Tag Archives: nature

It’s a Little Chilly

But since when has the weather stopped any of us from enjoying some good times with ponies?

Saturday began with a nice morning breakfast with Allie, at the lovely Tom and Ray’s restaurant in Damascus.  Highly recommended for pancake aficionados as well as those who love a grilled cheese & tomato sandwich.  [/random plug]

Later that afternoon we travelled up to Westminster, MD, to do some listings for a large Thoroughbred farm that is looking to downsize.  After my many visits to the racetrack and the small surrounding farms, it felt like I was visiting a palace.  Acres upon acres of rolling green pasture, beautiful bank barns, and a pond with black swans in it, it was like something out of a movie.  We listed six horses there- two yearlings, two two year olds, and a couple of broodmares.  It’s often hard to sell the broodies, they’re generally offered when they’re older, and haven’t had any riding time since they raced eons ago.  But on the other hand, if I had the money for a second horse (despite me wanting ALL the horses all the time) I’d be thinking about bringing this fine lady home:

I'm sooooo pretty!

I

 I dunno.  She just seems sweet and sturdy, and looks like she wants to snuggle just a little.

After terrorizing the lovely black swans in the attempt to get some pictures, we called it a day and went home.

Sunday was another Funny Farm visit, where thanks to the presence of multiple volunteers, we got to check on almost everybody at the farm.

Klondike is still fat.  Rosey is dying for love and attention but otherwise happy and gaining weight.  Whisper is still a Barbie horse, but he looks like he’s been getting into some tiffs with someone out in the field.  Call Sister (who is not available yet or on the webpage) is settling down finally- she likes to act jumpy and spooky, but is finally coming to realize that spray bottles will NOT kill her after all.  Truckee is a bit of a pest, and needs a job (his big moment of the day: driving Klondike away with a flurry of heels and teeth, so HE could get more attention). 

Mikey thinks he’s a dog, and even AFTER we put him back out in the field post-grooming session, he insisted on following us all the way across said field and then back to the gate.  Kasper is, like Sister, calming down a little bit and learning about standing for grooming and attention, rather than pretending to spook at everything. Gutenburg (also not on the website yet) is doing well, but as he came off the track relatively recently he looks a little thin. We think he’s recovering from the various substances in his system- nothing nefarious, but supplements, bute, maybe some steroids.  But on the plus side, his skin and coat look good, and he seems to be in gain mode.  We also spent some time with a new guy we’ll call Parker, who is super sweet but had to learn about standing still tied.  I think he normally would stand still, actually, but there were three other horses in the immediate vicinity and he kept trying to snuggle with them.  Got some pictures of him, too, so hopefully he will be up on the website shortly.  In the meantime, feel free to browse. 🙂 

After our visit there, it was back to Damascus to take Afton for a nice mosey.  He got new shoes on Friday, and already seems to be moving much better.  He came off the track with his heels “crushed forward” (probably the best description, though maybe not the technical term for it).  With this trim and new shoes, he looks to be walking MUCH better and is not “stabbing” the ground so much.  His trot feels much smoother and at the canter he seems quite happy to stretch forward and really throw his legs out in front of him. 

This was only Afton’s third trail ride, and I think, total, his sixth or seventh ride EVER.  And it figures that in a group of three, the horse with the least amount of training would be the quietest and most reliable.  The teenaged trail-master?  Feeling a bit full of himself.  The other 4 year old had much more training and trail time than Afton, but was also feeling a little twitchy and goofy.  Afton took turns leading the two goofuses when it was time to stretch out and go.  He also showed he has a great sense of direction- you can tell he knows when he is close to home, or pointed towards home- he starts moving out just a little bit when he thinks he’s headed back.  He’s better than a compass.

We did some trotting and cantering (even approached an almost gallop at one point) and he is just a joy to ride out.  After a few little runs, he starts to anticipate a tiny bit, so if you lean forward to pat him, he’ll start to trot.  But all in all, he’s quite easy and super fun.  Also on this trail ride, we did a little jumping.  We are fortunate to have a small trail set on a slight slope uphill, that has several logs and small jumps set at related distances.  It’s a great confidence builder, and there’s nothing big enough to really intimidate anybody.  Afton jumped or trotted all of them, with absolutely zero hesitation. 

The impressive part (to me) is that the trail used to be set so that the woods on either side sort of “funnelled” you through the jumps- it made it so riders didn’t have to do much but sit there, and the horse had few options except going over.  Sometime recently this trail was cleared out a whole lot- all the brush is gone, so there’s no “wall” and you actually have to steer over the jumps.  I can see this presenting a problem when you’re as monkeyish a rider as me, but Afton was perfectly honest through the whole thing.  Not only that, but he LED the way through, with the most experienced horse taking up the REAR of the group.  Good pony!

Later on, I realized that Afton had not, in fact, ever seen a water crossing before.  He’d been so great about everything that it just didn’t even cross my mind that he might be worried about anything.  So I was a bit taken by surprise (oops) when we got to one crossing and he balked.  To be fair to him, it was sort of a scary looking one, with a lot of leaves floating in the water, a bit of gravel in the middle, then more water and a steep bank up.  We had one of the other horses go in front of him, and he put his head down and very tentatively started stepping forward.  Because a lot of horses take a big flying leap their first few times across streams, I had a full handful of mane and was preparing for the worst.  But Mr. Afton just stepped across VERY carefully, and came up the bank perfectly.  He did essentially the same at the next crossing- head way down, checking things out, but only very gingerly tiptoeing across.  He’s definitely a thinker, and I’m still sort of amazed he didn’t do any huge deer jumps over it or anything.

On the way home, we hopped over some stuff in the driveway again, quitting on a great note over the end log (we had to do it twice- the first time he sort of stumbled over it, so we had to go back and actually JUMP).  Next up for Afton? Boring, boring ringwork.  He’s a super horse but needs to learn a little nuance. 🙂  And, um, at some point we’ll get some photos/video of all this.  It’s a little harder in the winter 😦

She’s Magical

All sorts of CANTER OTTBs

All sorts of CANTER OTTBs

Miss Rose had another wonderful day yesterday, prompting one of our resident trainers to describe her as “magical,” which may be the most perfect term for her that could be dreamed up. Last night we went out for a nice group trail ride which featured four OTTBs. The cast of characters was Magical and Perfect Rose, Woody, Midnight (a gorgeous black gelding who looks like I dreamed him up when I was a kid- seriously, he is *that* gorgeous), and perhaps the most magical of all, Phinny, Allie’s awesome and wonderful miracle gelding.

Heading out, Mr. Woods was a little uppity- not doing anything but sort of bouncing a little bit, and looking at things I’m pretty sure he doesn’t normally look at. Several times, Rose thought maybe she should follow his lead, but a reminder that “we’re really not doing that today” was all it took to keep her in a settled walk.

Her first “real world test” came early in the ride, when Phinny and Woody geared up to jump a few basic jumps that came up along the way. With my own horse, and even a little with Klondike, the issue of being with a larger group, and then having part of that group go ahead at a faster pace, was a difficult one. She seemed to be a little weirded out by the jumping at first, but she figured out, after watching Phinny and Woody go over it once and circling back, that she didn’t have to worry about them leaving her. From that point on, she just stood and watched as they repeated the jump a few times, and other than one little “let’s get on with it!” paw, she was perfect.

Later on, we would take turns leading and following again. And again, she cracks me up with her leadership skills. When she’s following other horses, she’s a moseyer, and will just plant her nose behind someone else’s bum and sort of zone out. When she’s in front, she’s on a MISSION! There are THINGS to see and PLACES to go and there MIGHT be something VERY IMPORTANT around the next corner. You put her in front, and you will find that you are leaving your friends far behind.

After a very enjoyable CANTER cavalcade trot and canter through some fields, we were home again and decided to try a few of the smaller obstacles along the driveway at our farm. We followed Woody over the teeny log, and she had her First Real Jump. Then, we trotted the ditch for the first time. The first few times actually trotting it, she was a doll. All I had to do, really, was keep a bit of leg on, grab mane, and look up. She has a really honest feel to her, which is hard for me to describe. Klondike was pretty honest, but I always had the feeling (rightly, probably) that I had to actually ride to the jumps. And he could, on occasion, be just a teeny bit squirrely. There is no such feeling with Rose. Unless I do something monumentally bad up there to ruin her or overface her, I expect that she will just do whatever we ask her to. And I don’t have to be technically perfect either. Just leg, and hang on.

Rosey apparently likes a ditch

However, after a few times over the ditch, she was pretty sure she was done. And as I’ve mentioned, she can be just a teeny bit opinionated about such things. So when I turned her back around to go back down the driveway, she said, “nooooooo! don’t want!” and hopped up a little in front. I should mention here that rearing is one thing I really have an irrational fear of. When horses hop up like that I normally tend to freeze a little bit, with a small amount of internal panic that says “don’t do anything until their feet are on the ground” Strangely, with her I didn’t get that feeling so much. And just popped her on the shoulder and continued on our merry way. I’m normally a whip-behind-the-leg girl, but the shoulder was sort of an automatic reaction, and for some reason seems to work well with her, so there you go. After that, she came down the log and was lovely over the ditch again.

Rosey has a green moment.  Oh wait, she is green!

I’m thinking that the possibilities for the little show this Sunday might be slightly expanded from just the walk-trot class 🙂