Tag Archives: trail

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 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 😦


A Few of Her Favorite Things

One of the best parts of getting to know a new horse is figuring out their personality- what they like and what they don’t, where their itchy spots are, and what their quirks are.  People who don’t know much about horses always seem surprised to learn that they have distinct personalities (“like dogs?”), which makes me giggle just a little, because it really seems like horses are as unique as people are.

So anyway, so far, I have discovered some of the things that Rose loves:

  • soft brushes to the face
  • belly rubs, but only with the flat of the hand
  • leading trail rides at a forward marching walk
  • trying to rub her face on you after riding

I’m sure there are lots of horses out there who like the same things, but really, the way she reacts to a soft brush to the face is a beautiful thing.  She closes her eyes and pushes her head forward.  Then she tilts it so you can get the sides of her forehead above her eyes.  It’s like she knows that the soft brush is her ticket to a velvety, glossy coat, and she enjoys it the way most of us enjoy a good shampoo/head massage at a salon.

Riding wise, things are going pretty well for Miss Rosey, even with lots of new stuff being thrown at her.  On Wednesday, we went for a nice casual trail ride with a few friends.  Though she has been on trail rides before, this was her first in company, and she took pretty much everything in stride.  However, she made it clear right from the beginning that she doesn’t really like to mosey.  Her walk was purposeful, and she seemed to enjoy being in front.  I think she sort of enjoys the process of “discovery” when she’s out- she’s always moving her ears and eyes, looking to see what’s around the next corner or up the hill.  Fortunately, she handles being behind other horses equally well- she doesn’t rush to catch up or pass, and seems content to be behind them even when it’s clear she enjoys being up front.

What she does not enjoy on trail rides is standing still or being turned away from her chosen direction.  

Not Standing Still

Rosey: Not Standing Still

There were several occasions on this particular jaunt that we sort of needed to pull up.  Most notably, when her horse decided it would be fun to get Allie to slide off into the creek (hey, he was thinking of her, I’m sure.  It WAS very hot!).  Finding a spot for her to remount, and working out the logistics of such a thing (bareback on a 17+ hand TB who sort of wants to play around a little, not easy!).  But Rosey is not one for standing and waiting, and so in order to keep her happy you have to find a direction for her energy. 

In a way, this is sort of similar to Klondike.  When he started getting upset or not wanting to move where you wanted him to go, you just had to sort of redirect him.  Rose, though, is a little more opinionated than Klondike.  With him, I could just say, “Hey Klon, what’s over there?!?!?” and totally distract him from what had him being stubborn.  Rose, on the other hand- well, it’s more like you have to convince her things are her idea.  This will probably prove to be a challenge for me- most of the horses I’ve been riding over the last few years have been very agreeable and somewhat dopey geldings.  Rose, though, is too smart for the things that work with those types, and like any woman worth her salt, kind of wants to know “what’s in it for me?” when you ask her to do things.

Fortunately, she’s generally a very good girl, and also responds VERY nicely to praise.  She just has to understand exactly what her job is, and has to know she will be treated like a princess for doing the right thing.  For instance- standing for tacking up.  She wasn’t bad about it, compared to some horses, but she did kind of wiggle forwards and back a lot the first time I tacked her up.  Because she’s sensitive, I didn’t want to get after her too much about moving, so instead, I’d just put her feet back where I wanted, and if she didn’t move while I readjusted the saddle, I’d give her huge pats and maybe a peppermint.  It’s only been two saddlings since then, and she now pretty much stands still.  It’s like she wasn’t being bad at all, just didn’t know any better before (and of course, many racehorses are saddled while being held by another person with a lot of restraint, so before now she’d probably never been actually asked to stand for it on her own). 

Similar tactics used by Allie got her used to fly spray VERY quickly, and she’s even standing ground tied for the hose now (though she still tries to follow me when I turn around to wind the hose up, she generally puts her foot back when I point at it and growl a little). 

I rode her again yesterday morning, and I’m very pleased at what a quick study she is.  She’s really quite easy to steer, and much straighter/more aligned through the body than Klondike was.  It’s very easy to keep her on a given path with my legs and body.  Her “whoa” is fantastic- just sit deeper in the saddle and put your shoulders back, and she slows down automatically.  She doesn’t seem to have much use for the bit, but at this point she almost doesn’t really need one.  After we went around in both directions, I did start to teach her the basic idea of giving/softening to the bit- not in any major way, but just side to side a little.  She didn’t seem to really get what I wanted right away, but after a couple repetitions, she was following the bit in both directions (just at a standstill, mind you) with little/no resistance. 

This weekend we’ll be doing more, and hopefully getting some video of how she’s moving with her new magic shoes. 🙂