Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The bog down in the valley-o!

John is stabling Nina with Harley for our week of vacation so we can ride together. This will be good experience for Nina, and we'll have the added benefit of not having to do the switch and ride! I dropped John off at Nina's home and then went out to get Harley. The plan was to meet about halfway and ride back home together. What a trip it turned out to be!

First, I got a late start. Harley was in a lollygagging frame of mind and I had to really push him to step out. I tried to make up for lost time in places where the footing was good and soft. But by September, most of the dirt roads are baked to the hardness of concrete. So we mostly walked, slowly.

As I headed down Dennett Road at a brisk trot, Harley slammed on the brakes--something in the woods to the left! He spun around, only to see a man and two dogs coming from behind! They're coming from both directions, Harley...turkeys, man, and dogs. What's a poor horse to do? The man kindly waited, but I told him to walk past; it would be best for all. Then Harley skirted the turkeys and we resumed our amble down the road. John called and I told him I'd meet him in about 5 minutes. Sure enough, there he was, Nina all ears up, Harley all ears up--who is that horse? 

We made a couple of wrong turns trying to find a short cut to eliminate a long road walk. The logged areas are always so confusing--twisting trails that just stop at a pile of brush, or just peter out. So we opted to try the pipeline route that, theoretically, will take us right to the lower pasture gate. Hah!

Finding the turn offs which resemble game trails more than established riding trails proved to be nearly impossible. We did a lot of bushwacking, resulting in banged knees, elbows, scratched arms, and a load of pine needles down my shirt. Then came difficult stream crossing #1. Now I know Harley has been through this one before, and we're heading home. With some strong leg, he stepped right in and crossed to the other side leaving Nina stranded on the other side. I finally dismounted, holding her line while John urged her from behind. The game little girl nearly jumped the entire stream bed!
John undoing the lead line while Harley watches
Our next attempt at difficult stream crossing #2 proved to be less successful. We seemed to be cut off on the wrong side of a large swamp. John knew there was a crossing somewhere in these dense woods. Harley was bravely bashing head first through the trees, on a quest for home. I think he knew just how close he was. I finally found a spot that had a lot of vegetation and presumed this might be solid enough footing. WRONG! Next thing I know, Harley is belly deep in a quagmire. I launched myself off of him and roll away so he can get himself unglued,  and crawl as quickly as I can for the edge, grabbing at roots.

Poor Harley got out and (thankfully) stood quietly, quivering, on the other side while I spoke in soothing tones and removed his splint boots (all down around his hooves now). I stuffed them in the saddle pad pockets and told John we were striking out for home. I suggested he turn back and make for the road.

We thrashed our way through the woods until we hit the trail leading to the lower pasture gate. When Harley got to the gate, he would have galloped for home if I'd let him. We squelched our way up the hill to the barn where I gave him a nice shower. After being assured everyone was fine, I got laughed at--I was head to toe mud, like I'd just come out of a mud-wrestling pit. About half an hour later, John rode up the road, missing one shoe--another victim to the viscous black mud of the South Berwick bogs. What a grand finale to the ride!

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