we met M. and her Arab gelding Ring (a.k.a. "Stinkers"), who would be our companions for the two day trip.  We fussed with the trailer, talked about our boys and general horse stuff, and basically became immediate horse friends.

I had the good fortune to overnight with C., a good horse/endurance friend, and we made a trek to Fleet Farm (whoop! whoop!) and Rhio got a new hay bag (I "only" own about 4 hay bags currently, but I couldn't find a single one of them for the trip!).  After a good night's sleep, we were off for the barn in the pre-dawn darkness.  Rhio won't eat hay in the trailer while it's moving, so I like to get a big, wet beet pulp mash into him before we head off.  Also, I put him on a preventative ulcer medication for the whole trip, and definitely noticed a difference in his appetite.  Yay for a happy tummy!
Ready to roll.
We were hitched up, loaded, and ready to roll right around our target departure time.  We headed south, with Lincoln, Nebraska as our destination for the first day of travel.  The horses traveled great; Rhio's presence really helped Ring be settled and calm in the trailer.  I only wish Ring's awesome trailer appetite would have rubbed off on Rhio.  We arrived in Lincoln by early afternoon, pulling into a massive equine facility called the Lancaster Event Center.  There were no other horses there on a Thursday night, and we rented 3 stalls (2 for the horses and 1 for us.)  We had a small warm-up type arena in our barn so the horses could have a good roll and some freedom for a bit.  By this point, Rhio had been in a stall or a trailer for two days straight.  After feeding ourselves (found a pizza place that delivered to the Event Center), we took the horses for a nice leisurely stroll behind the building, finding plenty of fresh grass for grazing.  Rhio especially relished the flowering purple clover he

We went to bed early, on our partially-inflated air mattress (it worked well as long as we were both laying on it - if one of us got up, the other sank down to the ground as all the air migrated to the non-occupied side), listening to the horses munch their hay.  Rhio was relaxed enough  to lay down to snooze (a very good sign with him - he loves to lounge around) - there was only a stiff canvas type panel separating our prone selves from him.  Talk about bonding with your pony! 
Rhio in his stall at the event center. I had to put his hay bag in the back right corner so he could look out the door.
M. and Ring enjoy the lush grass in Lincoln, NE. (Eat up, ponies! The grass in Colorado isn't nearly this green.)
We hit snooze once in the morning, fed the horses, cleaned stalls, and were on the road again a bit later than we had hoped.  Both horses loaded back into the trailer without fuss; isn't it amazing how willingly a prey/flight animal will climb into a tiny box when we ask them to?  Thursday had been cool and cloudy for the whole trip - great trailering weather - but Friday's forecast had us hitting sunshine and mid-80s part way across Nebraska.  We stopped a few extra times on this leg, checking the boys, who were traveling like old pros.  By late afternoon, M. was dropping us off at the neighbor's place across the road from my house. 

Rhio ate some beet pulp, took a big long drink from the stock tank, and trotted off across his new huge 16 acre pasture to meet his new friends.  They weren't quite so excited to meet him; I think he spooked them, actually, and they all took off galloping.  Rhio clearly thought a nice run was fun, and quickly took the lead with his tail flying in the air.  The five resident horses kept to themselves, and Rhio was only allowed to graze within about 30 feet of them, but everyone settled down quickly without any outward jostling for hierarchy position. 
Turned out in the pasture for the first time.
Later that evening, on our dog walk along the bike path, which parallels the front of the pasture, we could see Rhio's gleaming white coat across the grassy expanse.  It sure does my heart good to see him, smell him, touch him, and feed him every day! 
Rhio's new buddy.
It took only three days for one of the horses to buddy up with Rhio.  He is still not fully integrated into the herd, but I'm thrilled to see him beginning to mingle. 

Coming soon...the story of our first ride in Colorado!
Rhio says, "Hey...watcha' lookin' at?"