Sunday, December 25, 2011

A new day, with a little snow...Merry Christmas!

Ruffy & John
We got in our Christmas ride, just barely. With dinner to prepare, family coming, we had to get an early start today. And the frost on the storm door gave us a hint at the temperature! By the time we left for the barn, the mercury had crept up to 26 degrees and it was beginning to snow...Brrrr!

Rolex didn't want to come up to the barn with Harley, so John went and grabbed the next available filly--Ruffy. The promise of carrots was enough to lure her up the hill. Given our shrinking window of opportunity, we decided to go for just a short ride. The ground is so frozen it sounds just like the pavement. So rather than traveling the well-packed Orris Falls Trail, we headed over towards North Point where the footing is a bit more forgiving. And rather than crashing through icy puddles and muck, we crossed (or in Ruffy's case, led) where the muck is just a narrow frozen brooklet. We hooked a loop back through the woods and through what might be someone's deer camp, a trailer complete with lawn furniture, an outhouse, a bathtub (?) and propane tanks. Of course, Harley took one look and the empty chaise longe frame and whirled back towards Ruffy.  With  his new bitless bridle, I'm not concerned about holding him in place when he tries to whirl. And of course, he realized it was not that scary and pranced past it. Always testing, testing--that's what I get for not riding him hard when we approached the place. I should have known he'd pull one of his little stunts. The other good thing about the bitless bridle is he doesn't pull his head down and start grinding his teeth and champing the bit, a sign he's agitated or anxious--he calms down much quicker, relents and moves forward. And anyway, what's a winter ride without at least one whirl! That's my boy!
A grinning gal and her horses on Christmas day

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A sad day for us

We had to put Callie Lou down yesterday. The barn "guard dog", chief spilled grain gobbler, and Harley's best buddy will be fondly remembered. I missed the sound of her paws thudding down the barn aisle last night, heading for Harley's stall where she'd clean up grain dribbled by our cribber. She's sorely missed this holiday season.
Best buddies

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A cold day for riding, and a first (in a long time) for me!

Rough & Ready, ready to go
I looked at the thermometer this morning around 8:30 and it was up to 19, not too bad I thought. But we had a hard time getting ourselves motivated to leave the wood stove and head out to the barn. John started some chili in the slow cooker while I lounged around drinking coffee until we realized we'd be on the other side of high noon if we didn't get going!

The horse were sunning themselves down the hillside, out of the wind, munching on hay and soaking up what heat they could from sun. I almost felt guilty bringing Harley and Ruffy into the cold barn. We tacked up, and headed out towards North Point. Harley, after having a few stops at "scary things" was not setting a good example for Ruffy, as John pointedly announced.  But not much further on, Harley redeemed himself. Ruffy would not cross the stone wall, even after John dismounted and tried to lead her. So I took hold of the reins, and led her, with John urging from behind. She must have decided Harley was like a "pony" at the track, and followed willingly.

Harley looking for dinner
We ran into Rebekah out for a ride from North Point, unfortunately going the other direction, . John wanted to do the Jepson loop, but I didn't want to wade through frozen  deep water. So rather than turn back, we opted for a shorter loop which only had minor water crossings. With skim ice on on the puddles, standing water, and slow streams, I had to urge Harley forward, but he behaved smartly, assessing the footing and slowly picking his way through. Ruffy, on the other hand, was spooked by the ice, frozen frost-heaved ground, and tried bulldozing her way through it all. With Harley out front, it kept her from charging through the worst of it.

John wanted to see Ruffy under saddle, so we swapped horses so he could observe her. This is the first time I've ridden a four year old since my college days, and the first-ever directly off the track OTTB. She felt so different compared to Harley--narrower, and at that weedy, green stage where she's still not sure of all the aids, and moving over uneven terrain. But such a good girl, with such a sweet face.

Once that sun started slipping down, the temperature really began to drop. We put everyone in early with a pile of hay and alfalfa dengie for Harley and the gals. Blanketed, and snug for the night, we shut off the lights. By 5:00 p.m. with only an orange glimmer on the horizon, we headed home, anticipating a hot fire, and a warm bowl of John's chili!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Afternoon delight

Ruffy ready to go
After a few days of blustery cold weather, the temperature rose a bit this afternoon. I hurried home from work (as usual on my short Mondays), jumped into riding togs and zoomed out to the barn. John already had Harley cleaned up, waiting in the cross ties for tack.

Another local equestrienne, home from college for the winter break, stopped by the barn. John asked her to join us for a little ride. She happily got on board Rolex Girl.

Harley was in a fidgety mood, pacing in circles, ready to go, until I put him out front. Then he got all cautious on me--ears up, looking around, anticipating those scary goats up the road. I really had to ride him hard to keep him stepping out. Once in the woods, he relaxed somewhat, but he still cocked an ear at stumps and rocks that haven't moved--ever. Once Ruffy passed him, he willingly gave up the lead, his head came down, his ears flopped out, as if to say, "Whew, I'm off the hook. Now she can keep an eye out for scary things."

Rebecca on Rolex
Meanwhile, Roley  happily walked along, not a care in the world, willing to go last at an even walk. It's hard to believe she ran her last race only a month ago and is only 4 years old. She willingly goes through the muck now, and thinks about where she's putting her feet.  Her unflappable nature puts Harley to shame. He, on the other hand, wants to be second, not first, and certainly not third--then he has to worry about what might be coming up behind him.

We rode over to the Nature Trails, amidst the lawn furniture (which Roley had to investigate, and Harley swerved around), televisions, stereo speakers, and other detritus. It's a good place for desensitizing horses to unfamiliar items in unusual locales.

Once we turned around, Ruffy and Harley began to strut their stuff. Ruffy pranced and Harley started grinding his teeth, prancing sideways, acting more like a juvenile than the girls! And of course, when I held him back, he began cantering sideways. I think he really wanted to let off some steam today! Roley stepped over the stone wall, but after Ruffy jumped it, Harley decided to do the same--something he's never done over the thousands of times we've crossed it. He gave quite a bounce--a Hail Mary jump for me. His grand finale move was spooking at the goats which were not even out of the barn, but he knew they were there--just watching! What a silly guy. I just laugh at his antics when he's like this. Maybe on Saturday, we'll go for a longer trek that includes some nice cantering to burn off some energy.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A cold windy day for a ride

I whistled for Harley to come up, and of course, the whole gang came with him. Then something spooked the herd and the girls took off back down to the field. Harley stood undecided until he heard my crunch on a carrot.

When we reached the barn door, he snorted at the upended wheelbarrow I had drying in the sun. And then he would only nibble on his grain as he paced back and forth, back and forth, peering out the barn at passing traffic, noises from next door, blowing leaves...whatever. I thought, "Oh boy, this should be a good ride. But this time, last year, I probably would have chickened out and asked John to school him first.  Once I had him tacked up, I rode out back, deciding a little flat work might be good to get the vinegar out of him. He was actually, very good. Oh the trots got a little quick and he tried once to head back to the barn, but on a whole, he did very well, listening to my legs and seat.  We had some nice canters, and on the correct leads, I might add. He was such a good boy, he deserved a little walk in the woods before it got too dark!

Back at the barn, Harley finished his snack, snug in his cooler, while I got the girls' stalls ready. They will be in tonight--it's a full moon and the temperature is dropping down into the teens. Tomorrow, highs in the 30's. More fun riding!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Oh Harley was a racehorse...

Rolex Girl & Harley on the Orris Falls Trail
I've written my own version to the tune of Stewball:
Oh Harley was a racehorse,
And now he is mine,
He likes to have breakfast
At a quarter to nine.

His saddle is leather,
His bridle is not,
And the lump between his ears,
Is a giant big knot.

His girlfriend is Ruffy,
A great big bay mare,
And when we cross water,
Oh my, what a pair!

Blah, blah, blah...more verses to come. Singing does two things for Harley, keeps his mind off scary things (I watch his ears swivel back toward me) and I scare away those scary things--birds, deer, squirrels, etc. , especially when its getting dark and the monsters come out.

He was quite jumpy Saturday. In fact, I had to get off and lead him onto the Orris Falls trail. Barking dogs, yelling kids, and cars parked at the trailhead made him come unglued, something he hasn't pulled since last year. He whirled to the left, then would only go in reverse.  I don't like a dancing horse on the road, so I jumped off and walked him into the woods. Everything was going fine until 2 hikers appeared, and one had a walking stick--YIKES! He walked past, eye and ear cocked to the side, watching, and when the walking stick moved, he jumped sideways. I laughed,  "Oh he's just scared of the dark." Since it was getting dark fast, I took him down the trail that parallels Orris Falls. Again, he kept a wary eye on the rushing water and chasm off to our left. "You're OK", I told him, stroking his neck. We speed-walked the rest of the way home.

Actually, he's not that bad, but come winter, when the wind is gusting through the woods, and leaves swirl in dervishes, he's just a bit jumpy. Ruffy, now with us for about 4 weeks, isn't keen to cross water, but today, Harley pulled through (although he thought about ducking out), leading the way for her through the brook out by Jepson's, and through two very deep flooded spots on a 4WD road. Always happy to be heading home, he doesn't miss the turn unlike Ruffy who still doesn't know her way around the hinterlands and walked right passed it.

John switched tack onto Roley after washing down and blanketing Ruffy, leaving her munching on hay in her stall. Harley had a snack while he waited, then it was off again. By now we were losing daylight, so we went on a short jaunt up the power line (S. Berwick's version of that Tevis Cup climb you see horses scrambling up) to the Big Bump trail and down across the water at the head of Orris Falls, just so Roley could get some more experience dealing with water crossings. Both horses seemed to be in lollygag mode, so we ambled home and stopped for pictures. The sun was setting, lighting up the trees with a rosy glow--another glorious sunset tonight.

Oh, and just to set the record straight, Harley usually gets breakfast before 8:45, and the non-leather bridle is a beta Dr. Cook's Bitless bridle (when John's not using it on the fillies), and finally,  although he can be right bugger sometimes and act foolish, he's my best boy, and I love him.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Ride

Chilly temperatures and a cold wind made for an exciting ride. All the horses had been in for over 24 hours due to rain and wind. They were dancing to get out today. John and I covered some new territory with Rolex Girl and revisited trails Harley hasn't traveled since last spring!

A new way to wear Jog-a-lite vests!
After mucking out the stalls and donning the blaze orange, we sallied forth. Orris Falls was raging--we could hear the water sluicing through the gorge before we reached the brook. A number of limbs were caught up in the outflow from the pond making it seem scarier than usual for Harley. He did NOT set a good example, but we eventually crossed without too much ado, and Rolex followed close behind.  Every rock and stump gave Harley pause to look closely. He really was just testing me; he's not really afraid of these anymore. If we needed a theme song for today's ride, it would be James Brown's "I Feel Good"!

Rolex has a nice walk, stepping out enough to make Harley (who's only an inch shorter) jog to keep up. Plus, he's afraid of being left behind! Since Rolex is barefoot, we opted for a shorter road ride that would put us on a trail network leading us back to North Point. We haven't been out here all summer due to a reported bee or ground hornet nest. By now, the cold temperatures will have put an end to any activity! We had a nice canter across property where we kindly have access, and thankfully, the German Shepherd wasn't in residence today. Harley has only met her twice, and the first time, scared the bejeezus out of him.

After our little canter, we pulled up for pictures, but Harley kept a wary eye on the house. He jigged a bit on the way home and began grinding his teeth--anxious or excited, I'm not sure which. John and I wondered if he would still do it with the bitless bridle, but since Rolex Girl was wearing it, who knows. I'll try it out on him tomorrow.

Don't we look colorful in all that blue and orange? Man, what a sight coming through the woods! Rolex Girl didn't mind leading part of the way, in fact, she likes being out front, but while we were having fun popping over brooks and logs, we took a wrong turn. She doesn't know the way yet, but Harley got us back on track, grinding his teeth, and prancing up all the hills. In the 3 weeks we've had Rolex Girl, she's adapted amazingly well. Tricky footiing, falling dead branches, large boulders from the last ice age, and assorted abandoned bits of junk don't seem to faze her. She's still not crazy about going through water and getting muddy, but after all, she's a "Rolex Girl"!

Hah! Great sign!
The Nature Trails are great for seeing all sorts of weird things in the middle of the woods, shacks, stacked tires, TV's, lumber, yard furniture, etc. But the best was this crazy sign that gave John and I a good laugh. The folks that own the Nature Trails are quirky to say the least, but the footing is great, they keep the trails cleared, and they give us access. No the TV's aren't exactly picturesque, but it's part of their quirkiness and adds to the local color--fondly known around here as Maine Yard Disease.

Once we made the turn for home past North Point, Harley settled down (no more tooth grinding) and actually wanted to be out in front of Roley. A couple of times on the ride, he'd walk along, quartering Roley, and she does the same. I think it may remind them both of being ponied at the track. What cracks me up is when we stop in this position, and John pulls Harley's head over into his lap and gives him a reassuring rub. I think Harley actually likes this. Roley wasn't too keen on it the first time and pinned her ears. It's a good thing they get along so well since they both like to tailgate one another! Unfortunately, the picture I tried to get of them together didn't come out. Roley isn't one to stand around for too long--she's a go, go, go girl.

Once Harley and Roley were cooled off and fed lunch, we turned them out with the rest of the gang. Everyone was down in the far field, but once I let Harley go, he headed across the pasture at a canter with Rolex following. This stirred things up and soon, all of the horses were trotting, cantering, galloping, bucking, and spinning like an equine dervish. What a sight. Here are a few pictures of the Thanksgiving ruckus...
Gator (at left) wants out--too old for this foolishness, and Vance (at right) is the starter. The runners, left to rt: Echoe, Ruffy, Harley, and Roley
Then, they went up the hill, to start all over again!
The sorority sisters, leading Echoe on, ready for more mayhem...
And once again, they're off!
Ah, what a day for all of us--fun in the sun! And not too much turkey (since I didn't get mine thawed out in time). We'll have ours this weekend, after another adventure.
Oh, and of course, Harley had a nice roll in the mud. Here he is looking like a muddy wild man.
Mustang Harley!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Passing on the Lovely Blog Award

We've been so busy with the new fillies and getting the remodeling done on the home front--I'd forgotten to pass on the Lovely Blog Award from my October 27th posting. So many of the equine blogs I follow have already received this award, so I really had to hunt around the web! Long winter nights should mean lots of extra time, right? Quite the opposite seems to have happened. John and I are out at the barn until well after dark, making sure Harley, Ruffy, and Roley are set for the night. We eat dinner no earlier than 8 pm, and sometimes, as late as 9:30.

So finally, on an early night, sitting by the woodstove, reading blogs, I've found a worthy recipient. It goes to another fellow trail rider/Thoroughbred owner, out having a blast in the Northwest on her mare.
I'd like to pass it on to All Horse Stuff

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The fillies education continues

Rough & Tough (Ruffy)
Ruffy is a little ouchy without her shoes, so we're taking it easy with her. She has such a lovely face and is always looking for carrots in our pockets--a real sweetie. Rolex Girl is settling down too, although she's still spooky if you startle her in her stall. She's s star in the cross ties, standing patiently while I wrap her legs. John spruced up her forelock and her "mohawk" bridle path clip is growing out (picture to come soon).  Vance is in love with both girls and hangs out along the fence line, pining for his loves while the rest of the gelding munch on grass.

We took Rolex Girl on another adventure with Harley Monday afternoon. She kept an even head while working herself out of a tangle of branches. Mucky footing is not her thing, but she's getting better. I rode Harley out front (who much prefers somebody else take the lead) and showed her it was alright. Then, she'd push right past him, stepping out in a lovely ground-eating walk. Poor Harley had to jog to stay caught up with her! He didn't set a good example crossing the brook out to Jepson's, but after 5 attempts, and a threat from John, he decided, "What the heck, I'll never get home otherewise", and quietly walked through, even standing there, ankle deep in water. What a silly guy!Roley still wouldn't go in the brook, but she had to go through numerous mucky, watery spots to get home. Still, only out on the trail 3 times--what a good girl!

John and his girls

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Harley takes his girlfriends for a walk

John rode each of the fillies today. We took them on a little trail ride with Harley who bravely led the way through the water at Orris Falls (about 6 times), but Rolex Girl would have no part of it! Ruffy threw a rear shoe, so her meander was a bit shorter, although who spooked? My fearless 9 year old. We'll take them each out again tomorrow for another walk in the woods.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Turkey Trot Trail Ride

Nina & Harley
Another best birthday ever! John and I took Nina and Harley on a SMART ride today, their last of the season, the November Turkey Trot. With a borrowed truck, a borrowed trailer, and a borrowed horse (Little Nina), we set out for an adventure in the South Berwick hinterlands. And what a day it was.! We had a frosty start, but once the sun cleared the tree tops, the temperatures rose into the high 50's/low 60's. Most of the snow melted, leaving the trails quite mucky in low places, and brooks running with plenty of water. Harley crossed them without a twitch!  He still amazes me, how far he has come in a year and a half.
The trails covered a fair portion of land we've cross country skied, so much of it was familiar. But it's always fun to be in new territory. Without our own trailer, we're limited to the trails in our immediate neck of the woods, although both horses have traveled a far piece on some of our trips.
We got back in the early afternoon, intending to put the horses in the trailer and have some lunch (they served up a Thanksgiving meal!), but Harley decided he wanted no part of getting onto the trailer and after spending a long time (with help and different techniques) trying to load him, we gave up. He actually sat down, rather than stepping up the ramp! He didn't act panicky, just sick and tired us urging him on. Harley looked rather like Eeyore (see picture at right)--just sitting there with an "I've had enough" expression on his face.I took the truck and trailered Nina home, my first time driving a horse trailer, I might add! John put a dry pad on Harley, fetched a dry girth, and hacked him home, reaching the barn at 4:45, just as it was starting to get dark. That dang horse! Looks like we need to spend some time working on trailer loading before we attempt another ride.
End of the ride

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Our 2 new residents are home

 Please check out the girls' new page "The Filly Follies" for more fun!                                                          
Rolex Girl
This Chic's Got It

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The girls arrive tomorrow!

John and Pete are off to Suffolk Downs tomorrow morning to bring home Rolex Girl and This Chic's Got It. I spent two hours getting the stalls ready, the buckets cleaned, and gathering up leg wraps, sheets, and halters for the fillies. This will be a fun winter!

Monday, October 31, 2011

2 New fillies for the place

John and Pete took another trip to Suffolk Downs today to check out the horses. It seems there were some issues with Eddie's Point, but they did find a couple of girls to mix things up a bit at the barn. Look out guys, here come the girls!

So, there will be six horses at the barn now. I think John and Pete are in for a wicked good time, as we say in these parts! And me, well the more the merrier. I'm happy to give two horses from  Canter New England's Suffolk Showcase a home. As the sign says when you cross the Maine border, girls: "Maine, the Way Life Should Be". And a big thank you to the wonderful work and promotion the Canter folks do!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

It's snowing like crazy!

John went down to Suffolk Downs today to watch Eddie's Point run in the 6th race. The poor guy had to run on a sloppy track in the icy cold rain! I'd hoped to get in a ride, but spent almost the entire day stacking the rest of the wood before the storm hit. Plus the tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and broccoli plants needed pulling. Out of curiosity, I pulled one of our carrots (waiting for the frost to sweeten them up) and was amazed by the size! Nearly 12 inches long and and inch and a half in diameter!

By 4 p.m. it was starting to come down pretty hard, so I beat it out to the barn to get the guys in before they got soaked. Everyone got an extra scoop of sweet feed, fresh water, and lots of hay to keep their furnaces running through the night.

Now we're sitting here by the woods stove, listening to the wood pop, and sipping hot tea. I'm glad to know 'ole Gnarley Harley is snug in his stall, with plenty of hay, a pan full of chopped alfalfa, and dinner on the way. I hope Eddie is snug and warm too after giving his all today, even though he only came in 7th.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Winter is here, early this year!

I drove out to the barn in a cold rain. Harley and the gang, snug in their stalls, munching hay, peered out to see who had arrived. As usual, Callie Lou, ran up to Harley's door, seeking spilled grain bits (her idea of a good treat). I gave him a good curry, fussed with his mane that wants to go every which way, and cleaned his feet. By the time we got home, the snow was mixing with rain. Good thing we got all the blankets cleaned--we might need them really soon!

Thanks to Juliette over at Honeysuckle Faire for giving me this award! I've so enjoyed reading her blog and so many others.  I'm now supposed to list 15 other blogs--the only problem is that so many of the blogs I follow seem to have already won!

I'm going to have to hunt around and find some other blogs to pass this along bear with me while I come up with a list!

Hmmm, things about me...
1. All my writing seems to be done on this blog. I don't know if that's a good thing, since I'm not earning at money at it, but I've had fun connecting with other horse-crazy people in cyberspace.

 2. Someday I'd love to take a riding vacation in Wales.
3. I'd rather spend my free time at the barn cleaning stalls rather than cleaning house (and my house reflects this!)  

4. I'd like to take Harley on a horseback trip, in some of my old summer camp stomping grounds in Vermont.

5.  I enjoy gardening with John and we grow a substantial amount of vegetables. We grew enough potatoes last year to last us through until this year.

6. I love, love, love maple syrup. We tap our trees and make enough syrup to last a couple of years (We gave the trees a break last year).

7. I have another blog about life on the home front.

Monday, October 24, 2011

A new friend for Harley?

John and I went to the Suffolk Showcase sponsored by Canter New England on Sunday, featuring the trainer's horses for sale at Suffolk Downs. The season comes to a close on November 5th, so if anyone's looking for a good deal on a good horse, check 'em out!

Under bright sun accompanied by brisk weather, we watched a lot of lovely horses parade before our eyes. Gosh, if only I had the acreage to give more a home. But it was heartwarming to here people eagerly buying these beauties.

John singled out one he wanted to see--a big rangy 17 hand 5 year old gelding, Eddie's Point. We haven't decided yet, but John seemed pleased with what he saw. And of course, 'ole Eddie just wormed his way into our hearts (or our pockets for yummy carrots) with his begging antics. He gobbled up nearly all the carrots we brought that day. On the way home, we took a side trip to Dover Saddlery to see if they had any inexpensive 82" blankets on sale, just in case... I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

At last, no more rain!

Harley at "spooky corner"
The rain finally quit last night. Today dawned sunny and windy--a good day for getting laundry out on the line, canning beans, and going for a trail ride! Harley banged one of his knees earlier this week, so this was our first day back riding. The swelling had dissipated, and he wasn't lame. I thought we'd just take a walk and see how things went. He had his ears up, looking at tipped over inuksuk trail markers and watching for deer as we approached his "spooky corner". There are a couple of spots where he's encountered deer, so he anticipates them every time we come near those areas.

I chose to ride down by Orris Falls. After all the rain, the water is shooting through the chasm, enough to make Harley look askance down below. And this also made the usual water crossing a little difficult. Lots of water shushing down from the pond made Harley put on the brakes. It took a couple of tries before I got him across. At least he didn't try to leap it, like little Nina!

We went up and over Spring Hill, stopping for the view before continuing out to the end of the trail at Emery's Bridge Rd. Once again, he had to peer around corners like he expected monsters to get him. He no longer spooks at the huge boulders--I guess he's realized they haven't moved yet. Five crows flew up in the trail, and that gave him a start! We practiced stopping and backing, and just standing. He's getting so much better, although with each halt, he still has to peer around his shoulders to make sure it's safe.

We had a lovely ride on an awesome autumn day. Tomorrow, maybe will go a bit longer, keep it to a walk, and see how he does. Of course, once I turned him out tonight, he cantered down the hill to his buddies--"You wouldn't believe what I saw today!"

Summit of Spring Hill

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Another first for me!

With these short days, Harley is not getting as many workouts. But we're finally having a nice stretch of weather. I dropped John off at Nina's where they tested out his new Wintec Endurance Pro saddle. (The word is, it fit her perfectly and he loved it.)
I went over to take Harley out for at least an hour's ride. But first I had to get him. And where was the gang? Way down in the bottom field in the shade. So I walked down the road, cut in at the lower gate and enticed Harley over with carrots. Then, with halter and lead rope, I hopped on from the stone wall and rode him up to the barn--my first trip out on him bareback! I finally got up the nerve, and told him not to try anything silly (especially since I didn't have on my helmet). I've almost done this a couple of times, but chickened out, thinking what if he spooks? Well, I finally got over that obstacle, although I'd have to say, he doesn't have the back for extended bareback rides! We had a nice amble up through the lower fields with a little jog (I grabbed mane) up the last incline up to the barn. Thank you for behaving Harley!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Dodging the rain

The rain stopped for a few hours yesterday. So John graciously gave up riding Nina to give Harley and me a lesson. We got out the lunge line to work out the kinks in both of us. I haven't had a lesson like that in ages, and it really helped getting back to the basics. Harley and I need some solid foundation work, and since the weather was being unpredictable, the timing was right! I know what I need to work on, and Harley behaved like a good school horse for me. Our next ride will be on the trails though--I don't want to bore him with ring work.

I thanked him for letting me plod in circles on him, gave him hugs and carrots, then turned him back out with his pals. Thanks for being a good boy, Harley! I sound like some gooey 13 year old, but then, I've wanted a horse since I was a kid. And now that John has made a dream come true, I relish every moment I have going gaga over Harley. I think John gets a chuckle out of it as well!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Oh the wind and rain...

The autumn rains have arrived bringing cooler temperatures at last. But I do wish it would quit! I spent a couple of quality hours with Harley in the barn yesterday, grooming, mucking, and feeding him lunch. I missed the brief respite of rain while doing chores around the house: dishes, laundry, recycling run, etc. And today, it's just more of the same--ugh!

I sneaked in a brief ride Friday night, just before it was too dark to see. Due to the lateness, I decided to ride in the "ring" (a mowed grassy area behind the barn). The session started off poorly--deer by the pond. Harley wouldn't concentrate on anything except the deer. One would not leave, but stood at the forest edge, watching us. Great, an ungulate audience! Then two more flashed their tails which spooked Harley again. It was not a great session, but by the end, he gave up trying to wheel for home and listened to my leg (somewhat). Our circles were more like squares!

Harley after his first 20 mile ride in June 2011
John entertained me this morning reading an excerpt from the AERC's
(American Endurance Ride Conference) handbook. Under the chapter regarding horse selection, specifically personality, we decided Harley must have read this part:"If the horse trots out in hand to your satisfaction, the next move is to take him for a spin,..." Yup, Harley showed us his spin moves right from the start! Drop that shoulder and whirl! We also chuckled over this:
"Some people like a relaxed, laid-back sort of fellow, while others prefer one that is more “ready.” Most endurance riders don’t consider a lazy horse much fun to ride, but on the other hand, a very tense horse that is on the borderline of being out of control, even in a nonthreatening situation, is likely to come unglued in a real race."
Poor Halawa Moon, he's out of the running as a race horse, not well-schooled over fences (yet), and doesn't seem to measure up as an endurance horse. But he's ours, I love him, for all his quirks (even those that have sent me to the hospital--see June 28th entry), and he's enjoying a happy life with the gang. Harley has only been trail riding a year and a half, and he's made a lot of progress. He may not be a candidate for the Tevis Cup, but I'm game to take him out there, even alone. And maybe next year, if John rides Nina, I'll ride him in next year's local S.M.A.R.T. ride.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Lesson Ride

Harley in his new bitless bridle
Off and on rain today, and limited time, made for a short ride. But John and I were anxious to try out Harley's new bitless bridle. I also got a much-needed lesson! I could easily stand to spend hours working in a ring, and many of them, without stirrups. I try to get away with just riding on the trail without stirrups, now and then, but both Harley and I could stand some schooling. John spent some time giving me a lesson and Harley discovered that without a bit, it's much easier to snatch at the grass! He seemed to do just fine with the bridle--a smooth enough transition.  Then we tried it out on Nina--she too seemed to do well with it. Come winter, I'll definitely like not having to put cold metal in his mouth!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Harley & Nina: Peak Baggers!

Harley tacked and ready to go
Our Saturday ride included summiting Second Hill (we were only on a sub-summit on Tuesday's ride) and a picnic lunch for all. With temperatures hovering in the low 60's and no humidity, the weather was perfect for a long ride. What a wonderful vacation week we've had thus far--riding all but one day.  If I ever plan to do an excursion in Wales, I'll definitely have to be sure I've got myself conditioned for it!

With sandwiches, water, carrots, and apples packed, we headed out. The horses felt sparky with the cool weather--primed and ready for a long walk in the woods. Harley was happy to follow Nina most of the way. When asked to step out in front, he balked. Only taps from the crop would convince him to take the lead. I think he'd rather let Nina deal with the demons residing behind the boulders and stumps. If they stopped together, it was a tie for who would be least willing to lead. What a pair! When out front, Harley's ears are up, he's watching his surroundings, and peering around corners. But when he's following, the ears flop to the sides and he shuffles along like a dude-ranch horse. I can't help but laugh at his behavior. Much to his chagrin, I made him lead a few times, as a confidence-builder (I don't know if he'd agree).

Our peak baggers
The last pitch up to the summit of Second Hill requires a bit of scrambling around granite boulders, but both horses seemed to manage just fine. Though Second Hill is only 555 ft., and lower than its neighbhor, Mt. Agamenticus, it's probably the highest elevation Harley has ever achieved being a Maryland-bred flatlander!  Surprisingly, we encountered no people on this beautiful, sunny Saturday until we ate lunch. When a couple appeared out of the woods, it gave Harley a start, interrupting his noshing in the grassy patches. He whirled around thinking, "Where the heck did they come from?"

En route back down, we heard voices below. Harley and Nina, unable to see where the chattering children were hiding, tentatively picked their way down the trail, peering through the trees. The hiking group, taking a break at the trail junction, admired our horses as Harley and Nina looked sideways at everyone, fearing woods trolls. Pointed in the homeward direction, Harley stepped out at his fast walk,, telling himself, I'm going home, I"m going home with each step.

Ah, lunch!

Sunday was a short ride day--only an hour and a half of meandering through the woods. Unfortunately, the mosquitoes seemed to have appeared with the warmer weather. Our plan is to hack Nina home on Monday. Echoe will miss her company, as will Vance, he beau in the neighboring paddock. It's been such an enjoyable week for all--John, myself, and the horses.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The riding vacation continues

After two long rides, we decided to do a short loop. Plus it was hot and steamy once again. Indian summer returned, bringing with it, voracious mosquitoes. Michelle arrived at the barn just as we headed out, so she grabbed Echoe, gave him a quick grooming, and jumped aboard. Dasher, always up for an adventure, trotted along with us, tail wagging, tongue lolling, ears flapping, and nose to the ground in typical hound fashion.
Dash & Echoe at the old quarry

Poor Echoe has fallen in love with Nina--he'll be sad when she leaves. But in the meantime, he's enjoyed her company. Our ride took us out to the old Jepson place and along the quarry. As we approached the quarry road, I heard heavy equipment moving and said, "I hope we don't hear the whistle. That means they're blasting."

No ground-shaking booms, and no mud wallows on this ride. We admired colorful mushrooms, enjoyed each others company, and laughed at our horses. Harley wanted to be right with Echoe (who wants to be right behind Nina), but he gives Nina quite a bit more space. I think she's enjoying her position as Queen Bee, having all the geldings go gaga at her.

I made Harley go out front (something he'd rather not do, the big chicken) for a bit. He bravely stepped into the giant puddle in the flooded woods road. Once we reached the other side, he gallantly went back to where Nina stood, still questioning the sanity of this, and showed her it was o.k.

We stirred up all the mosquitoes in the swamp and they followed us back through the woods to home. Thankfully the weather changed that night, bringing rain and cooling temperatures.

Yesterday we hooked up with Michelle again for another shorter ride, but one with a bit more speed involved. With the cold weather, came snappy-kneed horses. Everyone was keyed up, and ready to go. If Nina got between Harley and Echoe, he began jigging and grinding his teeth. It's like playground antics--who gets to play in which group. Echoe doesn't mind who's in front or behind, but he too was ready for a good romp. We had some nice trots and canters, with a few little bucks thrown in for good measure. The horses enjoyed the cool weather, and a nearly bug-free ride. Our next adventure? Well, probably another long, slow ride. That spunky little Arab, and long-winded Thoroughbred just keep on trucking!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

From the boggy bottoms to the summit

Today we took Nina and Harley on another ride with mud, but none so deep you could lose your horse in it! As John said, "You know the mud's deep when your horse is using his chin to get out!"

Our plan, was to ride to Second Hill, a sub-summit to Mt. Agamenticus. This is a ride with mud, brooks, and foot bridges. We rode out the Orris Falls Trail to Emery's Bridge Rd. A half mile later, we turned off into the woods on, what I call, the Bennett Lot Trail (a cut through the woods to Bennett Lot Rd). We took a little break here so John could adjust Nina's saddle a bit. The air was steamy and it was shaping up to be a hot ride, but our plan was to take our time and enjoy the ride. Mushrooms carpeted the forest floor with splashes of mustard yellow, orange, red, pale purple, olive green, and ghost white. Some were just gelatinous masses, some were just peeking out from under a carpet of hemlock needles or leaves. It smelled like fall, crushed sweet fern, ripening berries, and dead leaves. Our last wildflowers,  autumn asters, bloomed in sunny spots along the trail edge and roadsides. A last gasp of color.

Our first obstacle: a giant mud puddle in the old woods road, complete with frogs leaping in and out. Nina would have no part of it! Harley, just following Nina's lead decided, "if she won't go, I won't go".
Finally, with much urging, I convinced him to step into the water. He opted to stay "close to shore", hugging the edge. But it was enough to convince Nina to follow. Then came the first foot bridge. Once again, Harley took the lead, ears up and looking off to both sides at the tumbling brook below, but calmly walked across. Again, Nina followed. We then doubled back around to make them cross the water. This proved more difficult than the bridge, but they did it, both ways.

Break  en route up Second Hill

The trail up Second Hill is built for human foot traffic. It winds between narrow tree gaps (watch those knees!) over rocks and roots, and between ancient stone walls. I tried to picture what this area might have looked like in the last century. Were these hillsides all pasture? We stopped for a break and decided to lead the horses for a bit. We should have brought lunch with us. At least we had some crunchy carrots for the horses. They deserved treats--it was a bit of a climb for them!

The trail turned to granite ledge near the summit. Here we stopped again for a water break and to determine which path to follow next. The last bit to the summit was a scramble over rocky terrain. I was ready to turn back, and Ariat boots are NOT make for hiking. John willingly agreed--we'd already been out for a couple of hours and it would take us the same to get home.

My best boy near the summit
We are notorious for heading out into the Agamenticus region with maps, but we were prepared this time--compass, map, and GPS. There are blazes on the trees, and some signs at junctions, but if you're not sure where that trail leads, you're sunk without a compass. We guessed which trail  would lead us back towards home, and John was right. We came out on the Porcupine Trail (saw none) which led us to the Cedar Trail (saw none, but there must be some there). This trail had two low foot bridges crossing boggy areas (pretty dry this season, but I certainly wasn't going to test it after yesterday). Harley looked hard at them, but willingly stepped across, cloppity clopping with Nina right behind.

Once more, we had to face the first foot bridge, but since that didn't seem to be as much of an issue as water, we opted to make them cross the brook. Harley was happily playing "dude horse" and plodding along as second. So when I asked him to pass the snorting, spooking Nina, and go in the water, he wouldn't budge. "Ladies before gentlemen". Right, Harley. So we waited it out until Nina decided it wasn't so scary after all, and they both waded across.

By the time we came out onto Bennett Lot Rd., I was beginning to get stiff in the knees. I kept dropping my stirrups and swiveling my legs to loosen things up. The last time I spent this many hours in the saddle, I was 20 something! And just to make sure I didn't think Harley was really a "dude horse", he'd have a nice little spook every now and then--a gentle reminder!

The last leg, back through Orris Falls, was a relief. I'd been riding for over four hours and, boy, did I feel like it! As soon as we came out onto the road for home, Harley stepped up the pace, passed Nina on the inside and lengthened his stride, even jogging up the hills. I'm not sure who was happiest to be home, us, the horses, or Echoe, standing with gang at the gate, nickering to his long lost love, Nina.
Tomorrow--a short ride, only 2 hours!

The bog down in the valley-o!

John is stabling Nina with Harley for our week of vacation so we can ride together. This will be good experience for Nina, and we'll have the added benefit of not having to do the switch and ride! I dropped John off at Nina's home and then went out to get Harley. The plan was to meet about halfway and ride back home together. What a trip it turned out to be!

First, I got a late start. Harley was in a lollygagging frame of mind and I had to really push him to step out. I tried to make up for lost time in places where the footing was good and soft. But by September, most of the dirt roads are baked to the hardness of concrete. So we mostly walked, slowly.

As I headed down Dennett Road at a brisk trot, Harley slammed on the brakes--something in the woods to the left! He spun around, only to see a man and two dogs coming from behind! They're coming from both directions, Harley...turkeys, man, and dogs. What's a poor horse to do? The man kindly waited, but I told him to walk past; it would be best for all. Then Harley skirted the turkeys and we resumed our amble down the road. John called and I told him I'd meet him in about 5 minutes. Sure enough, there he was, Nina all ears up, Harley all ears up--who is that horse? 

We made a couple of wrong turns trying to find a short cut to eliminate a long road walk. The logged areas are always so confusing--twisting trails that just stop at a pile of brush, or just peter out. So we opted to try the pipeline route that, theoretically, will take us right to the lower pasture gate. Hah!

Finding the turn offs which resemble game trails more than established riding trails proved to be nearly impossible. We did a lot of bushwacking, resulting in banged knees, elbows, scratched arms, and a load of pine needles down my shirt. Then came difficult stream crossing #1. Now I know Harley has been through this one before, and we're heading home. With some strong leg, he stepped right in and crossed to the other side leaving Nina stranded on the other side. I finally dismounted, holding her line while John urged her from behind. The game little girl nearly jumped the entire stream bed!
John undoing the lead line while Harley watches
Our next attempt at difficult stream crossing #2 proved to be less successful. We seemed to be cut off on the wrong side of a large swamp. John knew there was a crossing somewhere in these dense woods. Harley was bravely bashing head first through the trees, on a quest for home. I think he knew just how close he was. I finally found a spot that had a lot of vegetation and presumed this might be solid enough footing. WRONG! Next thing I know, Harley is belly deep in a quagmire. I launched myself off of him and roll away so he can get himself unglued,  and crawl as quickly as I can for the edge, grabbing at roots.

Poor Harley got out and (thankfully) stood quietly, quivering, on the other side while I spoke in soothing tones and removed his splint boots (all down around his hooves now). I stuffed them in the saddle pad pockets and told John we were striking out for home. I suggested he turn back and make for the road.

We thrashed our way through the woods until we hit the trail leading to the lower pasture gate. When Harley got to the gate, he would have galloped for home if I'd let him. We squelched our way up the hill to the barn where I gave him a nice shower. After being assured everyone was fine, I got laughed at--I was head to toe mud, like I'd just come out of a mud-wrestling pit. About half an hour later, John rode up the road, missing one shoe--another victim to the viscous black mud of the South Berwick bogs. What a grand finale to the ride!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A nearly bug-free ride!

Wagon Wheel Rd. (the darn flash went off)
For the first time since last spring, we went out without the bug net. Now I can admire Harley's cute little ears! Some mosquitoes harassed us, but I only smacked about 3 deer flies on the entire 2 hour ride. The temperatures were cool, with passing clouds, just perfect for a walk in the woods. Here's Harley listening to kids voices down at the end of the road. Always curious about his surroundings, we had to stop so he could check out the kids. And then we saw kids chalk drawing on their driveway. "Oh look, a horse", they shouted. Once again, we had to stop and scope things out. But later, 2 dirt bikes and a quad bike, roared through the woods towards us. They kindly slowed down, but Harley wasn't fazed in the least! Who'd expect loud machines to not spook him, but stumps and large boulders are fierce monsters in his mind? Oh, and bicycles in the woods? He doesn't mind them in the least either. But then since we only have one horse, our other "steed" is the mountain bike. Harley considers it part of his "herd".

When we got back to the barn, the hay trailer was unloaded and stacked overhead. But the loose chaff on the floor was awfully enticing! While I untacked Harley, he gobbled up what he could reach before I turned him out in the back where he grazed for and hour on the "Steak House" grass.
Steak House lawn

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Ah, a break from working on the house!

I've done all I can on the house until the roof and skylights are done. Time for me to get in some fun in the saddle. I took Harley out for a nice long 2+ hour ride on Saturday. This time I was brave enough to bring along the camera and tried my hand at taking pictures from atop my steed. He's not always the most willing horse to stand, especially if we're headed for home. As luck would have it, half of them were blurred from movement, but that's the beauty of a digital camera--no good, just hit delete and try again!

Here we are heading down the trail to the old Jepson farm. No, Harley doesn't have a purple fly net, but the flash went off, making it iridescent.  And all along the trail, mushrooms! You would love this, Colleen. Unfortunately, my pictures didn't do the 'shrooms justice.

Out by the Pike quarry, we came across a giant hemlock that came down in Hurricane Irene. Harley thought about turning back--we were blocked by a 10 foot wall of green. But I dismounted and he willing followed me down into the woods and around the tree. The great thing about quarries--old granite blocks are great for remounting! I do have to brag here--Harley stands so well when I go to haul myself back up on him. Pat, pat, good boy, Harley. 

This was a new trail I discovered off Cheney Woods Road. Click on it for a better view, but the sign said foot travel only. Does than include horse feet? We explored a bit of it, then returned to the road when it got too narrow, rocky, and steep. I may check it all out on foot first. Heading back up Cheney Woods Road, I saw another white blazed trail. Hmm...I wonder where that one goes? Maybe on our next ride, I'll find out.

On the trail past North Point, I pass this lovely place and wish it was mine. It's for sale with 65 acres abutting conservation land and awesome trail riding! But way too much money for me, sadly. So I admire it from Harley's back.

We got in a few more rides this weekend, one long one out towards Mt. Agamenticus, and a short one today. It was just too hot and muggy. But the good news is, the deerflies are abating. I'm looking forward to bug-free, cool fall riding, just around the corner!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

What great riding weather!

And I'm stuck inside doing demolition work on the house. It's time for a new roof for the old place (long overdue) and an upgrade--3 new skylights. John took Harley out for a nice long ride Monday. Then we got to work on the house. As with any work on a 100+ year old house, there's always a can of worms opened when you start a project. Turns out, we need to rip out the plaster and lathing to sister up the roof, then cover it with plywood, and lastly, put new shingles on. Oh my...will I see Harley at all this week?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

You Are Like A Hurricane...

Great--just as I get Harley re-shod, a hurricane blows into town. And since he's had the last two weeks off, he'll probably be like riding a hurricane once I get a saddle on him again. Let's just hope Hurricane Irene slows down by the time she hits New England.

Friday, August 19, 2011

A Week Without Riding

Harley threw his shoe (again) last week so I've been left without a mount. In a way, it may be a good thing. John and I are getting long-overdue chores done in the garden. But I hate missing out on these waning long summer days. I went out to see Harley last night. The gang was grazing down in the pasture, but once I appeared with his grain back, his head came up, ears perked.

Once Harley finished his grain,  he got his carrot treat. Vance sidled up, hoping I had a little something for him as well. I couldn't deny his curiosity and gave him the nub. Harley proceeded to follow me all the way back to the barn as if to say, "That's it?" His friendly nature is certainly one of his many endearing qualities.

I'm hoping I can track down the farrier and get Harley's feet done so we can get back on track with our riding. Not only do I miss our long hours together (no visit which includes riding lasts less than 3 hours), I also miss our woodland adventures! And secretly, I think Harley does too.

Monday, August 8, 2011

A Lesson for Harley

Now that Dad mowed the back field, we have a clear, flat place to school Harley. Here's John doing some flat work with him. Watch out Harley, there's a cat in the tall grass! That, of course, spooked him, but John made some progress. Unfortunately, this photo isn't the best. As he worked, Harley dropped his head into a better frame. Every bit of work is another step forward for Harley. The hot, humid weather was better for working in the open (catch every little breeze), than riding in the sticky, buggy, close woods. On days like this, I can't wait for September!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Mr. Pokey goes for a walk

Once again, I got a late start. Every Saturday, I say I'll beat the heat and bugs, get saddled up and ride early. Yeah, right! I did't get to the barn until 10 a.m. after a supposed quick stop at the feed store. But the owner started chatting about other available horses for John and I to ride, horse trailers, trucks, etc. $70 later, I got to the barn in time to catch a trip out with Michelle. We planned to do a partial Jepson Farm/Pike Quarry loop depending on how much time we had.

Mr. Pokey and his buddy, Pinto Pokey (aka Echoe), just weren't in the mood to go far. Poor Michelle sighed at Echoe, "Come on", while Harley lollygagged along, shuffling and tripping over logs, rocks, etc. "Pick your feet up, Harley", I said. Both horses needed some urging to even break into a little trot on some of the best trails for speed. We stopped by the Jepson homestead to watch a red-tailed hawk rising on the currents. Without Echoe by his side, Harley would never have stood that still for that long--a real treat in more ways than one. It wasn't until we made the magical turn for home that their pace suddenly picked up. Then every little hill called for a jog, or in Harley's case, a snorting canter, quartering Echoe. On the last hill, Echoe trotted along, snagging mouthfuls as he went. Harley passed on the inside as I called out, "He who stops to eat, gets passed!" Harley must have thought, "At last, I'm heading down the homestretch, out front." Michelle and I had a good laugh at our boys.

Yes, it was getting hot, and yes, the deerflies and mosquitoes buzzed incessantly, but our steeds were just not that into going far today. An hour and a half later, we were back at the barn, hosing the horses down. I am so looking forward to September and October, when the bugs are gone and the air is crisp. But then, I won't have the long summer daylight. Must be back at the barn by 7:30, 7:00, 6:30, each week, losing a bit more daylight until there's none at all by December. Oh quit your moaning, Lisa, skijoring season will be here soon enough!

I've avoided house work all day, thus far. Harley gives me a great excuse to not get chores done at home. No trip to the barn is less than 4 hours. I too am being pokey, but I'll at least get the equine laundry (pads, girths, flymask) done!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

It was an epic ride...

Yesterday was my longest day in the saddle since my trip counselor days at Catherine Capers! We were out for 4 hours, accompanied by John on his mountain bike for part of the ride. Harley behaved beautifully with only a few sudden stops (turkeys in the puckerbrush, a couple of low-flying broad winged hawks,  and a loose dog circling him). My brave steed even crossed the bridge with me aboard! I rode him most of the way on a loose rein, and even found the gumption to ride a little without stirrups. As you can see from some of the pictures, I could stand to spend A LOT of time without stirrups! 

I admit to being a bit cranky before the ride (bugs and heat). But my choices were trail riding, or a lesson with John--I chose the easy option. Even though it was hot and sticky, we had a great time.Well, at least I did, until the end. John and I missed our connection to switch riders (he was at one location, I at another). Twice, I turned back when I heard a vehicle coming down the road, but it wasn't John. So I rode the entire way home while John was madly cycling back up the trail, thinking Harley might have dashed off leaving me in the woods. And since we only had one phone between us (on me), there was no way of contacting each other.

John's got dibs with Harley for Wednesday and Thursday! We went shopping for a new phone for John after our ride, and as a contingency plan, John suggested we carry chalk to write messages on the road crossings if necessary. Brilliant! Especially since cell phone reception can be spotty where we ride.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The heat wave broke, so we went riding!

Harley wearing his bridle branch at the old quarry.
John took the mountain bike, and I rode Harley. Today's foray was to find a loop ride from the Jepson Farmstead, past Pike's quarry, and back to North Point. Thanks to Michelle's tip, we found the route. It was a beautiful day for a 2 hour ride, although the dang deer flies were a horrendous in the woods. As we used to do at camp, I stuck a maple branch over his poll under the bridle to keep the deer flies from landing out of my reach. Then I carried another to swish them away from his ears and off his neck.

We followed the road around the new pit and came an old unused quarry with rusting equipment and a boom over the hole. Who knows how deep it is. I used to ride past defunct slate quarries at camp and we were warned away from swimming in them due to unknowns depths and equipment possibly under the water. They looked so inviting, yet also held an element of fear.

The road forked in a couple of places. I just kept going to the right. My sense of direction told me that had to be the right way. Once Harley realized where he was, he stepped right out into his "I'm going home" power walk.

Taking a break on Cheney Woods Rd.
From Cheney Woods Road, it's a nice ride down an overgrown trail (watch out for low flying branches). John stopped to move a downed tree and made it into a jump. Harley spooked at it the first time. So I rode him more forcefully at it again and he popped over. But then I got smacked in the face on the other side by a low bough. That trail could really use a hair cut--just enough so you can duck under the branches and ride it in 2 point without taking it in the face!

Except for the bugs, it was an awesome ride. We could have added another loop onto it and gone further--maybe next week. Once we got home, Mr. Klutzy, stepped on his own hoof, caught a clip, and pulled a shoe. Now we'll have to wait for the farrier to come visit. That's my guy, a little clumsy at times.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Evening meander in the woods

Home from the forest
This hot steamy weather doesn't inspire me to ride, but ride we must to keep Harley fit (and the exercise won't hurt me either!). A breeze kicked up as we prepared to leave, but once in the woods, the deerflies were horrible. I planned to do the Jepson Farm loop, only in reverse to keep things interesting for Harley.

About half way through the ride, with flies swarming around us both (nothing works except the face mask) I decided to cut it short. By this time, I'd made him cross a mucky brook (one he's balked at a few times now), and we had a nice trot down the trail through hardwoods and hemlocks. When we reached the beaver pond, I made Harley go off into the open woods, along the pond edge (Yikes, open water). There are a few hardwood stumps showing the chew marks of beaver, but I didn't hear or see any critters. I think the crackling of sticks and needles warned them off.  It was a little after 6 p.m. a good time to see wildlife. I don't know if Harley thinks that's such a great idea, and maybe I'm a fool to try wildlife watching aboard him! As I thought about this, something started screeching across the pond--two foxes? Bobcats? Definitely not housecats! Harley's ears perked up and he swung his head in the direction of the sounds, then started moving away, as if to say, "Time to leave. I don't like the sound of that". But he didn't spook--good boy, Harley. Not there he hadn't already had a few shudders at "things in the woods", but he didn't try to whirl away. We trotted along the trail complete with a nice halt and canter, all done quite gentlemanly. He's doing so well in the space of 15 months.

I think we were both happy to be home--rumbling sounded in the distance, and roiling grey clouds amassed over the barn. Harley got a nice bath, and so did Callie Lou! (Thank you, John.) As you can see, I have a sweet birch fly swatter in my left hand. We may have to invest in a nice whisk, and a neck cover, to keep those pesky bugs off poor Harley. I love the long days of summer, but I'm always glad when the flies fade away with the coming of fall!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Too dang hot!

Sheltering shade before the ride
Both Harley and I were unmotivated last evening. I let him lollygag down the trail while I whisked away deer and horseflies. The air was thick and heavy, the setting sun still bathing us with its heat. We ambled as far as the deadfall I kissed last week (a.k.a. Lisa's tree) and tried bushwacking around it twice, only to give up. Harley was more than ready to turn back for home, and quite honestly, so was I. He was inspired to break into a trot a few times, but otherwise it was a walking tour for the woods.

When I got back to the barn, Michelle was giving Echoe a snack, and just hanging out with a friend. She too, thought it was too hot for riding. Harley ate for a bit, while I groomed him, enjoying Echoe's company. When he'd had enough, I turned him out, just in time for Pete to arrive and bring them back in for dinner. By the time I left, thunder rumbled in the distance, the wind kicked up, and ominous dark clouds hovered over the barn. I raced him, remembering I had laundry on the line and one scared dog.