Sunday, May 27, 2012

First S.M.A.R.T. ride of the year!

Harley out marking trails last week
Today was our first S.M.A.R.T. Ride for 2012 and it was on Rolex Girl's 5th birthday! We had a rather late start, so it was a good thing we knew the terrain and it was well marked. I think we were the last people to leave, but unlike the rest of the riders, we had to hack to the beginning point. That added another 45 minutes or so. It would have been longer if I hadn't jumped off and walked Harley over the bridge at the Great Works River. Just last Monday we rode down there when we were helping mark the trails for the ride. He didn't like it then, and doesn't like it now. Since he was making a production, and we were running late, I figured it would be easier to walk him across.

We didn't see any other riders until 2 who had taken a wrong turn caught up with us. Otherwise, we rode pretty much all by ourselves, as the sweep riders--dead last!

The weather was awesome--bugs weren't too bad, the sun was shining, and a nice breeze kept us cool when we crossed fields. At the nicest spot, a lovely open field with lovely cantering footing, a photographer was stationed taking pictures of riders passing by. I'm hoping she got some good ones of Harley and Rolex, although Harley was spooking at her and going a bit sideways. Then she made whinnying noises and I think that confounded him all the more.

Witchrot Road--didn't see any witches
Some of the trails crossed land belonging to an ATV /snowmobile club. They had amusing signs hanging up such as No Parking, STOP, Children Playing, etc. They also had road name signs as well, like Main Drag. But my favorite was Witchrot Rd. There is an Witchtrot Road in South Berwick, but the one in the woods was mis-spelled and much cooler! John snapped a few pictures, but neither horse was in the mood to stand still, hence the blurry photo. I think the horses already knew we had reached the halfway point and they heard horses ahead of them. Time to pick up the pace! We went to the lunch stop, but trying to eat food and hold the horses was going to be tough. We had carrots and apples in our packs and all of us munched on our fruits and vegetables. I was actually hoping they'd have water for the horses. Harley and Rolex aren't well-schooled on drinking out of streams yet. Another thing for us to work on! So we sallied forth down the trail, Harley and Roley jigging to catch up to the horses in front of them. Then we and 2 other riders missed a turn and wound up following a mucky logging path. One of Rolex's Easyboots came apart. Thankfully, one of the riders behind us saw it! The sole had detached from the hoof cover and we had no spare screws. Stupidly, I went back to see where the last trail marker was, knowing we'd missed our turn. This left poor Rolex plunging in the mud on her lonesome. I realized this and turned around to meet John coming out of the muck with poor, agitated Rolex. Once clear of the mud, he took both boots off. From this point, we could see horses crossing a field. Rolex stood with head up, doing her camel imitation, while Harley shook his head and snorted. Once the other riders were out of sight, everyone calmed down...until we reached Lovers Brook. This was a substantial water crossing with a mucky approach. Both horses balked at it, but I knew Harley would go through. I urged him past Rolex and he plunged in, glad to clamber out the other side, with Rolex right behind him.

Cooling off in Knight's Pond
We were in the home stretch now. Once we reached Knight's Pond, we took a detour down to the water, hoping they would have a drink and let them cool off a bit. Compared to Lovers Brook, this is easier. Again, Harley needed to convince Rolex and vice versa. Overcoming obstacles together makes them feel brave! John got a good picture of Harley in the pond, with a smattering of Roley Girl's ears. Little fish darted among the grass and lily pads, but I don't think either horse saw a one. They were too awed by the vast expanse of water out there, probably afraid we'd ask them to swim across!

Then it was back along the old railroad bed to the ride's beginning point. A big spread of food lay out on the picnic tables, but it was getting late and we still had another 45 ride home. So we waved at the crowd and moseyed on towards home. We took a little break at a roadside park where the horses noshed on a bit of grass and we got to stretch our legs for a bit. Once we got to the infamous bridge, Harley had no problem walking across it--it led to home! He was in power walk mode anyway. I don't think much would have stopped him at this point. We covered about 20 miles today--not bad for our guys on their first ride of the season! Happy Birthday Rolex Girl!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Ring work and a trail ride

We tested out the new ring yesterday. Harley and Rolex got a small taste of it before we headed for the woods. He who shall not be named, once again gave me a hard time about circling to the right at the far end--Noooo!, Rolex is down at the other end! And I have to say, he can really be pig-headed with the bitless bridle. It called for some rather drastic measures before I got Harley to relinquish and bend a bit to the right. Once he did that, it was off to the woods!

Tatnic Woods trail
The mosquitoes bothered us a bit if we stood still too long. I've tried using Clac-Deo a rather potent smelling bug dope, but one that doesn't use harmful chemicals. It works quite well, although it does leave a greasy residue. I guess it's time to dig out the fly mask. I'd be curious to know what other riders prefer--full face mask (which does make their faces sweaty), or just the crocheted ear bonnet with fringe.

We rode out via the power line, complete with 2 steep scrambles uphill and Big Bump (our version of the Tevis Cup Cougar Rock), then out the Lollipop Loop towards Tatnic. We crossed a lovely mowed field that a gentleman kindly lets us access, thinking we might have a nice canter or trot. Harley tried to just to go straight to the woods while Rolex cantered nicely along the edge. Once back on the trail, he encountered the dastardly wood piles which he's seen before, but always give him pause.

We rode past the world's loudest lawn mower (I thought the owners must be power washing their house!) which made Harley prance sideways. and then encountered the tallest wisteria I'd ever seen. It's a lovely ornamental vine, but in this case, it's eventually going to choke the white pine it's climbing. We had to take pictures at any rate, but unfortunately, the color got washed out in the bright sunshine.

Tallest wisteria in Wells, Maine!

I left John back at the barn, brushing Ruffy , and went out to get carrots (high in electrolytes) and drinks. I was parched from the heat, as I guessed John was too, and our brave ponies deserved some carrot treats. I feel guilty if I'm empty handed at the barn! I got back just as John was tacking up Ruffy. Time for a quick lunch, and snack for Ruffy, then off to our new ring! She took a gander at all that dirt and thought she was back at the track! All the jump equipment was stacked along the edge, and that was super-scary. But she settled down as John worked her. Ruffy is still learning that things aren't so bad and that she actually can just walk over rails. She made good progress today.

John schooling Ruffy

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A new ring in the making

Dad and John attaching the plow
How did I spend my spring vacation? Rock-picking, shoveling stone dust, painting, mowing the lawn, oh, and riding nearly every day!

With the beautiful weather still holding, we called my dad to come help us reconstruct the old ring. It's been years since the ring was in use, and Pete put a garden in it one year. So now it's full of uneven patches and old furrows. John wanted to start from scratch and begin anew so we'd have a flatter and larger area.

Dad arrived at 8:30 this morning. We spent the entire day plowing, discing, scraping, and rock-picking (that was my job). By 4:00 p.m., we had a relatively flat, even surface. The job required moving a fair amount of material from one end of the ring to the other in order to make for even footing. This also exposed a stretch of clay that will now need some sand mixed in to soften the footing. We gained a lot of extra square footage which will be nice. Now we need to come up with some sort of a drag in addition to fencing. For now, I'd settle for something at least at the barn end of the ring so he who shall not be named, doesn't try to beat it for home when he's left alone in the ring! He can be so bad when one horse leaves--same thing on the trail, Don't leave me behind! 

Thankfully, John has experience with rings and footing. Together with my father's tractor and Pete's big bucket loader tractor, we ended up with a pretty decent surface. Once the sun was high in the sky, we all got nicely toasted and by day's end, I didn't even have the energy to ride. All Harley got was a quick grooming in the pasture and some ticks removed. Tomorrow we'll go for a nice long ride, after we show them the ring. That should get a jump out of Harley!
Dad putting the old 1956 Ford Jubilee through its paces!

Yesterday, we took Rolex and Harley on a short trail ride on the Lollipop Loop, hoping to find the dropped crop John lost a few days ago. So much for bright red standing out! Unless a hiker found it and did what with it? Hmm...

So many spring wildflowers are blooming, I ooh and ahh  at every turn. I had to dismount and take a picture of this lovely ladyslipper that some person built a little stone wall around. I thought it was so cute--a mini woodland garden!
Pink Ladyslipper

Monday, May 14, 2012

And still more training

We spent the weekend working the horses on the flat, although I did have to give Harley (and myself) a break on Friday. After doing flat work, we escaped to the woods for a nice amble. Harley had not been up the road to North Point in a while, so the goats were a minor challenge, but he pranced by without too much fuss. His only meltdown came with 2 dogs rushing at him. Thankfully, they backed off and the owner called them back to the property.

Our Little Miss Marquetry Girl turns 5 in 2 weeks.
When we returned, I washed off Harley and readied Rolex for John to hop on before dark. He lunged her, and then put me up so he could evaluate her. She's a pistol, our Roley Girl, but smart! And she's so much narrower than Harley--a totally different feel! Her birthday is coming up soon; the day of our first S.M.A.R.T. ride, May 27th. I'm hoping all this rain will have passed by then!

Vacation starts on Wednesday, and although there's much to do around the house and garden, I'm bound to get sidetracked at the barn. John will have more time, and I know he plans on devoting hours to working the girls and rebuilding the ring. But this will make training much easier. Even the few days I spent working with Harley has made a difference. So I know this will be labor well-spent for all.

Here's a picture of the sorority sisters sharing their feed tub. It amazes John and I how they get along eating together. Rolex seems to prefer eating with other horses, and although she tries to share with Harley, he grudgingly lets her sneak in while he's having a good crib. Ruffy, on the other hand, is much more willing to share!

Evening feed time!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Training Day

John works Harley over some rails
Sunday and Monday were schooling days. I admit to needing a lot of time doing gymnastic exercises, and if Harley could talk, he'd admit it as well. But we both would rather be wandering in the woods. So when I arrived at the barn Monday afternoon, John told me to go get my helmet and meet him out back. Harley had already had some much-needed schooling from John, which I truly appreciate. Without rails around our "ring" yet, it can be a little difficult sometimes when Harley makes up his mind to go "home" or follow his barn mates rather than circle away from them. So Monday was a good lesson for both of us! John lunged me so I didn't have to worry about steering Harley (beware the woods--wild turkeys) and could concentrate on myself. This worked wonderfully for both Harley and me. It also made me realize just how much I need to work on my seat and legs! I think I should have Monday afternoon lessons all the time, and then end with a little walk in the woods.

Schooling Rolex
Next, it was Rolex's turn. First, we had to catch her--she's a wily one. But as long as their's a treat involved, she will eventually be curious enough to see what you've got. She had not been ridden in about a week, which was apparent by her tearing around on the lunge line. Eventually she settled and trotted until she decided she was done, stopped, and walked up to John as if to say, "Are we done now?" She reminds me of Ferdinand the bull sometimes--she'd rather stop to look around and enjoy her surroundings than really do any work. She's not lazy by any stretch, but her curiosity compels her to take in her environment first.

Rolex worked out her kinks with a good canter and some "airs above ground". Then for fun, John got on board and rode her bareback for a bit. She's definitely not a candidate for this--not until she fills out a bit more!  Her birthday is coming up soon, when she really turns 5--our baby in the herd.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Wild, windy weather for a ride

Rolex on the Lollipop Loop
May is here, but with April's showers. I can't complain--we still need the rain, and I'd rather have that than brush fires, especially given the amount of woods surrounding the place where ouir horses are boarded. So we'll probably miss out on riding this week, and due to the chilly temperatures, the horses may be inside a lot, but we will welcome the rain.

We went for a lovely 4 hour ride on Sunday while we still had perfect weather--cool, windy, and bright sun. Our plan was to head over the Mt. Agamenticus region. It was a perfect day for a walk in the woods, or so everyone thought, judging by the number of people out with their kids and dogs, enjoying the day.

Rolex has a nice walk, when she feels like going first, which is only when we're heading home. She doesn't mind leading for a bit, but then she just stops, turns her head back to Harley as if to say, "O.K., it's your turn to lead the way."
Harley then plods to the front, ears now pricked, swinging his head left and right, scoping out the woods for scary monsters, or hikers that appear out of nowhere. It's funny how they always know when we've reached the turnaround point and are headed home--their radar kicks in and the pace picks up! Rolex's race training returns too--she doesn't want Harley to pass and pins her ears at him, baring her teeth. Me first, me first!

We rode out the Lollipop Loop and through the Bennett Lot cut-off to the Norman Mill Trail. This is our closest access to Mt. Agamenticus. These out-lying trails get a lot less foot traffic than the summit-circling trails near the mountain's access road and parking area. You're more likely to encounter an ATV or mountain biker than a hiker.

Harley & Rolex at the boardwalks
Rolex had her first encounter with the "bridge". This is a fairly wide (think ATV worthy) bridge, but it does cross a rushing book and has a drop-off if you were to go over the edge (there's no railings). So I put good old Harley out front and, amazingly, he stepped right out. Bear in mind, he hasn't seen this bridge since last fall, so he got big pats from me! Rolex, showing her trust in John and Harley, bravely followed.  On the Porcupine Trail, we encountered the boardwalks, which could easily be ridden around. But it's good experience for the horses to go over these as well. Once again, Harley showed Rolex how to do it and she followed. Big pats AND carrots for all!

Up near Second Hill  we encountered our first people since leaving the Orris Falls area. Rolex and Harley both spooked when suddenly people appeared in the woods. They act like deer out there--haven't seen humans for hours, yikes, what are those 2-legged things? Often, hikers will go off the trail, into the woods allowing us to pass, but I always think that makes them seem scarier--lurking along the trail edge. These folks asked if it was okay to pass the horses, and we laughingly told them it was fine. The horses were just surprised, not scared of people.We skipped clambering up to the summit of Second Hill, but this was a good training/conditioning ride for the horses, and me! Four hours requires me to drop my stirrups a number of times, and this is good for my seat and balance.

Yesterday, everybody received their spring shots and had Coggins tests done. By the time the vet was finished, we had time for a little ride. First, we warmed up in the ring area, popping over fences John had constructed. Then we took Harley and Ruffy for a short jaunt in the woods.

Now, we just wait out the rain...