Saturday, February 11, 2017

My First Warmblood

As mentioned a few posts ago, I finally got to ride a warmblood for the first time. Riding instructor A invited me over to her place to give him a try. The lesson went well, as in I didn't come off of him. That was a legit worry because when she first told me about him last year one of the first things she mentioned was a "wicked spook". 

I haven't been riding any horse other than Razz for years now. Before Razz I owned the most athletic little arab known to mankind, and talk about a wicked spook. He could move so fast you almost wondered if he simply teleported twenty feet sideways. His spooks benefitted my riding exponentially, and I got to experience the warmblood spooks a couple times during my lesson. Let's just say those were nothing compared to the arab, but more about that in a moment...

I arrived at A's farm at 4:30 on a Wednesday afternoon. She and fiance just moved in to their spread, literally. They have acres of fenced paddocks, a tack room and a camper. They had been doing land prep all day and A had gone to return the heavy equipment they'd rented, so her fiance gave me the quick tour of their place. They own the coolest pig ever. Her name is Layla and she has the temperment of a dog. I scratched her all over, and when I stopped and took a few steps away she followed and leaned into my leg begging for more. So I scratched her some more and this time she rolled over for belly rubs.

Love that pig!!

But it was time to meet my equine partner for the evening. My guy was in a paddock toward the edge of their property along with two cob sized paints. Warmblood was standing at the gate waiting. He thought it was feed time. I walked in and let him sniff my hand before giving him a couple scritches on his noggin. Then I scratched the crest of his neck and withers and had a small chat with him. I think A's fiance was expecting me to just walk in and grab him but I don't roll like that with a new-to-me horse. I like for horses I handle to feel comfortable with me from the beginning and I always go for the withers and extended silly conversation first. I could tell he was a chill guy, and after a couple minutes I was ready to halter him & he willingly dropped his head right in. 

I started grooming and it wasn't much longer before A showed up. We talked about his history in depth. She'd told me a bit about him before. Warmblood is 11 years old and came from Connecticut. He was living in Raleigh with his owner when he developed an issue in one of his eyes. I believe the eye thing was a bit more than his owner wanted to deal with, however she didn't want to sell him. So A agreed to take him on a free lease and keep him in work. The eye issue has been watched by a vet for a while now. It's basically a tiny grey scar on an otherwise healthy eye. He can see around it but yes, it does block some of his vision. The condition doesn't cause the horse any discomfort. Instructor A has had him for over a year, but since she doesn't own him and I don't know his owner, he will remain as "the Warmblood" on my blog. 

While grooming him I couldn't help but notice how flat his back was. It was a beautiful thing. My pony has ZERO top line and a looong spine that's no where near as nice as Warmblood's. I got tacked up and we began our lesson. Instructor A has no arena yet so we rode in the small grass field next to the tack room. This damn field was honestly a pain in the ass. Rain soaked the entire east of NC the weekend prior and even though there wasn't any standing water, everywhere we stepped we were basically digging holes. You could hear the grass roots ripping under the pressure of his steps. The footing affected the entire lesson. I don't really feel as if I learned anything on this ride, but I did get to know WB so that is a win, right?

We walked around for less than five minutes before A told me to pick up the trot. I was riding apprehensively, being on a new pony and the thought of a wicked spook never far from my mind. He has a wonderful trot. I had to remind myself to breathe to stay loose. This is probably one my biggest struggles in riding. Bracing for any fucked up footing didn't help either. We picked up canter not long after that. Eventually WB started testing my geometry, deciding he wasn't in the mood to bend, and instead of nice 20 meter circles he was just gonna go large. As I became more comfortable on the new guy I began to ride him more aggressively. Which is what I should have been doing from the very start. 

The lesson lasted an hour and the sun was well below the horizon when we finished. Like i mentioned earlier, I did get two spooks. But they weren't wicked, not like hot arab wicked. I sat them quite well, and honestly he gives a split second's notice that it's coming. I popped him over some tiny verticals toward the end. His jump is complete opposite of Razz. Warmblood was just as cuddly after the lesson as he was before, so I was happy that he didn't hold a grudge against any horrible eq I might have offered up. I plan on riding him more in the future, but he will be coming to my farm until instructor A finishes her ring. 

Above are a couple shots taken one right after the other. This was during our first trot lap so please try not to cringe at my position. It was so nice to feel such a floaty trot underneath me. I will learn how to ride this trot well!! Stay tuned for more Warmblood adventures in the future :)

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Time Has Come

When I decided to move barns a year and a half ago a big part of that decision was trail access. I picked my current barn because it's right across the way from the Croatan forest. Once Razz was moved in I found out about another small trail access, the sand pits. I call it's between 40 and 50 acres...that is very small compaired to the thousands of acres in the national forest. However, when riding in the sand pits it really doesn't seem that small. There are several different paths to choose from and if you don't know the way around in there it would be incredibly easy to get turned around or lost. 

One of my first blog entries was titled A Trip to the Sand Pits and it documented my first ride through the pits without any other riders. At the time I didn't realize I was only riding half of the woods. Later on I would discover the second half, and grow to love this little patch of trees just as much as it's larger, federally protected neighbor. 

One morning not long after moving Razz, I was doing my normal thing, drinking coffee and getting ready for work with the local news on tv. In passing through the room I glanced at the tv screen and thought to myself "that looks just like the front section of the sand pits". So I stopped and paid attention to the story, and ended up finding out the small town the sand pits are in was going to have a city council meeting on annexing the woods, raising local taxes to install infrastructure, and building approximately 300 homes in there. I posted about that as well. 

To say the least, I was shocked. After discussing this with the barn owner I found out that not only were the woods in the development plan. The fields behind the barn were included in phase two of the project. Yes, the huge bean and corn fields I talk about riding in. The other side of the bridge pictured in my first sand pits post rests on this phase two property. Meaning we won't even have access to the Croatan anymore without  a) riding in someone's backyard (assuming they don't fence their yards)  b) heading over on the main road which has almost no shoulder and tons of traffic  or c) riding through the large turnout pastures and dealing with loose horses etc.

Obviously where there's a will, there's a way, and we'd find a way to make this work. But loosing the sand pits is a huge blow to us riders. I never heard any more news about the development until late summer of last year. The project was approved, the same developer of the apartments next to the sand pits would be in charge of new housing construction. When the rental apartments were built, an adjoining development of nice duplexes were also put up. The duplexes were purchased, not rented, and they had two units left to sell. As soon as those sold construction would begin on the houses. The duplexes had been built a few years prior and I kept my fingers crossed that those last two would just continue to sit empty.

Then around October (??) we started seeing bright orange ribbons tied to certain trees in the sand pits. Other trees had been blazed with purple paint, including some trees around the bean field. I have no idea what each marking indicated. But I did know it was most definitely related to construction. These were the first actual signs of the project and things really began to sink in. 

Since the new year I've been riding almost exclusively in the arena and had no idea what was going on in the woods. The other trail riders had told me the land was beginning to be cleared. They'd heard heavy equipment on the back side of the sand pits, and out next to the main road everyone could see a small area where the equipment was being parked. This weekend I rode in to get a first hand look. The front part of the sand pits was more or less undisturbed. The second half was a different story:

After seeing this I wanted to vomit. 

This post comes on the heels of Sarah's post about road construction through a peice of her farm. The hills of SW VA are absolutely gorgeous. I've driven a handful of people through that part of the country for their first time and they always, always comment on just how beautiful it is. It is a real shame that things like this happen, and I hope the best possible outcome for Sarah, but such is the way of "progress". If there are tax dollars to be made, the natural world will always loose out.

So here we are. The sand pits are officially being bulldozed.