Monday, September 30, 2013

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


Last night - (not in any order) two loads of laundry, dinner, taking the horses out to the electric corral and back, feed/water/hay - walk down to the bridge construction site to monitor progress (getting close).

Normally, Lexie needs to go out around 8:30 - 9:30. So last night I take Max out to peeeeeee (about 30 seconds) and bring him back in and get Lexie - I'm out there with her - she's taking her time, trying to eat grass, sniffing here, and there (not like all-business Max) and I see a flash down the power lines. I have new glasses so I'm thinking it was hitting them, or reflecting off the power box on the electric fence. Then I see it again, and then again. Now I see a beam of light, up in the air and around the woods (those are our woods). I go towards the house; he's at the window so I motion for him to come out.

At first he doesn't see anything, I tell him not to blink, and he’ll surely miss it. We stand there watching the light flashes, now going around and around, flashing up the pasture.

Now he says he is going to yell, because he knows how to do that. I know he does. Back in the day a woman named Sharon (lives in Southwestern Virginia) was telling us about the WORST NIGHT of her life - stuck on the top of a ridge in West Virginia overnight with her horse and two others and their horses - people she didn't know and they didn't know each other, after getting separated from the group - it was a RIDE TO THE CURE fundraiser event, two-day ride. The first day was ride on the yellow ribboned trail, the next day ride the pink ribboned trail. They were separated from the group and come to a trail junction and the pink crosses this, so thinking it will be a shortcut, they go on the pink, in the direction they think will go back down to the trailers. It did not.

It was a beautiful day but as the sunshine waned, and got closer to twilight the chill descended in. They were not dressed for the changing temperatures. The other woman had on a sleeveless shirt, the man had on a t-shirt. Now fully dark, they find themselves on the top of the ridge, in the woods and decide to stop for the night, because they are lost and don't know if they are going further away from where they want to be. They have between them a couple bottles of water, granola bars and horse treats. And their three horses. On top of the ridge, in the woods, getting colder by the minute. They have nothing to build a fire with, so they don't. It is getting colder and they have no other clothes than on their backs. Taking the saddles off their horses, they use the saddle pads as shawls.

They huddle together, talking, and eventually fall asleep. They are awakened by a horrific scream. They figure it might be a cougar, but can't see. The horses are not happy. Sharon said the woman let out a blood-curdling shriek like she's never heard in her life, coming from this woman. They hear thumping and crashing off in the woods, and whatever it was has left, quickly. The woman explains she belongs to a Hunt Club, like Iron Bridge or Goshen. The horses immediately settle down.

They resume sitting in a tight cluster. Not long after that the wind picks up, it starts raining. Perfect, right? Now they move under their horses, crouching, and the rain beats down.

At the first hint of dawn they saddle up, wet, hungry, thirsty and miserable and head out to find the trail and their way down the mountain. They didn't stay for the second day of riding, the three had had enough.

ANYWAY - Tom says he knows how to make that sound, says he doesn't even have to warm up - he can just do it - So around the campfire that night he demonstrates for us the sound and she said - that's pretty much it!!

LAST NIGHT he did just that, knowing what it sounds like I moved away from him so my eardrums didn't burst. He did this several times in a row and the trespassers were coming up the hill! I said, 'the keys are on the hook, go get the RAV.' He runs inside, and then gets in the car. I have Lexie (she still hasn't gone) and he roars past me into the unfenced pasture, heading right for them, bending the grass. The guys (there are three) come up the hill with their hands up! One of the funniest things I've seen in my life! It was so hard not to laugh out loud - really - I said, 'what are you doing in my hay field?' The biggest one said, 'we're lost, we were tracking a deer and it got dark, and we don't know where we are. We are coming from George Warfield's place.' I said, 'you are two farms over from that.' Then one of them says, 'they got a German Shepherd.' If Max were out there he would have dragged me off my feet, down on the ground and gone after them - but Lexie just stood there.

They walked on out of the field, onto our parking lot and down the driveway, up the closed Annapolis Rock Road towards Damascus Road. We have too much excitement here, eh?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Autumnal Equinox

Sparkling, bright morning, trees still dripping from the previous night's rain. The humidity is nothing, I believe we should take advantage of the great weather and ride!

There has definitely been a shift in the daylight hours. Barely light at 6:00 a.m., and the sun disappears quickly in the evenings. We'd lost about 40 minutes per day since the first of the month, and

soon we'll be leaving for work in the dark, coming home in the dark. That was fast!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

For Kate

Pasture Grass

Last year, in March, (seems so long ago, but then again feels like yesterday) we had the big field industrially burnt, limed (6 and a half tons) and drilled with Orchard Grass Mix. It has been a long time coming, fertizling and grooming, to make this grass crop sustainable. Next step: fencing it in.

When we originally fenced in the currently used pasture, it took us several weeks. We were under a serious time constraint to move the boys from their temporary boarding barn to the farm, the penalty being paying another month of board.

We worked weekends, after work, and our week of vacation. Some of those days were hot, some delays for rain, etc. We had to rent a jack-hammer to drill 16 fence post holes, three in a row being 30 inches of solid rock. Oh, the memories.

We need to do this again, but on a much larger scale. The first pasture has 140 fence posts. The new one can easily be double that, I can't wrap my head around the actual math of the situation, but know we need to get this going. Might hire some help, but mostly we can do lots of this ourselves.

Last night he set up the portable corral in a small section with the new grass. By the time he got it installed and batteries charged up it was dark. KC in particular was wary of the new fencing, but Skip dove right in. We kept them out there for over an hour, pulling up lawn chairs to enjoy the evening and the sight of content horses.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Mid-September Ride Time

After the hot, hot weather earlier in the week, we got a whole lot of cooling air in for the weekend. The beautiful September-blue sky, low humidity and dry conditions make it ideal for a ride in the park.

Even the notoriously wet, boggy places were dry. Bone dry, hard-packed and dusty. I opted to stay as much in the shade as possible, even though it was cooler. I wanted to enjoy the ride without KC sweating.

We started out after 10, making a direct shot into Woodstock. We were surprised that so few people were there, but it was officially Bike Week in Ocean City. Also, we were pleasantly surprised to discover newly installed hitching posts and mulch footing. A far cry from well-worn rails, gravel and broken glass.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Wild Life

Last night for last call I was bringing out four flakes of hay for the boys, who were at the gate waiting for me. I hate it when KC tries to pluck hay out of my arms, he will pull it all out, making me drop it. I carry it in one arm, and grab his halter with the other. Walking towards the run-in shed I notice the fox down the hill, then another pops up where I was going to throw a flake! Two foxes!!

I circle back around the shed and notice movement down the other fence line. There is too much white on this one to be a fox and I'm guessing it is the resident Skunk.

Another dead baby snake, this one in the living room. Also, the dogs have been scratching and pawing at the water bowl tray and a tile in the dining room. From time to time I get a slight wiff of fish, then it is gone. Plenty of room between the tile and the wooden floor for the snakes to be.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Ride + Ride = Weekend

Saturday: After sleeping in, dragging our feet, and generally stalling, we headed out to Seneca Park/Berryville Road. Stopped for lunch along the way, the boys patiently waiting for us in their trailer. We drove on to the park, missing nearly every light on the way, and then parked at Schaeffer Farm Park, which was teeming with bicyclists, and some hikers and their dogs.

Drivers, coming and going,
were going a little too fast on the gravel road, we were getting dusted. We hurried out of there, headed into the woods. I ride 'ahead' looking down the trail, around the corners, etc., to see if I can get a glimpse of the next obstacle, be it a bike, a hiker or a downed tree.

The woods were certainly busy on this gorgeous Saturday. We should have started sooner. Without getting lost, we made it to the Black Rock Mill ruins and the trail head to Seneca Greenway trail. Nicely maintained and trimmed, upgrade bridge assemblies that take a horse's weight without sagging.

When we transitioned from this portion and onto Rt. 28 section, the trail deteriorated. There was no evidence of horse traffic and some of the branches had to be dealt with. Along this section he, again, lost his glasses. Seems to be making a habit of dropping his glasses lately. I also got poked in the head with a healthy multi-flora branch, making my head bleed.

There were bridges on this section, too, but they were not 'finished' for horse people. The boys climbed up on them anyway, but I wouldn't recommend it for just anyone to do this. I've seen ugly accidents on RFD-TV or YouTube were the horses slide off the side, or spook and end up in the drink.

Before this happened, at a fork in the trail couldn't help but notice the eviscerated guts, swarming with flies, most likely a deer. Further down we paused to trim a scrub bush covered in mult-flora rose. I was repeatedly stabbed in the hands and arms while snipping, making passage for me and KC. While we were wrapping this up a hunter, dressed mostly in camouflage was on the path, with crossbow and metal quiver full of arrows.

KC is a real people-person; he walks right up to people on the trail, pausing to say 'Hi.' Not so with this guy; he did not like this guy one little bit. I couldn't get him to move forward, or move aside to allow this guy to walk past. KC did not like this at all!

We made it to the Berryville Road trail head, watched the farmer raking hay in the field, and a large tractor with a baler come down the road and up into this same farm. We turned back to head home; this trail is not a loop.

Right past one of the downgraded bridges I see equines on the ridge above us. He notices them, too, but gets all jazzed because they are MULES. He was hyper for about a half hour after that. I don't think he even noticed another guy in a hammock on the creek. KC kept looking over his shoulder, expecting Mules to be coming for him.

Later in the day as we head towards the trailer there is still a number of people in the park. KC wanted to turn left, assuming it is the fastest way back, but we turned right and once again we got caught up in the Orange Trail dead-end loops. KC was right, but went along with my poor choice anyway. We managed to get back in the direction we needed to go. After going down the serpentine trail and crossing the bridge, the boys got a drink. I can hear the bikers coming down the hill at a good clip, talking to each other. Skip is still in the water; KC is on the side, eating greenery.

The lead biker comes over the bridge, and then through the creek, which has been upgraded with Hasting Block. I really like this improvement and it took KC a while to appreciate it. I think it is the holes in the design he doesn't like, but he has come to rely on the firm footing it provides.

The biker comes over the blocks and realizes we are right there on the trail. How can a 1,000 pound animal, with a rider, be invisible on the trail? This is not the first time. If we were a tiger or a bear, what would happen? The biker commented on the fact that KC was so calm. Yes, he is. Just don't let him glimpse a Mule.

Sunday: Drove up to Kingsville, about an hour north, to ride at Gunpowder State Park. We parked at John Mace's house, evidence of riders from yesterday in the field. We saw no other horses on the trails all day.

Stopped at Big Falls Inn for pit sandwiches and a can of beer. The place was busy, but no other horses. Neither moved a muscle while the motorcycles were reving or peeling out.

The day heated up and the boys were not enthusiastic. The river and creeks were low on water, the algae was doing very well. I could barely get a stride of canter out of him the whole day, until we were within sight of the trailer.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Tonight, We Ride!

Or at least check out the traffic and eat soy beans.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Road Closure Update

When a neighbor called the project manager about the inadequate signage, he said, 'You can't fix stupid.' When the long weekend started we moved the barriers - but still traffic kept going past our house.

Chris's mailbox got creamed, flattened, Tuesday night. But still, people keep coming down the road, around the barriers, around the second set of barriers, and of course they
have to stop. Even a Sherman tank would have trouble getting around this ditch with the bulldozer parked at the edge.

We come home from a very lovely ride in the park at Seneca/Black Rock Mill. The barriers at the intersection are there, plain as day, and a car is coming out. It is NOT one of our five neighbors. Another car is stopped in front of the barrier. We are trying to make the left onto our road and the car coming out won't pull out onto the main road. The barriers were moved so there is room for only one vehicle.

He's gesturing for them to come out, the passenger is mouthing 'road closed.' Duh. We can read. The road is closed. We need to make the left, they don't know whether to make a left or a right and are paralyzed. He's now yelling, 'we live there!,' pointing to the house on the corner. She's continuing to say 'road closed.' The driver is looking on his hand-held navigator. The passenger is saying, 'road closed.'

The other car backs up and goes around the barriers on the right, onto our neighbor's yard. Now there is a car behind us. He pulls onto our neighbor's yard, following the other lost driver, with the horse trailer, through her grass. YIKES! It is already turfed from drivers that cannot believe the road is really, really closed.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013


Oh, it's a long, long while
From May to December
But the days grow short,
When you reach September.
When the autumn weather
Turn leaves to flame
One hasn't got time
For the waiting game.
Oh the days dwindle down
To a precious few . . .
September, November . . .
And these few precious days
I'll spend with you.

~ from September Song, Kurt Weill

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Ride, Repeat As Necessary

Labor Day Weekend!

After recovering from the night out at the ball park, we took Friday off and did yard work, poison ivy control and tree and bush trimming. Clean the barn and dry paddock, mow the grass.

The heat and humidity is back in full force. We originally had planned to camp out this weekend, but with family in town, and the heat wave, we decided to take it one day
at a time.

We live so close to the club grounds, that driving there and back is a non-event. The boys really wanted to go, jumping into the trailer, ready to go!

The major undertaking to camp out with three kids is hugely incredible. The planning and logistics is a daunting task, getting the horses, tack, food, clothes, sleeping accomodations, camping equipment; it exhausts me just making that short list! Glad they aren't my kids.

After we tacked up it was decided we would go to EW Beck's in Sykesville. This is a 10-mile round trip, fairly easy, but with some ride down a quiet road, then onto Main Street. We have a couple slightly green horses and three kids, making that a total of nine riders. With this crowd we can literally stop traffic.

Because this is only a 10-mile round trip, we decided to take a left, making an extra loop and back to the river again. In total we traveled 13.6 miles, top speed: 18 mph

On the way we were told that a very large Sycamore was down in the path, on one of the steepest parts of the trail. Sure enough, the tree is huge, AND it is sitting along the trail, in a deep crevice with no apparent go-around.

I originally thought I would ride KC down this seriously steep incline, but when I got to the edge, peering down the cliff, I decided to completely wuss out and lead him down. This is also hard; he wants to put his feet where I am putting my feet. If I trip, he'll walk all over me, like a floor mat. The dirt is dry and loose, rocks are coming loose, I'm sliding, he's sliding, rocks are sliding. He's walking sideways, so am I. Yikes!

We all finally got down to the bottom. This was not easy, and will go down in the folk-lore of trail legend. Really.

On the way down the road we saw parked cars on the side, with families fishing in the river. We successfully got across the bridge and onto Main Street, opting to ride down the sidewalk. People can't help but notice nine horses with riders coming down Main Street.

Of course we needed to get back up that treacherous hill on the way back - I chose to ride KC up the incline. He did an awesome job! So proud of him. I set him to the hill, gripped his mane and let him go at his own rate. He lurched, dug in, stopped, lurched again. It was a rocky trip, trying not to get impaled by the saddle horn, and staying out of his way.

Half way up I hear him call out, " I lost my hat! " , " I lost my glasses!" Great.

I told him I would walk back down to find his hat, he said the glasses would be near the hat. Same branch knocked them both off. I wanted to hurry back down the hill to find them before they got trampled by the next horse and rider. Two of the girls were walking, actually crawling, up the hill. I saw the hat, then saw the glasses. Saved! Now I was crawling up the hill with the kids. We need to build a sustainable go-around, this is not going to be a good route.

Sunday, Sunday: First Day of September

We had so much fun Saturday that we came back for more! This day we went to the Woodstock Inn. Only one road to cross, and no treacherous, hat-eating hill to traverse.

It was starting to heat up, I wanted to stay in the shade as much as possible, they wanted to hit the meadows as quickly as possible so they could GALLOP! O.K., then. And so we did.

We were one less today, probably missing the most level-headed rider, so we just let the kids do what they wanted. Sometimes we did say 'no' because we know the trails and know what is coming up, or what we are going to do, and the kids traded horses back and forth. We started out at 10:00 a.m, getting back to camp around 5:30 p.m., but actually rode for 3.5 hours because we had a lot of 'sit' time, relaxing in the creeks and rivers, top speed was 15 mph. It was hot, but the horses did everything they were asked.