Saturday, April 30, 2016

Finding the Threshold

When we last discussed Razz, he was sore from all the work we had been doing and he'd acquired a couple noteworthy battle scars during turnout, the worst being a huge whelp on his neck. The whelp was firm and had perfectly shaped teeth marks all around it. I've never seen a bite quite like that one before. It wasn't bad enough to make an emergency vet call. But it was unsightly as hell. I assumed the area was just super traumatized and swollen, and would disappear in a few days. 

That was a Sunday.

I left for Ohio on Tuesday, returned the following Monday. Got home, dumped my bags, hit the road again to go check on the boy.

He was fat and happy, and the whelp was still there. It was shaped slightly different than before, as if gravity were pulling it down. And it was now kind of squishy. Then I realized it was a hematoma. I have seen large hematomas before but they were gone within a matter of days. Why was this one hanging around so long? Was there a main vessel in there still torn, leaking slowly?

I sent the vet an email with a brief description and a few pics. She said I shouldn't worry too much. Even so, I kept rides short and the work load light in case the damn thing were to open up again. It did eventually go down after another week and a half. 

During that week and a half Razz got a fresh trim from the farrier and a spring check up from the vet. All the shots, coggins, teeth and sheath. It took five doses of sedation to get Mr. Man through. He wasn't fighting the procedure, just the drowsiness. Razz is a type A. I'm certain he doesn't like feeling so vulnerable. His visit was in the aisle of the upper barn. One of the horses stalled in there reached over and simply sniffed of the side of Razz's rump, causing him to jump and squeal like a little girl. He would never have acted like that if he were sober. 

The vet that came out was a new partner to the practice I've used for years. She really liked my boy and kept commenting on his facial markings, personality, and long thick tail. I discussed all my concerns about his diet, body condition and the loss of his top line. She thought he looked to be in really good shape for seventeen. She'd have guessed he was somewhat younger. This made my day. His top line is on par for his age. 

And Razz's medical records and coggins are electronic now, accessible online through an account I create on the vet's website. If I need a copy of my coggins I log in and print one out. And no more generic horse with Razz markings drawn in at the bottom of the page. Nope, now its legit iPhone pics. Who else has digital vet files? Are we late to the party or ahead of the curve here in eastern NC?   

Now that we had fresh feet and a clean bill of health it was time to get back to serious riding. Hehe. Serious riding. That's almost funny coming from my mouth compared to some of you guys. 

This past Saturday morning the hubs joined me on a ride in the sand pits. He did his usual hike behind us. Most of the time this ends up getting on my nerves because he is easily distracted and I end up having to wait on him to catch up to me the whole ride. It's been so long since he came out that I didn't mind having to wait this time. And can you believe he found a five dollar bill lying on the ground? I rode right past it. 

everything is so green in the sand pits now
The air was fresh. The woods were so pleasant. The sky was so blue. Pony was in an excellent mood. I couldn't have had a better ride that day. And since we've been doing more jumping in the ring, Razz is taking it upon himself to jump things he could easily walk over/across. More power to him, I don't mind at all. 

the wildflowers are taking over this field
On the way home we stopped by the seafood market to pick up some local yellow fin tuna and had the best dinner. We blackened the fish outside and all the neighbors were jealous. Perfect ending to a perfect day.

Sunday morning comes and I'm back at the barn first thing. Meeting up with a friend this time, and we're headed into the Croatan. I'm beginning to feel as if our Croatan rides are numbered. The insects will be ruthless soon. So I am taking every opportunity I can to get in there. 

The horses' bombproofing skills were put to the test before we even got to the forest. As we passed through one of the small farms along the way, there was a running sprinkler mounted on a four foot pole, complete with all the scary horse eating sounds that sprinklers make. We both marched right on by, both ponies giving the water spraying monster a hard look in passing. Yay for safe passage.

At this point we are roughly half way over to the forest and approaching the fenced edge of some dude's back yard who has a large yellow lab. This lab always runs to the fence barking. Today, no dog. He stayed on the back porch and never made a sound. Huh? That's completely out of this dog's character. My riding buddy and I were just beginning to chat about how strange the fenced dog was acting when out of no where a second, unfenced dog begins to approach. It was a large grey and white pit bull. I have no preconceived notions about pits, each is natured differently and I've known plenty that were loyal lifelong partners. But this pit was approaching with his chest out and his tail straight up in the air, only the tip swinging back and forth. Correct me if I'm wrong but last time I checked that was considered aggressive body language. Great.

I was bringing up the rear. The pit approached us from a wide angle and came up behind me but stayed a good ten feet back. He sniffed the air and trotted along behind us for a few steps, then cut left and went back in the direction he came from. As he was leaving I spoke kindly and told him what a good dog he was, and he looked back as if he were saying "whatever lady". We got lucky. Regardless of the breed, a loose dog situation can go bad quickly.

Carrying on, we make it into the Croatan just fine. It's been a month since I've been in here. Things are starting to get a little thicker in places with all the spring growth. The spiders are building webs again and my face is finding them. The ground is beginning to soak up a lot of the standing water that has plagued us all winter. We decide to take a trail that heads north west and follows the railroad tracks for a while before snaking off into the wilds. 

I'm not sure if I've mentioned them before, but there are a few homeless people that live in the forest. I don't know why they would choose to set up their "homes" all the way out here when there are several options for them between here and town. They don't bother anyone. I'm pretty sure the forest service knows about them, all the locals I've spoken to know exactly who I'm talking about when I ask questions. 

Anyway, this trail we were taking has a "home" on it, although none of us riders have ever seen anyone occupying the site. Until today. Someone was home and they were taking a piss when we came around the corner. Both of us immediately turned our horses around and got out of his field of vision before he knew we were there. Then we started complaining, having wanted to take that particular trail and now our plans were ruined. The trail literally goes right by the front door. I just don't feel comfortable riding that close. He could be drunk (there are tons of beer cans around that camp) and have a weapon. He might not be hitting on all six cylinders, I don't know. What I do know is I'm not going thru when he's home. 

On our way back out we come to a clearing and skirt around the edge of the tree line rather than staying on trail in an effort to appease our urge to explore. And seemingly out of the blue, an old path was barely noticeable over in the corner of the clearing. The angle it cut into the woods made it almost impossible to see. Off we go. I don't know how far down the path we went. Not too far. It took us into what I call a fairy forest. It was different from the rest of the woods. It wasn't a pine savannah. It definitely wasn't pocosin. It was full of very tall but super skinny pines growing close together, and all over the ground were these super green primitive fern looking plants. 

It was beautiful. Just beautiful.

We both stood in disbelief. Taken aback by the surprise and the beauty of it all. It seemed a little more quiet in here (aside from Razz chomp chomping on the bit). The ambiance was slightly magical indeed, just like you'd expect a fairy forest to feel. The green color of the ferns was so vibrant, nothing else in the forest is that color green. 

Once we got over the initial surprise we began to walk around and get familiar with our new discovery. The fairy forest is probably a little smaller than a full acre. Some one came in and built a ladder for hunting season out of timbers they scavenged. Looks like we're not the only ones who know about this place.

A small single track leads us out the opposite side of the fairy forest into more of the typical pocosin growth. The trail gets progressively wider as we go, eventually turning back into a four wheeler path. Okay, those four wheelers did not use the path we were just on, so we are about to tie into another trail system. Hell yeah.

And we end up on the power lines. This is the best thing ever. You see, there is a trail that cuts off the power lines and opens up a whole other wing of the forest. An area that no one at the barn has ever ridden. This trail is visible on google maps. However we can't access it because the power lines stay flooded out and impassable. At this point I was thanking the vagrant that made us turn around. Without him standing in the way we would never have turned around, never found the fairy forest or the power lines. 

Now time to find the white rabbit. The trail I've wanted to ride for so long. I can see water off in the distance in either direction underneath the power lines. Hopefully the trail's in the dry area in between. First we go right, thinking farther back into the woods and away from civilization. And we go as far as we can, all the way to the water and a little bit beyond. No sign of the trail. Damn. Its depressing, I just knew it would be this way. But I'm not giving up yet. We go in the other direction, what would originally have been a left. Again all the way to the water. No real trails in that direction. Only one overgrown, unassuming deer path that is too thick to bother. Feeling defeated and left with nothing else to explore, we turn around and head for home, hitting a couple smaller trails on the way out that we didn't use earlier.

just a couple more pics on the way out

You can bet your ass as soon as I got home I was on google maps looking for any trace of the new trail I was just on and how close (or far away) it was to the trail no one can ever find. And here is what I saw:

The wide space up the middle is the power line. Trail on the right going into the woods leads back to the fairy forest. Just below it on the left, the gap in the trees, that's the fuckin trail I've been looking for. The threshold to the other side was right there in front of me. It was the overgrown, unassuming deer path.

I can't get that trail off my mind. I was right there. The more I think about it, the more it becomes the entrance to Narnia. If I peel back the overgrowth it's the same as digging in between the coats in the wardrobe. I will be back out there this weekend. 

The above image shows the trails I know and ride in solid line, the Narnia trails are dotted lines. The new trail and fairy forest are located at the heavy black line in the center. And I popped a little squirrel face in there to hide the highway number, just because this is the internet and all, & you never can take too many precautions with identifying information.

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