Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Trusty Trail Pony

Hi Everyone!
Sage and I have been enjoying the summer weather lately and hope everyone else has been too. We had a rough year last year with my health issues and Sage's lameness problems and are happy to report that this year (knock on wood) we are both healthy and sound! Sage was diagnosed with Equine Metabolic syndrome a few months back and has lost about 200 lbs since then. We've switched from using a treeless saddle that seemed to cause Sage some discomfort whenever I got on, to a treed Thornhill endurance saddle.

Although my muscles are still sadly out of shape and my confidence is a bit pathetically low, riding in a treed saddle feels better to me as well right now, and has increased my sense of bravery. So lately Sage and I have done a couple of trail rides off the property and by ourselves.

No trainer, no other horse to keep Sage company, just us. Sage hasn't been out for a real trail ride since he was started under saddle at my trainer's house two years ago, and I haven't been out in about that same amount of time. So I'm very proud of both of us for getting out there and facing the scary pavement! (All adults know pavement hurts worse than dirt upon impact, right?)

We've been riding out along the pavement to the nearest dirt road and exploring the endless uphill climb that road represents. I think the hill walking is probably the best thing for Sage right now as we focus on building his muscles. (Mine too.) We're doing about a mile round trip, nothing too challenging but a big step for us nonetheless.

I'm very proud of Sage for facing huge rattly dump trucks, chainsaws, flags, bridges over streams, and running children without batting an eye. As for scary bikers and U-Haul trucks...we'll work on it. :-) In all fairness the biker was doing Mach 1 as he flew down the hill (and he startled me too Sage).

I am so impressed with my level-headed pony and he takes such good care of me out on the trails. He really loves going someplace new and seeing different things. I can't wait to take him out again, and I am hoping we will sort out our saddle situation soon too as I suspect my mother wants her saddle back sometime soon.

Hope you're all having a great summer!!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Smokey's First Ride :)

Today was the big day!! After being at camp for a fun (and incredibly hot) week, I was totally ready to be back on a horse. So this afternoon, I took Sunny out for a bareback trail ride, then got Smokey out for some practice with getting used to a saddle. He did so well I decided to take the plunge- or should I say leap- and get on him. He was perfect. :-) I tied him up and put the saddle on him, then led him around with it on at a walk and trot so he could adjust to the feel, then tightened the girth up all the way and repeated the walking and trotting. Then I let him eat, and bounced up and down in the stirrup, then got both feet off the ground and leaned over his back, and then finally swung my leg over and was fully mounted. He didn't twitch a muscle- well, okay, no more muscle twitching than was necessary to dislodge flies- and acted like this was the most natural thing in the world and he'd been doing it all his life. He understood what to do when I squeezed one side of the rope or the other, thanks to all of his groundtraining when Dan and Sue had him, the only thing he didn't know was what leg pressure meant. He just stood there, but he began to understand it before I got off of him because of all the praise he got when he stepped forward. He walked all around the little pen, and he was completely comfortable with it all. I couldn't have been more proud of him!

Sunday trail ride

Another good trail ride with me on my trusty AhD and Ian on Mister Man. Repeat of yesterday; we even took the exact same trail. AhD was up to his old tricks at first, with two fake spook-and-a-whirl near the beginning. Mister Man was also up to his tricks with refusing to go forward, but Ian is learning how to read his horse and put him back on track before he turns around. Once we got going, we had a really good time again! AhD willingly went second in line, but he tried to take out his frustration by biting Mister on his hind legs, so I had to put a stop to that. The weather was good; we had a break in the rain, but as soon as we got back, it started pouring. Good timing!
We gave our horses lots of rubs and hugs after our ride, and put them out on the pasture. AhD was feeling his oats because he let out a few bucks and snorts as they headed out. I hope the summer is treated my fellow RACers right and please post so we can read what you are all up to!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

A Dream Come True

I got to ride trails with my youngest boy Ian today! AhD's new GELDING companion, Mister Man, is not only a great boss-horse company for AhD, but also a been-there, done-that range QH who tolerates beginners quite well. We saddled up and headed out from the barn and went around the easy part of Jason's Loop. When Mr. Man decided he wasn't going to go forward anymore, guess who was the Big Guy who stepped up to the plate? Yep, that's right, my sometimes bratty pony led the way a couple of times while Mr. Man ponied along behind or beside us. AhD was GREAT! Not one single spook, either, and he didn't mind if he was lead horse or following. He and Mister also didn't mind rubbing horse flies off on each other.
After Jason's Loop, we headed across the road to a nice, wide grassy trail. We walked down the big, long curvy hill and trotted a bit on the flat. It was really fun com
ing home, too, because we trotted some more and even cantered! (I think Ian has a bit of the wild side in him) I was the same way when I was twelve...when I tried out my first horse at the same age you can bet I wasn't just a-walking her. :)
I think Mister and AhD bring out the best in each other.

After we untacked, we let our horses graze on some of that lush lawn clover to cool off.
It has been raining a lot here in Maine, but I have used the evenings to good advantage, doing ground work with AhD in the barn aisle. He is an A student now with the backing, give to pressure, and give your feet exercises. I am hoping to sneak in an even longer solo ride on my handsome Curly steed this evening, and I bet he's going to give me another awesome ride!
Harold, where are those pictures of the Badlands that you promised us? Inquiring minds want to know.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Handsome Lakota

Here is our handsome Lakota in action.
Best wishes,

Monday, June 15, 2009

A wonderful day for a trail ride with Lakota

Hello All,
Our Lakota is from the Bad Eli Warrior bloodline and at over 1300 lbs he is a big fella. But, I've discovered the biggest part of him is his heart. He will do anything you ask and take good care of you while while your getting to where ever you want to go.
Angie and Lakota

Saturday Ride with a Friend

Saturday, we had a friend join us for our Saturday trot out. Mary lives in Chester and boards her horse at the end of Trebo Road, perhaps 8 miles or so from us. She has been wanting to learn the trails to the top of Mount Ephraim - so we made a plan to go together.

Mary works at a local tack store- Slypner Tack in Claremont, NH, where they sell the Slypner horseshoe along with lots of other good stuff. They are also distributors of the ReactorPanel saddle, which I have always wanted to try. She owns one for her horse so I got to see it close up and also take a quick spin in it- I love my barefoot saddle better but I was definitely impressed.

Here's Mary and her gelding 'Sport' when she arrived at the farm to begin our journey. Sport is 19 years old and a real love.

All along the way, Mary was trying to make note of landmarks so she could learn the way. We had a blast trotting to the top of the mountain.

We ended up taking an alternate route down the backside of the mountain and trotting home on another trail so we did not end up backtracking. The horses had fun and we got in some great canters. The horses were forward and perky the whole way.. we had a super ride ! We did not get back to the farm until close to 6:00- and Mary still had to trot home .. under the threat of some very dark thunder clouds too.

We are going to plan some more rides together in the future. We'll teach Mary our trails and Zoe and I will ride over to her boarding facility and learn some of her trails.. great-- new trails !! And Sport lived up to his name.. he was a good sport and we didn't mind riding with a NON- Curly at all :)

YAY for Susan and AhD for getting in a great ride !!

Enjoy your day ~

Sunday, June 14, 2009

AhD's Big Week

AhD had a big week last week. We picked up a companion for him on Saturday morning, he had a vet check and chiropractor evaluation on Wednesday, and then he had twice daily ground work lessons for the remainder of the week. So, not only did he have a chiropractic adjustment from the vet, but also an attitude adjustment. You see, this lovely mare Belle thought he was the sexiest thing she had EVER laid eyes on, and AhD cooperated fully with her, if you catch my drift. So, back she went to her previous home at our earliest opportunity, and I set to work to gain back some of the respect that AhD used to give me when he was younger. Well...it worked! I had one of the best rides on him last night than I have had in a long time.

He was more soft and responsive, he wasn't looking for as much stuff to spook at, and he only halfheartedly tried to gain control a few times. We went out for a small spin and then tooled around the yard. I made my daughter take these pictures so I could show off my horse and my flowers. :) She said, "Mom, Ahd's the size of the head of a pin!" and didn't want to take it. I made her take it anyway.

As you can see, AhD wasn't any too sure about those puppies who were out for a little fresh air! It unnerved him when the yellow pup jumped on the fence which made a clangy sound, but I made him stick with it and behave.
We then went out for the second half of our ride, which was even better than the first half. AhD plowed through some really tall marsh grass, went down a steep grade on the powerline, bushwacked through some woods and caught the trail. On the trail, he was responsive and obedient, and we got in a few nice long trots on hilly areas as prescribed by the vet. AhD's bold power walk was back also, and man oh man...do I ever enjoy that! I owe a debt of gratitude to my dear friend Betsy Lirakis, Denise Conroy and Dr. Jefferson for giving me good sound advice and helping me through a trying week. Today after church, I am going trail riding with Ulla, and I just know that AhD is going to be WONDERFUL! CAN'T WAIT!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

horse show practice

I took Koko back to the show arena yesterday for some practice for the 4-H horse show (which is next week already!) We did several practice classes, with the moms acting as judges and ringmaster. We even had a cameraman filming it! ... I might pass on watching the 'western pleasure' class though. There were 5 horses, counting Koko. The two gaited horses tore around the arena like they had their tails on fire (I was asked if we were trying a hand gallop, which is pretty much what it was!) The as yet still unnamed, new mare, has a fast lope since she hasn't been worked in it for a long time, one of the mares was kept down to a trot for most of the lope period, and then there was the little Arabian who has a very nice lope. After bringing Koko back down to a walk (and catching my breath!) I made the determination that that was probably the most dysfunctional western pleasure class ever! Of course we had lots of fun, but I definitely will admit that western pleasure is probably not a class that Koko will ever excel in... Gaited pleasure, yes. Competing against QHs, Paints, and Appaloosa's bred for it, no.
The day was perfect for riding, and there was a nice cloud cover to keep the heat down. At the end it started raining, but we were just about finished anyway. It was a really fun afternoon. :)

Lost on the Trail

Monday, we had most of the day to explore and decided to take a trail we have not traveled in 10 years or more. This trail, so we thought, would lead us to another trail which I had heard from another local rider would take us to Wyman's Falls, a place I have not visited yet but supposedly beautiful. Cool !

Again, our spirited steeds, Keri and Teasel, were ready to GO- It was to be a long trip and they were so ready.

The start of the trail seemed innocently ho-hum... but it wasn't long and the challenges began.

Criss-crossed sap lines everywhere, we had to duck under carefully.

And, then the trail disappeared-- But we persevered, knowing the general direction we wanted to go. Every now and then, we found remnants of the old trail.

This area was logged off some years ago- allowing brush to grow up and conceal the original trail we used to travel. Sometimes we followed the old skidder tracks. While we were not truly lost, we weren't truly on the trail we thought we'd be on either... oh well-- it's going to lead us to where we want to go anyway... so we hope.

And we do end up coming out on Trebo Road as we planned- just in a slightly different place. We cross the dirt road to get on the trail opening we've seen from the car-- and excitedly head toward Wyman's Falls. Mission half accomplished ! so we think.

A short ways in-- we discover.. what's this ? squatters ? An odd little "settlement" .

We come upon a clearing.. someone's hide-away Yurt.

And look at the roof garden.. it's just starting to bloom. After a few years of growth, This is going to be quite spectacular. No one seems to be around... which is a good thing because you don't want to come upon someone's wrong kind of 'secret garden' and get shot at.

We continue to peck our way through brush and openings that look like trail.

Decision time.. which way ?

Trail number 1 --- to the left

trail number 2, in the middle

trail number 3- to the right.
We choose this one- it seems to be headed in the right direction and we spy a deer path to follow.

Soon- we come to another area which has been logged of quite recently.. it's here we begin to run into serious directional problems.

We spent quite a bit of time following false leads and wannabe trails. Not quite sure where we were.. we tried to think if we had seen any 'landings' where all the logs had been dragged for pick up along the roads.. we could perhaps track ourselves down to the road and get our bearings.

Whoever logged this acreage off did it in lots of mud- these skidder ruts are deep. Every trail and passage leads no where so we backtrack, zig zag and ponder...

Finally-- maybe this will lead somewhere.

it takes us out onto the power line, but which one ? We can turn back and go home the way we came-- or we can continue to ride the power line and see where we come out. As you can see... this looks like it might be ways off.

We are not ones to shy from a challenge.. ride the power line. Eventually , we'll come to a road and trot home from there.

Off in the distance- we see someone walking in their pasture-- maybe we can get over there and ask that person where we are ! :)

We continued to ride the power line.. came across some old fence.. Zoe had to dismount and hold it down so we could cross it.
We are starting to think... There must be some way out of here,
-- (to quote Bob Dylan from All Along the Watchtower)

In the end, we came out at a farm- at least we know where are now... but it's all fenced and we kept having to dismount and open and close gates. Luckily, there are no animals here anymore. As we neared the farmhouse.. we hoped we could sneak past quietly in case the owner would be upset or cranky about our mistaken trespass. No such luck-- there's a driveway gate right next to the house. The owner actually came out and opened it for us.. completely with understanding of our predicament.

We got out on the road and cantered and trotted for home ! it was a fun ride-- a long ride, and I am not sure if we'll bother re-visiting that trail again. But we will continue to search for the way to Wyman's Falls.

Enjoy your day ~

Monday, June 8, 2009

Sunday horse show with Koko

We took Koko to a show this afternoon (events: race home from church. scramble into show clothes. notice that Koko got himself really dirty after being thoroughly clean in the morning. panic. clean him off. he gets dirty between the time I do him the second time and when we load up. get to show a little late...)
This was the first show I've been to without winning any ribbons, but Koko was great! I couldn't be prouder of him. :-)
First class we did was Bribe your Horse. This was a slightly unfair class in my opinion, because I wasn't allowed to use my own bribe, and Koko can't stand carrots, which was the treat handed out. He meandered around the arena aimlessly for a little while, until I got him going and he started galloping (not for the carrot, but just because) and I ran as hard as I could to get back first (whew) Time? 59.5 seconds. :-P Which is pretty pitiful as compared to last years curly show where we did the same thing, approximately the same distance too, in 8 seconds flat! It was fun though.
Then we did Western Country Pleasure. He was great! I was super proud of him. We didn't place- but that wasn't a surprise to me as there were 20 horses in the class. (I think we got 6th place. lol)
Then we had the speed classes. This would be the third time he has ever run a barrel or pole pattern, and the very first time for both of us on flags. For poles, we got 39 seconds. flags- I don't know, because the flag didn't stick, but he was fairly fast. I think Dad took a little video of that... Barrels, 24.2 (last place awarded, 5th, was 21) He was so good, and it was fun to run them. After watching some of the speed horses go, I was thankful all over again for Koko. Here I am blessed with a horse who has tons of potential to do well in the speed (if we work on it instead of just going for it 9 months after the last time it was done) and who also has a great temperment, i.e, he behaves wonderfully outside the arena as well and can be ridden in other show classes besides speed. I wouldn't take some of those horses if I was paid to. Sure, I'd ride them... inside an arena. But defenitely not outside!!

Smokey is doing wonderfully, but thanks to a busy schedule and some nasty storms coming this week I probably won't be getting on him until next week. Hopefully I'll be able to post an update (with pictures) soon. :-)

A great trot out with an unusual Sighting

Friday's trot out must have cleared Keri's head out for sure- because Saturday she was more than ready to move out. Also, she saw Teasel was her partner of the day.. that always makes her happy. Zoe and I discussed-- where to go today-- and trying to match time with distance, decided on Rhonda's Trail and Mythical Street. It's been at least a year since we have traveled that route.

The horses actually cantered side by side out the driveway and down the road they were so pleased and peppy. We turned up my little mountain road- and Keri decided she wanted to canter up that as well-- bounded up and over all the water bars.. up into the pine woods until we came out onto the road where Zoe lives.

Here, we turn into the driveway on the right- This little cabin house was a 'cellar hole' for years.. something a lot of Vermonters do. They build the cellar on their property and live in that until they can afford to build their house. It did not become a 'house' until the property sold to out of staters recently. Up until that point, this was a trail start that was full of obstacles- as the former owners were true homesteaders.. geese, ducks, chickens, cows and 2 fairly obnoxious collie dogs with very few manners. The driveway turns into what we have always called Rhonda's Trail because an avid horse woman (by the name of Rhonda) used this trail as part of her endurance conditioning. She rode many miles nearly daily, so her routes were quite well worn.

These people keep the part of the trail on their property groomed so their children can ride their ATV's.

When we cross the property line, however- you can see Rhonda (nor anyone else) never rides this trail much anymore.

No cantering here! as we make our way through leaves, brush and lots of getting off the trail to avoid all the downed trees.

We either have to climb the steep ridge to the left of us and pick our way back down, or cross the stone wall to the right and peck our way through the lower swampier ground to get around the trail blockers.

At the end of the trail, it opens up into what used to be an old farm many many years ago-- the Watkins Homestead.
Here's a picture I snapped of the old house the last time we were on this trail together. When we first moved here to Vermont, the house was still half standing-- nothing much left now.

It's a fun old road, with a few 'rustic' homes along the way.

At the very end of Watkins Road-- also known locally as Mythical Street - we come upon an unusual sight for trail riding-- a parrot !

The parrot's owner invited us into her yard for a closer look.. so Keri and I rode over to get some photo's.

This is a Military Macaw, so we found out-- who likes to sit on the lawn chair for a few hours on a sunny day. Too bad the Obstacle Month is already over :)

After the tedious overgrown trail, ducking under branches and pecking our way up and around- once we got back out onto the road-- the horses were ready to canter and gallop again and we made it home in no time flat.
Today- we plan to head out again on a trail we have not traveled on in years... and hopefully onto a trail we've seen, but never tried out. We'll see where it ends up :)
Enjoy your day ~