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

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

An Epic Vacation Part 3: Arena Work and The River

On Wednesday we were up by 7:00 am; we made scrambled eggs and took off for the barn. Charles was a trooper. He normally works overnight shifts and is so not a morning person, but he got up with us happily to come along as our unofficial photographer. 

It was a foggy morning after the rain from the previous evening:

Charles got his doggy fix during this trip:

We made him sit in the back seat with the dogs. He didn't complain. :)

Jetta loved Charles.
Kenai gets excited as we get closer to the barn.
Kenai looked especially gorgeous in this one.
Not sure what Charles was doing, though...lol

Once at the barn, I fetched Q and Griffin from the pasture while Liz got the trailer hooked up. These two horses are awesome. Griffin just stood there and waited while I approached him. Q was hanging out by the gate that leads to the second pasture, trying to socialize with her boyfriend Little Bit. She walked a small circle around me when she saw I was coming to get her, then stopped and let me put her rope halter on. 

I gotta say I LOVE how social these horses are: you take one, and all of them want to come along!

Liz puts a little bit of grain in rubber feeders on the trailer manger, as the ultimate reward for the horses loading up. Both of them got on uneventfully and dug into their handfuls of grain.  I like this idea better than the old standby of using hay, especially for a short trip like this and if your horse is calm about loading. The horse gets on, and then "just happens" to find a little bit of grain as a treat. 

Within 15 minutes, we were at the 4-H arena in the neighboring town. There is a decent-sized grass arena, a smaller covered arena with soft footing composed mainly of shavings, and they are building a very large covered arena towards the back of the property that Liz is very excited about. The thing is huge-I'd be excited too!

Griffin was tacked up with the Faux-ssoa, and Q with my saddle. I took the fleece cover off because it made it harder to use your leg on her. 

It works fine with my uber-sensitive beast, but Q is nicely normal in terms of how much leg it takes to get her going. I also put the Spanish bridle on her with the mullen mouth pelham, because Liz had wanted to see what she'd do in it.

Q is so quiet off property.
What I wouldn't give for Lily to be like this...

Pretty girl!

Jetta hanging out


After putzing around with the Spanish bridle at walk and trot,  however, I switched it back for Q's regular D-ring snaffle. Q doesn't need all of that special fine-tuning; she does perfectly fine in a normal bridle. It was sooo nice to ride normal horses again...seriously. This vacation brought to the surface my deep-rooted feeling that I might be overhorsed with Lily. I keep wondering if maybe she'll change as she matures; when she's good, she's amazing, but she drives me crazy when she goes through her hypersensitive "I'm going to die" phases, which consistently happen every time she goes into heat. I can't keep her on Regumate forever. (Is that even safe? I have no idea; I've never used the product before...or yet, rather.) The thought has crossed my mind about spaying Lily; it seems that her behavior changes are more extreme the older she gets. I just don't know what I would do with her if I did decide to rehome her; I don't think she would end up well. Her ideal life would be to just live out in a herd 24/7. I'm counting the days until she can be treated like a horse again...we have our NH trainer at the barn, whom I'd like to take lessons with. There HAS to be a way to get Lily to trust me...I wish she weren't so damn submissive. Gah! It was inspiring to see Liz's work with both of her horses. Her BOs both use NH to train horses, so Liz has been able to get that one-on-one attention from a person experienced in the methods. 

I wish I could have a calm, sane horse, off of which I could pony Lily to really get her going on the trails. *sigh*

Back to Wednesday.

Liz worked with Griffin on the lunge while I walked and trotted Q. The little man looks like a grown-up horse in the Faux-ssoa, but more often than not, he was getting on the forehand and undertracking with the rig on the lowest setting. (Normal side rein setting; straight horizontal line from bit to surcingle). I got off when I switched Q to her regular bridle. Liz wanted to know if she was using the Faux-ssoa correctly, so we let Q hang out (she just stood in the middle of the arena, no one holding her) while I went over to give Liz pointers. 

You can see Q just standing there next to us.
She wanted me to try working Griffin, but my cues are completely different from Liz's (I walk in a circle in the center, Liz stands still; I get the horse moving and then drive almost from the point of hip-which makes Q & Griffin turn to face you, Liz keeps them going from just behind the shoulder; etc. Subtle things to the observer maybe, but Q and Griffin are well-versed in Liz's method) so Liz ended up taking the lunge line again, and got Griffin to step up a bit more at the trot. We played with the settings on the Faux-ssoa, and thus discovered that the boy prefers the middle setting, with the reins clipped to the second highest ring on the surcingle, with his head and neck set in a more traditional riding position. Griffin immediately arched his neck gently, placed his forehead in line with the vertical, and stepped up easier. He had a few moments were he was truly tracking up and lifting his back, and at the canter, there were a couple of instances where his front end lifted up as he carried himself correctly. Of course this will get much better as he works more and becomes stronger. 

Liz then tacked him up and rode at walk and trot. Griffin was in much better spirits from the day before. I hopped back on Q with the Alta Escuela and Q's D-ring. 

Liz had been curious to see if I could get Q to do a flying lead change. I failed, discovering instead that Q is quite willing to counter canter all the way around the arena if you wish. I ended up doing giant figure-8s, with a simple change in the middle that started to get longer and longer as both of us got tired. I was having a hard time wrapping my legs around her with the Alta Escuela, even without the sheepskin. Liz gave it a whirl too, and mentioned that she was having the same problem. While Liz rode Q, I got to ride Griffin! Liz has done a FANTASTIC job with him. Despite him being a baby, you really feel safe riding him-he has a good mind. He has a nice ground-covering trot, and is definitely not gaited, even though it is suspected he might be a Tennessee Walker mix. Liz wanted me to try cantering him. He complained twice, throwing a small buck, but I used Liz's method of doing a one-rein stop to get him out of it. After that, he obeyed. Note to self: make this an automatic reaction to Lily's antics!

Liz caught us cantering on video:

Taken by Charles with Liz's camera, and featured on Liz's blog.
My fave of the photos where I'm riding Griffin :) The little man has some serious potential.

We then put Liz's Wintec on Q, and I gave the flying lead change another go. It was definitely easier with the Wintec, and Q started nailing the simple changes in 2-3 strides. (FYI: Liz's Wintec All Purpose is super comfortable and puts you into a really nice position, as you can see in these photos. But then again, I heart Wintecs...)

Charles got this one. <3

Stunning photo. Taken by Liz, shown on her blog
Completing the circle before crossing the diagonal for the simple change.
Photo by Liz.

Charles and Liz set up a cross rail using 2 of the 3 barrels in the arena. We jumped, first a small crossrail, then a larger one, then the barrels lying down side by side. I had not jumped in 2 years. Consistently, I haven't jumped in 6 years.

Low crossrail. Yes, I know: elbows. Give me a break-no jumping in 2 years! :) I was working hard to be quiet and just stay out of this awesome girl's way.

Approach to barrels. Love this: Q's focus, and I was sitting back, waiting, with soft hands.
Photo by Liz, featured on her blog.
My fave of the jumping photos.
By Liz, featured on her blog.
Then it was Liz's turn, and she did a fantastic job! Liz has an amazing natural talent for jumping, despite never having taken lessons. She has an enviable lower leg.

After that, we hosed off the horses, packed up, and headed back to the barn. Even the dogs were tired:

We then went to Liz's house, where we all changed into swim+hiking clothes so we could drive over to Mule Hole on the Cheat River. Originally Liz was going to take us to High Falls, but it was a much farther drive and longer hike to get there. The change of plans turned out to be a really good idea. On the way to Mule Hole, we stopped at an amazing little Venezuelan restaurant in Elkins called El Gran Sabor. Mmmmm cachapas!

The restaurant used to be a house. Liz thinks the owners might live upstairs.
Off to Mule Hole!

We hiked up a super steep hill, followed the train tracks for a ways, then climbed back down the hill.
And this was the view at the bottom. :)

Liz was surprised by how high the water level was; she assumed it was from the rains the night before, which might have been much heavier higher up the mountain. It was a good thing we didn't go to High Falls-we wouldn't have been able to get safely into the water at all.
Rhododendrons, WV state flower
It was hothothot, and super buggy. Giant horseflies kept trying to suck our blood, so we did the sensible thing: take turns diving off the rocks!
My dive got better after a few pointers from Liz.
Liz points out an underwater ledge for me to grab. The current wasn't horrible, but it was definitely a workout. My shoulders ached for 2 days after this! Haha
Socializing with the natives: Soula, a terrier mix owned by a group of people hanging out close by on the rocks.
If you wanted to hang out outside of the water, you had to cover yourself up with a towel to protect yourself from the bugs!

Swallowtail butterfly
Love this photo. Taken by Liz, also shown in her blog.

Lately Charles is obsessed with bridges. He used to jump off of them, both rappelling and to dive into water. Liz dared him to dive off of this one, but he chose not to. Maybe he's growing up? Lol

Our feet!

We then headed back to Liz's house, stopping on the way to get more beer. Liz has excellent taste in beer, and recommended some that we had not tried yet. So that's how we ended up just hanging out at the house, tasting one another's beer selections while waiting to get really hungry before cooking.

At that moment, Orion's owner called Liz because he was very lame and she didn't know what to do. Off we went to check out what was going on.

As it turned out, Orion seemed to have an abscess that was about to pop at his coronet band, so we recommended soaking for that. He was 3-legged lame, not placing weight on the front leg at all, and had a digital pulse. I was concerned that he had 2 issues going on in that leg, as his tendons were thickened, lumpy, and hot to the touch, and the other front leg's fetlock was dropped to the point of being parallel with the ground. Even with all of his weight on that leg, it shouldn't have been so low, and I was concerned because the tendons in that leg were also thickened, which I was told was a normal thing with him. I was worried about DSLD (degenerative suspensory ligament desmitis), and told Orion's owner so. Liz gave his owner some very good advice on managing tendon injuries. We wrapped his front legs for support, and recommended soaking the hoof with the abscess.

Then we drove back to the house, catching this stunning view of the sunset behind the mountains.

Once at the house, Charles and I proceeded to make a Puertorrican/Cuban dinner for Liz: bistec encebollado (beef steak with onions), frijoles negros (black beans, made with garlic, vinegar and sauteed onions), and tostones (fried green plantains. Except I like mine on the riper side so they are sweet, which is what we made for Liz.)

Atticus says, "I can haz tostones!!"

Charles teases the naughty kitten.

All animals love Charles.

Kenai is a good boy, and one of the politest huskies I've ever met. 

He took a piece of bistec from Liz ever.so.gently. 

Charles gave it a try too.
Kenai ended up eating about half a bistec...

Atticus says, "I'M the dishwasher!"
He finally managed to try all of our Latin food...hahaha...

We were going to make a bonfire outside after that, but ended up ditching that plan because it was getting late and we had originally planned on getting up before 5:00 am to watch the sun rise from Bickle's Knob.  We ended up climbing onto the roof (something I hadn't done since we lived in Tampa!) to do some stargazing. Sadly, it was pretty hazy, so the view was about the same as it was in FL. After about half an hour, we crawled back down from the roof, which involved a lot of laughing and Charles almost getting kicked in the face by moi...

We were so tired by then that the 3 of us agreed to cancel the Bickle Knob plans, choosing instead to wake up at 8:00 am for breakfast so Liz and I could go to the barn for the Official Trailventure while Charles slept in. 

To be continued...


  1. I am love love loving all of your posts :-) Charles' faces are freaking hilarious.

    Can't wait for you to come back and play more.

    1. Charles is the comic relief of my life. Lol What you saw is exactly how he is 24/7; I'm still laughing that it showed up in these photos.

      Can't wait to go back!! :D We had such a good time! Thank you thank you again for having us!

  2. I love mist and fog, those first pics are super gorgeous!

  3. Love seeing how your visit compared to mine. Glad I'm not the only one who noticed Q's love of the counter canter. Haha. I'm jealous, though, because we didn't get to do any bad ass swimming on our visit. Loved the photos of you jumping Q, of course. (And I feel like you got to meet a part of me through (k)Atticus.)