Another Ride in the Forest

This afternoon it was so hot that I gave Dressy a bath before I took her to the forest to ride. Not that it really did that much good. She was already sweaty before I got her tacked up. She looks glossy and sleek in pictures, but she does still have enough winter coat to be very overheated in this weather.

We did another 13 miles today, after the 10 we did yesterday. We went over to meet a lady with a nice little Quarter Horse named Duke. She is thinking of trying to do some distance rides. Maybe a 12 mile Set Speed ride. Or a ride n tie. She saw my name on the mentors list on the OCTRA website and emailed me. So I rode over to her stable from the parking lot and did a few loops with her and Duke while she asked me questions. I hope I managed to answer reasonably coherently. I was interrupting myself with loud growls at my horse whenever she thought of spooking at anything. Dressy hates that, and generally straightens out and slides on by whatever she was looking at if I growl loud enough. But it is a bit distracting for everyone if I’m in the middle of answering a question.

After I said goodbye to our riding buddies, I rode back to the trailer. Almost at the parking lot, a little dog came running, no owner in sight, barking madly. I didn’t much like the look of that dog and stopped the mare to wait for the owner to show up. The couple ambled down the hill, chatting to each other and rather ineffectually calling the dog. I tried to get them to show some urgency by suggesting they needed to get the dog away from the mare’s hind end. “Yeah, I know… she might get kicked in the head. She’s dumb. Serve her right.” I realized that they were thinking that would be a good lesson for their dog. “Um… no, see, not only will the mare kick the dog in the head, she’s going to bolt and leave me on my ASS IN THE GRAVEL!!!” These people seemed to have no idea that a horse spinning in circles with a dog barking at her heels was bad for more than just the dog. My raised and angry voice finally seemed to light a bit of a fire under them and they grabbed the dog. I rode the mare back to the parking lot, and had just reached the trailer when, sure enough, the damn dog reappeared. Barking madly. I managed to get off the mare, though she was edging sideways in alarm, and started yelling “BAD DOG!!! You GET!” The dog cowered a bit and ran away. Around the trailer to the other side and started all over again, now darting in at Dressy’s heels. By now I was getting pretty mad. And if those stupid people had gotten anywhere within shouting distance I’d really have ripped a strip off them. There is a reason for leash laws and they are it. I finally managed to intimidate the dog enough that she slunk off, with me encouraging her every time she thought of returning for another round.

The Vivian Forest is lovely. Beautiful trails, well maintained. Way too many freaking PEOPLE.

Boots and Saddles: Convention – Hydration Seminar

This is a really good post summarizing the seminar that Susan Garlinghouse presented at the AERC convention recently on hydration in endurance horses. I read some notes that she put up on RideCamp prior to the convention and wished I could go just for that one talk. Luckily, Mel at Boots and Saddles attended and has posted her notes about it.

Boots and Saddles: Convention – Hydration Seminar.

Only Very Small Dogs

I took Dressy over to the Vivian again yesterday. Three hours this time. Almost entirely walking. This time, although the benches were still frightening, we did more ‘snort and slide by’ than ‘spin and bolt’, thank goodness.

Waiting to be tacked up. She's not shedded out completely yet, but she's quite sleek already.

I did think, for one crazy moment, that disaster was looming. Not Dressy’s fault though.  A woman was walking four rather hysterical tiny dogs. She was having some trouble with all the leashes. And two of the frenzied little rats escaped and ran down the trail towards us. Dressy is not at all afraid of dogs. But these two were on a double leash, which was dragging between them. And of course… the dogs were on either side so the leashes were stretched right across the trail with the knot bouncing in the middle. I had visions of them passing on either side of us and wrapping the whole mess around Dressy’s legs. The woman was running full tilt after the dogs, yelling wildly at me all the while that they were just “very small dogs!!!!” and at the last moment she managed to take a great leap and stomp on the handle of the leashes. Both dogs came to a screeching halt under where Dressy’s nose had been… though of course she’d already starting backing rapidly down the trail. Dressy cautiously proceeded forward when the dogs all stopped. The lady just kept repeating that they were only little dogs and wouldn’t hurt a horse. I tried to explain to her that my alarm was about the LEASHES, not the dogs. I’m not sure she ever even understood what disaster had nearly occurred. So I just told her all was well and to have a nice walk. No point in alienating other trail users. Even crazy ones.

Most of the dogs and owners are quite well behaved when we see them in the Forest. Which always surprises me a bit. My own dog, Jimi, is a Border Collie. And I know positively that he would be terrible if I had him off leash on trails with other dogs and horses. Of course I’d never think of taking the obsessive little lunatic to such an environment, so maybe that’s the explanation. It’s the good dogs who get to go to fun places like that. Jimi is not actually a bad dog… but he was an older rescue case. So he has his emotional limitations. And Swamp Dog (my great aunt’s old Cocker Spaniel that I inherited), though not in any way hysterical (unless food is involved), is largely oblivious to non-food items like horses feet, moving vehicles, or people calling her to “come”. So I would never take her anywhere without a leash either.

Log piles are not as bad as benches... but still must be watched carefully.
Is that a bench? It looks very suspicious!

Water Play

The yearlings got their own personal water trough today. It was a source of great entertainment. They splashed and blew bubbles and tried to put their feet in it. I had to stand guard until there was enough water in it to hold it down so the little pirates couldn’t run off with it.

 

All the water play brought the young mares over to investigate the fun that was being had without them. Reno flirted madly with all of them. He is just like all of his brothers (out of the late, lamented Freckles). They have all been romeos. Reno reminds me more and more of his older brother Monster.

Ouch

Two hours of spooking and spinning on Saturday was apparently more than my body cared to deal with. Man, do I ever hurt. My abs are really sore, and my shoulders are seized right up. Surprisingly though (and thank goodness!) my back aches, but has not gone into spasms. I was pretty sore yesterday and wimped out of riding. Today I hurt even more. Can’t ride anyway though, because I don’t have time. So I don’t have to feel guilty at least 🙂

Had a very long morning (and afternoon… and it’s not over yet as I have to go back to feed). It’s HOT out today. 22C at the moment. Winter is not even over, and I was too hot in a t-shirt right from early this morning.

I had to drag out a trough to the big field for the broodmares and get the hoses all sorted out to fill it and buckets for the other fields too. Soaked down the arena, which has turned into a truly disgusting dust bowl and unusable. I didn’t even get started on cleaning stalls until nearly lunch time.

Carried a couple of buckets out back to the yearlings. Esmerelda is definitely not a good little witch. She stood guard over the water bucket after I filled it. Albert and Reno were not allowed anywhere near it. She kicked both of them, and bit them with intent every time they came close. And she wasn’t even thirsty. She played with the bucket. Washed her lips off. Chewed on the handle. Blew on the water and made waves. All while the two colts were staring longingly at the fresh water with their little tongues hanging out. Albert finally gave in to the inevitable and came to drink anyway, while she bit him. He just let her bite his ear while he drank. And it wasn’t a love nip either. Reno though, didn’t even get that much of a chance, as she can gallop backwards, double barrel kicking with ease. Quite the little athlete Esmerelda is…

Crazy Broodmares

The three broodmares who are due within a few weeks came into stalls last night. So there was a lot of screaming and turmoil when I arrived this morning to feed. They were not interested in breakfast at all. They just wanted to get back out to their friends. But instead they went out into the big field. And wild careening ensued. I didn’t get the most exciting moments on film. Kind of unnerving to take photos while a hugely pregnant mare is reared up striking at you (everyone who knows these mares will likely guess correctly at Bernice being the culprit). But here is the tail end of the excitement…

L to R... Bernice, Dora, Loula
L to R... Dora, Bernice, Loula
Dora, Bernice, Loula
Dora
L to R... Bernice, Loula, Dora

 

 

Vivian Forest Trails

I am so, SO bored of riding the driveway here on the farm, and have been longing to get over to the forest trails. Last night just around sundown, I drove over to the Vivian Forest parking lot to take a quick walk and check the trails. And sure enough… almost all of the ice was gone.The forest is primarily sandy soil, so the trails don’t get boggy once the frost comes out.

I got an early start at work, and had Dressy loaded and on the road before noon. Gave her a bit of currying while I had her tied to the trailer in the parking lot. There were black tumbleweeds floating everywhere. She’s really blown her coat in the last few days.

Evil bench

The footing was pretty good. A few soft spots where it was really wet. But almost no ice or snow left anywhere. I think Dressy was happy to get out on the trails. At first anyway… but then. Oh My God! They’ve built some benches out of rough hewn logs. And installed them at quite a few trail intersections. Dressy was just appalled. Nothing should ever change in the forest. Those log benches were just wrong. We spooked and spun at every single one of them. And while I swear I resisted the impulse, after a while I just wanted to beat her senseless. That mare can spook way faster than King ever could when she puts her mind to it. My back feels like it’s been corkscrewed.

She got herself into quite a frenzy about the bench thing. So we did a lot of walking. Just trying to remember that the forest is really a GOOD place. And gradually after about an hour of foolishness she began to settle down a bit. Though every bench still made her heart pound and her knees wobble. Even after she went up to one and sniffed it. And worked circles around a couple of others. She seems to have an infinite capacity for silly some days. It probably doesn’t help that she’s quite fit and has done very little work over the last month.

So it was a pretty slow ride. But we were out for almost two hours and did a little over 7 miles.

On high alert for more benches...

 

There could be benches hiding anywhere...

Two More

Two more of our racehorses went down to the track yesterday. Harold and Vegas. Which made for a fairly quiet day in the barn today. It was just me and the four mares (Soupy, Exclusive, Lacey, and Ginger).

Tomorrow, we have to bring in the three broodmares who are due to foal in a few weeks. They will start coming into stalls every night. The boss will stay in the apartment over the barn and keep an eye on the cameras until the foals are all safely delivered. Bernice, Loula, and Dora are all relatively young mares. This will be Dora’s first. Loula’s second, and Bernice’s third foals.

Esmerelda is also being moved into the barn tomorrow. She’s 11 months old. That should be very exciting. It will be a bit like a second weaning I suspect. She’s growing to hate the two boys she’s out with (Reno and Al), but she’s a lot like her mama, and like all her siblings too. None of them are very good with changes. They get a wee bit crazy at first. She’s going to be turned out with Exclusive (her mama) for a while. Then probably with the herd of younger fillies and mares once she’s over the trauma.

We have a new resident at the farm too. A big grey and white tom cat. Quite handsome. He and Dusty have been negotiating some territorial details. But it’s all been vocal discussions. No physical contact. It’s been a few days now, so it’s beginning to look like they are not going to come to blows. The new guy looks a little thin, but seems young and in good health. He’s wary of people, but not afraid. When you get too close to him he moves away. But not in a panic. Just moves out of reach and watches. He’s definitely hungry, and when I put food out for him, he is right there as soon as I move away.  So I think he’s had some contact with people, and is not totally feral. He’s strolled through the main barn a few times already. But mostly he hangs out in the hay shed with Halloween.

Back to the Track

The first set of horses left the farm to return to the track today. Jasper (the big grey… now 4 years old), and Parker (flashy chestnut, Jasper’s older brother by 2 years).

There are still quite a few to go yet. Harold, Vegas, and probably Ginger will go later this week. There are also William and Monster, but they won’t go for a few weeks yet. They are 3 year olds and they will be newbies to the track (the boss does not run his horses as 2 year olds). They most likely won’t be ready to race until the fall. And of course, I’ll be a basket case by then… Monster’s first race. Monster is my personal favorite of all the horses at the farm. Though Parker is a close second… Well… Victoria too. Okay, well there are lots of nice horses 🙂  But Monster is still my best boy.

The three mares in foal are going to have to come in to stalls right away. They are due around the beginning of April. Bernice looks to be the closest to foaling.  Dora not far behind. But Loula, who went to a full year last time, is not showing any signs of getting close. Despite being truly enormous. Loula is no dainty flower at any time. But she’s really startlingly huge now. She looks like a draft cross… maybe a Belgian with that chestnut colouring and broad beam.

Esmerelda, who was Exclusive’s foal from last year, is going to have to be separated from the two colts within a few days. We are going to turn her out with Exclusive. She’s an old, crotchety boss mare with a bad ankle. So she can’t move around too fast. Well… fast enough, but not at racing speed anymore anyway. Hopefully that will keep Esmerelda from freaking out and running like a fool when we take her away from her friends. She’ll be stalled next to Exclusive in the barn as well. She’s been getting tired of the rude, stupid boys anyway and has taken to pounding both Al and Reno with some regularity. So I think she should settle into her new routine fairly quickly.

Reno and Al are looking quite spectacular. They are both strikingly good-looking colts. Reno is brawny and big boned with a big ego and a ton of confidence. Albert is tall, leggy, and regal, and is starting to move like his mama, Bernice (like a ballerina… even her trot is an “air above the ground”). He has a ton of presence and looks like a champion already. They are both 15 hands now, and not even a year old.

Soupy and Lacey will probably get turned out with the other young mares within a few days. They are not going back to the track. Neither one ever really panned out as a racehorse. They are both lovely, big, friendly mares, so hopefully we will find them a good riding career somewhere. Anyone looking for really nice show prospects? They are both around 16.3 hh, and very steady to ride.  Both could likely be jumpers. Soupy probably could also be a dressage horse, given the size of her movement. She is particularly gentle and quiet. Quiet enough that she’d probably make a nice horse for a junior. She is by Alphabet Soup out of Conquistador Cielo mare, so she is quite nicely bred as well. Lacey might be more a hunter-type, she tends to carry herself in a classic hunter frame under saddle. She has three older brothers all doing well in different disciplines (dressage, hunter, and eventing). Though not visible in these photos, both mares have white stars on their foreheads. No vices of any kind. Both are sound.

Soupy 16.3hh Chestnut. 6 years old.

 

Lacey 16.2hh bay mare. 5 years old.

 

Trotting Hills

Dressy got a really good grooming today. First the currycomb and the brush, then the vacuum, then another brushing. Yesterday when I was riding her, she eventually warmed up just enough to release all her accumulated horse/manure smells that had been ground into her coat all winter. Once it started wafting up, the smell was so strong it was nearly visible in waves in front of my face. Burning out my sinuses. Gah!   No way I was getting back on her today without her being a whole lot cleaner.  She enjoyed all the currying and vacuuming enormously. Quivering upper lip and all. I even put some conditioner in her mane and tail and brushed it all through. Her tail is looking exceptionally long and lovely this year. With all the blanketing she’s had this winter, it’s protected it from rubbing.

It was warm again today, and the frost is mostly out of the ground. With clay soil that means it’s a boggy mess everywhere. The fields are very soft, and the trails still have ice sheets covering them.  I didn’t want to go and ride on the roads alone, since the traffic around here is pretty bad during the week, and the roads have no shoulder. Bad enough even with company. Alone, Dressy would be less reliable. So I just rode back and forth on the driveway today. 4 miles of (mostly) walking down and trotting back up the hills.

I live on top of a moraine. It’s quite high, and on a good clear day, I can see for miles in all directions. My driveway is long and runs straight up from the road at a fairly steady grade to pass my house, whereupon it goes back down a steep hill towards the back of the farm. I think it’s about a quarter mile each way.

Then at the end we had another session of walking lessons. She gets herself worked up sometimes and thinks she has to rush. I don’t mind if she walks fast when I ask for a walk. Really fast even. But not jogging. Today we reversed and went away from home every time she broke out of a walk. She broke out into quite a sweat over the whole issue. But in the end she walked politely all the way up the hill and into the yard without fussing.

I was kind of a wimp though. It was raining, and I was bored. So we only rode for a little under an hour.  And yes, she smelled a LOT better 🙂