Tuesday, June 28, 2011

I fought the log and the log won!

I'm thinking a lacrosse helmet, with full face mask, might be the way to go for trail riding. What started off as a great ride, turned into a bloodied brisk walk home and a trip to the E.R.

John was at the other barn, riding Nina again, and I'd planned to do a short ride, the lollipop loop, so I could get back and pick him up without too much waiting. Harley was at the top of hill, swatting flies when I got to the barn. I groomed him, saddled up and headed out. It was a warm night, and the bugs were noisome, but not terrible. He ambled along at a slow pace until I urged a trot out of him. He was in a lazy mood, I guess. No troubles at the trail junction (where he usually tries to turn for home), no troubles when he got through the clear cut, and no troubles at the scary rocks (giant glacial erratics seem to terrify Harley). I thought, "He is awesome tonight. What a good boy, Harley."

Once we turned for home, he stepped on the gas, doing his power walk stride. Up and over Spring Hill we went until a downed tree stopped us. I decided to jump down and try to get between the tree and a witch hazel sapling caught underneath. Maybe I could free the sapling and get by. Well, Harley tried to bull his way under and that didn't work. So he started backing up, unknowingly catching a limb from the downed tree on his saddle pad. I saw it poking him and tried to move him away, unwittingly letting in snap free, right into my face.

I stumbled backwards, trying to keep hold of Harley, and realized blood was pouring onto the ground. I took off my trusty bandanna to staunch the flow, but it was quickly soaked. Harley was only a little rattled by my stumbling around, but I felt a little woozy when I tried to remount. So I thought I'd walk a bit. Then I realized I had a chunk of lip hanging and called John. Of course, he couldn't do much. He was miles away with another horse. I filled him in on my escapade and said I was heading back to the barn and would be over at the other barn a.s.a.p.  By now, I felt less lightheaded and remounted Harley (thank you for standing still for me, my boy) and we race-walked back to the barn. I didn't want to get him too hot--the sooner I cooled him out, the sooner I could get my lip sewn up!

Poor Harley got a quick wash down, not the usual hour I spend doting on him, post-ride, and booted out into the pasture. I raced over to meet John, where I was given a bag of ice for my messed up face.
Off the hospital we sped, where I got three stitches. But what I sight I am!

When I got to work, the first words I said was, "This wasn't Harley's fault." He was my four-legged ambulance until I reached wheels.  Later this week, I have a date with a tree and my trusty axe!

Harley takes the lead!

Harley likes being in the front, he just wasn't able to stay there long enough to be a winner at the track. But he was stellar on Sunday when he led Nina (the horse John is schooling) out on a trail ride. When she first caught sight of him, she whinnied, more than happy to trail along with his company. Both horses proved skittish crossing some mucky water and going into Knight's Pond. Nina proved braver than Harley; he needed a few smacks and Nina out front to cave in and get wet. Of course, there was some tooth grinding, but he eventually realized the pond wouldn't swallow him.

We parted company about half way, John riding Nina back, and Harley happy to be heading home. He briefly realized Nina wasn't along and paused a few times, then decided, "Ah, the heck with her, I'm going home."

I rode down familiar trails I hadn't ridden in about a year. What a difference this time! All those puddles that Harley refused to go in before, he gallantly paddled through without a twitch. He had a few "hard looks", not really spooks, at some stumps and large rocks, the usual "monsters", but was awesome the whole way home. What a big brave boy, Harley!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Halawa Moon Hits the Trails

Lunch stop
7:30 a.m. John and I arrived at the barn and fed Harley. The rest of the gang stood outside, swishing at the flies, wondering when they would get their meal. He gobbled it down while we groomed him and gathered our gear in the cool morning air for the day's 15 mile trail ride.  Bright sunshine set last night's rain steaming off the barn roof. Brushed and tacked, I sent Harley and John down the road with plans to meet at a dicey bridge crossing.

While we waited on John & Harley at the bridge, Callie and I explored the plant life and wildlife along the ditches. The roadside looks like a forest primeval; dripping hemlocks with an understory of bunchberry, rhodora, cinnamon fern, tall avens, wintergreen, clintonia, and bunchberry. I inhaled the odor of earthy, damp woods while frogs leaped in and out of mud puddles. Then I heard the clop of Harley appoaching. Head high, peering ahead at the construction equipment and roadside markers, he gave John a few whirls and some reverse gears before I intervened. To save energy and time, I led him across, past hoses snaking over the bridge, spewing up little streams of water (to cure the concrete), large idle machinery, and other scary construction debris. I'd hook up with them at the ride's start, in about another mile.

10:00 a.m. Riders began heading out as others were just arriving. Horses of all shape, size, and color along with riders of the same, passed by me as I got back in the truck and headed to the lunch stop where I'd act, once again, as part of the sag wagon support team.

12 noon: Voices came from the woods as riders began appearing. Then along came my boys, emerging from the hemlock forest. Harley was doing well, and everything was going fine, except for the cheapo bitless bridle which broke. Good thing John had a spare! We stripped the tack from Harley, gave him a wash and a chance to drink and have some treats. One rider asked me, "Is he done for the day?" I said, "No, just putting on a dry girth and saddle pad." She replied, "I want to come back in the next life as your horse!" Yes, he's spoiled. No other riders had the luxury of a waiting groom and fresh gear!

Can I go home now?
3:00 p.m. I sat under a tree reading, waiting for John and Harley to arrive. As his group came out, he said to the rider with him, "There's his owner, right there", pointing at me. It turns out John met up with a woman who knew Harley when he boarded at her stable. What a small world.

John told me Harley jogged most of the way back and asked if I wanted to hack him home. Sure enough, he jogged most of the way with me too. As usual, he was anxious to be back safe at home. I asked John how he would grade Harley's performance. "B+ heading out, but when he saw horses in front of him, he wanted to be out in front of them. It's in his breeding Coming home, a C-.
Oh Harley, I see we still have some work to do. But what a good boy--all said and done, he did about 20 miles handily.

Harley thinking this is the park class, but looking good!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Another rainy week ahead...and Harley's Big Ride!

John has dodged raindrops all week in an attempt to keep Harley's exercise regimen on course. They are registered for Harley's first organized trail ride this coming Sunday. Since we don't have a trailer, John will have to add an extra few miles to the planned 15 mile ride. I'm the support system and chief groom. This will be a proving ground for Harley--how he goes with a large group of horses, none from his herd! His conditioning and stamina should be fine for this ride--John gets to be the guinea pig jockey!

Harley seems happy with the bitless bridle John bought. In fact, he seems more relaxed--no grinding jaws when he's agitated. I'm anxious to see how Harley does and have crossed my fingers for this cold rainy weather to break. The forecast is hot and sunny, which also means the bugs will be back!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A Weekend Spent in the Saddle

I took a few days off (originally to attend my college reunion), but due to the expense, opted to stay home and get things done around the garden, the house, etc. Of course, I was easily sidetracked by Harley and the glorious weather. I'd much rather spend time in the saddle, than cleaning and doing other household drudgery. My garden is suffering from lack of attention--those poor seedlings are in serious need of spreading their roots!

So I gardened for awhile, then escaped to the barn! To keep things fresh and interesting, I rode Harley  out to the old Jepson farm. The bugs haven't been too bad yet, due to chilly nights and stiff breezes. We took a different trail back, encompassing an extra loop out past North Point. He did very well; better in the woods than on the road. Our only hiccup in a nearly perfect ride was a dog running out of the woods at him. He's a little twitchy about barking dogs in the underbrush--the natural instinct to flee takes over. Thankfully, the owner got the dog after a little whirling and some side-stepping.

Sunday was a short ride--only out to Orris Falls and over the hilltop. The trail is still blocked by a downed tree, so we had to backtrack part of the way. For an added bit of excitement, we went up to Big Bump and under the power line, coming out behind the Savage's house. There's always something for Harley to gawk at and snort about: a big black snowmobile trailer, the deer target, a snowplow, and this time, a moving tractor! Yikes! I took the easy way out, jumped off and walked him down the drive and  up the road. Good thing too--passing the goats proved interesting. They had the nerve to "baahhh" at him! That sent him over the top as he pranced back to the barn.

Harley commenting on the proposed route
Yesterday was the topper! We planned to explore a new leg of our "Agamenticus" route. What was purported to be a two and a half hour ride, of course, turned into about four and a half. The weather was perfect, though, not too hot, with a nice breeze, keeping bugs to a minimum. Michele arrived in time to join us. John and I did the ride switcheroo, using the "sag wagon" to bring water, and carry Michele's dog, Dasher, around the road portions.

John rode all the way out and I rode back. We found our way (good thing I had the map) through the "unknown" portions of the trail, encountering bridges and a bit of muck, but overall, a great loop. Harley was awesome, especially so with the calming support of Echoe at his side. The only scary bit was the pig--yes, Harley saw his first pig, I believe, and was only sure about one thing--we needed to get away! He pranced the rest of the way down the road until he was back on a familiar trail, the last leg leading homeward.