Saturday, April 30, 2011

One Year Anniversary

Today is our one year anniversary of owning Harley. I know I'm being silly about this, but after longing for a horse my entire life, and then having my wish realized, I savor every moment I spend with Harley. Whether it's riding, or just picking ticks off of his body (they are horrible this spring!), I'd rather spend my my free time hanging out at the barn, just messing around, than anything else. Shoveling manure beats housecleaning chores any day. I think Callie Lou enjoys her time out there as well. To her, it's an extension of her home, and like us, Harley is now part of her pack.
Maybe I'll splurge on a gift for us--a halter nameplate with his registered name: Halawa Moon.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Porkies in the pasture, oh my!

Photo by Gary Beck

Poor Harley, like his stablemate Chey, met up with a porcupine some time yesterday morning. Last week Chey's curiosity got the better of her--yesterday it was Harley's turn. I approached him with carrots and once he sniffed my hand, he threw back his head like it was poison. That's when I noticed the spikes protruding from his chin! We couldn't safely halter him, so we used the lead rope around his head and neck and brought him into the barn. Wielding a pair of forceps, John calmly began plucking them out, while I held and stroked poor Harley. This proved to be quite difficult as he tossed his head up each time John got near his chin. Even with a towel over his eyes, he still threw his head around. After getting all but one out, we took a break and let Harley relax. I held his head, stroking his cheek, murmuring in his ear, until his eyes lost that wild look and he calmed.  I motioned to John to give me the forceps. I snaked in, out of his range of vision, and plucked the last one free. Harley still didn't trust me with carrots, so we led him out back to graze on some fresh grass.

Since he appeared to have no swelling and was happily eating carrots a half hour later, I decided to take him on an adventure. I'd tried to find John's mystery trail once, and failed. This time, thinking I knew where I'd erred, I beat around in the hemlocks,  but still without success. Harley willingly turned around, retracing his steps twice, without fussing until I gave up and said, "Let's find someplace else to go!" We explored a new trail that circled back onto a known route, hearing a barred owl in the forest, and then rode another loop so I could get in a little hop over the downed log. He was stellar! Harley had a new first on that ride too--he took a drink of water on the trail! He's discovered that water isn't dangerous, and sometimes, it just might be refreshing. Good boy, Harley. You're well on your way to being our super trail horse!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

What's that noise?

I got off work early yesterday and zipped out to the barn for a ride. Of course, Harley was caked with mud, probably trying to protect himself from those annoying little flies that showed up with the warm afternoon sun. We were finally tacked up and ready to go by 6 p.m.

As we approached the Orris Falls trail head, I saw a man let his setter out and head up the trail. I couldn't tell if the dog or the owner was emitting a weird whistle sound, but it halted Harley right in his tracks. So I called out, "Is that a training whistle", really just to get the man's attention so he'd see I was on horseback. He told me it was some device for hearing his dog's range (???), but thankfully he stopped, asking, "Is the horse afraid of dogs?"  I replied, "Oh, he's used to dogs, but the whistle sound is spooking him." We got past the pair, picked up a quick trot, and got the heck out of there.

Next came the ever present, ever scary, dreaded trail junction. This time, he tried twice to veer away from the water. One smack settled that! Thankfully, he never saw the duck that flew up out of the brook on the far side of the foot bridge! That would have set us back. I think he's creating a pattern here, so next time, I might try a different approach, avoiding that intersection. I think the dog whistle set the tone for "spookiness" on the ride. He was more than happy to turn back once we reached the hilltop, back to the safety of his gang. Now, if I could just get him to think about height and width when going under low branches and between trees!

Today is a day off--40 degrees and rain. After breakfast, everyone snoozed in their stalls except Harley. He's keeping an eye on the 6 turkeys down in the pasture. I saw one ruff up his feathers for a hen, that fearsome inflatable bird! Harley is tucked away with a pile of hay in ankle deep shavings, peering out the window...just in case.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Harley meets Mr. Tom

Photo by Teddy Llovet

Harley met an interesting fellow yesterday. Curious, he approached a male turkey,  who being in an amorous state, displayed his feathers and sent Harley fleeing to the far side of the pasture. Unfortunately, I missed this entire episode. Poor Harley, now it's turkeys AND ducks that are after him.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Oh the wind and rain...

I took Harley out for an hour and a half on Sunday--our longest ride yet this spring. We attempted to retrace John's steps from the ill-fated ride when they were lost out by Route 9. Unfortunately, I missed a turnoff (the trail appeared to be a brook bed in places) and we came to a halt, our noses stuck in the hemlocks. Rather than bashing through the underbrush, I opted for another loop out to Cheney Woods Rd. Harley tried to pull an "I can't go there!" whirl, but we worked it out and had a nice long ride with lots of water crossings (one that paralleled a flooded stream), some nice trots and canters, and a little jump as well. I even had a first--taking photos from the saddle, through Harley's ears. Leaves swirled in the wind, branches clacked overhead, and those dang ducks flew up out of every vernal pool. It was enough to give Harley a minor coronary, until he realized nothing attacked him after all. What a silly boy!

Yesterday, I decided to mix things up for Harley and head the other direction, down to Orris Falls and maybe up to Emery's Bridge Rd. First, I had to get him away from the barn--I thought we were over that! A light smack with the crop and he willingly walked on. The brook roared with water, and he tried spinning away for home once, then relented and stepped forward. He's made great strides in dealing with water. The loop idea failed when we came to a downed tree (about 4 feet off the ground--not jump-able) we couldn't get around. This meant returning the same way--down some tricky, muddy, steeps spots. Harley pulled his nose forward, asking for more rein as if saying, "Trust me, I'll get us down this", which he did, beautifully. Just to prove he isn't really as spooked as he likes to make us think, he dragged an oak branch, caught up in his tail, without a twitch, for about 20 yards before it released itself. Hah! I knew it, you're not as scared as you seem!  The ride ended with a nice little hop over a downed tree with a collected canter away--until we got to the barn. There was John, setting up cross-rails. In Harley's mind, this ride was over! But John made me take him over once--much to Harley's displeasure--he was so done! It wasn't pretty, but he did it and got a "good boy" pat for his efforts, even if he did think about zig-zagging me off (the little devil)!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Lost on a trail in Maine

John, Callie, and I started today with an 8 a.m. road trip to Dover Saddlery's annual tent sale--oooeee! Too much good stuff and not enough money. We controlled ourselves, and were back home by noon. Then we had to go try our new stuff on Harley.
The sun was shining and the wind blowing, just enough to keep things chilly (I hauled my fleece breeches back out), and the woods beckoned. Harley hopped around, snorting at all sorts of "spooky" things. John rode him out, telling me to meet him at Cheney Woods Rd. where we'd swap riders and I'd ride home. After 45 minutes of waiting, during which I hauled a log out to make a little jump, read the Chronicle, and walked around with dog, I decided to scratch a message in the dirt for John (J. went to N P). I drove back to North Point--no sign of him there, drove back up the road and peered down the turnoff. There he was, waving his arms at me and laughing. He'd taken a wrong turn and wound up a few miles away (as the crow flies).
I hopped aboard Harley for the ride home, complete with a couple of nice trots, a little jump, & a canter. We took a side trail that added an extra loop before heading back out to the road. That's when things got gnarly for Harley. He spooked at blowing leaves, 2 cars passing eachother, and the dogs running behind the barn. He was definitely have a Thoroughbred moment, or two, or three. All I can do is laugh at him when he's like that and know that he's feeling good. Not such a brave boy today, but more like a prankster.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Trotting through the woods

John trotting down the trail

Fun in the sun

Sunny Sunday morning, ready to get tacked up!

Baby steps

Yesterday was gorgeous! For the first time since last fall, my feet were hot. I was overdressed and should have left the vest at the barn except I needed its pockets for carrots and my cell phone.  Why don't they put pockets on riding tights? It seems like such a no-brainer. And clipping my phone onto my boot top is just not an option for trail riding. I know it would get knocked off somewhere in the woods.

I surprised Harley by turning him left as we left the barn. I like to keep things mixed up for variety. John took him up by North Point earlier this week, but I haven't been up there with him since December. This meant passing the goats--Harley looks askance at these creatures. Then it was a pair of wood ducks that kept flying up out of one vernal pool to another (3 times!). Finally we left the tarmac and hit the woods. He splashed through puddles without a twitch, earning pats and "Good boy, Harley" from me. In his usual manner, he stopped a few times and made half-hearted attempts to turn around, but willingly went forward when asked. He kept a wary eye on the loader and truck parked across from North Point (he's convinced these monsters will get him), but walked on by. We had a little trot down the dirt road until he saw a car and heard people in the woods. The car wasn't there last time! And what was in the woods? We couldn't see the people, so it spooked him. Granted he didn't spin, but he tried, and then began backing up rather like a cow pony tightening the rope on a cow! I circled twice, rode him back, urged him on, but each time, he began backing up again. I should have just dismounted and led him past. but I knuckled under and just made him stand and look. Getting him to stand still when he's agitated is in itself, a step forward.

Heading for home, I rode him past the turn off, so we could watch some boys throwing a ball and bouncing it off their roof. I figured it would be a good experience. He watched while I stroked his neck, behaving well. I turned for home, then made him go back to the boys, which he did well--something he never would have done last year without all kinds of agitation. Harley is getting braver by the day. Next time, though, we are going down the road, car or not.

I went back out to the barn last night to put his blanket on. Now that the horses are turned out all night, I want to make sure he doesn't burn off the fat we finally put on him while the nights are still down in the 30's and 40's. John and walked down into the field and Harley ambled up to us, looking for treats. He's certainly used to deer by now as we counted 8 of them in the next pasture over. This must be the same herd John and Harley came across on last week's ride in the woods.

We're in for a stretch of rain, so I need to get back out there today and take some more baby steps. Maybe John and I will do our version of the ride and tie--one rides out, and one rides back.