Monday, August 31, 2009

Maggie Takes to the Trail

Yesterday was a big day for Maggie and I. I took her off the farm for the first time and hauled over to Herron Park . It would be a safe location for our first outing away from home, where we wouldn’t have to deal with motorized vehicles of any kind but still have plenty of things to expose her to, including cross country jumps, dogs, hikers and bikers and ofcourse , trails. It was the first time I have trailered her anywhere, first time wearing easy boots (luckily JB’s fit her!) and her first time on the trail, so it was alot of first on many levels.
She patiently stood while I wrestled the boots on , she loaded up like a champ and she seemed very interested on getting down the trail. She was definitely on high alert at all the new sights and smells. We took our time and walked around to take a good look at everything. After about a half hour, she settled in so I headed up the trail with her. We only went a couple miles and went very slowly since it was all uphill. She seemed to pay close attention to where she was putting her feet and was quiet, when we had to let two other horseback riders by. Despite her huffing and puffing (as a result of her being horribly out of shape) she definitely has some willingness to move out. We had to stop a few times so she could catch her breath. I exposed her to hills, both going up and down hills. She did not like going down at all but I expected that to be the case with a youngster, at least until she learns how to carry herself. I plan to spend some time ponying her on the trail to allow her to sort out hills with the added burden of a rider. I find that really helps a young horse sort hills out. Overall, our first outing together went better than expected and I am looking forward to more time on the trail with her.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Crane Mountain Lookout Ride

Today, I ventured out on the trail with a friend who is a Tevis and all around endurance veteran. In fact, she finished the Tevis in 8th place on one of the two times she has ridden and competed in the race.
I met her at her ranch in Bigfork and then we trailered to the trail head that would take us out to the Crane Mountain Overlook. Crane Mountain looms high above Flathead lake. It's steep, rugged beautiful country. We parked the trailers at the parking area , saddled up and headed up the road for the first 3 miles, an uphill climb along a gravel road until we hit the trail head that would wind us up , up and up to the overlook. It was only about 3.5 miles to the overlook once we started on the trail head but it was alot of up and down with alot of sticks, stumps , rocks and roots along the way. W e also had two narrow wooden bridge crossings over rushing mountain creeks. One month ago, the area was on fire but today , you wouldn't have known it. The forest and all it's greenery was heavy with dew, dripping and soggy from all the rain . Everything smelled so clean and renewed. There is nothing like the smell of a fresh mountain forest after a rain.
JB crossed both bridges like a champ , which I expected he might since I have done alot of bridge work on our obstacle course. The approach to the second bridge was a long steep down hill ride and the trail was rather narrow with a steep drop off to the right. Normally I would have preferred to get off and walk portions of trail like this but by the time I realized it , it was too late and there was no room to get off without putting us both in danger of coming off the trail. The recent rain caused the footing to be very muddy and slick and it had caused much of the edge of the trail to be very soft. JB nearly gave me a heart attack once when his back right foot got a little close to the edge and the trail fell away underneath us. Luckily he caught himself and we were fine but my heart was in my throat for a second!v I was rather happy to get to the bottom of the ravine, get over that bridge and scramble up the steep climb out of there.

We made it to the overlook and let the horses rest a bit before turning back. It was beautiful and if you looked straight down you could see the trees just below that had burned from the fire. As we made our way back the same way , I could sense JB was growing a bit weary from all the tough climbing. If he is tired and has to travel down hill, he gets a bit stumbly so several times I would get off and walk him to give him a break. We had a lot more down hill to ride yet and I wanted to spare him where I could.

We finally popped back out on the gravel road, and JB perked up right away. It was like he had a second wind and we walked along at a pretty good clip until we arrived back at the trailer. We rode for about 4 hours total and went approximately 10 miles, most of it uphill or downhill.

I was very pleased with JB today. He handled himself very well, even during the times when the youngster getting ponied got away from Sherrie and turned around on the trail , heading right at us! This was one of the most difficult terrain I have ever taken JB on. I can see that he definitely needs some work on being patient when he is behind another horse because he gets rushy and doesn't pay attention to the trail. He likes to lead the pack and set the pace. I was also able to see that he needs alot more time on more difficult terrain to help him strengthen and leg up.

We were both glad to see the trailer but today was definitely a good day, even if I am exhausted. Better yet, I got time to bend the ear of an endurance veteran.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Technical difficulties

My apologies for the bad layout on a couple of the photos in the previous post. For whatever reason, the editing to get the coorect caption with the correct photo wasn't working, even after several attempts. Enought with the computer for the day I suppose.

Bloomin' Things

JB and I have slowly been venturing out again for distance conditioning. Even though we don't plan to be attending any rides this season, I still like to get out of the arena and work the endurance muscles a bit. Having taken this season off to focus on getting JB feeling better and moving better should give us a jump start for next season. JB improves in his gaits with each ride we go on. He is able to maintain a consistent speed and I am no longer working so hard to keep him going forward. WOOHOOO! Now that he is reaching forward in his gaits, his trot is by far one of the smoothest I have ridden and I am getting a canter out of him that I could envision traveling at for miles on end.
Today, we returned from a 7 mile ride hot, dusty and sweaty so I hosed JB off instead of sponging, then took him for a walk to finish cooling out and drying. As we walked I couldn't help but notice how the grass crunched with each step we made. The grasshoppers bounced off our legs as we momentarily interruptedtheir feeding frenzy. August is here. Things are beginning to dry out . We finished our walk and I put JB up with a few flakes of hay. I went in the house to grab a cold drink and washed a layer of dust off my face. I watched him from my kitchen window as he rolled , now completely caked in mud but seemingly content with his handy work. I realized how pleased I have been with the horse he is blooming into these days.
Thinking of blooming things, I decided I had a few flowers to water. I took the opportunity to take a walk around and snap a few photos. Even though it's drying out, much of the landscape is still in full bloom.

Lovely Lilies

Heraldson Apples

Grape vines, for winemaking

Daisies in the Pennial Garden
Cascade Hops for Homebrew
Some people are thinking fall and winter as soon as August arrives. As for me, I hope to enjoy the the blooming things for as long as possible, including JB, who appears to be blooming into a fabulous little horse.
What's blooming at your place?

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

Let's face it, when you have even a small dot on the map and have horses to ride, property and a home to maintain for said horses, and have to work fulltime, it can get pretty chaotic. Below is a picture of our Hay Barn that we FINALLY got a start on. It's been a long time coming and as you can see we have a ways to go before completion but our plan is to have it mostly completed before winter. For the past several years, we have managed to get by with round bales because without a barn to store them in , it's been our experience that the rounds do much better at "shedding" moisture and are overall a bit more resistant to the sometimes harsh conditions we see here . We tarp two bales to a tarp and rest each bale on on individual pallets. But there is a huge downfall. Since we fork off the feed to the horses morning and night , it makes a mess, especially in the wind. By Spring each year, we end up having large amounts of hay that has blown into our yard and we spend alot of time cleaning that up. I am looking forward to not having to deal with tarps anymore andnot having that mess next spring!
So work is one thing and will always be there. Riding is another. This past week I rode all but two nights. Friday evening I took JB up the road for a change of scenery. For the last several weeks, we have mostly been in the arena. We are both growing bored with it. Tom came along as well with his gelding Cassidy. JB moved out very well. He was very forward and free. Since Tom was along with Cassidy , JB had his work cut out for him to try to keep up with the Morgan Road Trot. Ofcourse, poor JB has to canter to keep up with Cassidy when Tom gets him into that gait but JB can definitely move when motivated! It seems as though for now we have the right things in place for JB. Between a good fitting saddle (the Duett I purchased from Mel over at Boots and Saddles, well padded easy boots and the gelding life, he is starting to feel much better it seems. Here he is pictured below pre ride Friday evening. We did 4 miles of mostly trotting. He wasn't really interested in giving me his best look and he appears a little irritable in the photo. I think he was just having a pouting moment because I had just squirted him down with lots of bug repellant.

And then there is Maggie. She is a fun horse to be around and I think she looks forward to our sessions. She seems to be a horse that does better with a lot of interaction from people. She is very personable. I have been riding her 2-3 times a week and we have moved past several of her "snit fits" as I call them. As you can see from the photo below , she isn't afraid to try new things. Tom snapped a couple photos of us working on the pedestal. This was the first time she got up with all 4 feet. The problem was getting her back off. She seemed to like it so well that everytime I got her to step off, she tried to get right back on. As i said, girls just wanna have fun I guess....