Saturday, November 29, 2014

The hounds of hell on Harley's heels

Our weather has been a little crazy here in Maine--some early snow that teased us, then the temperatures soared back up into the low sixties bringing rain and lots of fog. We know winter is just around the corner, but it's always nice to squeeze in one more ride when mittens and bulky jackets aren't required!

Oh what a weekend it was--a great ride, and a not-so-great ride. But I think I jinxed myself this time. With the short days our time in the saddle is limited to just weekends and my Monday afternoons. And John's new shift only gives us Saturdays to ride together. So my steed has been spending most of his hours hanging out with his girlfriends, munching hay.

John and I had a nice little ride on Saturday with Rolex and Harley. But when I asked Mr Little Ears to go solo on Sunday, well, his home-bound highness gave me quite the performance. I could tell it promised to be an interesting ride when Harley would not stand still while I tacked up. Back and forth, back and forth, he paced in the cross ties. Once on board and headed up the road, he was jumping at every squirrel rustling in the leaves. But when two dogs came tearing up the trail, that was last straw for Harley. He turned tail and began to run--fast. Now trying to stop a horse in the ring, or in the open isn't too bad, but when it's over undulating terrain with overhanging branches--well, good luck. As I ducked, he veered right, gave a little buck and as I scrambled out of sticks and leaves, I had a great view of his big bay butt galloping off down the trail. Damn, I thought, I need to catch him before he heads for the road. Thankfully, Harley missed the turn for home. There was a chance I could intercept him if he didn't go cross-country as the crow flies. As I hobbled through the woods, whistling and calling, he appeared, trotting towards me, ears up.

I grabbed the reins and led Harley back to the scene of destruction and on up to the house with the dogs. The owner had them tied up, but they continued barking, which was good. Harley had a chance to stand near their yapping maws, and realized he wasn't about to be eaten. I've had run-ins with these tenacious dogs before, and the owner admitted they like to chase and nip (oh yeah), but in the past, I've turned Harley towards them, they've given up. Not so  this time. With the dogs no longer on his heels, Harley settled down a bit. I remounted, and we continued our ride. Jumpy as he was, we needed to work through all this together.

We encountered a couple of other riders, which gave Harley pause, but after nuzzling noses, we continued our ride. All went smoothly until we returned to the road and a bicycle zoomed past. He jumped sideways, and proceeded to prance. For self preservation, and to help cool off my sweating beast, I decided to lead him the rest of the way home. Harley's shaggy coat was going to need a good sponging after his mad dash! I went home, a little beat up with bruises on my shin, ankle, thigh, and derriere, but walking and upright!

Then came the calm before the storm; a lovely sunset before our first really big storm of the year. More on that in my next post.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Another best birthday ever

Another birthday has come and gone, but I vowed to get in a "birthday ride" despite having to be at work by 9 a. m. on Thursday. It's become a special treat for me ever since I got Harley. My parents were subjected to the constant "horse present" wish for way too many years. I can now fulfill that dream every day when I go out to the barn and see our gang.

The minutes ticked by as I jogged between chores, glancing at my watch every few seconds. Once I had everyone fed, and the water tank filled,  I began cleaning off Mr. Muddypants.  There was time for a very short ride, or at least a walk, before I had to jump in the truck and leave.

I coerced Harley into the barn to tack up. He was not pleased to leave his girls, but grudgingly relented. I briefly thought about going bareback, but he hadn't been ridden in about a week and a half, so I opted for the security of a saddle. I had just enough time to ride out behind the barn to do some leg yields, turns on the forehand, and a few trots before it was time to go. Harley felt spunky--looking around at everything, especially the green tarp that had blown into the woods, and the ladder teetering on the back porch railings. Then Pete appeared and said, "Where's your orange?" Well, since I wasn't leaving the ring area, I decided to skip the blaze orange. No hunters would be shooting that close by and not have a clear view of us! We only had one minor "blowup" when he began snorting and thought about throwing in a buck, but he quickly came back down and settled. Thank you, Harley, for being a good boy!

A morning ride, no matter how short,  can set the tone for the day and put a smile on my face. And it's the best view of the world from atop your horse's back!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Last sunny days of October

With autumn winding down as we head towards the short, dark days of early winter, the horses soaked up the last bit of warmth the sun had to offer. The past weekend offered some of our best weather for fall riding. The horses are beginning to get their winter coats. Cold nights have given Harley a bit of a shaggy look, and Ruffy has started to get fuzz-face; long hairs growing around her cheeks and jaw. Rolex appears to have the least amount of winter hair growth, but she'll be catching up soon enough with the snow headed our way!

This is what I like to see this time of year--sleek Thoroughbreds ready to face the winter. They enjoy their beet pulp/flax seed/rice bran mashes and we can see the results in their shiny coats and the extra "padding" along the ribs. Coupled with the alfalfa mix hay, they've never looked better. Even Vance, the elder Standarbred in the heard, seems to be holding his own and feeling good.

We put the hay barrels down in the field to encourage the horses to eat down there, rather than along the upper fence line which has turned into a mucky mess from all the recent rains. The reduced traffic should help the mud dry out a bit. As I worked on the fence, I had the "assistance" of the gang, first Rolex and Harley, inspecting my work and sniffing my pockets for carrots, then the inquisitive Ruffy, also hoping I had treats to hand out.

Walking the fence line, noting what repairs I still need to do before winter, the gang moved with me until they decided I was of no interest without carrots. I know some people feel strongly about giving horses treats, but I look at it as a reward for letting us catch them. When I first got Harley, he was fond of walking away when I approached. That's not to say they all don't try this on occasion, especially when they're feeling fresh, but treats do keep them approachable in the field. No one is especially nippy, but I might feel a nose and lips snuffling at my pockets when I'm picking out feet!

Our latest adventure took us back out to Jepson Farm and the quarry. I always love the ride out to Jepson Farm. This time, I gave the camera to John, and he snapped off numerous shots of Harley. Here's my Halawa Moon, looking like his dad, Malibu Moon--big spooky eye and little short ears! He was feeling a bit fresh early in the ride. In fact, he was a handful just leaving the barn, but settled as we got going. Standing around is not something OTTB's do very well.

Here's another shot of Harley with his "look of eagles" pose for the camera.

"Enough of this standing around", said Rolex, "let's get the show on the road and go somewhere! "Hey, what's Lisa looking at? Jeezum, Harley, can you see those tiny trucks down there?"
There's been a lot of activity at the quarry as the process material before winter. Once things start to freeze, they can't run the gravel plant any longer and things quiet down for winter.

We decided NOT to take Rolex's short cut down to the bog, up the ridge, and through the ravine, this time. But we did stop to take a picture of what we now call "Rolex's Ravine" since she's the one that got us into that little adventure. John's new nickname for her, Rolodex of Trouble, really suits that mare. She keeps us laughing, our Roley Girl. The camera doesn't show the depth very well, but believe me (and Harley), it was a scramble. For those of you that have seen The Man From Snowy River--that's what came to mind, maybe not as steep, and certainly not at the same speed, but still a scramble!

When we got to North Point, Harley and Rolex had to stop and watch the horses in the pastures. Harley started walking down the drive to go investigate while Rolex watched and wondered, "Do I know you guys? Did I smell you out on the trail?"

North Point is for sale, for a cool $770,000--too bad it's way out of my price range. Its adjacent to conservation land with many trails, has a lovely barn, three pastures with run-in sheds, and a half mile "track".  Harley and Rolex wish I could buy it for them (and so do I).  Ah well, it's nice to dream.