Fall Colors Between Rhio's Ears

Fall Colors Between Rhio's Ears

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Someone Pinch Me

Heading out in the late afternoon, as the sun starts to sink behind the ridge.

Rhio's already sweating through his dense winter coat and I'm in summer tights and a t-shirt!

Checking out some other trail users on a different segment of trail.  Without trees, you can see little dots of color and movement all over the ridge as people move along the trail.  Rhio is fascinated.
Saturday January 18, 2014.  66 degrees, sunny, with just a light breeze.  I am definitely not in Minnesota anymore!  Rhio and I trekked around our "home" loop of about 5 miles up and down the ridge, just enjoying the weather.  Of course, we shared the trail with umpteen other users, but Rhio seemed to find all the activity thrilling.  He was very forward 99% of the time, and trying to turn around to go home the other 1% of the time.  This loop is excellent muscle building, as it's a steep, switchbacked trail up to the top, which we then have to trace back down to the bottom.  Unfortunately, it is very rough, rocky, and technical, so we have to walk almost all of it, but I think that Rhio's dexterity with his foot placement, attention to the trail, and just general balance and coordination has noticeably improved since we've been doing this trail regularly.  It is certainly entirely unlike anything we ride in Minnesota! 

On the way down, a small girl riding on her dad's shoulders was thrilled to see Rhio and asked if she could pet him.  Of course the answer was yes!  However, we were on an upper part of a switchback, and they were on the lower, so even though we weren't that far apart, she had to wait for us to come along the switchback and meet up with them.  Her eyes lit up with joy, and on her dad's shoulders, she was just the right height to pet Rhio's face and neck.  The family's chocolate lab was a little concerned about what this large creature was, so we didn't linger too long.  As we walked off down the trail, I heard the girl declare: "That's a baby horse!"  Despite her dad's opinion that Rhio was not a baby horse, she insisted.  Little interactions like this are so nice - hopefully the girl and her parents will remember horses and riders with a positive opinion and be on our side when things like trail use access, etc come up.  I have always felt that it is my job to have very friendly, positive interactions with members of the public; every time I'm out there with my horse, I'm on a public relations assignment, so to speak.

Our trotting lane on the flat.
We finished up the ride trotting home along the flat as the sky lit up with an amazing array of color at sunset.  Bliss!

Monday, January 13, 2014


It's been incredibly windy (as C. says - welcome to living on the east side of the Rockies) - gusts over 50 mph for multiple days now.  We even attempted to go running this morning (out of sheer desperation to get out of the house), and there were portions where I could barely stand upright, much less move forward.  Yikes.  Obviously I haven't been able to ride in this weather, either, and both Rhio and I are suffering for it.  He still lives in his run at the new place (no one has moved their horse out of the pasture herd yet, so we are still waiting for a spot to open up for him) and he is doing incredibly well with it - better than I could have predicted.  Every day I head over in the afternoon to get him out of the run to "do something" - it is not a ride nearly often enough, but handwalking along the road, a quick roundpen session, or free time in the outdoor arena is our usual when we can't ride, plus of course a nice grooming session, a roll in the sand of the round pen, and a big tub of beet pulp mash.  (Side note: today he did not get to finish his beet pulp, as the wind picked up his heavy rubber tub and flung it willy-nilly across the barnyard!)  He loves his neighbors - Hunter the Thoroughbred (good for playing bite-your-face games) and Lady the pinto (good for a nice mutual withers scratching) - and has his own shed and automatic waterer.  He's figured out how to keep his run relatively orderly, mostly pooping in one spot (good boy!), and clearly lays down to rest (one of his favorite activities) regularly, judging by the mud on his coat and the scrapes on his hocks from lying on the bare dirt (this isn't the best feature of his run, admittedly).  Being such a social and active horse, I am surprised and very pleased with how content he is with his confinement.

But, I digress - today I had my phone in my pocket when we trekked out to the outdoor arena for some free exercise (it's out in the pasture).  Along with the video above, taken after he'd settled in quite a bit and quit the rearing, bucking, and kicking he'd started his "zoomies" with, here are the following still shots reflecting not only his boundless energy, good spirits, athleticism, and presence (everyone thinks he's a much bigger horse than he is!), but the degree of windiness (check out the flying mane and tail).  I am so blessed to be partnered with this incredible horse - he is truly a gift.  He never fails to bring a smile to my face and lift my spirits - the power of a horse!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014


Getting ready to ride off into the sunset.
With our measly, impermanent snowfalls here in Fort Collins, its surprising how slippery the riding can be.  We get chilly weather and a few inches of dry snow, which compacts into a very slick surface, especially on roads, then the sun shines and melts the top layers, which refreeze each night, until we have a patchwork of ice, slush, compacted snow, mud, and bare rock.  So, yes, I do get to ride.  But gearing up for and planning each ride is part guess, part luck, and perhaps a bit of knowledge.  Bare hooves?  Boots?  Studded boots? Stick to the flats?  Ok to do some hills? Walk? Trot?   At least for winter riding in northern Minnesota, you know you'll be walking through deep snow (great muscle and cardiovascular conditioning) when the weather allows, if you're riding outside.  Here, it could be anything on any given day. 

Today, after having hand-walked along our road to the trailhead yesterday, I booted Rhio's fronts with the studded boots.  He got a tiny bit of experience using them last year, but we haven't ridden in them much.  With 6 studs per boot, they give him great traction and grip.  Unfortunately, I have only a set of front boots rigged up with his "super-spikes," so my best option when using them is to leave his hinds bare.  This has been working out ok so far, but since I like him working off his hind end for impulsion, it would be nice to have the security of sure traction back there.  I wonder how it will be doing the ridge trail - up, up, up and then down, down, down?  Perhaps we will give a try tomorrow, weather dependent.
Profile shot of the bottom of one of his "super spiked" boots - they really aren't very big, when you consider they are lending traction to a 900+ lb critter carrying weight.

What the bottom of the boot looks like.  I put 6 studs into each boot.
For this evening's ride, we merely did our 2.5 mile loop starting and ending at the farm.  We walk 1/2 mile along the road (paved, with narrow gravel shoulders, and currently mostly packed snow), then the rest is trail along the flats before the ridge begins.  We come back into the farm through the back gate, around the hay field.  The footing is really good for this loop, sans snow, and Rhio likes to fly home.  He certainly knows when he has the security of his "super-spikes" and wanted to fly tonight! We kept it to a trot, and were both happy and rosy-cheeked (ok, not really - being furred, I'm pretty sure horses don't get rosy cheeks) upon our return. 
Waiting for his beet pulp after our ride.  If you look closely, you'll see that he's doing his wiggly-lips, squirmy-tongue silliness (it doesn't lend itself all that well to still photography.)

The best view through the cutest ears ever.