Fall Colors Between Rhio's Ears

Fall Colors Between Rhio's Ears

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A Map in my Head

Red ponies along
Ride two on my new home trails was just as fantastic as the first.  I briefly contemplated a nap this afternoon, but the sun was shining and I just couldn't pass that up.  Fifty minutes from the time I left my house, I was in the saddle (pretty good considering it's a 27 mile trip to the farm.) 

I love that I have options about which route to take coming and going from the property - I don't like the horses to get too attached to "the way home" - I have enough trouble with overly exuberant ponies when homeward bound already!  We headed out down the driveway, which meant passing between the pasture with 5 full grown Angus steers, and the pen with the 4 Angus calves.  As far as Rhio is concerned, you can never be too careful when it comes to cows!  Red lived with cows (Angus, even) across the fence for 9 years and couldn't care less about them. 
The view
Once safely past the scary cows, we cut up one of the farm trails and paused for a view back across the pastures and toward the house.  This is such a lovely piece of property - I am truly fortunate to have access to riding here.  The trail winds generally north and east, up and down a few hills, and with broad spans of now-nude maples, big oaks with their chestnut-colored leaves still clinging, and a few bright yellow aspens  hanging on to their color. 
Farm trails
Meeting up with the trails I rode on Sunday, the horses knew exactly where they were and off we went.  At the very first intersection, though, I turned us right instead of left.  This took us directly out to a gravel/dirt road, which is a loop and doesn't go anywhere - it is merely hunter and logging access to the county land.  Red did not care for walking on the rocks, and so we fairly slowly progressed around the loop.  I was searching for a snowmobile trail that continued north, and which I've been told goes for "miles" without anything I can't cross.  I am anxious to test this theory, as sometimes a trail rider's definition of "miles" is slightly different than an endurance rider's (no offense meant).  We found the snowmobile trail, and explored up a ways, until it crossed the next county highway.  Although the path continued directly across the asphalt, and it was oh-so-tempting, I had to leave that exploration for another day (and more daylight). 
Road loop
Retracing our steps, we completed the road loop (about 2.5 miles total on the road) and headed back home along our now-familiar trails.  I have now ridden out here three times (once, the first, trail riding with M.) and have studied the basic map a bit.  All the entry points to the trails have metal map-signs with a "you are here" indicator, which is very helpful.  I also use my RunKeeper app on my phone while I ride, which not only acts as a GPS to give me time and distance, it also makes a little map for me of my route.  Now, I have a map in my head, and besides figuring out a few of the inner cut-offs within the loops, I think I have it pretty well down.  The horses certainly do!  I have always been a person that needs to look at a map of a place, and then can visualize the map in my head.  With just a little experience, now I can create routes to achieve whatever riding or conditioning goal(s) I may have for a particular day.  These trails are now familiar territory and my next explore will definitely be continuing up the snowmobile trail into new places! 

Sunday, October 12, 2014


Well, the big move finally happened and Red and Rhio are happily living at their new boarding place in Wisconsin.  I brought them down 4 days ago, in a borrowed rig (a HUGE thank you to G. for lending me her truck and trailer for the move), and they have been settling in very nicely.  They have their own grassy paddock, and share a fenceline with the 6 resident horses, who admittedly seem much more interested in my boys than Red and Rhio are interested in the herd.  They share their paddock periodically with a few guinea hens, and elsewhere on the farm live a handful of black Angus steers and a flock of laying hens.  Wildlife neighbors include deer and wild turkeys.  The boys act like they've seen it all before - which except for the guineas, I think they have.  I've been visiting daily to feed them their beet pulp mashes (Rhio's full feed pan and Red's mere handful) while the farm owners (M. and K.) have been gone for the weekend.  This has been a perfect excuse to make the 50+ mile round trip commute, since I would have been fretting too much without laying eyes and hands on them every day during the transition.  Yep, just label me an overprotective horse mom, and you've about got it. 
Standing at the hitching rail, as viewed through the overhanging barn roof.
 Today was a day that I just couldn't pass up - sunshine, warmth, fall colors still present albeit past peak, and no agenda.  It was the perfect afternoon to ride! Being as they are still living as a pair, and not yet integrated into the herd, I knew that taking Rhio out for a ride would have left Red in a panic, probably working himself into quite a state while left behind.  Shortly after I bought him, 12 years ago next month, he slide into a fence in his panic at being left behind, and I had to suture up his fetlock.  I'd really rather not repeat that, and so my choice was to ride him and leave Rhio behind (my best guess is that he wouldn't be recklessly agitated, but I don't know for sure), or take them both.  What?! How can you ride two horses, Taryn?  Well, dear reader, I ride one and bring the other along with a halter and lead (called "ponying"). 
Both boys, both their shadows, and me, too!
Ponying can be an adventure.  It is something I have done relatively frequently with these boys, although not usually at a conditioning (i.e. fast) pace.  For whatever reason, things go much more smoothly if I ride Rhio and pony Red.  Minor chaos occurs if I ride Red and pony Rhio.  Both horses are comfortable around ropes, and don't freak out if the rope ends up somewhere unexpected (like under a tail!).  Also, they are used to traveling at speed with other horses, and don't get too excited by the pace (usually).  And, of course, they get along very well together.  However, they do both like to lead - and so although the pony-er should be the leader and the pony-ee should follow at about the shoulder, that's not exactly how it always goes with these two. 
Red's eager to go!
Decked out in blaze orange (there was a youth deer hunt on this weekend, meaning kids with guns would be in the woods - but I also timed the ride to coincide with the Packers game, which pretty much guaranteed I wouldn't see a single soul out there - and that turned out to be the case), and with gloves on to protect my hands during episodes of exuberance, should they occur, I climbed aboard and off we went. 
Headed to the neighboring property.
The boys were forward and interested in their new surroundings, and we walked along the trail between the home farm and the neighboring property (also owned by M. and K.), traversed the farmyard next door, and walked past the field of Scottish Highland cattle (with some extra alertness on Rhio's part, as the non-cattle-lover of the pair), before heading off into the woods on the farm trails.  Up a hill, down the other side, and around a bit leads us to the county land north of the farm.  This land is full of trails designated specifically as hunter/hiker walking trails and are strictly non-motorized.  The county keeps them mowed, even, and the conditions are spectacular for moving out.  The only obstacles are a few downed limbs here and there; there are absolutely no mud or wet areas, and it is clear sailing to trot and canter to your heart's content.  Wahoo!!!  I feel like I've hit the training trail jackpot! 
Snack stop (they're mobbing me for itchy head rubs!)
I rode these trails a few weeks ago, riding K.'s horse Lucky and riding with M. and some of her friends, so I had a basic familiarity with them.  Both horses were relaxed and moving nicely at a trot, though Red is a stronger hill horse and would take the lead by a nose going up hill.  We took a break about 4 miles in, and I dismounted to get us safely around a gate and out onto a sandy road, which would loop us back to the trail.  Heading back into the woods, both boys knew they were "going home."  Ay-yi-yi!!!  Try maintaining a reasonable pace and directing two horses to make the right turns, while having only one hand per horse to do so.  Red wanted to lead, so the arm I was using to hold him got a workout trying to keep him back.  Rhio wanted to go faster, faster, faster, so the arm I was using on his reins got a workout keeping him in check.  Finally, after hitting the home trails once again, we had to just walk in the rest of the way as my arms felt like jelly and the boys showed no inclination to slow down on their own.  They are great, though, because if I ask them to walk, they do, easily and without any shenanigans.  It is just while trotting and cantering that they sometimes think they know best how fast to go.  And so, we did a little exploring, a little sweating, a little bonding, and a lot of endorphin-releasing riding for our first Wisconsin outing.  I can't wait for my next ride!!!
Back in their paddock post-ride.