Saturday, December 19, 2015

Annual Urban Christmas Lights Ride

In December of every year, the riding club I'm a part of rides the streets of our town to view the Christmas lights. Kids anticipate our visit in certain neighborhoods and will come out to see the horses. We tell them we are Santa's helpers visiting to make sure folks are in the Christmas spirit. When I was dating Mike last year, I took both horses. This year however, I didn't have a friend to ride one of them, so I just took Griffin because, frankly, he needs the experience more than Q.

El NiƱo weather patterns in West Virginia have introduced a very, very mild pattern so far. I cannot remember a year in my life when we had not seen a significant (>1") snowfall before Christmas before this year. We always get some kind of significant snowfall in late October or sometime in November, but it just hasn't happened this year! (However, as I write this, there are ~2" of snow outside and it is 3°F with the windchill; this weather will lift tonight and it will be sunny in the 40s tomorrow.) By and large, mid-late October through the present have been mild weather with highs in the 60s and 70s and lows in the 30s and 40s. It's bizarre at best for WV at this time of year! 

The ride through town is usually COLD. Whiskey is sipped not only because we like it, but because it helps us keep warm! However, this year, we needed no help keeping warm - the low for the night was only 52°F!! The night began around 65°F. 

While I wish I were skiing (my ski resorts aren't even open yet), the warm weather has its perks. For instance, I was able to give Griffin a BATH before we headed out that evening! And he didn't even shiver once. In fact, the poor guy was slightly sweaty when I brought him in from the field that afternoon; I'm pretty certain that cold water felt GOOD to him.

After his bath, I dolled him up with red polos, decked him out in all black tack, and used two saddle pads to provide both green and white to his getup. He was adorable. And I should have taken photos, but I didn't. For shame.

He loaded in the trailer the easiest he ever has and we set off for town with ample time to spare.

Because things had gone so smoothly at home, I had more than enough time to spare when we arrived at the meeting place. I chatted with three of the other riders as we waited for three additional folks to join us. Griffin was a bundle of nerves from the moment he stepped off that trailer. In fact, he didn't step off, he kind of half fell out in his manic state. (He was fine.) He was so concerned with taking in EVERYTHING around him as he was getting off the trailer that he took a few missteps and ended up stumbling pretty badly, bumping himself on the trailer. 

His concern for his surroundings settled a bit with time, but he was still King Looky Loo worried about everything. He was fidgeting constantly, completely unable to stand still. Unfortunately for me, his fidgeting led to my right foot getting stepped on in a BAD way while I tried to put my cantle bag on him! I've definitely got a fractured something in my foot now, and I don't think Griffin even realizes he stepped on me. I screamed bloody murder and that startled him into moving away. (I didn't want to just push him off because ofttimes a horse will push back for a split second before moving away and I KNEW that split second of leaning harder onto my foot would do a world of [more] damage.)

I popped some vitamin I and called it good for the night though, vowing to sip some vitamin W a little later once my nervous horse settled.

5 of the 7 of us. The paint pony hidden behind Griffin was a DOLL. She's his age and SUCH a solid citizen.
I was beyond impressed. She'd walk up steps to allow her rider to knock on doors!

Griffin couldn't handle life for the first 2 miles of the night. He was a Nervous Nancy about everything. Flickering lights and footing that was contrasting dramatically in either appearance or sensation bothered him most. But around the 2 mile mark (45 min.) he settled down and I felt calmer about letting him lead (something he wanted to do most of the night).

About 3 hours into the ride, we stopped at a house where some ex-riding club folks lived with their kids. (Life situations changed and they are no longer very active with their horses.) Griffin was one of three horses who gave pony rides to those kids in the middle of downtown at 9pm. What a good boy!!

We ended up walking 9¼-miles through town that night. It was just as cool as last year. My inner child will never cease to be thrilled about riding "my pony" downtown where wheeled vehicles are usually the only means of transportation. Near the end of the nigh, we ran into some of my friends out walking their dog. As we rode up, I called out their names in greeting and their only response was, "We saw horses and we KNEW it would be you." Guilty as charged.

Back at the barn post-ride, I did NOT want to turn him back out. He was SO CLEAN and SO SOFT and free of mud and dust. I just wanted to take him home and cuddle him or something. But I turned him out with his friends -- which he galloped off in the darkness to meet.

His barefeet fared super well on the paved roads all night. (Only one of the 7 horses was shod.) In fact, I think all of that self-trimming did a world of good for his feet! They looked incredible the following day when I checked them in the daylight. 

Griffin ended up leading most of the last half of the night and was really outstanding. I felt very safe; he was really trustworthy. I was so pleased and proud of him. He's really turning into one of those "once in a lifetime" horses. <3

Made the newspaper! I was hoping to have a hi-res version of this photo but the paper won't reply to my request. -_-

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