Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Beware low-flying ducks!

Yesterday was a repeat of howling winds, leaves spinning like mini cyclones, and cold air blowing under Harley's tail.  I almost considered not taking any chances as he'd spooked twice just getting up to the barn. But once I started brushing him, especially his face, (hypnotizing Harley) he quieted down, hanging his head into the crook of my arm. I decided not to be a chicken and got on board.

We ambled down the Orris Falls trail, Harley looking hard at squirrels darting across his path. I could sense him tensing up at one of his "blind corners" and pushed him onward. We got to the trail junction where he once again, tried heading for home over Big Bump. Circling twice, he gave up and relented. We were just getting to the brook crossing when two ducks flew up out of the beaver pond.  He threw his head up, but surprisingly didn't spin. Through the water, through some ankle deep snow (still!), up to the downed beech tree blocking the trail, everything went just fine--my big brave boy. We turned back for home, and as we approached the brook, he suddenly spun left (as always), expecting another duck scare. Of course they were long gone, over in New Hampshire by now, but poor Harley didn't know that. We stopped, had a good gander at the pond, and quietly headed for home. We even got in a couple of quiet relaxed trots.

When I think back to where we were last summer with him, Harley has come a long way. I'm looking forward to getting out on the trails with some of the other local riders. He definitely needs more group riding experience before I'd deign to take him on an organized trail ride. It will just take time and mileage. Sometimes he amazes me, and sometimes I just have to laugh--another Thoroughbred moment.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Winter is back...

Howling winds and icy temperatures put me off, but I had to get on board Harley and ride. Experience and time in the saddle are what we both need. The windows rattled in the barn and the wind whistled around the corners. I thought it might be an interesting ride...and I'd forgotten the cell phone. But I told myself, "Go on, don't feel like you need the phone for safety. Use your head. If things get dicey, bail out."

Harley surprised me and behaved well. Oh, he had his usual semi-spooks at squirrels running through the woods and leaves blowing. But you never know what might be lurking around the corners and he's convinced the swamp demons are out to get him. We had a minor backing up, side-stepping issue. I just rode him away till he settled, then turn back and urged him forward. Assured no demons lay in wait, he splashed through the muck and snow until we hit the trial junction for Big Bump and Orris Falls. Now that he's been over Big Bump recently, he's decided that's the way to go (and it's the shortest route to home). After mucking about in the the mud and snow, circling, bashing into the woods, and much teeth grinding (Harley grinds his teeth when he's agitated), I decided to avoid working him into a dither and head back home (but not his way). He pranced and jigged a bit, then settled into a nice walk. The footing changed from ice to mud to dry duff rapidly, allowing for only short trots, but Harley kept his head, even though he really wanted to go faster. By trails end, he walked nicely on a loose rein, hopping over a downed log, and moving away at a calm trot.

The winds continue to blow today. I'm off to work this morning, but will ride tonight. Snow is in the forecast for Wednesday and Thursday. Yup, it's spring in Maine!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Happy Birthday, Halawa Moon!

Harley celebrated his 9th birthday yesterday by tossing John--a little birthday buck! Poor John, hobbling on a sore knee, hiked back up to the barn to find Harley standing in the paddock, reins dragging in the mud, looking innocently at him as if to say, "What? It was scary down in the woods and then suddenly you were down in the dirt below me."
John got back on and took him for a nice long ride back through the woods on the lollipop loop trail. Harley worked his kinks out and broke a little sweat, allowing John to ride him home on the buckle. Now that's more like it, my bad boy!
As I was driving to work yesterday, I'd been thinking about what was the best way to have a long lead line safely attached to me should the same thing happen (which it has) so Harley doesn't get away from me and head for home. I must have jinxed John. But it might be a good idea for me to have a backup plan for when 'ole Harley is feelin' snarley and might pull that stunt again.
When I visited Harley after work, he was coated in mud on one side. How he loves to roll after a ride. He got a good currying, hair and mud flying off. I offered him a birthday treat of maple sugar which my Maryland-bred son declined to eat. It's carrots all the way for him--none of New England's finest spring treat!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Vernal equinox ride

We had another beautiful day for a spring ride with light breezes and a warm melting sun. The trail into Orris Falls is slowly melting, except under the evergreens, where packed snow and ice remain. Harley forded the fast-flowing brook without a twitch. I think he's finally getting over his water phobia. We could hear the water roaring through the chasm at Orris Falls, as well as through the beaver dam. Harley had to look long and hard at that dam and the noise it emitted. We reached the cut through the swamp which was still iced over, and opted for the trail instead. He balked at the next water crossing--I think he was slipping down into the mud and was a little unsettled by the footing. I wanted to end on a positive note, so we sat and watched the woods and water before turning back. Once again, I turned him down the road away from home. He grudgingly accepted that the ride wasn't over yet. He headed down a dead end road (last time we were here, he took off with me) then attempted a shabby turn on the forehand before returning to home. This may be a last warm ride for a while--snow and rain forecasted for tomorrow.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The fur is flying...

The thermometer hit 60 degrees today and Harley is shedding up a storm. All the horses are losing their winter fuzz with the warm spell. The blankets came off and aired out in the sunshine, the barn doors were opened wide for the fresh breezes. Spring has sprung and we're all raring to go.

I rode for the first time without gloves or mittens since October. We splashed through mud and slushy snow, clomped over ice and made it all the way up to the trail junction between Orris Falls and Big Bump. Harley was convinced the boogie man lurked up in the woods. I suspect it may have been a deer. We turned around and headed back, prancing where footing permitted. He wasn't happy when I urged him down the road, away from home, but grudgingly headed where I pointed his noise. The trip back proved to be entertaining, one kid on a bicycle and one in a plastic wagon, you know, the Fisher Price brand that rumbles down the road. He wanted no part of it, but he needed to pass it if we wanted to get home. The people graciously stopped until we passed, walking at a brisk pace, on the verge of a trot. As usual, Harley was relieved to get home. Me, I'm always happy to make it back to the barn in one piece.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Spring Fever

We all have spring fever, including the horses, and especially, Harley. After being snowbound for so long, he's looking forward to stretching his legs and raising a ruckus. With his world shrunken down to the barn, the upper paddock, the bottom of the hill, and a little trail meandering out along the fence line, the Harley wants to let loose and have a gallop. Last night, he was kicking up his heels and chasing the others around the upper paddock. Yes, it was dinner time, but he needs someone to play tag with. The old bachelors take only so much grief before they strike out at him, is if to say, "Leave me alone. I'm too old for this!" Chey is in her own corner with her besotted boyfriend Echoe, who snaps at Harley if he even approaches his gal.
Yup, spring is finally making some headway as the snowbanks recede, the ice melts off the driveway, and the sun stays up a little longer each day. Good thing Harley has a nice long mane--I may be grabbing it for dear life pretty soon!