Thursday, June 24, 2010

Monsters in the cornfield

The cornfield is suspect.

He Who Walks Between The Rows may be watching, waiting, licking his lips in anticipation of sweet horse flesh.

The cornfield is especially worrisome when it just kind of pops up out of nowhere and changes the entire familiar scenery. It might even send a silly thoroughbred in to spasms of absolute terror.

Once again I was up with the sun and on my beast. This time, I had company. My youngest daughter cheerfully got up with me and was riding Chief bareback. He's such a gem and worth twice his weight in gold.

We did a few minutes of warm-up arena work and headed on out for a quick trail ride before I had to leave for work.

Down the driveway and into the woods we went, Gabe looking at everything, spooking at bunnies, ears flipping all over the place, mouth foaming like crazy, working that bit like a wad of Juicy Fruit and a whole lot of bouncy, bouncy Tigger-like action in his step. I swear he installed springs on his hooves over night.

Yesterday I mentioned to someone that Gabe has two personalities: He either is on his best behavior and takes care of me or he flips a switch and tries to kill me. You never really know what you're going to get. It's just goofy thoroughbred stuff, nothing malicious and actually, I enjoy the challenge he presents each and every day.

Today he was in kill me mode.

The last time I took him out along the driveway the corn was knee-high. We have corn fields along the driveway and corn fields across the road.

This time it was well over his head. The heat and the rain have done enormous favors for the corn!

He didn't like that ONE BIT. Wide-eyed and snorty, bouncy, bouncy, dancing sideways, wiggle-worming all around the place with every breeze that rustled the leaves and gave him peeks of the monsters lurking behind the rows.

Then he suddenly realized the scenery across the road had changed. He could no longer see for miles and miles across open, flat fields. It was a wall of waving, rustling, terrifying green.

He freaked out. Spin and run AWAY! Ok. You want to be a turd? Fine. Circle, circle, circle you big nutjob. I could feel him shaking beneath me and he grew from 16.2hh to about 18hh. Then, he refused to budge. Would NOT go forward towards the Great Wall of Corn and the menace lurking behind the rows. Would not turn. Just stood. And stared. And slobbered.

The ride ended up longer than I'd intended, but with persistence and patience, we slowly edged our way up to the corn: Two steps forward...four steps back, spin and snort. When we finally made it to the edge of the field I let him take a bite of a stalk and that eased his silly little mind. Typical over his mind through his stomach.

Thankfully Chief just stood staring at Gabe's antics like he'd lost his mind. Which he kinda had. I'm pretty sure I saw Chief sigh and shake his head a few times, an old geezer fed up with teenage behavior. Thank goodness Chief is as non-reactive and quiet as he is or poor Kayleigh would have either ended up in the dirt or been a little mad at me for making her ride less than enjoyable.

So, we have defeated the Cornfield Monster and the Gates To Hell. I wonder what's next on our "OH MY GOD!! INSTANT DEATH!" list of things to conquer? hehe!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

O'dark Thirty

Funny how early 5 a.m. seems to come. And how hard it is to get out of bed when the sun is barely peeking above the horizon. But, get out of bed I did to get into my breeches and boots and take the big guy out for a spin.

It was still a bit hot and humid out even at that early hour, but far less oppressive than waiting until evening. But it heated up FAST. By the time the sun was fully visible I could feel the temperature rising minute by minute and I was so glad I got up before the sun.

That horse is definitely an ex-racehorse. He loves his morning workouts and really listens better in the morning. But he also showed me exactly why he is an EX-racehorse.

What a lazy bones booger-head he was! Drag, drag, drag along. Shuffle those feet, amble the walk. Seriously. I thought I was riding a dead-broke, 30-year-old quarter horse or something. My legs got a serious workout just keeping him moving! And of course, I forgot to grab my dressage whip because I was in such a rush to get up and get riding before I had to leave for work.

All in all, it was a good ride. I squeezed him up into a trot and he offered a very nice canter instead, so I went with it and just let him go. I figured if he was gonna be a lazy-pants, I'd let him give me as much forward movement as he wanted to give! Such a glorious canter he has, too. Ground-eating, smooth, delicious and addictive.

I only worked him for just about 45 minutes. It was starting to get hot and I didn't want to push him too much. Our last 15 minutes or so was spent on lateral work and moving away from my leg as soon as I ask. No ifs, ands or buts about it. If he feels my leg tapping, he'd better ask how far and how fast before he asks why should I? Our little telephone pole/truck episode made me realize I really, really need to work his booty off on the lateral/move away from my leg stuff. I've let it slide for too long and now I need to get it done and get it done right before we do anything else.

The morning ride brought back some delightful memories. When I was in high school, living in Kansas, I'd get up at the butt-crack of dawn during the summer so I could ride before the heat became unbearable. Sometimes, I'd get up and ride before school too. A fabulous way to start the day!

Those were some of the best rides ever. I'd take my little mare, Sunny, out for a gallop. No endless circles or dressage or silly arena work for us. We'd run and jump anything in our path: Logs, ditches, downed trees, discarded railroad ties, tires, hay bales in the field. We jumped a little junked car before the weeds grew up around it and hid it from view. Sometimes bareback. Sometimes bareback with just a halter and leadrope. Sometimes we'd go down to the river for a swim. I wasn't SUPPOSED to, but I did any way. I cherish those memories and that wonderful little mare. She never asked why should I? She just did. Everything I asked, she never balked and we had some of the best times ever.

One day Gabe will get past the why should I? phase and we can start filling our own book full of delightful memories and experiences.

Monday, June 21, 2010

When it's scorching

Holy wow it's hot. Really, really hot. Excessive heat warning hot, horses standing around sweating hot. Water tanks bath-water warm by the end of the day.

What do you do when it's so hot you barely want to step outside yet you absolutely long to ride? Smart people get up with the sun to ride.

Not so smart people complain about not being able to ride because it's too bloody hot.

Guess what category I'm in?

Yeah. The not so smart one. I keep meaning to get up at the buttcrack of dawn to get a ride in while it's still bearable out. But that dang snooze button is far too close to my bed to make a 5 a.m. ride reality very often. I've only managed it a couple of times and each time I've been so pleased with myself and had such a wonderful ride.

Instead I get home from work in the afternoon and watch my horses graze, wishing I could ride. Wanting to go for a gallop and feel the wind blowing across my face. I'd say through my hair, too, but I'm just old enough to know I'm no longer invincible and I always wear my hard hat.

The horses are gross. I think they'll all get showers tonight. I may not be able to ride, but I sure can cool 'em off and clean 'em up. Last night they came in from the pasture dripping with sweat and of course, my sweet, gray darling found the muddiest spot he could locate in his paddock and rolled. He is now dirt-colored and crusty. Ugh. But the bonus is he's so gross the flies can't tell where the ground ends and he begins. Nasty beast.

I always have mineral blocks out for them but during the summer, they get electrolytes in their evening feed too. I just don't think they are able to lick enough salt off those blocks to make up for what they are losing standing out there dripping. As much as the heat sucks, I'll take the heat over the endless mud any day of the year!

Happy trails...I hope I'm out there on them bright and early tomorrow morning!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Gates to Hell

Gabe wants me to tell you: Telephone poles are the gateways to hell and I am the devil incarnate.

Just so you know. Because he's still a bit peeved with me I do believe.

It was again a nice early morning ride. The arena work: Mostly workmanlike and fabulous. He did a little bit of playing around in the beginning but nothing unexpected and nothing I couldn't deal with. The arena was still a bit muddy so we did some big circle trot work, some lateral work and practiced transitions and length of stride within the gaits. We did no cantering because he still gets a little squirrely on circles and I didn't really want us to end up on our butts in the mud because he couldn't keep his legs under him on the corners.

So, out we go, down my driveway and along the back road. Which is rarely traveled, especially early in the morning. We walked and trotted a bit and he was good. Neck stretched down, back up, hind end working like a well-oiled machine, looking around but listening. Snorting at quail and rabbits, but paying attention to me.

In the distance I could see a truck rumbling towards us. A good-sized pickup. First vehicle we'd seen that morning so I scooted him way over into the ditch along the road. The grass has not been cut yet this year so it's high enough to tickle his belly and, well, hide things.

The truck is still coming at us and I spotted them as soon as Gabe did. A double whammy. A pair of telephone poles lying partially hidden across the ditch in the deep grass.

With flapping orange ribbons tied to them and a plastic bag caught on the edge of one of them, moving like a demented amoeba in the breeze.

I could almost hear him thinking: "THE GATES TO HELL!!! RUN SIDEWAYS NOW!!!" He had himself so convinced he could most likely smell the sulfur-breathing demons within, waiting to devour his sweet horsey flesh.

Oh. Crap. I felt him tense and grow about 6 inches taller so I laid a leg on him to keep him from scooting into the road and into the path of that oncoming truck.

That turd blew right through my leg and right in front of the truck while giving those horse-eating telephone poles gigantic googly eyes and big snorty nostrils.

Thank goodness I live on a road where most motorists are used to seeing walkers, bikers or riders on the shoulder.

With a big, dumbass Thoroughbred blowing through my aids I decided my only option was to wave my arms and my dressage whip around in the air like a lunatic and hope the driver recognized my attempt at a "SLOW DOWN!" signal for what it was.

She did. She hit those brakes hard, squealed the tires a bit and put my heart in my throat where it nearly strangled me. I couldn't breath.

We didn't get hit. That would have been painful and probably messy and would have ruined my whole day.

After she passed us the road was quiet and empty again and I turned to tackle those poles. Because spooking at poles and blowing through my leg is absolutely unacceptable and dangerous. Period. End of story.

He thought his work was over. He thought we were just out for a nice, relaxing ride.

He had another think coming.

Because for the next 25 minutes we went over, around and along those telephone poles until all he wanted to do was sit down on one and catch his everlovin' breath.

Telephone poles are no longer the gates to hell.

But I'm pretty sure I'm now his version of Satan.