Mountain Trail Clinic

Posted May 28, 2022 by heccateisis
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Jigs and I attended a mountain trail clinic last weekend at Salmon River Horse Park in upstate New York. Cathy Drumm is a wonderful clinician. We attended a few western dressage/working equitation clinics with her already where she showed me about slowing down and being softer- something I need to do beyond horses. Funny how that works.

Normally I’m impatient doing groundwork but I surprised myself by gaining new techniques that filled holes in my knowledge and will translate to riding.

Texas Two Step

Over the years Jigs and I competed in versatility where fastest time through the obstacles wins. Horsemanship was not considered which led to bad habits. We completed courses but it was not pretty. In mountain trail challenges, you are judged on horsemanship and obstacles. Time may be a factor but only a small portion of the overall scores.

Swinging Bridge

Getting Jigs over the obstacles is not an issue, it the how we go over and the maneuver. Halt, turn, backup and straightness trip us up and deny good scores. Slowing down, keeping my hands from pulling on the turns is difficult for me which makes it hard for him. I want to do better for us both.

Water Box

It was a fun weekend full of confidence building accomplishments. It is the first time we cantered in the water! We didn’t look pretty but we did it!  At the end of the clinic, there was a mock challenge with a judge who gave us scores and feedback. The first thing she told me was I was biting my lip coming into the course. I should relax and smile. Really good advice. Another was hip before hands! Brain knows but the body is still learning. We came away with new tools and a lot to work on!

Adult Lessons

Posted May 12, 2022 by heccateisis
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I have not posted in a while. Lessons and clinics consume my weekends, work my weekdays, several contain a commute. 

Lessons are focused on breaking through the barrier of insecurity and fear. Trail riding is a rare event as I work to become a better rider for my 19-year-old pony. I know it’s silly to anthropomorphize horse behavior, but Jigs truly seems to enjoy the first half hour of our lessons- especially the cantering part. Beyond that, not so much.  

Working Equitation Clinic

Fun moments are strung between frustrating ones.  I’m relearning to balance both trot and canter. Proper riding is critical for elder fitness.

I struggle with turns on the forehand, turns on the haunches. Last lesson my instructor put a whip through my elbows and behind my back to retrain my hands – like a kid learning the basics. But I understand this is needed to get clean turns.  Years of structureless riding built up bad habits of hands, body, and mind. Retraining is hard but then there are the moments when it comes together, and we get a neat turn or canter to a clean stop between poles. There is a glimmer of what can be.

Days are longer, Summer, nearly here. There will be more lessons, clinics, and maybe even a few competitions. Balancing the canter is not unlike life, it’s about slowing down, sometimes even stopping to gather yourself and try again.

“Losing the Plot”

Posted February 17, 2022 by heccateisis
Categories: Uncategorized, Living in the moment, Responsible horse ownership, #besthorseintheworld, besthorseintheworld, #smartesthorseintheworld

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I am losing the plot

I am grieving the end of superwoman-ing

I have laid down my cape

As though I haven’t risen like a phoenix from a thousand deaths

As though I haven’t been reborn to notice that my mission is not dead yet

Alanis Morissette – Losing the Plot

My daughters love Alanis Morrisette. She was an inspiration to them in the 90s. I was young enough to appreciate Jagged Little Pill too. Raw and honest, she gave us permission to be angry, to rage, to be crazy, to love, to stand up for ourselves.

Over the years we have gone to Alanis concerts together. We saw the musical Jagged Little Pill at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, MA, and again the first month it opened on Broadway. What an amazing pre-covid New York memory that is.

I have come to love adult Alanis. Her last album, Such Pretty Forks in the Road, contains mature female angst. The struggle of balancing family, work, joy, depression, anger….  The wide swings from ordinary, to extraordinary, to sadness, to madness, it is all there.

Adulting is hard. Finding balance between bliss and drudgery is maddening. Some days there is no time. Fear trips the scale toward unbearable, leading to avoidance. Awareness of mortality is a buzz kill.

Cookies?

Not much riding since fall. Weather, time, obligations, and avoidance are barriers.  Most weekdays I do not visit Jigs. On a good day, I get to sneak to the barn at lunch and play treat dispenser. I rarely ride any longer. Some days we just walk.

For now, that must be enough.   

Walking with the pony

The snow is melting and the mud will dry. Lessons start next week. We are signed up for clinics.

I sing along with with Alanis, “the fire is not out yet.”

Petty Aggravations

Posted December 19, 2021 by heccateisis
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This has been a week of first world problems for me. Well, maybe not problems, but annoyances and inconveniences.

Randomly my phone had been shutting on and off for a month, it finally went comatose this week. Nothing I did, woke it up. My plan had been to upgrade in the new year, but the cell phone goddess had other ideas. I ended up with a model different from what I wanted, because of inventory shortages.

My old phone was cosmetically perfect, but I couldn’t “trade” it in because it was in a coma. I was told if was a broken screen or other damage, they would take it in for trade, but not if it didn’t turn on. A day later, the old phone spontaneously awoke- too late.

Most of my free hours in recent days have been consumed getting the new phone customized to my preferences.

Another “inconvenience” was spawned by weather. I had signed up for a western dressage clinic Saturday, but rain, sleet, and snow were predicted. I am not just a timid rider, but a timid driver as well. The clinic was an hour away and I wasn’t comfortable towing my horse in the snowy mix.

I was disappointed.

The clinician kindly allowed us to apply the deposit to a future clinic.

Shall we go?

And my cantering insecurities are back. My head is noisy. Foggy with fear, I grab the horn and lean forward. I really need lessons to push through it. Again.

Before solstice is gloomy. These are lonely days and nights. There is no light when I finish work. I do not see Jigs, let alone ride, weekdays. 

We become weekend warriors in this minimal light. He will be 19 next year. He’s in awesome shape for his age but without consistency, is it fair to ride him only on the weekends and expect him to do 7 – 8 miles or ringwork?

Old Man Napping in the Sun

But these are first world problems. I should be grateful for only having petty aggravations when others struggle to survive. My head knows that. But feelings are what they are. They can’t be wished away. They must be acknowledged.

Imperceptibly, the days will start to get longer next week. Light always pushes back the dark.

Prison Camp Ruins in Rutland State Park

Posted November 23, 2021 by heccateisis
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The prison camp ruins in Rutland State Park are a remnant from the time when prisoners who committed minor offenses were put to work on farms. The Rutland camp operated from 1903 to 1934. There was a hospital to treat inmates with typhoid. They grew vegetables, had 60 dairy cows, and sold eggs, turning a profit before the prison was abandoned in 1934 due to water issues and newer facilities.

The Root Cellar
Ruins in Woods – maybe an animal shelter?

Recently the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation proposed a demolition plan for the ruins, stating they pose a public risk.

The ruins are covered with graffiti and attract local hate groups. Park rangers frequently remove the more offensive spray paintings. There are also subterranean caverns and there is concern for safety.

Prison Block – Solitary Confinement
Door to Cell

Locals object to the demolition and are fighting to preserve the camps as a historic site.

Cell Block

While the fate of the camps is not finalized, we decided to ride out to them to see them before they are gone. 

Parking Area

We met up with friends at the Coldbrook Springs parking area off Route 122. We appreciate their willingness to play host. We would not of found the site without them!

The ride to the ruins was lovely with decent footing that wove through various terrain.

Ruins

Hunting is allowed in Rutland State Park but not on Sunday. Apart from a few mountain bikers and hikers, it was a quiet ride.

More Ruins

We returned to the parking area to a hot lunch.  I plan to return there to ride again.

More Goddard Park Memories

Posted November 12, 2021 by heccateisis
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I love riding at Goddard Memorial State Park in Warwick RI.  6-miles of woodsy trails run parallel to Greenwich Cove. The views are spectacular. Off seasons, horses are allowed on the beach. Over the years, Jigs and I have collected memories of sun, friends, and even spooky moments there.

During one of our first rides, Jigs spooked sideward at a squirrel, mid canter. Miraculously I stayed with him. My friends behind me commented we looked like Wile E Coyote getting jumped by the Roadrunner. I still chuckle thinking of it.

Another time Jigs kept creeping up on the mare in front, despite my best efforts. She got fed up with our rudeness. He took both back hooves in the center of his chest. I can still hear to hollow sound of the connection.

Even after years of visiting the park, Jigs refuses to canter in the water, but waves and boats no longer trouble him.

Last Sunday we made a few more memories. Thank you to my friends, Bethany of Pictorial Tales Photography and Kathy for the lovely photos!

The point
Along the Bay
The Bay

If you get a chance to ride there, I encourage you to make some memories of your own.

Partners

Posted November 4, 2021 by heccateisis
Categories: #besthorseintheworld, #smartesthorseintheworld, besthorseintheworld, poetry of apaul, Responsible horse ownership, trail riding, Uncategorized

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Rain drained most of the trees of their fall color, but some persist, flickering with flames of yellow, orange, and red.

My friend and I marked marked the annual pumpkin ride in the rain. It wasn’t too bad but by the time we finished 9 miles, we were drenched with both rain and laughter.

Autumn

I stress about trail marking and over mark so as not to lose anyone one in the forest. Getting lost in Upton State Forest is not likely. There are two main “roads” that circle it. Trails weave through and around them. Both go directly back to parking. 

We marked trails seldom used off Loop Road. They were a bit wet from this year’s constant rain, but passable with good stretches to move out.

October was not as busy as I hoped. Jigs and I competed again in a Mountain Trail Competition. The few lessons helped, we finished first in novice, but our scores were about the same in level one.  The mistakes were mine.

I’m surprised at how much I did learn in three lessons. We worked on hands and leg placement. Our turns are much better.

Unfortunately, lessons stopped due to the instructor’s schedule. Or maybe that was a polite excuse. Working with an older riding pair and a especially a “quarter horse” is not every dressage instructor’s dream. Best to have younger athletic riders and horses to work with, I suspect.  Too bad, I believe I could learn a lot from him.

Cross Buck

I signed up for a working equitation and western dressage clinic later this month. The clinician is popular in the area. Maybe she will give me a few more things to work on. I’m curious about both disciplines.

Next year I want to try different things. Jigs will be 19; our time together is flying by. He is the best horse I have owned and the most forgiving. I am so grateful for his friendship and all he has given me.

Begonia

Posted September 12, 2021 by heccateisis
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Discarded in a ditch,

remnants of begonia persist.

Did it once adorn a pool patio?

Or hang above a manicured lawn?

No longer perfect, was it abandoned,

not worth the try?

Dried dirt clumps around brown roots

still holding the shape of a basket.

Out of thirsty stems, shriveled leaves gather sun.

Cautiously a small crown of flowers grows,

petals mirroring passing clouds.

Spun by currents of light, Earth leans toward life.

Comfort Zone

Posted August 22, 2021 by heccateisis
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As I sit awaiting tropical storm Henri, I reflect on last weekend’s adventures. It’s easy to stay within your comfort zone, but growth comes from challenging yourself.

Saturday Jigs and I competed in the Mountain Trail Challenge at Mountain Lane Farm in Temple, New Hampshire. Their mountain trail course was designed by Mark Bolender. It is the only one in New England. We completed one of Mountain Lanes’ clinics in May with friends so that we could attend course play days, but we never made time to do that.

279

I decided to attend their August competition anyway. After all, I bought the new trailer so that we could try different things. This was the first time I trailered Jigs alone since acquiring the Featherlite. He’s been iffy backing off it, but it was not an issue for him Saturday!

Swinging Bridge – Photo Courtesy Mountain Lane Farm
Water – Photo Credit Mountain Lane Farm

My goal was to compete in four classes, Level I Rider which is walk over moving obstacles and Level II Rider, walk, trot, which includes 180 and 360-degree turns. In retrospect, I probably should have done Novice and Level I since 360-degree turns are a work in progress for us! We also could be crisper side-passing and backing up.  On the other hand, Level II was a stretch and I now know what to focus on.

Well Earned Snack

We placed in both Level I classes, Open and Adult taking 3rd and a 4th. There were some amazing horse and riders in our division, and I am proud of our placings.  After ribbons were handed out, the judge came by and paid us a compliment. She said she saw Jigs and I have a great partnership! I was glowing.

Try- 360 Top of the Cake – Photo Courtesy of Mountain Lane Farm
Balance Beam – Photo Courtesy of Mountain Lane Farm

I doubt we placed in Level II but I do not know. I ended up scratching our last Level II class because I needed to be home by 4. I would have stayed if it was not for the commitment. While we were not competitive, I am proud of Jig’s try.

Bridge on the Course – Photo Courtesy Mountain Lane Farm

There is another competition in October; I’m planning to go!

Sunday was the second adventure. We attended the Baystate Trail Riders Associations’ Galloping Gourmet Ride at Lake Dennison! The ride covered BSTRA’s permanently marked 10-mile route. Unlike trails closer to home, there are few rocks and miles to move out. I think it was the fastest 10 miles I ever rode!

Bridge on Galloping Gourmet Ride

This year I have been struggling with letting Jigs canter on trails due to his tendency to “spook” at things I cannot see. (I laughingly rolled off him trotting at Miles Standish when he swerved at an old car fender trailside.)  His trot is fast enough to keep up with our cantering friends, so it is not an issue. This time, I let go for a few stretches and allowed him canter. Yes, he had a tiny spook but nothing I couldn’t handle.

HI

I’ve been thinking about the line between fear and comfort zone. In my head it gets jumbled up. There is a difference though. Thursday, we had a rare tornado warning as the remnants of Fred passed through the area. When the government emergency alert hit my phone, a sharp quiver jolted my nerves. The hair on my arms stood up. My brain fell apart. I was on a conference call and literally could not understand the speaker’s words. This was primal, instinctual. It told me to MOVE. I’m sure there is a scientific term for this.

Then there is the fear that hovers like a dull headache, always present just below my consciousness, encroaching on my comfort zone. It is shadowy, nebulous, yet it nudges me toward conservative choices- less MOVE, more STAY.

Things such as flying through the woods have become harder. I’m too aware of mortality, of what if, of worst-case scenario. I cannot allow that to take away the joy of loping through the woods or completing up a level. Even in my 60s, I can learn, grow and feel the joy of loping through the woods.

Return to Otter Creek

Posted August 5, 2021 by heccateisis
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Jigs and I spent a week with friends in upstate New York at the Horse Camps at Otter Creek. It is glamping at its best!

The Pony and Me

Each day was an adventure as we explored new trails, getting lost more than once, despite excellent trail markings. Turns out unmarked trails are “illegal”.  It was unseasonably cool for August so there were zero bugs.

Which Way?
Trailside

This summer has been rainy; the water is high and fast. We crossed Otter Creek. It was slippery but everyone made it back safely. If I get the opportunity to return, I would like to ride the lower half of the trails where there are more bridges and water crossing.

River Crossing

Jigs was well behaved despite his penchant for puddle spooking. My solution was to trot him through every puddle on the trail. Pretty soon he got the hang of splashing his buddies.

There is a Mennonite community in the area, and we passed several horse-drawn carriages trotting down the highway. I am amazed at how unphased their horses were by cars passing at 50 MPH.

We spoke to a local horse owner who moved near Otter Creek to be close to the trails. Like many places we ride, non-horse people want the horses banned from the trails. We stopped for a runner on the trails who made a comment about the horses getting in the way of his run. My thought was that since the trail network was developed for equestrians, and are maintained in part by them, that other users are fine sharing with horses, silly me. Just like in Massachusetts, trail riders are the minority and not all welcome them.

The drive was 5 ½ hours each way, crossing over the Hudson River. I’m getting the hang of driving the larger trailer and it tows easily. We stopped halfway to offer water and feed the humans. Jigs self-loads and is getting more comfortable stepping out.

Water Break
Truck Stop

I can’t wait for our next adventure!