Fall Colors Between Rhio's Ears

Fall Colors Between Rhio's Ears

Thursday, November 27, 2014


Today is Thanksgiving - my favorite holiday.  I have been a little "Scrooge-y" today, however, as C and I are spending it alone with the dogs.  He is on call, and so we need to be close to the clinic.  We were invited to share meals here, but the on call prevents us from accepting those invitations.  And so, it is our first Thanksgiving without any family to share it with.  Boo.

However, I took the dogs for a nice walk in the quiet chill of the late afternoon, listened to the snow squeak beneath my mukluks, and breathed in the scent of fresh snow, pine, and cold air. 

How could I be anything but thankful?  I couldn't.  And so here is just a small piece of my life's bounty that I am thankful for - my horses.

Red and Rhio are the best.  I am biased, of course, but they have been my anchor in the stormy sea many times.  They are my escape from the rat race - you can't be with horses and do anything except live in the here and now.  They are my ticket to adventure and exploration - what better way to find out what's around the next bend than from the back of my horse?  They quiet my mind and busy my body - grooming, feeding, picking hooves, blanketing, unblanketing, walking to and fro, scooping poo, stacking hay, filling water, cleaning tack, and of course riding.  They introduce me to new people; everywhere I've lived, I have met "horse people" and developed friendships that will last a lifetime.  They fill my heart to overflowing with their nickers, their soft eyes, and their mere presence.  A deep inhale of horsey scent does wonders for my soul. 

Getting ready in the barn.  I love this pic because they are each entirely comfortable (see the resting hind legs?) in their own space, sharing that space with each other, and paying attention to me, too (see the ears pointed in my direction?)

Last day before WI gun deer season - and so our last ride out until the hunters have left the woods in 9 days' time.

Exploring the snowy trails, checking out the deer tracks, rubs, beds, and spots where they've pawed for grass beneath the snow.  So much to see and learn from the back of a horse!

Nothing can beat the peace and quiet, ambling through the snow perfectly in tune with your mount and companion.

Getting ready to put blankets back on post-ride.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

It'll Get Me Through

Perfect for zooming!
Last Thursday I had one of those great rides that has stuck with me in the week since then.  I'm quite sure it'll be one of those rides that will get me through the long, cold winter, just by remembering the feel of my horse breathing and moving beneath me, the smell of his sweat in my nose, the view between his pricked ears, his energy and enthusiasm to get down the trail, and the pure concentration and attention required of me to be in the moment utterly and completely with him.  And to intensify all of the above sensations, I had Red along ponying, too - so it was doubly memorable, doubly pleasurable, doubly wonderful. 

Last Thursday I had no agenda and no time constraints.  I knew I wanted to explore what lay beyond Highway K.  And so off we went!  It was a brisk day.  The wind was bringing with it the first snow of the season (overnight a couple inches fell); both the horses and the wildlife knew, as we saw many grouse, several deer, bald eagles, squirrels, and even a fisher flashed its dark, lithe body away from us through the forest.  The horses wanted to *move* and so move we did.

We found insanely beautiful cantering (or galloping) trails.  They were the perfect packed sandy footing, with a smooth surface but enough spring to cushion our hoofbeats.  Pine trees mostly lined the two-track lanes, and kept us focused forward and on course.  I thought we'd just have a nice, comfortable long trot.  The boys had another idea entirely.  Zoom, zoom we went, zipping along at a very forward pace, the boys cantering in step with each other but not racing.  I did briefly wonder about the wisdom of flying down the trail with two horses under my (pseudo)control, as flashes of wild turkeys jumping out in front of us passed in front of my brain.  However, there was no talking the boys out of their run.  Two manes were flying, two tails were flagging in the wind we created, and we cantered a 3 mile stretch effortlessly. 

We explored an out-and-back snowmobile trail as far as we could before the bog through which we were traveling engulfed the trail ahead of us.  We startled a county guy who was out picking up trash (oops).  We trotted and cantered and walked and paused occasionally for a bite of grass.  We three existed in our own space, united, for the afternoon.  We traveled the trail together; the harmony between us was magical.This is why I ride endurance - these moments of perfect union with my horse, the shared experience and desire. To share those moments with both my horses at the same time was really amazing. We made it home before dark. 
The first opportunity to take my hands off the reins for a moment and snap a pic - 9 miles into our 14+ mile day.

Cooling out and mowing the lawn

Snack stop - the boys are mugging me for carrots

Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Best Way To Go for a Beer With a Friend

Hello, November - you did arrive in style, I suppose.  All dressed up for Halloween, anyway - in fresh snow and way below average temps.  I think it was technically above freezing today, though my toes wouldn't agree. 

Not quite unbroken snow, as two someones had been walking here before us.  But truly enticing, nonetheless.
About midday, and with a glorious amount of sunshine beaming down upon us, Red and I headed off with M. and her Paint mare Twister.  This is actually Red's first ridden outing since moving here, as I have been taking both horses with Red ponying up until this point.  Before getting to the farm, I stopped at a feed store hoping to find a performance feed.  No such luck - everyone around here would be happy to order something for me, but my choices off-the-shelf are pretty slim.  At least I can readily get beet pulp!  So instead of keeping is as simple as possible for M. to feed my boys (just soaked beet pulp and a pelleted feed, in differing amounts for each of them, plus MSM supplement for Red), they're now getting beet pulp plus plain oats (what they were both eating at home, and a favorite combination of mine), and Rhio additionally gets stabilized rice bran.  So hopefully it's still not too complicated or too much mixing!  I try not to be one of *those* horse people that boards her horses and makes all sorts of demands.  This stop let me make up a tub of goodness for Rhio, so that as we rode out, he had deliciousness to occupy him.  I am not sure if I'll try leaving Red behind or not - he has a history of panicking when left "alone," and I can't guarantee that the herd would stay close enough to the fence to keep him company.  Rhio may not prefer to be left alone, but especially with food in front of him, he seems to handle it just fine. 

After encountering a camouflaged (buried slightly under freshly disturbed dirt) coyote trap right along the trail - thank goodness M. told me what it was - I'll be a little more careful in guiding my horses around anything that looks like that in the future.  (The trapper is on their land with permission, by the way. So no concern there, but it is nice to know where the traps are so I can stay away, and certainly not take Kelso out there with me.)  Red was more than happy to show Twister the way to go about the business of getting down the trail, and the inch or two of snow from Thursday night just made for a delightfully quiet, soft ride.  We got the occasional dump of snow in our laps from overhanging branches, but mostly it was really quite lovely to ride in.  I'm not sure how I feel about day two of snow this early in the season (really, it should just melt this time of year), but it was pretty. 

We did a little exploring along the way, generally covering the trails I've become familiar with in my solo outings.  After a few hours, and with swiftly approaching full-numbness in my toes, we opted for an excursion to town.   The trails connect to the town park, and just a bit down the road from there is a friendly little local bar.  This IS Wisconsin, after all!  This bar conveniently has a hitching rail, and we took ourselves inside for a beer (and, yes, to use the ladies room, and thaw out our appendages.)  The presence of horses outside the door lured about 1/3 of the bar patrons out for a look-see (and a few asked permission to go pet them, and feed them sugar lumps.) 
At the hitching rail
We hit the trail for home with just enough time to arrive before sunset.  Nothing can beat an afternoon spent astride a good mount, with the trail bending away ahead of you, and excellent companionship.  A beer along the way doesn't hurt, either. 
Rhio waits for his brother to return.
Cutie pie knows I've got his supper.