Saturday, September 29, 2012

A Long Awaited Arrival

Three years ago, I made a big mistake. I used the neighbor's White Galloway (beef) semen on one of my Holstein cows (they keep their semen in our tank). I named the heifer that was born Britney Spears, for her signature song "Oops I did it again" since I used all of their semen.

Today, Britney had her calf, and although she is only 1/4 White Galloway, she looks purebred and is a pretty little thing. I call her Little Brit and am so glad Britney had a heifer. Sometimes mistakes aren't the worst thing (although I felt terrible when I realized what I had done!)

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Tyrone Farm Judged Pleasure Ride

Last Saturday (September 15th), I went with my friend Megan and her horse Cocoa to the Tyrone Farm Judged Pleasure Ride in Pomfret. They host a series of three judged pleasure rides every year, this was the last one for the season. You are judged on how well your horse handles four obstacles, and then ride a marked trail of nine miles.

Tyrone Farm is an absolutely beautiful place to ride, and I thought the obstacles and mileage would be good training and conditioning for Secret. The day started with a rain shower, but cleared up to be perfect riding weather.

The four obstacles at this ride were: opening a rope gate, backing a serpentine, cantering a circle and halting on command, and dismounting, trot out and back and then remount. The fourth obstacle was easy for us, the other three presented a bit of a challenge and gave us some homework.

On the nine mile ride, we walked for a little, and then did quite a bit of trotting, with some cantering thrown in. Secret was a bit feisty as we added trot and canter work, with several bucks (more like crow hops, nothing dangerous, just bouncy) thrown in here and there. All in all I was very proud of her though.

Megan took the photo with her phone of Secret and I spinning around while I tried to take a photo with my phone.

Massachusetts Horse magazine

The October/November issue of Massachusetts Horse magazine is online! There are lots of great articles inside, check it out today.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Horse Camping in Rhode Island Part Two

Hurricane Isaac, who at that point was a tropical storm was blowing into the Northeast Saturday night. Megan’s husband had called while we were riding Saturday afternoon to tell us about the two tornados in New York City and to tell us to take shelter. Megan told him it was nice out and we were still on the horses!

We were sitting under the pop up tent, at one of the picnic tables provided by Arcadia finishing dinner when it began downpouring. During one of the breaks in the rain, we all ran and threw horses more hay and went to bed. I was testing out my new Thermarest sleep pad that I was taking to Peru. I definitely need a second pillow before Peru, I didn’t get much sleep. When I got up at 6 to feed the horses, they weren’t very wet and seemed happy. I crawled back into my sleeping bag for a bit longer.

After we ate breakfast, we saddled up for another ride. Contrary to the thoughts of the entire group, Secret was bouncing out of ride camp. Esther looked at her and said, “I guess we didn’t tire her out at all.” She settled down quicker on Sunday, and I rode her on the buckle for most of the day. She was anywhere from second to fourth in line and was super well-behaved all day, which made for a very relaxing ride for me. As much as I love John, “pleasurable” is not always a word I associate with trail riding him, he can be a handful, especially when riding in groups. Secret is the opposite and I was really able to enjoy the weekend.

On another side note, there was only one other horse in the entire campground (which is huge) the first night we were there. It was on the opposite side of the camp, and promptly got loose and came trotting over. Although our horses were on alert, they never tried to get loose. I stood in front of them, while Megan grabbed the horse and took it back to its owner, who was following it. When we got back from riding on Sunday afternoon, there were several horses being tacked up at trailers and headed out for an afternoon ride.

We rode ten miles on Sunday, and were packed up and home by 4 pm. I think it was just the kind of break we all needed from the stresses of daily life. I was thrilled with how well Secret handled the entire experience, including camping overnight in an outdoor paddock, and can’t wait for our next adventure.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Horse Camping in Rhode Island Part

Last weekend, I went with my friend Megan to the Arcadia Management area in Escoheag, RI to meet two of our other friends and their horses for a weekend camping trip. I took Secret, since she is wearing shoes and the trails there can be rocky. It was her first camping trip, so I was uncertain how it would all go, but was looking forward to a weekend away.

The best thing for me about going horse camping was not running around from one thing to another. My schedule lately has been intense, and it was fun to have a couple of quiet days and the opportunity to spend hours in the saddle and sit and talk with friends afterwards. Our friend Esther, who was there with her husband Jim, says that as much as she loves competitive trail rides, that the pleasure rides bring an entire relaxing element.

We arrived at the campground around 11 AM on Saturday, and set up the paddocks for the horses. I assumed Secret has seen electric fence at some point in her life, and she was great. She munched her hay, said hi to Cocoa and didn’t carry on at all.

We set off on a trail ride at noon. We headed out on the dirt roads that we’ve regularly ridden while doing competitive rides at Arcadia. Esther and Jim have ridden there a lot, and Jim was carrying a map, so we figured we were all set. Our plan was to ride for three hours and then go back to camp and relax.

Secret was a little bouncy heading out of camp. When we picked up a trot, she promptly bucked three times, but then settled into her work. After the first couple of miles, she settled right down and followed the other horses. After we had ridden two hours, we needed another hour of trail. Esther asked if we wanted to do more dirt roads or go back into the woods. I said, let’s do more woods and we took a left onto a side trail.

Before long, we ended up on what the map called a “multi-use trail.” It was rocky, and more like goat trail with all of the rocks and turns, but the horses were handling it well, so we continued. We came to a fork in the trail, we could go straight, or take a right. Esther said to go straight because the trail looked like it had seen more use. There was horse poop on the trail, so we weren’t worried.

Twenty minutes later, Jim said, “According to the map, we should have gone right.” Esther replied, “I’m curious to see where this goes now.” So we continued down the multi-use trail. The trail got pretty sketchy with the amount of rocks and narrow turns. Secret was handling it like a pro though, so I wasn’t too worried. I knew she was getting tired because she did slam my knee into a tree at one point, but since we were only walking, I figured she would be okay. Of the four horses, she is the least conditioned, the other three were doing 30 and 50 mile trail rides all summer. Her ears were still up and she was happy, so we kept following along.

At some point, Esther started to get a bit worried, since we were going in a straight line the entire time and hadn’t made any turns. Her curiosity soon turned into real worry and she wanted off the trail. Secret and I bushwacked us a trail through a lightly wooded section (we’ve had practice making our own trails at home!) and we found a dirt road. We headed back towards Arcadia on that, until we found it was a dead end. We turned around, and followed the dirt road to the Whispering Pines Recreation area. There was a wedding there Saturday night and we asked numerous people for help getting back to Arcadia (basically a faster, less rocky trail than the one we came down). Everyone told us we were near route 102, and it would take us ½ an hour by road to get to Arcadia and we would need to go down I-95.

Not happening. Secret and I bushwacked us back onto the multi-use trail and we took off at a trot to get back to camp. Secret led for a little while after bushwacking us in; until we got to a hill that went straight down and she thought it was a better idea to let Mackie go first. It’s really surprising how many hills are in Rhode Island, I think we rode them all that day. It only took us 40 minutes to get back to the dirt roads of Arcadia, thanks to the light feet of our horses. We walked the rocky areas and trotted everything else.

We stopped at the Flat River to water our horses. Upon exiting the river, there is a long, steep hill up the dirt road on the way back to camp. The other three horses knew where they were and took off at a gallop. Secret cantered along behind them for a minute, before slowing to a trot, and then she just stopped and watched them gallop away. I couldn’t get her to move. The look on her face said: “Are you kidding me?”

She finally picked up a slow trot and climbed the hill. Luckily the others had noticed that we weren’t behind them anymore and stopped to wait. When they heard Secret stopped dead and wouldn’t move because she thought they were crazy, they laughed. Once Secret saw the trail back to camp, she seemed to realize what their hurry was!

Overall, it was a great day. It was the first time I was ever truly “lost” on a trail and I thoroughly enjoyed myself, since we weren’t in a hurry to get anywhere, had maps and cell phones, and were never really lost, just didn’t want to go back the way we had come! We rode 16 miles that day, and we all ate well at camp that night.

Secret and I are behind Esther on Mackie.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Sunrise on the farm

One of the things I love best about feeding calves in the morning is watching the sunrise. There are always brilliant colors in the sky. Last Wednesday, the sun was a bold red coming up through the trees. I especially love the morning fog as it clings to the hills surrounding the farm, and the quiet beauty of the trees.

The trees will be changing colors soon, and as much as I love the fall foliage colors, I will truly miss being surrounded by green. Another of my favorite things, listening to the sound of the wind ripple through the corn, is already disappearing as everyday more corn gets chopped and taken back to the silo. The cows will eat well this winter, and I will be able to ride in those fields again, but I will miss the gentle ripple of corn stalks against each other as we are riding alongside a field.