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.

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Echoe Factor

Harley is a different horse when we're riding with Echoe and Michelle. Echoe is his best buddy and trail riding mentor. In his mind, always follow Echoe (even when you and your rider can barely fit), do what Echoe does (stop and munch), and always take the shortest route home (even if it mean bushwacking through the deadfalls). He likes to quarter Echoe, almost like he's being ponied at the track. This also means Michelle can reach out and give him a rub, or he can rub his sweaty head on Echoe's side. So in an attempt to get Harley to lead, I had to switch him with my 12 inch leafy birch twig (doubles as a fly swatter). He reluctantly stepped out, only to fall back when he realized Echoe wasn't right behind him. Sometimes it's easier to just give in, especially when it's 85 in the shade, and so humid the rocks are sweating. Harley can be a handful though, if the pace is anything but a walk. Suddenly his racing life comes back, and he needs to pass Echoe (even if the trail is only one horse wide), or run up on his rump. This doesn't work so well, so I need to be out front. Then his canters are much less of a snorting, dash, and more relaxed.

Our July 4th ride was hot and steamy, but he was a good boy. Dashman, the dog, had a blast, jumping into every bog wallow he could find, and scaring the bejeezus out of Harley when he splashed out of each mudhole. Good dog, Dash! Oh, settle down, Harley! Poor John was across town, riding little Nina and spending as much time going sideways as forward. As a treat, he can ride Harley late this week.

I killed a little time this weekend looking at Harley's auction history online. I knew he sold for $50,000 as a youngster at Keenland, where he went into training at New Episode Training Center in Ocala, Florida. They must have had high hopes for my boy since this is the facility that trained Funny Cide. A year later, he was sold at auction for $8000. He ended up at Suffolk Downs in claiming races. Oh, how the mighty Halawa Moon had fallen. He may not have had the speed, but he's proven to John and I that he certainly has the staying power. And now he's living the life of Riley in our corner of Maine, munching grass (and lots of grain, in true Thoroughbred fashion), going out on adventure rides, and hanging out with the gang. The biggest stress he faces now is how to get past those scary goats or giant boulders without being eaten! I think he knows he's landed in a safe place, with lots of mollycoddling and friends.