Monday, March 25, 2013

Chickens & turkeys & ducks--Oh My! And Harley has a birthday

The wind finally let up by mid-Sunday, enough for me to want to ride. Saturday's brutal blasting winds kept me out of the saddle and the horses blanketed. This time, last year, the snow was gone (what little we had) and we were riding in flannel shirts, not jackets! We took Harley and Rolex for a trip up the power line where drifting snow still measured about a foot in places. Coming down off Big Bump, we had to cross a small brook. Rolex wasn't too keen to cross the water and peered at it as if to say, "What do I do now?"   Harley , the birthday boy, took the lead and was happy to walk out front for a good portion of the ride.

He got "stuck" a time or two, as did Rolex, where they switched leaders and supported each others fears. Your turn to go out front--oh no, I insist. They are quite a pair out there.

Harley bravely forded the brook at Orris Falls, with a stop mid-stream to sniff, but didn't drink. Then we headed up and over Spring Hill. No one seemed to have snowshoed or skied beyond the Orris Falls point. Maybe busting trail through deep wet snow forced everyone to quit. Our brave steeds made it all the way out to Emery's Bridge Rd. where we decided to give them a break and ride home via the roads.  

This is when things really started to get interesting. Harley has always been braver in the woods than on the roads. That's where he sees all sorts of scary things--sailboats under tarps, greenhouses (with pumps running!), ducks (even Rolex gave them a careful eye), chickens sitting under dryer vents, a pen of fowl, and a pair of broad-winged hawks flying perilously close overhead, calling "Keer, keer, keer".
It all was enough to make the birthday boy become Mr. Prancypants.

Harley could definitely do better on the roads, but I'd really like drivers to use more caution and sense. As he jumped sideways at the chickens, a lady approaching slowed down, a little, but his jump made her realize that she needed to REALLY slow down. I waved my arm at a few people, signalling this, yet they totally blew me off and didn't let up on the gas at all. What is wrong with these drivers?

A view from the rear, and Rolex's ear tips
For Monday's ride, we swapped horses. John rode gnarley Harley and I took Rolex Girl. We headed up the road and into the woods. Once again, we made this a trail/road ride due to the workout of going through the deep snow. Both plunged through a number of deep drifts in places, so walking down the road via North Point, gave them a nice breather and cool down for the amble home.

It was even warm enough today to give them both a bit of a warm-water sponging to get rid of the sweat. Harley only had one attempted turn back, but John got him back on track. "Oh spinner man, where you gonna run to?" was my song of choice for him today. Rolex felt sparky and wanted to pass Harley on the home stretch, but like a little kid, she gets sidetracked. She wanted to stop and check out the goats, while Harley would rather run past them, with his eyes closed! It will be nice when the trails are clear again.

Friday, March 22, 2013

My other passion--cross country skiing

I zipped out to the barn after work on Thursday, hoping to get in a little cross-country skiing. Aside from a little trip down the pasture on the day of the storm, I've yet to ski at all this winter due to injuries. This shaped up to being a stupendous year for skiing, and I didn't want to miss out!

I brought the horses in, fed and watered them, started the beet pulp to soak, then stepped into my skis and headed off down the pasture fence line. Climbing over the fence was no problem, but the knee-deep snow bank on the other side surprised me. There's still A LOT OF snow out there! It's a short hike from the property to the Orris Falls trail head. What I wouldn't give to have this right in my back yard. No cars in the parking lot promised me a quiet adventure on my own as the sun slid behind the trees. At 6:30, there's still sunlight hitting the hilltops, but the lower reaches of the trail were enveloped in a greenish gloom from the dense hemlock forest. I figured I still had about an hour's worth of light for my evening ski.

The scary snowman appeared to have shrunken with the warm day, and now he was sans an arm and face. But I'm sure enough remains to scare the horses on our next ride through here. Will I risk riding Harley, alone, here on Saturday?

The quiet woods surrounded me; my breathing, and the shushing of my skis the only sounds. By now, birds had gone to roost. I hoped to see deer, but the noise of my skis in the icy snow would probably keep them well hidden. This time of year, the deer blend in so well with the grey tree trunks and shadows, I have to peer into the woods carefully to see them.

I decided to go at least as far as the bridge over the brook. No one had skied or snowshoed up to Big Bump, and that would entail breaking trail the entire way--not enough time for that! Most of the snow was gone from the bridge, so I decided to make it the turnaround spot. I noticed ski tracks heading off along the brook to the falls and decided to take that route home.

The water was rushing under the bridge making a loud roar down in the chasm--another reason to go home via the falls.

 By now, the sun had disappeared leaving the woods darker and making the camera flash was going off. But the snow lightened up the forest floor--still enough to follow the trail along the chasm edge.

Once I realized I had descended too steeply and had now reached the chasm floor, I backtracked. I didn't know where the other skier's tracks led to, so decided to get back onto the main trail. Rather than herringbone up the steep slope, I opted to take off the skis and hike through the woods up to the trail. At this point, I noticed a hot spot developing on my right heel. I remembered having issues with these boots two years ago. Well, I'd left without any first aid kit--it was only a short jaunt down the trail--so I had no alternative but wince with each step and get back to the barn. It only bothered me climbing, and most of the ski back was downhill or flat. I could tough it out.

By the time I got back out to the road, it was 7:15. I'd had a good workout--one that broke a sweat--and enjoyed the woods all to myself. Finally, back on the skis again!
Back at the barn, I could hear Harley cribbing. The girls were snoozing, and though I hated to disturb them, I doled out the beet pulp to everyone's joy. All the horses tucked into their treat as I shut out lights, packed up ski equipment and passed out the last bit of carrot.
Orris Falls chasm

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

March heads out like a lion AND I get back on board Harley

A big storm hit Monday night and still hasn't quit as of 10:15 tonight. I got a snow day from work, but still had to shovel twice and then go take care of the horses. They were raring to go today, prancing out to the paddock, kicking and bucking, glad to be outside in the snow. While I did the stalls, made beet pulp mash, hayed and watered, they played horse games, which included grabbing sticks from the brush piles and waving them around.

Vance appeared to be the only horse interested in what he could unearth from under the snow. I'd put hay out the other day, and I think he found it! The other sillies just gnawed on brush. The wind was howling, threatening to lift the roof off the barn. As I picked stalls, the beams in the loft creaked and groaned under the wind's fury. After of few hours, the novelty of playing in the snow wore off.  I whistled the gang up to the top of the hill and brought them inside out of the storm. After a good rubbing, everyone got a beet pulp mash while I tested out the skiing.

I took a run down through the pasture, but the snow was so deep and heavy--a good 12 inches of snow--that my skis tunneled under and the snow packed against my legs, bringing me to a halt at the bottom of the hill. I trudged back up, gave everyone some dinner, and headed home just as the storm was winding up again, dropping an inch an hour or better. This what I saw out my windshield on the drive home--not much, just pure white!

After almost 2 months of not riding Harley, it was time to get back on my fuzzy boy. Yesterday John and I took Rolex and Harley out for a nice ride in the woods up towards North Point. One ominous sign was a lot of flagging tape up in the woods. I hope this doesn't mean new houses and roads going in. That would be such a shame and we'd loose quick access to a lot of trails. The snow wasn't too deep except in a few protected spots. This made it much easier on the horses, although Harley and Rolex paused at an icy watery muck crossing. Both sailed over without getting their feet muddy! Harley popped from a standstill--hang on and grab mane! He was good, feeling frisky, but not too spooky. He even walked out front for much of the way, and didn't jump at the goats! That's my brave boy.

Post ride--Harley watching for whatever may come up the road.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Monday's meander

Ruffy peering at the water
Monday was "girls day out". Harley kept Vance company while John and I took Ruffy and Rolex for a meander down to Orris Falls. The ride was uneventful, a blessing for me these days, but the girls got "stuck" at a spot where the water was running across the trail. Ruffy could easily have jumped it, but instead, stood and snorted at the water. I think the scary snowman may have set her up for "spooky things" along the trail and she's never been a fan of getting her feet wet.

Rolex just decided to copy Ruffy and decided she didn't really want to go any further either. John dismounted, and tried to lead Ruffy across, but she was having none of it, balking with feet firmly planted on one side while John waded in the muddy water. Rather than turning it into a contest of wills, we called it a day and turned for home. Of course, this meant passing the scary snowman again. Rolex went out front, snorting, with Ruffy scooching by fast when she realized she might be left alone!
Rolex wimping out on me

You know it must be super scary for Rolex to stop and snort at things in the trail, but she was brave enough to not try racing for home!

My body seems to have healed up enough that I have no more chest pains from the fractured sternum and my carpal tunnel hand is getting stronger each day. Of course, then I went and jammed my pinky on my other hand--what luck! But I can once again lug grain bags, hay bales, and water buckets without pain!

Just when we thought we'd seen the last of the snow, we got another inch Friday night. It was enough to send people off the road, but not enough for the road crews to get out there until after 7:30. It was a slippery drive to the barn Saturday morning!

The sun is shining today--time to get going and in the saddle. We've got more snow heading our way Monday night through Tuesday. I guess winter isn't releasing her grip on us just yet.

This tree looks like it was struck by lightning, but we haven't had any--just high winds that seemed to have split it right in half!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Back in the saddle, but on a different horse

With such wonderful weather, who could resist not riding, gimpy hand or not? Actually, it's doing pretty well and the sternum appears to have healed up nicely--no more stabbing pain if I sneeze. John and I agreed that Rolex Girl might be the better choice for my first rides again. She's the most level-headed and not likely to whirl left, traumatizing my right hand unlike "he who shall not be named"!
Saturday started with mad gallops, bucks, and squeals. After being cooped up in the barn during our last storm, the gang was ready to rip and stretch those legs. Pictured below is big boss mare, Ruffy, followed by the famous gelding who wishes he was a stallion right about now. Ruffy is coming into heat and being an outrageous flirt! I wish she'd take it easy on her left knee--silly girl.

And here's the lead trouble maker, and truly the lead mare, Rolex, enjoying her freedom.

After they all galloped up and down the hill, spun and careened in circles, everyone needed a giant gulp of water and breather.

I went to get the hay delivery sled loaded up. The minute I dragged it through the gate, I was followed by Rolex and Harley. Ruffy is a little spooked by it, and Vance, he's convinced it's dangerous, despite the hay bales on board. I couldn't wait to take it to the bottom of the hill--this was my best sled ride yet, from the top of the hill, all the way to the far corner. I even had to put my feet down so I wouldn't run into the fence! Awesome ride! You can just make out my tracks across the slope.

There's still a tremendous amount of snow in the woods, except south facing slopes where the sun is doing its best to melt it away. The snowbanks make formidable obstacles for the horses to clear or bumble through to access the trails. Rolex, sure-footed gal that she is was a star. Even Harley was well behaved for John and led Rolex through the trickier spots--deep water, deep snowbanks, and past the scary snowman. Yes, someone built a snowman on the Orris Falls Tr. and once Harley and Rolex saw it, they thought for sure it was the abominable snowman, ready to eat them! John could feel Harley quivering and even Rolex was convinced they should get home--fast! John kept Harley from speeding off, thankfully, since my right hand is not at full strength and trying to stop a runaway might prove painful.  They received carrot treats for being so well behaved and for such a nice ride. Thank you Rolex Girl--you were a star!

Sweet faced Ruffy--such a lovely eye

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Equine Art at the library

About 8 years ago, before I owned Harley, I switched library jobs, leaving one for another. When I was subsequently laid off, I returned to the previous library and that brief period is fondly known now as "my leave of absence" since it was only about one year. But once it was known that I was leaving, a family that had 2 children in my kindergarten-aged story time, gave me a wonderful going away present. The kids all knew how I loved horses, and that I hoped someday to have one of my own.

All three children, including the eldest who I'd never had in story time, painted pictures for me. I have two of them against the window in my office.  Now, when I sit at my desk, I can view them every day! Thanks, Brenten, Mackenzie, and Nick!

Apologies to Nick--his black horse against the dark blue back ground didn't come out--I'll re-photograph it and update the post soon!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Hot topic, I guess!

I was taken aback by my readers' comments regarding using spurs and feel compelled to write something about spur use.  I'm not saying spurs are a cure for rider/horse issues, and should certainly not ever be misused. But to keep aids clear, they can be gentle persuaders. The standard, dull-ended style pictured below in the last post, is widely used among professionals, of which I include John who spent years on the hunter/jumper circuit.

I'd like to assure my friends and readers, that spurs are used with discretion and are not the norm for our rides. Our 3 OTTB's are all different and require different types of riding. We've never used spurs on Ruffy, for example. Harley can be willful, and ignore a rider's aids if he's being uppity, much like his half brother Declan's Moon who just participated in the 100 Day Thoroughbred Retraining Project. I'm pointing this out because Steuart Pittman is using spurs (Spursuaders, to be exact)on another, 11 yr. old, willful, OTTB.

I hope all my readers understand that Harley and the girls are never jabbed with spurs, or jammed into an overbent frame. John and I don't use draw-reins, chambons, and other paraphernalia to get a desired end result, at the expense of immense discomfort to the horse. We use crops, and occasionally spurs, if needed. We ride with light to loose contact so the horses can move forward freely, and we use bitless bridles.

Well, lunch break is over. I've said my bit and I hope I've not offended any readers as I so enjoy the contact I have with other riders via Harley's blog.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Grey skies still

Harley and Rolex tearing it up Sunday morning
The weather has continued to cast a perpetual greyness over us. This might be good in that it will keep me from overdoing things until my hand heals. But Sunday morning's fresh snowfall made the trails look so inviting. The woods looked like powdered sugar had been sprinkled overnight. The gang is always happy to romp in fresh snow. One of the great things about this winter is they can't get all muddy when they roll--just receive a nice snow bath instead!

John had a yearning to get a new halter for Ruffy, since some hooligan, aka Fuzzy B. broke her's when he had a spooky fit in the floor-less barn. I gave John a halter nameplate at Christmas, so we decided it was time to get her a replacement halter. We checked the boiling sap before we made the trip to Dover Saddlery, arriving back with the halter and other "essentials" just in time to rescue it from burning off. One and half more pints in the fridge. The trees are still giving us a nice amber run, far from the molasses colored syrup of last year.

The girls have become quite the pocket pickers. You can see in the above picture, Rolex and Ruffy sticking their noses in Johns hands, looking for carrot treats. Rattle a plastic bag, rummage in your pockets, and no doubt, you will be mobbed by horses. It can be tricky when Vance gets involved since he's the head of the herd and warns them away. If I manage to wave enough carrots in different directions, I can keep the peace. All those velvety noses nudging you, "Me next. Where's mine?"

Today John had time to get on Harley and Rolex for their first workout in weeks. He took each on a little jaunt up to Orris Falls and through an adjacent logged area. He reported back that Harley was good--they even had a nice fast canter. I held horses while he swapped tack and took Rolex out next. She wasn't so keen on crossing the brook--granted she hasn't seen it in weeks--but decided that without Brave Harley with her, she'd rather come home. So lucky John got in a double-header today, even though they were short. And the best news, he was coming back to the barn at 5 p.m. and it was still light out! Well, as light as the grey, snowy sky would allow.

Check out John's new mucky muddy riding footwear--who new Bog's had spur rests? Perfect for the upcoming mud season!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Bored, bored, bored....

Our first run of amber syrup
Well I had the carpal tunnel surgery two days ago. Things seem to be going fine, although I'm limited in many ways. Hefting buckets, hay bales, shoveling (snow and manure) are all definitely out for now. So I'm biding my time, bored by the inactivity, and looking forward to spring riding when the ice is gone, the days are long, and my fuzzy boy won't have to spend nights indoors.

So today, I'm watching the sap boil, hoping to get a second batch of maple syrup--3 oz. for John, 3 pints for me. He's not the syrup afficionado that I am--but he certainly throws his heart into it for my benefit! Since I'm relegated to the bench, I can keep an eye on the boiling sap, do laundry, and catch up on my reading--oh, and watch season 3 of Downton Abbey--any fans out there?

I can also waste time surfing the internet for farms I can't afford, saddles I'd love to own, and dogs needing adoption. Have any of you fellow OTTB owners followed the 100 Days Retired Racehorse Retraining Project? I picked Suave Jazz as the horse I'd most like to own. Declan's Moon, half-brother to Harley, sounded like a tough nut--must be the Malibu Moon trait!

The days are getting longer, the snows wetter, the sun stronger. Spring will be here in a couple of weeks.