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

Thursday, July 25, 2013

An Epic Vacation Part 4: Trailventures

And yes, I realize I'm using one of Andrea's terms, but it is 100% appropriate in this case!

On Thursday morning we woke up at a more reasonable hour (8:00 am) and Liz made us some amazing pancakes with chopped strawberries, peaches, and white & milk chocolate chips. Charles woke up for this, then went back to sleep when we left for the barn.

Liz brought Griffin in, and we trimmed his feet.

All the pretty horses...with long white stockings!

Liz's technique is very similar to what I just started doing with Lily. I had asked to watch her trim and to get pointers, since she has both of her horses successfully barefoot in a Northeastern climate (which farriers love to say is impossible...). Go admire Q's beautiful feet here. She had front shoes when Liz first bought her a year ago.  Her walls are twice that thickness now, thanks to constant movement and proper, regular trimming. Most photos don't do her legs justice, but you can appreciate it in some of the photos taken of us cantering in my previous post: she has nice, large-boned cobby legs with feet that are more than appropriate for her size. Really: ideal proportion. Why don't we have more horses like this in the US?

Griffin's feet are also gorgeous, also with super-thick walls, since he's been barefoot from the start. I realized, watching Liz, that I had never seen anyone roll a hoof in person. Videos are not the same. I took home the mental image of how Liz angled the rasp, and ended up doing another touch-up on Lily's feet Friday. I'm truly happy with them now, and she has been doing great! She hasn't even tripped in the indoor...hmmmm....

After that, both of us looked like we'd been doused with the hose. It was soooo muggy, the humidity just stuck to your skin. Not unbearably hot, but it reminded me of the island. Again. I keep saying it, but seriously: never in a million years did I expect to be reminded of my fave parts of the island while living in the Northeast with seasons. I would've pushed for the move up here a lot sooner!

Griffin went back out with his friends, and we got Q and Little Bit ready.

Little Bit is a pinto Tennessee Walking Horse, owned by Dee, the BO. He is semi-retired due to ERU (equine recurrent uveitis) in one of his eyes. Liz mentioned that this horse missed being worked. You should have seen his face light up when he saw I was going to get him, and then he tried his bestest to stay right next to me while I brought both him and Q in from the pasture.

This horse literally had me at "Hello." I love me a horse with a good work ethic.

My saddle seemed to fit him well. Actually it seemed to fit both him and Q well - no pinching, good back clearance, panels lay flat against their backs. Even girthed up, I could still slide my fingers between him and the panels. A good thing, since this was going to be a long ride. Yay for flexible trees!

I did think of asking Liz for a breastplate for him, as the man is quite chubby from lack of exercise. It would have been better if I had, but oh well.

He looked at me all eager, with ears pricked, when he saw me coming with his bridle. The reaction any other horse would have towards a treat! He reached for his bit when I bridled him, then pouted when I took the bridle off again so I could put a fly bonnet on him. I had the bridle hanging from my shoulder, and while fiddling with the bonnet, he reached for the bridle and took it with his teeth.


I swear he smiled when I put it back on.

Off we went!

We rode out of the barn yard, across the creek, and through a field. The horses were super happy to be out, and I got Little Bit to gait, leading the way. This was my first time on a TWH, and let me say: my next horse will be a TWH. Loved his gait, his conformation, and most of all, his mind. 

We reached the treeline, and then the adventure started as we climbed up the mountain through young forest, initially walking, then trotting, then with spurts of galloping. The trail was very overgrown, and we found ourselves shoving branches aside, ducking low against the horses' necks (sometimes along the sides of their necks, Native American style, as we charged through the woods). Twice we had to get off so one of us could hold a heavy branch up while the other led the horses through. 


Very low branches

Liz rides one-handed pretty much the entire time, so she can use her other hand to push branches out of the way.

Low branches  
We took turns leading. Liz lended me her Camelback. Note to self: get one! Way easier than juggling a water bottle hooked to the saddle.

 Both horses owned that trail. You pointed, they went. It didn't matter which one was in front. Little Bit would canter and gallop for longer if Q was leading, but that was the only difference. I loved Little Bit so much, I 100% for realz wanted to take him home by the end of this ride. ERU can be managed. It would be worth it for a horse that has a brain on his shoulders. The only time he didn't go straight ahead when asked was when we came to a particularly thick cluster of branches hanging right in the middle of the trail while leading. I was going to duck and hang on. He stopped in front of it, took one good look, said, "Nah," then went carefully around it, which meant getting up on the side of the cliff that soared up next to the trail. I'd forgotten what it was like to ride a horse that can make decisions, while still going in the direction I want him to.

After what felt like a long time, we finally made it to the top of the mountain, where the forest was mature and thus there were no more low branches to duck under. The shade was wonderful, and as long as we kept moving, the bugs weren't bad. The "official" trail disappeared, and Liz followed the deer trails instead, across the ridge of the mountain. You could see the forest dipping down on both sides. Awesome!!!

Riding through the mature forest.
This was an old elk farm. The elk are not there anymore, but the 7' fences remain.

Adjusting the saddle and tightening the girth again. Should've grabbed that breastplate...oh well.
I got this video for your (and my!) enjoyment, while leading up a long, steep hill. Yes, it's one minute long. We walk, trot, gait and canter. He never faltered.

Liz managed to take us on a loop, so that on the way back we avoided some of the gnarlier parts of the immature forest. We only had to dismount once. It was one of the most awesome trail rides ever for me. There has only been one trailventure in my life that was remotely comparable previously, and it was when I was 14, still living in PR. There is a horse rental facility on the skirts of El Yunque named Hacienda Carabali (check it out here), where my barn's summer camp took us one day for what I think was a 2 hour ride. Since all of us in our group knew how to ride, we were given decent horses. The trails in Carabali are well marked, but I remember we gaited (the horses are all criollo horses aka Paso crosses) and we did quite a bit of cantering and galloping. It was hella fun. I used to do crazy things with my Pasos, like riding through our hometown on the streets and seeking out construction sites on the weekends (when no one is working) to sneak into so we could ride the paths that had been carved into the mountainsides by the machinery. But nothing quite like the ride with Liz. I'd like to do more of that more often! Once back at the barn, we hosed off Little Bit and Q, who were drenched in sweat.

I then hopped on Little Bit to ride him around to his pasture, and Liz got a video and photos of us:

Big ole goofy grin. :)

After that, we packed up my riding stuff and headed back to the house, so Carlos and I could get ready to leave. We would be giving Liz a ride to Seneca Rocks to meet up with Jeremy, and so we could hike up the trail to the top. It was on our way home anyway.

We drove through rain, and once at Seneca, it was thundering. Liz and Jeremy chose not to go rock climbing this time, and instead went on the hike with us. It was 1.5 miles to the top of the mountain.

See that fin of rock? That's where the trail led to.

Charles and his danger signs...

Liz and Jeremy, sitting on the front face of the fin.

<3 this one!

We hiked back down, and parted ways at the bottom of the mountain, with plans to hang out together again soon! We had so, so much fun on this trip!

Have a ton of photos of the Appalachians on our way home. And whoever says these aren't mountains, I beg to differ, especially after the views from Seneca above!

The Appalachians are beautiful. They feel like home. 

And that is the end of this epic blogger vacation. It's funny to think that without this blog, this trip would have never happened. I wouldn't have known Liz, wouldn't have known about her horses, wouldn't have had this insider's view into WV. The story would have been completely different. 

Thank you Liz, for inviting us over and showing us such a fantastic time! 

And thank you, Lily, for inspiring me to start this blog in the first place. 

Happy blogging!


  1. YAY BLOGGING and friends that come from it. =)

    Loved your stories. Loved that you loved it so much here. Can't wait to share more of it with y'all this fall and winter && visit and meet Miss Lilybird in a few months. =)

  2. Wow looks like you're having a super awesome time!