Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Memorial Day Ride

On the Norman Mill Trail
Harley had a good workout on Memorial Day. We did the rider switcheroo again, changing riders a couple of times. The non-rider drove the "sag wagon" equipped with sponge, scraper, water (for humans and horse), carrots, and hay. We'd hoped to get an early start with the temperature predicted to hit the high eighties. But of course, we didn't get to the barn until nine or so. Just as we were about ready to depart, Michelle showed up. She grabbed Echoe, gave him a quick grooming, and jumped aboard. We were off with plans to reach Mountain Road over by Mt. Agamenticus.

Harley was happy to have Echoe out front, keeping any scary things at bay, especially those giant boulders at the top of the lollipop loop. We rode down to the turnoff on Emery's Bridge Rd. where Michelle turned back. Harley wasn't happy to lose his trail buddy and have to head out on his own. With some reluctance, he moved forward, but kept looking back towards Echoe's fading hoofbeats.

I missed one turn and wound up coming to a gated pasture. When I turned back, Harley thought, "Oh good, we're going home." He wasn't happy when I turned him in the other direction. As we emerged on Bennett Lot Rd., I could see the pickup parked at the Normal Trail pullout. John stripped off the saddle and bridle, and we gave Harley and nice wash down. After a little break, and once Harley dried off, we tacked back up, and John headed out towards Mountain Rd.  I drove around to meet him there at high noon where we would give Harley another break and wash down.

By now it was pretty hot, but Harley seemed to be doing fine. John said he'd meet me back at Bennett Lot for another break/wash. When I met him there, Harley, now happy to be heading home, didn't want to stop, so I met him back at Emery's Bridge where Harley, again got washed and this time ate some dampened hay and drank some water. Now it was my turn. I'd ride him back to the barn. He stepped right out, jogging up hills, still feeling strong. He was out for over 4 hours and did very well. John wants to take him on a S.M.A.R.T. Ride trail ride in a few weeks, so we're conditioning him to be ready for a ride 15 to 20 miles long. So far, so good! Good job, Harley

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Harley gets a day off

John wanted to work a young horse this morning, and given her separation anxiety, I tagged along to ride  her stable mate. The filly was full of the dickens, making a possible trail ride look like it might never happen. Once we got John aboard, I straddled the extra-wide gal (think stout quarter horse build), and we headed out. Both were a little spooky--I don't think the older mare has been ridden in over a year! I don't know if I was being foolish, or brave. It was kind of like reliving my old Intercollegiate Show days--get on a horse you don't know (and this time in a western saddle!) and see how it goes! After riding down a woodsy trail which involved much thrashing through the woods, we turned for home. 

I spent too many hours in the sun planting potatoes, squash, melon, cabbage, and carrots (can never have too many carrots). I threw in the towel around 4 p.m. and I still hadn't made it out see Harley. So I dragged myself into the truck, carrots in hand, and drove to the barn.
Harley had a little lunch while I groomed him and picked off ticks. As I brushed, I noticed how glossy he's become in the last week or so. All the winter fuzz is gone! And he's getting more fit with each ride.
Mr. Chow Hound, thinking about being outside with the rest of the gang, keeps trying to walk away on me. I put a rope up in the doorway so he'd think it's a stall guard. And what else are "stall guards" good for? To try and crib on--or just play with. What a silly boy!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Harley heads for the hills with John

Here's Harley in his trail rig--note the missing noseband. John decided the halter under the bridle was enough, and of course, the little fleece roll just gives it a little cushion.

John rode him for almost 2 1/2 hours today, all the way up towards Mt. Agamenticus on some trails we haven't covered since last fall. Harley even braved the little bridge, with some subtle urging and a couple of circles. He even had a gander underneath, expecting trolls, no doubt!

Home from the forest
And once he got home, the lessons continued. John has been working towards training Harley to hobble. This is his first time wearing them, and he got the hang of it pretty quickly. No thrashing, just a bit of confusion, and then resignation, "Oh, so I can't take big steps? O.K." They are made from nice soft cotton, big and cushy!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Rain, rain, go away!

Hey Ma, where are the carrots?
It's now rained every day since last Saturday. My knee is still not quite healed up--if I have to bail out again, the landing wouldn't be pleasant. So if I'm going to miss out on riding, it may as well be this week. Each day I go out to the barn, Mr. Muddypants needs a good solid hour of brushing. If it ever warms up and dries up, Harley is getting a bath! I suspect the mud keeps the bugs at bay; he and Vance are the two pasture piggies.

Last night, I called Harley to no avail. I had to walk within 20 feet before he acknowledged my presence. But it took Vance's interest in my carrot bag to get him to move. Once Vance headed my way, Harley came at a trot--he's not going to miss out on a treat. When I left, I stopped at the bottom of the hill to give Harley a good night pat--he wanted more carrots.

Maine wildlife in the pasture

Those little specks are turkeys; five hens and a large tom. He kept displaying his feathers, totally ignored by Echoe and Chey. Watch out Harley, it's an inflatable bird!
(Click on the picture for a closer look.)

Mom's Day gift

Harley and John's gift--and it's not for a motorcycle!
I saw this at the Kittery Trading Post months ago and had a good chuckle with John about it. Little did I know, I'd receive it for Mother's Day this year. Lord knows, I need to stash the cash for that beast, although he does require eat less than a child, and I don't need a college fund for him!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Here I go again...

Harley was full of himself today--a result of the cool temperature and a day off. He stepped right out as we left the barn, eager to go forward. "This is good", I thought. His ears twitched to the side, like radar homing in on the usual "scary things"--boulders, stumps, culverts. As we trotted, I felt him give slights steps to the side as he eyed these objects.

Anticipating his mood, I decided to avoid an issue at the Big Bump/Orris Falls trail junction, and cut off into the woods on a trail that comes out below the falls. With the spring runoff, the water is still roaring through the ravine. Keeping Harley away from the edge (he was busy looking the other way for deer), we emerged on the main trail and headed up the lollipop loop. I figured he'd try to make a stink at the next trail junction (like he did with John last week--that's another story), but I was ready for his shenanigans.

Everything was going along just fine until I reached 3 Maples Farm where a German shepherd came barreling out of the yard, barking at us. Harley whirled around and tried to head for home. With stirrups flapping in the breeze, I brought him under control, halted, and jumped off. I knew I had to make him go back. With much urging, he walked back up the road, balking when he heard the dog again. The gentleman apologized and asked if he could bring the dog out. He'd only had her a couple of weeks and didn't want this kind of behavior from her. I agreed, providing she was leashed. It would be a good experience for both of them. Harley settled while we talked, and the dog lay down and stayed put. But he suggested we call if we planned to come his way so we could both work on the issue.

I got back on board and we had a pleasant ride through Tatnic Woods, with lots of trotting, but still a lot of ear twitching. Harley was wired up now, and knew he was heading for home. We cut in through the Pick & Shovel, down the Nature Trail, still trotting, when a dang squirrel was Harley's (an my) undoing.

You have to understand, this place has a severe case of Maine Yard Disease: piles of TV's, tires, bedsteads in the trees, giant stereo speakers, shacks with no purpose (Take Out Here--not really), bathroom porcelain. The owners are very nice,  and the trails are awesome; they're just a bit eccentric. The way I see it, it's great exposure to odd things in odd places for Harley. Well it was just too much for him when a squirrel darted amongst the rubble. Harley performed one of his infamous left-hand spins and we parted company. Thankfully, I was between him and home! He walked back up the trail to me as I hobbled forward. My knee felt twisted--should I ride or walk? Riding felt better than walking, although now he was really keyed up. Every little rustle was an excuse to shy. Then a little yappy dog got away from its owners and ran circles around Harley. Why they let the dog go (I'd seen them walking it on a leash a few minutes ago), I'll never know since it totally ignored their calls. Poor Harley--he'd had enough! We jigged/speed-walked our way back to the barn. I sidled him right up to the mounting block and got off onto it, not wanting to jump down on my knee.

So here I sit, with a bag of frozen peas on my puffy knee, and 4 ibuprofen coursing through my body. I'm hoping it's just a sprain and nothing worse, although my range of motion is now reduced to a fraction of what it should be. Why do these things always happen on the weekends?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Another Sunday bike and ride

Harley tricked out for trail riding.

John and I saddled up for another Sunday bike and ride--he on the bike, me on Harley. John, armed with a saw, cleared out some winter blow downs (and made a few jumps), making the trail up to Orris Falls a bit better. I showed him the loop up into the Tatnic Woods, through the Nature Trail land, and home. A nice breeze kept the black flies to a minimum, but the ticks were voracious! I stopped and dismounted (Harley was being fidgety), waiting for John to catch up, and picked ticks off us. The nasty little varmints clung to our legs, heading for juicy territory.

Harley was having one of those, "Yikes, it's a boulder" kind of days. The irony is that the Tatnic region is full of giant granite glacial erratics. For an awesome picture of the biggest in the area, check out this link: Balancing Rock

 With John out front on the bike, we noodled down Emery's Bridge and Tufts roads to Three Maples Farm, where we have permission to cross the property and access Tatnic Woods. Harley nearly dumped me when he spooked at an old screen door against the stone wall. Close one, but I stayed on.

Once we hit pavement again, John detoured home on the road while Harley and I cut through the woods. It was worth the ride--a nice canter, some nice trots, and just as we reached home, a sharp-shinned hawk swooped near our heads as it veered back into a tree. Two days ago, I saw a red-tailed hawk, and last week, a broad-winged. I've got a new hobby--birding by horseback.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Harley goes on a picnic ride

Today's weather was perfect; light winds, cool, and sunny. Our Sunday adventure was a picnic ride with me aboard Harley and John on his mountain bike. This also offered us an opportunity to clear out some branches and establish the route in my head so I can ride it alone.
So with John equipped with a hand saw, and Harley with saddlebags, we set out through the woods. Once past the clear cut and across the stream, the trail's marvelous footing allowed for nice trotting almost the entire way until it ended at an abandoned farm. We rode past the house and up into the woods where the Jepson family cemetery offered a perfect picnic spot. We unbridled Harley and let him graze, although he was a bit agitated and kept looking back towards home. John had packed sandwiches in the saddlebags and while I munched, he walked Harley around--John saved his sandwich for later. We continued up Jepson Rd., a lightly used dirt lane, until we came to a fork. At this point, unsure where to go, Harley headed off down a faint pathway that came to an abrupt end. All the stopping, waiting, standing--not Harley's strong points, got him anxious and he began grinding his teeth. Once we turned around, he jogged nearly all the way back to the farmhouse. As John picked up speed, Harley decided to give chase, until--YIKES, a snowmobile under a tarp! He shied sideways, nearly losing me. Back in the woods, we speed-walked and trotted until we reached the tarmac. As always, Harley was happy to be home with his gang. It was a great ride, but we need to find a route that allows us to make a loop from the old farmhouse. The ever-intrepid John will explore further tomorrow! And next time, I'll bring my camera.