Saturday, July 27, 2013

Goats, and trash barrels, and squirrels--OH MY!

Silly me thought I'd enter Harley in a "best trail buddy" contest. Yes, he's still my good buddy, even when he's a dithering, quivering wreck. So I write up this little blurb about what a good boy he is and the following day he's up to his old stunts. No, I'm not going forward--it's too scary. I'm going home, but in reverse. Who cares if I'm in the road--they'll stop! Right, Harley. Obviously you aren't up to speed on the average American driver who's always in a rush while using a phone at the same time. So in the interest of self- and equine-preservation, I jumped off and walked him up the road.

 Well today was no different, except the goats were very vocal and walking around in the underbrush by their shed. And one of the trash barrels was on its side, AND squirrels were running up the trees!
Once again, I dismounted and walked, but first I had to get a picture of my wide-eyed guy. It's a little blurry because he wouldn't stand still for long. OK, I saw 'em. Now let's get outta here!

Our ride in the woods was fine except for the voracious deer flies which hounded us. A beech branch made a lovely fly swatter for most of the ride. Back on the road, a breeze kept the bugs at bay. But we still had to get past the dreaded goats again. Once we pranced past them--on the far side of the road--I dismounted and made him go back for a closer look. I have to laugh at the expression in his eyes in both photos.

Can you see the whites of his eyes? The goats had calmed down a bit, and the trash cans were gone, but still--you never know when they might bound out of their pasture and attack a poor horse wandering past. He was not happy that I made him circle back and see them yet again.

You can also see the "horse caution" sign behind Harley--well only about 5% of the people passing us on this road even begin to slow down and give us a wide berth. 0.5% come to a halt if Mr. Prancypants is dancing down the road. I've learned to not expect drivers to know what to do, or care, and just jump off if things are too dicey.

Safe and sound at home.
Mr. Halawa Moon got a stern talking to about his silliness and a vow from me to go past the dang goats every day until he can do it on his own without me getting off and leading him.  And for laughs, I may decide to throw in turkeys by going in the other direction! Watch your tail feathers, Harley!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

It's like a heat wave....

Ah, the heat wave finally ended and we took the horses out for a romp. Of course, the dang deer flies were still vicious as ever, annoying the poor horses. I've come to the conclusion that none of the bug repellents are designed for deep woods use,  just ring riding. So the next time someone recommends a product, my first question will be, "Where do you ride?" I'm looking for the equine equivalent of Deep Woods Off! And I don't think it exists.

Before we headed for the woods, John took Harley for a little spin behind the barn. I like his summer riding outfit: Chaco sandals, half chaps, and shorts! Of course, all that bare skin just leaves more lunch for the mosquitoes and deer flies. Chomp!

We did a short road ride before riding into the woods where the bugs began swarming the horses. I think I'll try spraying Harley's fly mask as well to see if that helps repel the buggers! Then we had some quick trots and canters up through the logged area behind our friends Hank and Lily's home. But before we reach their drive, we needed to pass a parked semi trailer in the woods that Hank has as a storage facility, and next to it is the lower torso and legs of a mannequin. I'd love to know the story behind that! Of course, it gave Harley a good start. And Rolex wouldn't even approach the trailer. Brave Harley led the way!

Back at the house, I finished mowing the lawn--my least favorite summer chore--then puttered around in the garden. I'm happy to see some produce ripening. After all the endless rain, I was afraid everything would rot.

The tomatoes are doing well, loving the hot weather that we had last week. This is an Amish Paste plant--a lovely meaty tomato for sauces or salads. I've also got some Mortgage Lifters, another favorite I discovered last year, the steadfast Brandywines that will ripen by September, and some yummy grape tomatoes that are perfect for just plucking off and eating before you can get them in the house!

Our blueberry bushes are producing some nice fruit, though not consistently. And the birds and Japanese beetles love 'em! So I've got them covered this year in hopes of deterring the pests.

Our broccoli has lovely leaves, but no florets yet. The onions are looking good, but you never know what you've got until you pull them up! Our carrots were a disaster--no germination--so I need to reseed them and get a winter crop (I hope). The last of the lettuce is being eaten and I need to start some more this week. A few rogue potatoes I missed digging last year have put out flowers. I'll be happy to have some nice little spuds. Dill and oregano are everywhere making the bees and butterflies happy. Both of them run rampant through the gardens. Last year I tried my hand at drying some and happily had a nice cache of my own home grown spices. The dill comes in handy for making dilly beans! And speaking of beans, that crop is just starting to flourish. This year I planted a purple bush bean variety just for fun. They have lovely violet flowers as well and colorful beans.

And of course, I have flowers as well. One of my favorites is the delicate Monkshood with its varying shades of purple, pale lavender, and white. I don't have enough to cut, and I'm not sure how well they do as a cut flower, so I just enjoy them in the garden.

More rain is heading our way Monday night and through the week. So tomorrow may be my last chance to ride again for a while. If it hasn't been raining, it's been steaming, swampy hot! I hope the summer weather improves for the month of August--but then we head into hurricane season! Oh bother...maybe I'll just cross my fingers for a pleasant October.

Monday, July 15, 2013

A Two Fer Saturday and Sunday Slaving

John asked me to give Rolex a ride on Saturday, plus I wanted to get Harley out as well. He seems to have recovered from his fetlock strain--I think he slipped out of his stall one night and whacked his fetlock. So now I shut the door at night rather than use the stall chain so Mr. Klutzy won't hurt himself.

The day was turning hot, so I kept Harley's ride short, just walking, for about 45 minutes. This would also be his first solo ride in over a week, so I was prepared for backing and spin moves. He was actually quite good. We had only one attempted turn for home when he spied a rock in the trail. It had rolled out of the stone wall when the owner had taken down a tree last week. Only one spook at it, and he pranced past it without further silliness. The deer flies and mosquitoes were horrible, even with bug spray and a fly mask...bad enough to make Harley trot a few times towards home. We had one giant spook when a grey squirrel had the audacity to scamper up a tree, but overall, Harley got an A- for his ride. In fact, he did better than Rolex!

I decided to ride our wild child down to Orris Falls. I let her decide where to turn left and right until she stopped and tried to turn for home. She did this twice, once nearly trampling a small white pine to death! She has spent most of her time with another horse on her rides, so this solo exercise was a small challenge for her, our brave girl. Rolex stepped right out in her bouncy walk, so when she throws on the brakes, watch out! The flies drove us both a bit batty, so I kept her ride short too. Once we turned for home, the walk was almost a trot! In her zeal to get back to the gang, she whacked by kneecap on tree--OW! So I paid more attention to give her leg and making her actually turn around the trees than making it a straight dart through the middle! She was fussy from the insects, and not always paying attention to where she was headed, her mind thinking about her mates back at the barn. So her overall grade was a B+. No spooks, even when a big turkey strutted out of the woods into the trail in front of her and trotted away. She just perked her ears at it and decided to follow. Rolex is our most steadfast horse, the least likely to spook, and the most surefooted on tricky terrain. But like all horses, she prefers equine company on her treks.

Sunday was just too hot for riding. So John and I spent the day doing DIY repairs on the barn. While John went to the lumber store, I turned over the manure pile (aargh, my kingdom for a working tractor!) by hand with a little help at the end from John.

 I was dripping with sweat by the time I'd finished and the sun was high in the sky. The horses were snoozing in their stalls under fans, free from bugs and sun.

The fly predators have really paid off. We've had very few flies, even in the manure pile. Unfortunately they don't work on deer and horse flies, but the stable fly count has been nearly nil! I highly recommend them to all.

After a brief lunch, and respite from heat (we needed some time under fans too), it was back to the barn for window work. John tore out some nasty wire and screen mesh that covered this big window and we replaced it with bars. The sheer size made this a bit of a difficult two-person job, but by 7 p.m. we nearly had it done.

Gator's old stall is getting some much-needed revamping and upgrades. We may move one of our horses into this one while repairing other stall floors. The walls need a little more work too,  but one step at a time. We finally had everything cleaned up and put away by around 8 p.m. Another late night at the barn with dinner at nine.

We left the gang, in their usual formation, swishing at flies, wishing the sun would hurry up and go down. They were happy to go outside again by five one the sun was behind the tree line. Tomorrow, more barn rehabbing.

Hot ponies in the evening sun

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Rambling on Rolex

This summer has been so wet and humid the horses have spent more time inside than ever. It seems nearly every day there is a warning for thunderstorms and we have to weigh our options on the accuracy of the NOAA forecast. Mother Nature can be fickle and pass her stormy weather out to sea, blowing by to the north, or come smack dab over the barn. One night, we turned them out after the storm passed by, only to get home and hear more grumbling off to the south. I crossed my fingers and hoped the storm would dissipate which it did. But without having a run-in shelter, this constant worrying can be wearing on me! The horses are happy to come in out of the 90 degree heat to escape the sun and horseflies, but they are happiest turned out when the temperature drops. So after yet another week of on again off again rain, I'm hoping things will dry up a bit by the weekend.

The watchers
Monday offered a slight break, and I almost saddled up, but looming grey clouds threatened with another downpour. A couple of girls rode by while the sun was shining--I hope they noticed the impending storm. The gang all ran to the fence to watch the visitors clip-clopping up the road.

Harley managed to do something to his left front fetlock one night--inside, no less--and I've given him time off to heal. While he had a "vacation" I rode Rolex Girl. She had a bit of herd-separation anxiety and whinnied for her friends as we walked up the road, but she didn't need too much pushing to keep going away from home. I'm afraid Harley will have taken a step backwards after all this time off. I may be back to hand walking again! But the deer flies were so horrendous, and the weather so hot, we didn't go very far. Rolex has such a springy, athletic walk--so different from the shuffling gelding who only walks fast when he's scared of being left behind, or out on a ride all by his lonesome.

As some of you may remember from a previous post when Harley played with the drill, he has now discovered that box fans can give him the same sensation on the nose as drills. One night this week, I heard a clattering sound coming from Harley's stall. He had managed to press his nose between the bars against the center of the box fan hanging in the window, causing the grill to press against the blades. Expecting him to jump back, scared by the noise. I watched as he did it again, getting his nose vibrated by the fan. Let me explain that the fan is nearly all plastic, so he can't really hurt himself on it, but I did move it back away from the window so he couldn't reach it again.

I hope we get out of this cycle of never-ending rain soon.

Monday, July 1, 2013

The drive to the seen on a summer morning.

Martine over at Tails From Provence blog did a little photo essay of her drive to the barn and asked others to share their barn trek. I thought it would be fun, although the little camera kept firing off the dang flash in the early morning light. So here eight mile jaunt to the barn.

6:30 on a sultry summer morning--leave the house and drive down Brattle Street, clutching coffee in my right hand, until I have to shift ( the advantage to automatic transmission).

Approaching the town's ball fields, this meadow is home to meadowlarks and red-winged blackbirds.

Pass a hay field--this one was partially cut before "monsoon season" hit. I love the smell of fresh cut hay, first thing in the morning, well, just after coffee! This is a great place to see deer at dawn and dusk.

Descending Great Hill Road--a killer climb on the bike, but a great ride down. The pitch is kind of lost in this photo.

Cross the Great Works River. Right now, it's running high with all the rain we've had. It's been known to flood the bridge a few times!

At the intersection of Rodier, Great Hill and Thurrell Rd. I'm almost there and I start getting happy horse thoughts like a ten year old going to Disneyland--only better. Yes, I'm going to see the horses, oh boy!
This route is part of the Eastern Trail Greenway bike route which travels the east coast. I've cycled the section in Maine that runs between Kittery and Saco.  I tell people to follow the ET signs for directions to the barn.

Here's the point where I start looking for the horses--where are they and what other critters are out there with them. Usually I spot some turkeys and crows, and at dusk, maybe some deer.

Pete's dog, Belle, comes out to see what's up. She's a little intimidated by the horses, but they like to give her a good sniff which sends her scurrying away.

Hungry ponies digging into breakfast. As usual, Rolex is trying to share with Harley. Whenever he goes to crib on the fence, she sticks her nose in his bucket.

This morning, a little visitor was waiting by the water tank. Yesterday, this guy was in one of the grain buckets. Today, he/she sat on the fence while Harley rubbed his head on it, wiggling the board back and forth.

Tree frogs have sticky little pads on their feet. With his feet tucked up, they are hard to see. Given his squinting eyes, he must have just woke up! 

Rolex and Ruffy were too busy slurping up fresh water to notice the little frog overhead. Rolex decided to slurp on the tank too!

Ruffy checked to see if I had any carrots and then left. So, I had the horses fed, turned out, and stalls done by 8:15. Someday I hop to eliminate the drive and just walk out the door in my jammies and mudboots to feed. But until that day comes, I'll let the anticipation build with each mile, around each bend,  until I see my ponies, waiting in the field.

Thanks to Martine for the Liebster Award. I must admit, I don't think I can come up with 11 other blogs that haven't already won this award! There are a few blogs I follow, aside from Martine's, and those are listed below. Most are fellow OTTB owners--I like to know what other folks are up to with their ex-racehorses. A some are fellow adventurers, out exploring the world on horseback, and carrying a camera, like Martine and Collen (Bay State Brumby). And a few are ex-racehorse rehab/rehoming folks. I discovered the last one on the list while reading about the 2013 Retired Racehorse Makeover trainer pages. Here's an example of the Thoroughbred's versatility that's not seen much--ranch work! Check out what these people are up to in the equine blogging community.

Angry skies

This is all we've seen, day after day, for over a week. The forecast has been rain, thunderstorms, rain, and more thunderstorms. And even if it wasn't raining, the humidity was so high, that it felt like rain!
The horses have suffered being cooped up most nights with stormy skies threatening overhead. The barn offers some respite from the bugs, but they would prefer to stay outside and just have carrots fed to them daily. An occasional brushing is o.k., although a good mud wallow is much superior, and, if coated on thickly enough, no bug will ever penetrate the crust! Harley and Rolex are aces at this method of insect repelling. 

John and I squeaked in a ride finally Sunday morning. The sun was actually out for most of the day, along with hot temperatures and high humidity. If I didn't know better, I'd think I was riding through some bayou and not the Maine woods! And of course, the deerflies have now put in an appearance as well, zooming around our heads. Oh yay--now I'm ready for September. Here's a quick movie of Harley, playing catch-up with Rolex on Sunday's ride. Sorry--shot in a vertical format--turn your computer on end!