"And, when you want something, the entire Universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." -The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo

Saturday, July 20, 2013

An Epic Vacation Part 2: Intro to Elkins

After lunch, Liz, Charles and I got into Liz's mom's SUV, and she took us to Spruce Knob, the highest point in WV at 4,863 feet high.

On the drive to Spruce Knob

Observation tower

View from tower

Walking over the scree rock

Have some views of the Appalachians!

And I really don't care that these 4 photos all kind of looked the same. It's beautiful, period. :D

Liz: the best WV guide ever.

Bleeding heart, a rare flower

Wild blueberries! Delicious. Better than anything in a store!

Do you see the butterflies? There are 3 in this photo.

Liz in her element.

Love the spruce with the curled trunk on the right!
This part of the forest smelled amazing.

After Spruce Knob, we hustled over to the Sinks of Gandi, a cavern known mostly only by the locals. We had to cross a cow field to get to it, as it was starting to rain. The area around the cavern was gorgeous. 

The trail that leads directly to the cave starts here.


Liz only took us in deep enough that we could still see daylight behind us from the cavern opening-people can get lost inside this cave.
 There are no bats. 

After the Sinks of Gandi, we headed back to Liz's house so we could drop off Charles. He had been going well over 24 hours at this point, and wanted to take a nap. I changed into riding clothes, and Liz and I left for the barn. 

The barn is lovely. There are 4 stalls, a spacious tack room (including a refrigerator with beer!), and a round pen. Next to the round pen, there is a table, which Liz told me the boarders use as a sort of stage to put chairs on in the wintertime. They take turns doing ground work with the horses, while the others watch and drink beer. Freaking awesome. I want to board at her barn!

The pastures are green with good grass, and Q and Griffin were turned out in the front field, while the back field was being used by the horses that are not worked as often. 

I finally got to meet Q and Griffin.

And Q? Her photos do NOT do her justice, and Liz expressed her frustration about this. I tried getting a good photograph, but to no avail. Liz is a talented photographer and not even she herself has been able to capture this mare's true beauty. In photos, Q's head often looks almost too big for the rest of her. In person, Q is breathtaking. I couldn't take my eyes off of her. She is nicely rounded but solid muscle, combining the best of the Morgan and Arabian breeds, with a beautiful naturally arched Arabian neck (no insulin-resistance crest; just her natural shape); a slightly dished face with a small, feminine muzzle; some really nicely boned legs and big feet, well proportioned to her size and ideal for Liz's goal with her: endurance. I only wish Lily had as nice a conformation as Q. Liz has often wondered if Q would be suitable to breed some day. My answer is yes: there is nothing about this mare that I wouldn't want in a foal!

I tacked her up with my Alta Escuela, which looked huge on her, and then played with her in the round pen. Q has been trained with more classically natural horsemanship cues, whereas I'm used to the mish-mash of techniques I use with Lily. I got her going walk and trot, then mounted up. 

Q is small but rides like a big horse. Lily feels like a Shetland pony when you ride her, with short strides and a choppy canter. Q's trot has more action, but I found it easy to sit to. She walks with a huge elastic stride.

Square halt.

Walking around the round pen


We warmed up in the round pen while waiting for the rain to stop. Q felt slightly off at the trot going to the left while in the round pen, and Liz noticed this on observation too. 

The rain stopped, and we moved outside. Q was much better on the grass, and once Liz put her Renegades on, the gimpiness pretty much disappeared.

Walking around outside

Liz tacked up Griffin and rode him around the barn yard. He was in a particularly pissy mood, threatening to buck every time Liz insisted on anything. Liz stuck to him and firmly but gently repeated her requests. Griffin almost always obeyed on the second try. He is a goofy little guy; Liz compared him to Doug, the Golden in Up, and I have to agree. Once you get to know Griffin, that's exactly what he's like!

She then took me on a horseback tour of the property. I tried taking some photos, but the combination of the late hour + the overcast sky made for some pretty dim light. 

Griffin bravely and unfalteringly led the way.

Can you guess why we laughed at this tree?

New, larger barn. It is SOLID - 4" walls and doors. The photo doesn't do it justice. It will be beautiful once it's finished.

All of the horses on the property love people. The paint rump on the right belongs to the Gypsy Vanner cross filly that Liz recently featured on her blog; the chestnut is Mayer, and the brown horse with stockings is Little Bit, whom I would ride on Thursday. He looks snarly in this photo because he was trying to hog the attention; he's really sweet!

Q and Griffin took turns leading, and every time Q trotted, Griffin tried to break into a canter. Silly boy. The lightning bugs were starting to come out as we rode back to the barn. 

Liz gave my saddle a whirl on Q. 

And then I hopped back on to canter Q for the first time. 

She has a big but easily controllable stride, and Liz encouraged me to take her over the smaller cavalletti in the yard. Q is a lot of fun to jump as well-she definitely has a natural talent for it. 


Q is a blast to ride!! Afterwards, I cooled her down in the round pen, and Liz suggested taking the saddle off to hop on bareback. So that's what we did. I just walked her around the barn yard. 

Afterwards, we stopped by Liz's new barn apartment so she could pick up a pair of breeches for the next day. The apartment is super cute, with 2 bedrooms and 2 baths, at literally a 5th of the price of what we are paying for our 1 bedroom in MD. I wish!!! We then drove back to the house, where I woke up Charles and we all showered so we could go swing dancing. There is an Augusta Music Festival at the university every year, and that night they were supposed to be having swing and blues. We stopped by McDonald's to get a quick sit down dinner, then drove over to the university, completely expecting the dance to be over, but it was actually just starting...at 10:00 pm. 

We were there for about an hour. Charles and I were dumb and didn't get any photos. We can dance, but we had never danced swing before, so we combined merengue and salsa steps. It still looked better than Elbows doing something very similar to a chicken dance over by the stage...lol...

Around 11, both Liz and I were running out of energy, so we headed back to the house, where we all went to bed, with the goal of waking up at 7:00 am to get an early start with the horses.

To be continued...


  1. <3 <3 all these photos and the story from your point of view.

    And dude, I'm so happy I wasn't the only one who thought her head was to big in photos. I told Dee that one time and she thought I was bonkers.

    1. I'd always thought she was pretty, even with the slight distortion of the camera, but man, she is gorgeous in person!

  2. I cannot get over these views...

    1. It is even more beautiful in person. Wait till you see the rest of the photos :)

  3. I agree that 1. the beer in the fridge is a + for the barn and 2. photos do not do Q justice!

    (sorry to be late to the party on all these posts)