Sunday, March 31, 2013

Each another's audience

This post is dedicated to my fabulous blogger friends!

When I returned home from Friday's rides on Sovereign and Foggy, I was basking in the warm memories of how much fun I just had. Brian and Maizie always ask me how my time at the barn was, and when I tell them, they listen intently, but I can sense, they just don't get what I am saying. I have a tendency to explain in great detail all the ins and outs of my rides, getting more animated and enthusiastic as I visualize and relive every step. Friday, like always, my two sweet listeners were sorry they asked. Their eyes were glassy and their smiles waned as their brains wondered a million miles away into thoughts of baseball and running and chess.  

Later in the evening, I stumbled on a news article about a new book by Mike Greenberg, of Mike and Mike fame. In the interview, Greenberg explains that the idea for the book came when he was at the funeral of a friend who had lost her battle with cancer. The friend's husband read letters from an online cancer support group. Greenberg said those letters sounded like they were written by a family member - they were personal and accurate, yet the writers had never "met" his friend in person. They had formed close friendships entirely online.

This got me thinking about our blogging community and friends - you! I've never actually met you, yet I am so grateful for your friendships. You understand my horses and our rides and subtle horse "talk" like no one else. When things happen on my rides or during the time at the barn, I think about you and how I have to "tell you" this or that. It can be trivial - I have been planning on posting about a new brush I found that works like magic on manes and tails. The brush is just amazing, but only you would care. I hear myself in public at times saying, "Oh, I have a friend who lives..." and then I say what city and state one of you are from as if I've known you my whole life and you just moved away. Really, I've never met you or your horses!

Yesterday, Kristen from sweet horse's breath shared a video with Brian about the marathon. I forwarded it to him and then said, "Kristen sent you a link." He never asked, "Kristen who?" I smile to myself thinking how Kristen and Laz are part of regular discussions in my house and although it is virtual, they are part of my circle of friends. Colleen from Bay State Brumby shoots me off a one line email laughing that we both are tappers (tap dancers). Once Upon an Equine leaves a comment about Misty and posters and I think about her sweet, gentle Misty all day.

Sometimes we are sharing frustrations with weather and it is comforting to read that we are all in the same boat. Even across the pond, Nic is wondering where spring is hiding. Kacy and sweet Washashe mare and Paint Girl and her mustangs battle rain and mud in ways that make me embarrassed to complain if we get a good soaking here.

Grey Horse Matters mentioned the migration of annoying black birds and I know to keep my eyes to the sky because they will be here soon too. Imel at Travels with Harley tries to find warm temperatures during the day to sneak in rides on her three Thoroughbreds, sometimes racing sunset, like I do.

About three weeks ago, I was daydreaming about the perfect horse facility. I planned it all out in my brain and then realized that, in my future dream barn, I would have to slowly work through wash stall fears with my geldings since I don't have one now. Then a week ago, Kate at A Year with Horses, started posting about working with her horses to get them comfortable in the wash stall. Collective unconscious at work.

Dan and Betty and their adorable fluff balls Morgunn and Sugar make me smile and Calm, Forward, Straight, and her Val look like they are having fun every single day! Carol inspires me with her amazing exciting new barn project and all her work with the adorable Rogo.

While I graze my own horses after a ride I think about and pray for Jan and Buckshot, Lytha and Baasha. We all share their losses because we shared all their joys and also loved their horses.

There is a community here and the only requirement to join is to have horse love. As Kate says in her subtitle, "All horse, all the time" and we completely understand that phrase. Thank goodness we have a group of "friends" who understands too!

Friday, March 22, 2013

forgetting what he'd come for and in patronising tones

When I went out to the pasture the other day, Sovereign had a heart shaped smooshed down mark on his side. Can you see it in this photo? There is something else there too on the right, but the heart is on the left. He has been a little imp lately so maybe the heart was there to remind me to love him up anyway. I didn't fall off, but my thighs and back are so stiff this morning from Wednesday's unplanned bareback canter!

Sovereign likes to look over to the other side of the turnpike because the farm stand there has a petting zoo and he and the other two horses must be able to smell those animals. In particular, Sovey is obsessed with the red Highland cattle.

He can stand and stare at the animals for a long time. I let him do that because nothing ever seems to worry him or make him upset. A few weeks ago, he was staring in his usual way when all of a sudden his heart was beating furiously. I couldn't tell what was upsetting him, because he wasn't looking at the animals anymore. He was staring at a big pole building on the other side of their property. I could not see any movement there, but Sovey was worked up. He turned for home (or so I thought) and started trotting and freaking out. I was kind of irked because his head was so far in my lap it was difficult to actually ride. He didn't feel like he was going to do much and I kept urging him forward but he would just wheel around and look back at the farm stand. His heart was beating hard. 

I was on bareback so I slipped off the side which was stupid in hindsight. I have difficulty walking a horse when they are worked up. I am much better on top, but we were close to the turnpike and I didn't want to fall off and lose him that far from home. He was crazy wild and I was never able to get the reins over his head to lead him. I tried, but he had his head up too high. I led him home with the reins over his neck and it wasn't easy. I thought he wanted to go back to the barn because he was worried. No, not Sovereign. He only got worse as we walked home. His adrenaline is very different than most horses I've ridden. He isn't afraid of something. His heart starts pounding because he wants to go see it! He was annoyed that day because I took him away from the excitement. I never figured out what was so exciting.

The next few rides I used a saddle and rode him over that direction. We can't actually ride over to their property because the turnpike bridge is too narrow for pedestrian traffic (or horse traffic!) so we have to stay on our side. Sovereign did not act weird again, he just stared like he always does, quietly looking at the animals.

On Wednesday, I was on bareback, this time with my winter breeches that have a full seat. I grip him well in these which is good and bad. He can read every signal, which with a horse like Sovey, Mr. Mind Reader, isn't always desirable. If I flinch because I heard a loud boom or a truck backfire, he jumps. Normally, in my jeans, he ignores my unnecessary reactions. We had been over to the turnpike and he saw his cattle friend and they stared at each other for many minutes but no fuss up. Then we came back toward home and started down a big hill. I jumped at a noise from the road and Sovey jumped and took off down a briar trail cantering. I couldn't get myself together to stop him so we went flying through some branches and ended up near the barn when I finally got him stopped.

Oh I was so mad - mostly at myself for not paying attention but also at him for taking advantage of the situation. Sovereign is easily my safest horse, but you have to ride him. You can't be thinking about anything else because he will use any excuse to be the conductor. He is unbelievably intelligent and he knows it. If you are being stupid, he will gladly take the reins. 

After our small run off adventure I had to keep riding to explain to Sovereign what I need from him. So, I turned him back away from the barn and collected my reins and sat correctly. I bent him around every obstacle I could find at the walk. We curved around trees and the well cap and bushes and imaginary figure eights and the farmhouse and my car and walked right beside the road. I took him back up to the hill and rode him down with intention and at the slow pace I wanted. He responded like a docile puppy. I gave him all the reins by the end and he was bending for me although I only had the buckle in my hands. People talk about mind-bending experiences. This was one. Sovereign makes me ride with my brain. He makes me ride well.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Two Equitrekking articles, two rides, and Brian turns 50!

Today was a great day! Another Equitrekking article, two great rides on Pie and Foggy, and my sweet husband, Brian turned 50 years old!

I had the opportunity to write another article for Equitrekking. This time the article is about the unique equestrian community I visit each year in Florida. Very fun! The first piece was about my bit to bitless bridle journey and you can read it here.

Today was a grey, chilly day. Brian's March 18th birthday can sometimes be all spring and sunshine, but this year it was not to be. Clouds were heavy for my Pie ride. He was charged up just like he always is when it is going to snow. I was bundled up tight in my new layers and felt warm and comfortable. We walked the perimeter and trotted around a good bit. He was great, but still jumpy in the post ride graze.

Next, I hopped on Foggy bareback. I knew our time was going to be short. We just made it over to the trail when the horizontal sleet started. It was like sharp pellets so we went back to the barn. A heavier snow followed, but it is raining now so the snow should be gone by morning.

Brian's birthday celebrations started this morning with a big training run in the mountains. He is going to run a 20 mile trail run later in the year so he spent three hours running different parts of the course today. He said he made the best of an ugly day and had great fun. We had a small party for him this evening and now are all groaning - I baked his favorite pecan pie and everyone ate too much!

Happy Birthday, Brian! 

Hope I look as good as you do when I'm 50!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

I've come to talk with you again

Being Maizie's mom means weekends are full of activities that make me feel like Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate finale. Instead of racing from Berkeley to Pasadena and back to Berkeley and then to Santa Barbara in an Alfa Romeo Spider we are racing from Mechanicsburg to Hershey to Mechanicsburg to Harrisburg in our little green Mini. Not quite as glamorous, perhaps, but every bit as rushed and exciting and frantic. I adore my Maizie and all her interests and I love my little car, but I need to regroup and sigh on the back of the bus by Sunday evening. Let's just say that Mondays are relaxing!

Mondays also mean five days of calm, uninterrupted riding. Whew! I can't wait till tomorrow!

The boys gather around the water bucket. Foggy asks, "Are we going riding?" 

Maizie receives a first place in her science fair.

Hope your weekend was calm and relaxing and full of horsey fun!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Snowflakes falling like leaves in the summertime

Yesterday a big snow was predicted and Maizie's school was cancelled. We did get snow - but it was wet and slushy and turned mostly to mud by noon. I am not complaining - spring is here. But the small amount of snow we got frightened Foggy!

Everyday when I go to the barn to ride, I bring the boys into their stalls. There they have fresh water, hay, and a small handful of grain as a snack. Pie's hay isn't as rich or fun as the brothers' hay so he usually has his head over the door and is pawing to GO! I get him out and groom him. If it is "his day" to go riding, I tack him up, but if it is another boy's turn, then I check to see if they are finished eating. 

Sovey always knows his days and I don't think he even eats much when it's his turn. I rarely have time to groom Pie first on Sovereign's days because Sovey starts whinnying and nickering even as I bring him in from the pasture. He wants to go. We had a great bareback ride on Tuesday so yesterday wasn't his day and he knew it. He dove into his hay and munched.

Foggy, though, is a calm and methodical horse any day. He comes in slowly and nibbles happily. He is hardly ever rushed or upset. I rarely ride him first because I like to make sure he is finished with his whole, s-l-o-w, routine and it takes forever. He eats his grain, chewing ever so slowly and then he pauses and then he drinks. He seems completely oblivious to me or the other horses while he is enjoying the full routine. Meditatively, he chews on some hay then pees. Next, he nods off, while standing. Then, he flops down to sleep like a baby deer in a tight ball on the sawdust. He relaxes through the process so I literally have hours to ride another horse first. On some days, poor Foggy is still resting like a deer when I am done grooming, riding for an hour, regrooming and grazing the first horse. I sneak into his stall with him and curl up beside him on the sawdust. He is adorable!

Yesterday, though, something was amiss. Foggy was nervous and flighty. After his grain, he was ready. He had his head way out over the door begging to go. Oddly, Pie was still munching hay, so I got Foggy out and started to groom him up. He was electric. His head was high and he twitched and wiggled. Very un-Foggy-like. I tacked him up and we headed out through the remains of the snow. He relaxed at first, but then he spied my mom on her porch/deck. She was high up in the air and shoveling snow off and throwing it down to the driveway. Foggy strained his neck and flagged his tail and out came the sweetest, most gentle, worried, "where are my friends?" whinny I ever heard. It was so sad and foal-like.

I turned him around and we made our way back to the barn. I dismounted and led the little baby back inside. There he nuzzled Sovey and Pie and traded breath in their nostrils. Ok. All is well. He sighed and relaxed. I took him back outside and remounted and off we went for a wonderful ride all over the woods and fields. Poor honey had been so scared and just needed a quick reassurance from his friends.

It started sleeting mean pellets at us from the east on our way back home, and Foggy was fine, but I was freezing and soaked with the rain/sleet. After his untacking, regroom, and grazing, I stuck him in his stall and made a cup of coffee. Whew - warm up and second wind! And outside, the sleet stopped. Hooray! Time for a Pie ride with lots of trotting. There is nothing better than a tricky weather system to get Pie interested in moving. I love to use his naturally occurring impulsion on those days. His trot floats over the ground because nothing is forced. What a perfect day -happy boys, happy!

Monday, March 4, 2013

From the end of the world to your town

The last few weeks have been full of poster art and riding and writing! The riding has been fantastic because I finally bought the the proper winter riding clothes. No more Mr. Nice Guy Construction Worker in my Carhartts. From this... this!

Ta da! I bought a Mountain Horse Regal Coat and it is very regal and warm!

Smartpak had the coats on sale and I loved the first one so much that I immediately tried to order another one, but I was too late - they sold out!! No wonder - this coat is amazing. Also, as modeled by the adorable Noodlebug...

I got a pair of the Mountain Horse Polar Breeches which are warm as toast. On this particular day I had so much mud on the bottom that I slipped out of my boots and breeches in our mudroom so they could dry. Noodle thought I left them out specially for her!

Kristen over at sweet horse's breath recommended the SSG 10 Below gloves and she was right. These are perfectly warm for riding, even after bucket scrubbing.

In my new duds, the boys and I have hit some different trails. Both Foggy and Pie have been antsy to go off the property and I am finally warm enough to acquiesce. Foggy took me across the street to the church and then to the Webercroft neighborhood. We ran into a neighbor who was in shorts (!!!) and we talked to him for quite awhile. It was snowing while we talked and he didn't seem cold at all. I don't get that! Foggy "visits" with people like we do this all the time. He cracks me up. He nuzzles the person and listens intently. 

Pie made me ride up a secret hill near the Turnpike. He loves going places that are unusual and scary. The trucks are very close on this particular stretch. They can't hit us at all - we are safe, but they are close and loud. Pie likes to see them, I think. He makes me laugh.

All my post ride grazing and grooming sessions have been long and good for the horses because I don't feel rushed. Usually I am miserable after a ride because I am freezing, but with the proper clothing, winter isn't so bad.

In addition to the riding, I've been working on some posters to advertise the 150th Anniversary of the Confederate Occupation of Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. (You can see one of the designs at the top of this post.) Our town is going to have a reenactment of the event this summer. In June of 1863, the Confederate soldiers came east toward Harrisburg and stopped for three days in Mechanicsburg. While here, they were kind to our townspeople, but they did demand food to be provided for the three day occupation and they stole our civilians' hats! Apparently, at this late date in the war, the soldiers' clothes were pretty shabby and most of them were hatless. The story goes that the soldiers loved to trot by on horseback and steal the hats from the residents in town. 

Some historians posit that the Confederate soldiers were worn out and tired when they got to Gettysburg precisely because of riding so far east to our town and back to Gettysburg. I am not a Civil War buff, so I don't know if that is true, but it was fun working on the posters and I plan to help out this summer with the horses during the reenactment. 

And, in exciting writing news, I had the opportunity to write an article for the Equitrekking website! The article is about my bit to bitless bridle journey and features the sweet OTTB boys. You can read it here! There is also a link on Facebook. If you are not familiar with Darley Newman and the PBS Equitrekking show then you are in for a treat if you visit their website. Darley travels all over the planet - but she is on a horse! She learns about different cultures and travel destinations and shares her adventures while riding. She rides the horses that are provided to her at each location, so she has to be able to ride in all kinds of conditions and in different types of tack. The show has won multiple Emmy awards too and it is no surprise to me. Darley Newman created this dream job, but she delivers. The show is suberb and I am thrilled to have an article on their site.