Sunday, November 18, 2012

Winter riding ruminations

What's down there, Harley?
This is the time of year when I seem to only ride on weekends. There just aren't enough daylight hours during the rest of the week. I get in a morning greeting when I feed, then run off to work. And by the time I see them at night, it's dark. Ironically, I love winter (as long as there's snow to play in), except for the short days and little riding. Winter is when I wish we had an indoor arena, even though I'm much more inclined to escape to the woods. And the only way to survive winter riding is with mittens, insulated coveralls, and insulated boots. Despite the woes of winter--frozen buckets, shoveling gates clear, icy wheelbarrow path-- there's something cozy feeling about having all the horses tucked in for the night with a mountain of hay, some warm alfalfa dengie, and thickly spread shavings. Even though I may be seeing my breath,  and the horses', the barn will feel snug with the gang contently munching on hay. Is there a better sound and smell combination? Eau de cheval avec foin? Even though my feet and hands may be freezing, I could stay for hours, listening to the horses, giving them their last hugs goodnight, and especially burying my nose in Harley's fuzzy neck.

Saturday afternoon, as I drove up the road, I had to stop and take a picture of our three. Harley and Rolex were napping while Ruffy kept "guard". I had to get out and snap a picture of equine bliss:

Rolex, Ruffy, and Harley enjoying the afternoon sun

I ran a few errands, and by the time I came back, all the horses were up and had moved off to a greener spot. I gathered up leftover bits of breakfast and whistled them up to the top of the hill for an afternoon snack. Harley reluctantly left his girls and came into the barn for grooming and tacking. All it took was that one little dose of acepromazine to convince him the ramp wasn't too scary and now he goes up and down like a champ, even in the dark.

We headed down the road past the scary bleating goats, and up into the woods via a neighbor's drive, replete with tractor, wood piles, camper, deer target, crowing rooster, and assorted other items--enough to make Harley swivel his head back and forth wondering which "monster" was going to get him first! I planned to ride the Lollipop Loop, but at the top of the climb about half way, a tree was down. Too high to go over, couldn't go under, and we couldn't easily go around. Remind anyone of that childhood rhyme "Going On a Bear Hunt"? That was us. I dismounted to investigate possible alternative routes and opted for turning back. We'll come back with the saw and maybe an axe as well!

In spite of his many silly antics, Harley is stellar at standing still when I need to get back on. I can sidle him up to any nearby rock or log, and get remount easily. For this alone, he always gets a "Good boy" pat and a piece of carrot! I'd already had to dismount once before to fix his blaze orange rear flank "flags"--something I'd rigged up to the saddle, but had not stayed tied. Even when he's alone, and heading home, he's still remarkably good at standing.

We got in a couple of jogs, but I didn't want to get him too sweaty since the temperature was dropping as the sun slid over the horizon. Harley wanted to stop by the beaver pond and check things out. There may be active beaver moving about since this is the second time he's halted and peered out over the water. Ruffy did the same on our last ride here. If you look closely at the center of the picture, you can see the pile of sticks forming the beaver lodge. Oh, and the honking Canada geese gave Harley pause as well. We couldn't see them, but they certainly made their presence known.

We passed some late afternoon hikers and one hunter heading into the woods to try his luck. Firearms season ends next Saturday, so all the hunters that still haven't gotten their deer are still stalking the woods.

Back out on the roadway, someone had the nerve to park a giant backhoe across from the trailhead parking. That spooked Harley--it wasn't there before! And I knew he would do this which is why I routed our ride the way I did. If it's between our homeward destination, Harley will eventually go past whatever is scaring him.

I untacked Harley and let him nosh on his hay in the disappearing daylight, then brought in the girls for grooming and the once over check. After an early dinner, I put on their sheets, and sent the gang back down the hill where I'd put piles of hay to keep them warm through the night. Soon, it will be blanket time, but for now, we'll let them keep growing their fuzzy coats, and staying out at night.


  1. Oh my goodness, so much to enjoy and identify with this post! The back hoe that appeared out of nowhere, the need for mittens and puffy pants! The SCARY BLEATING GOATS!!!! I love it all. I always feel that I am kind of along with you when I read your blog. I worry too about getting my horse all sweaty only to return her to a cold and dark pasture. This means only that I have to get up earlier to ride earlier so she can warm in the sun before bed. Once that sun goes under the tree line, it is darn cold. My fiend Bill says just think: in one month the days will start getting longer!!!!

  2. Great ride on Harley. I love that you love winter and use it all up with your Harley boy. I don't like winter too much and I would freeze in Maine, but I love how you do make the best of the light and woods and your sweet boy.

    When you take Harley out for a ride, do the other two run about? I can never ride one without the other two running around. Consequently, I put them all in their stalls and then tack up and ride one at a time. Actually, I think my Sovey is the instigator and Pie and Foggy would not care at all. I wish I had miles of trails like you. It sounds just perfect.

    Love, love, love the napping photo - especially Harley completely stretched out and snoozing!

    1. Sometimes, if I'm passing the pasture, Rolex will trot over to see what's up, but they don't usually run around. Harley looks longingly over at the girls, wishing he had company, but that's about it. He's much better than he used to be--couldn't get him away from the barn without spinning. He's come a long way in a couple of years.


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