Sunday, August 17, 2008

Trail Walk!!

Today, *Jack and *Leo got on the trailer for their first ever trailer ride. We had Guin's BF, Chellis, ride in the back with them. This is, of course, not really recommended; however we were going only about 3 miles and it is very reassuring for a couple of youngsters on their first ride to have someone along that they know.

We took them up to Groton State Forest. Here's a link to just one of their camp grounds: The Forest is quite horse friendly and has many miles of multi-use trails. Because we were only going to be there a short while, the Forester I spoke with a few days before recommended that we actually park up the road from that spot at a parking lot used for day hikers, and in the winter, snowmobilers. We were the only ones there today (and it was a lovely day, weather-wise!). Here we are after off-loading the boys and before heading out on the trail.

Because we have a large camera we decided not to take it with us this first time, so we don't have shots of them on the trail with us; however I'll do my best to describe what we saw and how the boys reacted.

The trail we took followed the roadway for a bit, always with trees and bushes between the trail and road. Come Autumn, you would be able to see the cars, but today we just heard them. The trail was wide enough to comfortably walk by the horses' sides. It wound up and down, strewn with small rocks and branches. Sun dappled the trail between the overhead leaves, while ferns, tall grass, brambles, and other horses' manure were underfoot. The manure was of particular interest to young *Leo; although *Jack had to have a sniff once in a while too. There were large boulders occasionally to the side of the trail, and sometimes you could spy an old rock wall in the nearby trees.

Everything was worthy of investigation, and we took our time to stop and taste-test or just bury our noses in and SNIFF! *Leo and Chuck led the way. *Leo is a very forward horse, and did not like being behind *Jack who was happy to amble along checking things out. The only item that evoked a startle on the trail, was when *Leo spied a boulder with, OMG, branches on it!!!! The startle response? He stopped and stared at it and wanted Chuck to lead him by. *Jack thought it needed thorough investigation, so we "touched the monster" and received a treat. Once *Leo saw *Jack getting a treat, he needed to return to "touch that monster" too.

Before long we found a place that was open enough for us to turn them around and head back. Our goal was just to get them out and about, with that trailer ride to and from, so we didn't feel we needed to walk a long way.

On the way back *Leo, still in the lead, slowed down and wanted to really check things out, as did *Jack. *Jack was particularly curious about the various trees. Chuck feels that *Leo demonstrated curiosity and braveness, while at the same time needing to have that quiet competent leader next to him. He particularly enjoys it when Chuck drapes an arm across his back and walks beside him in that position. *Jack was unsure. He wants to be brave, but he also wants to be careful. So watching his feet was important to him (*Leo was too busy gawking, Chuck said and tripped over rocks constantly, lol) *Jack gained a lot of confidence because *I* was there to tell him how great and wonderful it all was. I could see by the wrinkles over his nostrils that there was some worry, and when it got too much for him, he would reach over with his nose and touch my hand. I spent some time rubbing his neck and reassuring him that he was a lovely, smart, brave boy as we walked along.

Here we are as we returned from the walk, having gone a bit over a mile, out and back.

The only other spook occurred here as we investigated the perimeter of the parking lot. Suddenly *Jack leaped toward me, although only going perhaps a foot, and not running into me. I had no clue what had startled him, because it certainly didn't startle *Leo. Then Chellis mentioned he had seen a toad over in that area. Perhaps that was it.

The boys then very easily loaded back up into the trailer, and away we went home again.

A highly successful first trip!!

Friday, August 08, 2008

Last year we received an invitation to bring Curlies to the Champlain Valley Exposition ( ); however, as one of our daughters was being married, we really couldn't break-away from preparations to attend.

We received an invitation this year, and have decided to take *Jack and *Leo! Because they are young and this will be their first outing, we will only be there for two days, the 30th and 31st of August. Do try to make plans to come meet these two awesome young horses in "real time"!

In the meanwhile, we are busy teaching them things that they will need, such as trailer loading. This week we have concentrated on just going into, and hanging out in, the trailer; both alone and together. They have done fabulously!! And once again, the fact of just how different each horse is, has been driven home in my mind.

*Jack has a solid belief in me. If I tell him I think he can, he will strive to do whatever I ask of him; yet he is a bit more tentative in his approach. *Leo also needs to be reassured that he can, but he is more bold about his tasks; more willing to "get it wrong" than *Jack is. The differences just amaze me.

This weekend we hope to take them for their first "spin" in the trailer. We won't go anywhere to off-load, just drive them a bit and return home. Check back in to see how it went!

Saturday, August 02, 2008

The show at Towne-Ayr Farm; August 2

Guinevive decided that she wanted to give the Open show at a local farm a go. So, this morning Chuck, Chellis (Guin’s BF), and I put on our Curly t-shirts, and loaded everything that we needed into the truck, trailer, and jeep. Guin dressed up in her English show gear, and loaded UB Raggae Babe up (like a champ I might add).

At this point, I would love to be able to say, “We had a great time; wowed everyone with our Curly; and won lots of ribbons.” But the truth is, Chuck and I were, once again, disappointed at the inability of the Judge to be unbiased. It had nothing to do with the fact that Babe is a Curly. It had everything to do with the fact that Guin is no longer in 4H and not a “show regular”.

It would be very easy to say that we were suffering from sour grapes, but that isn’t it. It would also be easy to say that the Judge can’t see *everything* that goes wrong with all the riders in the ring. But that isn’t it either. It was the third class that showed the blatant disregard the Judge had for reality.

Guin chose 5 classes: Fitting and Showmanship; Equitation; Pleasure; Command; and Equitation over fences. She ended up scratching the jumping because both she and Babe were tired (and it was so hot and HUMID), plus the whole show was held inside an undersized and too dark arena.

She came out of the F&S with a 4th place. Completely respectable considering it has been 4 years since she has tried her hand at this. In Equitation they combined the Adult and Senior classes. There were five total entrants. During the class, one pair had real problems; the horse reared, wouldn’t accept cues, and when waiting on the sidelines for others to canter, was threatening to other horses. Two of the other horses broke at the canter; two did not. Guin and Babe were one of those. Considering this, we expected she would place 3rd, or perhaps even 2nd. No, she placed 4th putting the two horses above her who had not stayed in gait. We simply shook our heads and figured the Judge had not seen it.

Her next class was Pleasure. Now for those of you unused to shows like this, the Pleasure class is supposed to judge the horse whereas the Equitation is to judge the rider. Basically the horse needs to demonstrate that they are a pleasure to ride: easy to cue, easy to change directions, easy to change gaits, easy to stay in gait, easy to halt and easy to back. In this class there were only 4 entrants. The troubled pair from above had scratched the rest of the show. Again, two of the horses broke at the canter (same two as above in fact), and two did not. And this time both Chuck and I were watching the judge watch the horses. She looked straight at BOTH horses when each of them broke their canters; there was no way she could have missed it. Yet, once again, one of those horses placed above Guin and Babe, giving Guin a 3rd place. The comment the Judge made to Guin was, “This horse likes to go, doesn't it?”

It was obvious that there was no way Guin was going to place higher, and in fact in Command class, she again placed 4th.

Again, it would be easy to say “Well, Guin must be out of ‘shape’ as a rider,” or “At least she GOT a ribbon.” But in all honesty, Guin is a sweet rider. She can handle anything a horse puts out; she knows how to coax, how to teach, how to reward, and how to gently correct what a horse offers. I watched her closely and she made no glaring errors today. It is disheartening to have to deal with such bias. She has reworked Babe from the rushing, rooting, unbalanced mare we got, into a more balanced and confident mare. From Babe, Guin has learned to be subtle with her cues, and Babe rewards that with more relaxed movement. Babe did well today at the show, and so did Guin.

Will Guin show again? It is hard to say, but at this point I suspect not. I believe that Guin may have learned that she doesn’t need an outsider to tell her she is a good rider; all she needs is the willingness of the horse to show her.

ps....on a side note, we did talk with several folks about what kind of horse Babe is. One, who was actually there with a team of oxen, said that she used to have a horse that folks told her was half Curly because he would curl up in the winter. I can't begin to say how many folks up here have told me about "a horse they used to have that got all curly"; but it's been many a one over the years.

Friday, August 01, 2008

So, two blog posts in one day, from me? Simply amazing! However, I have discovered that I have been "tagged" in a game of Blog-tag. Apparently, in blog-tag, one must share some things about oneself (in this case, 6 things) and then "tag" other bloggers. My problem may be, that I only have a few folks whose blog I read, and Michelle, from the Bottom of Chestnut Hill who tagged me, also tagged the ones I read! I'll have to poke around on the net to find some that I can tag too!

On to the six things you may or may not know about me.

1) I was born in Maryland, daughter of two Rebels. In case you didn't realize it, Maryland is below the Mason-Dixon line; so although it did NOT secede from the Union back before the Civil War, it IS a Rebel state. I may live in Vermont, but I am most certainly not a Yankee. I'm proud of my Rebel heritage, and especially proud that most of my forebearers came from Virginia.

2) I grew up on the grounds of a Tuberculous hospital, called Glenn Dale Hospital. I spent the first ten years of my life there. My father began as a steam-fitter, slowly went through business school and then became the business manager of the hospital. We left there when my father changed jobs in 1964. The hospital closed in the early 80's. Primarily it closed because TB was on the decline (thanks to Penicillian) but it was full of asbestos and would have cost mega-dollars to clean up. The hospital actually belonged to Washington, D.C. but they had no use for it. It still stands, empty, and a wreck from vandels. A shame too, because the brick buildings were gorgeous when the hospital was in full swing.

3)I am a certified open-water diver. I learned to dive when I was stationed on Guam. Typically you learn to dive in a pool, but because I arrived on Guam hours before it was struck by SuperTyphoon Pamela in 1976, the pools had not been fixed when I took the course. So, I literarily learned to dive in open water. I loved it, and went as often as I could. I continued to dive until I was about 5 months pregnant with Bethany. By then the weight belt would no longer fit around my waist, so I just snorkled. I only dove once after returning to the states, down in Key West. I competely gave it up when I moved to Vermont.

4) I am interested in genealogy. I used to do a lot of research, and will return to it at some point I'm sure. I have been able to connect our family, on my father's side back to a Swedish immigrant who came over on the SS Swan in 1643 into New Delaware. On my mother's side, we go back to English immigrants in 1610 into Virginia. Also, on my mother's side we are Cherokee (Tsa la gi)

5) I "fell in love" with Vermont when I lived in Massachusetts in 1969. I determined that one day I would move here to live. Why? There was something wild about what I had seen in our drives; so country. My years at Glenn Dale had affirmed the country of my soul and I knew I would need to return to it at some point. I did in 1982.

and finally

6) I volunteer with a group called "Good Beginnings". It's basis is to pair an older, experienced mom with new moms for the first three months of their motherhood. Primarily, it is to offer emotional support, but we also help them to make community connections, as well as, connect them with needed physical support (clothing, food, etc.) should the need be there.

Well, I'm down to the "who should I tag" portion.

I'll tag: Cara's Blog and Top 'O the Hill's Blog
The first of August! Today, on the trip to take Sophie to the airport we saw the first Sugar Maple turning to orange! Yes, for some Maples, Autumn comes a wee bit *too* early.

We thoroughly enjoyed having Sophie with us. It was a great experience for all of us. She was a hard worker, with a quick intellect and avid curiousity. We wish her huge success in her life to come!

Now is the time to think toward fall and winter. We've redone some paddock fencing and electrical wiring for them, and have a few more to go. Then we want to get a bit cleaned up around the farm and build a couple of winter run-ins.

Here is a picture I took today, of Dude and *Suncatcher with Sophie, before she left. Double Trouble!! Enjoy.