Archive for the ‘trail riding’ category

Partners

November 4, 2021

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.

Comfort Zone

August 22, 2021

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.

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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.

2/21/21 – Or Aging Not So Gracefully

February 21, 2021

3 twos and 2 ones- patterns everywhere.

Into the Woods

February’s pattern is snow and more snow with a few warmish (in the upper 20s low 30s) days between. Footing on the trails is decent. We know where water pools into ice beneath it and are careful- maybe too careful.

Last weekend Jigs and I even managed some extended loping behind my friend and her wonderful mustang. Loping is rare for me on these trails. Without the snow they are rocky and uneven with tree roots.

At 3 plus 60, I have become a cautious rider, almost fearful. I do not canter unless sure of the footing. I no longer ride on the road when alone.

Today Jigs was full of exuberance. He wanted to run when I wanted to jog. My hesitation was a buzz kill. It nearly came to a rare argument.

I feel bad.

Feel bad that I did not give him a chance to stretch out.

Feel bad that I slowed my friend down.

Feel bad not to be that little girl who could fly without consequence.

There is no cure for aging. We shrink. Our bodies lose flexibility. Our bones get brittle. We no longer bounce, even with snow on the ground.

New Years 2021

December 31, 2020

No expectations going into 2021.

Clairvoyance is not my superpower. What will happen, will happen.

Remaining in reverse will not change anything other than digging a muddy rut you cannot escape, even with an 8-cylandar engine and 4-wheel drive.

Best to focus on each moment for what it is. Breathe it in then let it go.

When a Blue Ribbon is an Epic Fail

November 24, 2020
Blue

A few weeks ago, Jigs placed first at a versatility. It was totally unexpected and not our best performance…ahem… well, not MY best performance. I took him off course and totally skipped an obstacle.  Not sure how we won our division….

What is worse is I rode the course and 4 trail miles without my helmet. When someone asked where it was at mile 2, I froze. My brain was foggy.  I went back and retrieved it from my truck to finish the second loop.

Riding without a helmet is a huge NO for me. I have fallen enough times to know its value. When I flew off Pepper onto the pavement, my Troxel was cracked front to back.  That would have been my head.

And there was the time I got bucked off hard and ended up in the ER with a bruised hip. That night I had also forgotten my helmet but remembered as I started to mount. I ran back to the barn to get it. Who knows what would have happened if I had not?

Riding with a helmet is my rule.

I have been struggling with Vertigo over the last month. One episode was so bad my daughter took me to the ER. A saline drip and a few meds got me through that frightening morning.

A follow up visit to my doctor resulted in removal of wax and another appointment to check on my blood pressure. I have been doing exercises to help reposition the crystals in my ears, but the dizziness is recurring.

My daughter who is an ER medic has been taking my blood pressure almost daily. Seems like I may suffer from white coat syndrome as it is still high but not dangerously high as it was in the ER and the Doctor’s office.

I suspect my physical issues reflect the world around me. 2020 has been stressful for EVERYONE. I must keep reminding myself how lucky I am. Maybe that is why I do not feel like I earned a blue ribbon for a less than perfect performance- even though Jigs was joyful on the course.

Joyful

My problems are first world. I have food, a place to live, and a horse to ride, while others wait in line for hours to get a box of food so their families can eat.

Thanksgiving is approaching. I will focus on being thankful. The undeserved blue ribbon is a reminder of how lucky I have been in this long, stressful year.

Growing Old Together

July 12, 2020

Jigs has been with me for over 11 years. He is 17. What a gift his companionship has been. Always steady, always ready for our next adventure.

Neither of us are getting younger. I am vigilant for the signs of aging. I stress about whether I should add supplements to his diet. Yesterday it was hot and humid, but he was still game to go.  Today he was game but tired. We rode out early to beat the heat and the flies, so maybe he was just wanting to finish his breakfast.

Honestly, at the beginning, I was not convinced Jigs was the right horse for me.  I agreed to take him home on trial that Sunday in February. It had not been a week since I put Pepper down. It was too soon. Jigs was too small, the wrong color. I had a list of excuses.

My heart was heavy.

I went to look at him because a fellow boarder was kind to me. I didn’t want to hurt her feelings. She insisted he was right for me. I went with no intention of taking him. Then I walked around the corner and saw the diminutive but larger than life red pony waiting. His look said, here I am, what took you so long?

Board was paid for the month.  He could go back before the trial ended. I had an empty trailer. What did I have to lose?

My heart.

Was it easy? No.

Photo by Pictorial Tales By Bethani

Jigs exudes confidence. He most definitely is NOT low in herd order. While not a bully, I have seen him move horses twice his size with a flick of an ear. He did it today when another horse approached his favorite roll spot. I think his leadership is due to his quiet confidence. The herd trusts him.

I am timid and lack confidence- always second guessing myself, my abilities.

Despite our differences, we fit together well.

I do not push him too hard when we are learning new things, so it takes us longer. We get there but it is give and take.

A few times when I’ve been absolutely stuck, I’ve let experienced trainers get on him and watch my sweet gelding transform into a different horse- resistant and unwilling.   

My vet, who has taken care of Jigs longer than I have owned him, commented that once Jigs decides not to do something, you cannot make him. He is stubborn. She is right.

I have heard through the equine grapevine that Jigs’ last owner was afraid of him.

Afraid of Jigs?

That is incomprehensible to me.

Jigs has his quirks, but he is funny and engaging. While you cannot FORCE him to do anything he does not want to do, you can usually get him to want to do it. It must make sense to him.

And once he learns something, he does not forget it.

I love my little red pony. We are growing old together but there are still many adventures ahead of us.

Horse Camping at Otter Creek

July 5, 2020

Jigs and I just got back from a wonderful vacation at Otter Creek Horse Trails in upstate New York. Travel between Massachusetts and New York is allowed due to declining Covid cases in both states. It was just my friend, a fellow boarder, and me staying with our horses.

Living Room
Stall with Turnout

Not camping like we usually do!

The private camp cabin where we stayed had strict, but sensible guidelines for safety. As for social distancing, we only encountered a few other riders in 5 days of riding. Our private cabin was away from the main New York State camping area which is currently closed for overnight camping. We did trailer down to ride there midweek and only ran into one other group of riders.

The trails at Otter Creek are amazing with sandy footing in most places. Trails were marked by names and the map provided by the facility was well done. We may have “missed” a few turns, but mostly because we were flying along having fun!

Picnic areas with water sources and a place to tie out were also marked on the map. Each day we planned a route with lunch in mind and a place to rest up the horses.

Lunch Break

Time flew by too fast and alas, we are back.

I highly recommend Horse Camps at Otter Creek and the horse trails. We hope to return someday soon.

Partners

April 18, 2020

Horses saved my life twice, once when I was a rebellious teen and again in middle age. I don’t speak much about the recurring depression that rises out of my insecurities, of my anxiety. The presence of my horse lifts this shadow. My eyes dilate when I gaze on him and I see the world as a more perfect place.  My breath slows to match his. My heart beats with his. Together, we remain in a moment where the past is gone and the future, immaterial.

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The human/equine symbiotic relationship is hard for non-horse lovers to understand. Some humans are born to bond with these magnificent beings. Our souls long for their presence. On their backs, we fly. We walk more confident beside them.

I am grateful for the grace my horse shares with me in these strange times. Perhaps, I am saved again.

Leap Day or Smartest Pony in the World

February 29, 2020

An extra day.  February has always been fickle.  Too windy for me to ride due to memories of a fall from Pepper that ended in a broken ankle, I decided it best to keep my feet on the ground.

Jigs I and took a walk through the woods. We do that occasionally. He seems to enjoy it and I believe it is good for relationship building.

We walked down to the old “pine grove” where we used to ride when boarding at the other barn. The local land trust recently purchased the property, but not before loggers made a mess of the trails. We had to bushwhack through their debris.

I encountered burdock. Placing my mittens on ground, I struggled to remove the annoying stickies from my leggings. Somehow Jigs had avoided them. I let out an exasperated breath.  Jigs lowered his head, grabbed one of my mittens and handed it to me.

Oh, of course, he was expecting a treat. His nose was already at my pocket.

“What about that one?” I asked Jigs pointing to the remaining mitten. He picked up and handed it to me.  Another treat.

I have been working for years on teaching Jigs to ‘fetch’ hats and gloves with the hope that one day, it could be a useful trick if I dropped something from his back.  

In all that time, he has never handed me something without being asked. Today, he just did it- no cue. It was like he anticipated I was going to get the mittens and decided to help out.

“Smart pony,” I said scratching behind his ear. “Maybe you can lead yourself sometime like Olive.”

Olive is the lab who lives with me. When I put her on the leash, she will pick up the end and lead herself to the door.

I was only kidding when I said that to Jigs.

Pleased with my pony’s intelligence, we came out of the woods and walked up the road. It had gotten warmer. I stopped to take off my mittens, inadvertently dropping the lead rope.

Jigs looked at it and then at me. Slowly, he dropped his head, picked up the lead rope and handed it to me.

His look was clear, “where is my cookie?”

#besthorseintheworld  #smartesthorseintheworld

Smartest Pony in the World

2020

February 15, 2020

My January 1st ritual every year is to remove Jigs’ ribbons above his stall. It is how I refocus on new goals, new challenges.   It is mid-February and they are still up. 2019 was a tough year. I lost my mother. The ribbons are a reminder there were positive moments.  I really need to take them down.

Last Sunday was The Bay State Trail Riders Association’s annual meeting and banquet. I’d almost forgotten Jigs and I had won the Judged Pleasure Ride and qualified for a year end award.  To my delight, the award was a beautiful riding skirt that matches my saddle! 

I was so excited; I drove from the banquet right to the barn to try it out!

Rding Skirt

Riding Skirt

It is perfect.

I don’t know what 2020 will bring, maybe a few more ribbons, maybe myriad meandering trail rides. And when the weather is wet and cold, I will be wearing a lovely turquoise riding skirt!