Wednesday, April 29, 2009

sandwiches and chips for all the shoulders

Here is a slide taken in August 1957 of my Grandfather with my family's favorite imp, "Chaplain". This is when Chappy was an old boy, sadly crippled by ringbone and sidebone. In his prime, he was brilliant. He taught my mom that the rental horses she thought had made her a "rider" had really only poised her to fall off harder. Then, in time, he taught her to find the courage to get back on and really become a rider. He was smart and naughty - and had truly lovely ears and a good heart.
Another dark bay with cute ears, impish tendencies, and a good heart, is one Pie, the Sly Pioneer. He and I had an interesting adventure this afternoon. We headed out across the field in search of whatever it is he is looking for at our neighbors' homes. Instead, in one backyard, we found 4 Miniature Pinschers, each tied to their own white plastic lounge chair. When the dogs saw us they frantically barked and raced toward us, chairs in tow, first with the plastic loudly scraping the patio, and then, with the chairs bouncing out across the lawn! Pie did the expected, and honestly, understandable, jump-buck combo, but it wasn't too bad considering what was racing toward him. The dogs went under the fence, but the chairs held them back. Pie stood snorting and I could feel his heart pounding with fear. The poor boy. I gently reassured him that it was quite a sight, but that we would be ok. He amazingly went on, less flustered than horses three times his age. We like to joke that Pie is a silly one, taking Sovey's fly mask off and waving it about, but Pie is a sensible horse. No chips on his shoulders.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

head east

Here is a photo of me on Sovey taken a few weeks ago by Maizie. We are heading out of our riding area because that is Sovey's favorite thing to do - head out, then turn and head east. Yesterday morning, Mom rode Sovereign and I rode Pie. We went all over the farm and through the trails. It was the best! Both horses were their usual perfect horsey selves, responding well to our cues. Mom is thrilled because she figured out how to use her center to move Sovey in the direction she wanted to go. They became one - a single unit moving around the farm. We put Sovereign's fly mask over the Bitless Bridle. He hates flies around his face so it made his ride more pleasant. He really stopped short and was scared of a clump of daffodils in the woods that he has seen before, but the mask must have made them seem scary. Mom quietly got him to walk by with gentle encouragement. Our entire ride is made up of us talking about how good these horses are. It is difficult for us to believe that they are 3 and 5 years old.
I rode Sovey bareback on Thursday after Maizie's field trip. I was having problems with the saddle slipping back on him so I decided to just forget the saddle. I promptly fell off the mounting block when I attempted to get on bareback because it doesn't go high enough - Sovey is so tall. (I am sure that was comical to see - a "rider" falling before she even gets on the horse.) Eventually, I realized that I had to "leap" onto his back from the top step. I am not sure how I will ever be able to ride Pie bareback without a leg up because he is taller than Sovereign. Sovey and I walked all over, even on a new trail that I just made, and he was the perfect horse that he always is, this time, bareback and bitless. What an amazing journey we are lucky enough to be on. Pinch me.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

yakety sax

Dear little Maizie has had a fourth grade field trip at every turn this week and I am her "Room Mother" and chaperone, so riding Pie and Sovey has to wait. One field trip was to wrap trees for Earth Day at a tree farm and we were given many trees to plant at Honeysuckle Faire, which is wonderful. Today's trip is an archaeological dig. No horse time has made me cranky around the edges. Mom said last night, "You seem perturbed." I know Pie and Sovereign are enjoying their sunshine grazing, but I miss them. Last night they were extra loving and affectionate when I brought them in like they miss me too.
Brian has offered his solution to my ornery state. He listens to "The Jim Rome Show", a sports radio offering, and somehow Rome and his "clones" have discovered that listening to Boots Randolph's "Yakety Sax" (the old Benny Hill theme song) when you are annoyed makes everything seem comical. I thought he was crazy, but he is right - it works! The nutty saxophone, which sounds like a kazoo, loops and turns like a circus act background music and it makes a traffic jam seem funny, a surly store clerk can't irk you, and the worries of not riding seem silly. There is plenty of time to ride this spring! Pop in the Yakety Sax loop and it is all good!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

don't it make you wanna kinda feel alright

Pie and I had the most amazing ride today! I can't believe how much fun we had. I had intended to ride both he and Sovereign, but our ride ended up being longer than expected, so I only rode Pie. First, I rode him out in the field past our pastures. Above is a photo of him looking out to the field and the subdivision houses. I am not sure what mysteries those houses hold, but both Pie and Sovey are obsessed with getting to those houses. Sovey pulls and pulls to go out there and Pie also moves faster on our way out. This is weird for horses, I think. Usually they come back to the barn in a hurry and are slow-pokes on the way out. I am not sure if they think the houses are a racecourse shedrow or what, but they want to go out there. It is funny because Baja boy always walked out there and got to be good friends with all the neighbors. I had hoped to one day share that all with Pie and Sovereign, but never in my wildest dreams did I think we would be riding out there so soon. Today, though, the Pie-Pie started off in a hurry. He spied one of the neighbors dumping a huge yellow can full of grass clippings over the fence and then carrying it into the woods. One would think this would be a scary sight to a three year old Thoroughbred who hasn't been lunged or "worked down" in any way (we only walk at this point - trotting and cantering will come later) and doesn't have a bit in his mouth. But oh no, we had to go straight there and investigate!!!! We talked to the man for a few minutes and then Pie was done with that and we were off to look for more neighbors. I thought we should go back, but Pie was determined to see more. I expect this type of thing from Sovey because he has been the "explorer" since he arrived. Pie, though, has never been this brave before. He led me all over the trails and in and out of paths that Sovey hasn't even seen. At one point we came upon some rocks and hyacinths that scared Pie. He looked and looked and turned around like he was going to go back and shy. He thought about it and then turned back around and went by the "scary rocks" without doing a thing. I did not ask him to go or force him. He worked it out himself. We came upon a John Deere tractor in the woods that scared me because I forgot it was there. Pie side-stepped the tiniest bit and then mustered his courage and went on. He was clearly having a great time. I was so proud of him. He wasn't walking fast or acting nervous. The whole experience was so unbelievable. My favorite thing in all the world is riding in the woods. I think Pie likes it too! I will have to trim the branches, though. Pie is the tallest horse we have had back there in recent history!

Friday, April 17, 2009

spinning that curious sense of your own

The boys are filling out, shedding out, and becoming brilliant riding horses. We had the equine dentist out on Wednesday to make sure their teeth were ok. I was most worried about Sovereign because he puts his grain in his water to "wet" it. The dentist said that his teeth are fine and that making it wet is just a habit. Yesterday, the sun came out again and the 60 degree temperatures allowed me to ride both boys. I rode Pie in the morning and he was super. I rode outside the ring around the pastures and through the field. He was such a good boy. I rode Sovey in the evening. He was very good, but not as animated as he ususally is. I think he was a sleepy boy. Maizie rode Sovey too with me leading. This is her second time up on him and she loves it. He walks out so proud when I am leading her on him. I think he senses the joy he is giving her.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Art of the State 2009

Yesterday was dreary and raining. Pie and Sovereign were turned out in the misty rain all day, but there was no riding for us. I missed my time with them. After teaching my Humanities class I found out some exciting art news that cheered me up and made the rain clouds vanish - my painting, Smoke, above, has been accepted into Pennsylvania's Art of the State for 2009! There were over 2100 entries and 157 were accepted. I am so thrilled that I don't think I will even notice today's rain!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

our lands are green and skies are blue

What a delightful few days of riding we have had! Yesterday Mom and I got to ride together! Hooray!!! What joy for us and the horses! I rode Pie and she rode Sovereign and we rode in the pastures and then we went out for a small jaunt across the big open field and into the woods. Pie was hopping around a little. I think his new saddle pad was tickling him because he kept plastering his ears back before he would do a jump-buck combo. Poor honey. It isn't too tricky to discern a "I want you off" buck from a "something is itching me" buck because I stayed on! If he wanted me off it would not be too difficult for him. He is a forceful and athletic bucker! While Pie was doing his "airs above ground" Sovey was calm and safe for my mom. Sovey is such a good boy and a great influence on Pie. Comically, Pie demanded that he was the leader in the woods even though he had never been in there before. I had had a lovely Easter Sunday ride in the woods with Sovey and I was hopeful that he and Mom would be able to lead the way. "Little Big Man" Pie-Pie had different ideas though. He wanted to be the leader. Mom looked so good on Sovereign. It is wonderful to see her riding again. She had never used a Bitless Bridle before and she did very well.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Happy Birthday Baja!

Today is Baja's birthday! He was foaled on April 11, 1994. He was the horse who re-established my love of Thoroughbreds. What a character! Last October he and I went for a bareback ride through our woods and ended up in the shady, wooded cul-de-sac neighborhood called "Sunnyland" that borders our property. As we walked through the sleepy subdivision to get to another woodland path, people came out of their homes and garages to see us. Baja was very social and loved all the attention. He stopped and stood so still while the neighbors talked to me. He looked at them like he was conversing too. Everyone went to get a carrot or apple for him and he loved that! It was like he was "trick-or-treating" door to door. A lovely, powerful Thoroughbred - without a bit and bareback - wow - it just doesn't get more idyllic than that! The thing that I loved most about Baja is that he was so animated when we went on the trails. He was interested in riding and going cross-country. He clearly loved it! Maizie wanted to ride Baja for her birthday so I walked them around the property. It was another gorgeous October day and Baja and Maizie had such a nice ride. What great memories! Happy Birthday Baja!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

you are the one who can make us all laugh

Pie was shocked and dismayed on Sunday when we practiced putting the fly masks on the boys. Sovey welcomed the mask because he was being hounded by four early spring pests. Pie could not believe that Sovey would allow such silly headgear! Maizie caught his indignation in the above photo. Click on photo for a close-up! True to form, his outrage turned to love and acceptance as witnessed below. By afternoon, he too, was donning the practical bonnet.

Monday, April 6, 2009

it's all too beautiful

Spring was in full bloom yesterday and we all had such fun! I got to ride the Pie in the afternoon and he went so well. Maizie snapped a few photos of me and the big boy!
Brian came over to put our new gate latches on the gates. We are so tired of messing around with the chains to open the gates. Really, though, both horses are very good for gate entry, even in the most blustery cold conditions. Still, it is nice to just open and close the gate easily. Here is Pie inspecting what Brian is doing.
Here is the finished gate latch on the paddock. We can open the gates from horseback.
Below is poor Pie's bump on his nose. We don't know how he got that. This is a good shot of the bitless bridle. Again, my head is cut off.
Why does everyone cut my head off in horse photos?

Friday, April 3, 2009

Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation

A "non-horsey" friend recently asked me to explain where Pie and Sovey came from and what exactly is an ex-racer. Pie (Sly Pioneer) and Sovey (Suave Lord) are retired racehorses. They were rescued from an uncertain future by Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation. This essential organization has a fabulous website,, that explains, better than I am able, the plight of ex-racers and what TRF is doing to help save these lovely animals. I was so fortunate to find their website and have the opportunity to foster our two sweet boys. I had the pleasure of meeting Sandy Pikulski of TRF who brought Pie and Sovey to us. In addition to being a "horse rescuer" Sandy is an amazing photographer! She took the fabulous photos of Pie and Sovey in the snow (click here). Both photos are definitely "Horse Calendar" material! There is a permanent Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation link at the side of my blog.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

At Silly Mid-On

I do believe that someone got their horses mixed-up and instead of Sovereign being a retired racehorse that secretly he is a retired police horse! He is that good! Today he was very loving in the pasture and obviously looking forward to his ride. He seems to understand that I take turns riding he and Pie in the afternoons. After grooming and tacking we started off again through our large open field. We went about mid-way, but Sovey pulled very hard to go out farther. I feel so bad holding him back, but Pie is just not confident yet about being left behind. It never seems far enough for Sovey. Amid the traffic noise and auto-auction activity, a police siren loudly went off right in front of our farm, but Sovey didn't flinch. We looped back and picked up a small section of the one bridle path and Sovey loved it, but Pie was terribly upset when we went out of view. Pie didn't whinny, but I could see through the trees that he was racing around. Sovey wasn't worried about Pie in the least. I had a difficult time getting him back to the barn. He wasn't finished riding apparently! Oh happy day!