Posted tagged ‘horse ownership’

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.

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.

Winter Fun

December 20, 2020

Winter snow in New England seems trite, but a ride through the woods after a storm drops a foot of snow IS glorious. If you are lucky, you stumble across snowmobile tracks. They compact the snow just enough that you can fly. Fresh powder is also great. The horse in front kicks snow turning it into laughter.

The horses also had fun shaking snow laden branches onto their riders.

This was the first time I used my winter riding skirt on the trail. The skirt covered Jigs’ rump, keeping both of us warm and dry. I did not realize how cold it was until I removed it back at the barn.

Weather in central New England is fickle. Rain is predicted Christmas Day. Snow will become mud. Until then, I will enjoy the awesome snowy trails.

Hacking Out in the Pandemic

May 9, 2020

Weeks into lock down.

The only places, other than the grocery store, I go is to the barn and the local trails. My horse is boarded close to an awesome conservation area. I am blessed to be able to ride. Other owners are not as lucky and are unable to visit their horses, let alone ride. I cannot imagine how heartbreaking that is.

I would be a mess without this respite. Uncertainty can be crippling.

This Spring was supposed to be crowded with organized rides and maybe a show or two. Weekends are empty of events.  So, we hack out.

Small Brook

In the fifteen plus years I have been riding these trails, I have never seen them so crowded with families and bikers. It is wonderful, but I worry it could negatively impact equine access. While many are thrilled to encounter a “real horse,” others complain horses are “ruining” the trails and pose a safety risk.

Last weekend we encountered a woman with a large dog she was struggling to control. She screamed at us to go another way because the trail was “too muddy” for horses. As we do in these situations, we thanked her for the information and complied with her request.

We checked the trail later; it was not muddy. My suspicion is she was afraid she could not handle her aggressive dog.

I wish I could say encounters like this are rare, but they are not. As an ambassador for my sport. I must remain calm and avoid being confrontational. Especially now when everyone is frustrated and, many, afraid.

This pandemic will not last forever.  When the world returns to what will be the “new normal”, I do hope that those who have turned to the trails to escape boredom will continue to use them. Even more, I hope they decide to become active in preserving them.

As for horses sharing trails? There is room enough for all users to enjoy the natural world around us.  Perhaps others will come to understand what we trail riders have always known- trails are a gateway into nature and a bit of heaven on Earth.

Be safe!

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

Second Place

September 27, 2019

I think the best feature of my phone is the ability to put Jig’s photo on the home page. I glance at it throughout the day and smile. It doesn’t get changed often, but a few weeks ago I uploaded a photo of him with his second place ribbon at the Marshfield Fair.

I know second place is not winning, but it is the best placing we have ever had at Marshfield. Two of our three runs where clean and the last one was fluid. It felt right. I met my goal of cantering between obstacles and stopping correctly. Although the course was simple and there were not as many participants as past years, I accepted the placing proudly.

marshfield 2019

Second Place Marshfield Fair 2019

My riding and confidence has improved thanks to lessons. After a few weeks of decent practices and solid lessons, I felt ready to compete in the skilled division at last week’s versatility.

I was wrong.

The courses had jumps that the skilled division was required to canter over. Jumping is one of my fears. When I first got Jigs, I told him, “no jumping.” He seems okay with that arrangement.

Frankly, the jumps on the course were low enough for us to pop over at a trot. We’ve never cantered over one before. Our jumping to that point has been limited to trotting over logs on the trail or a small cavaletti or two in the ring.

My first instinct was to drop down a division, but that didn’t feel right. The year before we won at the lower level. It felt like cheating. And it was likely too late.

I decided to try.

The thing about me is my brain gets in the way of my body. We did the first obstacle, a garrocha pole, fine. After putting the pole back, I hesitantly asked for a canter. Jigs sensed my ambivalence and launched into an awkward pop over the jump. He landed at the canter and overshot the next obstacle, a side pass. We knocked the first and all the subsequent poles loose.

It got worse as the course went on. At some point, I managed to get my hands tangled in the reins.

While I didn’t get us DQ’d, the judge didn’t award many points.

I deleted the video my friend made from the sideline before looking at it.

Resting After Our Loss

Resting After Our Loss

I rode a little better in the next class, but not enough to beat anyone in my division. I was hesitant and did not receive points for jumping the balance beam because I did it at the trot, not the canter.

I sulked for a couple days, feebly riding in the ring not accomplishing anything.

You know how thoughts goes round and round like a marble dropped in a bowl? Noisy, and wobbly?

If I wanted to jump, wouldn’t I be at a different show? Why did the judged class have two jumps? One of the reasons I like local versatility is the lack of jumps.

What right did I have trying to compete at my age, at my riding skill level? Why bother?

The Marshfield buzz was gone.

I signed up for a trail ride. That was something we could do. Maybe it is all Jigs and I should do. Maybe we should skip the next competitions. After all we are both getting older.

Wednesday was lesson night. I had no intention of telling my instructor what happened, but she found out anyway.

Immediately she set up a cross rail for us. It was about the same height of the first jump on the course. We trotted over it hesitantly. Again, again, and again. She had me stop after each jump.

And then she commanded, “canter. I asked Jigs weakly. Nope. He trotted faster.

“Again” she said. This time he cantered over the cross rails without actually jumping, his back hooves hitting them.

“Again.”

This went on for a bit and then it happened, Jigs jumped and stopped.

“See, you can do it,” my instructor said.

It was the right place to end the lesson.

While I’m looking forward to the trail ride this weekend, I’m also looking forward to the competitions the following weekend. I know we won’t win our classes, but with patience and a calm mind, we just might do okay. That red ribbon on my phone’s home page is a good reminder of what we can do.

2019 Prospective

December 30, 2018

End of December is the time for retrospectives of the year. A lot of the bloggers I follow have posted theirs already. One stated that blogs are old school and announced she is moving to other venues, pod casts, on line classrooms, for a fee. The free blog will remain, but I wonder for how long. Everyone must make a living. I get that.

Rather than looking back, I am looking toward 2019. Disclaimer-despite my fondness for Tarot, I am not clairvoyant. Expectations may or may not be realized. There will be hardships. There will be moments of joy. My hope is joy will out weight hardships.

And what are my expectations?

I expect to laugh and cry with those I love. I expect to continue preparing for retirement. I expect to ride Jigs down new trails. I expect to attend horse events, lessons, cow sorting, versatility, maybe a show if I get brave. I expect to win a few ribbons. Maybe.

Missing are my wished-for things: economic stability, a truck, Jigs at home with me, a finished book of poetry, 40 years in the making.

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On January first, I will take down the ribbons Jigs won in 2018 and put away the memories of our successes, near successes, and yes, failures.

The space above his stall will be empty- a proverbial blank slate- a space for realized possibilities that will become 2019.

Happy New Year’s!