Monday, May 24, 2021

Eeyore the Trail Horse

 Sunday morning I hit up my favorite trail system. There were only two other trailers in the lot when I pulled in. Eeyore unloaded like a pro, stood nicely to get groomed and tacked up and then walked away to hit the woods. 

The hardest part of the ride was convincing the Chubster he didn't need to eat every since green thing he saw

None of that above paragraph was possible when I first got him. He really has grown up nicely. 

Eeyore loves being out and about and went down the trail with ears forward almost the entire way

It was hot, nearing the 90s, but thankfully most of the trail was in the shade. My favorite green trail has been recently destroyed by logging which re routed a good 2 miles to a paved road instead of single track in the woods. My last outing I had tried to take the grey trail, but ended up lost only a mile into it. 

I've had Eeyore for 3 years now and have never cut his mane. I've given up hope that he will ever have anything except a floppy, thin mohawk. 

This time I decided to hit the grey trail backwards, keeping the markers on my right instead of the left, which would hopefully show me where I had gone wrong the last time. I don't think I have ever been on the grey trail. Green was always perfect for conditioning Gem - it was 6 miles and ran into the 9 mile red trail near the end so for my longer conditioning rides I could add that too.  I'm glad I tried out grey though - it was a lovely trail.

When I saw this meadow I knew there was no way I'd get Chubby through it without stopping for lunch. 

Eeyore handled pretty much everything I threw at him perfectly. We went over bridges, across creeks, past a sail boat, covered single track twisting through the woods and open access roads. He even passed other horses coming his way without batting an eye. The first time I rode him on trail solo he threw such a tantrum about not being allowed to join another horse that I got off for safety and he broke my toe. Such a big improvement!

This was the only spot I got off to navigate. The entire creek crossing was stone and he hesitated. I was worried that with his shoes on he would slip and we'd both fall, so I led him across by hand. 

He wanted to canter and trot quite a bit and I let him as long as we were in the shade and his breathing was normal. Fat Boy isn't in good enough shape cardiovascularly to handle more than long slow miles at this point. I want trails to be fun, not a punishment so we mostly walked with some short burst of trotting and cantering when the trail was right. 

I also opted to switch out to his Wonder Bit this ride. He is so responsive to it that it allowed me to ride mostly on the buckle versus being in his mouth and him still blowing through me in the single joint full cheek snaffle.

Everything was going swimmingly until near the end. We popped out on a gravel access road which I knew was close to the end. In theory all we needed to do was go down the hill, cross the road and a creek and we would be back at the trailer. Except somehow I ended up at the dead end road crossing by a dove research area exactly where I ended up the last time coming from the opposite direction. It takes skill to get lost the same place from both directions folks. 

The look you get 8 miles into a 6 mile trail ride 

I turned us around, with a big sigh from Eeyore who apparently remembered that we did this the last time in the same spot, and tried to figure out where I went wrong. The last time I saw that red crossed over this road, so I went back to that and took that trail a ways. Red is 9 miles though and we were already pushing 8. I had no clue if I was heading in the right direction down red or not, so I turned us around again determined to figure out where I lost grey. 

Not a happy pony. The only time his ears weren't forward all day

Eventually I found grey again, in a tiny off shoot trail that I missed the first time, however I could go right or left and couldn't for the life of me remember if I was traveling with the markers on my right or left. I had a mini panic attack thinking we might be heading back the way we came which would be another 8 miles before we were done. Thank goodness for the All Trails App on my phone that I use for hiking. I pulled that up, found the interactive map and where I was, turned around to go the correct way and made it back to the trailer in one piece. 

Eeyore was tired at the end, but looking sharp. We walked and puttered around so much at the end that he was mostly dry at the trailer. I hosed him off and we made the 40 minute drive back home without incident.  

Friday, May 14, 2021

Morning Shower Thoughts

 As I grabbed my bottle of hair conditioner, slathered it on my right leg and began to shave, a smile spread across my face. My aunt Jozia, passed now for way too long, had given me the tip to use conditioner instead of shave gel or soap nearly 20 years ago and now every time I shave I think of her. It is only a brief memory out of so many things I could think about yet it remains the most common association I make with her. This tiny tip thrown out to me as I complained one day of getting a rash after I shaved during my teenage years has not only stuck with me for two decades but has also shaped a tiny part of who I am. I have never shaved without using conditioner since that time and of note have also never had another post shave rash. 

It got me thinking about all the people who have flitted through my life, brief or otherwise, and what marks they each have put on me. I am who I am today due in part to every encounter I have had with countless people throughout my 39 years. 

In regards to horses, I owe most of my experiences to another one of my Aunts who took me in during summers off to ride, canoe, camp and explore the outdoors in any way possible. That isn't a tiny blip though. My Aunt C made me who I am today through years of love, dedication and memories. My shower thoughts this morning were more along the lines of parts of me that came from people who barely touched my life before moving on to other things yet had a long lasting impact that they have no idea exist.  

In horses, this distinction goes to a woman named Bryce who boarded at the first barn I had Gem at back in 2009.  She wasn't an instructor or a trainer, but had noticed my many woes with Gem and offered to help where she could. I only stayed at that barn for a month before moving Gem to a training barn and maybe rode with Bryce a few times however one piece of advice that she gave me changed the way I rode and still impacts me 12 years later.

She told me that the horse and the rider should equal an energy level of 10. When Gem came out a fire breathing dragon at an 8, I better be calm at a 2. Eeyore benefits from this advice to this day. When I rode on Tuesday he started of high as a kite - I'd say a solid 7. I remained calm and relaxed and let him canter a few circuits both ways to relax. After that he sunk to a 3 because he is fat and decidedly not an Arab who can go all day. If I had stayed down at a 3 as well, well we would have western pleasure shuffled our way for the next 20 minutes of the ride. Instead I reminded myself that I now needed to bring up the energy and went on to have a much better ride. 

I'm sure Bryce has never thought of the crazy lady out horsed by her equally crazy Arab mare again. She has no idea that her words of advice stuck with me and shaped how I approach my horses for the last 12 years. 

As the scalding hot water started to fade, it dawned on me that this is a two way street. There are people who I have briefly interacted with and likely no longer remember but who may have been impacted by something I said or did, for good or bad. I think in today's world of social media that gives us access to thousands of more people who we may only have the chance to interact with one time, it is really important to keep in mind that our words and actions can have a huge impact on someone no matter how insignificant it may have been to us. I'm sure my Aunt Jozia would be shocked to know that I rarely shave my legs without thinking fondly of her. I'm sure Bryce has no idea I still use her advice and remember her name to this day. Those are two of many, many examples I could share and happen to be examples of positive encounters. If I stop to think about it, I am could easily come up with examples of times someone affected be in a negative way that still lingers and is a part of who I am today. 

Please be kind out there folks. Help when you can. Mind your own when you can't. And stop to silently appreciate and thank those in your past life who flitted in just long enough to leave a permanent mark on you. 

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Trying Something New

Eeyore has continued to be his original annoying self which is less than ideal. It is due to a combination of factors. First, I got rid of Fat Camp because I abhor it. Picking through the grass is an absolute chore and I Hates it. Since Eeyore does well stalled and Gem does well out with a muzzle, I made the executive decision to say screw the hours of picking poop in tall grass and now Eeyore stays in his stall overnight. He really doesn’t mind, but it does mean he is super well rested. Second, he is getting, albeit slowly, more fit. A more fit Eeyore can be a bit of an asshat. Last, I haven’t been riding as consistently again. Trainer has canceled out on the last several lessons for various reasons, the weather has been on and off wet and my only other consistent riding day (Friday) has been taken up with the kiddo’s new electric guitar lesson. Eeyore does the best with a two day on/1 day off schedule and I haven’t been making that happen. All those things combine to give me the Eeyore I currently have. 

Our spinach is coming in nicely. I was able to pick enough to add fresh spinach to the shrimp scampi I made for dinner Monday night. It was delicious. 

When I went to ride Tuesday knowing my lesson would yet again get canceled today due to a really crappy forecasted 50F and rain (it has been sunny and in the low 80sF) I wasn’t really wanting to fight my horse. That isn’t fun. Or productive. Instead I recalled Michelle’s latest post about her lesson on Remus where the new instructor had her riding on the buckle. 

I thought “why not?” as Eeyore was laying all 1500lbs in my hands. I know he baits me into a pulling war to get his way. I know that dropping the inside rein when he tries that has helped in the past, so why not try this?

It wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies like with Remus. We weren’t gloriously riding around calm and sane and amazing. But we also weren’t fighting each other any longer either. Amazing how you can’t play tug of war with yourself. 

Wyatt ended up being the youngest person in the world to complete the non rider division of the virtual Tevis. I’m so proud of him. 

I did lose his nice trot an awful lot. Eeyore loves to canter. It is his go to when he is celebrating, when he wants to get out of actual work, when he is pissy and not in the mood etc...We were trotting along with him trying to pull me out of the saddle when I dropped the reins down to the buckle. He nearly tripped on his nose. Things were actually going really nicely for a couple circuits of the arena until he realized I couldn’t half halt his ass into oblivion every time he started to think about cantering so he cantered. I tried to use my seat to bring him back to a trot but yeah...not good enough for that. Instead I picked the reins back up and got him back into a trot then returned to the buckle and tried again. 

Again we’d go nicely for a bit until he cantered again. Repeat. A lot. A whole freaking lot. 

But you know what? Even though it wasn’t perfect it was still 1000x better than going around like we were. I’m glad I tried it. I’m glad Michele wrote about it. I’m super interested to see how it impacts us next time I ride him which hopefully will happen sooner than later. 

Monday, May 3, 2021

A Family Affair

Up until 4 pm Sunday afternoon I was having one of the absolute best weekends I've had in recent memory. It was perfection. Until it wasn't...but I will get to that. 

It started on Saturday morning when I had the random idea of heading to Aiken to hit up Dover for the pile of items I've been needing to fully outfit Hamilton with his own tack. I had driven up to Tryon a month ago only to find out that Dover had moved out of TIEC which was a big bummer and waste of time. I've been putting off ordering online hoping to somehow make it to s brick and mortar store sooner or later. 

I tried the Soft Up Classic Free Jumps versus the Pro model and really prefer the Pro. I need to call Dover to exchange, but if anyone is interested I'll sell them to you for less than what I bought them for to avoid returning. I hate returning things. They are grey (not blue as on the box) and I rode in them one time. Let me know if interested. 

After the kiddo's parkour lesson we headed south and ended up having a rather epically awesome day that included spending way too much at Dover, snagging ice cream for the kid at the local Sweet Shoppe, hiking 5 miles in Hitchcock Woods and ending with the absolute best shaved ice creation at the Vampire Penguin. 

Then Sunday came and it got even better. 

Anyone recognize these black tipped ears???

I hadn't ridden Eeyore in way too long - maybe a week and a half I think - and he came out the OG Eeyore. In fact, he was so full of himself I threw him on the lunge to get his bucks and wiggles out before I got on him. I can't even recall the last time he saw a lunge line. Under saddle was a major reminder of what I used to deal with on the regular. He was UP, he was throwing me the middle finger with every request I made, and he was stiff as a board. I ended up letting him canter to his heart was full and the sweat was lathered up and then we got started on what I had wanted to accomplish. Sheesh horse. I ma so glad we moved past that behavior. 

After Eeyore I was hesitant to ride Hamilton. I just didn't have it in me to have another ride like that. Having just dropped a college education on his new tack and needing to see if he was still oddly lame, I new I had to tack him up and see what I had. And what I had was the best ride on him to date. 

Re using because I forgot to take any pics of Eeyore

He was soft, he was calm, he was sound, he was handsome in his new gear. It was the exact ride I needed after getting off the Big Orange Butthead. Inexplicably, the Hubby wandered down to the arena while I was riding, another event that hasn't happened in ages, and had his riding helmet with him. He wanted to hop on Hamilton and take him down to the pond. I wasn't going to argue that!

He did a little work in the arena first and then they headed out. 

Hamilton was a happy camper to walk down the driveway, past the house and into the woods. A feat I can't get Eeyore to do without rearing, bucking and trying to bolt back to the barn after three years of attempts.  

Dusty said he wanted to trot in the woods but he didn't let him.

His only issue came when he popped out of the woods to the pond itself. Then he started trembling and was scared of the water. A few passes back and forth saw him calm down enough to head back to the barn. 

If that wasn't awesome enough, once they were back Wyatt asked to ride so I grabbed all my old endurance gear that I miss so much and tacked up Gemmie. She was foot perfect as always with kiddos on board. 

He outgrew his paddock boots. 

This got me dreaming an scheming of summer family trail rides and finally getting to us the three horse trailer I bought in the fall that hasn't moved since. I was riding a pretty big high until Wyatt had a accident on his bike jumping a ramp and broke his right arm. That was a pretty shitty end to a great weekend. Thankfully it is a simple buckle fracture requiring a splint for 6 weeks without surgery needed. He is feeling better today with the splint in place.