|Rolex on Cheney Woods Rd. cutoff|
Our route took us out via Northpoint to Cheney Woods road. There was a nice breeze blowing in the open woods which surely felt good. We dressed the horses in bug nets although I really think they dislike them. I believe they feel their vision is somewhat impaired as they seem to really LOOK at things harder; things they would ignore otherwise.
We followed Cheney Woods Road to the trail head; a bunch of boulders across an old road/ATV trail. We passed a couple of other "trails less traveled" that will warrant exploration as well. I'm trying to get it all mapped out in my head if not on paper! Once we get GPS waypoints, I may be able to download the trail onto a USGS quadrangle. We took one wrong turn that was more of a skidder path and I really hate trying to pick my way over slash. Harley is pretty good about forging ahead through the stuff, unlike Ruffy who just has hissy fits and head for home!
|Harley on the skidder trail|
I decided after my brief test ride on the new Bates saddle, to just go for it and really break it in. I figured the shims could be added, if needed, and it appeared to be fitting well. I used a sheepskin pad in conjunction with a baby pad (good for saddle prints) so Harley would have the ultimate cushion. The stirrup bars sit a bit further back than the Tekna which I like--it puts me in a better position on Harley. I also like having moveable knee blocks. This will allow the saddle to work for John and me, especially for those days when I ask John to "get on the F.B. and work the kinks out, please!" I've already splashed mud and water on the virgin leather, giving it it's first taste of life with Lisa!
Once we covered familiar trails, we veered off into the unknown. Worst case scenario, we'd retrace our footsteps following our hoof prints home. We encountered some pretty deep puddles in the road, complete with large frog populations. Rolex was not being her usual brave self, which again made me wonder about visibility through the headnet. She refused to got through some of the puddles without a lot of urging. Some of them were quite murky, so not seeing the footing may also have played a part in this. And the muck has a lot of clay in it which can be quite slippery. The woods in this area transitions from a lot of hemlock, to oak, to maple with some ash and hickory. And you get to see it up close and personal as you get smacked in the face! In places where the trail is rocky, Harley hugs the side (another reason I contemplate rear boots) with complete disregard to the overhead limbs. But I really do care about the footing for him--I don't want to any stone bruises--so I let him haul me through the underbrush! In the next photo you can see just such a branch. That hemlock overhead, almost smacked me in the face as we descended the trail--in fact, John snapped a photo of me with a face-full of foliage!
Our last major obstacle was a fast flowing brook that had washed out the road. A giant boulder sat on each side of the water, so in Harley's mind it was triply scary! He started pulling his backup stunt so I decided to dismount and let him have a good gander at the water. Rolex didn't like it much either and would not cross. John dismounted as well and with much urging, she went across with John nimbly skipping from rock to rock. I hoped I could replicate the river crossing with as much aplomb! Harley was not going to get left behind in the Wells wilderness and gamely stepped through the water. My poor flatlander horse, used to Maryland pastures and flat tracks, now had to walk over round river stones. Tricky footing!
We finally emerged in civilization. The road broadened, power lines appeared, and so did a house. This would be our turnaround point. We would have to come back in a vehicle to identify the road. John hoped we could make it a loop ride, but our option led us to a little "campsite" complete with lawn chairs, by the aforementioned brook. So we backtracked and tried another trail. This ended at a four and half-foot high pipe gate marked "NO TRESPASSING". Out of luck, we retraced our trail back home. This ride would be long enough with room for more exploration another time. We crossed the brook again with no issue--heck, they were headed home now! Harley was in "forging ahead" mode. He'd only stop for carrots! Any when we got home, he got a nice bath, and I'm happy to report, no "hot spots" or bumps from the saddle.
Yesterday seemed even hotter, so we only went for a short ride. Back at the barn, we made some repairs which included fixing the stall guard Harley ripped down with his enthusiastic cribbing. I've read a lot about OTTB's having ulcers and had wondered if Harley suffered from them as well. The vet said he seemed to be in good condition, not exhibiting many of the symptoms. She said his cribbing, while it's not been proven, may be a way of him calming stomach acid. This has been a theory I've read. But she felt he looked healthy, and since his lifestyle is mostly in a turnout situation, she didn't feel it was necessary to scope him. I'm sure Harley liked that too!