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

Sunday, October 12, 2014

First Days of Fall

L. Williams, these photos are for you! :D

We're going into our third week in a row of temps in the 70's-60's during the day, with evenings in the 50's, and the trees are finally really starting to turn in our part of Maryland.

Advantages of back country roads: no one else driving!
Which allowed me to be that retard that stops the car in the middle of the road to take pics with her phone...
If you really want to see some SPECTACULAR color in other parts of the Northeast, check out Liz's post and Amanda's. Insanely gorgeous photos. Maryland is behind but I'm not complaining: it means we'll have leaves on the trees a little longer than the folks further North.

The weather through late summer was dry and very sunny, and if a forecast called for 50% chance of rain, you could pretty much count on it being beautiful out. It seems like the weather has done a 180 now: we get 50% chance of rain forecasts with the same frequency, but you can pretty much count on the days being the other 50%: wet and dreary. 

It was cloudy when I woke up Friday morning but dry, with a solid white sky that made me think of snow if it hadn't been in the 60's. So I puttered about the house getting stuff done and of course when I finally stepped outside to leave for the barn, there was a steady drizzle. 

When we first moved here two years ago, it was the very last week of October, and the weather was like this. It was several months of seeing rain limited to a mist of a drizzle and, having come from the tropics, where sudden violent downpours are common, I remember thinking, "Does rain always come in the form of a drizzle in this area?" I figured it couldn't be so. But it wouldn't be until spring of 2013 that I'd see a true downpour in this part of Maryland. It's been a beautiful thing getting used to living in this part of the country, and as our third winter here approaches, I can still tell you: we really love it here. Even more so than we originally expected. 

Once at the barn, I set about getting Lily's and Gracie's grain and haynets set up while waiting for the rain to stop, and talking to Zoe, who was grooming little Deja, the tiniest Arab.

The rain wasn't letting up at all but it was still that misting drizzle so I finally gave up and fetched Lily from the field, bringing her into Queenie's empty stall so I could tack her up. (Kathy's barn only has two stalls and they are Queenie's and Deja's; I was fine with my two not having stalls since they are used to being out 24/7, and they still have access to a very large run-in.) I hung one of Gracie's haynets for Lily to munch on while I groomed and got her ready. 

I put on my old Irideon rain jacket (which is close to 8 years old and not really waterproof anymore, but it will work for a light drizzle like what we were having) and took Lily down to the edge of the woods so we could go for a ride in the park. Due to my being sick, she hadn't really been ridden in almost 2 weeks and I noticed her rolling her eyes as we got farther away from the barn.

She let me get on, using one of the trees next to the trail as a mounting block. All I wanted to do on this day was go do some hill sets on the slope behind the lake. I tried taking Lily through the more direct route but she had a small fit, threatening to buck. I decided I didn't want to deal with acrobatics on this day so I pointed her towards our usual longer route and made her trot the whole way. She was very looky, unusually so, and later I would realize she was in heat. 

The dreary weather somehow made the tree colors appear more vibrant.
We crossed the creek to make it onto the lake trail, and Lily surprised me by choosing to wander on upstream instead of across to the opposite bank. I let her walk on to see what she was going to do. She finally stopped in a pool of deeper water and just stood there, staring off into space. 

I let her enjoy the cool water for a few minutes, then turned her around to get back onto our original route. 

The trees around the lake loop were more changed than those in the woods.

We trotted up the hill once, just to check out the footing and make sure there weren't any hikers on the path. We then walked down, and cantered up. 

Walking down the hill.
As we were coming down the second time, we came across a hiker and his Lab. They were taking the alternate route up the hill so I turned Lily and we did the rest of the lake loop backwards to give them time to hike the trail. I didn't want to upset either the guy or his dog by coming up at a gallop behind them.

Something about the colors and the day reminded me of forest in The Last Unicorn...
Of this.
I probably have a very vivid imagination, but to me this area just has this sort of hidden magic to it. Probably because I find it all so very beautiful. I hope I always feel this way about living here.
We came back onto the hill and this time the hiker and his dog were gone. So Lily and I got to work, doing 6 hill sets as the drizzle started to come down harder. I had originally wanted to get in 10 reps but the rain made me change my plans: I was finally just starting to feel better after being sick and didn't want to ruin it by getting drenched on this chilly day. 

We galloped up the hill one last time, me marvelling at the fact that this mare will now gallop at my request when before she seemed to be afraid to pick up speed when I asked for it. Now it's like she has this 9th gear that she engages if I simply lean forward and give her the reins. She'll flatten her ears and will leap forward with a grunt, her body coiling and extending like a spring as her pink hooves flash through the tall grass. It always makes me grin: I can now invoke the racehorse that flows through her veins at will. It is awesome.

She was breathing normally halfway back down the hill after finishing our last rep. My goal was to walk all the way home after this, but as we hit the trail that winds through the middle of the forest, Lily decided she wanted to trot and canter, so we did, her hooves thundering through the silence of the woods, the rain barely reaching us through the leaves.

I asked her to walk the last 1/4 mile home, reins on the buckle while I played with the phone camera. 

Last hill on the trail before the barn.
As we came to the top of that last hill, I saw in the distance a middle-aged man with his Goldendoodle coming our way at about the same time that the man saw us. The dog had a decent recall and stopped to wait for his master to catch and leash him as I dismounted from Lily. Goldendoodles are rambunctious dogs and I didn't want trouble. I recognized the man as one of the park regulars: I've seen him from afar several other times, his dog usually walking a few yards in front of him. 

The man was very nice. He said he didn't know much about horses but he knows that they can be afraid of dogs and that you shouldn't stand behind them or they might kick you. He asked several intelligent, curious questions about horse size, Lily's breed, and things hikers should know about horses on the trail. I was happy to answer his questions and we ended up talking about racehorses, specifically Secretariat. He had seen him win the Belmont in 1973 and he remembered the video vividly. 

He wished us a nice day as him and his dog moved on down the trail.

I'm not a chatty person, much less with strangers, but this is the type of person I've become since we moved to this area. I love Marylanders.

Once back at the barn, I rinsed Lily's sweat off, sweat-scraped her, and turned her back out with her friends. I chose to leave working with Gracie for the next day. 


  1. Le sigh, leaves changing! Dogs off lease make me nervous, glad the goldendoodle was well trained and the man had sensibilities.

    1. Oh God, me too! I'm weird about riding in the park on weekends simply because so many people tend to go for walks there with their dogs off-leash. It surprises me: they have pretty strict leash laws here.

  2. Some very beautiful photos of the trees. Dogs off leash are under threat of Ashke playing with them. He will pin his ears and go after them if they seem threatening, but with lip and nuzzle with the nice ones. Riding with you under those trees is on my bucket list.

    How tough are you doing it in the rain.

    Yeah for Lily being a race horse! Does the app you use give you top speed? Just curious. This last ride I told Ashke to get J, who was at the top of the hill, and we hit almost 23 mph.

    1. Hahaha Gracie will do something similar as Ashke! You really need to come visit. :D

      If it had been raining any harder than that light mist of a drizzle, we would not have ridden. I'm not a fan of riding in the rain, especially because I can't see if my glasses get wet. :)

      I checked MapMyRun and we hit about 20 mph, though this is not her top speed. I know she went faster when we raced Liz and Q at Wye Island this past spring! I'll have to really push her and see what the app says.

  3. I miss real fall! Love the pictures.

  4. Sounds like a great ride! And I'm glad you didn't have any trouble with the dog - my heart always jumps when I see one off-leash.

    1. Mine too! Way too many people in the park with their dogs off-leash.

  5. Absolutely gorgeous! I love fall <3

    1. It's my favorite season! I could do without all the rain, though. ;)

  6. Fall is the only thing I miss about living up north, but I hate was comes after it! I will admit to being a fair weather rider these days. Generally I skip days that are rainy but when I lived up north I would ride down to -5 degrees rain or shine. If I didn't, I never got to ride!

    Your pictures are beautiful and make me want to ride those trails with you!

    I generally don't mind dogs being around as long as the owner is present. Gem is very good with dogs and I enjoy taking my own out and letting them romp in the woods off leash. I get very nervous though when I see a dog and no owner.

    1. Thankfully it *normally* doesn't get that cold in this area. Average daytime temps for winter are in the 40's, with one or two snowstorms per winter, though last winter it kind of felt like we lived in New England...brrrrrrrr!

      My two are kind of iffy about dogs. Lily is fine with them unless they come running up behind her. We once had a near miss with that. Gracie will chase them down and try to stomp them if given permission, but will also be more prone to bolting if they come running up behind her. I don't mind them if they have a good recall or are well-behaved around horses, but there are a lot of ignorant owners. Zoe at the barn had a horrible experience: her and a friend were riding when two Airedales came running up behind their horses. The owner was right there and didn't call the dogs off. Both horses bolted and both riders came off. Zoe ended up with pins in her back to repair a fractured vertebra as a result of that fall and her mare Deja got lost in the woods. She was finally found, but she had run through barbed wire and sliced one of her legs open. She was on stall rest for 6 months to heal from that. You can understand my trepidation. :/ I'd love to have a dog that can come with us while trail riding!

  7. We have been getting very similar weather here in New Jersey as well... Beautiful dry summer, now it seems like it is raining everyday I can ride... Boohoo ;(

    1. I totally hear ya! I've barely been able to get any riding too because of the rain. :(

  8. October is very much my favorite month in this area. Decent temps, beautiful leaves, no bugs...doesn't get any better!

  9. Lily is so beautiful and don't you just love a horse that will work hard at speed and then drop right back to a walk on the buckle? Love it! I also love The Last Unicorn. :D