Sunday, December 25, 2011

A new day, with a little snow...Merry Christmas!

Ruffy & John
We got in our Christmas ride, just barely. With dinner to prepare, family coming, we had to get an early start today. And the frost on the storm door gave us a hint at the temperature! By the time we left for the barn, the mercury had crept up to 26 degrees and it was beginning to snow...Brrrr!

Rolex didn't want to come up to the barn with Harley, so John went and grabbed the next available filly--Ruffy. The promise of carrots was enough to lure her up the hill. Given our shrinking window of opportunity, we decided to go for just a short ride. The ground is so frozen it sounds just like the pavement. So rather than traveling the well-packed Orris Falls Trail, we headed over towards North Point where the footing is a bit more forgiving. And rather than crashing through icy puddles and muck, we crossed (or in Ruffy's case, led) where the muck is just a narrow frozen brooklet. We hooked a loop back through the woods and through what might be someone's deer camp, a trailer complete with lawn furniture, an outhouse, a bathtub (?) and propane tanks. Of course, Harley took one look and the empty chaise longe frame and whirled back towards Ruffy.  With  his new bitless bridle, I'm not concerned about holding him in place when he tries to whirl. And of course, he realized it was not that scary and pranced past it. Always testing, testing--that's what I get for not riding him hard when we approached the place. I should have known he'd pull one of his little stunts. The other good thing about the bitless bridle is he doesn't pull his head down and start grinding his teeth and champing the bit, a sign he's agitated or anxious--he calms down much quicker, relents and moves forward. And anyway, what's a winter ride without at least one whirl! That's my boy!
A grinning gal and her horses on Christmas day

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A sad day for us

We had to put Callie Lou down yesterday. The barn "guard dog", chief spilled grain gobbler, and Harley's best buddy will be fondly remembered. I missed the sound of her paws thudding down the barn aisle last night, heading for Harley's stall where she'd clean up grain dribbled by our cribber. She's sorely missed this holiday season.
Best buddies

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A cold day for riding, and a first (in a long time) for me!

Rough & Ready, ready to go
I looked at the thermometer this morning around 8:30 and it was up to 19, not too bad I thought. But we had a hard time getting ourselves motivated to leave the wood stove and head out to the barn. John started some chili in the slow cooker while I lounged around drinking coffee until we realized we'd be on the other side of high noon if we didn't get going!

The horse were sunning themselves down the hillside, out of the wind, munching on hay and soaking up what heat they could from sun. I almost felt guilty bringing Harley and Ruffy into the cold barn. We tacked up, and headed out towards North Point. Harley, after having a few stops at "scary things" was not setting a good example for Ruffy, as John pointedly announced.  But not much further on, Harley redeemed himself. Ruffy would not cross the stone wall, even after John dismounted and tried to lead her. So I took hold of the reins, and led her, with John urging from behind. She must have decided Harley was like a "pony" at the track, and followed willingly.

Harley looking for dinner
We ran into Rebekah out for a ride from North Point, unfortunately going the other direction, . John wanted to do the Jepson loop, but I didn't want to wade through frozen  deep water. So rather than turn back, we opted for a shorter loop which only had minor water crossings. With skim ice on on the puddles, standing water, and slow streams, I had to urge Harley forward, but he behaved smartly, assessing the footing and slowly picking his way through. Ruffy, on the other hand, was spooked by the ice, frozen frost-heaved ground, and tried bulldozing her way through it all. With Harley out front, it kept her from charging through the worst of it.

John wanted to see Ruffy under saddle, so we swapped horses so he could observe her. This is the first time I've ridden a four year old since my college days, and the first-ever directly off the track OTTB. She felt so different compared to Harley--narrower, and at that weedy, green stage where she's still not sure of all the aids, and moving over uneven terrain. But such a good girl, with such a sweet face.

Once that sun started slipping down, the temperature really began to drop. We put everyone in early with a pile of hay and alfalfa dengie for Harley and the gals. Blanketed, and snug for the night, we shut off the lights. By 5:00 p.m. with only an orange glimmer on the horizon, we headed home, anticipating a hot fire, and a warm bowl of John's chili!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Afternoon delight

Ruffy ready to go
After a few days of blustery cold weather, the temperature rose a bit this afternoon. I hurried home from work (as usual on my short Mondays), jumped into riding togs and zoomed out to the barn. John already had Harley cleaned up, waiting in the cross ties for tack.

Another local equestrienne, home from college for the winter break, stopped by the barn. John asked her to join us for a little ride. She happily got on board Rolex Girl.

Harley was in a fidgety mood, pacing in circles, ready to go, until I put him out front. Then he got all cautious on me--ears up, looking around, anticipating those scary goats up the road. I really had to ride him hard to keep him stepping out. Once in the woods, he relaxed somewhat, but he still cocked an ear at stumps and rocks that haven't moved--ever. Once Ruffy passed him, he willingly gave up the lead, his head came down, his ears flopped out, as if to say, "Whew, I'm off the hook. Now she can keep an eye out for scary things."

Rebecca on Rolex
Meanwhile, Roley  happily walked along, not a care in the world, willing to go last at an even walk. It's hard to believe she ran her last race only a month ago and is only 4 years old. She willingly goes through the muck now, and thinks about where she's putting her feet.  Her unflappable nature puts Harley to shame. He, on the other hand, wants to be second, not first, and certainly not third--then he has to worry about what might be coming up behind him.

We rode over to the Nature Trails, amidst the lawn furniture (which Roley had to investigate, and Harley swerved around), televisions, stereo speakers, and other detritus. It's a good place for desensitizing horses to unfamiliar items in unusual locales.

Once we turned around, Ruffy and Harley began to strut their stuff. Ruffy pranced and Harley started grinding his teeth, prancing sideways, acting more like a juvenile than the girls! And of course, when I held him back, he began cantering sideways. I think he really wanted to let off some steam today! Roley stepped over the stone wall, but after Ruffy jumped it, Harley decided to do the same--something he's never done over the thousands of times we've crossed it. He gave quite a bounce--a Hail Mary jump for me. His grand finale move was spooking at the goats which were not even out of the barn, but he knew they were there--just watching! What a silly guy. I just laugh at his antics when he's like this. Maybe on Saturday, we'll go for a longer trek that includes some nice cantering to burn off some energy.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A cold windy day for a ride

I whistled for Harley to come up, and of course, the whole gang came with him. Then something spooked the herd and the girls took off back down to the field. Harley stood undecided until he heard my crunch on a carrot.

When we reached the barn door, he snorted at the upended wheelbarrow I had drying in the sun. And then he would only nibble on his grain as he paced back and forth, back and forth, peering out the barn at passing traffic, noises from next door, blowing leaves...whatever. I thought, "Oh boy, this should be a good ride. But this time, last year, I probably would have chickened out and asked John to school him first.  Once I had him tacked up, I rode out back, deciding a little flat work might be good to get the vinegar out of him. He was actually, very good. Oh the trots got a little quick and he tried once to head back to the barn, but on a whole, he did very well, listening to my legs and seat.  We had some nice canters, and on the correct leads, I might add. He was such a good boy, he deserved a little walk in the woods before it got too dark!

Back at the barn, Harley finished his snack, snug in his cooler, while I got the girls' stalls ready. They will be in tonight--it's a full moon and the temperature is dropping down into the teens. Tomorrow, highs in the 30's. More fun riding!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Oh Harley was a racehorse...

Rolex Girl & Harley on the Orris Falls Trail
I've written my own version to the tune of Stewball:
Oh Harley was a racehorse,
And now he is mine,
He likes to have breakfast
At a quarter to nine.

His saddle is leather,
His bridle is not,
And the lump between his ears,
Is a giant big knot.

His girlfriend is Ruffy,
A great big bay mare,
And when we cross water,
Oh my, what a pair!

Blah, blah, blah...more verses to come. Singing does two things for Harley, keeps his mind off scary things (I watch his ears swivel back toward me) and I scare away those scary things--birds, deer, squirrels, etc. , especially when its getting dark and the monsters come out.

He was quite jumpy Saturday. In fact, I had to get off and lead him onto the Orris Falls trail. Barking dogs, yelling kids, and cars parked at the trailhead made him come unglued, something he hasn't pulled since last year. He whirled to the left, then would only go in reverse.  I don't like a dancing horse on the road, so I jumped off and walked him into the woods. Everything was going fine until 2 hikers appeared, and one had a walking stick--YIKES! He walked past, eye and ear cocked to the side, watching, and when the walking stick moved, he jumped sideways. I laughed,  "Oh he's just scared of the dark." Since it was getting dark fast, I took him down the trail that parallels Orris Falls. Again, he kept a wary eye on the rushing water and chasm off to our left. "You're OK", I told him, stroking his neck. We speed-walked the rest of the way home.

Actually, he's not that bad, but come winter, when the wind is gusting through the woods, and leaves swirl in dervishes, he's just a bit jumpy. Ruffy, now with us for about 4 weeks, isn't keen to cross water, but today, Harley pulled through (although he thought about ducking out), leading the way for her through the brook out by Jepson's, and through two very deep flooded spots on a 4WD road. Always happy to be heading home, he doesn't miss the turn unlike Ruffy who still doesn't know her way around the hinterlands and walked right passed it.

John switched tack onto Roley after washing down and blanketing Ruffy, leaving her munching on hay in her stall. Harley had a snack while he waited, then it was off again. By now we were losing daylight, so we went on a short jaunt up the power line (S. Berwick's version of that Tevis Cup climb you see horses scrambling up) to the Big Bump trail and down across the water at the head of Orris Falls, just so Roley could get some more experience dealing with water crossings. Both horses seemed to be in lollygag mode, so we ambled home and stopped for pictures. The sun was setting, lighting up the trees with a rosy glow--another glorious sunset tonight.

Oh, and just to set the record straight, Harley usually gets breakfast before 8:45, and the non-leather bridle is a beta Dr. Cook's Bitless bridle (when John's not using it on the fillies), and finally,  although he can be right bugger sometimes and act foolish, he's my best boy, and I love him.