road hacking · summer · trail riding

It’s too nice outside, I can’t dressage

Tristan’s dressage-ing has been going really well. That’s the good news.

The bad news? It’s too gorgeous to stay in a ring. I just can’t. I keep driving to the barn with careful plans and thoughts and blah blah…then I pull up and I cannot stay inside.

So last night I stopped back by my car to grab a granola bar so I would not sugar crash after a long day at work…

Good patient pony, if confused.

…and then attempted to take my first horse selfie ever with horse (and like my third selfie ever and all the others were to do things like show off my new helmet or show my mother my new glasses).

Tristan: wtf. Me: …I have no idea what I’m doing.

Yeah, not so much. The light was just so gorgeous though.

Then we walked around the field.

And I still couldn’t make myself go inside.

So we walked down the road.

And down the road some more.

And I know you will all appreciate when I say that I deserve a goddamn gold medal for not galloping up this hill every single time I’m at the bottom of it. Siiiiiiigh.

safety · trail riding

Heads Up: Great RoadID 15th Anniversary Sale!

First, thank you everyone who offered feedback on whether to order a RoadID or a RoadSafe bracelet. When I saw news of the RoadID 15th Anniversary sale on COTH, I immediately went back to that post – and all your great advice – and thought it all through, then ordered a bracelet.

For reference, I went with the Slim band, in the limited edition gray color, with the following information:

Full Name
Date of Birth
Emergency contact (First Name, Phone Number, HUSB for “husband” even though we’re a few months away from the actual wedding date)
NKA, NO MED HX (no known allergies, no medical history)

I chose not to get the online component, and not to get any of the extra tags – couldn’t find one that really spoke to me.

I ordered a second band, too, and with shipping, my total order was $18.57. Pretty darn good!

So, until early tomorrow morning, you too can save 15%!

trail riding · trailering

Fall Trail Ride at Groton State Forest

First things first: as I alluded to yesterday, late on Saturday, I started getting a niggling worry about my original Sunday plans to bring Tristan down to the GMHA Fall Foliage Ride. I mean, I always worry, and last week was not exactly ideal preparation, but now I had some concrete reasons.

(Second things: in an attempt to break up the wordiness of this, I’ll insert pictures throughout the text.)

In a nutshell, even the staid, conservative, reliable weather sources were predicting record-breaking high temperatures, up even into the mid-80s. Tristan has more than half of his winter coat grown in already, has not been drinking great this week (though I added in electrolytes and soaked beet pulp to help counteract this) and the really unknown factor: Cushings affects a horse’s ability to regulate its own body temperature. We already knew that Tristan did not cope well with an unseasonable cold snap; how would he do with an unseasonable high? GMHA would be 8.5 miles of terrain about 1.5 hours south of where we lived, so potentially even hotter, with more exertion. (Yes, I know those of you who do 10 miles on a light day are laughing at me right now…sorry!)

I started texting the friend who was planning on going with me, and she responded immediately saying she’d had the same concerns. She also has an older, not in full work horse with a solid start on his winter coat. WHEW. I headed to the barn Saturday night to prep the trailer with everything jumbled in my head, and then talked to the trainer’s barn manager/assistant trainer, M. I laid out the facts and she knew instantly why I was concerned. A few minutes of conversation and she said in our place, she’d fall back on plan B.

Plan B: Groton State Forest. Run by the VT State Parks people, it’s a massive, MASSIVE preserved tract of land – big enough to have seven different state parks within its borders. It’s 26,000 acres, and according to the state park website, the second largest contiguous land holding in the state of Vermont. It’s also about 25 minutes away from the barn, and I’d heard the name tossed about a few times by people when they discussed good places to trail ride around here.

I texted my friend back, and as she pointed out, M. is always right. We scratched from GMHA (even when my horse is healthy, I always seem to be losing money on entries…HORSES…) and re-oriented for Groton. We planned on leaving the same time so as to get the horses home before the heat really hit. I prepped the trailer and looked at the trail map when I got home.

The next morning, after an 80 hour workweek, I got up at 5am and walked the puppy, then headed to the barn. The fog was absolutely unreal – no more than 20 feet visibility. I missed a turn I take every day, sometimes twice a day! Then, when I stopped at the top of the hill to hitch up the trailer, the truck’s wheels slipped and slid in the dewy grass. I backed up and turned and wriggled out of the field, but not without digging the grass up a little bit and then getting myself pointed the wrong way out the field, which necessitated three-pointing the entire rig in some stranger’s driveway so I could get pointed back toward the barn. At 6:30 am. Good thing I’m a confident trailer driver?

We got everything loaded, then loaded both horses. Tris was his usual self, but got on in a minute or two. It was chilly – low 50s – and my trailer gets a lot of air flow, so I put his new Smartpak cooler on for the ride. Then we set out for an extremely pleasant drive: little traffic, all local roads, and once we got back out to the main road from the farm (about 5 minutes) only one turn.

We pulled first into New Discovery State Park, because from our online research it looked like the biggest and most accessible, and therefore the most likely to have plenty of trailer parking. HA. NOPE. It was entirely narrow dirt roads that led to campsites, and the park office wasn’t yet open. (There was a sign saying, “Pick a site and come back after 9am.” Hmmmmmm. Not helpful.) So I three pointed for the second time that morning, and headed back out. We parked by the park office and jumped out to see if there were any maps or any better indications of parking lots at other sites in the state forest. We discovered that while we could in fact park the trailer in a camping spot – and there were some specific horse camping spots – we were both kind of meh on the trails we saw out of the campground, so we moved on.

We settled on Kettle Pond State Park, a few miles down the road, because it looked like it had both a decent parking lot and access to the rail trail through the park that was a piece of the Cross Vermont Trail. Back down the road we went, and about 2 miles later I pulled over and we were right! Though the parking lot was not huge, it was plenty big enough to pull the rig over into the shade, and a short hack back along the (not-busy) road a few hundred feet would put us right on the rail trail.

We pulled the horses off, and Tris was his usual self in a new place: dancing and pacing a bit but nothing seriously bad. I had parked the rig in such a way that meant I couldn’t tie him on my side (whoops) but I rarely tie him anyway when we’re out, unless we’re going to stand for a while. I folded his cooler and put on his saddle, and then left the cooler over his saddle while bridling, just to be extra-cautious. He seemed not too warm at all under the cooler, which was exactly my hope. The only bad moment: Tris stomped on my foot HARD while dancing around, and I was wearing sneakers. We had a spirited conversation, and he regretted it, but wow, my foot hurt like a bitch.

(One other small aside: when I pulled off Tristan’s fly mask – I hauled him with it to keep protecting that funky eye – he had some kind of charming pussy scab on his cheek that looked like a bug bite. He wasn’t terribly bothered by it, so I wasn’t either, and back at the barn later that day I cleaned it up and slathered it with Corona; I think it was a small initial bug bite that he rubbed through the fly mask and made quite a bit more irritated. Idiot.)

We mounted up and set off. Our stated goal was to do nothing more than expose them to a new place and see beautiful foliage, and I have to say, though I know H. decently well after seeing her around the barn and hacking out in the fields there, I was thrilled with how well we both communicated and were on the same page that day.

There’s not too much to report about the trail, other than WOW. Tristan was eager and happy and gave me an absolutely beautiful forward walk on the buckle for nearly the entire ride, until the last mile or so when he was clearly getting tired. We ended up doing about four and a half miles in an hour and a half, on footing that was quite good – not good enough to gallop, but easily good for trotting, especially if a horse were booted. We walked only, and turned around when the horses first indicated they were a little tired.

And I just have to say: I have lived in the northeast my entire life, and have now lived in 8 Vermont falls, and I have never – NEVER – seen foliage like this. It was unreal, almost painful to look at the colors were so riotous. The pictures don’t even capture a quarter of intensity of it. We could not stop talking about how amazing it was, and we’re both pretty jaded about foliage!

Tristan was a little warm and a little sweaty when we got back to the trailer, but nothing terribly serious. I had brought an irish knit with me, and stripped his saddle immediately, then threw the knit on and rubbed his back and chest with it a bit to rough up the winter fur. He was cool and mostly dry by the time I put him back on the trailer without a sheet. He spurned water, of course, but was happy to attack the hay on the trailer and seemed in great spirits.

We got back to the barn without incident, and both horses looked and felt great off the trailer. We tossed them into the dry lot paddocks with the extra hay from the hay net and they both had good long rolls and stood in the shade. By this time, the heat was really cranking up, and I was hot and exhausted and the foot that Tristan had stepped on was finally starting to throb.

We cleaned out the trailer, hauled everything inside, and hit the only major snag of the day: the trailer ramp would not close. What the HELL? Problem: the mat on the trailer ramp has to slide snugly inside the wall of the trailer, and it was catching, bumping against the left-hand side of the trailer. Which made zero sense. I heaved, slammed it, cussed, and finally examined the entire thing inch by inch and discovered the problem.

The ramp was connected to the trailer itself by three large hinges. Somehow, when we took the ramp down and/or when the horses came off. the ramp shifted less than 1/4″ on the hinges. I could see the bare, unpainted part of the hinges exposed to metal underneath. Somehow, we needed to shift the (incredibly heavy, not spring-loaded, all-steel) ramp back 1/4″ to the right so that it would line up again with the trailer. Cue a hunt for WD-40 through two tack rooms, an equipment room, and a garage. We lubricated the hinges and the ramp would not budge.

Finally, I looked around and realized that the way the hill up and out of the barn turned, it would mean the trailer would tip to the right, and gravity would be on our side. I inched the rig up, and put it a foot or so off the road so the right wheels of the trailer were off-road and the whole thing was substantially tipped – not so much that it would’ve rolled, but definitely diagonal. We then lifted the ramp halfway and rocked and rocked and rocked – AND IT WORKED!

Just at the moment it slid in and we latched the door, the trainer came running out of the barn to warn us that if we drove into the drainage ditch we would ruin some carefully constructed rainwater draining systems. EEK. I swore we were not really in the ditch (we weren’t) and promised to back it out precisely the way I’d gone in, which I then did, inch by inch. WHEW.

I parked the trailer, drove back to the barn, and fed Tristan some beet pulp with electrolytes, watched as he took a big long drink, and then headed home and proceeded not to move for several hours while I watched The Roosevelts and crocheted.

trail riding

GREAT Feedback

I’m busy at work and stressed about Tristan and haven’t had real time to respond but I wanted to say that you are all the BEST and gave great feedback about my decision between RoadID and RideSafe bracelets.

If any of you out there are looking for the debate between the two, check out the post. Tons and tons of great opinions and information in the comments.

trail riding

Road ID or RoadSafe?

As I do more and more hacking out, I’m starting to think that I’d like one of those bracelets that gives your basic contact info and emergency contact info. Luckily, I don’t have any allergies or medications that a first responder would need to know about, but I’d still like the fiance to know if I’m being trucked to the hospital. My information is on file with the barn, obviously, but that takes precious minutes to find and isn’t always the first thought.

I don’t know if I’ll ever event again, but if I do, I’d also rather have one of the bracelets than that #@!$#@% armband, which always slips or leaves marks on my arm for hours afterward. Something about the shape (or lack thereof…) of my bicep makes them a terrible fit.

As best I can tell, there are two major outlets to get these bracelets from.

Road ID

This is a much larger company that has more options and caters to all sorts of outdoor enthusiasts. They’re affordable, at around $20 per bracelet. It provides basic information that you select. Everything looks neat and slim, and certainly the infrastructure is there to provide quick easy replacements.
These are horseback riding specific. They look a little different from the Road ID bracelets but are still basically the same, though they come in really only one mode. They’re more expensive, at $35 per bracelet. 

Here’s the big advantage to these: they have an ID on the back of the clasp that sends first responders to a website where they can get more complete medical information. I don’t necessarily have more medical information to share right now – but it’s not out of the question that I would in the future.

Does anyone have one of these bracelets? Which one do you have? Did you debate between them? What are the pros and cons of each?

dressage · trail riding

Stupid Question Theater: Which side is outside when you’re traveling straight?

Last night, I found that Tristan had enough natural forward energy that I decided to use it and put him on the bit a little bit, to increase the amount of push through his hind end and thus the difficulty of our hill walking.

I was taught to put a horse on the bit by using inside leg to outside rein, having one rein as a steadying one to help create that mix of self-carriage and impulsion.

Last night, I found myself wondering: if I’m traveling straight, ie down a dirt road with no arena walls, which side do I make the outside?

What do you do? Swap sides, much like you do for posting during long trots? Work on your horse’s weaker side? Some other solution?

I ended up simply flexing Tristan a little bit both ways to soften his mouth, and concentrated more on getting him soft and low rather than strictly speaking on the bit, asking for a little bit of straightforward carriage instead of flexion/bend/outside rein.

ride calendar · trail riding

Google Ride Calendar Experiment

I’m experimenting with a new way to track my rides: Google Calendar. I know some of you use it; I think I must have gotten the idea from Hannah.

We’ll see if it sticks, but 3 weeks in it’s been a good way to track what we’ve done and to project the coming week. In each entry’s details, I go a little more in depth about the ride that day – whether the longeing intervals or the route we took to achieve our mileage that day.

Here’s what it’s looked like so far – you’ll see the planned ahead rides are question marks.

freetown-fall river state forest · massachusetts state parks · trail riding

Hacking Day: Freetown-Fall River State Forest

This winter has been absolutely glorious. Proof that it has been glorious: this past weekend, there was an outdoor jump clinic (will write about that later) and on Monday, Hannah and I took the boys to Freetown-Fall River State Forest.

Hauling out and hacking on February 20. FANTASTIC.

I’m committing myself to being braver about hauling, and Hannah has these wild and crazy plans about doing a Long Distance ride, so we are seeking good, local places to bring the boys to and get in some good hacking. Freetown-Fall river fit the “local” part of the bill (~45 minutes, even hauling) but we were a bit nervous about its advertised motorcycle trails and the fact that it is a hotbed of the Bridgewater Triangle.

Apart from a roving pack of beagles (who were all nice, just very nosy) none of our misgivings came true! Both horses behaved beautifully. Tristan walked right on the trailer – he stopped a few times, but he stepped up when asked, and he never flew backwards. They hauled great. They came off sensible and gentleman-like. They tacked up quickly and easily.

The trails themselves were great. We spent a solid 2 hours walking, trotting, and cantering, and we barely scratched the surface. A fair bit of the trail was hard-packed road, nice for walking but not something I could really trot Tristan on. There were also some lovely technical single tracks, though, and our discovery of the day was a network of glorious bridle trail: perfect springy turf footing that we ran and ran on.

The cutest moment of the day was when Hannah took Tucker for a run up ahead, leaving Tristan behind. Mind, he’s not energetic enough to do more than walk quickly when another horse leaves him, but when Tucker passed out of sight and Tris realized he truly was alone in a cold, cruel world, he let out one long neigh of misery. Luckily for all concerned with his general patheticness, Tucker came back a few minutes later. My loner, antisocial mustang betrayed himself there – poor baby.

Tris was definitely quite tired at the end of the day, and glad to be back at the barn. I left out some bute for him to take a bit of the sting out of his feet and the soreness out of his muscles.

Can’t wait to get back, and if the weather holds, we may be able to haul and hack out much earlier and more frequently than we did last year.