Sunday, September 30, 2012

Rain rain, go away, come again some other day...

New Shoes!
Enough already! It's been a rainy weekend, beginning Friday, with no riding, but plenty of stall mucking! We went to the Dover Saddlery Tent Sale and stood in a cold, wet line, waiting to enter. I've described it to my non-horsey friends as the equivalent of the Filene's Bridal Dress sale, only for equestrians. Surprisingly, there wasn't much of a crowd Friday morning. And that made for much more pleasant shopping. We used lots of restraint, putting back things we didn't really need, although I did pick up a little red/black/white bat with a red "hand" on the business end for $4.49 because I thought it was fun, and every now and then, Harley needs a smack to encourage him to get out of reverse! I pawed through a pile of $19.99 girths and, unfortunately, went home with the wrong one! What I really needed were new barn shoes--my 7+ year old Lowa hiking shoes were worn out. So I picked up a pair of Ariat Terrains. They've been great so far!

John fed the ponies and turned them out at the crack of dawn--just barely dawn. He knew they were dying to get outside, despite the rainy weather. While he worked on a boat repair, I headed back out to clean stalls. Then it was time to go visit the gang.  Here they all are as I came down the hill.

Then they had to come see if I had treats. Suddenly, I was mobbed by horses! Here's Harley with his half portrait in a "artistic dry brush filter". It kind of goes with the soft, fuzzy light of the rainy day.

Where are the carrots, Ma?
The rain had let up, to just a mizzle. I was getting dripped on from the trees, and snuffled at by the horses. Silly me had showed up empty-handed! No carrots, no apples, not even a handful of grain. So I yanked up tufts of grass to show them I did appreciate their presence and willingness to come up to me. I've always thought it was such a pain to have a horse that was hard to catch, and I had my fair share at camp--old campaigners who knew what being caught meant--an hour of lessons and standing in the barn all morning. Rolex likes to play this game to a point, but if she hears the crunch of carrot, she's the first one by your side--the opportune time to throw a rope over her neck!

Nonplussed by my meager grass offerings, they ambled off, looking for something more interesting. It's hard to walk away from them. I could easily spend hours horse-watching. Each horse has such a unique personality. When you mix them together in a herd, the group dynamics are fascinating. I'm still not sure if Rolex is truly the boss mare she thinks she is. Lucky for Harley, his status is quite clear--he's the man, unless Vance wanders down along the fence line. Then the girls swoon!

Then the action began as Ruffy started to stir things up.

Catch me if you can, Harley!

First she tried to get Harley to play with her, then she got a little game of tag going with Rolex. When Rolex wandered off, Ruffy continued to crow hop, kick, and rear, burning up all that stored energy from being cooped up all night. It's great to see everyone feeling so good.

Can't catch us, Harley!

After a game of tag, it was time for a good mud bath. You can see where their wallows are--those open muddy patches along the fence line. Everyone had to partake in this ritual.

Rolex thinking: Ooo, that looks like fun, Harley.

Everyone will get a good brushing and hoof picking after dinner tonight!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Harley is a poster child!

Mane training on the "cribmeister"
My wild boy has a mane that likes to go in both directions at different points along his neck. John did a quick braid job to see if we could train it to one side. I know, it's silly and vain, especially since we're not going to a show, but don't we all really want our horses to look their best? And doesn't it set off that lovely neck--with that thick throatlatch from doing what he does best in his down time--CRIBBING! (Check out the flex in that board!)

I had Friday off and took him on a lovely ride. This is my favorite season for riding in the woods; no bugs (or very few), and golden light everywhere. It's also excellent mushroom hunting season for those who know what they are looking at. Fall is such a vibrant time of year.

Regarding Harley's "poster"...I tracked down some photos of him in the winner's circle at Suffolk Downs. Now it's just a matter of purchasing them and asking the photographer if I can post them on the blog crediting his work. Since we're his 4th owners, I feel like I'm filling in some blanks from his past. The photos show him as just a baby, at 2 and 3, back before he had big knees from running too hard, too fast, and (IMHO) too young. But even with his quirks, fears, and moments of bravery, he's still in the winner's circle for me. I know it's blind love, and I'm sure John knows it too, but when you finally get your first horse at my age, it brings out the youth in you--once again I'm 12, crooning over photos of my baby boy and giving him hugs good night.

Our Ruffy girl
John and I took Ruffy and Harley on a ride Sunday. Yet another lovely fall day, but with the low light, I didn't get any good pictures from the ride. We did a reverse loop up to the quarry. This allowed for a nice canter uphill in sandy, soft footing. Ruffy thought this was lots of fun and immediately sped up the hill. Harley trotted a few steps, then realized he would be left in the dust if he didn't pick up the pace. He broke into a canter too and snorted his way up the hill to catch Ruffy. It's fun to see their ex-racehorse sides come to life. " I'm winning, Harley, and you can't pass me!" She's our speedster horse!

Yesterday, they all got their teeth floated. Rolex Girl was the best behaved, although she did roll her eyes a time or two. And, she lost a baby tooth that was just waiting to come out! Ruffy and Harley were pretty good too. I can't imagine what a horse must think when this procedure is done. The folks from Scotia Equine Dental were awesome--patient, kind, and caring.

We got in an evening ride by 5:30, just as the sun was beginning to slide behind the trees. This is Harley's "spooky time" in the woods. Although, I think something was moving about across the beaver pond--turkeys or deer perhaps. Both Harley and Ruffy stopped at the pond's edge and stared across the water. All we heard was a raven cawing from a treetop, but we saw nothing. It was a quick walk home, it always is, with Ruffy speed-walking and making Harley jog to catch up. Heaven forbid he's out in the woods at dusk!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Day is done, gone the sun...

We ended our vacation with an awesome 5 hour trail ride out to Mt. Agamenticus. The day was spectacular--sunny, warm (although chilly when we started), and breezy. John and I left the barn around 10:30 with Rolex and Harley, ready for a long day's adventure.

Taking a break on the Norman Mill Trail

The horses set a lollygag pace heading out, and every so often, one would stop so the other could take over being the leader. We came to the ATV/foot bridge and Rolex threw on the brakes. John asked, "Has she been over this before?" I replied, "I think so." Harley took the lead and bravely stepped out, with Rolex following. Every time he does something like this, or even just standing still when I mount him from some rock or stump in the puckerbrush, he gets a "Good Boy" pat from me.

We intended to go all the way to Mt. Agamenticus, but Rolex decided to play Guernsey Girl and wouldn't budge. I don't know if she'd just had enough, or didn't like the rocky dirt road. Neither did I so we were walking beside the horses at this point, but she refused to go forward, so we had to turn back. 

Somewhere in the woods in Maine
Sometimes I let Harley pick the route home. Today we tried that and if I had given him his choice, we might or might not be home yet. He turned left down an unused old trail which required much ducking and dodging. Convinced it would take him home, Harley confidently stepped out. I, however, did not have as much confidence, and it waned as he came to a spot where he wasn't sure where to go. Neither he nor Rolex seemed to know--so we turned back from his little detour.

When we passed through Orris Falls this morning, no people were out yet. On our return trip we saw and heard many voices down by the falls. The tiny parking lot was full, with cars parked along the road. Harley and Rolex checked out all the vehicles, looking at them with alert ears, wondering where they'd all come from.

Back at the barn, everyone had a nice chomp in the "Tenderloin District"--aka the back lawn with lush grass, before being turned out again. The wind kicked up and they cantered off down the hill for a game of tag and more grass. When John and I began cleaning up the top of the pasture near the barn, they all came trotting back up, looking for treats. John's shooting vest is perfect for holding carrots--just fill the shotgun shell bands with carrots instead! The horses mobbed John for a chance to grab a carrot.

Oops--Rolex got more than a carrot!

Ruffy looking for treats in the carrot pocket

After a long day with the horses, I came home to finish canning some pickles. My "day is done, gone the sun, from the lakes, from the hills, from the sky"---time for me to hit the sack!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Two more days in the saddle

We sneaked in a little evening ride tonight after doing repair work on the fence. The wind blew, the acorns rained down, and the horses were all a little jumpy when they saw the fence construction. It made Harley and the girls snort, then wheel away. Under saddle, Harley was still feeling silly and when three dogs came running down the trail, he whirled and would have headed for home if brave Rolex hadn't stood her ground. She's such a good girl and brave companion to my poor little chicken.

Blandings Turtle in the middle of the trail

Yesterday, Anika and I took Rolex and Harley out for a ramble in the woods. Anika has ridden the trails enough now to begin getting her bearings. Just as Harley stepped over an odd rock, Anika noticed it was a turtle. I believe it's a Blandings turtle, a species thought to be endangered in our area. Hurrah for Harley--for once he picked up his feet enough to clear the turtle! He actually stood still long enough for me to get a picture (although his rein got in the way).

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Willkommen in Maine!

Anika on Rolex, John hiding on Ruffy in Tatnic Woods
Our barn owners have family visiting from Germany. We've spent the last three days taking Anika on trail rides around our neck of the woods. She's getting a chance to see September at its best with chilly nights and cool days. Today was the warmest in a while--we finally shed our jackets before heading out! And best of all, the low bug population has been great for the horses. We got a late start today, so we did use bug spray to keep the few mosquitoes and deer flies at bay.

We put Anika aboard Rolex, the safest and soundest of our three, and she's been an absolute doll. A borrowed helmet and chaps made things a little more safe and comfortable for Anika as our first 45 minute ride on Monday has quickly became an hour or two of adventure riding over the last 2 days.

Today we rode through the Tatnic Woods region and along the Nature Trail. Yesterday, we headed out to Jepson Farm and the quarry, and the day before that, the Lollipop Loop up through Orris Falls.

Here are some more shots John and I took from todays trip:

Harley and Rolex at the edge of Tatnic Woods

John wanted to take pictures at one of Harley's scariest points in the trail ride: the goats, the big rock, and the lady who lives up in the woods. As you can see from Ruffy's ears, even the trash cans warranted a close look, and they're sitting right in front of the goat pen. Yikes, Harley!

Ruffy peers at the big scary black trash cans!
Rolex maintained a level head--our sensible girl--and thought nothing of the trash cans, the rock, the goats, or the scary lady who lives in the woods.

Rolex being a good girl for Anika
Unlike he shall not be named--You want me stand here? In the middle of the road? With all these scary things here? You must be nuts--we need to get home, NOW!

Almost home, Harley
 But then something moved in the brush!

Harley: I'm telling you, there's something there! Rolex: What now, Harley, I'm hungry!

Yes, literally yards from home. I then some stones kicked up and pinged off a sign--his last fright of the day. As soon as I got him into the barn yard, he let out a big sigh and finally relaxed. What a character! I think this cool weather his making him feel snappy.

A man and his mare--Rolex having a snack.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Runners, and banners, and vultures, oh my!

Well we ended our long weekend with a rather interesting trail ride. You would have thought Harley was the stable babysitter by looking at him in the barn, snoozing while I tacked him up. But once we hit the road, the head went up, the ears on full alert, and he had a spring in his step.

We hadn't even left the barn when he had his first spook. I was tightening the girth while he walked around back, when suddenly...nothing looked scary, but he jumped. Luckily, I didn't get tossed off! Then we had to go past the scary goats; that caused one of his slo-mo spins. Once we entered the woods, he settled, until suddenly....a runner in neon green appeared ahead under the hemlocks. That caused a big spook and spin. We chatted a bit and she apologized for scaring Harley. I said, "Oh, he's just a big baby out here, especially when there are long shadows and it's getting dark. He knows there are monsters out here."

He settled down again, when up ahead, what should he see, but another runner in neon green! He slammed on the brakes, but didn't spin this time. We got in some tentative trotting, shying at logs, rocks, anything that might be dangerous. Harley was now if full alert mode. He'd be a survivor if he had to flee predators, believe me!

Grinning Frog Lane
We finally made it out to North Point, down the road I now call Grinning Frog Lane, but down by the Pick and Shovel (home to the Nature Trail), they had erected one of the Pepsi Banners for some event in Massachusetts. Who knows why and who will even see this sign except for the owners of the two houses at the end of the road and boarders at North Point. But in any case, it wasn't there last time and by now Harley had seen enough. He pulled his infamous left had whirl twice. That's it, I decided. I hopped off and walked him past the scary banner, then remounted and turned for home.

Thinking we were finally in the clear, Harley had one more spook left in him. A vulture flew up from it's roadkill dinner. He kept looking off to the right where it had flown, sure it was bound to come back and get him as well as the flattened squirrel.

Once more past the scary goats and Harley was finally home from the forest at last. Aahhhh, you're safe now Harley! Back with the gang in sight, he relaxed, let out a snort, and dropped his head to the grass.

Who needs to bother mowing and using a weed whacker when you've got horses? Now that's a mouthful! Yummy green grass after a ride--a perfect ending!

Harley the weed whacker

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Long rides for a long weekend

Saturday, while most people were doing their back to school shopping, or sitting at the New Hampshire tolls, trying to get to Maine for their last summer vacation, I was out in the woods aboard my Gnarley Harley. Actually, he was pretty good. Whenever he's alone, Harley is prone to more spooks, but I'm used to it now and just go with the flow, or the sideways shudder as is more often the case.

Harley watching, ears on the alert
I decided it was such a nice day, not too hot with a good breeze blowing, we should do a long loop. So we headed out to Jepson Farm and the quarry. Their are some nice places for good trots and canters, but a I have to admit, we did a lot of walking. This time of year, acorns are plopping down, and robin flocks flit through the woods. All this makes you know who a little twitchy! Loud crashing usually means deer, and loud leaf rustling could be turkeys or oversized grey squirrels--all which can be scary to the lone horse!

As we emerged from the woods, something scurried in the underbrush, possible a rabbit, and that sent him sideways. I made him walk past the derelict scary snowmobile, slowly being eaten up by wild grapes. I think he's afraid the grapes will get him too. I wanted to take a picture of the abandoned house. It reminds me of a childhood book, The Little One by Dare Wright, author of The Lonely Doll series. This book had a different doll. A turtle finds her and leads her out of an abandoned house and she goes and lives in the woods with two bears. Anyway, long story short, I always love exploring places like this, but Harley was not so keen on the idea!

Jepson Homestead

The road past the quarry can be hot and buggy on a still day, but with the nice breeze blowing, it was nearly bug free--hurrah! I expected to run into ATVs out on such a gorgeous day, but we had the entire road and trails to ourselves.
Quarry road
I wonder if Mr. Little Ears is exhausted after keeping them alert for an hour and 45 minutes? In fact, his ears are so little, his headnet flops around his ears as you can see in the picture. I was optimistic this day and rode him in the bitless bridle and didn't bring a crop (for the occasional "I'm stuck in revers" moment). All I carried was my camera, hoof pick, carrot bites, and a maple branch fly whisk. We had a couple of nice jumps, including the one were I took a tumble back in July, and headed for home and a nice bath.

Sunday, we took the girls for a long ride and left Harley with some hay and down time alone. Our destination, the Norman Mill Trail over near Agamenticus. Ruffy and Rolex are quite the pair. When one stops, so does the other. The sorority sisters agree they should stick together no matter what. So this leads to much urging and a smack to get one moving forward. It's not always an obstacle they are spooking at, just a decision to turn around and go home instead. We headed out through the Orris Falls Trail, taking turns leading, first Rolex, then Ruffy. Today was a first--no bug spray!

Ruffy taking the lead
The weather was cool and overcast with slight sprinkles. It was enough to keep most of the deer flies away, although the mosquitoes with a bit bothersome. We ambled down Emery's Bridge Rd. to the Bennett Lot cutoff. Someone had put a rail up, but we figured they could step over it, or at least hop it. No, Rolex decided to just knock it down! Given that it's probably private property, we put it back up behind us. I imagine it's intended to keep ATV riders out (and possibly clumsy equines although it's not posted). Once we reached Bennett Lot Rd. we did a loop around the Norman Mill Tr. and returned the same way. Now that we were headed home, the pace stepped up considerably!

When we reached the top of the Lollipop Loop the gals got keyed up. John thought there might be bees, I think they were just feeding off each other's high spirits and ready to go. After all, they are ex-racehorses, and they were feelin' good!

When we neared the end of the trail, we dismounted and walked them back up the road. At this point, John had fixed Ruffy's Easyboot 3 or 4 times and it was flapping again (worn velcro). The less fancy footwork, the more likely she wouldn't step on it and tear it off. Rolex has grown enough hoof that her boots don't fit right now. We'll have to see if they will after the farrier comes, or if she needs the next size up.

Tomorrow, my last day of the long weekend, is supposed to be beautiful. Another long ride, this time with my boy Harley.