Posted tagged ‘horse training’

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.

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.

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.

Camping at Myles Standish

September 18, 2020

Jigs and I had a fabulous time horse camping at Myles Standish State Forest (MSSF). Unlike Otter Creek where we stayed in a luxury “cabin” and turnout, I slept in a tent near Jigs. All night, I could hear quiet munching through my sleep.

And I slept well. Better than on my new mattress at home. I broke down and bought a low-end air mattress for this trip. What a difference from sleeping on the ground or even a cot. The mattress supported my hip; I did not wake sore or stiff.

The trails off the horse camps at MSSF are soft and sandy. Footing allows for miles of canter and gallop, if so inclined- and this old lady was not. Campsites are minimal with water spigots between them. There is no electricity other than in the camp bathrooms.  Cell service was spotty at best.  True camping.

Swimming

Disengaged from reality, I relaxed.

It was great to spend four days with Jigs. As a boarder, I do not normally feed. It was fun to be the “food lady” for a change. There is a special bond between horse and the person who feeds. For a few days, I got to feel that again.

Feeding Time

Do I wish I could keep my horse home? Yes and no.  Yes, because I miss the joy of early morning feeding and the bond formed by more one on one interaction.  But boarding has widened my circle and there is usually someone to ride with. Jigs gets to be in a herd. These factors make boarding a good option for us.  I suspect if Jigs were home with me, I would not ride as much. He would not be happy without his herd.  

The Herd

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.

00000PORTRAIT_00000_BURST20200229142728447

 

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! 

Cuteness Revisited

December 8, 2019

Quite a few of the folks who meet Jigs tells me he is “cute.” I guess it is his size and his quiet, confident demeanor that get him that label.

He would be insulted if he knew what cute meant (assuming he doesn’t).

Jigs’ smaller stature does not stop him from bossing around his herd mates, even though he is the smallest in the pasture.

Louie the ex-racehorse is the exception. Jigs steers clear and always defers to him. Louie is a goofy love bug. He’s also the tallest horse at the barn. His tongue hangs out to the side in the way of ex-racehorses. I suspect Louis prefers humans to other horses. Jigs avoids him for the most part, although I have seen them graze together.

As for the rest of the herd, Jigs reorders them around the round bale, pushes them off the water trough, enforces the order of who goes when- Louis is first, then Jigs. It is the way of the universe.

For example, yesterday Jigs had a session with the chiropractor. Sore around lower thoracic and upper lumbar, he was not comfortable with the work being done on him. At one point, he grabbed my thumb. Biting is something he never does. He let go as soon as he realized he had my thumb, but it was an indication of how sore he was. As the session went on, he relaxed, and I could see improvement.

When I turned Jigs back out to the herd, Baron was standing at the fence. Jigs pinned his ears and drove him away, giving a joyful kick in Baron’s direction.  Jigs was letting his buddy know he was back and to listen up.

So, when someone tells me Jigs is a cute horse, I smile to myself.  Cute is not the word I would use for him, but who am I to correct them?