Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category

Petty Aggravations

December 19, 2021

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

November 23, 2021

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

November 12, 2021

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

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.

Begonia

September 12, 2021

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

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.

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

August 5, 2021

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!

New Trailer

July 12, 2021

After two years of deliberation and hesitation, I purchased a new trailer! Analysis paralysis much?

The Brenderup was older, and I was tired of dealing with a ramp. Finding a two-horse step up with tack room was my goal; finding one in stock was the challenge. Global supply chain issues have created inventory shortages across many industries, including trailer manufacturers.

First Event

I started to look for a trailer two years ago, found one that was suitable, though not perfect.  I hesitated and then Covid hit. When my search resumed, inventory was scarce and prices high. I was about to buy a three-horse stock combo, much bigger than I needed, when on a whim, I called a Featherlite dealer in a neighboring state. They had one remaining brand-new but older model on the lot- their last enclosed horse trailer with a large tack room. Nervous about putting down a deposit without seeing it, I took a chance. In person it was better than I hoped. The tack room is HUGE. I can put a cot in there and it has a camp door. This will be handy for camping.

New Trailer

This model has a manger with the saddle rack under it. Some do not like the design, but it enables the larger tack room and more storage. The step-up is easier for me to manage with double doors. Jigs was already accustomed to getting in and out of a step up; it was a matter of getting over the new trailer smell and a few sessions to familiarize him with stepping back out.

It tows smoother than the Brenderup but backing up is quite different. I’m still getting used it. Going from a narrow one horse to a wider two horse takes practice.

I have taken the trailer to a few rides.  At the end of month, we will be going out of state for a week of “glamping”. I had three fans installed for the trip. Two in the horse area and one in the tack room. The tack room is now hooked into a back up battery so that the fan and light can be used when not hooked up to the truck.

Now what autumn events to attend?

Sandy Neck Beach

May 16, 2021

Yesterday Jigs and I rode on Sandy Neck Beach in Barnstable Massachusetts. There are not a lot of local beaches that allow horses, so I jumped at the chance to go with friends. It is one of those “bucket list” things to do.

I was nervous about riding on the beach. We ride often at Goddard Park in Rhode Island, but Greenwich Bay is small with minimal waves. There is not a lot of room to move out. While Sandy Neck is on the quieter bay side of Cape Cod, horses are allowed on 4.1 miles of shore. I was not sure what Jigs would do with that much beach in front of us.

Great Whites?

Off road vehicles are also allowed at Sandy Neck. There is a road for them between the tidal flats and the dunes.  Tire air pressure needs to be reduced so vehicles do not get stuck. Around June, a good portion of the beach is off limits to protect nesting Piping Plovers.

It is best to ride at low tide, so the horses do not have go through deep sand. Rather than drive two hours early on Saturday through Cape Cod traffic, we camped overnight at Miles Standish State Forest, about a half hour from the beach.  We got to Sandy Neck before traffic and hit the sand by 8:30.

Tidal Flat

It was a glorious ride but my vision of cantering through waves the like Alec Ramsey on The Black Stallion did not come to fruition. We managed some reluctant trotting through the water, but it took a lot of leg, and I mean a lot.

Shoreline

At the 4-mile mark, there is a dune trail through the scrub pine forest. Riding the dunes is breath taking. We even ran into a coyote who stared down at us. Amazing. In places, the sand was and deep and the dunes steep, I would not recommend this for beginners but our horses took it in stride.

Scrub Pine

The trail brought us back to the beach and we flew back to our trailers along the tire tracks. I even let Jigs go and we cantered quite a distance, exceeding the speed limit! In total, the ride was 11.2 miles. Not major mileage, but given the deep sand; it was a workout.

Speed Limit

Horses and Humans returned home tired. I was a bit sore, especially my cheeks from so much smiling and laughing! Apart from a quick spin around the ring, Jigs got today off. He deserved it.

Back to Regularly Schedule Programing

May 2, 2021

Spring has brought with it an opening. Or perhaps it is the rising vaccination rate. I am starting to get excited about riding again. The past few months I have found every excuse not to ride, but better weather and two off-property events, improved my confidence. I get my second Covid shot this week. It is freeing.

Two weekends ago, Jigs and I attended our first organized ride of the season.  Last year, due to Covid restrictions, the number of riders were limited. There were nearly 100 riders this year. It was fun catching up with people and horses we have not seen since before Covid. And it helped that Jigs was a perfect gentleman despite the crowded trails.

Douglas State Forest Massachusetts

Saturday Jigs and I participated in a mountain trail clinic. Jigs was delighted when he saw the course. Ears forward, he studied each obstacle. I’d forgot how much he enjoys them.

Mountain Lane Farm, Temple, New Hampshire

The trail course is one of only a few in the northeast. It is an hour and a half from our barn, but taking the clinic is a requirement to use the course. They want to ensure riders can navigate obstacles safely. The first forty-five minutes of the clinic was focused on in hand. I must admit, Jigs and I were a little rusty, but we got through it.  Once mounted, Jigs was in the zone, easily going over obstacles without hesitation- even the wobbly suspension bridge!

4-Way
Suspension Bridge
Water Dismount and Mount

After the clinic, the clinician took us on a short trail ride up the side of the mountain behind the facility. The view was incredible.

Looking back from half way up

Now that we have taken the course, we can sign up for the play days and compete in events. I’m really looking forward to going back, and maybe even competing!