Thursday, June 12, 2014

Big Ride

The 4wheeler and chainsaw I manned for 14 hours of clearing
A few weeks ago I, with others, spent about 14 hours clearing the main trails I typically train on behind the barn. These trails are all on private land and I am beyond lucky to have such access. The trails are superb.

We cleared them with what we referred to as a "10 year plan" cutting anything that could become a problem in the next 10 years. The first half of the 10 mile loop is successional forest while the second half is mature forest. This lent itself to lots of clearing over the first 4 miles and minimal effort afterward.

As we cleared the trail, we marked it heavily.

The goal behind all of this clearing and marking? Preparation for a big club ride in following weeks.

: : : : :

The weekend of the ride dawned last week. Folks began arriving on Thursday night and remained through Sunday morning.

Food was incredibly and plentiful. Alcohol was present in mass quantities. An awesome time was had by all.

They used a blow torch for custom fire rings
I'd managed to coax my coworker T into coming Friday night for dinner (four grilled turkeys, some chicken, green beans, baked beans, and pie). She isn't a horse person, but she's game for just about anything. I knew her Irish drinking tendencies and the way she could bring fun to any gathering would mix really well with these new-to-her horse folks.

In no time, she was joking around like she'd known folks forever. It took little effort on my part to goad her into riding Griffin on the 10 mile trail ride the following day. I had to only mention the words "drinking" and "alcohol" in the same sentence as "trail ride" to have her attention, haha. She's ridden Griffin and Q in short bursts before, and for a non-rider has an incredible natural balance and seat - you know, the kind we all envy and hate because it doesn't come so naturally to us all! I was confident that she could get down the trail safely on Griffin. All the same, I encouraged her to ride in Mike's Aussie saddle because it would help keep her most secure.

The following morning, T met me at my apartment around 8:30a. I made us breakfast and we headed out to the barn to get the horses and ourselves prepped for the ride.

The ride was supposed to depart at 10a, but my horse club is a herd of turtles the morning after drinking and merry making.

We slowly got everyone rallied to bring in their horses - most of which had been turned out into the field with our own (mine, Tina's and my BO's) - and get tacked up.

The barn was such a cluster of activity! Ack. It was quite the ballet moving in and around so many people, horses, a last minute farrier set up, etc. I stood talking with numerous friends who had come for the ride while I waited for everyone to be ready. One of our friends arrived only to get his horses off the trailer (one for him to ride and one for another friend) and receive a call from his wife that she was in labor! So he tossed his riding horse into the field, handed off the other to the friend who would ride it, and booked it back home. (Healthy baby boy, Ashton Blake, was born that afternoon at 4:45p)

White and black with orange highlights. We're endurance folks, obv.
Q was very jazzed up from the get-go, but the longer she was tied in the barn amidst the chaos, the more she calmed. Griffin was a doll, per his norm, snoozing after dining on his grain despite the chaos that reigned all around. I was thrilled as it helped T to be more certain in her decision.

This was the first day in a long while that I tacked Q up for a trail ride with a bit. She's been doing SO well in her ported kimberwicke that I decided to see how she did on this day. I had hoped that because she will accept contact and work in a frame so much better with the kimberwicke that perhaps I could get her to focus on me a bit more on the trail by providing her some dressage-esque exercises to work through and focus on instead of panicking about her surroundings.

Originally, the plan was for me to lead the ride (which had evolved into 30-ish folks). However, I somehow missed the "we're leaving now" memo. So, the ants-in-their-pants crew departed before I even knew what happened! (I'd been standing around chatting with my vet and the farrier who was setting shoes on her gelding.)

T on Griffin winding through the leaves
Missing the first group was fine by me though, as I got to head out with a smaller group that included my endurance riding friend Jen and her daughter K. (This was pivotal as it helped me to hash out some logistics for the OD ride that we'll all be at next weekend.)

The first five miles of the ride were at a faster pace than I'd planned (trying to catch the first group instead of riding with everyone), which I had to apologize to T for. I'd promised her a mostly-walk ride with continuous drinking (the norm for our club rides, haha). Instead, she got a walk, trot, canter, gallop ride with continual drinking...and continual cursing at Griffin for "spilling her beer" whenever he'd trot. ;-)

Fortunately though, T was a REALLY good sport about the whole thing (all day!) and squealed and giggled with glee whenever we'd go faster. She laughed a ton at how ridiculous everything seemed, too, as Griffin ran her into the edges of the woods as we went along.

T struggled to both control Griffin, ride, and open her beers (hard ciders, actually). So I confiscated her bottle opener so that I could open all of them for her and save her a step. Q was AWESOME about stopping, backing, and side stepping to allow me to maneuver to both fetch and return T's drinks. Additionally, there were multiple times that I'd turn around and taker her beer from her before we'd canter up a hill for a spurt. T learned to two point to safeguard her beer by the end of the day, but those first 5 miles were tough. (As for me? I had mini-wine bottles. Wine doesn't fizz or go flat. Liz wins.)

By mile 3, we'd caught an intermediate group of folks. We all paused to chat, then reset and headed along the trail (which was really well marked, so everyone was able to do their own thing all day!). The reset ended up placing Q as the penultimate horse and Griffin in the dead-last position.

*cue baby horse freak out*

T shrieked in surprise behind me as we went along. I turned to find Griffin grunting and squealing as he crow-hopped and baby-bucked in place, T's beer fizzing down her arm and onto the ground. Fortunately, the saddle was keeping her locked squarely into place despite his antics.

As soon as it started, the fit stopped. And then Griffin REFUSED to move unless he was in front of Q. Damn kid didn't want to be last! So I rode behind them for a time, popping the stubborn grey horse on the rear with my long reins when he'd try to refuse.

Judy, Dee, Regina, Tina
Riding: Ruger, Oliver, Champ, and Little Bit

Both T and I couldn't help but laugh at him. His fit reminded us so much of a kid at the grocery store check-out whose parent has refused to buy them the candy bar they wanted. It was intense and short-lived. He wasn't trying to get T off with his antics, merely expressing his extreme displeasure at his predicament. Little ass.

He tested T much of the day, actually. It was really comical. I always credit him with being my easy-going, steady eddy, smart yet dull-minded fella. He was out to prove to me on this ride that he IS sharper witted than I originally thought. He knew what was expected from him, but he sure as hell wasn't going to just "go along with it" if his rider didn't care otherwise! He walked her into as many branches as he could throughout the day and made minor refusals over silly things in addition to his fit about being last.

T took all of his antics in stride though, heckling him the whole time tongue-in-cheek: "Griffin. Why?! You're such an asshole. Why'd you have to go and do that. Seriously? Oh come on. You little bastard. Yeah, you eat those leaves. Clearly you're starving. Oh, yeah? Yeah. Eat that leaf, too! And that one. Ugh. Really? You're an ass. Oh, oh, oh! Q's in front of you! You're last now! Ut oh! Whatcha gonna do NOW?! We might die back here. Whoops. Yeah, go ahead and eat another leaf, just don't do anything to make me spill my beer. Little bastard."

Some of the many horses at the mid-way rest point.
Aaahh, the sounds of friendship. ;-)

By mile 5 we'd caught up with the whole group. We rendezvoused at a cabin for a time, letting the horses drink and catch a short nap before we headed home.

On the return journey, we really picked up the pace. We were pretty confident that the trail was marked well, so smaller parties of the large group headed out bit by bit. T and I took off with the endurance riders, which T enjoyed more than I'd thought. I was able to verbally coach her through two-pointing and posting techniques to help her through the trot, as well as giving her pointers on how to ride the canter. We even discussed the finer points of how many beats there were in each gait.

Jen on her little mare who will be debuting in her first LD this weekend.
The picture is poor, though the best I could do, but this filly reminded me of
Mel's Tig. Jen, who really knows her shit about Arabians on all fronts even
agreed that they were very very very similar when I shared a couple FB
photos of Tig. Their conformation and angles were SO eerily similar!
However, pedigree wise, the red horse behind this grey mare is more similar
to Tig as they share a grandsire.
When we reached a long downhill, Jen and K kept trotting while I slowed Q to a walk. The incline isn't bad, but it's still enough of a downhill that I didn't feel like subjecting my first time trail rider to a beating as we trotted downhill!

T and I mosied along the final 2.5 miles to the barn, chatting amiably about horses, work, friends, and life.

Q led most of this section and was more level headed than she's been of late, but still VERY looky and "scared" of things. I decided to just make the best of it.

Back at on the farm property, T and I walked the horses up the creek to help rinse off and cool off. We still hosed the horses down back at the barn before turning them back out, timing it perfectly with the arrival of most other riders so that the barn was less of a cluster this time around.

Beautiful browbands by Karen!
T and I changed into shorts once the horses were taken care of. We realized that the top of a water bottle had been knocked off and headed back to the creek we'd just ridden through to check if it had been scraped off when Griffin made his final attempt to whack T through some branches and a limb. We waded through the creek and found that, sure enough, the bottle cap was there!

Upon our return to the barn, Jeanna, owner of the little gypsy sporthorse filly, asked if I would look at the filly's hooves. She'd brought the filly to the barn for the day to see how she handled a bunch of activity. I told her I would, and she led her into the shady barn.

Jeanna was concerned about the flaring and the long toe on the filly, and noted that her farrier refused to take off more. This worries her a bit because she is more versed in the benefits of a shorter toe.

It was nice to work with this filly - now a yearling. She's just as sweet as she was as a foal; her temperament really cannot be beat! All the same, it was intimidating to trim a horse that wasn't my own - especially a horse whose feet have a ways to go to be in better shape! I'm no pro by any means, so I just tried to safely do what I could to help the filly out.

A hind foot; I was far too hot to want to
nip any more, so Jeanna's hubby did it.
The filly's hinds were only half as bad as
her fronts!
Her toes were over long, the heels a bit high and underrun, but nothing too crazy. I told Jeanna I would shorten her toes today, but I wasn't comfortable doing any more right now. After all, this little filly was the first horse that I'd trimmed who wasn't my own horses and her feet are a lot different!

I got to use nippers for the first time (scary and thrilling) and carefully nipped around both front hooves, leaving a safe bit of wall left to guarantee I didn't take too much. Then I used a rasp (they had a brand new rasp, mmmm!) to do the rest.

Visually, the change was drastic. But honestly, what I took off wasn't anything very crazy. If that filly had had access to a larger area to move out on with more varied surfaces, she'd have fixed her own feet. In fact, I told Jeanna that I wasn't going to do any more than her toes this time because I knew that with the shorter toe, the rest of the foot would follow suit if she could get her out and moving a bit over the next two weeks. I gave her instructions for some maintenance trimming, too, so hopefully this filly doesn't get so long again! (And despite her feet going through that change, she was totally sound afterwards.)

After trimming the filly, T and I headed up to the house to shower. When we'd finished, we saw my BO who told me I better get down to the barn to help with the fun show for the kids!

A crooked photo of a front hoof after I
feared doing any more than I'd done.
I knew my horses would give me laser death stares if I pulled them back out of the field for this, so I asked our friend Tina if I could ride her SE Arabian gelding Saja for the fun show. She gave me the thumbs up.

I fetched this horse I've never ridden from the field, tossed a bareback pad and one of my halter-bridles on him, and headed out to join the two kids who were a part of the fun show (we thought we'd have more originally). One girl was on a pinto pony (named Pinto lol) and Jeanna's little girl was on her mini horse Charlie. I was the only adult on horseback, the others participated on foot.

We participated in events like egg and spoon, ride a buck, Simon Says, and apple bobbing amongst others. Saja was a doll for me, and a great representative of his SE Arabian heritage as my first SE ride (I've been on many Arabians, but he was my first SE).

The dynamic of adults on foot during these fun events was HILARIOUS. My BO's hair is grey, so at one point one of our guy friends who was participating in the egg and spoon class on foot was heckling her:

"Don't break gait! NO! You are supposed to be WALKING. HEY! (she was speed walking)"
"I AM walking, Mole! Like a gaited horse!"
"NO. NO you CAN'T do that! She's CHEATINGGGG!"
"Alright, fine. Hey everyone! Watch this! I'm gonna get this grey mare here...just wait!"
*Mole sped up and crowded my BO like a horse would do on the trail. She squealed and kicked out a leg - just like any mare who dislikes the horse near her rear end.*


Saja bobbing for an apple!
Me in shorts trying to stay cool (so hot and humid!)
Only in long sleeves to avoid getting burnt further.

Mole even got T in on the apple bobbing event.

We were supposed to start on one fenceline, take our horses as fast across the barnyard to the mini-trough with apples in it, jump off, bob out an apple, get back on with the apple in our mouths, and go back to the start as fast as we could.

The three of us on equines went first. The little girls had help from their parents. Saja tried to bob his own apple out for a time before I jumped off, bobbed one, and vaulted back on bareback (to much heckling from my friends haha).

And then it was the two-legs turn. Mole and T and some 13 year old boy were in competition - they all wanted to win "the big cock" a large stuffed chicken that was in the prize area. They had to put their butts against the fence at the start. When signaled, T got a huge jump on Mole running across the barnyard. She hip checked the 13 year old right before the trough, knocking him down, and got a few second head start bobbing an apple before the Mole and the boy - it still took them all a little while! T still got her apple first and sprinted back to the fence, spiking the apple into the ground like a football running back who just made a touchdown. Mole was pissed he lost out on winning "the big cock". T pranced around the rest of the evening with that chicken.

A blurry shot of the table of food and merriment
prior to the Belmont
After the fun show, we assembled in the house while my BO's husband and friends finished cooking dinner. We had about 15 of us in their living room awaiting the running of the Belmont snacking on a variety of amazingness (grilled shrimp with some amazing seasoning, a spicy ham spread, and a blueberry-cheese spread) and sipping the official drink of the Belmont....that may or may not have sometimes contained scotch instead of bourbon.

We betted on the race, watched the race, yelled at the TV, and then ate one KICKASS dinner that contained the. best. ham. I have EVER eaten. EVER. OMG.

Despite not drinking much alcohol all day (two mini wines and one Belmont), I still acquired a wicked headache that wasn't remedied by food or water. T and I headed out before the evening had really begun, but I hear there was much more drinking and merry making through the night, followed by a big brunch the next day.

We do it right, folks.

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