Monday, December 31, 2012

Snow riding

We got snow over the weekend! Yay! I much prefer the ground be frozen and covered in the white stuff than the mucky yucky mud we usually slog through most of the winter.

It's been a number of years since we've had enough snow on the ground to really go out and have a fun "snow ride." This time we did and I rode in it. Funny how riding in the snow, listening to the squeak and swish of the snow beneath your horse's hooves and feeling that brisk, snow-scented wind against your face brings back memories.

It quickly brought back memories of riding in Kansas when I was a child. Kansas gets some serious snow and huge drifts and we always took advantage of those snow days off school to go galloping through it or tying a disk sled to the western saddle horn on my pony, Blaze, and racing all over the place with one of us terrified on the sled and the other on the pony with one goal in mind: Get the sledder OFF the sled in the most obnoxious way possible. Dumping the sledder into a deep drift was one of my favorite methods. Oh, the memories! 

The snow this weekend excited me. I was really, really ready to go for a good hell-bent for leather gallop through the white stuff and I think Gabe would have gladly and eagerly obliged, but somehow, age and maturity has clouded my brain with sensibility, and racing through a field covered in snow didn't seem like the smartest, safest thing to do upon my steed. In my teens and early 20s I would have thought nothing of it and just did it with a whoop and a holler and a grin plastered across my cold-reddened face. Now, I think of the holes and uneven surfaces hidden beneath that smooth layer and imagine a twisted leg or painful fall by both of us.

Sometimes, getting older and more mature sucks.

We did have fun, even without riding hell-bent and whooping through the fields. We trotted and cantered through the snow and just had a really good time. The kiddo rode the rotten pony (Little Lou), and Jacquie joined us on Teddy and we giggled and trotted and thoroughly enjoyed our ride. Kayleigh rode Lou bareback, her first foray off-property on him bareback and he was a gem.

The snow was heavy and wet and clung to tree branches, which turned out to be quite amusing. Did you know that if you're on the tallest horse, and a shorter horse is following closely behind, that you can grab a high branch  as you pass under the tree and ALL that snow will fall on the rider behind you? It does! Poor Teddy, he was absolutely covered in snow by the time we got through the woods! Jacquie even managed to get some down her pants, to our great amusement.

Our horses put up with such nonsense from us sometimes, but I do think they had fun, too. Snorty, happy horses out playing in the snow.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Longer days

Dec. 21, Winter solstice, the longest night and shortest day of the year has come and gone (and we're still here! Take that, Mayans.) The day depresses me and gives me hope all at once. The day brings the promise that soon, there will be plenty of sunshine once again but, I also want to curl up under a toasty blanket and refuse to emerge until the daffodils poke their heads out of the ground.

But, I have horses to feed and care for and they would get pretty cranky if I ignored them until spring. We've been very fortunate this year, so far. Aside from some very, very strong winds and a little bit of sleet, we've yet to see any significant winter-like weather 'round these parts. *knock on wood!*

Do you know what else the Winter Solstice brings? A slow but steady march towards longer days and shorter nights, a very good thing!

We have made it through three long months of increasing darkness and are now again in the final stretch towards driving home from work in increasing light. I'm thankful and grateful for my arena lights, but I sure do miss riding in the sun.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The TNT under me

Most days Gabe is fairly laid back during our rides, sometimes, even downright plodding. I'm not complaining. I've had the horses who were sky-high the entire ride and you spend all of your time trying to get them to a quieter happy place so you can actually accomplish something, anything. The constant jig, jig, jigging some horses are so good at drives me crazy. Doing that day in and day out becomes tedious and is, quite frankly, not very much fun.

I do enjoy a horse with pep, for sure. I prefer a bit of pep and enthusiasm over ultra laziness. It keeps things interesting.

Gabe, in his infinite Thoroughbred wisdom, gives me both from time to time: The jig, jig, jigging and ultra plod. Sometimes, all in the same ride. I think he's bi-polar.

I can tell the heat is off in this part of the country. As soon as it started staying cooler (COLD!) more consistently, Gabe's energy level sky rocketed to what most people expect from a Thoroughbred.

Have you ever sat on a powder keg with a very short fuse? Exciting, isn't it? You never know when that thing's gonna BLOW!

That's how riding Gabe the last couple of days has been. Our nights have been below freezing, our days, just as chilly. And as soon as the chill is on, Gabe's fuse is lit. I always know when our ride is going to be stratospherically "fun" when we start the ride with him tossing his head and squealing while throwing in a few energetic crow hops. Exciting, I tell ya! I'm instantly "on my toes" and on the lookout for all the things that could suddenly appear and threaten to eat him. That mailbox that was just fine and benign two rides ago has suddenly sprouted flesh-tearing fangs and is whispering sweet gonna-eat-ya's in horse-flesh tainted breath to Gabe. He just KNOWS it. And he's ready to react.

He was a powder keg lined with TNT Wednesday. As soon as I got on I could feel that energy just waiting to explode, then, the head toss, squeal and leaping, firmly cemented in my mind that this would be a ride with me sitting in a half-seat at the ready for anything he could throw my way.

He was full of himself, but, still, well behaved for a Thoroughbred with an over-abundance of energy. We did a good, forward trot for a bit over a half mile and he was still full of himself but staying under control. He occasionally objected to the staying under control part with a squeal, head toss and Tigger bounce, but he didn't do anything crazy-stupid. Thank goodness. The coolest thing ever? I could really feel him round up and lift his back for more than half the ride and lift it more than he's ever lifted it before, both at the walk and the trot. It's an amazing feeling when a horse rounds properly beneath you and you can feel so much more horse ready and at your disposal. Pure pleasure and joy.

The rides only prove to me how very far we have come. Two years ago he would have been GONE, with or without me still in the saddle. And rounding? Forget about it.

I can handle (and I admit, even welcome!) the occasional excess-energy goofiness. It keeps things interesting. As long as I don't have to ride a jig, jig, jigging horse for five miles before we get a single walk stride, life is good. And boy, do I LOVE feeling all that athleticism and power right there at my disposal...all I have to do is ask for it and he'd give me all he's got with pure joy and boundless enthusiasm.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Eager to GO!

Remember last year when I was having a heck of a time convincing His Majesty to even get near my trailer, much less put a single hoof into its scary interior?

That was frustrating. I worked and worked and worked with him and while we had some forward progress, he was still balking every time he saw the trailer, even if it was just us riding near it. He was still flying out of it backwards before he ever got all the way on and when he did get two feet on, he'd stand there and shake before flying backwards.

I'm am so, so pleased to report I now have another, more positive "problem."

I can't keep Gabe away from the dang thing when it's pulled out into the driveway, hooked up to the truck and the back gate wide open.

I have to fight him to convince him to NOT go charging into the thing, I have to walk him in circles to keep him from leaping aboard while we wait for Teddy to get loaded and situated in the trailer.

Last weekend we took them out and he was so eager to jump aboard he just about pulled me off my feet in his need to load up and go.

This makes me happy. Very happy! Not only did he get over his irrational fear of the trailer, he has also come to associate the trailer with good things. Which means he must really enjoy our outings. Yay! I must have done something right!