Monday, February 27, 2012

How sweet it is!

We finally tapped the trees today! And the sap was spurting the minute we put the spiles in...a good year I hope. I still have some syrup from 2010 in the fridge, which is a good things since we never got to it last year. And last year's run was very short! I'm anticipating another short run this year given how warm a winter we've had. Maybe I'll try again to see if my southern bred horse will want to sample some maple sugar on his birthday. Harley wasn't interested in it last year--pass the carrots please!

After tapping the trees we made a run to the feed store. That swallowed up more of our precious daylight hours. Then we did stalls and John fussed on Ruffy.
At 4:45 he said, "Are you going to throw a saddle on that fuzzy boy?"

I figured by the time he was brushed and tacked, it would be 5:00, leaving us about a half hour of daylight. Ah, what the heck, he was a good boy the last couple of days in the gusting winds, a perfect gentleman with only a couple of minor spooks. I'll give him the day off, and anyway, he needs his feet trimmed. So Harley got a break, and may have the rest of the week off given the weather prediction: snow mixed with rain, yet again. I'm ready to throw in the towel on winter. Let's just get to spring at this point!

So John took Ruffy out back and gave her a little time on the lunge line. She was feeling good, and really wanted to go back to the barn to eat with her pals, but John made her do some circles.
John having a tête à tête with Ruffy

She wasn't too happy about working while everyone else was having dinner, but she made an effort.

All right, I'll go in a dang circle!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Your First OTTB....from Natalie Keller Reinert's Retired Racehorse Blog

If you have not seen Natalie's blog, you should check it out. If there ever was a passionate supporter of retraining OTTB's, Natalie is it! She's making OTTB's  the new buzz word among equestrians.  I loved her recent posting Your first OTTB...Do Tell! Here are people's stories (including mine) of how they got their first OTTB, many of them heartwarming, or inspiring.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Workin' Hard on President's Day

Muddy ponies
We spent today fixing fences and gates, most of them the demise of my cribber, Harley. John drove the truck down with spare boards and hay bales. Once we spread out the hay, the gang munched for awhile, then decided to come see what we were up to and sniff our pockets for carrots.

It was warm enough to remove blankets and let them air out in the sun. Of course, once they were undressed, Harley and Rolex had a nice roll in the mud. While we were down fixing a gate, Harley cribbed (post carrot fix), and Rolex had to investigate the stuff hanging on the fence. Ruffy, well she just wanted to stick with her sorority sister. And the two geezers, Vance and Gator, they started in eating all the hay laying about for the taking! Smart boys.

We got in a short ride up into Orris Falls, which is still pretty icy in places, and then up past Big Bump and out behind the Savages house. Both Rolex and Harley were in lolligag mode. No nervous, spooky OTTB's today. We had to really push them down the trail, until Rolex realized we'd turned for home and picked up the pace. We only rode for thirty minutes when we reached the barn again, so then we practiced "trail class skills"--opening the gate from horseback, and then closing it, still mounted. Rolex was a star; Harley thought I was making him go back down the road at first, and balked. But after three tries, I got him through the gate. Then John ambled down through the herd to the fence line where he turned around and had a nice canter back up the hill. Harley thought this looked like fun and joined in. Then the rest of the gang thought it might be a race to dinner! We started a minor stampede.

The last day's chore entailed repairing Harley's stall gate. He cribbed it right off the latch last night and broke it! All the while we're hammering, drilling, and replacing screws, Harley's got his head right in the middle of things. This is the horse I expected to back off into the corner and snort at us, but no, he actually had his nose resting on the revolving drill head! I think it was lulling him to sleep as his lids began to droop and his head sagged. I had to pull his nose out of the way so John could see what he was doing--what a silly boy.

Snoozing in the February sun

Friday, February 17, 2012

Happy Birthday Rough & Ready, aka Ruffy, fka This Chic's Got It

The birthday girl Ruffy  with her bff Rolex
Today is Ruffy's real birthday, rather than the Jockey Club's official Thoroughbred birthday of January 1st. She's five today!

Here she is, hanging out with Rolex Girl, waiting to come in for dinner, but still enjoying the evening sun, high on the horizon at five p.m. (after the girls harassed poor Gator back down the hill). These two remind me of catty high school girls, sometimes--I feel sorry for the geldings!

Swiveling ears as I talk to Harley
 I took Harley out for a walk in the woods by Orris Falls. We could hear the water down in the chasm, but the trail alongside  is still to icy to ride on. So we headed up by the headwaters, crossed the brook (with no issues--good boy) and had a gander at the beaver pond. It's still almost entirely iced over except around the perimeter. No sign of critters, but Harley gave it a good once over.

We turned back, recrossed the brook, then hooked a right up to Big Bump. This trail hasn't had as much foot traffic all winter, so its not nearly as icy. Harley preferred to walk along the edges though, where he got better traction in the soft snow. He carefully picked his way over the icy patches, but was also keeping an ear out for deer. It was the time of day when he usually sees them if I'm not making too much noise talking and singing to him!

Today's warm weather made it really feel like spring.  I heard a raven up in the hemlocks, but never saw the bird. Pretty soon, I'm going to have to keep an eye out for ducks in the vernal pools and ponds. They always get a jump out of Harley when they fly up out of the water. This is my first solo winter ride when I actually tried to take pictures from atop Harley. He wasn't keen to stand still for long once we turned for home, but he was a good boy out there!
I know the deer are out there!

Monday, February 13, 2012

A pre-Valentine's Day ride for everyone

It was another day of firsts--two riders and three horses! I rode Harley and John rode Ruffy while ponying Rolex. They all did quite well, even on the icy trail. Ruffy tolerated Rolex alongside her while Harley followed along, except when the girls needed a jump start. Every so often, the fillies would stop and Harley needed to step up to the plate and march out front. A big hug to them all and special kiss on Harley's velvety nose for being such a good boy! I wish I'd had a picture of them all, parading up the road flanking each other.

Since John and I both have to work wire to wire tomorrow, we spent the afternoon riding and fussing with the horses, spending our "Valentine's Day" together a day early. Everyone got their special alfalfa/beet pulp mash, except Rolex Girl, our finicky eater. She'll only eat alfalfa dry, if you please! And I spent my last moments at the barn having a quiet "conversation" with Harley--he blows on my nose and cheek, while I murmur sweet nothings and breath back at him, inhaling his alfalfa breath telling him how good he is. No, our horses aren't spoiled!

Monday, February 6, 2012

A spring-like day for a lovely ride!

Rolex in the winter sun
With the sun up until after five, we no longer have to rush around to get in a ride on Monday afternoons. The snow was melting today, and the sun beat down so warmly, I didn't need mittens or gloves. The blankets hung along the fence, airing out, and everyone was basking in the warmth. John arrived at the barn and saw Rolex down in the field with Ruffy standing over her. Fearing something bad had happened, he went down and checked her over, only to find she was just having a nice snooze in sun. And she didn't want to come up to the barn!

We ventured into Orris Falls (click on link to see what the trail looked like this time last winter) where we encountered slushy ice, snow, and even bare spots! It's hard to believe how little snow we have this winter. We rode up and over Spring Hill, doing the Lollipop Loop, encountering very little tricky footing due to all the melting. Something tells me we are overdue for a big storm. Winter isn't over yet, and we need some of the "poor man's fertilizer" to keep the water table up. Six more weeks of winter according to the groundhog!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Halawa Moon wonders what's down the road

What's on your mind, Harley?

Into the woods at last!

What do you think, Harley?
Despite the cold weather, and non-melting icy snow, we finally ventured into the woods. The snow has settled enough that it's not much more than hoof-deep, except where the horses have to clamber over the roadside snowbanks. 

The fillies and Harley had a pre-ride tear around the pasture with Harley giving little bucks, and Rolex Girl slipping onto her side and sliding a good 6 feet on her blanket. She looked like she was sliding into home plate! Athletic girl that she is, she jumped right back up on her feet and kept coming. I thought, "Oh boy, this could be an interesting ride". 

Harley stepped right out, giving little shuddering spooks at salt stains on the road, stumps in the woods, on other ridiculous things--always a sign he's feeling good. Roley, brave, level-headed soul that she is, kept Harley on an even keel. Yesterday's ride....well, we won't even discuss it! Enough to say it was rather a disaster without one of our baby girls along for poor Harley.

We encountered frozen water and icy swales. Roley Girl wasn't so sure she should try and cross, but Harley, showing his brave side, crunched his way across with a little leap. Turkey and deer tracks crossed our path, but no sign of critters, or other riders.

Rolex Girl thinking, You want me to cross that?
The dirt road out to North Point was pretty icy, so we jumped off and walked the horses, letting them find their balance and footing without the hindrance of our weight. Out at North Point, Roley and Harley had a gander at the horses in the fields, but none approached the fence line. We continued walking down the dirt road past the stables, marveling at how soft the road  was--better than in the summer when in turns to hard pan. The afternoon sun hits the road just right, melting off the snow and icy and softening the road bed.  We stopped for a couple of photos before getting back on and heading back into the woods.

Equine terror--can you see the whites of his eyes?
Roley and Harley handled the frozen brook well.  We did reach a point on the trail where we had to dismount and lead them down an ice flow, hugging the crusty snow on the edge in order to maintain grip. Harley did a stellar job here, but once he realized how close to home he was, I had a hard time holding him back as he bulldozed his way into the hemlock and puckerbrush. He was thinking like a typical Yankee--shortest distance between two points is a straight line--and he didn't care how many saplings he had to crash through to get there!. I finally dragged him to a halt and we remounted. The next obstacle; a toppled tree top forming an A-shape to pass under. Harley's done this a gazillion times, but today's ride was a lot of new stuff for Roley Girl. She wasn't so sure about it. John urged her forward and she scooted under, tucking her tail. Harley thought this meant it was a race for home and surged forward as well, prancing behind Rolex, tossing his head, and hoping I'd give him enough rein for a mad dash. Not so, my boy! He was good the rest of the way home, even leading the way past the scary spot: baaahing sheep, horses in the woods, a scary boulder still by the side of the road, and a spooky neighbor who lives in the woods. 
Rolex Girl, home from the forest