Thursday, February 20, 2014

Knee Deep Snow Rides

Mike and I have been getting the horses out quite a bit in the most recent dump of snow. We've had a blast, too!

The evening of the 12th, we took them on a very impromptu night ride. It was 7p or so when we headed out to see them. I wanted to make sure they were standing, that there were no rips in blankets, and that they were cozy and comfortable beneath the blankets. Additionally, I wanted to give them a nice warm mash.

The addition of mashes each visit is really increasing Q's interest in me. Griffin has always neighed from the field upon my arrival, used to come to a whistle, still walks to meet me if not wait for me at the gate. Q? I have to walk every last step to reach her. Often she won't look up at me until last minute. And frequently she walks lazily away from me for about a dozen strides, enough to make a point that she's not thrilled about the prospect of coming in.

However, with mashes introduced to the routine the following is now occurring: My car pulls in and Q quits paying attention to whatever she is doing to follow my approach. She stares at me until I get out. Occasionally she nickers or neighs from the field when I get out of the car and call to her. She continues to watch my every move; even when I've ducked in and out of the barn a few times she's still watching. Additionally, about 45% of the time she's walking to the gate to meet me. 65% of the time she's approaching me as I approach her in the field. Steps in the right direction! Mashes have thawed her cold heart just a little bit it seems.

After their mashes Thursday night, I threw reins on their halter-bridles and hopped on Griffin atop his blanket. Mike gave me a slightly confused look before doing the same with Q. He'd never headed out bareback/blanket-back before. And this impromtu ride wasn't what he was expecting - but he was game!

We tooled around in the back field in the dark in the snow for awhile. It was very light and fluffy. We rode for about 20 minutes adding spurts of canter and gallop to our walking and trotting shenanigans. Such a blast!

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The next night, the 13th, we headed out for a purposeful night ride. We rode in the back field again, saddled this time with cooler sheets attached ghetto-like under the saddles. (I don't have quarter sheets for riding; the only reason I rode with the ghetto sheets this night was because it was snowing and I didn't want them to get wet before I put blankets back on them for the night.)

We frolicked for 35 minutes this night. The snow was even deeper than the previous day! Up to their knees and hocks easily.

Deep snow! You can see how high from where it hit on my boots!
Also, Mike felt Q's ears were cold so he put his gloves on them. HILARIOUS and embarrassing for her. She thrust her head
into his arms shortly after I snapped that photo.

We trotted and cantered and played around for awhile. Griffin would lead, then Q would lead, then Griffin would get jealous and take the lead again!

The snow falling while we rode made for quite the experience! The world was so quiet as a result. All the horses' footfalls were muffled. When Mike and I weren't talking there was silence only interrupted by the swishing of the horses movement through the snow. What fun!

We'd pondered taking an actual trail ride, but with the gusting wind knocking *ghosts* snow from the trees that spooked the horses, we opted to stay in the field and play it safe.

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And finally, on the 18th, my birthday, we headed out for an afternoon of riding in the snow.

I'm really loving the roached mane.
I'd originally planned a big 10 mile + ride through the woods that we'd complete over 3 hours or so, but I hadn't calculated in the snow! The temperatures had risen into the lower 50s for the second sunny day in a row, but the snow was still heavy on the ground.

The 20" of fluff had compacted into a dense 16"-18" of packed powder. Heavy stuff. Not fun to ski in or walk in really!

Mike and I cleared some of the trail in the beginning of the ride, or rather, Mike cleared a few branches as I watched. Ha.

Mike and Q are really developing an understanding. She's really taking to him and he to her. While he was clearing limbs and making a racket of things, she watched idly, unconcerned.  While holding the reins in his teeth wasn't the greatest or safest idea, he did it. Q just stood quietly. Small branches would drop on her or brush against her as he cleared them, she didn't move a muscle! She'd just flick her ears hither and thither, watching him with quiet aplomb. Her expression was one of complete calm and trust. Not the most common of expressions for her, but one that is becoming more and more frequent of late.

Unflattering angle for Q, but look at her calm while Mike cuts the limb!
The last branch he sawed was the most amusing and impressive as far as demonstrating the trust Q has in him after such a short time.

He was holding the branch in such a way to prevent it from falling on her when it snapped. He knew that by doing this he would also hit the ground as a result, but the fall was short, the snow was deep, and he was more concerned with not startling Q-bee.

When the branch gave way under the saw, Mike and the branch hit the ground with a thud and a rustle beside Q. She flinched, visibly, but she didn't move a foot. She looked at Mike with surprise and a look that said, "What the hell happened? How did you get down THERE?" Such a good girl.

With clearing completed for the time being, we set out without a plan other than some quality time with the horses.

We stuck to the haul road since it wasn't as steep as the other trail options. Navigating the snow was enough of a workout without added hills!

Griffin figured out real quick that snow makes the going rough. He wasn't breathing overly hard, but he wasn't thrilled with his predicament either!

I told Mike to keep Q moving - she is in shape and could really use the work out - and Griffin and I would catch up eventually.

Towards the tail end of the haul road, Mike got to experience the infamous teleporting spook that Q does.

They'd been cantering along at a stately little pace when Q decided a particular branch had some monster potential. She slammed on the breaks and did a fast pirouette (all of this in one fluid motion BRAKES-SPIN!) before making an attempt to bolt toward Griffin and I - away from the "monster". Mike laughed and laughed and laughed at her.

I was happy he found it so funny - and even happier that I hadn't had to ride that spook! I HATE those spooks!

Mike continued to giggle at Q as Griffin found his second gear and motored on ahead.

We kept going past the main haul road and headed for the hill that would ascend into the mature forest where trails are clearer.

Before the hill began there were some puddles though. The first, spring fed, wasn't frozen over. The second was frozen. I stopped to let Griffin drink from the spring-fed puddle. He drank several gulps before settling to play in the water, pawing the water to a muddy mess that he flung around us. He's always loved playing in the water. Always. And while I'm aware some horses will lie down in the water after doing this, he's never done it before. Until this day!

Down he went. A squeal escaped me before I started snapping at him, "NO. NO NO NONONONONO. Get UP. Get UP GETUPGETUPGETUPPPP!" And then I stepped off to avoid further potential harm. I hauled him up, dripping mud.

Mike was losing it laughing at us.

Laughing at this point. What else could I do?
A better view of the puddle.

I remounted and we continued our ride.

I'd originally planned to turn around once we'd peaked the main mountain climb, but, not thinking it would lead to much, decided to explore a couple trails at one of the bigger intersections. I let Mike pick which of three options we'd take and we headed down that trail.

We ended up exploring A LOT! And the trails were all in really great shape from a horseback riding standpoint. We were able to find even more trails that linked up along the way. More hills to climb and sprint, especially! I was really excited.

Look how deep the snow was!
We climbed one really steep hill to peak a mountain I'd not climbed before. Griffin was a champ! He locked into a great little power walk and motored up it, passing an obstinate Q who was making attempts to not take another step in an upward direction.

The view from the top was shrouded  by trees, but beautiful nonetheless. We gave the horses a bit of a break for a bit up there before descending again.

Griffin motored back down the steep without issue. However, upon reaching the flat area below he promptly fell on his face. Sigh. Tired baby was tired. At this point we'd gone 4 miles. Nothing crazy. The snow made for more work though!!

We tried, briefly, to link up the new trails to old, but I was more concerned about Griffin's fatigue (and our dinner reservations later on) to be greatly motivated to power through and link up the trails. Upon reviewing the map after the ride, we did come really close to linking them up, and I'm sure we'll make another attempt in a couple weeks when we have some time to go back out.

Eager ears headed for home.
Overall, it was a great ride. Griffin found his second wind on the way home after having a break in the way of walking downhill for nearly a mile. When we reached the haul road (Griffin leading), he powered into a great working trot for the rest of the ride home. We let Q lead the tail end of the ride through the trickier part of the woods, but beyond that Griffin led most of the way. He was a very good boy!

He's definitely a borne leader. He is so much more fun when he's in the lead and he's so much more engaged in what's going on and what his job is than when he follows. In the following position he's more focused on how tired he's becoming. His behavior is something akin to a melodramatic teenager.

I'm having a blast with him, certainly, and look forward to each new ride with him. He's getting so much stronger with each passing day!

Our ride ended up being 7.3 miles with an average speed of 3.5 mph. We were out for about 2 hours. Not a bad day of things! A great birthday ride - even if I did end up spattered in mud from my grey dork taking a dip in a puddle!

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