Monday, November 30, 2009

Let's go living in the past

Above is a picture of my mom jumping the horse "Prize List" on the outside course at a local horse show sometime around 1959. Below is Mom and Dan, a friend from the barn where she rode. Dig Dan's cigarette! Very James Dean in the days before smoking was passé. Poor horsey pie - hot ashes - ouch!
Mom had a circle of friends from the barn she would see often over the years. As a kid, I remember spending a ton of time hanging out with them and hearing all their old horse stories. Every October, the Pennsylvania National Horse Show was held in Harrisburg and my mom's whole barn gang would reassemble for a week of horse watching, and like old army buddies, would tell their "war stories". Ann, Joyce, Mary, Terry (Mary's daughter), Dolly, Maxine and my mom would laugh and tell me about all the horses they rode and loved. Understandably, Maxine could only pop in occasionally, because she was busy schooling her son, Greg, who went on to become the Greg Best, (two-silver-medals-at-Seoul-Greg-Best). It was a rowdy bunch with many funny stories of their time with horses. All these years later, Mary, Terry, Dolly and Mom are the ones left telling the tales, and now, Mom has new adventures to share about her rides on Sovereign.
On Saturday Mary and Terry came to our farm to meet Pie and Sovereign and Terry and I had an amazing ride all over the farm! Terry is a wonderful rider and I was so excited for her to see the boys and ride with me. Terry's passion is jumping out of airplanes - she is a certified instructor - so I knew she wouldn't hesitate to join me for a ride! It had been so windy in the morning, but the wind quieted just as we started out. We had such a great time. The trails were golden and the sun was shining. Pie and Sovey were two characters. I think Terry liked their personalities. We enjoyed our barstool apples which Terry thought was adorable. A neighbor was cutting the grass and Sovey jumped and cantered a few strides. Pie jumped and I was hanging off the side, laughing, thinking, "oh well, here I go", but I managed to stay on. I was on bareback and was lucky Pie didn't throw in a buck for good measure or I would have been off for sure! That was the only ripple in our perfect November ride. Even so, we agreed that, for Thoroughbreds, Pie and Sovereign are fairly bombproof. I told her that I always dreamed of having a police horse, like Mike, the retired police horse that her mom, Mary, had as a girl. "He wasn't afraid of anything," I said, and then we said, in unison, "except for ELEPHANTS!" We both started laughing as we remembered the "Mike and the elephant" story we had heard a thousand times. Apparently, our moms would ride Mike all over the town double bareback because Mike was so trustworthy. As a retired police horse he never shied at anything - until the infamous day when he saw an elephant at the ballfield when a traveling circus had come to town! He took off with the two of them hanging on for their lives. They somehow got Mike to stop, and they still tell that story as if it was yesterday.
As we were grazing, Terry remarked that as she was driving up for Thanksgiving from northern Virginia she saw horses in the fields and wondered if she would ever ride again. Never did she imagine that she would ride on the weekend! She mused how much fun it was just to groom and tack up and ride through the woods and fields rather than all the other "stuff" we used to do as horse show people. This is my experience and opinion exactly. I spent so many years lunging and schooling and jumping, and honestly, I was always waiting for the time when the lesson was over and I was free to do the cool down on the cross-country course. At 42 years old, I am so thankful that I am no longer in that old "horse show" routine. I ride now to share the light, the trees, the trails with my horse. Everybody has to do what thrills them, and that thrills me.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

make the best out of the bad just laugh it off

Yesterday continued our wet, soggy, rainy, theme of the week. I groomed the boys before I put them out in the morning. Here is Pie around 10 am, sleek with rain. They both look at me like I have the power to turn off the rain. Please...they coax.

Around 3pm the sun came out and the light was so beautiful! I hurried over to the barn for a ride and I found this...

and this...

I realized that there was no way I could ride. The mud wasn't dry - they must have rolled as I was pulling in the driveway. It was wet and sticky and a total mess. I was so disappointed. I tried to "groom" Pie first, but it was just like I was making mud pies. Then, Sovey - same story. But the light! It was too great to miss! What was a spoiled, horse crazy woman to do?!? I looked Sovey right in the eye and told him that I was sorry, but I really think we could go anyway. He agreed. I promised, no saddle because I didn't want the mud to hurt him some way with the girth or saddle pad. So I slipped on his bridle and hopped on bareback. It was misty and muddy, but oh, the light was so gorgeous!

These two are blurry - we were slipping around in the mist, but you can see some of Sovey's mud and the sunset just as it was fading. Wow. How lucky we were! Pie happily munched in the pastures while Sovey and I enjoyed a fun ride. I am so thankful for these two horses. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

the newsman sang his theme song

I am finally retrieving old photos off my phone. The photo above is from August and it is of Sovereign's pretty ears. He was a sweetheart yesterday for our ride. Maizie and Mom were on big ladders cleaning out gutters and Sovey never flinched. He is amazing! I walked him around the property and trotted in the field. He was perfect.

The photo above is from today of Pie and my shadow in the field. I love his wild mane. My phone is apparently filthy compared to what it was in August! Sovey's picture is so crisp and clear. These two of Pie, taken this afternoon, are murky. Pie was a good boy today, but we had a brief upset. Just as we were walking home a line of bicyclists zoomed by in bright colors. He threw a wing-ding and I somehow got a rein over his one ear! Oops. I fixed it quickly but I was slightly embarrassed (as if the bicyclists knew what happened!). We were out near the road and I was freezing at that point and I really wanted to go back to the barn, but I knew it was time for some quiet, calming circles and figure-eights. Pie usually doesn't mind about bikes, but it really had cooled off fast and maybe he was feeling bouncy! I can't complain about it "cooling off" - we had such a mild weekend for November with temps in the upper 50s. It was a perfect horse-riding weekend! And the circles were just the thing - Pie lowered his head and walked back home like the sweet boy that he is.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

a bustle in your hedgerow

I have been so lucky to have amazing rides this week in spite of one naughty puppy named Eby Lee. She is in the photo above, looking like a dusty barn dog after rolling in the dirt. I thought I would feature Eby today, since this week she managed to cause me to fly through the air above the saddle of one Pie-Pie boy. I did land back in the saddle, (just lucky) and did not actually "fall off", but I certainly wasn't with my horse. Eby causes many upsets in our horse world, but we love her to bits, so it is only fair that I tell her story.
As you can see by her white muzzle, Eby is hardly a puppy. "Puppy" is my favorite term of endearment for horse, husband, daughter, kitty. Pie and Sovey are my "puppy-ponies", Maizie is my "puppy-pumpkin-girl", Noodlebug is my "puppy-kitty". You get the idea. So Eby is not a true puppy. We estimate that she is 11 years old. She was a stray who made her appearance at our barn when Maizie was just a year old. Our barn has been a magnet for stray dogs and cats over the years. We always try to find the owners, but usually end up with a lifelong pet when it is all said and done. We phoned the nearby Humane Society when Eby arrived. They told us that one morning that week, before they opened, a car drove up and the people threw a Lab/Chow mix out the window and drove off. The Humane Society workers tried their best to catch her, but no luck. Our farm is close and the dog obviously made her way to us. She lived on manure and apples until we managed to convince her to trust us. Mom named her "Ebony" after the dark, strong wood. Mom always spells her nickname like this - "Eby", which makes Brian laugh because he thinks it should have another "b" so he calls Eby "EEE-BEE".
One of the things I love most about my family is how much they adore animals. When Eby arrived my grandmother was still living and she and my parents all lived on our farm. Eby was immediately welcomed and became part of the entire menagerie. She spent her days walking between their two houses enjoying snacks and back scratches. Maizie was just learning to talk so my parents' names, John and Sandy, were never learned. Instead they became "Grandma Eby and Pap-Pap Eby". My mom is still Grandma Eby. I told that to someone once and you could see their disdain - named after a dog. But, to us, animals are what it is all about.
Eby was very ill-behaved right out of the box. She would jump up on our horses and bite our shoes and cross-country skis. I had to work with her on a leash for a few months to teach her to not jump up on people or horses. In addition, her Chow nature is defensive and is constantly fighting her Labrador nature. She wants to be nice, but she can only be nice to us, her family. We tell everyone who visits to not look at her and it usually works out ok. If you are a stranger and you look at her even one time, she will bark at you for your whole visit. If you don't make eye contact, she will ignore you or curl up on your feet. She is mellowing in her old age.

Above is a view I see most days. A black spot with a round donut-shaped tail, lurking around the farm. Pie and Sovey are fairly used to her antics, but this past week, Eby was especially troublesome. Mom and I rode on Sunday and Eby was in and out of the woods chasing squirrels and rabbits. Pie was jumping this way and that as Eby spooked around the trails. On the other days of the week I alternated riding each horse. Eby was underfoot around the barn and in the woods causing jumps and flighty behavior in both Pie and Sovereign. Everything culminated at the end of the week. Brian was working at my grandmother's house and Eby was hovering around Maizie's playhouse. Pie and I walked by and the next thing I knew Pie was bolting down the hill. We turned around to see the siding ripped off the playhouse, but no Eby. At that point, I didn't know what Pie had seen. All the action was behind me, but I knew that the siding hadn't been ripped off the first time we walked by. I mentioned it to Brian, but he didn't know anything about it. Next, Pie and I walked around a different direction and all of a sudden he flew into a rear/jump/slide/buck maneuver. I was in the air with my face contorted and the reins flying, but I did manage to land in the saddle. Pie wheeled around at the end of it all, snorting with his heart beating. Out from under a bush comes the black licorice stick with her donut tail looking like she did nothing wrong. There are huge divots in the grass now where this happened so I know it was bad. I rode Pie out around the farm and he did finally calm down. I was really proud of him for pulling it together. At one point, we even met up with my mom's cousin, Rob, who was cleaning the boat that had given Pie some problems earlier this summer. Pie loved stopping to visit with Rob even though Rob was on the deck of the boat and eye level with us. Pie was genuinely unaffected by the boat. When we returned we walked by the playhouse and now the siding was back on! I was beginning to think that I was losing it. At this point, Eby was down by the barn and she was scurrying around the chicken coop. I dismounted, untacked and was grazing Pie when I heard this huge commotion. Eby was barking furiously at the bottom of the chicken coop (empty - no chickens) and she started ripping the wood siding off the building and spitting it out and then ripping more!! Sovey, in the paddock, and Pie, with me, both started jumping around. What was going on?!? It ends up that some animal must have made its way from under the playhouse to the chicken coop and she was stalking it. Apparently, she had ripped the aluminum siding off the playhouse earlier, causing Pie to shy. Then, when I was gone Brian fixed the siding. Next, Eby decided to rip the chicken coop apart to get to the animal. She never did get it. She is nutty sometimes! I do think she gives me many opportunities to practice my composure with Pie and Sovey. Even today, Eby tested us. I started this post this morning and now, just returned from a fabulous ride on Sovey. Eby was out in the fields with us, peeking out from the hedgerows at every turn. Sovey knows what she is about. We all love her, though, especially Maizie. Here is a cute picture of the two of them on the trails last January.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

living on reds, vitamin C and...caffeine

Here is Sovey this afternoon, trotting like a giraffe with a 700lb rider on his back. Ha! Actually, he soon relaxed his head and neck, and, I just look like I weigh 700lbs! Although it was 58 degrees, I have a ton of layers on and a huge jacket. Brian, Maizie and I have been fighting the same illness, the one that will remain nameless, since the end of October. Fever, sore throats, and barking coughs. I call it the plague, but I think we all know what it is. My solution is to wear so many clothes that my fever feels normal - like I am just "hot". I really am feeling a lot better, and I can't bear to miss a day of riding.

Sick or not, could you stand to miss one day with the cutie above...or the mudball below?

I had groomed Pie first thing this morning, but both boys were completely covered when I went to ride after lunch. Sovey loves his grazing/grooming routine now which helps. After my ride on Sovey, I groomed Pie again!

Here is a fall puppy, Eby, in the leaves.

Some pretty shots even though it was a grey day.

Below is Sovey, eyeing up the church across the street. He is certain it is a shedrow at a race track.

I hope you are all feeling well enough to ride this weekend!

Friday, November 6, 2009

give me silver blue and gold

I have a Page-a-Day horse calendar that I read each morning when I am making my coffee. Yesterday's page had a photo of two horses grazing on a hillside. The horses were far apart in the photo and the caption said: While grazing, horses prefer to keep a few feet apart from one another in case they are startled and need to move quickly. Pie and Sovey never got the memo about this necessary horse safety trick. They graze on top of each other all day long. Their feet are often entwined like they are playing Twister. If startled, they jump on each other. It is really quite comical. I have had people tell me that when driving by our farm they refer to our horses as "the twins" because they are always tight together in the pastures. Here they are, above, performing their synchronized grazing last evening. It was one of those beautiful evenings with lovely ochre light in the west, and pink, cotton candy clouds in the east.
I think it is funny that I never know what type of horse will greet me when I go to bring them in each evening. Sometimes I pull in the driveway and I see two gorgeous, dark bay Thoroughbreds, obviously off the racetrack, all muscled and sinewy. Other times, they look like two old plugs, out to pasture in a farmer's field, rounded and sway-backed and muddy like no one has cleaned them for years. I love them either way, but it is amazing how different they can look at different times of the day and in different stages of clean. Last evening they were the ratty, unkempt, muddy boys. I like the wildness of Pie's mane in the photo below.

Below is a Nosey Parker named Sovey who just couldn't keep away from the camera lens.
Evening is my favorite time of the day in any season. Unfortunately, I am a nighthawk in a family of early birds so I rarely get to enjoy the evening. With the time change, though, evening comes early, so I get more of what I love. My whole family ended up at the barn one day this week around 4pm. Brian had to make stall changes inside the barn and his dad needed manure for his garden. Mom and her dog, Eby, wandered over to chat. Maizie was raking and jumping into piles of leaves and I was grazing and grooming the boys outside of the pastures. The sunset was incredible and I hoped it wouldn't end. Right then, just like someone was answering my wish, Brian said that he couldn't finish for 1/2 hour and we couldn't bring the horses in yet. I grabbed my bridle and hopped on Pie bareback. Maizie was on foot and she wanted to walk along so we headed out through the fields. The sky was a magnificent pink and orange and Pie didn't seem to mind that it was difficult to see. He knew he would be able to smell his barstool apples when he got to them! On our way back I could still see the sun setting, and Pie was snuggly warm under me, and Maizie was walking beside us, and Brian was in silhouette at the barn. Just as we got back, two fluffy foxes bounded out into the field. Growing up, I loved the Small Faces song, Itchycoo Park because of the lyrics, "But why the tears there...because it's all too beautiful." That is how I felt that evening - this is all too beautiful.