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

Sunday, September 22, 2013


*I give full credit to Beka for introducing me to the use of this awesome word. 

Who is amazeballs? My mare is amazeballs!

This cuteness.
Modeling her new Sport Orange Renegades.
But I must first tell you about the rest of this week.

This week Lily was being two-timed with the gorgeous Willa, a 3/4 Connemara and 1/4 Warmblood black mare. Willa's mom was away on vacation this week, and since the pretty girl is insulin resistant and has already foundered once, her mom wanted to make sure she got exercised while she was away. There is a young girl that exercises horses at our barn, but she got injured and was not going to be able to ride Willa for the rest of the week. So I got asked to help.

I rode Willa on Tuesday for the first time, and we just did w/t/c in one of the pastures on the property for about 40 minutes. She is about 15 hh and wide, but she has an uphill build and a long thick neck that make her appear and feel taller than she is. Until she starts moving. I giggled riding her because she moves just like a pony! She has a loooong undulating fancy Warmblood walk, but her trot and canter are quick with short strides. It kind of feels like you're riding a Shetland. Super cute.

We worked on flexibility. You can do all sorts of lateral stuff with her at the walk (haunches-in, shoulder-in, leg yields, even baby half-passes), but not so much at the trot. At the trot, she sticks her great neck out and braces. If you sit her trot, she organizes herself, but as soon as you start posting, her trot gets shorter and quicker. At the sitting trot, I asked her to shoulder-in, which she would do, while still bracing. During the entire workout, I was able to get her to relax, bend, and soften 4 times. The trick? Leg yielding. It was very cool to use this exercise for one of its purposes: to stretch the horse's body. After the 4th softening, I asked Willa to walk, dropped the reins so she could stretch down and out, and called it a day.

On Wednesday, I had my solo ride with Lily.

Thursday, Lily officially started 24/7 turnout with Gracie the Rocky Mountain Horse, and I gave her the day off so she could just be a horse. She seemed very confused at first to find herself still outside after the rest of the mare herd had been brought inside, but by the end of the day, they had both adjusted and seemed happy to be out and about.

This was supposed to be a photo of the two mares hanging out, but Gracie is an attention hog. *lol*
In Gracie's world, people = treats, so she MUST come over to investigate...
See the fans in the run-in? They were off that day because it was in the low 70's. The switch for them is in the adjacent storage shed that serves as a feed room/tack room for the field boarders. It's a nice little set-up.
I went on a trail ride with Sally on McTavish the Haflinger, Elena on Grema the Icelandic Pony, and Kathy on Queenie the TWH. Interesting mix of breeds, isn't it? I thought it was cool.

McTavish is very brave on the trail, but his one issue is that he likes to go, go, go. He doesn't bolt or do silly things like rear or buck. He just wants to trot forever, despite the fact that he is very out of shape at the moment. So Sally has been working with him. It's good for McT, and it also gives Sally a horse to ride while Jez (Sally's OTTB, for those newer to the blog) finishes her recovery from her injury. Sally has her own blog here.

Sally and McT in the barn arena.
Going out, everyone was relaxed and walking along. McTavish wanted to be in front, which all of the other horses were happy to allow. Willa had the second-fastest walk, so we rode behind Sally and McT. Kathy on Queenie and Elena on Grema brought up the rear.

Grema's the little white pony. She's actually an adorable Palomino pinto color. She's 13.2 hh.
Queenie is the taller chestnut behind Grema.

We rode almost all the way out to Redneck Park. By then we'd been out for about 45 minutes going one way and we decided to turn around: Queenie's arthritis had been flaring up, and while she was sound, we didn't want to overdo it with this ride.

Gorgeous Maryland countryside. They used to breed horses at this farm. They still have horses, but no one has seen foals romping around for years.

Riding along the farm fence line.

But first: photo shoot!

Willa and me. Isn't she a pretty girl?
And yes, I finally got a protective vest! It is this one. Beta 3 and only $107.95 with free shipping!
(Beta 3 vests tend to start at $200; they are the maximum level of protection.)

Elena and Grema.
Elena rides in a treeless Sensation saddle. She is also wearing a protective vest. I think hers is a motorcycle one; it has padding over the spine and ribs.

Kathy beaming, while Queenie says, "Why are we just standing around?" :)
And yes, Kathy is also wearing a vest...
McT enjoys standing still under saddle for the first time ever. He was distracted staring at the horses in the distance.
My fave pic of these two together so far. :)
The second we turned around, however, both McT and Willa got into this competition over who would go first. Their nervousness got the other two older mares worked up as well, so all four horses became a simultaneous handful. We let McTavish go on ahead a ways in the hopes that the three mares would settle down. I was able to get Willa down to the speed of a walk, but she was doing a cross between a piaffe and a passage while curling her neck and anxiously grinding the bit between her teeth...

We made our way back, following the farm fence line, past a cornfield, and across the street. We were stopping often to reorganize the horses, but at this point I was unable to really pay attention to any of the others as Willa was getting more and more "up". We had just reached the back woods when Willa, who had decided to let all of the others pass, decided to explode: she literally leaped into the air in a heads-up buck (I had the reins pretty short). I made her walk a few steps forward and then got off.  Why?

1. Every instinct in me was telling me to get off. I obeyed.
2. I had nothing to prove. I'm not 18 anymore.
3. This is not my horse, she is not a horse that I'm training (she gets antsy with her mom when heading back to the barn, but not like this; this was her Grand Test for me), and I was exercising her purely for fun. I was not being paid to ride. Thus, it had stopped being fun, so I stopped riding.
4. The situation was not going to get better the closer we got to the barn. We were already halfway there and the horses were just getting more and more riled up with the energy exchange between Willa and McTavish the closer we got to the barn. I got off as a safety precaution for Elena and Kathy as much as for myself: they are self-admitted timid riders, and they didn't need to have this ride turn into something outright dangerous.

My getting off broke the spell.

Willa relaxed about 25% as soon as my feet hit the ground. I made her walk next to me, and after a couple of half halts and one instance where she tried to get pushy and got elbowed in the neck to make her back off, she relaxed further. She was still curling her neck and chomping anxiously at the bit, but she willingly stayed with her shoulder next to mine, while I "rode" her from the ground: I held the reins in each hand like you do with in-hand work. This created even pressure on the reins, and also served to prevent killing my right shoulder!

And this is how we walked the 2 miles home.

Sally was free to ride as far along as she wanted with McT, and this also gave her opportunities to turn him around and make him walk back towards us when he tried to get quick. She did an absolutely fantastic job handling him.

Since Willa had visibly settled down and slowed down in the process, Grema and Queenie were a lot more willing to walk at a much slower, relaxed pace. I had no problem with walking this distance: I run farther than this, and the temperature was nice enough that I just kept my helmet and vest on the entire way home.

We made it back to the barn uneventfully, and all of the horses got hosed off. I think we were all glad to be off of the trail...

On Friday, I lunged Willa upon arriving at the barn. She greeted me with pricked ears and bright eyes: I think she likes me. I used Lily's rope halter and Parelli lunge line, and took the black mare into one of the flatter pastures. She was absolutely wonderful on the lunge, and we did some interval training: walk warm-up, trot 4 minutes in each direction, canter 2 circles in each direction, then alternate trot 2 circles & canter 1 circle for 3 minutes total in each direction. This proved to be a useful exercise in particular for her: in downward transitions, her trot extends, which has been one of her mom's goals. I then had her trot 2 minutes in each direction. She finished with 5 minutes of walking on the lunge, then 5 minutes of hand-walking. Willa received a well-deserved bath after all of this.

Afterwards, I rode Lily out with Elena and Grema. We went to the park across the street, the same one I'd gone to with Kathy on Tuesday.

I won't deny that I was a little on edge after the previous day's ride, and also knowing Lily is starting to show the first signs of being about to go into heat again. BUT, she had been turned out for over 24 hours at that point, had come up to me when I went to catch her in the field, and was completely ignoring Gracie's whinnies and galloping down the fence line as Elena and I rode up the driveway.

Completely UNlike our Tuesday ride, Lily powered down the meadow path until we came to the Hidden Pond trail. She tried to hesitate at The Boulder again, but she took one look at it and walked on. 

Since my phone froze during this ride (after the lovely iOS 7 upgrade. Hating it; it has made my phone completely unpredictable) and couldn't take a single photo, all of the photos that will follow are pics that I found online of some of the sights on this trail system. All of these photos are by Midnight Rider on Panoramio.

Hidden Pond. It really is hidden.
She was FANTASTIC during this ride. We took a different trail named River Otter Trail that had us crossing the creek at one point.

The crossing was one step up from Lily's comfort zone: it had a steep drop (about 1.5') to the stream bank, but the bank itself was sandy/pebbly (no mud) and the stream was clear and shallow, with a bottom of small rocks. The opposite bank was a gentle slope of more sand/pebbles. 

Initially Lily didn't want to approach the bank. The afternoon light was sparkling blindingly off of the water's surface and I think that was part of what threw her. Elena happily had Grema cross first, and I urged Lily to follow her. Lily trusted me enough to step down with her front legs, then just stood there, perpendicular to the shore with her hind legs still on the bank, while Grema calmly drank water from the creek.

Lily did think about ways to get out of this one, but in her position it was impossible. I nudged her sides and after a second or two of hesitation, she stepped forward. With all 4 feet on the shore, she looked down at the water, and I felt the moment when she considered jumping across! But it was too wide: over 6' wide. I asked her verbally to walk, and she did! With ears up, she splashed right into the water, through the creek, and up the other side behind Grema. The little Icelandic led up to a fork in the trail, then stopped: "Lily goes first." So we took the lead again.

Elena told us which way to turn, and in this manner took us to a lovely lake almost completely covered by lily pads. The trail that went around the lake was lined with goldenrod, which smelled amazing. Honey bees buzzed among the flowers as we walked by on our mares.

It was like something out of a fairy tale. We rode halfway around the lake, then turned around and retraced our steps. This time Lily led across the creek. Her ears went up as we approached it, and there wasn't a single moment of hesitation as we neared the shore, crossed the water, and hopped up the opposite bank. 

Grema stopped to drink water again, so Lily got to practice waiting. She got impatient, tossing her head and trying to walk on, but she didn't get "up" about it and eventually did settle a bit, though she kept turning her head to look at me, "Why are we standing? Let's GO!" 

After Grema's drink, we continued up the River Otter Trail, which Kathy and I had taken during our ride Tuesday. This is the trail that took us along the creek:

I found the name of this: it is the Hawlings River. Apparently it is a real river, not like our little Rock Creek back on the Bayou Trail at the old barn.
We encountered the same mud patch, which was worse than before, and I just had Lily climb up the hillside to avoid it. Again she jumped the tiny little stream that flowed down the mountainside to join the river below.

Elena showed us a different, longer route than the one Kathy and I had taken, and we eventually made it back onto the Fox Meadow trail that looks around the park.

Fox Meadow trail

The meadow
While on the last leg of the Fox Meadow trail, a huge horsefly decided it was absolutely going to land on either Grema or Lily. Grema was a good girl, but Lily did get pretty upset about it, as it kept landing on her butt where she couldn't reach it. She swished her tail angrily, and I flipped it off with the butt end of my dressage whip, but flailing the dressage whip around was not helping her mental state: she IS about to come into heat, after all. 

Since Elena was behind us, she told us each time the stupid fly landed on Lily's butt so I could try to flick it off.  I ended up just getting off so I could brush it off with a hand without upsetting my poor mare further. We kept on walking, me leading Lily on foot, until the fly finally left us alone. I then remounted and we rode the rest of the way home (except for the street crossing, where I got off).

It was such a great ride! It was awesome beyond words to finally feel Lily beginning to trust me. Elena wants to ride together again, which tells me how comfortable she felt with us. 

In conclusion: my mare is AmazeBalls. See? I told you. :)


  1. Outside life and life with mares is doing WONDERS for her. I think you've finally found the recipe that works!!


  2. I love teaching new words! :)

    This barn really does sound amazing. I'm sorta jealous. I mean, my barn is awesome, but the freaking trails you've got access to! I've got alligators and swamp and bow hunters.

    Props for the brave mare!

    1. Lol! We have bow hunters too, and we'll have regular deer hunters (with rifles) starting in October. (I'm also looking at orange gear.) The good thing is that this park is the only one exempt from hunting; hunting happens even in the back woods behind the barn.

      We also have lots of deer! Thankfully Lily has gotten used to seeing them in the pastures at both barns, so it has translated to the trail. I don't miss the possibility of encountering alligators and raccoons, though - both common occurrences on the FL trails we rode on. Haha...

      The big perk about this entire area (MD and VA) is that a LOT of people trail ride (in all sorts of tack. It's very cool!), so it is bragging rights for barns to have good trail access. It is easier to find a barn with decent trails than without. MD has a big organization called TROT - Trail Riders Of Today, that help maintain equestrian trails and keep them available to riders. (Some counties keep trying to shut parks/trails down.) They even have maps of popular trails on their website. When we moved here, we had no idea that horses and riding were such a big thing in this state. :)

  3. Replies
    1. Thank you! It's nice to see this side of her blossoming by exposing her to more and more stuff. :)