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



Sunday, February 9, 2014

Flurries and Fire

Woke up early today and went to Spinning class #3 for this week. The Saturday instructor has to be a fitness competitor; she is chiselled

This body type. You know any kind of instructor that looks like this is just going to kick your butt!
She has a Eastern European accent and gives the most awesome class. It is high intensity interval training; she has great taste in music and the animated peppy teaching style that I love. I missed the last 2 Saturday classes, the first recovering from bronchitis and last week because I didn't want to jump back into both riding and gym time at once after being sick for almost two weeks.

So I went to today's class...and we had a substitute. It was a guy. I was kind of bummed when I saw it wasn't going to be Johanna. However, going into the second song, he had us doing jumps on the bikes for 20 seconds at a time: 20 seconds pedalling out of the saddle, 20 seconds pedalling in the saddle, 20 seconds out of the saddle, etc. For an entire freaking song!! I hated him. And then I loved him. He gave a great class; I decided I was happy with him as a sub. My legs felt like noodles as I walked down the gym stairs to change in the restroom.

The sub was right in front of me as I went to validate my parking ticket at the front desk. I'd been in his direct line of sight in class. He saw me, looked me in the eye, and said, "You did a great job!" I was beaming on the way home. I'm always secretly surprised when I get compliments on exercising. I've mentioned here before how I used to be the fat girl growing up and how much I sucked and absolutely hated PE in school...

So. I ate a late, real breakfast (I usually just have coffee with milk and fruit before going to the gym), and ran over to the barn to meet Kathy for a ride. The forecast had said there was a 70% chance of snow. It started flurrying as I parked the car at the barn. We tacked up, I re-filled the water bottle I carry in my saddle bags and we mounted up.

We headed out at 2:00 pm; Kathy had to be back at the barn by 3:00 pm. It was still flurrying but it wasn't accumulating. (BOO!) We did the loop in the back woods at a walk, though both mares were quite forward. Queenie kept jumping over everything. At one point, she jumped some prickly brush from a standstill and Kathy gave a small scream. I stopped Lily and turned around, and Kathy burst out laughing. I thought Queenie had stepped into a hole! We continued on down the trail, laughing about Queenie's foxhunting aspirations.

We rode out to the bridge, which we hadn't crossed in a long time, and then turned around and returned by the Hill of Doom route. Both mares took off up the hill at a gallop, leaping over the fallen trees in the middle of the path. Kathy laughed all the way up. Someday I'll get video of her and Queenie galloping and jumping up that hill!

I rode back to the barn with Kathy. A light snow was still coming down. Both Kathy and I have been itching to ride while it's snowing, but we both decided this time did not count; it was barely even a dusting of snow. Once Kathy was safely home, I turned Lily around and headed back out to exercise some more.

We rode at a trot all the way back up the bridle path, through the back woods and out to the road that leads to the soybean farm. However, from the near side of the road I could see that the farm horses were turned out in their fields. I did not want a repeat of this. We turned around and just did the back woods loop several times.

Lily was game. She wanted to trot. She trotted up hills, down hills, through bush and through briar. She didn't care about mud, she didn't care about frost. She was sure-footed and confident and just kept on trucking, ears forward. She spooked at one moss-covered rock (I had to laugh. "Lily, did you forget the color green?") Further down the trail, she asked to canter and I let her go ahead. She managed to canter 3 strides then leaped 3 feet in the air to the side. Something frightened her...I'm assuming the fallen trees by the trail? There was nothing else that could have spooked her. We hadn't been on this particular trail in a long time either, and she'd always been iffy about those trees for whatever reason. With her spook I lost my left stirrup but was able to get her to come back down to a trot and get my foot back in the stirrup. We walked on for a ways after that. Remember how my legs felt like noodles from Spinning class?

We hit about 7.8 miles in the back woods and then I decided we should head towards home. I figured we'd trot/canter up and down the bridle path a couple of times and get an extra mile or so in.

As we were trotting up the trail that leads out of the woods, Lily suddenly bounded into a canter. I tried bringing her back to a trot but she was not listening. That's when I realized she was trying to canter to get away from something.

And that something was a dog. A large white American bulldog. I remembered then that Lily is indeed afraid of white dogs...the handful of incidents we had with dogs back in FL were all white dogs.

This white dog was running behind us.

He looked a lot like this guy.
I managed to bring Lily to a halt and face the dog. He stopped and stood staring at us. I tried shooing him away but he just stood there. There was a house on the other side of the trees; I figured that's where he'd come from. We'd never seen dogs in the woods before; I'd never even heard this guy bark before. He just stood still, alert, not being aggressive, just guarding his territory. I was debating whether to trot towards the dog to get him to go away or just walk away from him when a teenaged boy came out of the house and called the dog. The dog finally ran back to his owner, after some convincing.

Relieved, Lily and I continued on our way towards home.

We added 4 bridle path hill sets (this took all of 10 minutes), trotting down the hill and cantering back up. As we cantered up the bridle path the first time, I realized my saddle bags were not tight anymore. I removed them last weekend for the ride in the indoor and had replaced them yesterday for the ride with Kathy, but had attached them to the stirrup bars instead of the girth billets. The straps holding the bags to the stirrup bars had loosened, causing the saddle bags to bounce on Lily's shoulders. She ducked her head slightly 2 seconds after I noticed the change. I kept the reins short in case she was preparing to buck.

We made it up to the top of the hill then turned around and trotted back down.


We cantered back up a second time.

As we neared the top of the hill, Lily broke into a series of high-headed bucks. I kept her head up, turned her into a circle, then asked her to continue up the hill at a trot. Instead of staying wound up, she actually listened and settled immediately.

One more time. We half trotted and half cantered up the hill uneventfully, then trotted back down.

Back up for the last time. She made it all the way up at a canter without pause but I confirmed that it was the saddle bags upsetting her. I ordered Velcro strapping with which to secure them for next week.

We walked back down and all the way home to cool down. Lily still had energy for days. We did 9.5 miles in 2 hours and 4 minutes, and that's including the portion of the ride with Kathy at a walk. Average speed for the entire ride was 4.5 mph.

The neighbors across the way have several Newfoundlands, and they often take them for walks on the bridle path, looking like miniature grizzly bears. Lily has walked past them with company and has been looky but fine. These are wonderfully well-behaved dogs; they'll walk quietly by, following their owners with barely a glance at the horses.

Lily forgot all of this and fixated on the Newfies as we got closer and closer, and I decided to just dismount and lead her past the dogs and their owners. I didn't want her finally losing her shit when we were so close to home. Lily was on high alert but followed me without a problem.

Goofy mare.

Once in the barn, I untacked her, threw on her cooler and washed her legs while she ate.

Lily and her beet pulp mash
It was frigid as I was leaving the barn. I was glad to make it out before dark for once!






2 comments:

  1. I am so impressed with the mileage you are managing in the middle of winter. I'm also very happy that the dog did not end in disaster.

    Maybe tomorrow you can ride in a snow storm. That's what I'm thinking about doing. :)

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  2. Ugh, I love dogs, but having them come after you while you are riding is the WORST! I once rode a friend's little Arabian mare. She was older and quite the sassypants, so when this giant white dog almost as big as she was came out of the woods at us on a trail ride, she turned her rear end toward him and popped him with both hind feet. I don't think he was seriously injured, but he went running back home. But what I hate most are the people who have large dogs with the invisible fences. Your horse has no idea that the dog won't reach him and it is terrifying for a prey animal to have something that looks remarkably like a wolf running at him while barking. OK, rant over. I'm glad things worked out and you had a good ride.

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