Saturday, February 22, 2014

A week of wild weather and a soft landing

What a week of weather we've had! The snow was absolutely lovely giving us crisp, sparkling, magical mornings. Driving out to the barn was breathtaking as the sun cleared the horizon. I've envied John--perfect weather for taking some time off from work! It's hard to know I will be spending the day inside on days like this.

On one of these perfect mornings, I stopped to take some pictures on my way to the barn. Here's the sun shining over some hay fields. Just look at the height of the snow banks!

As I drove along Knight's Pond Road, the sun streamed over the fields. The early morning light brought out the texture of the snow and the frost crystals on the weeds.

The horses can't wait to go out and frolic. The minute I pull open the barn doors, Rolex begins pawing at her mat, Harley gives me a good morning "giraffe face", and Ruffy nickers for food. Then the games begin while I go back in to get their breakfast. Ruffy, our chow hound, is always the most focused on eating. We suspect she may have had her rations reduced when her racing days were winding down, poor girl.  Here's our fast mare enjoying her breakfast!

One last look at the gorgeous day before heading off to work. Ah, isn't winter lovely? I can't imagine living somewhere with no snow.

Then the rain came--compressing all the fluffy snow and leaving us with icy roads. Friday afternoon, under a drizzly sky, John and I tacked up for a meander up the road. The snowbanks were too high to ask the horses to plow over, so it was a road ride, as we meandered back and forth around the icy patches. Since commuter traffic was beginning to pick up, it was just a short jaunt up Thurrell Road and back. Enough to stretch their legs and remind Harley it's safe to go out front from time to time.

Saturday morning was spent driving back and forth to the town sand supply so we could coat the icy driveway at the barn. Bucket after bucket was spread out and with the sun's warmth, a lot of the ice broke up.

Finally, we tacked up and headed down to Orris Falls with Harley leading the way until fast-walking Rolex passed him. At the first water crossing he balked. That set the tone for the next crossing! Rolex didn't want to cross either, but level-headed girl that she is, she thought about it and then leaped across. With the edges crumbling into the fast moving stream,  Harley gave a mighty leap after her. But once we turned around, he approached sideways and caught me off balance as he gave a big jump and then floundered in the snow on the far side. I came off but was cushioned the be soft, snowy landing. Harley took off up the trail, but probably stopped when a) he had to cross more water, and b) Rolex was not with him. As I began trudging up the trail, who should come back, ears pricked, looking for his girlfriend? Thankfully, he didn't terrorize any snowshoers on the way!

I clambered back on, with some help from John due to the deep snow. Before I'd even picked up my stirrups, Mr. Prancypants was off, jigging for home. We cross the brook without any shenanigans and rode the little loop nobody travels. Back on the main trail, we encountered a family snowshoeing, their kids playing in the snow along a little stream. Yikes, people on both sides of the trail. Harley's ears swiveled back and forth as he peered at the people with funny things on their feet, especially the little people down by the water. See Lisa, I told you swamp demons reside here!

Closer to home, out of the woods, Harley relaxed enough for John to take a photo.


Monday, February 17, 2014

A wintery week and a double water jump

In my ramblings, I may have mentioned Harley's "giraffe face". Well now I have a photo of him making this silly expression. If anyone has an inkling what this means, please let me know! He tends to do it when he's eating, and sometimes just before a ride, when he might be a little excited. He's not grinding his teeth, just wagging his jaw and looking downright silly. Oh, and it's not due to Rolex sticking her nose in his feed; he does this in his stall too. Any ideas, fellow horsemen and horsewomen?

Thursday night, before the impending snow, Mother Nature treated us to yet another spectacular sunset. The horses are mere shadows in the dark, but if you look closely, you can see four sets of glowing eyes.

Friday's snowstorm dropped a fresh covering, but unfortunately, we had ice and rain on top leaving us with lots of lovely new snow blanketed by a breakable crust--UGH! Then the wind kicked up with swirling snow dervishes skimming over the crust, and despite deceiving sunny skies, frigid wind chill values kept us bundled up and off the horses. We spent some quality time with the horses, hanging out in the pastures, passing out treats and hay.

After each storm, we need to clean accumulated snow off our shelter. It's held up beautifully except for our resident shredder who felt it needed windows! Peek-a-boo Rolex!
Although I have to say, I don't think she's the only culprit here. I've seen Vance standing inside it when all the other horses are outside. I think he's another shredder, just hasn't been caught in the act like our chestnut girl. Notice who's peering over John's head? See the innocent looking black Standardbred with the wide eyes? John's trying out the new window!

After barn chores and shoveling off the shelter, we delivered hay via the sled. Our friend Lili was enjoying a nice snowshoe through the fields (the best mode of transport) and after plowing, Hank arrived for a little snowmobile fun. Yes, these machines can come in handy when you need to tromp down a lot of crusty snow for your horses. Hank buzzed around the top of the field, loosening up the crust, and then took a few laps around the bottom, making "trails" for our guys. So far, the horses stayed within a small area near the shelter and under the trees where we have hay nets hung, but most of the pasture remained untrammeled due to the crust. Hank and his machine to the rescue!

John got his first chance to drive the snowmobile as he towed Hank in our hay sled. Then they swapped drivers and went up the hill to retrieve another bale of hay. Voila--speedy hay delivery and one heck of a ride! The horses have seen snowmobiles come down the power line by the road and now have experienced one close up. All seemed curious, but not spooked, especially since Hank drove slowly past them, and since it had their beloved hay sled following behind. Ever the bold girl, Rolex tried to follow them!

After we dispersed the hay, the horses happily noshed away, out of the wind and in the sun.

Our birthday girl, Ruffy, was curious about our snowshoes, as were all the horses. She approached and peered down at my feet, but quickly realized it was not so scary after all, then proceeded to eat the snow in my footsteps. She likes to "dip" into her water while eating. I watched her eat a bit of hay, and then take a nibble of snow to wet it down.

Harley and Rolex thought eating my snowshoes might be more fun. Rolex sniffed and took a nip at the end of the binding lace! Then she took a gentle nip at the metal rim, but decided it wasn't too tasty and went back to her hay. Harley sniffed, then put his teeth on the rim too. That wasn't any good, but he licked the snow off the decking! Silly ponies! Vance just ignored us and worked on eating down his hay pile.

For our President's Day ride, we headed down to Orris Falls where the multitude of snowshoers had tromped out the trail and broken the crust. It was still hard going as Harley and Rolex sank through in the deeper places. We switched off leaders a few times, letting the horses choose the route. Riding alongside the chasm, Harley peered over at the flowing water and ice. But when we had to cross the brook, he put on his brave face, and marched on through, giving Rolex confidence. The next crossing presented a bigger challenge. Rolex wouldn't cross and neither would Harley. His credo is, "if she won't do it, neither will I". John dismounted and with some urging and time for consideration, Rolex took a big leap. Harley followed suit. When we turned back, I was ready for another big leap, grabbed mane and let him go. Then Mr. Prancypants thought it was time to pick up the pace and jog home. Before this got out of hand, we slowed the horses down. Too much bashing ahead without thinking and someone might get hurt!

Back on the road, I relished the long daylight hours and our long shadows as we headed for home.

With the wind still howling, we put coolers on our horses and let them dry off inside. One of the downsides of winter riding with an un-clipped horse is keeping them warm while they dry off. Now it was time for a hot mash and dinner. Harley had a little snooze while we made the mash, relaxing after his big adventure.

And tomorrow? More snow on the way--another 5 to 10 inches!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Double headers for this weekend warrior

I saw this sunset's glimmer through Harley's window as I was feeding last Monday night. "Red sky at night, sailor's delight" right? I grabbed the camera, hoping to catch the color before it faded away. This was the calm before the storm that hit Wednesday, closing all the schools and many municipalities, mine included--yipeee, a snow day!

But having a snow day doesn't mean we can sleep in and sit around in jammies. Nope, off to the barn to feed and turn out the horses. This was the view by late afternoon when I returned to bring the horses in for the night. The snow continued on into Wednesday night dropping around 10 inches. By Thursday, the roads were nearly clear and the snow had settled and drifted leaving a winter wonderland over the seacoast. Our farrier called to reschedule his visit planned for Saturday. That left us with a full day to play in the snow!

Saturday we went cross-country skiing with our friends Hank and Lili in the woods behind their house. We had an awesome run down the trail through the old quarry. We saw tail and wing prints from an owl or hawk hunting a mouse, and lots of porcupine trails amid the quarry blocks.

We got back to the barn with enough time to get in a short ride. John had worked Ruffy earlier in the morning, so we took Rolex and Harley on a little jaunt up the power line and down through Orris Falls. Earlier in the day, the Great Works Land Trust had led a guided hike through Orris Falls; the hoards of snowshoers leaving a perfectly packed trail for skiing or riding.

Our little side trail appeared to have only been traveled on by deer. Their trails crossed ours, back and forth, a few times leading our horses astray. I think the deer were watching us as we moved through their territory in the late afternoon. Harley and Rolex stopped a number of times to peer off into the woods. We saw nothing, by the horses sensed something moving in the woods.

I planned to do a repeat of Saturday's fun on Sunday, only maybe doing a different loop. Harley was full of beans, walking back and forth while I tacked up. Since he was going solo, he was in "worry mode"; translates to, "We must get this over with as fast as possible and get home." He was fine going up the power line, and even along our favorite side trail. But once we hit the main drag to Orris Falls, he began his hissy fit. It was his way or the highway for me, as he tossed his head, backed up, pulled around, and generally acted as pig-headed as can be. When Harley is like this, it's either time to get off, or just go his way and stay safe. I opted for the latter. He pranced nearly the entire way back to the road. I did manage to make him halt a few times and back up, much to his displeasure, displayed by a distinctive tail swish. When we reached the gate at the trail's end, I decided to hop off and walk him home, self-preservation being my main concern. He had to get in one last hijinks, whirling around after a car pulled into the parking space by the gate. What a goober!

It was scary out there, Mom. Can I go see my friends now?
Back at the barn, I tried to let him dry off but he was too worked up about going outside with his "sisters', snorting (see the steam in the picture), and pacing. So I took off the cooler and tossed the bugger outside. Time to switch socks and boots and go for a ski; enough of this horsing around!

I retraced my morning travels with Harley, only instead of prancing, I glided along and was able to stop and take pictures--something I could not do on horseback today! The woods were so peaceful and sparkling. Thankfully, the snowmobilers roared by earlier, so I had the woods to myself. This is the trail leading from the power line at its junction with the short trail up to Big Bump. Looked like only a few snowshoers had been up there.

I had a lovely schuss down this hill which Harley loves to canter up--either way, it's a blast! I always savor a nice downhill run.

Here's the snowshoe super-highway, the main trail through Orris Falls, perfect for skate skiing and fast downhills! I'd love to get in some skijoring here now that it's perfect.

This might be the beginnings of a pileated woodpecker's work judging by the rectangular shape of the hole. I've seen pileated woodpeckers swooping through these woods many times.

Walking back up the road, I stopped and tried to call the horses over. Harley was afraid I planned to ride him again and hung back, but Rolex, curious girl that she is, meandered a little closer, followed by Harley and Ruffy. Vance couldn't care less what I was doing, preferring to hang out in the shelter.
This photo shows my two loves: horses and cross-country skiing!