Monday, October 24, 2011

We all want something beautiful

This last week was spent riding my boys in the afternoons when the temperatures were in the 60's and the light was fantastic.  One day was very windy and it was a "Pie" day, but he was sooo good in the midst of fairly rough wind/rain squall.  I also rode Foggy that day, but he is always good so that was a none event. Foggy is the dream horse you think about as a child. Being with Foggy is like riding or grooming or leading a large dog.  There are very few situations when he turns into a horse. He likes people and trusts us as much as his herd. I am on Sovey, above. Sovereign rides like a dream horse, but he isn't as sweet when you are on the ground. Still, he is my go-to riding horse when friends visit and want a "pony ride". 

And Pie is my go-to grooming horse! Here he is standing like the best boy that he is, allowing our little friend, Kate, to learn how to groom him.  Pie is patient and enjoys all the attention. Learning how to stand quietly in the cross ties while being groomed is a process that has evolved over time. Pie is perfect now. 

Kate's sister, Lindsay, visited too.  Here she and Maizie look like they are doing a dance!

Kate and Lindsay's mom, Melanie, rode Sovey. Here I am explaining the correct way to swing her leg over to dismount. Pretend she is wearing boots! Melanie comes to the barn and grooms with me (no sandals!) when our girls are in school. She is a great photographer and takes brilliant photos of my horses for me.

My goofy face and goofy right leg (turned out) but Sovereign sure is beautiful!  I love him even though he is an alligator. He is a joy to ride.

In these two photos I had Sovereign "recreate" what I do with Pie when he sees the scary new downed tree.  Usually, I encourage him forward and reward him after he walks by. Yesterday, though, I had to dismount to get Pie near the tree.  He touched it and chewed on it and allowed me to re-mount by standing on it. Good boy!

I am leaning forward and giving Sovey many "good boy" pats here.

And, in other news (old news because I have been remiss in getting to this -sorry) I won an award!  Thank you to Calm, Forward, Straight, Adventures with Shyloh, and Dressage Training Journal for sharing your award with me. I enjoy your blogs immensely and am honored that you chose me.

I am to tell you seven things about myself. You probably know it all already because I am wordy on this blog, but I will try to think of new and exciting details - ha!

1. I don't watch the news/read newspapers. If there comes a day when the media spends all their time and money only telling of the many amazing, kind, and intelligent activities taking place in the world, I will watch incessantly. To watch now would draw attention to, and reward, horrid behavior. Stories about rapes, robberies and murders or silly "human interest" pieces slapped together in 3 minutes or ridiculous celebrity "news" doesn't deserve to gobble up the precious minutes that could be spent with my horses. 

2. Today is my 14th wedding anniversary and yesterday was Maizie's 13th birthday! (Oh, no, I am the mother of a teenager!) Much weekend fun for Maizie. Today, to celebrate our anniversary, Brian and I are going for a morning run on the Appalachian trail and an afternoon RIDE ON OUR BOYS!!!!!

3. I drive a Mini Cooper and I think it is the greatest car that ever was. I never cared for cars at all, except for briefly, when I was in third grade. Back then (1976), I had a romantic notion about the British Minis of the 1960's because of Peter Frampton (long story - don't ask!). When these new ones came out here I fell in love, but I couldn't just go out and get one. One day, my dear Dad drove into our driveway with my Mini as a gift! My father passed away soon after that day so my Mini is extra special. It really is adorable and I have a license plate that says, "Maizie" - here are some pictures -

4. I am so glad we got Foggy.  Last November when we met him, I was worried that his addition might upset our happy little apple cart. Boy, was I wrong. Pie and Sovereign are even more relaxed and well-adjusted now that Foggy is here. And, Foggy seems so adorably happy on our rides and out grazing. I can't imagine my life without him in it.  He is an absolute joy. I sleep with his racing plates (shoes) on my nightstand and sometimes one shoe ends up under my pillow!

5. I think the last year moved very quickly - too fast. I am a huge believer in taking things slow so that I can really enjoy every second, but I don't know what happened, we are getting ready to go to Florida again for the holidays and it seems like we just went on this trip. It is all good, but it is very quick moving and I am wondering if this is how life will go from now on...

6. My new October food loves are green olives, sun dried tomatoes, and Holiday flavored Mocha Mint and Pumpkin Spice Dunkin Donuts coffees (not together).

7. I often fall in love with a song and then I can't stop listening to it. Currently, it is "Moonlight Mile" by the Rolling Stones. It can be an old song that I've heard a million times, but something just grabs me and I have to hear it over and over.  I think it has to do with the seasons and the light. Certain sounds just go with certain light. The last two autumns it was "Wiser Time" by the Black Crowes. Now it is "Moonlight Mile" and it makes me want to ride in the moonlight!  In fact, (don't freak out, Mom!) I had planned to ride Sovereign on the full  moon a couple of weeks ago, but it was cloudy and rainy so it was a no go. Maybe, this month!

And below are the ten blogs that I am passing the award off to in no particular order. Please don't feel obligated to redo if you already won! These are all terrific blogs and worth discovering if you haven't already.

Thanks again for the award!  Sorry for the run-ons, fragments and errors. I am going running so I'll try to proofread later! 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

On a dark, flat land she rides

Today is my mother's 68th birthday!  I thought I would celebrate by sharing some photos of her riding through the years. Here she is, above, at a horse show in York, PA in 1959.  

The slide says that Mom is on "Brownie" in this photo. She looks pretty young here and I don't think she owned Brownie. (I gathered all these photos secretly so I will be sure to get some wrong and believe me I will hear about it!)

I was told that my mom was constantly riding the kitchen barstools when she was little, using belts as reins, so my grandfather finally took her riding in Florida on rental horses. Of course, like many, she was certain she "could ride" after a few rental horse experiences and convinced her parents to buy her Chaplain in 1953 when she was just 10 years old. It was then that my mom's true days of riding and horsemanship began. I tell of Chaplain and his wise ways in this earlier post. 

She really did learn to ride well and she showed in our local Junior Circuit in the Hunter and Jumper classes.  Here she is with some of her ribbons.

These two are of her on her Thoroughbred, Tam.  The one below was taken at our barn in November 1960.

I don't know who she is on here, but I wonder, did she wear the sunglasses in the ring? 

This is at a lesson on the outside course at her trainer's farm in Dover, PA. She is riding Pep Talk.

In 1961, my mom was invited to train with the Mexican Olympic team under the guidance of Col. Humberto Mariles Cortes. She has wonderful photos from that trip, but they are on the walls in her house and I knew she would notice if I took them!  

These two are of her on her Sovey-boy. 

I love this one below of her with her friends.  I did a post about this before.  Her Tam looks so Thoroughbred-y here, I think.  

 I have always liked this picture of her on Prize List on an outside course. I actually posted these two before, here, in the funny story about the elephant.  

Happy Birthday Mom!  Thank you for sharing your passion for horses with me!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

moonlight mile

Here is a funny angle of my chub-a-lub, Pie-Pie, before our ride. (My saddle and saddle pads and his withers look weird - I don't think I rode with it like that - I usually make sure it is right before I get on!) Our temperatures have been warm (70's) and the leaves are just starting to turn colors - light green, yellow and some orange. The boys are getting fuzzy and black as the daylight hours shorten and the nights become chilly (40's). 

All three horses have worked through tough spots like pros on our rides this week. Here is the background information about how we got into the tough spots:

Because of all the earlier rain, we lost some trees in our woods. Above, you can see a giant tree is blocking a trail. (Blurry cell photos.)

I used our much loved Honda to re-route a new trail around the down tree. I don't know where my dad got this mower, but it is a little powerhouse.  My grandfather used to keep these woods open with a bush hog. Now, my mom and I hand trim the trails (arduous work but fun!) and I plow the tough stuff with the Honda.  It thinks it is a little bush hog. I don't drive it over rocks or big limbs, but it handles grapevines and honeysuckle vines perfectly.  Also, its small size makes it easy for me to get into tricky spaces.

Here is the new trail around the big tree.

Brian and I don't do chainsaws so we were fortunate to meet a great friend on Craigslist a few years back who would clean up our trees for us in exchange for firewood.  This year's crazy stormy weather, though, has brought our friend so much firewood locally that he doesn't need our trees anymore. 

A kind high school friend happened upon us one day and brought his chainsaw to help us out. I was bareback on Sovey when he arrived and I wondered what Sovey would think of all the noise and commotion.  Of course, the old soul Sovey was unflappable. He rode around the woods, peeking in and out at my friend with the chainsaw and golf cart and tools, with zero reaction. None. I told Brian this story and he says that Sovey is a professional. In Brian's words, "Sovey might not like it, but he knows that humans do loud, obnoxious things, and he is used to it."  

The next day, little brother, Foggy reacted (or didn't react) the same way to tree trimming. I was out on a ride on Foggy when our farmhouse family started trimming their trees with a chainsaw. Foggy didn't seem to notice. In fact, after we finished riding and I had untacked him and headed out for post-ride grazing, he dragged me down toward the farmhouse apple tree.  I could not believe how close to all that noise we had to stand. Frankly, it was embarrassing! We have the whole farm and we had to be right up against them while they worked.

Even Pie did well, although, he wasn't tested with the actual chainsaw - just the aftermath. I took him out yesterday to see that the down tree was gone. He was used to using my new trail in the woods, but this was his first time to see the big tree cut up.  He snorted and backed up and whirled around. I turned him back and asked him to walk forward. He moved two steps forward, snorted so loudly that I think he scared himself, then he backed up fairly far. Unfortunately, Pie backs very well - too well. He backs slow and lovely and relies on this comforting tactic way too often. He got a loose rose branch stuck in his tail, and I thought we were finished. Luckily, that fell off. Pie stood still and looked and I gave him the reins and leaned my body forward. I patted him and squeezed slightly. He snorted and walked forward. Then, he walked through the open space with the new wood piled on both sides. Good boy!  I don't think he would have done this a year ago, but he is getting much more confident about trying new things. 

The woods on our farm are aging and our trees are falling. Luckily, we planted all those seedlings in May so there will be paths in new woods some day. Here Maizie is showing how tall a Crabapple seedling grew already. Maizie is 5'5" (!) to give you some perspective. The silver lining of all that rain!

Also, I won an award...many thanks - I will post soon about that!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

sweet lullaby

Lots of pictures in this post because we have sunshine! This is a photo of Sovey...I think. I rode both he and Foggy bareback yesterday and I have trouble telling them apart in photos. How about my crazy reins when I am trying to take a photo?  He could totally pull a fast one.  I wanted to capture the gorgeous wild flowers - white little dainties (can't remember what they are called - they smell like butter) and yellow Goldenrod. It was 68 degrees and sunny - perfect rides.

I remember taking this is Sovey...he was being a little perky with a neck like an ostrich here.

This one is Pie and it is from Monday morning - still overcast then, but no rain. You can tell Pie's photos because his pictures always look the same - he poses for them. He thinks the click of the camera is me breaking a carrot and he is reaching his head around to nibble the treat. Silly horse!

This is Sovey pointing to the yellow pipeline marker in the woods. If it were Pie, he would be touching the pole with his nose. I taught him to touch scary things - "touch for treat" - and now he touches everything.

The sky grew overcast for my ride with Foggy. This is a shot of our meadow where we had the tree planting party in May. This used to be a hay field and now our seedlings and self-seeded trees are surrounded by bundles of wild flowers. I saw some purple asters in there. It is lovely to ride through. I know it will one day be woods, which is what we want, but it is pretty now too.

I am teaching Foggy to nibble grass when I say it is ok on a ride. Sometimes, I stop and talk to neighbors forever so I like the horses to know that it is fine to graze when I give the signal. Here he is practicing. Both Pie and Sovey are good about grazing and then stopping when it is time to move along. I was just thinking the other day that two years ago at this time, I was having a ton of trouble getting the horses to walk on after grazing if I was on the ground leading them. Now, they both listen perfectly when I ask them to stop. It is funny how a problem with horses seems gigantic while it is going on and then it works itself out and you completely forget it ever was a problem. 

I adore the three photos of Foggy above. He is happily munching apples that have fallen off our tree. The  second picture makes me crack up laughing!  I think his little feet are so hysterical. They don't seem to belong to him - it is a weird angle, I guess, but it so cute. Foggy is a dainty little thing - when you clean his feet they are so tiny. In that photo the coronary band is white and little and those tiny feet are just stuck in there at the side!  Oh, I love him like crazy.

No riding horses today. Maizie had off school so Brian and I took her to a local Rails-to-Trails to ride our bikes. Maizie has been very lame. I haven't posted about her injury yet because I get so upset when I think about it. Biking helps stretch it out and she can get out her own pent up frustration about limping and not being able to run. 

The trail we chose was gorgeous in the autumn light and is also a horse friendly trail.  I will bring the boys  if  when I get a horse van. Here is the horse sign and mounting stairs.

At the halfway point, we parked our bikes and walked on another picturesque trail to town for much needed iced coffees.

We met a very "quaint" man on a bike. The only way I can describe this man is like he fell out of the sky from the 1970's. (Think Green Acres - Mr. Kimble - in innocence, not goofiness.) Here is a photo of Maizie and Brian talking to him. He was carrying a transistor radio without headphones (we could hear a local AM station playing Gilbert O'Sullivan's Alone Again, Naturally - not kidding) and he had a Hershey bar sticking out of his breast pocket. When I asked, he said, "I'm going to get into that a little later." Very cute. Note:  We also look like we are from the 1970's - don't laugh at our bikes in this photo. We rode 18 miles today on our K-mart Specials. We bike fairly far here and in Florida and yet we own bikes as antiquated as our new friend's bike so he may be telling his wife a similar story this evening.

Brian took this one of me with the farmlands in the background. Someday I'll be out here on a horse!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

And still be friends, still be my friend


Here is the view from Sovereign's back.  This is kind of what I saw today on our bareback ride.  Again, the rain and mist prevented me from seeing all that lovely dappled sunlight. Yes, I had to borrow a photo from earlier this month again. We got another inch of rain today. I really can't take anymore. I am glad Sovey doesn't mind the mud and rain because, without riding, I would have definitely gone round the twist by now. 

I have the unbelievable luxury of being able to pluck a horse, today Sovereign, from the pasture and slip on the bitless bridle and hop on bareback and head out for an hour ride. My mother was watching me slide on Sovey recently and she remarked that I don't know how lucky I am to have horses like this.  She is right, I am lucky, but I do know it. I am SO grateful! I had ideas and goals about how I wanted to ride and these three horses evolved with me into my dream horses. 

There is such a close relationship between the three of them and I love that they include me in their group. The favorite part of my day is when I go to collect them to lead them inside the barn.  I tap the chain on the gate lightly and they canter to greet me. Pie always has to go in first because that is how the game is played. Pie used to assert himself to make sure everyone knew the rules, but now he is certain that we all know our parts and will play them correctly. Because of this confidence in his position, there is a comfortable "crowding" that occurs inside that gate without any posturing. I slip inside and often am putting a halter on Pie while being kissed and nuzzled by Foggy on Pie's near side. Sovey is an alligator and he has been known to bite humans. He knows this about himself and kindly keeps his body, tight against, but on the off side of Pie, so I feel safe. As I stand there with them I feel very blessed. Once I saw this (not so great but pretty) movie called Violets Are Blue.  There was a scene with Sissy Spacek taking photos of horses on Assateague and she was hiding within the herd when the "bad guys" came. I remember seeing that movie and wishing that I was smooshed in with those horses. Now, I get to live it each day with my tiny "herd" of three!  

The horses are in the barn again tonight. Even Pie seems resigned to the routine. He walked into his stall, turned around and snorted out a slow, sad sigh.  I know, sweet boy, this has to end soon, doesn't it?  Thank goodness we have a dry, snuggly bank barn for the years when the rain never stops.