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

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Chasing the Sun

Saturday was a gorgeous day that truly felt like spring. I pulled up at the barn at 9:45 am, wearing a long sleeved shirt and a fleece jacket: my first time in a long time wearing only 2 layers at the barn, and the only reason for that was because there was a steady, chilly wind blowing. It was quite warm in the sun when the wind stopped.

See? The birds are coming back.
I can understand now why people move to gosh-awful hot places like Florida. If I'd had this kind of winter my whole life, I would want to hightail it to FL too. One of the things we'd really liked about moving to the DC area is that while yes, there are 4 distinct seasons, it is normal to only get a titch of snow in the winter (just enough to guarantee that the cities have the means to clean up the snow with, unlike GA) and you get enough warm days (as in 40's and maybe 50's) mixed into the winter to make 40 degrees the average daytime winter temperature for this area.

THIS winter is the whole entire reason why we did NOT even attempt to move to New England. "Driving in a blizzard" is not something that was on my bucket list, and I've had to do it 3 times already this winter: we don't get snow days at my job. I love snow but this has been way, way too cold for way too long. And this coming from someone who likes the cold and has the appropriate clothes for being outdoors in it. (One of the doctors at work commented on my having snow boots despite coming from the tropics. She is originally from the snowy Northwest and surprisingly does not own snow boots. My response was that, yes, I may be from a hot climate but that doesn't mean I'm not going to adapt to my new reality! Adaptation is the key to survival. I still have my snow shovel in the back seat of the car...we're getting up to 8" between tonight and tomorrow. WTF. I may just leave the shovel in my car until June at the rate we're going...)

Rant over, since complaining doesn't change what the weather will do. Winter is like the honey badger: it does what it wants.

Winter doesn't care nor give a shit either!

Back to Saturday: it was gorgeous out. Period.

Kathy and I had made plans to trailer the girls over to the Agricultural History Farm Park about 10 minutes from our barn. They have lovely trails over there and I know them pretty well from riding with Tina and Houdon while at the old barn and later hiking them with Charles this past summer.

"What are we doing today?"
We put our tack in the trailer and loaded up the girls, arriving at the park by 10:45 am.

Kathy let Queenie munch on grass (grass is actually starting to grow everywhere!) and I set Lily up with her haynet of orchard grass + alfalfa while we tacked up. She was a good girl and dug right in. I was wearing my Cap3 long sleeve crewneck with a microfiber shortsleeve on top, but I got quite warm once I put my vest on. I ended up removing the crewneck and keeping the shortsleeve shirt only.

Guys. This is the first time in 6 months that I've been in short sleeves outside!

Modeling her Horze boots. I ordered the hind fetlock boots to match.
Another trailer with a Fjord and an Icelandic arrived and parked next to us. The two ladies with the ponies were really nice, even complimenting our tack. The horses were adorable!

Kathy and I mounted up and set off.

Kathy beaming

The trails at the Ag Park are particularly awesome because they are double track. For the first time ever, Kathy and I could actually ride side-by-side.

The trail goes around a huge, HUGE cornfield. I've wanted to canter around the Ag Park corn fields since the very first time I laid eyes on them on my first trail ride in MD.

I finally got my wish! I asked Kathy if she'd like to canter and she was all for it. We cantered until Lily decided she wanted to trot instead and Queenie slowed to a rack behind us then catching up until she was next to Lily. This was the first time ever that Queenie has racked and Kathy did NOT like it - she said she felt like it had re-arranged her spine!

We continued on the trail at a walk and it took us on to a long wooden bridge:

Photo of the bridge from when Charles and I hiked this trail last May.
(I am so anxiously looking forward to everything being that green again!!)
The mares had no problems crossing it. From there the trail winds around the woods and goes right through a tunnel. The tunnel goes under one of the area's major roadways:

Photo of the tunnel, also taken last summer.
The one other time I rode Lily through here, she didn't care about the tunnel, but this time she initially was concerned. She tried to turn around twice but I urged her forward. She wasn't too sure about the change of light; however once we were in the tunnel she was fine, didn't even care about the echo.

Going through the tunnel. Filmed and narrated by Kathy. :)

The trail winds around meadowland and through part of a forest, then comes back out onto more meadowland.

Through the woods

Queenie had no problem taking turns in the lead on this venture away from home.
Good mare!
The trail eventually leads to a nursery, running parallel to the property fenceline and taking you through another forest. It eventually dead-ends on a street. We turned around and re-traced our steps.

The tunnel was NBD on the way back and I was even able to get a video for you guys:

And I also got one of the awesome long bridge!

When we reached the corn field, I asked Kathy if she was good to trot. She asked if we could canter instead! I laughed and said of course.

We cantered about 1/4 of a mile then continued for a ways at a trot. 

Prior to that, Queenie had been looking longingly at the water every time we crossed a creek or stream. We went looking for a source of water for her, following the creek that flows next to the corn field. The banks were pretty high on both sides but we continued until we found a spot where the bank was maybe 12", not 2'! Queenie didn't want to step down into the water so I had Lily go first. Lily hopped down into the water and Queenie followed. My mare took a couple of sips but of course Queenie decided she didn't want to drink after all. 

Mares! Haha... We turned around, hopped back up bank and continued on our way around the corn field - I'd never been all the way around it and we wanted to see how big it was.

About another 1/4 mile down the trail, we could see the Ag Park buildings. Kathy needed to use the restroom and there are porta potties behind the buildings so we just rode the mares over.

The Ag Park has old style barn buildings and heavy machinery, preserved as a sort of memoir/living museum of the way Maryland farms used to be. There was a pen with goats right next to the entrance to the barn yard; Lily has never seen goats before and she wasn't too sure about them, but she didn't spook.

We rode into the barn yard, which was devoid of people. All of the buildings were closed. Both Kathy and I commented that it felt like we had just ridden into an old Western movie...all that was missing was the tumbling tumbleweed rolling in front of the buildings across the way from us. 

Yeah, like that.
Kathy said Wyatt Earp was going to come out shooting at us at any second; we would fend him off with our crops!

Laughing, we found the porta potties.

We took turns holding the horses while each of us used the facilities. Cleanest porta potties ever, fyi. Really.

Part of the barnyard.
We re-mounted using one of the picnic tables by the barnyard, deciding that we would make poor heroines in a classic Western move: the Lone Ranger would have never gotten on Silver by means of a picnic table...

We rode back out of the barnyard and continued on our way around the cornfield. That's when Kathy realized her cell phone was missing. She figured maybe it had bounced out of her saddle bags when we'd cantered.

Cornfield trail
We rode back to the Ag Park barnyard to make sure it hadn't fallen out somewhere there. It had not.

As we were riding back out to the cornfield to retrace our steps to where we had cantered, the two ladies with the Icelandic and the Fjord rode up. Kathy asked them if by any chance they hadn't found an iPhone in a teal blue case.

They had! Not only had they found it, they had called the most recent number on it (who happened to be Kathy's hubs) and confirmed that it was indeed her phone. They had been nice enough to take it back to her trailer where they had safely put it away in the trailer tack room.

Marylanders are da bomb, I tell you.

We chitchatted with the ladies for a few more minutes. By then it was getting close to time for us to leave (Kathy had to be back at the barn by 3:00 pm). The two women on their ponies went on their way and we continued on the cornfield trail.

Since we were able to ride side by side, we worked on trying to get Queenie to properly gait while Lily trotted. And since I could actually see Kathy while her and Queenie were gaiting (because she was next to me and not behind us), I was able to do minor corrections to Kathy's position so she could keep her chestnut girl at the desired pace. They succeeded, maintaining the gait for almost a 1/4 of a mile while Lily trotted on at about 4 mph speed.

The trail flowed up a very steep hill and we decided to canter one more time. Lily bounced into a canter first and Queenie followed suit. Suddenly, Queenie was cantering next to Lily, and then she decided that this bs was too slow: she leaped forward into a gallop and tore off up the hill.

My heart stopped for a second; I started to get ready to shout out instructions on how to stop, but then realized Kathy was laughing and was completely relaxed in the saddle. "Queenie!" she exclaimed. Her position was perfect, and at the slightest touch on the reins the little red mare slowed to a fast canter.

This all happened in the blink of an eye. Grinning, I urged Lily forwards after Queenie. My mare galloped up the remainder of the hill; Kathy and Queenie slowed to a gait as we caught up and Lily and I broke down to a trot next to them.

The trail wound down again, back to the tree line. We slowed to a walk, both Kathy and I still grinning from ear to ear, all the way back to the trailer. We completed 7 miles in about 2 hours.

We let the girls eat a snack of soaked beet pulp while we untacked and put our stuff away.

Being a good girl about eating!

The trip back to the barn was quick and uneventful; we unloaded the trailer and it was warm enough that I was able to give Lily a bath! She had her feet trimmed and I tried my new Easyboot Gloves on her (these will be her backup boots; they are almost $20 less per boot than the Renegades and they fit better if they are tight. I figured these could be our spares for the long term...hopefully...) The size 1s fit her beautifully on all 4 feet. It was wonderful to spend time at the barn without having freezing fingers and toes!

She got turned out and I was happy to see that she went straight to eat at the round bale instead of rolling!

I was so, so excited about the warmth that I got home in a hurry, ditched my plans to go to the gym and instead decided to go for a run outside. In short sleeves. Because I could.

In the time it took me to change clothes, have a cup of coffee, lace up my sneakers and run back outside the door, the temperature in the shade had dropped a good 5 degrees and it felt downright cold in the shade. So instead of walking to warm up, I jogged in the shade, slowing down to a walk only when I reached areas lit by the sun.

I set my heart rate monitor to start reading my chest strap, which meant that it would not tell me the time as well. Yes, I can click a button to see time, but I didn't want to. Instead, I based the entire workout off of my heart rate and RPE (rate of perceived exertion): I'd run until I reached my target heart rate (150-160 bpm), then walk until my heart rate dropped to 130 bpm, which is equivalent in effort to me walking up an incline - it's a working effort that I'd call a 4 out of 10 that I can maintain for a long time.Once my heart rate was close to 130 or felt like a 4 out of 10 (whichever came first), I'd start running again until my heart rate reached 160 or my rate of perceived exertion felt like a 7-8 out of 10.

While walking, I paid attention to my surroundings and smiled: I noticed tiny buds starting to pop up on trees and bushes, gardens already mulched in preparation for spring, the slowly greening grass all over our neighborhood, the birds fluttering and singing in the trees, people cooking dinner on their porch grills. I had not realized how much I'd been longing to see the return of spring. I could have just burst from joy.

In this manner, I completed 3 miles in 45 minutes, which is actually way better than anything I did this past summer. I returned home beaming and so happy to have spent my entire day out in a warm sun!

It's really hard to believe that there are currently 4" of snow on the ground again. *Sigh* I get to drive to work tomorrow in *snow storm#4! NOT yay. (How come last year all of our snow came on the weekends, when I was working, and now that I'm off on weekends, it comes during the week?)

*I know a lot of you guys are dealing with a LOT more snow than this, but the catch here is that people in the DC area drive like lunatics when the roads are slick (they act like it's the end of the world. Seriously.) The plows do a decent job everywhere except at my job parking lot. Hence the shovel in the backseat. It's also the one major place where I've encountered black ice - have almost wiped out several times trying to get in the door at work. They do a lousy job of salting the lot. If I got to go to the barn or just hang out at home on snow days, I would not be complaining at all! Haha...


  1. Do not discount the damage that can be done with a whip or crop when defending one's self from dangers on the trail.

    I love the sound of the birds in the second video under the road. I love listening to the sounds of the birds calling and mating and raising their babies. I am just holding my breath, waiting for the swallows to find their way back to our barn. Maybe another month and we will having nesting birds every where. I saw the female Redtail who nests across the road on her nest Saturday, rolling her eggs. She should have babies very soon.

    I'm glad to hear you are learning how to exist in weather that could be found in Colorado, although our really deep cold snap is not Vortex level. And we don't call it a blizzard unless there is at least 24" of snow. In the nine years T has been in school, he's had two snow days. It's very sad for him to wake up to 10" and know that's not enough to cancel class. (He also lives in the toughest school district, ever.)

    1. I'm sure N can tell us all about crop weaponry. ;) I still think it was awesome that she used her whip on that horrible woman.

      I'm glad your birds are starting to return too!!!

      I hear ya on the blizzard definition! I personally would not even categorize these events as storms. To me, a storm is a weather event with precipitation of some sort and +60mph winds. I laughed when I drove to work during our first big snow this winter and I heard it was actually a named storm. I was like, "You're kidding, right? I don't know about snow, but that was certainly not a storm." The problem is when everyone *else* acts like it's a storm - driving like crazy, the "I have to do this one last thing otherwise I won't be able to get out of my house for God knows how long" mentality. Yeah the plows clean up but when snow is still coming down in between plow runs, the roads turn into an icy slushy mess and people who have the option of staying home choose to go out and drive in it...I can manage my car through that because I've driven over sand, moss and have dealt with hydroplaning, but some people in this area are idiots...I'm more afraid of them than of anything the weather gods can dish out. Haha...If next year they call for a bad winter again, though, I'm getting snow tires, I don't care what anyone else thinks or says!

      I was really surprised to learn that it can be hard to find a 4WD SUV/truck in this area. Really? They were easy to find in FL and PR...so weird. I guess it's some sort of statement? "Oh, it rarely snows here so we don't need 4WD!" In PR it was a weird status symbol to have a 4WD SUV. The bigger the better...

      Poor T! Over here they call it a snow day even if there's only 2" of snow on the ground. They've had so many snow days this winter in our county that they're going to have to extend the school year to make up!

  2. Short sleeves! I remember what that used to be like...::sigh::

    1. Right? I felt positively naked. I kept looking down at my arms - it was so weird to be able to see my skin under direct sunlight again.

  3. Mmmm short sleeves. Thrilled you're having so many awesome rides!

    1. Me too! Beyond excited to include you in them soon! :D

  4. "Winter is like the honey badger: it does what it wants." This cracks me up!! Sounds like a beautiful ride, hopefully the snow doesn't stick around!

    1. Oh it'll be gone - the snow is going to get subbed for rain tomorrow through Wednesday. Winter, meet spring. Lol Hopefully it will really get all the green and flowers kick started!

      Glad you enjoyed the honey badger reference! Hahaha... ;D

  5. I can't believe this was 2 days ago and now I'm looking at 6 plus inches of snow in my yard. When I turned Nimo out this morning, he was seriously confused about what happened because when he went in the barn last night, there was no snow! I'm glad you and Kathy had such a great ride - the park looks beautiful!

    1. I knooooow...we have like 12" up here. I really hope this is the last time I have to dig my car out to go anywhere. Poor Nimo!

      The Ag Park is awesome - I thought of you while we were there. If you come visit we could totally go ride there!

  6. Short sleeves - very jealous. Hasn't been warm enough in NJ for short sleeves yet. Dreaming of the day I can wear short sleeves again. This has been a LONG winter!!!

    1. It's been way too long! I hope we have a long hot summer to make up for it!