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

Monday, May 18, 2015

On Riding at Sugarloaf Mountain and Charles's Turn-on-the-Hedges

Yes. "Hedges." It is not a typo.

But more on that in a minute!

Charles was working this weekend so on Friday we decided to haul out for Sugarloaf Mountain. They have a 7 mile horse trail that wraps around the base of the mountain and it is a fairly close drive from the barn at around 20 miles with some highway and hill driving in the mix. It was a good day for checking out the trail without worrying about the weekend crowds too.

Sugarloaf Mountain in the distance.
Photo from here.
Charles and I went hiking there on their Orange Trail (the shortest but toughest one) about a month ago and took the opportunity to figure out where the horse trail was (also a Yellow Trail) and where trailers were supposed to park. We were confused about the trailer parking as it seemed to be on a piece of private property so when we returned this time with the horse trailer, we stopped at the main park building to get directions. It's a small house in a sort of roundabout and you have to ring a bell so that someone will let you into the building. Charles waited in the truck. A group of visitors let me in and directed me to where People in Charge were located. I think I might have interrupted some sort of lunch meeting but the man that seemed to be the leader of the small group of people was extremely pleasant and got up to give me a brochure, a map and to tell me where the trailer parking was located. He even walked outside with me so he could point the way. He complimented us on picking a beautiful day for riding (it was sunny, breezy and in the high 70s) and wished us a safe ride.

I love Marylanders.

Parking was indeed at the private property, a place named Turner Farm which you can see at the bottom of this map. They have a pump for water, a porta-potty and a few picnic tables in this awesome little field with plenty of room for several rigs.

You can see the water pump. I was pretty excited about having access to a port-john...until I realized the door was zip-tied shut. -_-
Lily seems to enjoy these adventures but I want Gracie to look forward to getting on the trailer too. She was fed grass hay at the barn before loading (no empty stomachs for hauling!), I stuffed her with cookies once she was on the trailer (the only time she gets treats), and gave her her grain once we were at the park immediately after unloading. It will take a while for her to make these associations, but I want her to realize that getting on the trailer means she will be coming off of it later to get Awesome Food, which as you all know is her Most Favoritest Thing Evarr. Lily got half of the grain I had brought for her as a mash and we let the horses graze for about half an hour before tacking up. The grass in the field was lovely and I knew trying to convince them to eat hay when they had access to all of that was kind of pointless. We had arrived at around 2:00 pm and took our sweet time getting settled and ready.

This time I had remembered to pack baby carrots for the girls, their fly spray (which we used liberally on them), Lily's fly bonnet, and Show Sheen for their girth areas: Gracie had had some girth irritation after last week's ride which had healed up during the week and I wanted to keep it that way. Show Sheen allows the coat to slide under the girth. It's less messy than using an anti-chafe ointment and has worked well for us so far.

We set off close to 3:00 pm. Both horses were happy and eager to set out. Again Gracie was bare (I have finally figured out her boot sizing: I had ordered a 0.5W Glove to replace one of Lily's boots but it actually fits Gracie perfectly! I just need another boot for her other front and she'll be good to go for these adventures) and Lily was wearing front boots only.

There supposedly was trail access directly across the road from the parking lot but we couldn't find it, so we just rode up the gravel section of Comus Road to where we had seen the trail on our trip last time. I had the trail map with me this time and knew where we were starting out from based on the map. Anyone reading this who is interested in visiting the park with their horses: the yellow trail can be easily accessed from in front of the Westwood Mansion.

We really loved this trail, far more than the Gambrill Park trail. The initial section of trail was quite rocky but the horses were still able to trot most of it as the rocks were flatter and spaced out enough that the girls could easily set their feet between them. We alternately walked and trotted a lot at the beginning of the ride, with more walking than trotting. We were relieved to discover that this park is strewn with small creeks where the horses could drink water.

Tiny creek, but a creek! :)

See the yellow trail marker on the left?
This trail wins for being one of the best-marked trails I've ridden on in the last 2 years!
Yellow trail mark on the right.

Do you see the trail mark? It's there.
Our focus for this ride was for G-Mare to Have Fun. She had looked kind of miserable at Gambrill but I think she was bored out of her mind from having to follow for an entire 3 hours. So we made a point of letting her take the lead periodically which made for a Very Happy Gracie! We never let her lead so long that she got tired of it (Lily can lead for an entire 50 miles if need be but while Gracie enjoys leading she does not have that kind of mental stamina yet), so we completely avoided her stop-spin-almost-collide-into-Lily episodes. She had some insecurity moments but Charles worked her through them with minimal direction from me and after that she was quite confident whenever we had her go in front.

Yup, this trail was pretty rocky too but this type of rockiness was much easier for the girls to manage.
Focused on a creek up ahead.
Charles gets her through it.
Good mare. :)

One happy G-Mare.
The other thing I had Charles do was that if Gracie seemed tired (like after hills done at speed) to stop and give her a baby carrot or two.

OMG she LOVED this, like I knew she would! I warned Charles that she would probably start assuming that hearing the saddle bag zipper = carrots! Which of course happened. The idea was to reward maximum efforts from her. Lily is a huge perfectionist and "Good girl" with a stroke of the neck is more than enough motivation to keep her going; it has a very high value for her. Gracie has finally grasped the meaning of "Good girl!" thanks to Charles and I drilling it into her during groundwork and under saddle work, but it doesn't have as high a value for her yet as it does for Lily. Hence the carrots. Lily was offered baby carrots each time too but she's not as crazy about them; I need to pack apple slices for her.

We crossed a road and followed the trail markers onto another section of trail that was basically double-track. Rocky but the rocks were set into the earth in such a way that even if this trail had been wet, we still could have moved at speed over it. We were able to ride side-by-side for a good chunk of it and the turns in the trail were wider so we were even able to pick up a canter. This trail had occasional log steps built into it or the equivalent of speed bumps to prevent erosion.

We let the girls gallop up a fairly long incline that led onto a very pretty grassy meadow. We stopped here to let them eat grass for a few minutes while catching their breath. They were happy to oblige.

She always looks tiny from this angle!
The meadow offered two trail options:

One on the left through the trees, another on the right. You can see the trail going through the gap on the right.
We took the one on the right because, like I said, it looked more worn. It ended up being the correct choice as we continued seeing the yellow trail markers.

The above photo was taken after a shallow but wider creek crossing than what we had done before. Lily was pretending to drink and Gracie was nosing at the water. Something small moved in the nearby bushes which got Gracie's attention and she did a perfectly executed 1/4 turn on the haunches to turn back towards the trail we had come from. It was basically a walk pirouette, actually. I mean, the mare sat back on her haunches, arched her neck and pretty much looked like this for all of 2 strides:

This type of frame and this type of partial lateral movement.
And yes, the above is a canter pirouette but you get the idea. 
It was done calmly at the walk so Charles had plenty of time to ask her to halt.

Now, for you guys to understand what's coming up next, I need to explain a couple of things.
  1. Charles and I speak in Spanish with a lot of English words and phrases thrown in. (For newer readers who might not know our story, he is also Puerto Rican and his name isn't really Charles; he has a typical Hispanic name though it is the Spanish equivalent of "Charles.") (It has to be comical for non-Spanish speakers to listen to us talk because of the English words correctly pronounced splattered throughout our too-fast Spanish.) I learned and read about dressage in English so I talk about a lot of dressage terms in English in Spanish conversation with him.
  2. Poor Charles has had to learn most equestrian terms in English AND Spanish because he has to deal with me saying things in Spanish vs the rest of the world calling the same parts/objects/tack by their English names. Equestrian terms in Spanish are as weird and ridiculous as they are in English fyi. Examples for you guys just for funsies, because this is how a bilingual equestrian's brain works ;) :
  • Bridle = brida (bree-dah) Except a lot of Puerto Ricans and South Americans will also call this "freno" (freh-no) which also means "brake" when used in relation to cars, and is also used to describe the bit itself. "Freno" is also considered a correct term but one that I personally don't use. "Brida" is the most correct term but I will say that there are Latin horse people that don't know what that is. So you call it "freno." Yes it's complicated. Lol
  • Bit = bocado (boh-cah-do)
  • Saddle = silla (si-jah) Which also means "chair," which leads to Charles calling the saddle "asiento" in Spanish, which means "seat." Understandable confusion.
  • Halter = jaquimon (ha-kee-mohn)
  • Girth = cincho (seen-choh)
  • Stirrup = estribo (es-tree-boh)
  • Breastplate or breast collar = percherin (per-cheh-reen)
  • Saddle bags = alforjas (al-for-has)
  • Withers = cruz (And yes, that also means "cross". But it is the correct Spanish term for withers in the equestrian world)
  • Hock = corvejon (cor-veh-hon)
  • Haunches = ancas (an-kas)
  • Fetlock = menudillo (meh-noo-dih-jo)
  • Pastern = quartilla (quar-tee-jah)
  • Croup = grupa (groo-pah)
  • Frog = ranilla (rah-knee-jah)

He is now able to recognize the names of things in both languages when people talk horse lingo to him but he still has a hard time remembering the correct terms when saying them himself. It's kind of like when you're learning a new language and you can understand when other people speak it to you but you're not quite able to think in that language yourself yet. Which sometimes makes for hilarious word substitutions from him as he scrambles to find the correct words. Thankfully my man has the BEST sense of humor and is more than willing to laugh at himself when he makes these mistakes.

Back to the trail:
"That was a nice turn on the haunches that she did there," I said to Charles. Turn on the haunches was said in English.
Charles: "I totally did that on purpose."
Me: "Oh yeah?"
Charles: "Yeah. Because I'm a professional that totally knows what he's doing and I wanted to practice our turn on the hedges right then and there." Turn on the hedges was said in English.
Me: *Pause, while trying very hard to not snort with laughter* "You were practicing your turn on the hedges?"
Him: "Yes!"
Me: "You mean 'haunches'..." At this point I can't contain my laughter any longer.
Charles: "That! 'Hedges.'"
I was roaring with laughter for the next mile.

I later explained what "haunches" is in Spanish and what a turn on the haunches is and why it's kind of a big deal that G-Mare went and did it all by herself so effortlessly. He only gets the dressage levels from a video gamer's point of view, which is also hilarious but kind of appropriate if you think about it.

The trail eventually narrowed and took us through the side of a gorgeous wooded yet grassy hillside that reminded me a lot of the Little Bennett trails that I explored with Kathy last year. I snagged a video for you guys:

The trail eventually seemed to dead end on the road but we realized the yellow markers continued on the trees by the road. I'll say it again: BEST marked trail EVARRR.

There is a yellow dot on one of these trees. Do you see it?
More yellow dots!
Blurry shot of Charles on a bored Gracie.
"I wanna lead again..."
The trail also had numerical markers every half mile so we knew when we were getting close to the gravel section of Comus Road, which would take us back to the trailer.

Gracie taking the lead. Check out her ears now. :)

We dismounted when we were within sight of the field and loosened girths. I removed Lily's bit and Gracie got some more baby carrots.

I love this photo. It is completely unedited, believe it or not!
"Om nom nom carrotz!"
Lily looking like a beefcake. The weight is creeping back on slooooowly...
I did start her on treatment doses of UlcerGard.
We did 8 miles in 1.5 hours. We added an extra mile with the route back to the trailer.

Once back at the trailer, we untacked, gave the girls very sloppy mashes and rinsed them off with water from the pump. We then let them graze while drying out. We hung around for a good hour after finishing; it was after 4:30 pm and we wanted to wait until  the worst of rush hour passed. Both horses looked happy and relaxed and like they could've gone out and done the trail at least 2 more times. I think our goal of making sure Gracie had fun was also accomplished.

The girls loaded up completely without issue but the drive home was a little nerve-wracking when we discovered some issues with the U-Haul-installed brake controller, especially on downhills, even at slow speeds. We made it home safe and sound but I may have some residual PTSD over braking in general after that trip...The brake controller is getting checked out by a shop that works with trailers this week STAT.

Anyway, we loved this park and are really, really looking forward to going back! It's a REALLY well-marked trail and it is very nicely maintained for equestrians: no eye-level poker branches, no decapitator branches (yes, that is now a term) and a nice wide trail that can be covered faster than a walk if you wish to. There is plenty of water on trail for the horses and grassy patches where you can stop to give them a break to eat. We had so, so much fun!

On Saturday I called Charles while I was on the way to the barn. He was at home getting ready for work.
Me: "The whole idea of riding without you is kind of boring."
Charles: "That's because I'm awesome and you learn so much from me about riding, right? I've taught you everything you know!"
Charles: "That's kind of pushing it, isn't it?"
Me: "No. My favorite thing you've ever taught me is your turn on the hedges!"


  1. Full stomachs for trailering. YES. I have done this by accident always but it's a great idea.

    Also...LOVE the whole food immediately after arrival thing. I wonder if that would help Q? Although when I put her on the trailer for the 5 minute ride to the rail trail a few weeks ago she did immediately dive into some old hay on there which astounded me. She's so much more relaxed about things now!

    Zebra print looks good on C. How's he feel about that?

    Thank you for just teaching me a million new nouns in Spanish...I must commit them to memory. You should start texting me in Spanish more often so I can start polishing up my Spanish again. Maybe by the time I see you two I will better understand all the RAPID talk. I struggle to follow the speed more than anything, but my vocab isn't nearly where it used to be because I don't PRACTICE enough. Make me practice! lol

    I giggleSNORTed at the video gamer dressage level reference. That's really great.

    I'm so very happy you have a riding buddy now. <3

    1. That is absolutely wonderful about Q and I think doing a tasty meal immediately upon arrival might definitely help her! :D

      Haha I don't think he's a fan of zebra print. I'm sure if he'd gotten to choose the saddle it would have been a plain black. ;)

      And you're welcome re: Spanish! I can teach you a million more confusing equestrian terms. And I can certainly text you in Spanish more often so you can practice more!

  2. Ashke gets food upon arrival, food upon departure and food upon arrival at the barn. I am a feeder and horses like to eat. Although, I have changed the food at arrival at our trailhead to a dry feed, rather than a wet mash, because I was tired of wiping mash slime from my clothing, hat or hair before we could start our ride. We do wet at the end of the ride and then he gets to finish it back at the barn.

    I'm really glad you all were not hurt from the brake controller and am very, very happy that you are getting it replaced this week. Maybe I'll have J do a guest blog about trucks/trailers/controllers and hauling in general, if I can talk her into writing it. :) Or maybe I'll ghost write a blog about all the information she has gleaned.

    Such a beautiful ride! Glad you have a riding partner with a sense of adventure.

    1. With Lily I've done: mash/grain + alfalfa before trailering, mash/alfalfa before riding, mash + grass/hay after riding and before trailering again, and mash upon arriving at the barn, which is what we still do.

      With Gracie I've done: grain + supps (including her Previcox and joint supplement) + hay before trailering, hay before riding, mash/hay after riding and before trailering again, and hay upon arriving at the barn. I basically am changing it to make it more like Lily's, except we're only giving her hay before she gets on the trailer at the barn with her highest value meal (the grain with supps) coming immediately when she gets off the trailer at the trailhead. I definitely believe in them having full stomachs for both trailering and riding, as it means a lot less stomach acid sloshing around while traveling, both in the trailer and on the trail.

      I totally get subbing a dry meal at the trailhead instead of a mash to avoid being covered in mash! Haha...

      That would be AWESOME if J could do a guest blog on trucks/trailers/controllers/hauling in general! I'd link to the post here so people could go over and read too.

      Carlos is a terrific riding partner. :)

  3. aw yay for happy Gracie pony!! she'll learn to love the whole process eventually, i'm sure. also - i wish turns on the hedges could be recognized movements! i bet my food-motivated mare would execute them much better than the alternative lol

    1. The thing was, this "turn on the hedges" was simply a regular turn on the haunches done by Gracie all by herself with no food incentive at all! Pretty impressive IMO. :)

  4. I'm so jealous of your riding partner. Sounds like y'all have so much fun together. And I love the bit about the bilingual conversation. I never would have thought about having to learn two words for each item.

    1. When I started taking riding lessons in PR, I had to learn all of the parts of the horse, the saddle and the bridle before I was allowed to ride. My instructor grilled us! And then I had to look it all up in English as well because at the time I was reading stuff like The Saddle Club and wanted to know what the hell they were talking about. Hahaha

  5. What a great ride! The baby carrots are adorable. The turn on the hedges had me roaring (I told Mike about it because he similarly didn't understand why side passing with JR was a big deal). LOVE that 'unedited' photo!

    1. Mike and Carlos could start their own club, it sounds like. Hahaha ;D

  6. Hooray for well marked trails! Haha and I had to laugh at the porta potty....we have one at my new barn but it sits outside the gate that is usually padlocked! (For all the good that does lol!)

    Oh and I know you said you didn't want comments on your other post, but just wanted to say, I understand where you're coming from. A couple years ago I had a puppy that was attacked by another dog and badly injured. The surgery to fix him would've cost several thousand....I was on the verge of divorce and it was money I didn't have so o ended up having to have him euthanized. I hated myself for a long time for not having the money to fix him, but I never blamed the vet or anyone else. It wasn't their fault.

    1. Nah, I figured people who really wanted to comment would find a way. I just didn't want random people on the internet who found the post trying to bash vets more on my post. I've been horrified by the comments the articles I linked above received, and it just made me so angry against humanity. Most, if not ALL of my readers and the writers of the blogs that I read are very responsible, reasonable pet owners. It's out in the real world where we see so much that is so evil and cruel and insensitive. I wish I could write so much more but this is such a public forum.

      I'm so so sorry about your puppy. *hugs*

  7. Most of all in these photos I notice how relaxed Gracie is - her head is so nice and low, and the one where she's eating carrots - looks like she's falling asleep! Definitely she's in her comfort zone, or was on that day.

    When I boarded and lived in Seattle and only made it to the barn on weekends, I'd make beet pulp in my bedroom under my bed so it was ready the next day: )

    So do you think C will start wearing tights soon? His jeans look like OUCH! Maybe after he peruses enough ride photos and counts the number of men in jeans.....: )

    1. She's really starting to have fun and enjoy herself. She used to hate having structure and discipline imposed on her, but now that she better understands what she is expected to do, I think she has realized that it's really not all that restrictive and she can still have a lot of fun by doing what the humans say. And I'm completely anthropomorphizing but it's something along those lines, I think.

      That's awesome about the beet pulp in Seattle. In South FL it was so hot in the summer that I couldn't let my hay cubes soak overnight: by morning they would be rotten from the heat. So I would bring the bucket home and let them soak indoors in the AC, then stop by the barn on the way to work to give them to the horse I had at the time. :)

      I agree: those jeans look OUCH! He insists that he doesn't chafe though, so we'll see. I've told him about men's breeches and shown him pictures...even that would be better! We'll find out after his first 20+ mile ride in the heat whether he still thinks jeans are great. ;)