Sunday, January 29, 2012

Back in the saddle at last

After 2 weeks of miserable weather and icy footing, we finally got back in the saddles again. Harley was happy to have Rolex along to keep the scary things at bay. She's so steady for an off the track, almost-5 year old. She and Harley took turns leading, although she does a much better job! The trails are still covered in ice and crusty snow, so it was a long road walk today.

photo from Voodoo Creations website
After a recent nearby accident with a car and rider, I'm a bit twitchy about the way people drive around horses. It seems they have no idea what could happen if the horse spooked and jumped into the road. And it's not because they're texting or talking on a phone--they just assume I'm in total control of a 1000-pound animal, the size of a moose. And we do have a horses caution sign on the road near the barn. Fortunately, when both Harley and Roley spooked at birds flying up out of the bushes, a horse owner happened to be behind us and understood the importance of approaching horses slowly.
Voodoo Creations offers a variety of safety vests, some with a more polite British tone than the one pictured. But this one states what I'm really feeling--slow down! These may become necessary as people become more lackadaisical driving past horses, and forget what their state's driver's manual says about approaching horses on roadways. I did have to laugh at a lawyer's website discussing road rules for drivers and riders.  It stated that riders should clean up after their horses. I'd have to have a pack full of garbage bags on every ride! The scarier the environment, the more bags I'd need. Oh, and my packable avalanche shovel? What's this person thinking? Has anyone out there stopped to scoop your horse's poop off the roadway? Hey, it's free fertilizer--my horses are chemical free!

We got back to the barn while the sun was still high enough on the horizon for John to jump on Ruffy for a short road ride. I walked out Harley, spoiled him with carrots, got dinner dished out for the gang, and had a cup of coffee from the thermos.
Help, my cooler is choking me! The peril of petite ears.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Too cold to ride...but not for long lining!

Four below zero this morning. Winter is finally here in earnest, so the shoes need to go. The farrier came to pull shoes and give everyone a trim. They should be all set now until March. That sounds so far away on a frigid January day, but it's only 6 weeks. We spent the morning picking stalls, putting down mats, cooking up a beet pulp/alfalfa dengie mash, and doing other barnyard tasks. Once the farrier was done, my feet were too cold to think about riding. And underneath the snow, are icy patches.  I decided to give Harley a chance to get used to going barefoot, and wait until the trails are in better shape.

Everyone had a nice lunch and then John decided to try giving Ruffy her first long lining lesson. She did beautifully! I was quite impressed with how well she handled this new task--much better than Harley!
Harley and Rolex walked along the fence line, following Ruffy as if to see what she was doing without them. This looked closely Harley; you might learn something.
Both girls seem to be much more level-headed than Harley when it comes to new things. He's a creature of flight first, then he'll dare to take a closer look. Although, for some reason, a truck tailgate isn't too scary. He went up to sniff the one laying in the snow by the barn, and even touched it with his hoof, without freaking out. What a puzzle he can be.

Tomorrow, snow, freezing rain, and then more rain--yuck. And just as the snow cover was getting really good--bummer! The good news--it's still light after 5 p.m.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

What Thoroughbreds do best....

RUN! And there the first race at Pete's Pony Palace. Looks like a dead heat to the end of the fence line, but wait....
Live Merry-Go-Round
Here's Halawa Moon, followed closely by Rolex Girl, but wait, there's an upset, Rough & Ready (This Chic's Got It) is making a move in the wrong direction! So who's winning this race?

And after an exhausting morning workout, what's next? Well how about some hay, guys?
They all went back down the hill and grazed while I mucked stalls. Ah, the life of an ex-racehorse.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

A Frigid Ride...Welcome to January in Maine!

The Gang
Brrrrr..........I think someone said it made it up to 12 degrees today. Well at least we hit the double digits! The water buckets had drinking holes punched in them, the manure pinged off the fork like golf balls, and the horses were feeling rowdy.

I felt like the Michelin Woman (4 layers on top, 2 on the bottom) trying to maneuver my recalcitrant mount past the spooky snow-capped stumps. Mind you, we'd spooked at them yesterday as well, so I should have just dismounted and led Harley. He was no help, and a bad influence, for Ruffy. Unlike the day before, when we half-passed and jigged back up the road, Harley settled down once he realized he'd won and we were heading for home. Except, I pulled a fast one! John stopped at the barn, while I made him keep going, past home and up the road a ways. So there, Harley. You can't always get what you want.  But if you plea and make begging faces, you know you'll wheedle carrots out of my pockets. Oh you rascal!

Tomorrow is another day, and if we go back down the road, I fully intend to get my stubborn steed past the scary stumps. With the frigid temperatures, the road is the best place to ride. A breakable crust coats the snow except in the case where snowmobiles have passed. For once, I see a need for one--to pack out the trails! Orris Falls was snowshoed out, but just barely. It needs to warm up in order to soften the crust. The picture below shows Harley's playful nature,"Come on Vance, let's play tag. Got you, you're it!"
Harley and Vance sparring

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Snow is finally here at last...

One of Snowflake Bentley's gems
But it's supposed to turn into rain! Bah humbug! This is the time of year when I wish we had an indoor arena, or at least a covered arena--someplace to ride where it isn't frozen, lumpy, icy, ground. After this snowfall/rainfall, the temperature is supposed to plummet down to 1 degree Saturday night. Oooh, boy, really frozen, lumpy, icy ground. At this rate, we are in for one heck of a mud season!

Last Sunday, John and I went to a S.M.A.R.T. riders meeting. It's hard to believe we were worrying about bugs, mud, and heat as we sat in a toasty room heated by a wood stove! Look out Harley; we're making plans for your summer fun.The first ride of the year will be close by, another one we can ride to so Mr. Eeyore doesn't have to get on a trailer. After last fall's episode, we haven't revisited it since we have no trailer to train him with.

Last night, as I tucked Harley and the girls into bed (which includes one more carrot, snug blankets, topped of water), asked Harley why he couldn't keep his nice rich bay in the summer instead of fading out to a near dun? John has contemplated keeping them in during the day (shady, less buggy) and then turning them out at night. Another alternative is, or course, using a flysheet. Have any of you fellow bloggers had any luck with flysheets actually keeping your horse(s) more comfortable? Harley stamps away all day at the bugs, and by late summer, begins dropping weight. I used to work for folks who stabled during the day and turned out at night. Any feedback would be appreciated.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Mr. Muddy Pants gets a partial bath

A windy January ride
Today was "roll in the mud day", twice if your name is Harley. John and I got to the barn in the early afternoon and were greeted by one muddy girl and an exceptionally muddy guy. Harley had obviously just been down in the mud again, because one area was dry, and one was wet. I thought I'd have to nix plans to ride since his back and hindquarters were so yucky. And given the blowing wind and cold temperature, a bath was out of the question, or so I thought.

John heated up some water and give Mr. Muddy Pants a good dousing on his butt. He quickly scraped him, then tossed on a sheet and his quarter blanket. I brushed off the rest of the dried mud and we were off. That stiff wind was blowing right up the hill at the barn, so we headed up the road and into the woods where we could duck out of the weather.  John gave the fillies the day off  and just groomed the gals and puttered around the barn while I rode. I feel like quite the prima donna when he acts as groom for Harley and me.

I planned to ride over towards North Point, but two loose dogs, bent on chasing us, put a dent in my plans. After hollering at them, and pointing an uneasy mount in their direction, they turned back, but then resumed chasing us. Soon they gave up, figuring they'd done their job--chased us away. Harley, keyed up even more, jigged a ways down the trail, but settled once we were out of earshot. We did a nice little loop in the woods, complete with a nice canter, a few trots, and a little jump (fallen birch from the high winds) even though we saw the dogs coming back at as again!  He was wired, but behaved quite well what with the wind blowing and the dogs chasing him.

The weather is calling for falling temperatures with the mercury down in the single digits. That will solidify all the mud and cushy footing we encountered today. Back to frozen asphalt-like trails--yuck. Snow would be nice around now--soft footing, pretty scenery, and maybe some skijoring!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A New Year's Day ramble down the road

Anything coming up behind me?
We woke to a frozen crystalline morning. Last night's fog left a slippery coating early today. By late morning, the sun melted the icy roadways. But the woods were another story. Under the trees, in the shade, the frozen ground proved quite icy still. So we opted for a road ride.

Harley hadn't been ridden since last Monday, so he was feeling good and looking for excuses to jump around a little bit. Ruffy behaved quite nicely, braving a barking dog, a nail gun and compressor, and even her first bridge. Harley took one look at the bridge and decided to back up and go in circles. John dismounted and led Ruffy across. She was a star. With her out front, Harley deigned to follow, although he did think she was crazy to head out over the water on the funny sounding roadway. Mind you, he's been over this bridge a number of times, and unless it's in the direction of home, he's inclined to pull his stunts here. I should have expected it and ridden him more forcefully.

We took a detour down a dead end dirt road which has some downed spruce trees blocking the way. It was a good excuse to pop over some little jumps, which Ruffy did with style, and Harley, not quite so gracefully. He was too concerned about being left behind.

Always one to check his back trail, Harley would not stand still for pictures for long--something might come over the bridge, or down the hill--yikes! He was anxious to be home while Ruffy stood still as John clicked away. As you can see, there's ice along the roadside, and I didn't want him dancing over that!
Doesn't he look smashing in his new bitless bridle?