Saturday, December 28, 2013

Horse swapping

Rolex Girl watching
John and I swapped horses today. He took Harley on a ride yesterday and had a good time. So he announced I was riding Rolex today and he'd take Harley again. They are such different horses to ride, and Harley even more so when he goes solo. He's braver with Rolex's company, yet he moves out at a better pace when he's alone. Rolex is a more athletic horse with a spring in her step, a consistent forward walk, and a lot less spooky. Her only fault, if you can call it that, is she hates being passed on the way home. So if she's leading--give her hind feet a wide berth! Otherwise, Harley can have his head right behind her--just NO PASSING!

We rode out to Orris Falls with a nice trot going, but once Harley veered off onto a non-packed trail, he came right down to a walk. John said he got spooked by snowshoers on the trail yesterday. What are those funny things on their feet? Yikes!
Harley pondering his next move

The trees still had loads of snow in their branches, many just low enough to dump it down my back. I could have used a scarf to keep it off my neck! We had a couple of lovely canters on the packed trails where the footing was awesome. Rolex got in a couple of extra canters when Harley was still trotting, maybe hoping she could pass him!

Harley pulled his first stunt as we approached the brook from the trail along the chasm. I said to John, "You know what he's going to do?" And sure enough, he tried to pull left and head for home, but John brought him around and he forged through the brook with Rolex right behind, after sizing it up with a small snort.

At the next brook crossing, Harley jumped over it--one he usually just steps across. John must have asked him to take the leap. Even Rolex hopped the brook.

I passed the camera to John for the rest of the ride. 

We rode out to the other end of Orris Falls where we met 2 snowshoers enjoying the fine hiking weather. Everyone had big smiles today.

Then we had  a bit of road riding before cutting back into the meadow at Three Maples Farm. Now that we'd turned for home, I asked John to keep it under control in the field until we hit the woods. We had a nice, controlled trot--no bucking or racing, which I thought might occur. The horses were awesome and I was thoroughly enjoying my ride on Rolex.

We rode through Tatnic Woods and then onto the Nature Trails--the funny place with the kooky signs and bits of odd rubble here and there.

Both Rolex and Harley had to take a long look at this building. It's a small shack that does NOT serve any food. I have no idea why this sign is posted on it, nor do I know what the shack's purpose is--some remnant bob house/restaurant that was hauled off the ice and into the woods?

Once the horses determined no snow monsters would jump out at them, and that no feed was forthcoming, we continued on our way out to the road near North Point.

Suddenly, Harley pulled up so fast he slid on the ice. Up ahead, two women were pulling a toddler on a sled and making silly noises. Harley wouldn't budge. Rolex, always curious, decided to move in for a closer look which convinced Harley to follow. Every now and then, the women would run along with the sled, yellling, "WEEEEE!" Finally, we had to pass them in order to get home. They pulled off the trail behind a parked pickup, so I warned Harley, "Look out, there behind the truck!" More smiling people and a smiling baby.
Back up the trail behind Skinners and out onto Thurrell Road, headed for home--an awesome ride!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Day ride!

John was up and off to the barn at 6:30 this morning to give the ponies their breakfast: a special morning mash with alfalfa hay in the single digit weather. From what I heard, they happily tucked right into their feed. I was still snoozing and didn't roll out of bed until 7:30--lazy day for me!

After a leisurely breakfast by the wood stove, we got busy cleaning tack (some pieces having been hanging around here for way too long).  Then I moved onto my paddock boots and dress boots. O.K., enough chores for this day! We got dinner started in the slow cooker--lamb vindaloo (yumm...) and then off to the barn at last!

We ran into our friends Hank and Lili at the barn and gave them their gift of chocolate and homemade horse treats to give the horses on their visits.

Finally, we were mounted and off by about 3:00 just as it was starting to get cold. But the sun still offered some warmth as we headed down to Orris Falls.

Harley was a star today--no spooks, and he led for part of the way. We had a nice trot on the snowshoe-packed trail, and even a pleasant canter. A lovely ride on a lovely Christmas Day. And the good news is more snow coming tonight and tomorrow! 

My best fuzzy boy!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

White knuckling in the winter woods

Harley had not been worked in about a week. Our farrier was due to come Sunday, so I pleaded with John that we get in a ride between or before the rain showers. All the horses are feeling good, and downright sassy! Note Harley leading the charge down into the field.

A wet, fuzzy guy
Saturday dawned cloudy with threatening skies, but the rain held off enough for us to get chores done as well as some last-minute grocery shopping before Christmas. By the time we arrived back at the barn, dusk was closing in on us. Mind you, this was on the Solstice, so those precious daylight minutes were fast disappearing.

Logging work has begun at the end of Thurrell Rd. where a new house lot is being cleared. We could hear chainsaws and chippers not too far away. This had Harley prancing down the street, just looking for something to invoke a spook. But I was ready--sitting up, feet out front, ready for a whirl. Without Rolex leading, we probably would have spun for home. Our next obstacle was the snowbank by the road, but both negotiated it with ease, better than last year. My fuzzy friend was a handful and I asked John to please keep our trots under control as I could feel Harley pulling on my hands. John said, "Bridge your reins!"

The fast girl--Ruffy!
We rode a loop out through the woods behind Skinner's, and across the brook towards Jepson. The fast-fading daylight had me a little concerned since we had some road riding at the end of the ride. Rolex made the decision to take a short cut (almost the right way) that would take us back to the old quarry and behind Hank and Lili's property. Riding up between the granite cut, we saw signs of porcupines where they'd scuttled out from their rock den. Something spooked the horses in the woods, quite possibly deer. Back on the trail behind Skinner's, Harley jogged along, nice and sweaty along his neck and shoulders. Good thing I had the cooler ready and waiting.

The days will be getting longer now--each minute promising a bit more daylight as we inch along through winter. A snowy winter promises clean horses as they take their snow baths each morning, starting the day with a nice roll. They all seem happy and healthy so I won't complain, except when we get freezing rain and the icy footing.

Today began with steady rain--I could hear it pattering in the gutter. So I wasn't in a tremendous rush to turn the horses out. But I knew Rolex would be anxious to get going, so I didn't dally too long. The rain seemed to come and go and a cold breeze blew across the fields. I decided to put on the rain sheets while I cleaned stalls and waited for our farrier, St. Butch. Rolex had a hissy fit, kicking and shaking her head while I blanketed Ruffy, as if to say, "Would you hurry up! I want to get out, and I mean now!" She wasn't happy to be turned out second. Then Butch called to cancel. He had freezing rain up his way. So I decided to take my time and draw out my hours as long as possible, keeping an eye on the weather and the horses. Rolex has decided to make a toy of our shelter and torn a big hole in one side--she wanted a window. I witnessed her sticking her nose in said hole yesterday! Everyone was happy to eat hay, although Vance got pushy and began to swing his hind end around to hog the hay for himself. We tried to provide enough options for everyone, but it's always a game of musical horses as they move from one source to another, driven by whoever is vying for king of the herd position.

After I got the stalls done and the lunchtime mash made up, I decided to treat myself to a hot chocolate down at Dunkin' Donuts and to check out the logging operation down the road.

By the time I returned to the barn, the rain had picked up with an added bit of icy patter and the wind had moved into the northwest. The gang seemed happy to come up when I whistled, ready to come in out of the elements. With only about and hour and a half of daylight remaining, I figured they could come in for the night and I wouldn't need to take a slippery ride back in the dark on icy roads.

With the horses snug inside with steaming mush and lots of hay, I headed for home, the wood stove, and a cup of tea.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Ruffy begging for carrots
If only I had more time in my days. With all the recent snow we've had, I'm dying to get out and play; but I've been foiled by work. No skiing, no snowshoeing, no skijoring, and no riding. And now we're supposed to get rain and freezing rain for the weekend! Bah humbug, I say!

John and I drove out to the barn early on Monday. The mercury hovered in the single digits. At my last look, the thermometer read 2 F. Yowza--that's cold! And of course I wheedled John about putting blankets on the ponies. He reassured me, yet again, that they would be fine with hay to eat. I'm trying to break myself of the blanket habit, except when truly necessary.

When we got Harley, he was underweight and needed blanketing since he didn't have the fat reserves. The same held true when we acquired the mares. You can see how it's hard for me to say "no blanket" when the snow squeaks with cold, the icy night sky shimmers with stars, and the horses' breath steams over their warm buckets of mash. I constantly run my hands over Harley's plush sides, making sure he's holding his weight. John has come up with the perfect recipe for happy horses: beet pulp, rice bran, flax seed and corn oil, all stirred together with hot water into a thick porridge. The horses enjoy their mash more than their grain. And we top the meal off with bulging hay bags.

Harley waiting for breakfast
So on frosty Monday morning, as I turned the gang out, I figured John must be right. What's the first thing they all did? Each horse had a nice roll in the snow. Afterward, they shook off the snow and had a nice game of tag until I brought out the buckets of grain.

This time of year, many posts on blogs talk about the need (or not) to blanket horses. I guess if I look at the bright side; no blankets means less laundry, less chance of an accident with the straps, and definitely a happier Ruffy! She hates the static electricity, poor girl. I just have to remind myself that Dale Simanton's Gate to Great OTTB's are running around in South Dakota without blankets and it's certainly much colder in his neck of the woods!

As we approach the winter solstice, I'm looking forward to the lengthening days. Getting up in the dark, coming home in the dark, and no riding in between makes for grim days. I get in my morning sled ride down the hill, delivering hay, but aside from shoveling, that's about all the snow play I've had thus far.

Here's a silly picture of me after my sled ride and mucking stalls. It was so cold my face felt like it was about to crack! You can see all the frosty condensation around my hood. Brrrrr!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Big snow!

Mother Nature dropped about a foot of snow on us Saturday night and Sunday morning. After all the shoveling--at the house and at the barn, I never even got in a ride. But the horses self-exercised in their exuberant joy by galloping around the field full-tilt. After all the excitement, their settled down to nosh on hay. By late afternoon, I was ready for a nap!

We got out to the barn early this morning. The singled digits and squeaky snow had the horses' hair standing straight out! Rolex was keen to start a some games and soon they were tearing back and forth across the top of the paddock, jumping over the snow banks, bucking, rearing, and working out their kinks.

I wish I had taken a movie of them--High--oo Silver, away! John said they looked like a Marlboro ad. Now I'm dating myself--they don't have cigarette ads anymore!

So much silliness--looks like Harley jumped the snow bank (left). It was hard to leave and go to work. I could just watch them all day.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

I'ts beginning to look a lot like Christmas

We woke up to fresh snow Saturday, a nice coating to tell us winter is on its way! The minute we turned the horses out, they ran and rolled, the equine equivalent of making snow angels. I love to watch them frolic in the cold--so much joyful enthusiasm. Harley looks like he's trying to tag Rolex while she's having a good roll.

 And then Ruffy came to join in the fun!

And here's a picture of the hooligan twins, Rolex and Harley--can see that impish glint in Rolex's eye?

After we got the stalls cleaned and a few errands done, we saddled up Harley and Ruffy for a ride. They behaved quite well--only a few stops and one place where we had to get off and walk--the holiday fair at the tiny Wells-South Berwick Baptist Church. Too many ladies carrying gifts made the horses stop, stare, and not move an inch.

Unfortunately I took no photos during the ride--my hands were to busy holding my horse. I didn't quite trust him enough to drop the reins to take pictures. We road about and hour and half in the lovely snow.  The trees caught in the sun dripped snow onto us, but in the deep woods, it remained powdery. After we untacked the horses, I finally got a couple of shots.

Here's Ruffy telling John secrets--note carrots in plastic tub on upturned bucket next to John

And here's my best boy looking for treats as well! The alfalfa dengie in the green bucket was not as interesting as carrots.

Winter is officially a couple of weeks away, but it felt like the season began a few weeks ago. We've had a fair amount of cold weather, and only a dusting of snow. This past week, I went out to the barn early one morning. Jack Frost had visited the barn windows and the fields were limned with ice crystals. Once the sun cleared the rise, it melted away. But the north-facing windows remained icy!

The hard ground has not been easy for Harley and Ruffy, our thin-soled Thoroughbreds, so the snow was a welcome respite for them. We're hoping it won't be an open winter. Snow may make more work in some ways, but it surely enhances the holidays and adds more fun at the barn. Time to unearth the skijoring harness and wax up the skis!

Our friends Hank and Lili stopped by the barn tonight to bring some holiday cheer. They hung a wreath outside the barn and Lili made stockings for each of the horses. Hank tacked them up over the feed room door. Here's Lili below her handiwork. The stockings were hung by the feed room with care....

In hopes that St. Nicholas would soon be there.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Thankful weekend

While many folks got together with family and friends, John and I went to the barn to spend the day with our horses. I'd like to have a family gathering, but it involves juggling  travel time to and from the barn and ride time (got to get some exercies), all tied tied in with keeping the turkey basted and non-equine family members entertained! And if those non-equine people want to watch football, I'm afraid they're out of luck--no cable or reception at my house. I'm hoping the day will come when the horses are on the property and I can host a Thanksgiving get together. We're keeping an eye on the available properties, watching for something that will fit our needs. But until then...

 So loaded with a thermos of hot tea and carrots, we headed for the barn to round up our steeds.

Thursday was frigid. Harley and Rolex were coiled springs as we rode out. I made Harley lead up past the scary goats. Without Rolex's company, I'm sure I'd have been walking him on foot up the road! I watched his ears and head--he thought about turning for home, but my insistence and Rolex's presence kept him moving forward.

Thanksgiving Day gaves all those hunters who still haven't gotten their deer a chance to roam the woods mid-week. We decided to avoid the power line--a truck was parked there, a sure indicator a hunter was up in the woods. We decked ourselves and the horses in blaze orange for good measure. I wonder if they make those crocheted ear nets in blaze orange? Even though the bugs aren't present, the color will add to our visibility. Heck, I make so much noise yammering at Harley and John, they would hear me coming, not to mention the shuffling of eight feet through the oak leaves!

I tried out the Easyboot Trails on Harley since he's such a tenderfoot. The Easyboot fit kit arrived, but due to the flare in Harley's hooves, I don't think the Glove will work. There's too much of a gap around the hoof wall and no spread at the V. They recommend the Backcountry Trail for trim issues (although this is really a shape issue), and I think those will work better. I'm still pondering the Renegades, but not sure I want to fuss with cables--been there done that with the original Easyboots! And given the mud we can get around here, I want a secure boot. Please feel free to share your experiences with boots, fellow bloggers.

Here's Harley, looking down Cheney Woods Rd., waiting for monsters to come around the corner.

And here he is peering behind. "Always watch your back trail", say's Harley. I look like I'm crying--don't know what I was doing!

We turned off into the woods, headed for the quarry. There's a large portion of the woods road that's flooded, even in dry times. After all the heavy rains, deep water was guaranteed. I asked John to take some photos for me, but Rolex, always a go, go, go girl didn't want to stand still for long. He snapped off a few before we tackled the deep water.

I'm grinning like a fool because I'm having so much fun. Even Harley was, despite the fact that he tried to act like a chicken when he realized Rolex was not right behind him.
When he gets too far away from her, he panics, stops thinking, and his survival gears kick in--wait for me, Rolex! Then it's smash n' dash. Harley was happy to turn around and stay with his girlfriend. But his bravery weighed in just up ahead when Rolex took one look at the icy flooded roadway and said, "No way, I'm not walking through that!"

 Harley approached, looked, sniffed, and began cracking through the skim ice. By the middle, he was in water just below his knobby knees. Rolex followed Harley and then we warmed up with a mad gallop up the soft sandy trail leading to the quarry. When he passed Rolex, I thought, Oh boy, let's hope he pulls up at the top! If he were braver, and had better knees, I wonder how he'd do on a cross country course--he's a strong bugger!

A tremendous amount of logging has occurred around the quarry. I think they are planning to expand the gravel extraction. But until it's impassable, we can still ride around the barrier gates. One section is blocked by boulders. Rolex would not walk between them, nor would Harley. So I hopped off and led Harley through. I think she was confused by where she should go--it was a narrow gap. And now I had a perfect mounting block--a nice big, flat boulder. Once we moved away from the quarry ridge, back into the woods, the freezing wind abated. I informed John that Harley had to go first at this point so he wouldn't dash after Rolex and get me smashed in the face by an offending oak limb I invariably hit every time we go home this way. I need to bring the saw along and remove this hazardous branch.

I'm thankful to have 3 lovely horses, and a wonderful partner who shares my passion. So many women have spouses who support their "hobby"; I'm so lucky to have one who is an active participant--one who went out on a limb and got me Harley. My horse and I are works in progress. Was he the best first horse for someone returning to riding after a 30+ year absence? Probably not, but I'm giving Harley the opportunity not many others would have. He's no school horse--he can be ornery, but he can also be such a sweetie. What discipline would he excel at? I'm not sure, but I think he knows he's got it good with us and he's happy to have his trail buddy, Rolex Girl.

For Thanksgiving dinner, he horses had a nice warm beet pulp/flax/rice bran mash and we went home to tuck into our turkey dinner!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Driven by the wind

We wimped out on the riding today. And the ponies had breakfast inside for a change. While they ate, we trekked to Tractor Supply for barn stuff, then let 'em loose and mucked stalls. After wheeling the barrows outside and having wind blow shavings back in our faces, we hunkered down, doing indoor repairs. By the time we'd finished, it was time for a nice warm cup of tea and neither of us really wanted to ride. John and I looked at each other and said, "Let's go home for tea and some pea soup." We were driven inside by the wind. The non-stop gusting put the temperatures in single digits, I believe. My hands, feet, and ears were cold, even in winter boots, and heavy hat, and gloves.

Our rhododendrons are the "other" thermometers at the house. We can gauge the temperature by how tightly the leaves are curled. Today, I guessed 22, and the window thermometer proved my guess correct. We have to use the bushes on the north side for an accurate read. The one on the southwest corner always comes in higher due its exposure to nearly full sun.

John and I warmed up by the wood stove before moving on to other tasks. While he worked on repairing a kayak, I split up a supply of kindling. By 4 p.m., it was time to go check on our gang. As we drove up the road, Ruffy was rearing and they were cantering around--from the cold, or just because they were feeling rambunctious? Once we had the stalls readied, grain dished out, water buckets filled, I went outside and whistled them up. First, they stopped their games and stared at me, but then cantered up the hill, eager for dinner.

Here's Harley getting his warm mash served up while I groomed the caked mud from his coat. He was a little spooky with the barn doors clanking in the wind and the beams creaking overhead, but having John there calmed him--John would keep the demons out of the barn.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Wild wooly weekend riding

Three red horses.
I feel so lucky today. I got in my fourth ride in four days--a new record for November riding, I think! Granted, it was a short jaunt today. After work, we dropped off John's car for repair and dashed out to the barn as the sun was beginning to set. I whistled up the horses and began brushing the mud off Harley, sending an immense amount of dust into the air. All the horses had a layer of mud pasted on their coats, even our Miss Neatkins, Ruffy. In fact, she was the worst! John witnessed mud flying off her as she gave a post-roll shake this morning. Donning our blaze orange vests, we rode up the power line, whistling, talking loudly, and singing in hopes of scaring off any hidden deer. By the time we emerged back on the road at the Orris Falls trail head, the sun was gone. I felt like I cheated old Man November today--an afternoon ride after 4 p.m. Hah!

This past Friday was a short work day. I hustled out to the barn so I could get in a ride before dark and get the stalls done. Harley hadn't been ridden for over a week and was full of himself. Oh, it's cold and windy, and I'm feeling spooky! Yup, we'd barely made it up the road before he pulled his wheel and spin moves. I know what to expect when he's like this, so I jumped off and led him up the road until we reached the woods--it's just easier and safer. Without shoes, he's still a little touchy, so I avoided gravel and rocky trails, but I think even the acorns bothered him. I let him just walk, although he got in a springy jog here and there when we turned for home, head in the air like a giraffe, jumping at squirrels dashing through the leaves.

Saturday proved to be a better ride. Consistency is what Harley needs. I decided to tackle the same route up the road. This time he only hesitated a bit, but I kept urging him forward with seat and legs as we pranced past the scary goats. I don't think he will ever warm up to those strange bleating four-legged creatures peering at him from inside their dim barn. We did the same loop in reverse--just to keep it interesting and a little challenging for my wimpy boy. He was happy to be home where he could see his girls, and nibble on grass.

Here's Harley give Rolex love bites in the sunset...they have a funny relationship!

John and I took Rolex and Harley on another loop ride Sunday, but this time, I tried using a pair of Easyboot Trail boots on Harley's front feet. He seemed to go much better with a lot less mincing. Because he overreaches, I've ordered a test set of Easyboot Gloves to try. His way of going might damage the rear Velcro closures on the Trails, and the Gloves appear to have a snugger fit. Any fit tips or boot opinions from my fellow bloggers would be welcome.

Harley had a repeat spook, similar to last week's when the runner popped out of the woods. This time, I have no idea what he saw, or heard--a squirrel, a turkey, deer, a big rock? But suddenly, he whirled left, crashed through some saplings, causing Rolex to spin and run too. Gotta love how this always happens as you're on a loose rein with a bitless bridle! Poor John was bent over trying to adjust something when all hell broke loose. Yee-haaaa and hang on tight! Oh my, poor Harley.... Thankfully, the only injuries were a scratch on John's face a weal on my cheek. Lacrosse masks--that's what we really need.

After we got home, John still had time to tack up Ruffy and take her for a little ride too. She was a good girl, glad to not see moose, deer, turkeys, or get tangled in any brush. Her idea of perfect terrain is a nice open field where she can build up good speed on smooth footing--our turf mare!

She's such a sweet girl--I can't resist snapping shots of her lovely head, despite all the "trail tack" she's wearing.

And then we've got Buster--look at the neck on that horse! See what neck muscles a hardened cribber develops? Refined loveliness above, neck like a Belgian below. Oh Harley---get off the fence!

I'd love to know how to stop this and yet it may be something he needs to do when eating (he'd been noshing on some grass at the time). It's certainly not a vice he has from being cooped up and bored since they spend all day, and most nights (spring through fall) outdoors. Some speculate it helps buffer stomach acid, and releases endorphins. Yes, I've got a cribbing strap, but how effective is it and does it do more harm than good? Right now, it sits up in the loft, collecting dust.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Preparing for winter

Winter is just around the corner, teasing some folks with scant layers of snow, a tickling reminder that we had better be prepared. Our farrier, St. Butch, had an inch on the ground at his house this past Sunday--a mere hour or so north of us. Last year, we'd already received our first big snowfall with the Halloween storm. We'll see what Mother Nature has in store for us soon enough.

Not only am I preparing for winter at home, but at the barn as well. John sprung for a "shelter-in-a-box" so the horses would have a run-in shed while we are both at work. I'm hoping it will hold up to winter's brutish winds and snow loads. The past few days have put it to the test with gusting winds, day and night. We will have to keep the roof clear of snow with a broom, but I'll have peace of mind when I'm 30 minutes away at work, knowing the horses have an option. Rolex has shown no fear of it (our brave brumby), but Harley and Ruffy might need to get used the the flapping green structure sprouted in their pasture!

I'm trying to pack the "safe" pounds on Harley as we head into winter. This involves a nice mash made of up from rice bran, flax seed, beet pulp, corn oil, and alfalfa-blend hay. He and the girls love this warm concoction, but heating water by the bucket is slow, especially when the temperatures are down in the twenties. So John purchased a nice hotpot--instant hot water for the mash, and for a nice cup of tea!
We've got little containers with sugar and tea, ready to heat up our innards and extremities while the horses slurp up mash. This is a must-have barn accessory when there is no running hot water. I wonder why we didn't get one sooner? After waiting for slow-to-warm buckets in freezing temperatures, I finally said, "We need a little hotpot here." And this is what I got for my birthday! Thank you, John--and the ponies thank you too.

"Yummy, yummy, yummy, I've got bran mash in my tummy."

On these cold nights, I like knowing they've had a little warm treat to tide them over until morning. Oh, and it smells good too! I've got the recipe down just right--mix up a rice bran slurry, with flax seed, add oil, and beat until smooth. Pour into pre-soaked beet pulp and stir until blended. Feed to happy horses.

Ruffy and Harley got their shoes pulled this week; another step towards winter. Here's a shot of Harley and John coming in for dinner Sunday night--my two best boys.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Fall follies

Morning gang waiting for breakfast
We have enjoyed some wonderful fall riding now that the bugs have retreated and the days are cool. Unfortunately, the diminished available riding hours have forced me to give up after work ambles. So we savor our weekends, squeezing in whatever work needs to get done around the house and the barn before the snow flies. I heard northern Aroostook County received their first four inches of the white stuff. Our days are numbered. We still need to replace a fence post before Harley pulls it down with his front teeth. And our "run-in shed in a box" needs the canopy attached. I'm hoping all the horses will accept it as a form of shelter, even claustrophobic Ruffy, so they will have access to protection when the weather is bad and we're stuck at work.

Mother Nature has sent gusting winds our way. It seems we've had days and days of leaves flying through the air. Harley, being his usual silly self, spooks at squirrels, leaves, birds in the bushes, you name it! But I expect this from him this time of year. He's always more than happy to head home at a springy trot. This past Monday, John and I headed home when Rolex stopped and let Harley take the lead--this was a mistake! As we approached the brook at Orris Falls, a runner popped out of the woods and Harley whirled around, spooking Rolex as well, as they began to run away. Thankfully, Rolex pulled up and Harley right behind her--no brakes with that bitless bridle. They snorted and watched the runner trotting along the trail by the beaver pond. Hmm...we'll see what happens the next time I try to ride solo in that neck of the woods.

This time last year, we experienced an earthquake and weathered Hurricane Sandy. Thankfully, we had no storm damage. And since we still had no power in the barn due to the "cave-in debacle",  it really made little impact on our daily barn chores. We were used to functioning by flashlight, headlamp, and lanterns. Water was lugged from home in canisters. And adding to the fun--loggers were cutting in the woods and churning up the pastures as they hauled out logs with heavy equipment.

Well this fall brought its own challenges; mostly in the form of vet bills. I found a nail in Ruffy's hoof last Friday night as I did the rounds. Somehow, I'd managed to leave my phone at home--what a mistake. Sixteen miles and forty minutes later, I had spoken with John, and the vet was on her way. Ooooh boy--the x-ray revealed a bent nail curving right up into Ruffy's heel, thankfully missing the bone. She was a stellar patient, even with her sore foot, but she was not happy to be stabled over the weekend! With her buddies romping outside, she was a bit of a handful. John and I hand walked her, although she was feeling good enough to prance around like she was heading to the track. The nice green grass only held her interest for a wee bit.

Whoa, race mare!
Bandages and antibiotics to have done the trick. She felt good enough today to wheel, buck, and canter off into the windy pasture with her buddies. So as I pay off Harley's visit at the five-star spa (aka New England Equine Medical Center), we wait for another bill in the mail for Ruffy's emergency visit.  And the final clincher was buying more hay at a premium price. But I can't complain since it is some of the loveliest hay I've ever seen--a nice clover, timothy, alfalfa blend we purchased from a hay farmer in Buxton. The ponies have sampled it and relished every bite! So much for hopes of maybe attending Equine Affaire...maybe another year.

So all the woes have been a setback in the house-hunting department. But the market slows down in the winter, and this may be a good thing. It will give me time to stash some cash while we muddle through another winter out on Thurrell Road. Much as I love the location and its access to prime trail riding, I would much prefer having the gang in the back yard where we can monitor everything better--and of course, I can go out and give Harley a late-night kiss goodnight!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

To be a Long Rider

As a teen, I read a book called Last of the Saddle Tramps. It was about a 63 year old woman from Minot, Maine with little resources, but a lot of pluck, who saddled up a horse named Tarzan and, with her little dog in tow, headed for California. This sounded like an amazing adventure. I've often wondered what it would be like to experience the nation from horseback. My summers as a counselor at Catherine Capers were spent camping and riding around our neck of the Vermont hinterlands. No, it wasn't much fun when it rained, but I took the bad with the good--and most of it was very good!

Day 2 of a 5 day summer trip--campsite know as "Aunt Eunice's" on the banks of the Mettawee River
Where am I going with this? Well, this past Sunday I saw a woman with two horses out in a hay field taking a break in the late afternoon sun. I thought, "Boy, wish my horses ground tied like hers!" That evening, while tapping away on Facebook, I found out she was riding across the country from California to Maine with a destination point of Minot, Maine--home to Messanie Wilkins--where they will be hosting a parade in her honor. Now I'm kicking myself for not stopping and talking to her. What a fascinating conversation it would have been! And I probably would have offered her stabling if it was OK with our barn's owner. But I was feeling poorly from a cold and wanted to get out to the barn and feed the ponies before it got dark. So I see it as a missed opportunity.

For those readers interested in long distance riders, check out the Long Riders Guild website. And to follow Sea G Rhydr, go to and follow their adventure. They also have a facebook page under the same name. Their plan is to be in Minot by November--she's almost there!

Oh, to be a long rider --at least for the summer! Here are a few more pictures from my youth!

Day 3 of the 5 day trip--Rush Hollow

Day 4 of the 5 Day trip--sunrise along Flower Brook
 **Note the sheets, proof of global warming! Late August nights used to be chilly in Vermont.