Fall Colors Between Rhio's Ears

Fall Colors Between Rhio's Ears

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Winter Rebooted

Tuesday, April 9, 2013.  We really should be in the mid-40s to low-50s with a vanishing snow base (the last few years - early warm springs have spoiled us!), but instead we're in the mid-30s with snow in the forecast every day this week.  We got about a foot of new, heavy, wet, sloppy snow just this past weekend.  And that landed on top of a very well established base of snow which was not melting very rapidly at all. For us local endurance riders, this situation is bordering on dire.  Our first competition of the year is less than a month away, and our horses are far from ready.  WE are far from ready!  I, for one, do not have my riding muscles tuned up and ready to go.  So, what is a girl to do?

Well, ride, of course!  This afternoon was the first opportunity, due to both weather and life circumstances (i.e. work,) which gave me a few hours to ride.  It wasn't particularly pleasant weather, being mostly overcast, hovering around 35 degrees, and with a very brisk and chilly wind blowing down the length of the big lake, to poke its icy tentacles into every chink in my winter riding attire.  No matter - up to the barn I went immediately after finishing for the day.  Squelching carefully through the slush-mud combination to the back of the car, I shucked my work clothes for insulated tights, wool socks, muck boots, polarfleece, and an insulated jacket.  The horses, in their weather-proof blankets, seemed to think the weather was just fine.

K. soon joined me at the barn, and got her boy Amigo ready to go.  We set off with both horses' buddies tagging along up the hill to the gate, and after successfully getting through the gate without either of them, set off down the long driveway.  Both Red and Amigo's buddy Tirzannah were fit to be tied to be left behind, and Amigo felt the same way about leaving his girl.  Rhio, amazingly, was completely unfazed and didn't get caught up in all the back-and-forth whinnying whatsoever.

Our first adventure of the day was getting the horses to cross the cement barriers at the closed bridge.  With the melting that has occurred, the barriers are now "taller" and both horses needed much cajoling to scramble/step/hop over them.  Rhio managed to scrape his right hind leg in the process, but the sting went away quickly and he had just rubbed the hair off.  It would be convenient for our horses to jump on command, I think.  These barriers are probably about 25" - 30" tall and easily within the scope of jumpable for nearly any horse, I should think.  Of course, surer footing would probably encourage them to jump, while the icy slushy snow is a bit less than ideal for such a feat.  Alas, neither horse seemed willing or interested in jumping, and although we did make it across, I am not anxious to attempt it again.

The last time I rode here (five days ago,) there was gravel beginning to show through in many spots and the snow was kind of soft and grainy.  The horses felt pretty confident in the footing, and we happily trotted and cantered much of our route.  Today - not so much.  The icy slushy snow was slick and unstable, and the horses didn't like it much at all.  Some more exposed areas were less slippery, and we were able to trot out maybe a mile total in the six miles we did today.  Unfulfilling, to be sure - both we and our horses like to GO!

However, the views were stunning as always, and we enjoyed identifying tracks in the snow, watching a few deer bound away from us, and spotting our first grouse of the season.  We even ran into an intrepid cross-country skier (yes, we really still have that much snow - and he wasn't the only one who's been out on skinny skis, judging by the tracks we saw both on the road, and where the ski trails cross the road.)
Rhio and Amigo admire the view over the frozen St. Louis River.

Rhio is completely unconcerned about the distance between us and Amigo.

Raccoon tracks

Snowmobile trail

K. and Amigo


Not wanting to attempt to cross the barriers again, we opted to try the trail to get home.  The snowmobile trail section was perfectly passable, but the spur trail which goes to the barn was a mess.  It crosses a stream, and although the stream was still solidly frozen, an area just before the true stream was running water beneath the ice - and the ice was a hollow shell sitting about a foot above ground.  I dismounted, as I could see the holes ahead of us and wasn't sure we could pass safely with the horses.  Rhio followed me willingly, but did break through the ice, and scraped his right hind fetlock in the process.  Again, it was a very minor, superficial wound (although this one did bleed a little), but I feel terrible that my boy got banged up.  And, of course, on a gray horse, they look dramatic and significant, though they truly aren't.
All the scrapes look worse than they are, I promise.

Lest you think this was quite enough excitement and adventure for one ride, as we finally emerged from the deep snow onto the muddy driveway, Red and Tirzannah made a beeline for the gate to greet us, whinnying and calling to Rhio and Amigo.  The commotion riled all the horses up, and the pasture horses came flying up the hill to see what all the fuss was about.  Rhio didn't see little Abby the Fjord coming, and when she popped up on the crest of the hill, he spooked to the left and I very ungracefully plopped into the mud.  Ugh.  First unplanned dismount of 2013.  Luckily, the mud made for a relatively soft landing, and I just have a scrape on my shin from a rock.
Abby the Fjord (scary when she pops up out of nowhere)

I came home filthy, covered in hair, smelling of horse, slightly chilled, and oh-so-happy.  Despite the spook, and going splat in the mud, I was very impressed with Rhio today.  He did not get sucked into the emotional drama going on between Amigo and Tirzannah, and he did a great job of paying attention to his footing and keeping us both safe.  He both led and followed without getting upset, and felt no reason to rush to keep up when Amigo's walk was faster than his.  I hope these are a harbinger of good things to come in competition, and perhaps my pony will be a little less race-brained this year.
I wonder what he thinks when we stop to admire the view.

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