Friday, December 31, 2010

Oops! She's come undone...

The snow gave me a soft landing as I came unglued today. Harley is feeling good and looking for an excuse to let it rip. What started out as a nice little canter became a bit of a snorting, steamrolling, haul up the trail. I still don't know if he slipped, shied, or bucked, but I slid off, hanging onto the reins so he wouldn't bolt for home. I walked him down the trail to my favorite "mounting block tree", got back on and we jigged and half-passed the entire way out until we reached the paved road. Yup, he's feeling sassy with the weight he's put on and thinks he's back at Suffolk Downs. Today is an example of when ring riding might have been the wiser choice (if we had one). I had a feeling it wouldn't be a quiet hack when I had trouble getting him to stand still just to mount! That should have been the telling moment for me! Oh well, dust the snow off and get back on!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas Ride and Boxing Day Ride

I got in my Christmas ride with Michelle and Echoe, although it was a brief stroll down the road. Some trails are beginning to ice up. Our schedules were tight, and it was cold, but we rode anyway.
Today we hooked up with 4 riders from North Point for a nice hack through the woods. Harley was remarkably good with the whole gang, even though he did almost get a kick! He's a real tailgater, but trying to slow him down only agitates him and he starts grinding his teeth. So I stuck him up in the middle, behind Diego and he did quite well. At least until Michelle and I left them at North Point and headed down the Nature Trail. He was fine until we reached the turn-around point. A little trot turned into a short sprint with a little buck thrown in for good measure. I think he really wanted to tear it up, and I wouldn't let him. He and Echoe vie for who will be out front when they can't canter along together. Of course, this brought on more teeth grinding until he settled down a bit.
I'm glad we got the ride in. The horses may be cooped up over the next 36 hours. About a half hour after we returned, the big storm blew in. We're supposed to have blizzard conditions and anywhere from 9 to 12 inches! A real doozy to whiten things up!
Thank you John for the winter boots and breeches. Without them, it would have been too cold today. !

Harley & Echoe trail mates and play mates


Mates (photos by Rebekah Savage)

Monday, December 6, 2010

A wild wintery ride...

Ears up!
John took Harley on a bushwack in the woods (note John's torn pants) out back, then up the Big Bump trail. The winter wind was howling between Harley's ears, and snow flurries spit all afternoon. I think he was happy just be to back at the barn. The hell with me and my photo opportunities. Ears up, Harley!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Harley sees his first moose ever...twice

As we headed up the road, past North Point Equestrian Center, a bull moose wandered into a neighbor's back yard. Thankfully, it turned tail and headed back into the swamp, but not before we both saw it. I said, "Oh no!", turned Harley around and then thought better about it. I might be teaching him to run away! Of course, he had a bit of a hissy fit, but I got him headed back up towards the woods. We reached one of Harley's "trouble spots"--the trail leading to Cheney Woods Rd. is flooded in places. So once again, he backed up, whirled, snorted, and tossed his head. I decided to try another trail which he consented to go down, although now on high alert. As I sang and talked to Harley, I thought, "hmm, that moose could be out here too. We rode a ways to an intersection, crossing two boggy spots and one brook (so much for scary water!) before I turned back. Should Mr. Moose reappear, I didn't want to lose it and be hoofing back on foot in the dark! We made it home with no more animal sightings. I untacked Harley, tossed his cooler on and we headed out behind the barn. Just as Harley put his head down to graze, a moose appeared, trotting across the back meadow, up into the woods. Once again, Harley tossed his head into the air, watching, too nervous now to even eat. Poor Harley--two moose in an hour!

Friday, November 26, 2010

This saying says it all...

Found on the web:

In the quiet light of the stable, you hear a muffled snort, the stamp of a hoof, a friendly nicker. Gentle eyes inquire, "How was your day old friend?" and suddenly, all your troubles fade away.
                                                -Author Unknown

I can't ride and talk at the same time...

So there I am, whirling around by the "trouble gate" (after already dealing with one Harley hissy-fit) when the cell phone rings. Harley's practicing to be a cutting horse, and  I'm just trying to keep my seat! Wouldn't you know John tries to call me at the exact point when my hands are really full. Harley is snorting, backing, side-stepping, and tossing his head while the phone rings in my chest pocket. I finally got him to stand still and tried heading back towards the gate, and yup, the phone goes off again. "All right, I'm thinking, "First, let me get off this horse!"
I dismount and start pushing buttons, but can't figure out how to get missed calls. John hasn't shown me that nifty trick yet. Well, so much for having a cell phone when I ride!
I get Harley past the scary gate, remount, and of course, he tries to go home again. I'm having none of that and boot him around, snap the crop, and hiss, "Get up there!" He knuckles under and trots up the trail grudgingly--crisis averted.
As we head home, the phone rings yet again. With everything hunky dory in Harley's mind (home is good!), I can ride on the buckle, pick up the phone call, and chat away. "Yes John, I'm still riding. Had a few rough patches to deal with. I'm through the swamp by the dead beech tree and heading for the water. Yes, I'll see you at the barn. I need hang up now--approaching the brook. See you soon." Well, one more tricky spot and then we're home free.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Pinch me, is this real?

I took Harley on another short ride today. His feet are a little tender from having his shoes pulled, so we stuck to the soft edges of the trail. Given it's Sunday, and in Maine, that means no hunting, everyone not toting a gun heads for the woods in a free for all. The Orris Falls parking lot was crowded, cars nosed in and edging the shoulder of the road. A few were leaving as Harley and I approached. He had his head up like a giraffe, his back hollowed out, as he pranced down the pavement. But once we got into the woods, he let out a big huff, and relaxed.
We lollied our way down the trail until we met an older couple, and then a father with 2 boys and a baby on his back. He herded the boys to the trail edge, saying, "Now stay over, don't get too close." The younger boy exclaimed, "Ooo, I like the horsey. He's a pretty horsey."
"Thank you", I replied, giving Harley a pat on the neck for behaving so well.
 Then I began to daydream, probably not the best thing to do on an unpredictable horse. But lulled by Harley's hoofbeats, I remembered being a kid, much like that little boy, oooing and ahhing at every horse I saw. And if someone was riding by, I thought, "how lucky she is".  And now, I'm that lucky person, riding down the road, astride my own horse. Somebody pinch me, is this real? My dream come true.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Best birthday ever!

Out of the woods, and back in...
 After years and years of begging my parents for a horse, I finally spent my birthday in the saddle! Harley made my day (as did John with some nifty new horse gear). We went for a little jaunt out the "lollipop trail" to Emery's Bridge Rd., past the scary gate (!!!), through the leaf-covered water (!!!),  and home, just as dusk was falling and the woods were getting scary-dark.

Last week, my brave steed went almost all the way to Mt. Agamenticus, with John and I switching off. John ended up on the mountain bike with Callie loping alongside. I couldn't believe it when Harley actually crossed a narrow wooden bridge without twitching--maybe because John and Callie were on the other side and he was headed home! If he'd been alone, I think there would have been a whole lot of backing up, sideways prancing, head tossing, and whirling.

Today, I'm off on another adventure to who knows where...

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Harley Goes Bitless

John forgot I had the bridles at the house to clean them. So when he arrived at the barn yesterday and realized he was without, he decided to try out Michelle's bitless bridle on Harley. Turns out, he was a wonder with it! No, it didn't have quite the stopping power, but it was a walking workout, not a race. It also gave Harley a chance to snatch at some grass! John was pleased by Harley's performance--I think he's coveting a Dr. Cook's Beta bridle now!
Dr. Cook's bitless bridle
John and Harley ventured nearly all the way to Mt. Agamenticus. They hooked up some trails that run between Orris Falls and Mt. A., cutting off a lot of road riding. With hunting season in full swing by Saturday, we will have to ride in our blaze orange for the next month and a half. It's such a beautiful time of year, with the trees on fire, colorful mushrooms sprouting everywhere, and the ripe berries on the carrion flower and winterberry bushes. And of course, wild turkeys strutting their stuff in the oak and beech woods!
I think Harley is settling in and actually beginning to enjoy walking in the woods. Oh, he occasionally tries to give me the "let's go home" spin move, but no where near to the degree he once did. He even walked past the dreaded target deer last week! Yes, he's making great strides.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Too smart for his own good

Poor Harley has been on and off lame for about 2 weeks now. When John trotted him out for the vet, he  limped only a smidge. She concluded what John had suspected--a splint on his right leg. So...he's to get light work (basically walking) and some bute with his breakfast and dinner. But 'ole Mr. Knobby Knees has been fed some bute in his time and wanted no part of the stuff. Even though it's supposed to taste like apple and molasses, he's onto us. I have to agree with Harley--it has a nasty bitter aftertaste. Mysterious white powder on apples and in his favorite feed won't get by his nose. Maybe we can mix it in with applesauce and see if that works. We'll have to practice devious arts to outsmart Harley.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Leave the light on for Harley

John and I wondered why a wood screw was sticking out of the light switch box by Harley's stall. Turns out, Harley, aka Tom Bodett, seems to like turning the light on when he's his stall.  Poor Pete doesn't need Harley ramping up his power bill! So the protruding screw keeps him from switching it on. But I noticed yesterday, it was gone; probably knocked it out with his nose. I think our poor horse is scared of the dark and wants a night light.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The story of Halawa Moon aka Harley

Halawa Moon was foaled on March 23, 2002 on a Thoroughbred farm in Maryland, and like in a game of "telephone", his name transformed into Harlequin's Moon, and then shortened to Harley. John and I looked up his tattoo number on The Jockey Club's website to get the rest of his story.

Halawa Moon sold at the Keeneland Sales for $50,000. He was resold a couple of times as a two year old, racing at Pimlico, Aqueduct, and finally in claiming races at Suffolk Downs. This was probably where he went lame and acquired his two knobby front knees. Harley's racing days ended and he wound up at a stable in Portsmouth NH, then a stable in Epping NH, and finally to us, his "forever home".  I look at his bloodlines and say, "Wow!" He's got some famous ancestry flowing in his veins: A.P. Indy, Seattle Slew, Secretariat, Northern Dancer, Raise A Native, Bold Ruler, Buckpasser, Native Dancer, Nashua, Nijinsky II, Swaps, Round Table, & Hyperion. And those are just the names I know! Harley made some money in his time, but I wonder how his behavior was on the track. Did he load into the gates poorly, hence all his left-handed whirling? He's certainly got a competitive streak, and he likes to be out front when there's a gang of us riding together (unless it's his best buddy, Echoe). And it's probably from boredom at the track that he began his habit of cribbing.

Poor Harley...he's barn sour, afraid to leave the safety of his home and herd. But once I ride him far enough away from the barn, he's fine. Oh, he has his "Thoroughbred moments" and he half-heartedly tries to turn back sometimes, but with an insistent leg and seat, I can usually get him headed where I want without too much tooth grinding (his way of letting me know he's not happy), and sidestepping.

With the days getting shorter, I have to rush out to the barn right after work to get in a ride. I rode home the other night with only a faint glimmer on the horizon. By the time I left the barn, the full moon was shining over the fields.

The longer we own him, the more I can see why he needs an owner with a lot of patience,  willing to work with him. He's an anxious horse when not with his herd, afraid of unusual things he's never seen, and needs his confidence boosted consistently. He can be a bit of a handful with the cool weather and a few days off, but I think, like anything good, it will just take time.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Out in the woods

Harley's Labor Day weekend was another breakthrough. Sunday, John (mounted on his bike) and Callie joined me for a hack in the woods. We unexpectedly hooked up with some folks from North Point on their horses. It became a joint ride, but one that Harley was a bit fractious on. He didn't want to be last in group! Must have been his former racing career coming out in him. He jigged quite a bit, and really wanted to run a couple of times. We had only one minor incident; Harley backed into the branches, knocking my hunt cap off, and bruising my forehead. Needless to say, we went shopping that afternoon for one of those newfangled helmets with a harness! Callie was beat. I don't think she's gone that far ever with us. Once she hit her bed, she was down for the count.
Yesterday, co-boarder Michelle and I rode again with the North Point gang. This time I put Harley out front and he was a dream! He just wanted his spot, with his gang nearby. We roamed the woods for two hours and had a blast.
This week, I need to get him back out by the fake deer, and to get in a good long canter to release that energy (I sound like Cesar Millan). He does like stretching his legs.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Yikes! It's a fake deer!

Poor Harley, he was doing so well on our trail ride; past the scary house, past the guys shooting guns, through the water, past the scary gate and the wild turkeys. But it all came apart when he saw the deer target in a back yard. Spinning left, then right, lunging up the trail, I came unglued. Thankfully, I held onto the reins and didn't lose my horse! After dusting off the trail debris and pine needles, I led him past the scary deer, past the scary camper, the scary wood splitter, back to the safety of his barn. Whew!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Breakthrough!

Harley crossed the water (4x!) with me! Now, if we just keep the momentum going, he'll be trailworthy yet. I hoped to find the Emery's Bridge Rd. entrance to Orris Falls but had no luck. We came to a closed  gate that Harley would have no part of--the spin and dance routine again. We'll make a trail horse out of him eventually.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Time in the irons

Harley and I made a breakthrough on Saturday. We finally got across the brook at Orris Falls. It did require me to dismount (something of an issue as he was all in a dither), but with a lead line and carrots we finally made it across. Most of the ride was a challenge. Poor Harley was afraid something was bound to jump out of the woods at him and insisted on trying to turn back. I wouldn't say he's barn sour as much as he is scared. But with constant leg, crop, and an insistent seat, he finally moved forward. We backed up and circled around at least 6 times, and once, I nearly gave up, but we did it--a completed ride on the lollipop loop. Too bad Callie Lou couldn't come too--she'd have liked the romp the in the woods.

Sunday, I hooked up with Michelle, the other boarder, and we took to the woods heading for Wells. She has shown us some great trails up there, but it's such a tangle in my head, it will be hard to remember them all. We rode for about an hour an a half with some nice spots for trotting and cantering. I think Harley really enjoyed the latter--I could feel that Thoroughbred blood coming to life! The thrill of the race! He's also afraid of being left behind, truth be told. Harley, you big chicken! Michelle's dog Dasher came along for the ride, streaking through the woods, sniffing around stone walls, and leaping downed trees. Next time John and I head up that way, Callie Lou will have to come too! She needs some new territory to explore and maybe if she's out front, she can boost Harley's confidence!

As John said, time in the irons is what I need to get my legs back. Sure enough, I was a bit sore Saturday night Sunday's ride loosened them up a bit, but it will take a lot of hours in the saddle.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Harley's new home

John and Harley home from the forest
We moved Harley to a new barn last Monday--a farm lush with grass, closer to good trail riding, and much nicer company. He's made friends with Echoe, and figured out he's not to bug Vance or Gator (the two head honchos). John and I have taken him for rides up into the Orris Falls Conservation area a few times, each time a little further. The bugs have been voracious this summer, but today, we finally had cooler, breezier weather. John rode him for about an hour and got back to the barn just as the skies let loose with a shower. Tomorrow, it's my turn!
He will be much happier here, plenty of food, and plenty of shade. Plus he's not forced to be in a stall 14 hours a day. These guys are out all night in the summer, mingling with the fire flies, the wild turkeys (of which there are many), and the deer. I'm sure an occasional fox or coyote passes by as well. Pete says he's seen moose, and bear sign out in the woods, but never near the paddocks--that would really give Harley a start! Callie likes it better here too--she gets free run of the barn with Michelle's dog, Dasher, and Pete's two dogs, Libra and Mobley--all very laid back and cool with one another. Oh, and she gets to clean up Harley's spilled grain--yummy!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

And my RE-education continues...

After so many years, I feel like a sack of potatoes on Harley. But the tightness in my legs keeps reminding me what I need to do. Harley takes it all like a trouper, but lets us know when he's had enough with a big sigh as he ambles to the middle of the ring. It was a beautiful summer night--breezy, no bugs, temperatures in the low 70's, perfect for an evening ride. John lunged him for a bit, work out the kinks and vinegar, then got up and worked him some more. By the time I rode, he had mellowed out until one of the unsuspecting killdeer jumped up and started scooting down the ringside, in front of Harley. That was enough to send him into a half-hearted spin, but I was ready this time! Jam those heels forward, Lisa! As he hopped back and forth, I got him back under control and we circled back twice--just for good measure. I've a ways to go strengthening my legs, and he has some schooling ahead of him. Under John's tutelage, I think it will all come together for both of us eventually.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Harley's education continues


Harley continues to brave the big outdoors, spooking at other horses, chipmunks, etc., but John perseveres and stays on his back. Yesterday, he got another jumping lesson as John assessed his abilities. This is the first time I've photographed high action with this little digital camera--a total failure, and may have to resort to 400 ASA film in a standard SLR. So, we'll see how talented he is and push him onward and upward.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The animals are taking over our lives!

Twice a day, we head to the barn for Harley care and, if we have enough energy, a ride. John graciously walked along side me for about 4 miles when we hacked out down the pipeline (a post-surgery no-no, but we won't tell). Harley was a little squirrelly with big puddles and tried to spin out on me a few times. But other than that, he was a doll. I wasn't sure what to expect from dirt bikes and ATV's, so John clipped him onto the lead just in case. He didn't seem to mind them too much--but the scary water....YIKES!
And now Callie Lou is clamoring for our attention too, like an older sibling that's feeling neglected. How does she demonstrate this? By coming upstairs now and sleeping on the bed. It all started the night we had a thunderstorm. I know she's afraid of the booming, but she's never climbed the stairs before. And since then, every night, the minute we head up, she's hard on our heels. The only problem? She can't get back down those steep, slippery steps. I've ordered some tread rugs for traction, and hopefully that will work. Otherwise, we are in for a workout every morning! First we have to drag her to the stairs, and then collect 4 scrambling legs, and haul her into our laps for a sit-down ride. This must be why people get toy dogs--a squirming 80+ lb. Rottweiler is not easy to manage!
But we love 'em, babies that they are!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Back in the saddle again...

It's been over 20 years since I rode, maybe a bit less for John, but we're both back in the saddle again. Post-surgery probably doesn't include galavanting around on a horse, so I've only been for a mellow walk in the ring. John tested Harley's fear of umbrellas (none), and "snakes in the grass" --a spooky rope trail behind him (not happy with that). Then he took Harley out for a nice trail ride this morning. He's not too bad with water, but he did balk a bit at water running through a culvert (just wait till next spring, Harley!). Overall, he's got wonderful manners on the ground, and has a very sweet disposition. We checked his tattoo number and discovered Harley's real registered name is Halawa Moon, with some fancy names to his bloodlines. I never imagined my first horse to be free, nor to be an ex-racing Thoroughbred. I think Harley will settle with time and enjoy our adventures on the trails.

This Friday, maybe I can get the all-clear from the surgeon to get on board. Of course, it's going to be a while before I get my rubbery legs back into riding shape again. I think John and I are in for the time of our lives!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Harley is soon to be ours!

John and I spent yesterday scouting out boarding places for Harley. I went back to one spot (holding my post-surgery sore side over bumps and potholes) which looks pretty nice. I hope they like him and us! I don't see how I will be able to bike to work though, if I have to go muck his stall every day. Ah well, that's the price you pay, I guess. We'll see how this all works it, indeed, if we can work it all out. Worse case scenario, we'd have to give him back. But what fun we could have!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

A horse in my future?

John has once again found another free critter needing a home--Halawa Moon, an eight-yr. old Thoroughbred, bay with a little star. We went and checked him out today and John took a test ride after a little workout on the lunge line. If we can work out the stabling details, and cut back on our extra expenses, Harley can be ours. Why is he free? His current owner would like to have a horse that's a better fit for her. I will, or course, fret a little over the money, but John assures me we can swing it. And anyway, how long have I wanted a horse? Since I was a baby! Time for me to get,,,"Back in the saddle again"!