Archive for the ‘trail riding’ category

July 1, 2015

On the Road Again

Okay, I’m no athlete. Jigs can attest to that.  He compensates.

A local trainer I admire recently told a friend he likes Jigs a lot because he is “forgiving.” The best horse for “your friend.”  I took this as an insult wrapped in a compliment.

I’m not a quiet rider. My hips are uneven, I lack body strength and I’m pretty old. I don’t trust enough to relax at the canter. I let the noise of the day get in the way.  And did I mention I feel pretty old?  Too old to ….

My head is full of can’t, won’t, don’t….

But the trainer is right. Jigs is the best horse for me.

Last week we were bareback in the woods and a couple of deer jumped in front of us.  I was not paying attention when Jigs jump sideward.  Of course I slipped, nearly falling off. Jigs didn’t let me fall.  He pushed me back up with his neck.

Yes, Jigs is the best horse for me.

Heart Human

June 6, 2015

We all fall. It’s an inevitable part of riding.

Last night warming up for a versatility run Jigs spooked and I went off.  He spooked at, of all things, a board in a tire rut in the grass.  The rut must have seemed like a canyon to him. The board?  Who knows what he thought.

We were trotting- a medium trot, not fast, not slow. He stopped short and jumped back. It wasn’t even a massive spook, but I tilted sideward and off I went.

I’ve ridden out bigger spooks.  I should have stayed on.

Surprised by the ground, I mentally checked for injuries. Fat does have a purpose.  I got up and walked it off.  Jigs stood there stunned.  He didn’t move or try to run away, despite all the lush green grass.

This has happened before. He stays by me when I fall and seems confused I am not still on him.

The first time I went off we were cantering up the trail and he jumped to to the side. I didn’t go with him.  He stopped and looked down at me. “What you doing down there?”  He was extra careful with me for months.

I got back on last night and did our two runs before going home. I was a bit sore and distracted. We didn’t do well time wise, but he did the obstacles without fuss.

When I fell off Pepper, he didn’t stay by me.  One time he ran back to the barn causing everyone to go out and look for me. They found me walking back, muttering to myself.  When I broke my ankle Pepper ran off to a patch of grass and began eating.  At least he didn’t go back to the barn.

Pepper

Pepper

On his back or not, Pepper wasn’t interest in humans.

Not Jigs. Maybe I’m anthropomorphizing but Jigs genuinely seems upset when I fall off. He is my heart horse. A part of me suspects I’m is heart human.

Versatility - wagon wheel.

Versatility – wagon wheel.

Snow Bowl

February 10, 2015

Yes, I did watch the Super Bowl and loved the outcome. Dad was probably doing backflips in heaven. Deflated balls seem silly now.

The past week has been full of snow and cold- the trail head is plowed in.  Riding has been limited to a few bareback circles in the snow filled ring.

jigs versatility in snow 2015

Snow Ring

Below is the 5’ fence in my Mom’s back yard.  I don’t ever remember that much snow- even in the Blizzard of ’78!

Snow of 2015

More snow is one the way.

But like all things in this mortal life, the snow won’t last forever.  Spring is coming….

Of Horses, Competition, and Deflate-Gate

January 24, 2015

This year I have made the decision not to “compete” with Jigs and focus on having fun.  I expect if all goes to plan, there will be lots of trails and general fun messing around.

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It’s easy to get sucked into competition, even at the backyard level where Jigs and I live.  I woke up this morning thinking about it because, of all things, the New England Patriots.

First, I need to explain that I love football and the Patriots have been my favorite team since I can remember. I didn’t have a choice.  Dad was an avid fan even before they were in the NFL.  He took a great deal of grief from his brother-in-laws for it.  In those days the Patriots were the bottom of pro sports.

Then came 2001.  Dad and I had great fights about Brady versus Bledsoe. I was still innocent enough to be excited about the romance of a young man from nowhere beating out the star veteran for the starting spot. He said Brady was a “one hit wonder.”

I had a few years to rub in how wrong he was.  Then he got sick. In the last few years of his life, Dad wasn’t interest in football, the Patriots or much else.

Mom and I still watch NFL games every Sunday during the season.  For me, it’s a way to stay close to the father I miss so much.  A Patriot flag flies over his grave.

Back in March I was convinced this was the year the Patriots would get to the Super Bowl again.  Brady is getting older and frankly, the game is changing.  His style of play is a bit outdated. Mom and I still feel the sting of two losses to the Giants. This may be our last chance to see the Patriots and Brady win another one.

My belief in them was strong, even when they were beaten badly by Kansas City.  Mom will refute this, but only because I expressed my fears to her and kept my sureness they would figure it out secret so not to jinx them.  Isn’t funny how fans think they can change the outcome?

I went to bed last Sunday night elated my confidence in them was justified.  I was planning a Super Bowl party for my grandsons, two of whom, play football themselves. They were going to see history being made and perhaps the best Quarterback of all time play in his sixth Super Bowl. Then the next morning I heard the report of deflated balls on the local sport station.

It made no sense to me.  The Colts were no threat to them.  Why would they cheat? Yes, there was Spy-gate, but it is common knowledge all the teams do that. One of the teams this year is being investigated for using camera phones on the sidelines.

And there was Brady. He has always projected the clean cut, boy next store aura.  He wouldn’t cheat in football or on Gisele. It felt wrong.

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But as the week progressed, my faith waned with every new report.

It still makes no sense.  He played better in the second half when the balls were properly inflated.

Did he do it?

I doubt we’ll ever really know what happened.

I don’t even want to watch the Super Bowl now.

There is cheating in all sports.  Lance Armstrong. Steroids in Major League Baseball. Soring of Tennessee Walkers. Suspended race horse trainers. Hyper flexion and rollkur in Dressage. Even an endurance rider who switched horses in a race.

Everyone tries to find the edge. Some go over it to win at all cost.

There is a line between doing things to be better, like getting a good trainer, better equipment, practicing every day, and crossing the cheat line.  Some don’t care.  The Win is everything.  Ribbons and Millions are at stake. But rules are there to make an even playing field.  And in the horse world, more importantly, to protect the horse, who easily can become victim to the human will to win.

And what does the horse think? Does he enjoy competition?  I think some do, especially those who are bred for it.  Cutters cut cows naturally.  Race horses love to run and will continue even when injured. Remember Charismatic?

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But it is up to us humans to protect them- and to listen to what they like too. Not every cutter bred wants to cut.  Not every descendant of Seattle Slew wants to race.

Jigs enjoys versatility.  We may do a few this year but not to compete- just for fun.  And he LOVES trails.  We will do lots of trails this year. The goal is for both of us to have fun.

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As to whether or not I will watch the Super Bowl and cheer for the Patriots…. I don’t know. It was a small and petty cheat. Still makes no sense to me.  And I suspect all Quarterbacks try to gain similar advantages.  Aaron Rodgers already stated he tries to get away with over inflation. But it does not make it right.  If they did it; it was wrong.

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I still have the secret hope they will find a non-cheat reason for the deflated balls.  And deep down inside, I harbor the hope of one more Super Bowl win.

What would Dad say about deflate gate?  He’d say they did it, watch the game and root for the win.

Driving Lessons

August 24, 2014

A year ago tomorrow, Dad died. It feels as if it was yesterday.  Zac was playing in his first Football game.  I was going to watch a half then catch some of  Caleb’s game. I never made it.

I got the call that he had been unresponsive at the nursing home and was being rushed to the ER. I left my daughter and her family to meet my mother at the hospital.  He was gone before I got there.

It was unreal.

Yesterday I went to the Marshfield Fair to compete in the annual versatility. The course was hard and riders were taking the full six minutes only to get the time disqualification. Jigs and I did okay in our first two rounds but not perfect.  It was a long day; I scratched our third round and went home.  There had been only one perfect round when I left.  I have no idea who won and I don’t care. Jigs did okay, that was enough.  Our score was 85 and we finished well under the time limit.

We returned to the barn late afternoon.  As I was backing my car out, I misjudged and cut to wide, nicking the corner of my friend’s stock trailer. The steel trailer was scratched, but okay;  my seven month old car, not so okay. There’s damage to the rear panels that will require body work.

I felt horrible- upset I hit my friend’s trailer, upset my new car was damaged.  All the while, Dad was in my mind.

The boys had their first games of the year at the same time today. I decided not to go to any of them. Instead, Jigs and I went on a trail ride. It’s what I do when my mind is unsettled. It was a lovely late August day, grapes and drying leaves.

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After the ride I visited Dad at Saint Luke’s Cemetery.  There were flowers and the usual Patriot’s flag. A day short of a year and I am still in shock.

As I was leaving, a long buried memory surfaced. I was 15 ½ and preparing for the driving test.  Dad took me to the cemetery to practice turning and backing up. He got out of the car, grabbed a beer from the six pack he had brought, threw me the keys, and walked up the hill. “You drive by yourself. These corners are pretty tight.  I’ll watch from up here. Don’t hit anything,” he said over his shoulder.

I suspect he’s still watching me. He must have had a good laugh at my poor turning yesterday.

Miss you Joe.

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Second Place

August 17, 2014

Jigs and I have been practicing on cantering between obstacles.  Today we managed to pick up the canter from a standstill with little effort. Two years ago I would never have imagined we could do that.

We’ve been attending local versatilities in preparation for two upcoming fairs.  We never finish first but usually ribbon.  Our times are too slow for speed events and I’m okay with that.

A few weekends ago Jigs and I were in first place through three rounds.

The last rider was fast but her horse was not cooperating and my time stood.  She decided to pay for another round since a trophy was at stake.

Her horse went through the first half of the course beautifully and it looked like they were going to beat our time by at least 45 seconds.  One of the obstacles was to switch balls from cones, but she came into it too fast and dropped the ball.  It was an led ball that flashed blue when it it the ground.

Our time held.

The rider paid for another round. I sighed, “let’s go untack Jigs, I think I have some carrots.”

We finished second.

It happened again today.  We finished second.

For me it is not about ribbons or a $6 trophy; it is about getting better.

We don’t compete against others; we compete against ourselves.  Our goal today was to canter between obstacles and we did.

I’m proud of my guy!  Like proverbial wine, we are getting better with age, albeit a little slower than everyone else!

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Obstacle Practice

August 9, 2014

Another stay-cation is over. Big Sigh.  I didn’t get much time to rest this week but did get a lot accomplished.  Most important, the house is sparkly clean- vinyl siding and roof. I ended up hiring someone to do it.  After watching the process, I’m glad I did.

I rode every day. We practiced cantering between obstacles and managed a long trail ride during the week. That was a great luxury.

Today Jigs and I attended a local benefit show/gymkhana thing.  It was all speed events, not our strong suit but we finished 3rd in trail, 4th in the obstacle race. He placed 5th in barrels with another rider- someone who is an expert barrel racer. Jigs certainly enjoyed the chance to run fast.

Our barn took 1st , 2nd , and 3rd  in the trail race.  We spent a lot of time working obstacles and it showed. Many of the faster horses freaked out at the bridge and mailbox.  It was pretty much yawn yawn for ours!

Aug 9, 2014 - Trail Class

Obstacles require finesse and trust. That is why I enjoy them.  They are good preparation for the trail.  You never know what you will encounter.  There are times when you need to draw on the confidence and trust developed by obstacle work.

And they are fun! Jigs agrees….

Regarding Grade Horses

July 27, 2014

Yesterday Jigs and I took 2nd place at a ACTHA Competitive Trail Ride!  We’ve been doing these rides off and on for a few years.  The first one we did we got 0 points for almost all obstacles.

scores for first ride

We’ve  come a long way.  Here are yesterday’s scores:

Scores for last ride

Yestdays ride

No, it isn’t first place, but I am so proud of what we have accomplished in the past few years.

Not bad for a grade pony!

I constantly stumble across posts and blogs putting grade horses down.  Facebook posters are especially opinionated about them.  “Grade horses should not be bred…you can’t show them…. buy a registered horse…”  I get it, you need the papers  to show. And there are too many unwanted horses.  But I have been around  “registered” horses with  serious problems that made them “unwanted.”

Of course, there is the issue of genetic defects. My beloved Pepper was  a good example this this.  A percentage of appaloosas go blind like he did, a result of uveitis. Other breeds have other risks.  You need to know the pedigree to avoid passing on unwanted traits.

Still, I wouldn’t trade my grade guy for anything!  He solid and sensible. Am I curious about his background?  Yes.  But in the end, it doesn’t matter.  He is who he is and that is enough.

 

 

Mid Summer Blues

July 27, 2014

Summer has been awkward at best- full of kids, work, and not as much riding as I would like-different from the past few years. Circumstances change. People change. Routines change.  A subtext of disappointment is running in the background like a virus.

And there is MUCH work to do. I have only two weeks to clean up brush and pressure wash the house.  It should be a day job but I still worry I won’t get it done.  I’m a bit lazy.

Over the past 30 years I’ve become comfortable being alone.  I don’t envy others’ relationship dramas. I prefer solitude like the introvert I am. But when there are projects like this to be completed, I can feel a bit lost. It is times like this when I think it would be nice to have someone to help figure these things out.  So I end up procrastinating.

It’s funny; I’m not like this at work.  I’m obsessive about getting things done. As a student, I completed papers and assignments days early.

I’ve never pressure washed a house before. So like the younger generation, I turned to How to Videos on YouTube. It seems easy…..

We’ll see.

My grandsons have used YouTube how to videos to mixed results. There are several skateboards in the cellar in various states of disarray.

Maybe I have time to hire someone….

Another Vacation Post

June 27, 2014

It’s that time again- the last day of vacation. There is still the weekend, but that doesn’t count.  It’s back to work on Monday.

Of course I had sensible plans for the week-pressure wash the house, give my room a good scrub, mow the lawn, send hoof boots off to have studs added, sort though my tack at the barn and in the cellar, ride my horse… BUT, not much of it got done.

I did send the hoof boots.

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And I rode in my Brand NEW Saddle!   So far we have logged over 20 miles in it!

ride

 

The house will get pressure washed in a few weeks.  The rest will get done too.  But for now, off to ride!