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

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Best. Husband. EVER!!

I will start this post with this photo:

He really is the best ever. :)

My best friend Diana was going to visit us this weekend from FL. She had bought her plane tickets 2 months ago and had even sent me the receipt so I'd have the exact flights and times. She was supposed to arrive Friday at 9:30 am and Charles and I had planned the weekend down to every last detail...

...until Diana cancelled. Due to a last-minute schedule change at work. I was bummed out beyond words. I'd seen Diana when we went to FL in November for Charles's cousin's wedding, but I hadn't really hung out with her since we moved to MD in October 2012.

Charles and I decided that we would do everything we had planned anyway. He was trying so hard to cheer me up.

Gracie was so good on my solo ride with her last Sunday that I felt she would be absolutely fine for Charles to ride, especially if I was leading on Lily. So on Thursday night I asked him how did he feel about coming along with me for a ride on the trails since the day was supposed to be gorgeous and warm.

He said yes!

So he tagged along with me today, something which we hadn't done in awhile. We stopped by Southern States to pick up more beet pulp and Lily's Triple Crown Senior (she is currently allowed 1.5 lbs total a day mixed with her beet pulp meals). There is a Jimmie Cone right in the Southern States parking lot. Jimmie Cone is a local ice creamery with the most delicious soft serve ice cream. We hadn't had any since last year, so Charles and I sat down for some ice cream before continuing on our way to the barn.

They call the sprinkles jimmies.
Hence Jimmie Cone.
The GPS took us through a glorious new route from the feed store to the barn, winding through the beautiful rolling Maryland countryside. It was hazy and it looked like it was going to be a white-hot kind of day, but it actually was really nice: in the mid 70's for the whole day.

Once at the barn, Charles went to fetch Gracie in the mare field while I got Lily from the small pasture behind the main barn. My vet cleared Lily for half day turnout with a grazing muzzle! I introduced it to her on Wednesday, leading her around one of the pastures while offering her blades of grass through the hole in the bottom of the muzzle. I wanted her to be able to eat something while wearing it and since it's steadily warming up, I was also worried about her drinking enough water.

On Thursday she was turned out in the small pasture with Angel, BO's little retired Morab mare. I found her standing in the sun in the middle of the pasture with one leg cocked and brought her in for a beet pulp and Safe Starch Forage lunch.

Today I found her actually grazing!

She looks like some sort of Hannibalistic exotic dancer with her fly fringe and muzzle...
I was SO happy that she had figured the muzzle out! Some of the horses on the property won't eat at all with the muzzles on. Gracie is one of these. She'll drink water with it just fine, but she won't bother trying to eat grass with it on.

I brought Lily into her temporary stall, filled her feeder with beet pulp and hung up a soaked haynet. She dug in happily.

Charles was taking a LOOONG time to come back up with Gracie. I was about to go look for him when he suddenly showed up, both him and Gracie covered in mud up to their knees. Charles had mud all the way inside his waterproof shoes! Gracie had not wanted to hop over a mud patch in the field so he'd had to lead her through it.

Thankfully I'd told him to bring his sneakers as backups, but he had no dry socks. He removed his shoes, threw out the socks that were drenched in mud, hosed off both shoes and his feet, and got to work grooming Gracie...


Gracie's legs had been cleaned up considerably by this point. You can see the mud on Charles's jeans.
I was planning on this being a longer ride: I gave Gracie one of Lily's soaked hay haynets for her to munch on while getting her tacked up so she too would have some food in her tummy.
Oh, and yeah: Gracie is NOT a pony. Charles is 6'1". Gracie is about 15.2 hh. She is taller than Lily.
I chuckled at him. His excuse was that he was waiting for his feet to dry before putting on his sneakers.The man has quite literally jumped off a plane skydiving, done all sorts of bungee jumping, ziplining and rapelling in different countries of the Americas, surfed 20 foot waves, was stranded on a deserted island for 4 days (with me), and he was an Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts that taught other young scouts to survive in the middle of nowhere. Barefoot in a barn? Riding an unknown (to him) spirited mare on the trails? Piece of cake. (If you want to read more about our story together and Charles's background, go here.)

We tacked up but I left Lily in the stall with her haynet while walking Charles to the arena with Gracie to let them get a feel for one another in a confined space. Charles had a very nice position in the Alta and he has naturally soft hands on the reins. I explained the kind of pressure he needed on the bit while they circled around me. Gracie basically walked around, turned and stopped at his request and when in doubt simply came to a halt in the arena and turned her head to look at me, "Why is this person riding me?" I couldn't help laughing. Yet another quirk of hers to remind me of Lucero...he used to do the same thing when other people rode him: if the person on his back wasn't clear or was being any kind of timid with him, he'd simply come to a grinding halt and grow roots where he was standing. No amount of kicking, begging, pleading from the unknown rider could get him to move unless I broke the spell by leading him forward or putting him on a lunge line. Gracie wasn't quite that bad, but it was a very similar stunt. She's the only other horse other than Lucero that I've seen do that.

I was very happy with this response: I'd rather a horse simply stop with a new rider than try to bolt.

I finished getting Lily ready and we mounted up. Lily would be wearing her front Vipers for this trip, and I may just keep her in them for rides until further notice. The second Lily realized we were going out, she was all, "HURRY UP AND GET ON LET'S GO!" barely waiting for me to get my right foot in the stirrup once I was on, before walking off with ears pricked.

Charles and Gracie led the way up the driveway.

Then Lily and I took the lead to make our way into the park. We crossed the street to the neighboring park without any kind of issue. Lily was forward and super happy to be out again but feeling as if I'd just taken her on the trails the week before. It was GREAT to have my bay girl back to her normal self, as it meant I could just focus on Charles and Gracie for this ride.

This is what he does when I tell him I'm taking a photo for the blog...lol

Happy mare ears!
We walked and trotted around the meadow trail, both mares excited to go faster. Charles and Gracie, with her 7mph gait (I rated her last week!), took the lead until we came to the section of path that would take us into the forest. Lily and I went in the front again since Charles has never been out this way.

I took them through the newer section of trails that Kathy and I had been riding over the winter, which has a couple of small creek crossings that Gracie is familiar with. Lily jumped most of the crossings while Gracie would go down to the water's edge, look at it, walk through, then happily speed up on the other side. Charles said it was like she would be so proud of herself that she'd feel the need to go faster.

There is one crossing in this section that has 2 options: you can go through a deeper pool of water or you can veer off to the side and walk over rocks through a shallower portion of creek. I knew Gracie prefers the shallower option here, so I directed Lily through it so Charles could follow. Lily was annoyed that I did not let her jump this creek. She was a ball of energy on this ride and I was thrilled to discover that she has not lost an ounce of fitness during her month long break.

They had just crossed the creek and he was patting her neck. :)
Big goofy grin :)
I love his expression in this one!
We rode all the way to the end of this trail to where it dead-ends in a field, then trotted up the steep hill that Kathy and I have galloped in the past. We then followed the trail back to where it loops with the main trail and retraced our steps.

Gracie had been getting increasingly impatient about being in the back. Charles said she kept trying to see if she could squeeze past one side of Lily or another! We trotted for a ways so Gracie could move out at a faster speed and both mares were happy to comply.

As we came to the creek crossing with the two options, I chose to have Lily go through the deeper pool. Lily trotted through and up the other side, then pranced in place impatiently while I turned around to wait for Charles and Gracie.

Charles showed Gracie the deeper option. Gracie went to the water's edge, looked down at it closely, then looked to side and, arching her neck, took off at a gait through the shallower route across the creek. I burst out laughing. "She made that call all by herself didn't she?" I asked. Charles was laughing too. "Yes she did! It's so cool to see the wheels turning in her head!"

I was thrilled to see that he automatically "got" her. Charles has an astounding ability for reading people - I have yet to see him get a first impression wrong! His gift translates to animals just as well. It's just one more thing that is so awesome about sharing my life with him: he understands animals with the same ease that I do, and animals in general adore him. I've seen squirrels go running up to him! Lily, who trusted NO men in the beginning, never showed any kind of fear or hesitation around Charles. The whole reason why he got a biology degree in the beginning was because he originally wanted to be a veterinarian.

As soon as the trail opened up, I let Charles and Gracie take the lead. Of course then Lily became impatient, prancing and jigging when Gracie sped up. We practiced a little bit of leap frogging, letting Charles and Gracie get ahead and then trotting to catch up to them.

Seriously. Having him come with us on the trails makes me SO HAPPY!
Gracie knew exactly where we were going until I decided to take Charles down to the lily pad lake, which meant taking the trail that cuts through the middle of the forest to get there. Gracie started to go back on one of the routes we've taken before when I told Charles, "Wait! We're going this way." He turned her around and Lily and I took the lead.

The trail through this section is fairly flat. We picked up a trot/gait (Gracie gaited) and then Lily offered a canter. I looked back over my shoulder and Gracie had picked up her awesome rolling canter, staying right behind us with her nose even with Lily's rear end. Charles was having a blast!

We cantered on through the woods, breaking down to a trot as we turned left onto the trail that would take us by the river.

There is a small beach by the river where I took Lily, Gracie and Charles following behind us, so the mares could cool off in the water and have a drink if they felt the inclination.

Lily lipped at the water and took a couple of sips, but Gracie stopped and had a nice long drink.

We then continued on our way to the bigger river crossing.

HAPPY happy mare!!!

Charles and Gracie gaiting along.
One ear cocked, listening to him.
VERY happy mare!

Charles took some photos too.

Gracie's ears and Lily & me trotting ahead.
Those Vipers stayed ON through mud, rocks and water!
The bank had gotten a little steeper over the past couple of weeks. Lily paused for a second, studying it, then splashed through with minimal encouragement. We made it to the opposite bank and turned around to wait for Gracie and Charles.

Gracie went down to the water's edge but she couldn't see the bottom as it had been disturbed by Lily's passing. She took one good look at it, then spun around and started to make her way back up the trail! "F this!" Gracie said. I gave Charles directions from my side of the river and he was able to get Gracie to come back to the bank but she was intimidated by the fact that she still couldn't see the river bottom: she spun around once more. I had Charles wait and Lily and I crossed back to meet them. I had Charles ride Gracie right up against Lily's butt so she could follow immediately in our steps.

Lily confidently went back into the water and we stopped in the middle of the river this time. Gracie stopped at the edge of the steep bank, put both front feet forward at the same time allowing them to slide down simultaneously into the water (I've seen experienced foxhunters do that move to negotiate banks; I was impressed to see Gracie instinctively do the same thing!), took a look at the water, and then followed behind us.

Charles was very impressed when he saw the lake:

It will be completely covered in lily pads in a couple of weeks.
We cantered up the hill behind the lake then veered right and followed the trail back down to the river. Gracie had no issues crossing through again.

We then followed the Hidden Pond trail back to the meadow trail. I let Charles and Gracie take the lead again during this section, but I had Lily go in front to cross the streets home.

We made it back safely, completing 6.5 miles in 1 hour and 48 minutes. Not a super fast pace and while Lily was cleared to go back to regular work this week, I didn't want to push her too hard on her first trail ride out after her layup.

Lily's Vipers in the wash stall.
They stayed on through EVERYTHANG.
Now I need to ride her with all 4 boots on.
Both mares got hosed down and received their dinners afterwards. After Lily was all settled in her dry lot and Gracie was back in her field, Charles and I went to our new favorite Mexican restaurant, Uncle Julio's, for dinner.

Chandelier in the Uncle Julio's waiting area.
Love the colored wood in the ceiling!

It was an awesome, awesome day!!


  1. I'm really sorry your friend didn't make it, but sometimes things happen for a reason . . . sounds like you and C had a wonderful day, wonderful dinner and wonderful time. I wish I could take our family out there to ride together. And to eat good food. And laugh alot.

    1. You guys just need to all come visit. :) We'd all have so much fun together!

  2. I adore the photo of him patting her neck after the creek! What a great adventure. I hope he gets out more. We will all four have to go on a ride when you visit.

    1. Yup, that was my second favorite photo! And yes, the four of us need to go riding together when we go visit! :D Especially since Charles now has his own riding gear...including dem tights...lol!

  3. It's wonderful that you can share your horses with your husband!

  4. Sorry your friend couldn't come up, but your husband is amazing!

  5. Can we trade husbands for a day? Not even a day, how about a couple of hours?

    Sidenote: my husband's cousin has started dating a fellow who was previously involved with harness racing. He (I mean.. "they"...) is coming to town this month or next month and I've already told him to bring some damn boots so we can go trail riding!

    1. I'm glad you'll get to ride with someone who's almost family! And he has experience with harness racing? I'm excited to read about it when it happens!

      What part of riding intimidates D? Is it the horse's size, the fact that they have a mind of their own, the possibility of the bad things that could happen? (All *very* valid reasons for being afraid!) Is there a very quiet calm horse that he could sit on, or maybe even take a couple of lessons on? Sometimes just getting to know and understand something that intimidates us is enough to help us stop being so afraid of it. It would be so awesome if D could ride with you too!

    2. If I stood beside Archie and led, I would absolutely trust him with D's life. No questions asked.

      Unfortunately, there aren't any horses suitable for my 230#, 6'4? 5? husband at my barn. The BM has three horses, two of which are show, the third a greenbroke QH with a small TB body. D's a big guy and it's all muscle (now). I think if I could find a stout, sane, old, slow as dirt draft or draft cross, that would be feasible. But he has no desire to get on a horse. Too many accounts of me coming off? Too many stories about Archie being a little shit? Too many patients that had more serious accidents? The one time that he sat on Archie and I led him, the reasoning for want to get off was because the horse was liberated and had free control over every limb. We're so accustomed to it, but I think D might have thought that it would be more robotic - the horse moves when I tell it to move, the horse doesn't need to shift weight or balance or twitch at flies.

  6. Charles and Gracie look like they are made for each other!

    1. They have very similar personality types! Haha