Monday, January 28, 2013


Well, I've done it again. What started out as a nice exploratory ride through the woods turned into a disaster. John and I were hoping to find a trail to access a neighbor's land. The previous day, we rode Harley and Rolex, following snowmobliled trails and came out in an old granite quarry, actually riding through a chasm of granite blocks--pretty cool. But due to our late start, we needed to head home before darkness fell.

So on Monday, we headed out with Harley and Ruffy, trying to bushwack our way through to Hank & Lily's place. Ruffy is a bit claustrophobic and isn't a fan of bushwacking. She likes open trails with solid footing. When John asked her to wind her way through whippy little saplings and over sticks on a non-existent trail, she lost it. Next thing I know, John passes me saying, "Stop when you can!" That was it--I was already leaning over to get under a branch, with lose reins, when Harley, Mr. Chickenpants, panicked too. "Don't leave me, Ruffy!" Well, we both were unseated, and our ponies took off, headed for home. Thankfully, no one was badly hurt (at least we didn't appear to be) and we started following their hoof prints out to Hank and Lily's drive. I jogged down to the road, afraid they might be hit by cars, clutching my hurting chest. I got 2 visuals of them, ambling up the road, and calling them only made the horses stop, look, and continue home, as if say, "Oh, it's just her, let's go back to the barn." I finally caught them in a neighbor's drive, standing there looking lost. "Ruffy, you've got the wrong house, "I said, "How about some carrots?" That brought them close and I grabbed their reins. John appeared, a little gimpy, and we walked home, shaking our heads.

A couple of days later, I finally went to the doctor only to find I have a fractured sternum--oh yay! So now my winter may be shot--no skiing, no skijoring, and certainly no riding until I can actually lift a saddle. Yes, I'm so sore I can't do much of anything. I'm grounded.

Do you have carrots in there?
So while John took Rolex back to "the scene of the crash", I went for a safe walk in the woods, exploring the skidder trails and checking out animal activity in the forest.

I may be doing a lot of walking for the next few months. John will get to ride the FB (aka Fuzzy B____d) and keep him worked. Poor John, a lot has fallen on him now; shoveling, water buckets, grain hefting, pretty much nearly all the barn chores. Oh, and don't forget hammering on the frozen water buckets! I guess it's a good thing this happened in winter in that I won't be missing out on prime riding weather when spring arrives. I'm hoping this will all heal up quickly so I can get back in the saddle soon. Cross your fingers for me!
Here are some shots taken from my walk in the woods, sans cheval.

Turkey track--one left by the eight males I was following!

All sizes of deer wandering back there--looks like Grand Central Station at the logging staging area.

Ruffed grouse 
Coyote and deer tracks--hunting for dinner?
A little bit of winter wonderland tucked down in lowlands.
Frozen brook
Our horses looked so fuzzy in the blustery weather, they looked like they had velvet coats. First, Rolex is trying to be big boss mare and is nipping Ruffy, and it the next one, she's given up and I've got a sweet shot of Ruffy. Harley, unaware of the drama behind him, is noshing on the hay (big boss gelding).
Rolex, trying to rule the herd
All's well, time to come in for dinner.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Winter night in the barn

Cold weather riding attire--the Michelin woman look

You know it's cold when the water coming out of the barn faucet is steaming and it's cold water, not hot! After 4 consecutive days of freezing weather, and I mean freezing---sub zero (F) for 3 nights in a row, we're catching a break tomorrow. Unfortunately, we've also got a warming trend coming with the worst; freezing rain, yuck! I guess if I'm going to get hurt riding, now's the time to do it, get better, and wait for warmer weather. I'd prefer the sever cold to wet, sleety dankness. Honestly, I enjoy winter riding (no flies or ticks), even if I do look like the Michelin woman in my Carhartts. And we haven't gotten in any skijoring yet--so winter can't end in January.

Last night, after everyone was tucked in with dinner, dengie, and beet pulp for dessert, I walked around and snuggled my cheek up to each horse for a good night nuzzle. Rolex isn't too big on the hugging thing, but Harley rested his cheek on my shoulder, breathing that warm, grainy breath horses have, and Ruffy did the same, nearly closing her eyes as I stroked her other cheek.
Good night, sweet ponies. Sleep tight. See you in the morning.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

A foggy day on the farm

Harley and Rolex watching

It was not a day to jump up and run out the barn for a ride. The yucky damp weather just didn't promise nice riding, so we had a lazy day at the barn. The gang stood by the fence, hoping we'd brought treats--something to ward off the boredom of chewing on damp hay. After cleaning stalls, re-arranging the tack room, tossing down hay, and other mindless tasks, we brought them in for spa time. First Ruffy, then Harley and Rolex.  John took Rolex for a little meander down the road, bareback, but since it was getting dark, and the fog was thick as peanut butter, he wasn't gone long. Harley got a mane trimming/thinning until his pal left. Then he was too antsy and wouldn't stand still. Once Rolex returned, everyone had dinner, alfalfa/beet pulp mush, and more carrot treats.
Please ma, can't I eat the whole thing?

Ruffy doing her head twist begging face--check out the fuzz on her chin!

Last week, John started some driving exercises with Rolex. She continue to amaze me with her sensible head space. Here's a filly, just a year and a bit off the track, pulling a rather noisy plastic sled around! She had one little spook when it slid around behind her, but she quickly calmed and continued on, even in the deep snow.

Second lap around the driveway

Off into the deep snow

And she just kept going--what a good girl!

Hopefully we'll get another snow storm to cover the icy, crusty stuff we have now. Then Rolex and continue her training and Harley can take me skijoring. These thaws never last for long!

Friday, January 11, 2013

January Thaw

The annual January thaw is upon us. While most people relish the warm temps and melting snow, I'd prefer the numbing dry cold. Forty degrees and rain feels colder to me--it sinks into the bones and can only be cured by hugging the wood stove. Thaws also mean ice, my nemesis around the barn. The horses slip, I slip, the wheelbarrow skids. And if you want to ride, the only place left is the boring road! Bring on the snow--I"ll wait for the thaw to occur in March, thank you very much!

Rolex and Ruffy enjoying winter
The horses don't mind the dry cold either. It just gives them a reason to prance out of their stalls and kick up their heels every morning. If I stand there long enough watching them, I'll get cold, but barn chores, like shoveling and sweeping, etc. seems to keep the blood flowing enough, even to my toes (with the help of toe warmers). I'll actually peel layers off! So when people complain about the cold, they just need to get out and enjoy some activity.  If I need to warm up my hands, I can run them along Harley's fuzzy neck and let him breathe on my fingers as he searches out carrot bits. I'm toasty in my insulated overalls, long underwear, and wooly layers--warm enough to pause by the manure pile and gaze up at the glittering night sky overhead.What a wonderful time of year for stargazing--the cold makes the air seam all that much clearer.

Last week, on a sharp, clear night, I didn't have the stalls cleaned until after dark. Usually the horses wait up by the gait for me to get them. When I walked out to the pasture, something spooked them and they took off down the hill. After repeatedly calling, whistling, and bucket-shaking, I had to post-hole down the hill to round up at least one--the others would follow, or so I thought. First I got Ruffy, but she got "stuck". Her buddies stood by the fence, snorting and watching the woods. She would not go up the hill without her friends. Then I tried to get Rolex--hah! She was too busy trying to keep an eye on the woods. And Harley, well I threw a rope around his neck and held on. They continued snorting, blowing, and peering into the dark woods. Once I convinced Harley to come up the hill, the girls followed--at a canter. Everyone tried to get through the gate at once as they jostled each other for the safety of the barn. I think there might have been a coyote or two out there--possibly hunting for something to stave off the bitter cold descending into the woods.

My fuzzy guy
This weekend might be a washout as rain moves in with the rising mercury. A freezing rain is predicted for tonight--the worst kind of precipitation. I let the gang take turns wandering around the barn aisle while I mucked stalls. Each one has a different take on this situation.

Harley: Oh, I can walk around and bother everyone. Shucks, she shut the aisle door to Vance and Gator (He gets stuck there). Maybe I'll go help Rolex eat that pile of hay in front of her stall. Better yet, I'll just eat her leftover beet pulp/alfalfa mash. Hmmm.....what that outside. If only I could see through that crack in the doors better. Hi Ruffy, ok, ok, I can take a hint! Can I come home now, Mom? Is my stall ready?

Ruffy: Oh my--is this allowed? Can I walk around out here without a human on the other end? Hi Rolex--oh never mind, you cranky redhead! I'll go see Harley instead. Hi Harley, what are you doing in there? Wanna come flirt with pretty me? (Sniff sniff, squeal) I think I should be in the crossties when I'm out here--this is too confusing.

Rolex: Ahh, free at last! Who should I go bother first? Hi Ruffy, can I eat your food? No? Awe, come on? Yours is better...OK I'll go see Harley. Hi Harley, what's up? What are you doing with your teeth on the stall door? Why do you do that? Can I come in and play--dang, the stall guard is up. Let's see, what else can I get into. Maybe I can push the broom with my teeth and help Lisa? Oops, that didn't work. Oh, what's that under her vest? CARROTS! Yippeee! Ooops, I knocked them under the stairs. Hmm, stairs, can I go down those? Well, maybe not tonight. BONK--hey, what's that bucket doing there? I just hit my head on it! No worries, it's still hanging. What are you doing in that stall, Lisa? Filling my hay net--oh yummy! My favorite edible toy--eat some hay, swing the hay net, eat some hay, swing the hay net. I think the US Equestrian Team ought to have a mounted tetherball team--I'd be awesome at it! 

And so ends another night at the barn. All are snug in there stalls, with lots of hay and beet pulp mash for dessert. We'll see what Mother Nature has in store for us this weekend. I could always clean my tack!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Another snowy ride

We received a nice fresh dusting of snow last night; enough to make the hemlocks sparkle. John and I took Ruffy and Harley out for a morning ride before the snowshoers and skiers descended on the Orris Falls trail. But first, we had to get past the gobbling red bourbon turkeys at the house at the bottom of the hill. This, in conjunction with kids waving arms out the window of a parked van, put the brakes on both horses. Ruffy had enough sense to look and figure things out. Harley just wanted out of there and tried spinning for home. After a lot of looking, standing, and urging, we got past the van and the turkeys.

Once in the woods, the horses stepped out, eager to explore the winter wonderland around them. We veered off down a side trail until we came to a posted gate. Once we turned for home, Harley broke into a trot and then canter, encouraging Ruffy to do the same. We pulled up once we regained the main trail, but once again, when we turned back, the "race was on". Ruffy did well out front, only due to the deep snow. Otherwise, she would have tried a quicker pace, and Harley would gladly have complied.

My wild man
Back at the barn, we toweled the horses off, let them cool down, and turned them back out for fun and games. I never get tired of watching their antics in the snow--the sheer joy of being able to spin and run, chase each other, and roll with abandon. Poor Rolex, missing out on the ride, had to make her own fun, galloping up and down the pasture hill until her friends returned.

Rolex, busy nibbling, Ruffy watching for carrots

Friday, January 4, 2013

New Year's Day ride

Beware snowshoers, Harley!
John had to work New Year's Day, but I didn't want to  miss out on a fine day of riding. Yes, it was still frigid and the wind whipped up the pasture hillside. But I figured it wouldn't be too bad in the woods. My plans included checking out the trail conditions for skijoring. The snow needs to be packed down for Harley so he can trot easily.

We got some respite from the wind once we got on the trail. Unfortunately, Harley was breaking down through a good six to eight inches, so I don't think we'll be skijoring yet. I didn't push him to go too far. There's nothing worse than getting in a late ride and coming back to the barn with a sweaty horse. Then you are left trying to dry off your horse before the single digit temperatures creep in on silent feet. So I kept it short, only riding up to the trail junction with Big Bump. Harley gladly turned for home. I planned on keeping it easy, but he quickly picked up a trot, and once we hit the flats, decided it was time to canter. I went along for the ride, literally, because bitless bridles have no brakes. I think I've said that before! Lucky for me, there's a big metal gate at the end of the trail. I got him back down to a walk before we reached it--I think Harley enjoyed that little sprint! I know I did.

When he starts getting antsy, he hates to be held at a walk. I'm better off letting him trot and release his pent up energy. Plus it's easier to ride a horse going forward than one going sideways, tossing his head in frustration! Heck, he's a Thoroughbred and wants to run!

Everyone got a nice warm mash of alfalfa and beet pulp for a New Year's night treat!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

I wish Sundays never ended

Harley and John enjoying the snow
Our friends up the street stopped by on Sunday to try out their new Ipad. They took some pretty nice pictures of Harley after his two gallops up the pasture hill (our attempt to take the zing out of him before our farrier did his feet). On his last visit Harley was a nervous wreck, walking on Butch and even kicking once! I think he was really unsettled by the missing floor in the barn. He always snorted when he passed it coming in and it never seemed right to poor Harley who likes routine and sameness.

After two trips out, first with John and then with me, he stood like a doll for Butch, almost falling asleep. Galloping through the deep snow seemed to do the trick!

All those people inside, huddled by their televisions, missed some cold, but awesome weather outside. Yes, the wind was howling, but the snow was perfect for riding, skiing, sledding, snowshoeing, whatever winter fun could be had. As you can see from the giant grin on my face, I had plenty of fun. Where would I be without my Carhartt overalls? Our Sundays are always busy, and it's the only day John and I have off together, so we spend most of it at the barn, playing with the ponies. No matter what the weather, we have a good time--I wish Sundays never ended.

Here's a cute photo of Rolex Girl after John gave her a light workout. She was turned out for a romp, enjoying the last daylight hours.

All the photos are courtesy of our friends Hank and Lily