Wednesday, December 30, 2015

I Finally Got One

Twas two nights after Christmas, and I was reading through my blog feed when I came across this post. Hmmm. Twenty percent off store wide at Riding Warehouse. Not familiar with the company but I'll have a look. Besides, Santa had just left a check in my stocking for a micklem bridle. I don't expect the bridle to be on sale. Even with store wide promotions like this, I usually find a small note tagged under the item in my cart "already offered at manufacturer's lowest price". Some sort of crappy bait and switch on the popular items. Does that ever happen to any of you?

Turns out RW carries micklems. AND turns out when I added it to my cart it was only $159. Couldn't believe my eyes. Thank you Riding Warehouse for saving Santa $40. He was very happy :) Also thank you Amanda for recommending the sale!

I had never seen a micklem in person before so I wasn't sure what to expect. I have looked at them in catalogs and online for the past three or four years. I was riding my arab in a flotation hackamore. It's a nifty little design made one at a time by a fella from Canada. If your into bitless riding you should google it. Anyway, the micklem multi bridle caught my eye. I liked that it was made for comfort of the horse and had so many different configurations. But then I sold my arab and got Razz. No need for the multi bridle anymore, Razz uses a bit and his bridle came with him.  It was worn but still had life in it and I'd replace it when I had to.

Fast forward a few months. I end up getting this saddle and it came with a free bridle. Just on a side note I absolutely still love my saddle after two years of use. It may not be the most expensive, or made in France, but I am happy as a clam when I sit in it. 

Back to the bridle situation, even though the new one came I still thought about the micklems, poured over reviews, chatted about them over the phone with the girls at smartpak. The feedback was mostly positive. Some thought the leather was inferior quality. A few riders over at coth complained that their horses couldn't stand the way they fit. In October this year I stopped by the Dover store in Raleigh for the sole purpose of finally seeing one in person. They didn't carry micklems in store. 


So I just asked Santa for one. And it came today.

If you were like me and never seen one before, this is how they are packaged. My first impression on the leather is ok. The darker top leather is kinda stiff and flat, the lighter padded leather is rolled and super soft. And it's pretty much padded all the way around the pressure points. The reins are rubber. I've never used rubber reins before either. Being a screen printer for the past 15 years has resulted in strong hands and arms, and therefore grip is not an issue for me. 

I am off tomorrow so you can probably guess where I will be first thing in the morning. Can't believe this bridle is sitting here beside me after wanting it for so many years. Tomorrow is the real test. Will Razz like it? I have to watch all the videos on youtube about proper fitting and give it a test run.

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Past Couple Weeks (feat. blogger gift exchange)

The last half of December has been crazy for me. I suppose its more or less like that for all of us this time of year. I've gotten one more dressage ride around the bean field since the barn party. Most of my visits consisted of a quick groom and a couple treats before running home to wrap presents, or get the house ready for my folks, or just simply pass out since all the print shop customers want their shirts before christmas. 

"just making sure there's nothing here i can eat"

It's also been extremely hot for the season. A different vibe for this christmas but still very nice. I live at the beach so I'm not expecting snow or anything. But it was ~80* from last wednesday til yesterday. The bugs have returned in the deepest parts of the woods. And Razz's full coat means I can't put him to work nearly as much as I would like. I don't have any clippers. I borrowed from others at the old barn. I think its getting too late to clip anyway, with the daylight hours now s l o w l y growing longer? 

Long story short, pretty much uneventful barn goings-on. Now on to christmas...

Honestly I already have everything I need and more. My family is healthy and happy, we have a roof and food. But the hubs asked me for a wish list so I gave him one with three items on it. 
-A beautiful, antique German silver framed relief with a horse profile accented with fox hunt motifs. It was a rare piece found on etsy and someone else picked it up. :(
-A gopro camera to record my rides, as well as the occasional kayak trip I take with my husband.
-A micklem bridle. I'm hoping this makes my boy a bit more comfortable. If given the chance he begins scratching his face on anything sturdy when wearing his bridle. 

My parents showed up on Christmas Eve morning. It was nice having them in town. I only get to see them a few times a year. It was also nice to be at home rather than travelling. I ended up with a total of five days off. Yessssss. That night we all attended an oyster roast hosted by some good friends of ours. Then Christmas morning came and we had breakfast then gathered around the tree for presents by 9:30 or 10 ish. 

And I got:

A silver cameo necklace. Hubs picked it out.

A Baker sweater. Also hubs pick. 

My blogger gift exchange package. From Fig & Confetti

We both got sweaters, and my daughter got her jacket.

Husband did a good job picking out the sweater and cameo. Both are kinda dressy, not my usual style, but I've worn the necklace since I opened it and received many compliments already. And the Baker sweater, well, I am a sucker for baker plaid. There are only a handful of horses that won't look nice in a baker blanket. And I love companies that have been in business for many years, which Baker def has. 

My blogger secret santa package arrived on the 26th. That was great. A small bonus to extend the holiday experience. It came from Fig and Confetti at I can't say thank you enough for the thoughtful gifts, each one rolled up separately in colorful tissue paper. It was as if I had found a treasure chest on my front door step. Not knowing what was inside I opened up the box and uncovered one by one a bag of treats, long bristled brush made in USA (yay), magnets that I needed badly, some Riding Warehouse chapstick, socks with ponies on them, and a super awesome horseman's tool with hoof pick, bot knife, etc. Not pictured was a blue grooming mitt with the tiny rubber teeth on one side and massaging rollers on the other. Everyone in the house took turns using it, which is why it wasn't available for the photo shoot. Please stop by and say hello to Fig , I had a great experience with the gift exchange and will be participating next year too! Big shout out to Tracy for organizing the whole thing. The gift I mailed out hasn't arrived to the recipient yet, it's making it's way across the country as I write this post though.

My daughter and I got matching sweaters. Don't worry, we won't wear them on the same day. And I sewed twelve patches onto her denim jacket. I hand stitch and it takes time to get them all on there. She was thrilled with it. My jacket has been complete for a while, although I have a crap ton of loose patches that are subject to show up on naked items at any moment.

We also went shopping the day after Christmas and hit the clearance rack. My parents were still in town and it was a great grandma/mom/daughter morning. I am a huge fan of Lucky Brand and left the store with a pretty nice haul. Four shirts total and everything was 50-70% off. I rarely shop for clothes since I can get such good deals on things through work, so this was extra fun for me.

three of my new shirts

the fourth, and new favorite of all my clothes

Sunday morning my parents went back home, and believe it or not I was sad to see them go. We had such a nice visit. Later that day I went to the barn for my first trail ride since the barn party and the episode with my barn owner getting hurt. I spent a half hour or longer just organizing my things and going through the tack box before I walked out and grabbed Razz. The poor boy was looking rather feral.  

treats from Fig & Confetti gone before I could catch the shot

I spent the next hour grooming, incorporating our two new grooming tools in the mix. Razz loved them both!! He nodded his head when I went over both sides of his neck with the long bristled brush, and with the massage mitt he shut his eyes and enjoyed me working it into his muscles. He came out looking like a different horse from the one I started with.

someone wasn't feeling photogenic. he still peeked

Time to ride. I struck off with a friend and barn mate into the Croatan. Woohoo! That forest has been calling my name for a while. It was still flooded in here but not as bad as the last time. We found a few things to jump and that was cool. Spent a couple hours in the woods and began mentally kicking myself in the ass for not making it a point to ride more leading up to christmas. It was a beautiful day, just too hot for December, and we mostly walked. Ponies were still sweaty when we got back anyway.

Razz got a small serving of alfalfa cubes once we got back and untacked. I could tell he enjoyed his day, and he slurped up his mini meal while I went over him one more time with the roller mitt.

silly cube face

Back to that wish list. I got some money for christmas, too. And I'm getting a knock off but good enough for me sports camera, that micklem that I wanted (for $159!!!! new), and a helmet I've had my eye on for a while. Hell yeah.

One final present, the soy bean field was harvested. So now I don't just have a grass track. I have a grass track surrounding a huge dirt field that I'm allowed to ride in. Deer season is almost over also. Watch out 2016, I've got new fields, new trails, and new equipment to use, and I'm coming for you at a full gallop!

Saturday, December 19, 2015


I am a week behind on this post, it's been crazy around here. Last Sunday we had our Christmas get together at the barn. All my new barn buddies were there, as well as a few others I hadn't met before. The plan was to meet up at one o'clock, ride, and then share a potluck afterward. 

I arrived on scene around 12:30 feeling a bit behind the eight ball. If you've read my other posts you know I have an elaborate grooming ritual that I'm a little OCD about. How was I gonna get everything done and be ready to ride at one? I hadn't even grabbed my pony yet, who is always grazing at the farthest point from the barn. Lead rope in hand, I strike off across the field on a mission. Razz was facing my direction and when he saw me headed his way he picked his head up and stared at me for a moment. Then he turned around and began to walk away. Oh no, we're NOT going to play that game. He's never done this before. I'm guessing the previous day's ride was still fresh on his mind and he was probably a little sore from the workout. I refuse to catch him with a treat or grain. Why reward him for bad antics? I slowed down my pace and walked toward him at an angle. When I got close to his herd I stopped and faced his best friend. Razz looked at me like "what are you doing?" and walked right up to me. Success!! I knew that little head game would work. Immediately I attached his lead rope. Then I let him graze for a minute more while I scratched his withers. Just trying to keep the catch experience pleasant for him. And of course today he would be covered in sand.

is this what we're doing now?

Great. I guess it's six in one hand, half a dozen in the other. I could have spent my time trying to catch him. That problem avoided, I would now be giving him an even more intensive grooming than I had planned. I put it in overdrive and got the job done. Tacked and ready at 1:15. Honestly I couldn't believe it was done that quickly but I'm still late. I hate being late. 

There are two barns on the farm and Razz stays in the lower barn with three other horses. Their owners don't come around much at all and I mostly have the barn to myself (which is awesome). I've never understood paying all those bills on an animal you don't come see. But I'm getting off topic. The reason for this paragraph is to convey the point that I had no idea what was going on at the upper barn where everyone else was. I mounted and we trotted up the hill, expecting everyone else to also be mounted and waiting on me.

Surprise, no one was ready. Whew, crisis averted. I didn't want to be "that guy" holding them all up. Me and pony stood just outside the main tacking corral chatting with everyone else while they groomed. The barn owner walked by on his pony. He stays busy with his contracting job and doesn't get to ride that often, and I had never ridden with him. BO made his way across the tacking area and into the arena for a warm up. There were nine riders total. Three were gonna hang around the barn. The other six of us were headed out on the trail. Now that we were ready to go, BO started to come out of the ring. He's an old cowboy who's been there, done that. So opening the gate on horseback was no big thing for him.

But it was a big deal for his horse, Whiskey. Instead of staying behind the gate as he opened it, BO had Whiskey pointing out as it opened. And as soon as it was wide enough to get her neck out, Whiskey charged. The top edge of the gate followed the right side of her neck and lodged between her side and the saddle. Of course she panicked when met with the resistance. And she pushed and pushed even harder to get out, but that wasn't gonna happen. The gate had a smooth round corner where it was lodged and Whiskey wasn't hurt. Can't say the same for BO. In pony's effort to get out, BO had his left leg slammed against the wooden post where the gate latched. He ended up hanging off her right side like a trick rider. His left foot was stuck in the stirrup. By now he was yelling every combo of potty mouth in the English language. Several riders were trying to help but there was nothing that was stopping Whiskey. She ended up pushing against the wedged gate so hard that the saddle slid back over her hind quarters but it was still cinched tightly. Then she tries to start bucking. Keep in mind BO is still stuck and cursing, every move Whiskey made putting more pressure on his left foot. The billet strap on the saddle broke. Whiskey charges out of the ring into all the horses standing in the tacking corral. Now we have an area the size of a large round pen full of horses freaking out and setting back on their tie straps. Barn owner was on the ground not moving. After seeing just how badly he was hurt someone called 911. 

not what you want to see at the barn

The ambulance arrived in less than five minutes. It took the EMTs a while to assess the situation. BO was finally loaded on the stretcher and taken to the hospital. The ambulances left and the farm was silent. Everyone's adrenaline was up, but the situation was handled and we had nothing left to do with our adrenaline. It was quite sad. BO is such a nice guy. And he was so excited about the day's events. It sucked to watch him get hauled off in an ambulance. We chatted a bit, calmed down, those with horses in the tacking corral hand walked for a bit to calm the pony nerves that were frazzled from the loose Whiskey. Then we take off down the trail. It was tough at first but we cheered up as much as possible once we got down the road a bit. We were headed to the sand pits. That wasn't our original plan but its where we ended up going.

We took the same path that I rode in my post about hunter safety . When I took that route the first time it was just me and Hubby. I got to a place in the trail where the path was flooded and I could hear the main highway close by. I had been told that trail came out on the shoulder of the highway. I assumed this was where the trail met up with the road, saw the flooding, and that day decided to turn around. I was completely wrong about the trail. Today we plowed through the water, which was deep enough to constitute a river crossing without the current. Instead of immediately connecting to the highway the trail cut back to the left and into a deeper part of the forest. It was long enough to take an additional hour to cover it all. We cantered, we jumped ditches and tiny streams, and I started to wonder if the sand pits were more fun to ride than the Croatan forest. And right now my opinion is yes it is. 

Eventually we did make it to the shoulder of the road. A secondary, quiet road. Now we are headed back to the barn and everyone is talking about food. I had forgotten about our plans to eat after all the earlier excitement and then being mesmerized by the new to me trail.

headed home

We got back to the barn and untacked. Of course I was all by myself at the lower barn again. Which was cool. A little alone time with Razz is nice. I brush him down, give him three cookies and tell him what a good boy he is. When I put him back in his pasture he hung around by the gate as if he didn't want to say good bye. Not typical of him. So I hang around a bit longer too. I was talking to him, loading him full of compliments. Finally I walk away. Razz was still by the gate.

love him
Now time to chow down. It was my first time sharing food with these folks. I am mostly vegetarian (except for seafood) and it can get a little tricky for me in situations like this. You don't want to offend someone because you didn't try their dish. At the same time there is absolutely no way in hell I can swallow a bite of beef. Fortunately the main course was clam chowder, yay!! I made broccoli salad and mac and cheese from scratch. Temperature was in the low 70s so the broccoli salad really wasn't weird to serve even though its mid December. Everything was great and I ended up with a full belly. I did try a small amount of tobasco cheese dip that had chicken in it just to make nice with the lady who brought it. We started a fire and roasted marshmallows afterward.

feeling right at home
Before I left we got an update on barn owner's condition. All the connective tissues in his left leg were torn, and he shattered his right wrist landing on it when the saddle broke. But he was loaded with meds and joking around with the ER people. Come to find out, he has a history of getting hurt around the holidays, and his wife said it was normal for him to be in a cast or on crutches while opening his presents on Christmas morning. And she had years of pictures to prove it. 

My first barn Christmas party behind me, I drive home thinking about BO and hoping he will heal quickly. Also on my mind is how much I love this barn. I may be surrounded by mostly western riders, but they don't give me a hard time for wearing breeches or a helmet. They don't judge my riding abilities against their own, I feel completely at home here. I wish I had changed barns sooner. No offense to the old barn, but this is where I belong.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Why Wait for the New Year

So I haven't been the happiest with Razz's physical condition lately. He lost his top line, gained man boobs, he's just not in shape at all. Yes the senior years are creeping up on us. He will be 17 next year. But that doesn't mean he has to fall all to hell.

This past Saturday we began our process of getting back into shape. Why wait for the new year to start working out? There's no time like the present. I am taking advantage of the soybean field behind the barn for our workouts. Put Razz in the ring and he turns down his go about five notches. Bring him into an open field, completely different pony. The beans are still there and need to be harvested before they go bad. But there is a huge mowed track around the beans almost shaped like a triangle. It's probably ten feet wide with good soft grass footing.

I began late in the afternoon on Saturday. My daughter was in a Christmas parade earlier so I was occupied for the morning/mid-day. I left my phone in the barn, no distractions on this ride. It also meant no pictures. But how many "between the ears" bean field shots does one need anyway? We started on the right lead at a walk of course. I was completely focused and doing my best to remember all my dressage training. My legs were right there on his sides, ready but not asking for anything. My hips were loose and I had my lower body moving right along with the sway of Razz's stride. My ass could not have been communicating with his back any more clearly, even if it had teeth. We worked on tempo and straightness. Same thing when I asked him to trot, tempo & straightness. I was happy with what he gave me. And he kept his back underneath me the whole time. In the ring he would have hollowed. We walked a little more before I asked for a walk to canter transition in a straight stretch. He got his lead. Good boy!! However he was totally pulling us along with his fronts. I expected this. And I let him carry on in this manner for maybe 50 yards. Then I sat a little deeper in the saddle and followed with my shoulders back, shifting his momentum to the hind. He responded as best he could. Knowing that for now it was the best I was gonna get from him, we began to work on tempo and straightness once again. And we were cantering along very nicely. And it was wonderful.

Then he spooked. At what? I have no idea. Something in the tree line. We went into the beans, which are brown and barely hanging on to the stiff, dry stalks they grow from. The stalks are just tall enough to poke my pony in the belly as he charged in. I'm sure it was very uncomfortable. He put the breaks on and shifted in the completely opposite direction, exactly like a cutting horse, to get out of those beans. Nice Razz, you got that hind end working after all.

We got back onto the mowed track and picked the canter up like nothing happened. At this point I was approaching the first complete lap around the field.  I made him canter past the bridge leading back to the barn and demanded he keep his tempo. He did get a little crooked going by. But he kept his pace so good enough for our first pass. It takes five to ten minutes to go around once depending on your pace. Another round on the right lead, still asking for transitions, straightness, & tempo. There is one place on the backstretch where water runs off. It's not quite a ditch but Razz insists on treating it like one and we hop over it. We go almost to the gate again. Then we change directions.

And it was more of the same in this direction. Transitions, straighness, and tempo. No more spooks. Two laps and change directions again.

I made a total of eight laps, four in each direction. Razz was a real champ and I was pleased. The sun had gone down at this point and it was pretty much dark. We made one final lap to cool down.

I have to be careful not to overheat the boy, as he is sporting a full winter coat. It's been in the 70s for the past couple weeks. Had I known the season would start so mild, I would have given him a trace clip in the beginning. But it is gonna get cold (I think?) and I'm afraid to blanket him with his new pasture mates. One of them took his fly mask off all the time. I can only imagine what they'd do with a blanket. So he will keep his coat and we will work around it.

I did manage to get a post ride pic of him just hanging out in his stall after his dinner. It was really dark now and I was hungry too, so I gave him kisses and went home to enjoy my own dinner.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Well, That Didn't Take Long

Today is December 11. I moved my horse and began our new adventures together on August 11. Exactly four months ago. I have loved the new barn. And so has Razz.

Today I wake up at 6 a.m. Typical morning. It's Friday so that's cool. My husband is already up by the time my alarm goes off. He promptly brings in my cup of coffee as soon as he hears me stirring. Thank you husband :) It's now 6:08 and I have the local news on TV and a couple sips of joe in me. What flashes before my eyes on screen? That looked just like the entrance to the sand pits. We have a dvr. I rewind and catch the story from the beginning.

Son of a bitch. That didn't take long at all.

I've seen others in the trail community talk about their frustrations with losing trails. Now its my turn to get first hand experience.

I'm sure there's not a lot I can do. I really don't have a dog in this fight. I don't own the land, I don't live in Newport. Nothing is set in stone yet. The issue is who will pay for the infrastructure, contractor or town. Citizens don't wanna pay and they are fighting it. I hope this falls through. Sorry not sorry. 

I will be emailing a few people today. And keeping updates on this blog. For now best thing to do is get in there and enjoy the sand pits while I can. 

Photo and story courtesy of
you can see the full story here 

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Hunter Safety

I am learning quickly that I will be a weekend blogger. Weekend mornings to be specific. Its because my head is clear and I can actually write. 

Yesterday I show up at the barn for a ride around 1:30. I hadn't ridden for 14 days. Yikes!!! Thanksgiving holiday totally rearranged the normal schedule and even though I'd been to the barn since returning home they had not been riding visits. I go out and catch him in his huge pasture with no problem. I put his new halter on him and it looks just as good as I thought it would.

Noticing a pattern with the halter, stall sign, tack box? Turquoise may or may not be my favorite color.

I happened to notice something else...Razz was looking a bit off. His attitude was great. He loves to be fussed over and I could tell he was enjoying the intensive grooming process he hadn't received for two weeks. He wasn't sore or favoring anything, I had my hands all over him and no reaction to anything, no swelling or heat anywhere. But his topline seemed completely gone. Not that he has ever been as muscled as a Grande Prix horse, but at least he had a little something going on. Today I could clearly make out his spine under the skin. And the point of his pelvis seemed accentuated also. And he seemed a little sunk in at the flanks. Damn, anything else? I feel around some more, double checking everything, and finally come to the conclusion that he's just too fat. Razz carries his weight in the lower back portion of his belly. And gravity is pulling things down. Yep, you're definitely getting cut back on that full scoop. And no more two week vacations for you either. Sorry buddy. Its for your own good. I want you to stick around and be my partner for as many years as possible :)

After concluding that everything is ok I start tacking up. The cool weather has me using my sheepskin seat saver. This thing is awesome. And affordable (around $30 on amazon, and its legit wool on hide not imitation). 

Off we go, headed to the sandpits. My husband is meeting me at the trail head. I have to ride past a soybean field and a silage field to get off barn property. On my way out I can see two cars parked next to the silage field which was cut around a month ago. Hmmm. Is this a couple teens getting off the highway for a bit of Saturday afternoon fun? I get up to the vehicles, one of which is a Jeep Cherokee that had shifted a few times on my approach (hehe). Well this is gonna be awkward. I figure just go, get past them quickly and be done with it. And as I'm passing by I see two gun barrels sticking up on the opposite side of the car. They aren't getting freaky. They're leaned against the car hunting doves out in the field. Apparently they hadn't been there long because not shots had been fired yet and the fields are loaded with doves. Poor things. I could never take another life, no matter how small, but I was raised country and I don't begrudge these fellas. I let them know I'm behind them just passing through, and trot off quickly past the field. It isn't long once I get past them that the firing begins. 

I make my way on to the sand pits. Hubs is there just like he said he'd be. I was really wanting to ride by myself but he wanted to join me and I didn't argue about it. I can hear gun fire in the distance from all directions, more than just the two dove hunters I passed. Fortunately none of it is coming from inside the sand pits. I put safety orange duct tape all over my jacket anyway. This is easy enough without investing in my own hunting season wardrobe. We rode down another fork in the trails I hadn't taken yet. This one carried us right up to the main highway, the most heavily traveled artery in the county. I stayed well off the road, realizing where we were headed way before we actually got there. Tried to get a couple pics of me in my new fashion statement. But Razz wasn't interested. I couldn't get him to stand still for anything. As soon as we stopped he'd begin pawing and pulling on the bit. Silly pony wants to keep moving and go back home. 

I guess its true. Duct tape can help solve almost every problem out there. I'm not quite sure what my hair is doing in that last pic, I had it in a bun at the base of my neck when we left the barn. The rest of my ride went well, nothing noteworthy. I give my husband a peck on the cheek and he watches while I make my way up the shoulder of the road and make my left turn back to the barn. Then he catches up to me and escorts me past the dove hunters safely. There are three of them now, one sitting next to a light pole by the road. They are all acting responsibly, putting their guns down as I pass by. Once off the road I canter the long stretch back to the barn. I know its not the best thing to do with a horse that wanted to go back home since the moment we left, but 
I couldn't resist. 

Another ride on the books. We need more of these. Gotta get rid of all that extra weight Razz has gained.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Horse Related Musings Over Thanksiving Break

Every year for Thanksgiving my family drives up from the coast to the northwestern corner of NC. We always have lunch at my uncle's house on Thanksgiving and we stay in town until Sunday afternoon. Since I am a horse fanatic I usually find a little something equine related to do. This year is no different. 

Once we arrived at my parents' house Wednesday we ate lunch & then had a walk around the farm to ease our full bellies. The farm is 100 acres and has been passed down through my mother's family for generations. Ninety-six acres of the land are in legal limbo. I own 24 acres but when I inherited it my grandpa didn't specify which plot was mine. He just split the land evenly between 4 grandkids. And a couple of the others can't be made happy with any settlement so it just sits, as is, with the four of us having equal rights to the entire plot.

This year while walking around I was dreaming in my head about what a nice cross country set up I could make on the property. The first photo shows my childhood home to the right and my grandpa's house (now a rental) to the left. I rode this farm daily as a child.

The landscape is mostly large, rolling hills. Lots of wildlife can be seen if you're quiet enough and the wind blows in your favor. We saw two deer on our walk. Also Shiloh can go off leash back here. It's a real treat for him.

Judging by all the tracks in the mud this watering hole is popular with deer. I always brought my horses here to drink during our rides growing up. My first horse layed down here with me on her back once. The creek has a nice sandy bottom. Remove a few stray rocks and it's a great little water crossing just waiting to be cantered.

With some reinforcement this bank is perfect as a multi layer climbing obstacle.

Bank coming out of the creek crossing (watch out Dad!)

Shiloh says "This way mom, let's go this way"

Hill climbing for days! #ponycardio 

On Thanksgiving day we had lunch at my uncle's house, like always. Around 35 people show up, it's the same crowd every year. My relatives know how much of a horse girl I am. They always ask how my horse is, and want to see pics. My mom, daughter, and I were the first ones to leave the get together. My husband & dad ended up staying all day, watching football and chatting it up. 

On our way home we passed by the old dairy that used to supply milk to all the locals. I swoon over this place. It's one of the original farms in my hometown. Now its a winery. And a horse farm. Whoever rides here has been doing some grid work. A dressage ring is barely noticeable on the other side of the jumps. Razz & I could have so much fun here. 

Just before we make it home we stop at my parents' neighbor's house to meet their new burro. This family is so kind, the are a foster home that works with the county animal control. They actually renovated a large room in their house in order to have up to 10 fosters at any given time. The burro was a rescue that they decided to keep. I gave the burro, named Donkey, a few mints and made a new friend. He has only lived here for three months and was just gelded so he's still a little full of himself. His owners were loaded with questions for me about his care since they've never had any equines before. Is his halter too tight? Is he overweight? I'm guessing they forgot to ask the vet these things when he was out. 

Friday morning came along and everyone was hanging out in the living room drinking coffee and watching the morning news. No black Friday madness for this crowd. I glance over at my mom, who is sitting in her chair hidden behind the newspaper. Its our local small town newspaper. I mean population maybe 5000 kind of small town. Imagine my surprise when on the front page of that paper I see an article on someone from this tiny town who is an internationally ranked eventer, and the article was about her recent successes and a new horse she is bringing along and did extremely well with at the Retired Racehorse Project "Thoroughbred Makeover". I had no idea that my hometown was also home base for a pro like her. Kudos to her accomplishments.

I did end up going to Tractor Supply around noon to pick up some treats and wrapping paper, I chose 3 different rolls of paper with either horse or vintage cowgirl pin up designs. And I got a new halter. My favorite halter unfortunately went missing, I'm still optimistic it will magically turn up again. But since its gone it gave me the perfect excuse to get the turquoise halter I've wanted but never purchased since it wasn't needed. I take meticulous care of all my stuff and I rarely have to replace any of it. 

Saturday me and the hubs piled in the truck along with the dog and went for a hike. We visited a new to us area of Pilot Mountain State Park. Its an annexed site about 20 miles from the main park and runs alongside the Yadkin River. We all had a nice time. I highly recommend visiting if you're in the area. There are horse trails here and a stable close by if you care to hang around overnight. Also close by is the Horne Farm Historical Homestead. It is state maintained as well and serves as an accurate example of a 1900 farm typical to the area. It was here that we met a herd of sheep (and two goats) and a feisty intact donkey. What is it about this trip? Weird that I keep running into the long ear varieties of equines that are just full of themselves. 

The sheep were hilarious.

All in all the Thanksgiving was nice. I have a lot of things to be thankful for. Now I'm home and its back to regular day to day. Time to prepare for Christmas also. I will be staying in town for Christmas. It will be nice to have a holiday ride. 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Arena Time for the Trail Pony

On Wednesday of this past week something odd happened. My daughter had a test in all her classes that day (poor thing), which meant no homework. And no colorguard after school. My daughter was free for the evening. And the arena was dry at the barn. Soooo...of course I recruit her to video a ride for me since I have no trainer observing whats going on with my riding. Not that we are in any sort of training regimen. But is it nice to know that your pony tries his best to respond to your aids and even though I can feel his response I want to see what we look like. 

First of all, Razz has essentially been a trail horse for almost two years. We enjoy an occasional jumping round but it's mostly been stress free sand kickin'. Don't expect to see a nice, round, compliant dressage pony. And if your the type to beat people up with comments insulting their eq then you can leave this blog now because I was 32 years old when I had my first legit dressage lesson and there's certain things about my self taught seat that just aren't gonna change at this point in the game. I know what my riding faults are concerning proper english flatwork, my previous trainer explained everything to me. That being said, let's carry on with how things went.

My horse hates flatwork with a passion. I believe it just bores him to no end. He loves to jump though. Once I got tacked up and in the ring we walked a couple laps in each direction to loosen up and let Razz get his mind in "arena mode". We've ridden in here only a handful of times. Most of the time the footing was super sloppy due to all the rain. And today there was a large rain cloud headed our way. I had about a half hour to get a good ride in. When I was ready to begin working I started on the left lead. That is my boy's better side. We trot a couple laps and I have to constantly bump him with my heels to keep him in a working pace. He gives me a hard time on the first pass of the in gate. We then do a few canter laps down the long side of the ring before having a couple 20 meter circles (or something resembling 20 meter circles) on the far end. After our circles we went down the long side again in an extended canter/hand gallop type of thing. I click to my pony for a trot and kiss for a canter so you will probably catch some of that in the audio.

I then switch my diagonal and whip for the right lead and we use the same pattern of trot, canter, 20 meter, and extended canter on this side. At one point a military jet flies over in this clip. There is a Marine Corps Air Station maybe 10 minutes from here and everyone (people, domesticated critters, & wildlife) is used to the heavy air traffic. 

The wind is picking up now, which means the rain cloud is getting closer and I decide we are ready to jump. Someone else had been in here recently popping over a few randomly placed obstacles. I left everything as it was and jumped the only pole actually set in standards. It was originally an oxer but the front pole was knocked down. I moved it and my sweater (tossed on the pole when I got warm) out of the way. Eyes up and canter, here we go. As we begin Razz is bouncy in the hind end and his tail is swishy. I know in his head he's thinking about a small buck but he doesn't give me one. We line up for the jump and I speak to him letting him know to get himself ready. There were some poles on the ground setting me up for a two stride take off. Razz is a notorious chipper and the ground poles really make a difference. I'm not sure how high the jump was, probably 2'6" give or take. We sailed right over. It felt really nice. We go around two more times. It's all about fun for us. 

We then trot a few more laps down the long side in either direction before cooling out. The first few sprinkles are coming when we head back to the barn. Razz isn't clipped and he's a bit sweaty. And his cooler is in my garage at home so I put him up in his stall to enjoy his fruit salad of carrots and apples. As he's munching i am brushing and toweling him off until I feel comfortable turning him back out. He will come in later for dinner but there's still a little time to enjoy with his pals in turn out. All in all I am happy with the ride. No we won't be picked to represent the U.S. in any format anytime soon, but that doesn't matter to me. I have a healthy pony, a nice farm to ride at, a daughter that doesn't mind accompanying me to the barn, and today life is good. After the barn we go to our favorite restaurant for dinner and bring something home for the hubs. And that rain cloud? Lets just say I made a good call riding on Wednesday, because Thursday we got 7 inches of rain.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Trail Magik?

Until this past week, I had ridden into the Croatan forest three times and all three times I entered through a gated ranger service road. It's easy enough for someone on foot or a horse to walk around the edge of the gate. This point is used by a lot of people to gain access to the woods. I have seen up to six vehicles parked in front of this gate before. Once your on the other side of the gate the road is heavily graveled and it sucks for the horses. Especially since everyone at the barn is unshod. I have always let Razz pick his own path on the shoulder of the road in this stretch. Better than going down the center but still large rocks are everywhere and clearly neither one of us enjoy it. I'm guessing the rocks stretch on for about 250 yards, and getting past them is totally worth it. 

This week I find out that a fellow boarder has discovered an alternate way into the Croatan that avoids most of the gravel. And once I hear this I am obsessed with finding out where the path is so I immediately plan a ride with her. We strike off around mid afternoon and take the usual route to the access point. The local farmers are kind enough to let us use their tractor paths to get to the woods. That's a huge help, otherwise we would have to take the shoulder of a main paved road. Once we're at the ranger gate I find out we DO have to take the shoulder of this main paved road for roughly 30-40 yards. I trust Razz with the traffic so I follow my friend and stay as far from the pavement as possible. The path cuts right into the thick forest, it's clear enough that we easily follow it but tight enough to be on constant tree limb guard. I am stoked as we walk along grabbing branches and discussing plans to come back with tools to clean the path up. 

I moved my horse on August 11th for the sole purpose of riding this forest, and it's only my fourth trip in. Rain (lots of rain), insects, and my daughter's schedule have kept me from being able to ride in here as much as I would like. This new trail is making life much easier for my pony and I'm happy. The path hooks around to the right and ends on the gravel road we're trying to avoid. We only have to use a small stretch of the nasty, rocky road before we get to the fun stuff. The gravel ends at a grassy opening and the wilderness begins here.

open, grassy area. This point of the forest is a little higher and doesn't tend to flood

We see a hunter on the other side of the clearing. He has a rifle slung over his right shoulder and a dog on a leash in his left hand, and as soon as he sees us he turns around and disappears back into the thicket he came out of. He had just arrived for an evening hunt. But it's Sunday and there is no hunting in here on Sunday. Legally. I don't feel bad at all for ruining his plans. This time of year he gets six days a week to hunt, I get one day a week to ride safely. Go home dude. My trail buddy and I chuckle about how quickly he left and we make our way further into the forest. The weather is perfect and I can tell both ponies are enjoying themselves also. 

hacking along nicely

Then we approach something strange on the trail. Now given all the miles I've hiked in the mountains I've seen my share of calling cards that previous hikers left to be admired or get you thinking. But something was different about this one. It instantly struck me as a symbol left by someone who follows a nature based religion. I have no idea what it is or who left it here. It could honestly be anything. But I can't imagine a hunter leaving this particular creation behind. My friend's horse spooked slightly when he saw it, Razz looked at it hard and snorted. We both rode by without disturbing it in any manner. It has bugged me all week as to what the hell this was.

We pass the symbol and continue on, getting into the thicker part of the trails. The land lays a little lower where the growth is thicker. There are four nice trail options from here. Each one is a great ride, and we find out one by one that each route is flooded. I can't believe this. We had 18 inches of rainfall in a storm almost two months back, but that should have been gone by now. Or so I thought. I am shocked by how long the standing water remains, and wondering how long it's gonna take to go away. We've been in the woods for maybe an hour before my riding buddy says she's ready to return to the barn. I was bummed that everything was wet but still glad to at least get in here. We turn around and head back toward the forest clearing.

back where we started
Not looking forward to the gravel, we decide to skirt the edge of the forest clearing just in case there's another trail hidden somewhere. And guess what? There was! In we go, the trail is rather dry and seems to be slowly looping back around to the original "new path" we took in. I'm hoping this is the case as it would mean a way in with no gravel at all, and (bonus) a much more scenic path. The trail just kinda fizzled out and we begin trucking along on no path at all. But it wasn't long before we did make our way back on to said "new path". Excellent! 

just before our newest path fizzles out, crossing some water

now we are completely off trail, trusting our sense of direction

My friend's horse was anxious to get home, as he is soured to his pasture mate (same owner, the two have lived together for 15 years). We came out of the forest on a mission and got back to the barn rather quickly. The whole time I'm thinking about when I can get back in and clean up the new entrance, and connect it to the fizzled out trail. We stopped long enough to have a look at the pigs. Razz has finally learned that cows and pigs aren't scary horse-eating monsters. 

Another trail ride on the books, I'm learning a little bit more about the area every time we go out. And enjoying every minute. 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

A Trip to the Sand Pits

We are getting our first real cold snap now. I guess it's par for the course, being mid November and all. The best part about it cooling off is the lack of insects. Prime forest riding season is just beginning. Another season that is just beginning? Hunting season. Deer hunting specifically. The Croatan can be hunted every day except Sunday, and quite a few people take advantage of this privilege. When hunting is an issue, but I still want to get in the woods, an alternative trail is the sand pits. That's what my husband and I refer to it as anyway. The rest of the boarders call it "the woods" but my husband used to go 4 wheeling on these same paths as a teenager and he says the neighborhood folk call it the sand pits. 

It was around 55 degrees out, and I am cold natured, so I put on my fleece Kerrits and headed off to the barn around 2 in the afternoon. I couldn't believe my eyes when Razz greeted me at the gate. I usually have to cross a huge pasture to grab him because his little herd likes to graze at the farthest point from the barn. Once I brought him in and started grooming I see he has acquired a few extra pounds lately. When did this happen Razz? I didn't notice it yesterday when I was holding you for the farrier. 

we may have to cut you back to half a scoop buddy

I finish my grooming ritual, which is very thorough and takes close to an hour, and get all tacked up. No saddle bags needed today because my husband is hiking with me. We both love to hike so it is not an issue to persuade him to join me. We leave the barn property when we cross the bridge over Shoe Branch.

this bridge is a really nice touch to the farm
It takes about 10 or 15 minutes to get to the sand pits on the shoulder of two paved roads. They aren't super busy with traffic but a lot of people drive fast. Fortunately the shoulder is large enough that I feel comfortable riding them. 

just making sure you're still back there babe :)

almost there, just ahead on the left

I get to the sand pit entrance first. My husband is always about 20 yards behind me. Which means even though we're together we are really on two different hikes, both lost in our own thoughts. The entrance is kinda dark. Razz marches right in just like a brave little trail pony should. 

we're goin' in (no his ears aren't funky, they're covered in bug repellent just in case)

From the moment you get in the woods its obvious why this is called the sand pits. Its a new growth forest, and its thriving in deep white sand. I'm guessing there are forty acres here, give or take. The bugs are almost nonexistent. Thank you cold snap :)

we're going left

Today the woods are quiet. Razz is doing his usual look and sniff as we walk along. The sand is good footing to ride when you're horse is barefoot. I used to keep him shod all the way around but the new barn doesn't allow shoes. I will probably pick up some easyboots or something similar before its all said and done. For now we are good though. As I ride the thought of how chubby my pony has gotten enters my mind again. Looking down at his sides I can't help but notice the small trace of appaloosa in his winter coat. A few white spots above the big whorl on his hind quarters. They are on both sides, but the chestnut is drowning them out this time of year. Summer coat has way more white flecking on his rumps, but still not enough to make a legit appy blanket.

good pony

the only trace of his appy roots
There are several trails that fork left and right, sometimes you get to intersections with three options. Anyone coming in here the first time needs a guide and a good sense of direction to make it easy on themselves in the future. We covered a few dead end trails, and I whistled loudly just in case there was a hunter hidden somewhere. Eventually we came back around to the main loop trail. To loop around without backtracking the same route we have to skirt across the edge of an apartment complex. The land the apartments are on used to be part of the woods. They were built about five years ago. A group of skateboarders was in the parking lot and they seemed a little shocked to see me and Razz pop out of the woods. We cut across, no problem.

coming up on the apartments

just passing thru

and headed back into the woods

We get back into the woods and continue on our way. There are lots of deer tracks and shoe prints in the sand here. There are deer prints all over the woods, but shoe prints only in this area. I figure it is apartment dwellers walking their dogs but strangely there are no dog prints. I begin whistling once more. Better safe than sorry. By now its roughly 4:30 and the deer become active around this time. So do the hunters. There aren't supposed to be any hunters in here but someone could go rogue, you never know.  The husband is still trucking right along too, on his own quest scanning the path for sharks teeth.

yep, still back there

At this point Razz picks up the pace a little bit. It's the headed home walk that all horseback riders are familiar with. The sun is getting lower in the sky. I am not ready to leave the solace of the woods quite yet, so I soak up the last half mile I have left in here. Eventually we make our way back to the beginning of the loop trail and out of the sand pits.

the beginning of the loop, going right is the trail we just covered, straight leads out

out of the sand pits, back onto paved roads
For a good portion of our ride back to the barn I was on the buckle. My pony felt really good stretched out underneath me. He maintained his homeward bound pace, but never broke a walk. I love him. Once we leave the road I use a grassy path that runs alongside Razz's pasture to get back to the barn. The sun is really starting to set and it casts a nice glow. Razz calls out to his herd letting them know he's back. I thank mother nature for her gift of a beautiful day and pleasant ride in the woods. We cross the bridge and our ride has come to an end. The hubs goes on up to the truck and tailgates while I untack and feed my pony his fruit salad treat of carrots and apples before turning him out with his buddies. 
coming home on the buckle

almost back, what a lovely evening