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

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Autumn Ride

Lily's winter coat is starting to come in, so she received a blanket clip on Friday:

Blanket clip. Since it's not exactly clear in the photo. Drawing by moi.
There are other variants of course. IRL I chose to not make the edges this sharp.
Lily has been in heat pretty much since we arrived at Kathy's place almost 3 weeks ago (I blame the geldings next door)...which meant she was absolutely ridiculous about the clippers, despite the fact that we've done this about 10 million times uneventfully since she became mine over 3 years ago. The second I started clipping the upper part of her neck, she sat down on the cross ties, broke the safety crown on her halter (a NEW ONE btw. New halter and nice new padded safety crown. What the hell, Lily?) and  took off running around the paddock outside the barn like a lunatic. If you look closely in the photo of her eating, you can see in the bottom left-hand corner of the photo the chunks of dirt that she tore up in her frenzy. -_-

To add insult to injury, as usual her and I are synchronized (seriously, other mare owners out there: are you synchronized with your mare or am I the only freak?) which means that she gets extra uber-sensitive and I get extra royal angry bitchface, which does not help Miss Hypersensitive. She finally let me catch her and put a rope halter on her but to finish clipping the upper part of her neck and around her ears, I did have to employ the assistance of a one-man twitch. :( I hate twitches, but I hate drugging her even more. I had ace but I wanted to ride after clipping, for which I did not want her to be sedate.

This kind of twitch

She's really good for being twitched, actually, so I applied it and within seconds she had let out a big sigh and her ears flopped sideways as the endorphins released. She let me quickly finish clipping the top of her neck, around her ears, and around her forelock and forehead, eyes sleepy the entire time. This is actually WAAAAY better than she would have behaved if I had chosen to ace her instead. Completely different horse from what she'd been a few minutes earlier. I removed the twitch the second I was done with her head and continued with the rest of her body. She gave me tense ears and rolled her eyes at me, but I ignored her and she stood quietly. Around then Zoe arrived and she spent some time talking to Lily and petting her, which distracted her while I finished clipping her. And it also distracted me: I'd been fighting down the anger I was still feeling at Lily's sudden explosion.

Why clip this early? Because she runs hot, even being a born Florida horse, which means that it takes her so much longer to recover when she's working + has a winter coat. She is simply more comfortable with less hair. In South FL I was giving her full body clips with a #40 blade (that's what we use for surgical clips in small animal veterinary. It takes ALL the hair off) starting in September, the second she started getting that fall velvety look, simply because it stayed in the 90's well into November, sometimes even December. It was the time of year when she was the most comfortable. She runs so hot that I debated clipping her in the summer back then too but her summer coat is so fine, there's nothing to take off. Our first winter here, I left hair on her throughout winter. No one clipped at that barn and my BM still commented on how much warmer than the others Lily ran: where the other horses would require a cooler and a midweight to stay warm, Lily would be fine with her 100 gram lightweight blanket. I gave her a high trace clip when the weather started getting warm in March. Last winter, we were at a barn where the horses tended to be overblanketed and she was in heavy work. I started out with a low trace clip that eventually turned into an Irish clip, that later got modified into a high trace clip.

End of October 2013 at the previous barn. Low trace clip.
January 2014. Trace clip has gotten a little higher.

Late January 2014. Trace clip becomes an Irish clip...
In late February, it had turned into a cross between an Irish clip and a trace clip.
End of March 2014. This was as high as the clip got before she started shedding on her own. Her neck was completely naked by this point. You can see how much she was still sweating on rides despite the clip.
Even with our polar vortexes last winter, she still stayed comfortable, despite the fact that I was still using that #40 blade to remove her hair. When temps dropped into the low 20's, I added a neck cover to her midweight and that was enough to keep her warm. The only time I layered with her (cooler + midweight) was when we had an evening that dropped into the negative teens. This is a horse that lives outside 24/7 but has access to shelter in the form of a run-in shed.

I chose the blanket clip this time around because it leaves her neck and shoulders (where she sweats the most) naked, while still allowing for plenty of hair over her back and rump. She will need to be blanketed earlier than the others, but it will keep her so much more comfortable for riding. The setup at Kathy's makes it easier to blanket/unblanket with changing temps. However, this time I removed Lily's hair with a #10 blade (coarser blade; leaves more hair behind), which is why she still looks so dark in the clipped areas.

Afterwards I turned her out in the barn paddock so she could eat grass and just chill post clip job while I set up feed. Which is when I took the photo above of her grazing. I was forgiven.

Charles was off work on this day so we were able to go for a ride. He met me at the barn after he was done running errands. We are pretty much reaching peak fall colors in our part of Maryland and it was soooo beautiful!

Gracie was being a spitfire and wanted to lead again, so we let her. (Again: Charles does a fabulous job with her when she's in one of her zoomy moods. Especially on this day: in the beginning she kept trying to dart off trail into the woods! He'd just be like, "Wtf Gracie?" and then simply calmly get her back to where he wants her to be without getting nervous himself or losing his cool whatsoever. I continue to be unendingly impressed.)
Lily was REALLY good: despite her shenanigans about clipping earlier, she was totally in work mode once I was in the saddle. She would catch up to Gracie if asked to, but didn't have any issues with lagging behind at the walk if I asked her to. So we were able to practice some leapfrogging.

We rode to the hill behind the lake, Charles and Gracie leading most of the way. He mostly remembered the route this time.

We did hill sets same as last time. Lily barreled up the hill at full tilt the second I unleashed her. We did the first 5 reps on the main hill, Charles and Gracie staying at the bottom to wait for us after the 4th rep.

I had noticed that there is a side path where Charles was parking Gracie to wait for us and after the 5th rep I took a closer look...and realized that it was a longer alternate route up the hill than I had originally thought, and it was actually much steeper than the main hill we have been practicing on. It had a nearly vertical climb for the equivalent of about 3 gallop strides up one portion of it. The path was wide and grassy, covered at the moment with leaves.

A terrible pic of the hill in question. There is a dip in the path and the near vertical rise is beyond said dip, continuing all the way up the hill, right up to a property fence that you can't see in this photo.

"Let's do this one!" I told Charles.

Charles did it with me the first time and then he walked on ahead with Gracie as we were going back down. I was surprised when, at the bottom of the hill, he turned Gracie towards the main path that we had been practicing on prior and asked her to canter. Gracie cantered up the hill with him obediently. I wish I had taken a video. I snagged a few pics of them coming back down.

I asked him if he would be able to get a photo of Lily and me charging up the steeper route up the hill and he said of course. He took my phone and cantered on up ahead of Lily and me. You know how sometimes we think what we want and the horse does it? Charles thought of cantering and Gracie did so instantly. It was evident on sight. It is so cool to see him get so far with her this quickly.

Lily and I waited at the bottom of the hill, giving him time to get ready at the top. He gave us the go-ahead and Lily and I took off.

Here's the first video. It doesn't look as steep on video but it was pretty steep:

And here is the second one, from our last rep up the hill. We did 8 reps total between the two routes.

Charles was right by the fence for this one, at the very top of the hill, so I'm bringing Lily to a halt right before the fence.
Gracie saw us coming, heading straight towards her, and she started piaffing, which is why the image gets a little shaky at the end!

Some stills that I really liked, since for whatever reason the videos end up terribly blurry when I post them to YouTube:

My favorite. Love how she has one ear flicked towards me and the other towards Gracie and Charles.
Lily pranced down the hill after that last rep. You'd think she'd be somewhat tired but no; she was quite full of herself and so was Gracie. We ended up trotting most of the way back to the barn. I had booted her with the Vipers all the way around and was thrilled with their performance. They didn't budge through all those hill sets. I've ridden her barefoot the last few times because of how muddy it had been lately and noted how much more confident and forward she is on trail when booted.

We took the Hidden Pond Trail route, which loops through the meadow. The trail winds up a steep hill to get onto the meadow trail, and we let the mares charge up this section. Of course Lily's RF Viper spun off but remained attached to her leg by the captivator. She came to a halt and just held the foot up. I dismounted and replaced the boot. Lily tried to dance away the second my butt was in the saddle but I made her wait. She's been getting really bad about moving off before I've finished getting settled in the saddle. She pouted when I made her stand.

Charles suddenly said, "LOOK I DID IT!!" I look over at him, and he's making Gracie back up. I had challenged him to do it last time we rode together and he had not succeeded. He figured it out. Haha! He was grinning from ear to ear as Gracie slowly backed up as many steps as he wanted.

We moved on at a walk down the meadow trail. The changing trees were afire in the light of the setting sun.

We were talking about the trees, the colors and the trail. I looked over at Charles. He was grinning, enjoying the scenery. "Have I told you how much I enjoy riding with you?" I asked him as our hot-to-trot mares strode forward eagerly at a barely contained walk.
"No, you haven't," he said. "It's because of my Incredible Riding Skillz right? Every time you ride with me you learn something new!"
I burst out laughing.
"And also because of my humility," he was grinning, "I'm just such a humble guy."
We were both laughing.
Beautiful, right?
Side note: Didn't I do a kick-ass job clipping her ears? Just sayin'. :)

It was only about 1/4 of a mile back to the barn from here. Lily had been blowing up until the moment we hit the meadow trail. By the time we walked through the barn gate, she was breathing normally. Still sweaty, but cool. The blanket clip did its job! It was in the 60's so we rinsed the sweat off of both mares, mixed their dinners with beet pulp so they'd get some extra water, and turned them out for the night once they were done eating. 

It was another awesome day riding with Charles. :) He was especially happy with this ride. He said he had achieved 3 goals:
1. Making Gracie wait while Lily and I cantered ahead.
2. Riding on his own with her.
3. Backing up.

I was thrilled for him that not only had he had specific goals, he had also achieved them!


  1. What I wouldn't give to have two horses and a s.o. who loves riding. You are very fortunate! Looks like a super fun ride. :D

    1. I honestly never expected him to enjoy it so much. He would ride with me every once in a while before, if there was a horse available for him to ride, but this is truly wonderful. His personality and Gracie's are a perfect match, too, which I think helps! :D

  2. My favorite photos:
    You with a huge grin galloping up to C.
    Lily's ears with C in front of you and the trees on fire.

    What a wonderful day. And I love humble people.

    1. Hahaha Humble people are the best! ;)

      Those are some of my favorite pics too!

  3. Looks like fun and beautiful fall colors!!

  4. As for being in sync with your mare, you are NOT the only one. I haven't noticed it with Ruby (it is very difficult for me to tell when she's in heat) but with my first horse, Karma, it was horrible. She was a chestnut mare, I'm mostly Irish...not pretty, lol.

    1. Oh thank you for sharing that! Haha I'm glad I'm not the only one! No one ever seems to mention that you can become synchronized with your mare. Gracie is so easy: I can't ever tell when she's in season. I only notice now because she will go flirt with the geldings next door for a few days in a row, but it doesn't seem to change her personality at all.

  5. I really like that clip pattern... I think I might copy... I was trying to not clip Liam this year, but I might have too...

    Love fall and all the colors...

    1. She was getting so hot even with short rides lately that I felt it was time. She runs hotter than the average horse, too, despite being a FL horse. I was astounded last winter by how comfortable she was despite me removing half of her coat and only keeping her in a midweight with the polar vortexes...but if I layered, she'd start sweating. She's definitely a Northern kind of horse! Post pics if you do Liam. It's always fun to see others' clip jobs, even when they are standard clips. :)

      It's my favorite season. Wish it lasted longer!

  6. I hope Mike and I can ride together some day like you guys do. Beautiful ride. And nice clip job :)

    1. I know you will! Maybe when that draft he wants comes into your lives. ;)

      Thanks! :D

  7. Nice choice, can anyone really make the edges so sharp? I've only clipped once and that was a half disaster. I haven't twitched Ramone yet other then having someone crank his other ear while I clip the issue ear, he's so sensitive about his mouth that I'm afraid to.

    I imagine the blanket clip is pretty important for your girl since you guys get actual snow and she spends plenty of time outside.

    1. Each horse is such an individual. I've met horses that would bolt backwards if you tried to twitch them and others who became head shy over ear cranking. It's trial and error figuring out what works best for any one horse. :) I don't think I'd twitch a horse who is sensitive about his mouth either.

      I did find some impressive photos of blanket clips with edges that sharp. They looked pretty but you have to be so precise to get them like that...I'll leave that to the real clipping pros! :D

  8. I've bee debating about doing a clip for Nimo for Ft. Valley, but I hate to deal with blankets. Gaaaa! Tough choices! Anyway, I love that Charles is having so much fun with Gracie and you're able to ride together. I'm curious to see if C. ends up doing endurance too:)

    1. You could do a bib/apron clip or a very low trace clip. They are meant to help the horse cool down faster but are minimal enough to not automatically mean having to blanket. Liz did it last year with Q. The only reason why she ended up blanketing later in the winter was because it was so wet and her guys are out 24/7 without shelter.

      He really wants to do LDs! I think we may be able to take Gracie that distance without it bothering her. We shall see!

    2. Yeah, I think I'll need to at least clip the jugular area because it looks like it'll be fairly warm for the ride. And I really hope that it works for Gracie to do LDs!

  9. Gracie came into your life for him, methinks. And you by extension!

    My buddy Haze makes that SAME humble comment ALL the time. It's so ridiculous and often after he's referred to himself in the 3rd person multiple times lol. We've decided we're getting him a giant ass trophy for Xmas that says "Most Humblest Award".

    1. I think Charles and Haze would get along quite well. Hahaha...