Saturday, December 31, 2011

Take a cup of kindness

Happy New Year!  Here is Max out on the trail. I ended up bareback on my Thursday ride and Max was unflappable.  What a sweetie boy.

The barn operators and boarders at the stable where Max lives are simply amazing.  They are unbelievably kind and welcoming to me and my family and to others. Yesterday afternoon they did something very special.  A woman named Barb started leasing a horse at this barn shortly before I arrived at Thanksgiving.  Barb has become a great friend to all of us and she has been on many trail rides with me. Sadly, her soulmate/boyfriend died suddenly last week. The owners of the barn and all the boarders held a benefit yesterday afternoon with pony rides and a picnic for Barb. Brian, Maizie and I were there and the energy was so positive. Everyone turned up to support Barb and sincerely help her by sharing laughter, and of course, horses. I know she appreciated their kindness and we were very lucky to witness such good will.

We took Max out to the church for grazing during the festivities and Brian also had a "pony ride" on Norton. Later we reflected on the great community in that horse barn. Horses can bring out the best in all of us. 
May your 2012 be horsey and kind!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

I was born in the sign of water, and it's there that I feel my best

The albatross and the whales they are my brothers.

And just like that song, I really was born in the sign of water (Aquarian) and I do feel my best here, but who wouldn't? Warm temperatures, quiet waves and...a few miles inland...

trail rides with good friends!  This one is of me on Max heading out with Jolayne on Summer. 

And here is a shot of Summer and Jolayne in front of us as we walk around the lake trail. 

In the photo, above, I am on a new little blue Roan mare, Cheyenne. Cheyenne is owned by my friends, Janet and Ted. Janet invited me up to ride with her last week and we had a great ride around her horsey neighborhood. Cheyenne is so very sweet and kind. She was a good girl even with all the Christmas decorations!

What a horsey vacation this has turned out to be!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

got my chips "cached" in

This morning I was on a trail ride with some friends and as we were weaving in and out of the woods I told them that Maizie and Brian AND MAX and I cached here yesterday!  They didn't know what I was talking about so I thought I would post about geocaching and specifically the fun I had geocaching on Max.
I know lytha of the blog A Horse Crazy American in Germany geocaches too. I am sure she has probably cached from horseback. Usually, though, geocaching is done on foot.

The site defines geocaching as:

a real-world outdoor treasure hunting game. Players try to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, using GPS-enabled devices and then share their experience online. 

Maizie started caching in Florida a few years ago and just found her 100th cache on this trip. She is only 13 so she has to coerce an adult to drive her around in order to cache. Brian and I and my mom are her usual caching partners but yesterday the sweet and wonderful Max got in on the geocaching action!

Here we are just inside the horse park. Max adored Brian and was continually nudging him for head scratches and loving him up! Needless to say, Brian was in love too. Max wins your heart in about one second.

We found out online that there were four caches in the park to find. Three of the caches were hidden in areas where Max was permitted to go!  

Max stood statue still while Brian and Maizie went to find the first one in the non-horse area. He was very patient. My own horses are good, but I don't think they would have been this good!

Then, using Maizie's GPS, we found the next three caches hidden in the woods. Two were micros and Max couldn't investigate them because I thought he might try to eat them, but this one, above, was a small ammo can container and Max helped Maizie open the latch. He jumped back when all the contents were revealed.  I wish there were treats in there for him!

Did I mention that Max is a great horse?  Today, after our ride and grazing he whinnied at me to hurry up with his water bucket. How cute is that?  Oh, my goodness, I am lucky!

Tomorrow I am heading up to ride with my friend, Janet, on her new mare.  I can't wait! And everyone is calling and emailing each other for a fun group ride in the park on Thursday morning. Sigh. This is a great horse world here.

Friday, December 9, 2011

We're in the promised land

On Wednesday morning I headed over to the barn to ride Max. Here you can see his ears looking at his Palomino friend, Chip, while Meghan gives Chip a bath.

Katie and her Arabian gelding, Reign, took the lead on our ride to the horse park.

We encountered sprinklers in one yard and driveway. It was a hot day and the sprinklers felt good, but the water stinks like sulfur. Reign did not like the sprinklers and Katie dismounted to walk him through - I really liked that! 

At the horse park, Katie cantered Reign. 

Max and I watched.

This is a photo of the bridge on part of our ride.  I rode over this bridge last year on little Lakota.

Here is good boy Max on the bridge.  I love Max. Can you tell?

I hosed Max off and we headed to the church for grazing. Another perfect ride!

On my last post, aurora commented that she didn't know how Max and I got paired up. Actually, I totally lucked out - he is the best! 

Every year we vacation in Florida and I have tried to ride a little bit while I am here. There is a fabulous online network of horse owners and riders in this area. I joined in 2008 and was invited to ride with some of the people when I was in town. A few years ago, I rode a sweet Thoroughbred named Red. Last year I rode a few Appy friends, Lakota and Mac, at a local barn and I also rode with my friend, Janet, on her horse, Danno. 

The weather in Florida wasn't too great last year, though, so I had lots of time in the condo to sit with my computer and read about all the local horses and happenings. One horse in particular, Max, caught my eye. I don't know what it was, but a photo of just his head made me notice him. There was something in the way he tilted his head in that picture that expressed his cute personality. I read posts from the lady who trained him and I knew that I liked her. She shared my philosophy about riding and caring for horses so I emailed her and said that I thought I might like to lease Max this year if he was available. 

I never leased a horse while we were here before, but it seemed like a good plan. A year passed and I contacted the trainer again and then Max's owner phoned me in September. She is actually selling Max, but was willing to lease him to me while we are here. I had never met Max and I can't explain how I knew, but I felt like he would be perfect. He is. 

After two vacations in a row of unusually lousy Florida weather, our activities and weather have been ideal this year. It is unbelievable. I am not sure you would believe me if I told you all the details and I keep pinching myself to make sure I am not dreaming. We have dolphins swimming right up to us while we kayak, and pretty runs on the beach as a family because Maizie's leg is healed. Noodlebug sun bathes on the porch and I am riding a sweet horse. We are in the promised land and I am so very grateful.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

You fill up my senses

Wednesday's ride on Max was cold and cloudy, but still fun and safe.  We only had four riders this time.  Bay State Brumby asked if we had any kickers on the last ride.  We did which is why there are only five horses in front of me in those photos.  Three horses followed me on that ride and one mare was known to kick.  I said to the rider that she could put a red ribbon on her tail and she said that her mare should have a red ribbon all over her body!  

Max is very s-l-o-w so those riders had to be separated from the group.  I trotted that day to keep up with everyone.  On the ride yesterday, there were no kickers and Max could plod along just as slow as he wanted.  I did make him extend his walk at times to catch up, but I like that he is having fun at his pace so I don't want to hurry him.

Chip is the Palomino in front here and he was having a little fuss up about trash bags. Wednesday is trash day and each house had an assortment of cans and bags for the horses to walk past.  Max was so brave and happy to walk out in front.  His friend, Sunny B., was also brave and willing to lead and he was a bit faster than Max at the walk, but I love that Max feels secure enough with me to at least want to lead past the scary trash.  Good boy!  I can tell, Max is very bright.  Look at Max's cute black ear tips!  I love them!

Here is a view of the little yellow mounting blocks that are spaced out along the trail. They are made of concrete and very tiny.  

This funny photo shows just how far back we get behind the group. There is no excuse for the blurriness of this picture.  I had plenty of time to take a good photo of the woods and Palmetto bushes and trees with Spanish moss.  Max was in zero hurry.  He doesn't even care when the horses go out of view.  He is in his own little world back here.  

We finally caught up to them in the big open area.  When I rode through here on Tuesday, this spot was covered with Turkey Vultures. I believe all creatures have their place, but the poor Turkey Vulture is very homely, I think. Ick.

And here is Max's favorite part - post-ride grazing at the church! Yummy! He deserves it for being such a good boy for me. The sun came out which made it nice for both of us.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

hold on to these moments as they pass

Yesterday morning I rode Max again.  Max wears boots on the front and I am finally getting the hang of putting them on.  After grooming him I gear up for a wrestling match and was drenched in sweat the last two times.  Yesterday, though, the boots went on fairly easily.  I think it was me all along.

I walked him to the park with me on foot.  Max doesn't like leaving the barn alone at first, but with me leading him, he happily walks away like I am a horse too.  Once we are about four houses out, I can feel him relax and adjust his homing device to me rather than the barn.  Because the park is an equestrian park, there is a small mounting block right inside the south gate.  Max is about Foggy's size so mounting is easy with a saddle and this mounting block.  I don't think it would work out for me with Pie or Sovey.  I did see other mounting blocks around the park that had three steps.  They are locked and obviously belong to different people who are storing their gear in there.  

We walked the entire perimeter and I got to see a new part of the park.  Also, there are small trails through the "woods" (Palmetto and Palm tree woods) and Max and I coiled through those.  There are hidden caches in here so I am going to bring Maizie and Brian back with me sometime to find them.  

One stretch of the trail was flooded because we had torrential rains on Monday.  Max plodded right in and pawed and played in the water!  He was adorable.

I rode for about 45 minutes and then dismounted and headed back.  I regroomed him and grazed him in the lush church grass across the street from the barn (we have permission).  

I stopped at a tack store on the way home and bought another white fleece show pad for Max.  I have my quilted big pad and a white fleece one, but I am going to use another white one too. Max has high withers and I would feel awful if he got rubbed.

Today is another group trail ride!!!!  I can't wait - heading over now!

Friday, November 25, 2011

parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme

We arrived in Florida on Monday afternoon and today I went on an amazing trail ride with a group of wonderful new friends and fellow horse lovers.  This is the lovely mahogany bay neck and black mane of Max, an ottb. Max is owned by Niki, who kindly allowed me to ride her sweet boy even though she was on the ride too.

Here is some of the group heading out.  I think there were nine of us total. 

There is Niki, Max's owner, in front of me on Sunny B.

Here is Max, giving me the listening ear.  Cutie boy!

Above is our shadow on the street and sidewalk.  We are heading to an equestrian park!

This one is of the group crossing at the horse crossing.  Sigh.  My dream is to live near a horse park in a horse friendly town.  I got to live that dream this morning!

I look so silly like I am falling off of sweet Max in this one. Really I am just loving him up. He has a western bridle with a snaffle-looking bit in his mouth so no carrots are being handed out in this photo.  I did bring my bitless bridle with me and hope to ride him in that too.

This equestrian park has trails and a large arena where they hold small shows.  We came into this open area of grass and all laughed and said how lucky we were to be here with the horses on Black Friday.  It was 75 degrees and sunny for the ride. 

This one is around the lake where I rode last year when I was here. There is a zebra that lives nearby!

On Wednesday evening, as Brian and I made our way to the grocery store, Simon and Garfunkel came on the radio and Brian said, "Oh, listen, it is your Thanksgiving recipe song." On Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, I was combining my Scarborough Fair stuffing ingredients (parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme) thinking how thankful I was for all the riding I had this year in Pennsylvania and anticipating today's (Friday) trail ride in Florida.  It ended up being everything I had hoped for and more! Special note: I think one horse on the ride was named Sage!  I hope your Thanksgiving break was filled with horses and yummy herbs too!  

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Crossroads, seem to come and go

On today's date last year, November 17, Brian and I drove to Philadelphia Park racetrack to meet our Found in the Fog (Foggy). Doesn't Foggy look, in the photo above, like the mirror image of the little horse in my Honeysuckle Faire banner?

Foggy came in January and has settled in nicely bringing great joy to us. His sweet ways are contagious and I think Pie and Sovereign both like his addition.  

This November, we are packing to travel to Florida again for the holidays. Each year this trip gets more difficult for me.  I love spending time in the sun with Brian and Maizie, but I miss my boys terribly.  I do think Foggy is content and healthy on our farm and I can safely leave. This was my worry last year. This year, I know I probably won't be completely free of worry until the day I return. Is it worry, or is it me missing them? I wonder, are all horse owners like this?  Will I ever be able to fully enjoy travel without my horses? Bittersweet is blooming its little red and yellow heads off on our farm right now. Very apropos.

I'll be on the road for a few days.  Happy riding everyone! 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

I got silence on my radio

Saturday's ride on Foggy. Sunshine and no wind!

Friday, November 11, 2011

You can be my partner in crime

Today was one of those days when Pie needed to be ridden, but the weather was not right for a Pie ride.  We had sustained high winds and the leaves and branches were whipping around with great force.  The wind was the kind that is noisy and it makes the adrenaline flow even in humans when it whistles.  I do not believe in sticking to a riding schedule without listening to the weather.  I also don't believe in being in danger when riding.  I am not a thrill seeker in the least - in fact, quite the opposite.  I am a serious chicken when it comes to danger.  But, I ended up riding Pie and he was fabulous and we had a safe ride.  

I started out just grazing him and grooming while he munched. I had ridden Sovey yesterday and Foggy the day before and Pie was in need of some exercise.  He gets weird when he isn't ridden consistently.  I can't tell if he is jealous if I ride the other boys or just overfed, but he isn't a nice pasture mate if he goes too many days without his riding time.  He is pushy with the brothers and even pushy with me on a lead when he gets like this. Grazing was nearly impossible today. The wind was crazy-nutty and Sovey was in a nearby pasture racing around making it obvious that riding anyone would be stupid. A little note here about Sovey racing around. Sovey is one smart cookie and most days he is a quiet boy. BUT, if there is any sort of "situation" that he perceives as "dicey" he works it for all it is worth. He is the prisoner in the yard that incites an incident in order to escape. He never breaks a sweat like if he were actually worried about something.  He is very good at starting a riot. Funny guy.

Anyway, Sovey was running about encouraging Foggy to join in. Pie was jumping and shying at every leaf that hit him like a missile, which were many, so I flew my Pie kite in the direction of the barn and stuck him, and then the other boys, into their stalls. Now what? Why did I want to ride Pie, I wondered. What was the point? To be honest, I felt sorry for him. I personally know what it is like to have pent up energy and how great it feels after exercise. 

So, after a few minutes of quiet down time with hay, I got Pie into the cross ties and resumed grooming and hoof picking. I told myself that tacking up would be good for him as far as attention from me and riding doesn't have to ever occur. I walked him outside and the wind hit us like a ton of bricks. We trotted and pranced down to the mounting block and a huge gust blew a million dry leaves across the tennis court and Pie went into orbit. Again, I questioned my reasons for continuing and again, I told myself that me just standing on the mounting block would be good practice for him. It would keep him focused because grooming and grazing just wasn't enough. So we practiced the mount with many wiggles and shies. And, then, Pie stood still and calm and I slowly got on. Well done, Pie! 

I walked him in small circles and serpentines until I heard his calm snort, muffled under all the wind noise. My mom appeared at that moment and opened an outside gate so we could head out to the field. He thought he might graze but I said "no" to that straightaway - I didn't need to have a horse with no reins in that wind. (I've been through the desert on a horse with no reins  - sorry, bad joke.)

We walked on and I kept him balanced between my hands and seat and calves for the entire ride. I opted for my trail running shoes (Inov8s) instead of my riding boots. I was glad for the agility and control over my legs and ankles and heels that they give me. Sometimes in critical moments I feel like I am confined and not fully in control in any of my riding boots. Riding an up horse on a windy day requires the right tools - for me that is comfortable, but warm layered running clothes, and running shoes - I need to feel loose to move and react. Riding, even at the walk, is an athletic event every minute. I just can't be tangled up in boots or clothes that are too rigid. 

As nervous as he gets, Pie is a willing horse. He tries very hard to be good and today he did not disappoint. He stayed with me in the field and by the time we got to the woods, he was quiet and relaxed and listening to me completely. The wind held no power over him anymore. Hooray. 

On the way back to the barn we stopped in the field to graze and I did give him the reins and loosened his girth while I was still on him (a little tricky on the dismount later!).  

I am so glad I rode today if only to watch Pie go back out into the pasture with his friends. He was sweet and sleepy and all his bossiness was gone. I feel better when I run each day and I definitely see a change in Pie after attention and exercise. 

I took this picture of the pink sunsets we've been getting at my house this autumn. I am hoping that the red sky means a pretty tomorrow with NO WIND!