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



Sunday, February 1, 2015

Unstoppable




On Friday we had a wind advisory:


While getting ready to head for the barn, we could hear the wind whipping and howling around the apartment building. We are not in a corner unit: only in storms do we hear the wind like that. Both Charles and I donned extra layers, packed extra gloves, and headed out. The wind chills were in the low 20s.

What were the plans for the day?

Well riding of course. Durh.

The detailed plans were to play it by ear. We would get the girls from the field and see where their brains were at, longe them first even if they were calm to make SURE they were calm and/or give them the chance to get the willies out, and take it from there.

We arrived at the barn to discover that none of the horses were in the front field: the wind was too much for them to stay out there, as the front field gets any kind of wind directly and in full force.


Deja and Queenie were in the stalls waiting for the farrier. I walked into the barn and saw Lily and Gracie outside through Queenie's window; they were hanging out in the run-in paddock where they were sheltered from the wind. They saw when I walked into the barn.



They also saw when Charles arrived behind me: I had run down to the barn to get out of the wind with as much stuff as I could carry (I always have 8 gazillion things with me when I go to the barn, like extra jackets, water and my snow boots) and he had stayed behind to get his snow boots on while at the car.

The way they just stood there together, only moving their heads, made me chuckle.
We tied them in the run-in with haynets while we did chores, groomed and tacked up. Both girls were incredibly relaxed, especially Lily: she kept turning her head to snuggle until I touched her neck and there was static, and she jumped. :( I realized that somehow she knows when there's going to be static even before I touch her. So I stuck to brushing her lightly, since she was clean anyway thanks to the blanket. She relaxed again.

I put on my vest and helmet under my jacket; Charles followed suit, and we walked the girls down to the front field to longe them. Lily initially wanted to canter around on the longe but her eyes were calm and she soon settled into a snazzy trot.

Twinkle toes!
I removed the Alta's sheepskin cover for this...
...because when Lilybird is zoomy and it's windy out, this happens and the cover tends to fly off, which will inevitably spook her...
Believe it or not, Lily does not care when the saddle flaps start flying backwards like this as long as the cover is off.
The wind was BRUTAL. It was constant and freezing cold. The advantage of it being so damn cold was that after a while your face went numb and then you simply didn't feel anything at all.

Gracie was being a really good girl for Charles too.


Very calm trot
So we walked them back to the paddock we use for riding and mounted up for a quick warm-up. Lily was awesome w/t/c and Gracie didn't try any shenanigans, so off we went back down to the front field.

Charles and I kind of each did our own thing. I chose to work Lily following the fenceline and Charles would gait along next to me as Lily trotted, then take off on ahead at a slow canter. Lily wanted to follow Gracie at a faster speed but I held her back as we came around the short side of the field. She tried to take off again as we went up the long side of the field again: she really wanted to gallop in the snow but I didn't want to feel out of control. I talked to her but didn't argue with her, as that can tick her off, and she simply did her prancy trot to let me know she REALLY wanted to gallop, but then came down to a walk on her own as we reached the top of the field again.

We repeated this several times in the one direction until I felt comfortable. Lily was energetic but not spazzy. Charles was zooming around all over the field and Lily showed no inclination again to want to follow Gracie, which was most excellent! We changed direction and Lily asked me for the reins so she could stretch down, down, down as she walked in a relaxed manner.

We had been riding for about 20 minutes by this point, and I was so done with the merciless wind  by then that I found myself blurting out to Charles, "Want to try the trails?" We were originally going to avoid them because high winds = falling trees/branches, but last winter I rode in the woods all the time when it was windy. Charles said, "YES!"

And immediately took off in that direction. I took Lily all the way around the field and she didn't realize Gracie had left until we were following the fence up the opposite long side. She had a moment where she threw her head up and did try to bolt, but I brought her back to a controlled canter and waited for her. I knew if I tried to circle her it would make her anxiety skyrocket. I thought of Karen and Ashke: she realized recently that when Ashke does this kind of thing, it's not going to escalate. He's just telling her the way he feels. So I told Lily calmly, "You're fine. You're not alone, and we'll catch up to them in a minute."

And you know what? She came back right then and there. She came back down to a walk and then halted, all on her own. I could feel her heart pounding through the flaps of the saddle. I won't deny it was pounding in counterpoint to mine! But I dropped the reins, stroked her neck and asked her to walk on, and she marched all the way back up through the smaller paddocks to the back field, on the buckle with ears pricked, to where Charles was opening the gate into the park.

It was good to see that she was not going to escalate either: she was just telling me that she was worried about Gracie going on ahead and was still willing to listen to me.

Once we were on the trails, I talked to him about waiting for horses and riders that are accompanying him. He's heard all of these things before in the form of stories about my own experiences, but it's different when you're actually having to watch out for these sorts of things. I need to sit down with him and outline different specific scenarios and get him thinking from a rider's perspective so he knows what to do. I wasn't mad at him at all:  the whole situation had given me the opportunity to test Lily. I'd still been concerned about her reverting to the way she used to be on the trails when we first moved to MD (one of the things she used to do was lose her mind if left behind!), and I'd been able to confirm that the New Lily is still there.

It was a relief to be in the woods: you couldn't even hear the wind once we were among the trees. We picked up a trot and did the backwards loop we've been taking the last few times and had a really lovely time.



The nice thing about the park is that there are hills throughout, so there were entire sections where you neither saw nor heard the wind swaying the trees. We rode through some sections where you could hear it roaring through the treetops. Charles made comment of how it sounded like the ocean. It actually really did, and I didn't think to get a video so you guys could hear it too. I'm glad I'm not the only one who is constantly reminded of the beach and the sea in winter!

The last few times we've ridden on the trails the river has been frozen over with a sheet of ice, but I decided to ride down to check on it...and discovered that there was no ice at all! And it looks like not a lot of people have been riding in the woods this winter: last year this bank was deep and muddy, but on this day it was nice and solid. Lily stepped down confidently and spent a good 5 minutes drinking and playing with the water.


Charles tried getting a pic of Lily when she was avidly pawing at the water but his phone was not cooperating.


Lily insisted that we do the lake trail backwards and honestly there was no reason no to, so we went ahead. We trotted on through the woods, galloping up the short hills, and then walking down the hill that leads to the lake.


Lily being impatient. "What are we waiting for? Let's go!"
You can see the lake through the trees.
It was very frozen!


Riding back towards the river.
We continued on our usual loop, and Lily insisted on cantering up all the hills, and we also cantered through the valleys of the forest. Charles tried to get it on video:

Charles doesn't drop the phone; he just fumbles with it halfway through when Gracie accelerates. I had no idea he was trying to film!

We finished the ride with a nice long walk on a loose rein back to the barn. Both mares got a good workout but were barely sweaty. We ultimately rode for 1.5 hrs. I'm going to guess we did somewhere around 7 miles; I haven't been tracking mileage yet because I'm still on mileage vacation. :)

The wind was still roaring around the fields: it had not let up one bit yet. We set the girls up in the shelter of the run-in and threw coolers on them as we untacked: they had sweated under their saddles and girths. I made up warm mashes for them, adding hot water and beet pulp to their grain dinners, and let them slurp while they dried off.

Lily was SUPER snuggly while I was grooming and blanketing her afterwards. She did that funny thing she does where she slowly and deliberately sniffs me up and down while I was currying the dry sweat off of her back. I scratched her neck and she stuck her head in my arms for head hugs. I kissed her forehead and she closed her eyes.

Sweetest mare ever!

I'm really glad my husband is as crazy as I am and we didn't let the wind stop us from having a great ride. I was very sore the next day but I realized I haven't ridden for that long since October! It was good to FINALLY get in a quality conditioning ride.

On another note, I was VERY surprised to see this in our tree yesterday:

Look closely: there are 5 robins in that tree!
The robins are back!
Spring is coming? 

16 comments:

  1. You are a total bad-ass!!!

    And what a freaking awesome moment you and Lily had on that ride. We really are twinkies.

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  2. Unstoppable is right!
    I love the trails you get to ride on :) My hay field is looking pretty sad in comparison haha

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    1. It's awesome to board at a place that backs up to trails. This particular park has great single track horse trails. Hay fields are great for riding in too though! :) Our barn's front field is technically a hay field.

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  3. Are you sure you're not really from North Dakota?:)

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    1. Gail your comment made me burst out laughing because I totally thought of you and your 80 mph winds when you rode up there! It was part of my logic; "At least the wind isn't like in ND." ;)

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  4. The flaps flying picture made me giggle a lot for some reason.

    Welcome to the Crazy Town. It's nice to have a growing population ;-) ;-)

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    1. The flying flaps look like wings. I actually went looking for a picture of one of those fairy My Little Ponies to compare to, but I don't like what they've turned into.

      And thanks! Hahaha

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  5. Awesome, keep riding! It's been bitterly cold here too, my rides at night are so lonely now ):

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    1. Booo :( Finding the motivation to ride in the cold can be harder when you have to do it alone.

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  6. brrr!!! looks like a great trail ride tho :) and yay for robins - the season is changing slowly but surely :)

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  7. You are seriously brave (and tough). I'm glad that you were able to have fun in spite of the weather :)

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    1. Thanks Jodi! Me too. It's too easy to find excuses for not riding in the winter here. I love being a 4-season rider but this winter has been kind of a struggle between one thing and another. Oh well. The horses have been enjoying the relaxed work schedule. :)

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  8. If the wind down there is anything like the wind has been up here, you're officially nuts!!! Brrr!

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    1. The direction it's blowing makes all the difference at our barn. On this day it was blowing from the NW, which meant the back of the property was fairly protected. On Monday it was blowing from the SE and really ripping through the trees. The horses were very nervous. Between that and the 40-degree temperature drop in 2 hours, we ended up not riding. So we still haven't quite lost our minds. ;)

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