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

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Trail Access!

On Friday, Charles and I arrived at the barn later in the afternoon than what we had originally anticipated, but the last two weeks have kicked our butts at work so we were just really slow in getting ourselves moving and out of the house.

The perk of arriving late was that Amanda, one of the barn trainers, was at the barn finishing up with one of the baby Arabs and ready to pull another from the field. We had all met briefly last weekend. BO was helping with the little gray that Amanda had just untacked and she told the trainer how we'd been exploring up the road. It turns out that the actual trails are in the opposite directions, and Amanda was more than game to take us on a tour!

Gracie is queen of the hill.
Lily and Gracie had been released from their temporary field into the big 30-acre field with the rest of the herd. The smaller 10 acre field was left open so the horses now had access to all of the land. Lily is the sweetest mare on the planet but sometimes she is not the brightest crayon in the box and had managed to get herself stuck on the wrong side of the fence when her and Gracie had been turned out with the others. I failed to get a photo, but here is a diagram of the field layout so you guys can have an idea:

Gates are highlighted in green. The BO has quite the intricate paddock/field arrangement with plenty of gates for compartmentalizing. The fields can be completely shut off from the creek if necessary. There are another 3 fields, including her hay field. On the bottom left corner is the spot where Lily was stuck. She just had to walk down the fenceline to get into the bigger field beyond! There are 2 water troughs by the barn and the creek is an additional source of water.
The creek. I believe it is a tributary of Catoctin Creek.
View of the bank barn from the road. The white house is BO's. The paddock with the mound of rocks is where Lily and Gracie were turned out with the two other mares so they could meet the herd over the fence. If you look closely, you'll see a dirt path on the inside of the fence: that's the chute from the diagram above.
Gracie was up with the main herd. BO and her hubs had unrolled a round bale down the side of the hill to encourage the horses to move around while eating, since all they had been doing was standing around at the hay rings stuffing their faces day and night:

I think you can see the very faintest haze of green starting to show. There really are some green blades of grass cropping up.
I clipped the lead rope on Lily from the herd side of the fence and she followed from her side of the fence down to the opening in the fenceline that led to the hill where all of the horses were located. Goofy mare.

Gracie and Lily ate their grain while tacking up. I'm going to guess Lily is starting to go into her first big heat of spring because she wasn't particularly interested in her grain today, though she was happy to eat hay and alfalfa.

This guy's antics had me snorting with laughter:

"I heard there was some grain around here?"
(Note Lily's completely unpreoccupied demeanor!)
"Give me grain please! I will lick the air until you do!"
My phone died after this photo so Charles would end up being the official ride photographer, but it was worth this shot!
I did give him a few pellets from Lily's Senior. And earned myself a fan for the day...

We tacked up and met Amanda at the barn entrance. She was riding one of the BO's younger baby Arabs, a bay 5 year old named Tony. He was only broken to saddle last year and he was as solid as they come: one of the calmest Arabians I've seen in a while!

I had been on the right track the day I rode Lily by herself up this section of the road. There is a field with a mule and an ancient horse next to a very cool house that sort of looks like a military bunker.

The mule (lying down) and the ancient horse. The first time Lily saw the mule during our solo ride last week, she was all, "OMG IT HAS LONG EARS! IT MUST EAT HORSES!"
You'd think after hanging out with goats for two weeks any horned or long-eared creature would be a non-issue...
She wasn't horrible though, she just wanted to back up away from it. So I swung her around and had her back up past the mule + horse paddock. It was hilarious.
It's literally built into the side of a hill. There is earth and grass over the roof! We'll try to get a picture for next time. The access to the trails is right after that property, going through a neighbor's land who used to own horses and who allows us to ride in his fields.

Access to neighbor's fields.
There's a large fenced arena with lights that Amanda is trying to get permission for us to use and beyond that a 4-acre hilly field where Amanda and the other trainer had set up cross country-type jumps. She said this was their main riding field at the moment. The owner of this property has a Scottie and a Whippet and while the Scottie doesn't leave the area around the house, the Whippet has been known to go darting after the horses. Not in an aggressive way at all; just playing, but he is very quick and can startle both a horse and rider. She said he will stop if you stand your ground and will run away if you move to chase him.

Whippets, like the majority of sighthounds, can fly!
We followed Amanda and Tony down a double track trail that wound between two horse properties, down towards Catoctin Creek, where the water level was high and flowing mightily like big river. Amanda said there is a swimming hole somewhere along this particular section of creek. We had to cross a small stream that flowed into the creek. Tony balked initially and while he was making up his mind, Gracie went, "I gotz dis," arched her neck and went on first, all of her own accord. Lily and the Tony followed. 

Charles's and my jaws dropped:
1. Gracie normally won't cross water for the first time while leading.
2. Gracie sometimes won't even cross familiar water while leading.
This was awesome.

Double track trail after the small creek crossing.
Beyond that tree line is the Catoctin Creek, which was flowing as big as a river.
The trail took us through a large field with somewhat deep mud and large puddles from the snowmelt + rain we had over the week. We stayed at a walk while the horses slogged through. I think Lily had not figured out where the water trough was in the new field nor that she could drink water from the creek that flows through said field, because she was very thirsty and stopped to drink from the puddles.

She even munched on some of the wet grass. Good endurance pony!

Walking across the field.
We continued on, up the back of a very hilly pasture, following a fenceline. We all cantered up the hill in unison and the horses all behaved very well.

Big goofy grin :)

It's weird how photos don't accurately represent the scenery. This looks like a grassy valley with a small mountain behind it. This was actually the top of the hill and it was a respectable one. If you walked towards the edge of the yellow grass, you'd see the dramatic dip behind it, which we had just cantered. The mountains sprang up from the creek with sheer craggy cliffs near the banks, which of course you can't see in this photo either.
We eventually arrived at a gate, which took us on some trails that reminded me so, so much of Liz's!

The trails were double-track, hugging the side of the mountain, with cliff soaring above us on the left and dropping below us on the right, towards the river.

The trail led to a bridge but the gate that would have given access was padlocked. We backtracked and took another fork in the trail.

I think you can kind of appreciate the drop towards the river in this photo.
It led down towards the river and then dead-ended. So back up the trail we went to a third fork in the trail that took us up a very steep hill to a gate. Charles dismounted to get the gate open and close it again behind us.

We were back in the field with the yellow grass. The field that was basically a huge hill, with us riding along the top. We explored the perimeters, looking for more trail access but found none, so we rode back towards the big drop at the end of the hill, the one that we had cantered initially.

Charles and Gracie took the lead, gaiting and then breaking into an effortless canter, Gracie's blonde mane flying. They looked like they were having a blast and it was an evident communion of minds.

Amanda and I continued walking; neither Tony nor Lily showed an inclination to canter after Gracie. Amanda said, "Those two really get along." I laughed. "Yes they do. They have the same personality."

Charles and Gracie circled around then came back towards us, breaking to a trot and then back down to a walk as they approached. Which is when he took these pics:

This was the top of the hill. You can see how the land dips towards the trees.
The way back down the hill was over by the tree line straight ahead of me.
We backtracked through the same areas after this.

The marshy field was the only flat section of this entire route. The horses got quite the workout.
We were out for 2 hours. My Garmin recorded all of this as only 4 miles but I don't see how that is possible. Lily's slowest walk is 3.2 mph and we trotted and cantered where we could. Though it did take us a while with the 3 gates each time so maybe it is possible...need to check this with the phone GPS next time and compare.

Temps were in the 50s but despite mostly walking Lily was still quite hot on the walk home. She finally started shedding this week but I think she's going to need to be clipped sooner rather than later to keep her comfortable as the temps continue to rise.

It was a really great ride. We had such an awesome time and now we know where to go if we want to do real trail miles!

And then...we went to this place, which is very dangerous for us:

Have I told you guys that Charles and I are bibliophiles?
It took 5 bookcases to accommodate all of our books: we finally have sufficient bookcases with this move. We still had books in boxes at the Rockville apartment! Even the movers said, "Man, you guys read a lot!" Half of our belongings consisted of books.
When I moved from PR, I brought with me my clothes, my cat, my laptop and my books. Boxes and boxes full of books that I still re-read. They are like old friends that I like to visit. Charles shares the same opinion about his books. You don't throw out old friends.
This store only sells used books. They will buy them from you, too. Most of the books are $1.99.
I was in full sensory overload.
I may have had to pick my jaw off of the ground.
These photos are just a few aisles of a very large store!
The movie/music side. They have old vinyl records at the end! Mom and the aunts had a record player older than me on which they'd play original music from the '60s and '70s on the weekends.
If you buy 3 movies, you get 3 movies free.
I kept my hands to myself and managed to not buy anything at this time: we were hungry and still had to go grocery shopping. We'll be back later! :D


  1. Glad you guys have trail access so close to the new barn, that is excellent!

  2. Glad you found trail access! And now I NEEEEED a goat...

    1. The goats are hilarious! There's a bottle baby that runs after people. He thinks everyone is there to feed him. So cute!

  3. Looks like a great bunch of trails to ride, added to with the roads in the area. Do you think there is more trail to ride, or did you see it all this round? And there is no way you only did four miles in two hours. Maybe the GPS dropped.

    And Daniel says you didn't tell him the river was THERE.

    1. Hahaha I didn't know it was there either until this day! Yay swimming hole!

      And oh yes, there's more to ride! I know another route to that bridge and there are endless fields beyond it too! Going in the opposite direction, where Carlos and I have explored so far, there are more trails too; Amanda is going to get in touch with the girl that knows how to get to them.

  4. so much fun in the new place! Cute goats, great looking trails, and I love a stuffed-to-the-brim used bookstore. Continue to enjoy exploring, it looks great.

    1. The bookstore was amazeballs! Yesterday BO took me on a short tour of some of the big sightseeing places near the farm, including Spook Hill...it's going to be in the next post!

  5. I'll continue to be jelly of your trails and boarding arrangements! And bookstores/libraries are one of my favorite places to go to. If/when I get a place of my own, I'm dedicating an entire room to a personal library.

    1. We tooootally did that when we had the townhouse! The guest bedroom doubled as a library! Hence all the books...hahaha...

  6. Looks like a great ride! Pretty soon all that yellow and blahness with be green! On my ride today we came across a lot of mush and water sitting in the low places and on the trails. My horse is pretty good about going through it (or eating the grass growing through the water! ;-) But at one point we did turn around and find another route, even his hooves sinking in the mud under the grass makes me a bit nervous. I love book stores and libraries....I can spend forever in them just looking at books!

    1. Sounds like you had a great ride too!

      I've never been able to transition to the e-book mentality. I love me a book with real pages to turn, and I love a house with lots of full bookshelves. It always makes me feel at home!

  7. Replies
    1. The goats at this farm are hilarious!