Since we have been back home we have had one day of full sunshine. One. People think that I love Florida because I mind the cold temperatures in Pennsylvania. Really, I don't mind the cold. It is this depressing grey that we endure. Every morning starts out grey and the sun just can't break through. My car headlights are always on - even at noon and not because it is raining. It is like White Nights in reverse. We got something different yesterday - rain and sleet and snow and mist and drizzle. Very depressing.
So...to cheer myself up I decided to share sunny photos and the story of how Brian rode Chaunson bareback on a bright New Year's Eve day!!!!! Yes, that is Brian up there bareback on the very special Chaunson boy, both looking super relaxed as they happily make their way to another park at a horse crossing sign.
Brian talked to me on December 30th about the possibility of riding the next morning. He doesn't often ask to ride so I knew he was up to something. It ends up that he cooked up a scheme for a very unusual New Year's Resolution. The background information on this plan is that Brian inadvertently has a running streak going. He has run for three consecutive calendar years plus a few weeks without missing one day. I think he has run something like 1152 days straight. He didn't plan to do this, it just sort of happened. He kept thinking that he would get a cold or illness and then stop but he hasn't been sick. Neither of us believe in streaking - running or riding every day without a day off - because it invariably sets up unhealthy situations where you ride or run when you shouldn't just to keep the streak going. I had a 73 day riding streak going in 2008. The longer you go, the harder it is to quit. Therefore, Brian's New Year's Resolution for this year was to quit the streak. I think by planning to ride a horse on December 31st in the morning, he was trying to make sure he was occupied and not tempted to run. (A least that was the plan - as of this writing he still hasn't quit! He did ride Chaunson that morning, but he ran later that day...and every day after so far. Just like any New Year's Resolution, this one is difficult.)
Anyway...I love when Brian wants to ride - no matter what the reason so I started trying to figure out who he could ride. A group of us had already made arrangements to hit the parks on a big trail ride on New Year's Eve morning and I knew that most of the horses were going. I realized that Brian could ride Chaunson if I walked along. Brian has taken riding lessons, but he certainly isn't safe on just any horse. I don't mind when he rides Sovereign because Sovey is great with beginners. Also, Brian is agile and can bail if necessary on our farm because Sovey will stay with us. Chaunson is a lovebug of the first order, but he isn't a beginner's horse and bailing out on the streets of Pinellas Park would not be an option. I knew if I could be there beside him though, Chaunson would be great for Brian. One worry - I didn't have a saddle. I rode the entire vacation bareback. Brian had never ridden bareback before.
Everyone at the barn offered us saddles and sweet Mandy even got a bareback pad ready for us. I worried that Chaunson might not like an abrupt change in the program so I chose Chauson's mental comfort over Brian's physical comfort - poor Brian! He knows me and my kooky ways so he was ok with riding bitless and completely bareback!
Here you can see some of the gang in the barn parking lot waiting for other riders so we can start. I am in red on the ground beside Chaunson and Brian has a powder blue helmet on. Barb took most of the photos since I was sticking like glue beside Chaunson. Thanks Barb! As the ride progressed, it became apparent to me that Brian's relaxed demeanor was contagious and Chaunson was very relaxed too.
In the first five minutes of the ride we had to walk around the barn and arena on a narrow sidewalk. The arena is huge and there happened to be two horses turned out with their owners "encouraging" them to race around. Our group had to walk by these bucking and racing horses. The three leading horses on our ride were Mandy's horses who are all very calm. Brian was in the back and I was really concerned because of the street and narrow sidewalk tight against the arena. The front horses started trotting which seemed unusual to me. I found out later that Tom was having trouble with Norton because of the racing horses in the arena. I kept Brian at the walk and Chaunson was amazing. This was the type of scary situation that a horse person could recount and talk about for years as in: "One time I went on a crazy trail ride and we were walking by two horses in an arena and these horses were racing and bucking and snorting and sneering. There was a narrow sidewalk between a busy street and the arena and our horses had to keep it together and I was on bareback..." but it all was completely lost on Brian. He had no idea how dangerous the situation was and he had no idea how fabulous Chaunson was about it all. But it wasn't lost on me. I love Chaunson! I held on to the bitless bridle on the near side and kept my eyes forward and never mentally acknowledge the racing horses to my left. I actually walked on the ground and breathed slowly exactly as if I was riding and it worked. Chaunson was worked up inside but he didn't trot in place or do anything that would endanger Brian. Brian has no idea that he rode through a dicey situation on an amazing horse.
Here we are in the first park. I had a helmet in case I needed to ride back home, but there were zero problems for the entire ride.
I like to call this the "Palmetto Alley to Alpaca Road". Tom is in the front on Norton and Kristen is on Koda. You can just see Barb and sweet Titan in the back.
I am starting to trust Brian here as I snap a few photos. It looks like Brian is on a tiny pony. Chaunson is 15.3 but Brian has long legs! Good thing too since it seems like he might be listing/tilting over to the side a little!
Look at those dapples!!!!
There is Amy on Dingo at the back of this group photo. Boy, her hair is long - she is sitting on her braid!
Oh I love him! What an adorable boy! Brian is cute too ;)
Brian kept saying that Chaunson was confused/sad that I was on the ground beside him. So, after the three parks, we switched riders and I rode the sweet boy for the rest of the ride. Brian walked along and everyone was happy to see that Brian could walk!!!! We were all teasing him but still a little worried about him after such a long, first bareback ride, but he was perfectly fine.
On our way back to the barn I turned Chaunson into this driveway. This house is near the barn and it is for sale and is unique because it has two horse stalls attached to the house! One of our friends is seriously interested in purchasing it and has toured it twice. In this photo, you can just see the horse stalls through the second arch from the right. I rode Chaunson right up to the house. He was quiet and interested and loved every second of our investigation. Brian was on the ground and we "toured" around, careful not to damage anything. I have never seen a horse so human-like in his interest. He listened to our conversations and stood quietly and really looked at everything. He never shied or acted worried in the least. In fact, he drank heartily out of the fountain! The fountain was running and I realized very quickly that it was city water. Chaunson's barn uses a well which is sulfur water and smells horrible. I know Chaunson found the fountain to be clear and delicious! He could not get enough and gobbled it up from every tier allowing the upper levels of water to spill all over his muzzle! Our "real estate tour on a horse" sounds in retrospect like we were clomping around, drinking from the fountain, walking in and out of the property's hallways in a disrespectful manner, but it truly wasn't like that at all. I wish Brian had taken a video of us. Chaunson was just like a human who would respectfully look at a real estate property. If a horse could "tip-toe" he was doing it. I have never seen anything like it.
Here is a closeup of the hall with the stalls at the back and the tack/grain room in front and the two posts are for grooming. Around to the right is a back small paddock that opens to the stalls. We walked around there and Chaunson went right inside that paddock. I could not get him to leave! He loved that space and acted like he had been here before!
The back yard "pasture" wouldn't last too long because it is tiny. Can you imagine my boys in here! Oh, my! My horses wouldn't fit! This horse world is so very different from home. There isn't much turnout space in this area of St. Petersburg, but there sure are places to ride and a ton of riding being done! And just look at that sunshine! Oh Chaunson and Barb and Titan and Mandy and Barry and Judy and Charlie and Kristen and Koda and Tom and Norton and EVERYONE - I miss you so! There is a knot in my throat as I finish writing this bittersweet post.