Thursday, October 31, 2013

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Ride Leader - Community Service

Some time ago we got tapped to lead a trail ride in the park closest to our house. We should know the trails, right? You'd be wrong. We get misplaced frequently in this park, not because it is so big, but because it has numerous trails going this way and that, but leading nowhere, or into someone's back yard.

In years past we have spent, literally, days clearing trails - some tasks done 'illegally.' In our parks we are not allowed to use mechanized devices or chemicals to clear trails, only hand tools.

Confessing to using lawn mower, weed-whacker, Weed-Be-Gone, Round-Up, a pole-trimmer, various chain saws, hedge trimmers, etc., besides hand nippers, pruners, and saws. All to no long-lasting conclusion. The non-native plants continue to come back, better than ever.

The weekend before the scheduled ride we mapped out and rode the planned route. It was slow going because we had to trim, tag, hack, saw, and prune our way through, sometimes trimming the wrong path and having to re-tag the intersections.

He then did almost half the route the following day, on foot, to straighten out a lot of our handi-work, using a battery-operated chain saw. Don't tell anyone.

I am always anxious about my duties as a ride leader, my most favorite job was as a ride leader at a lesson barn, but it doesn't pay enough to actually support you, so now I push a desk around for income. I also know that it isn't always fun; I could tell you stories of melt-downs, parental interference, equipment failure, and extenuating circumstances.

On this day there are two rides: both have the ride out time as 10:00 a.m. One is slated to be 'walk only' for a 2-hour duration. Our ride is 4 hours, with lunch on the trail, walk-trot-canter. That is precisely where it fell apart.

We got up early, being the selfless volunteers that we are, and arrived more than a half hour before ride time. I signed us both in, filling out the necessary paper work for the Coggins verifications. We tacked up, ready to ride 15 minutes before we have to go.

The ride coordinator had tea and donuts for the group, and there are other riders there, not part of any group. The cow pasture was filling up with rigs. I allow KC to graze, he brakes for clover. No one says anything about him or me not wearing a helmet.

The ride coordinator confirms we have four riders joining our group. That is a manageable amount, and only two horses are gaited, all the riders are women. We proceed into the woods at the bottom corner of the cow pasture, along the planted watershed Pines and Maples. Following our green-tagged route, he's serving as the drag rider, I turn right down the gradual hill, looking back to make sure everyone is on the flat and cluck to KC to trot. This is the precise instant I should have stopped and asked her to hurry back to join the walk-only group. Right then. I didn't.

She had said that the walk-only ride was too short, she wanted to get her green horse more miles, and he walks too fast to go with the walk-only group. They all would be trotting to keep up with his walking-horse walk. When I started trotting she squealed out in protest, wanted then to go first, and passed me without asking. She said she had worked too hard on this horse to have him ruined with this trail ride. She wasn't familiar with the trails, so there you have it. Some people just get what they want, by being a bully or presumptive. She never asked, anyone, if this was ok.

She should have joined the other group, gone alone, or gone home. The most unfortunate revelation was finding out she is the defacto president of one of the organized groups that was sponsoring this ride. O boy.

She continued to sand-bag or otherwise slow us down and she continually hung on this poor horse's mouth the entire four-hour ride. She couldn't relax and she wasn't going to let him, either. We really were hoping this 'fast' ride would have weeded out the fearful horsewomen, but it did not.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Ride Time

I would say we had an uneventful ride (no equipment failure or mishaps) but KC shook down a hiker for his 'Smarties™' and we saw two young deer with unusual markings. At first I thought they were goats, one being mostly white with brown spots and the other was roan. Then KC lost a shoe close to the end of the ride.

We had just left the Woodstock Inn, traveling at a good pace, but slowed for the rocks that are like a tombstone and a shark fin, dead center in the trail. Anyone that rides these trails know the exact spot. There were a couple of hikers, one had a cane, the other a big camera around her neck. They both left the trail, opposite sides of the trail, to let us pass.

As we walked past them, saying our how-do-you-do's KC turns right into the man standing on the left. He had a cane. KC is known to be a 'people-person' and loves to stop. He might just like to stop.

The man says he has candy in his pants. KC is all ears, straight-up and forward. He pulls out the package of Smarties™ and crinkles the wrapper. O boy.

KC is very gentle, and eats most all of the Smarties™. The man calls the woman over, saying she would love to pet the horse. She has a camera but never used it. KC is a shameless pan-handler.

Closer to the League we saw the deer that looked like goats, with their momma. Strange colorations on those two. When we got back to the trailer, while picking his feet, I noticed he now is missing a shoe. We have a ride tomorrow, at 10:00 a.m., Sara the Farrier is due out November 2. O boy.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Let Me In!!

Won't deny that I can be thick-headed. We all can, especially when we have pre-conceived notions that we humans have superior intellect, and the internet to back it up.

I have long claimed that KC communicates with me subliminally, by sending me pictures to my brain. Like when he wants a drink, I'll get an image of the river in my thoughts. I know it sounds weird, but I swear this happens regularly, and has never happened with another horse ever in my life. I swear I am not a space cadet!

Skip also lets me know what he wants, and most times we consider this acting out. I believe he knows we care for him, as we demonstrate with actions every single day. He does not send images to my brain, he points, while making a giraffe neck, running the fence line back and forth, and leading with his chin.

It's all about the weather, and lately we've had a serious dip in the overnight lows. Two nights, not in a row, have been below freezing. The first frosty night I kept them in. I could have blanketed them both, but it is only mid October. The second night the temperature was in the high 30's, however, the breeze was picking up, creating a wind chill effect.

On this second cold night, I came out for last call and Skip was running the fence line, head held high in the air, chin pointing to the barn. On a typical 'last call' Skip and KC are loitering around the run-in shed, waiting for me to deliver flakes of hay in the usual spots. This night KC was leaning on the gate, and Skip was going back and forth, like an old-style manual typewriter. LET US IN!

By Jove, I've got it! I can research the weather forecast, different providers, but the real plans come from the boys.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Bright Weekend

Last weekend was a rainy wash-out; this weekend was bright and mild. A little on the cool side, but it is October. The trees are not quite at peak and Harvest Moon is perfect.

We rode both weekend days, starting out late each day. As the days shorten we have to stop doing that!

On Friday evening he continued the exterior light upgrades with replacement parts and bulbs. Really does make a difference.

On Saturday I slept in, getting everything started late. Bright sunny morning, while out at the barn, doing this and that barn chores I noticed a fox running through the pasture, through the trees in the field and under the fence into the main greenway below the landscaper bins. Very exciting!

We parked at the trail head next to the train tracks in Marriottsville, going immediately into the Patapsco River, along the trail that follows the road, crossed Henryton and into the trail system. Beautiful Saturday, lots of walkers with dogs, a couple bicyclists and a group of riders that took the high trail. I like staying on the flat, sandy trail at the bottom. Great sight lines, you can really boot it. After talking with a couple that had a sweet little chestnut Pit Bull, who was better behaved with the horses than my own dogs, we let the boys open up.

We had lunch at the Woodstock Inn, running into friends that were on their way back out. One had recently broken her wrist. Her daughter had broken both wrists the last week of school in June. Is this contagious?

With the day waning, we hurried back, chasing deer through the open fields. I planned on going to a party!

Nothing fancy, I changed my clothes and boots and hit the road, getting there in time to eat crabs. Yum.

Directly after turning onto our road a fox crossed in front of the car. Close enough to the house, it could be the other part of the pair.

Sunday dawned bright and cool, with a breeze. We needed to ride the proposed route of our guided trail ride next weekend, so we headed out to Annapolis Rock, starting out at 11:30.

The horse trailers were everywhere. Along the roadway, in the 'hunter's' lot and every which-way in the cow pasture. Iron Bridge Hunt was there, with their hounds. We ran into a couple riders, not together, one with a Foxhound that briefly thought about going with us. She called him 'Baffle.'

Tagging with fluorescent green tape, we had a few false starts, not going far enough, going too far, overshooting our trajectory, taking down a couple flags, retracing our steps, and putting them on the correct locations.
We needed more time. I sincerely hope we do not get lost next weekend.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Creature Comforts and Technology

Been a crazy week on the home front. Here’s what happened, but not in any particular order.

We have a hate/hate relationship with our heating oil company. Originally they filled our tank and put us on a ‘budget plan’ so that our monthly bill was $310. After the winter season, we didn’t use an entire tank of fuel, but they topped us off in April. We are very fuel and water efficient individuals.

They continued to charge us $310 a month, making serious bank on our billing. We paid for the initial delivery and then some. After the summer we had paid for the fuel AND had $1400 in credit. He got the budget plan reduced to $210 a month.

The credit continued to grow. The next season they topped us off again, but we barely needed any fuel. The credit amount was nearly $2000. He got them to stop billing us and let the credit ride.

This week he called the company to inquire as to the going rate for fuel. It was $4.00 a gallon. Diesel fuel is now $3.79 a gallon. I know they have to deliver, but they also don’t pay ‘road tax.’ They have to hire CDL with dangerous load credentials, but they get a volume discount.

He called a local competitor that was beating their delivery price by .19 cents. Our address was logged incorrectly and he said they didn’t deliver out as far as we are. Really? We are only 2.5 miles from your office. Why can’t you come that far? Where is your house? It was hysterical, really, because he had us located about 17 miles away. Our road name is similar to several others in the state, being ‘old’ roads that led to an important destination, back in the day. We received the documents the very next day.

The day after that the fuel company delivered oil at the $4.00 rate. We have enough ‘credit’ on the account to cover it, and receive over $500 back, but the woman in their office knew we were shopping around for prices, and to say the least, he is LIVID.

We have a clock in our bedroom that projects the time onto the wall. We love this feature because we get up in the dark every morning most days of the year. That is life on a farm. If we didn’t have jobs, we could do things differently, but some things need doing before we get ready for work, which makes that an early morning. This week that clock turned on us – twice.

I don’t know what happened to this clock, but the alarm went off at 12:00 MIDNIGHT. Two different nights, not in a row. Don’t use this clock for the alarm feature, so can’t explain why it was set, and for midnight! I ended up unplugging it because apparently I only hit the ‘snooze’ and it went off again nine minutes later.

We have a great microwave. It has so many features, plus it has a stove hood fan built into the bottom. It is large and versatile. It goes with the stove as a unit and we really love it, but not this week.

Returning to the house from barn chores, I discover the microwave running, and it is heating up NOTHING. He’s in the shower. I ask him why he turned on the microwave and he said he hasn’t been in kitchen.

I try hitting ‘clear’ and it resets to 6:00 minutes, over and over. It’s beeping, with a scrolling message that says “SERVICE REQUIRED.” He unplugs it, plugs it back in. It starts all over, continuing the out-of-control beeping and resetting back to 6:00 minutes. He unplugs it and we leave for the day.

When we return, 9 hours later, he plugs it back in and it is fine. I make dinner, using the microwave like I do nearly every single meal, and it runs fine.

We’ve been experiencing issues with our exterior lights. The light he installed on the back of the house continues to turn itself off whenever it feels like it, and then comes back on, when it feels like it. It is supposed to be ‘dusk-to-dawn.’

He tries to find a replacement bulb at the BigBoxStore. Only carry the same bulb as what is already installed. He goes on the internet to find a better bulb, delivered this week. He re-lamps the lights and it is a like daylight out there. A slightly warmer light, but reaches way down the hill. If we had had these originally, I could have seen the fox straight away, instead of guessing what it was.

Speaking of which, haven’t seen either fox in a couple weeks. Maybe they’ve moved on.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Fading Fast

Daylight is surely shrinking - by nearly 7:00 p.m. it is deep twilight. Ugh.

Getting home by 6, rushing around with the dogs, then moving the boys over to the electric corral, we just run out of light. He's relamped a couple exterior fixtures with brighter bulbs, but still energy-efficient. It really does make a difference.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Hate a Rainy Weekend

We got nearly 6 inches of rain in 2.5 days. We needed rain, but not like that. The boys stayed in Friday night, and it rained and rained.

In the morning I put them in the electric corral, and they were happy until they weren't. Late in the day Skip was distressing and running the fence-line.

Did not put them out in the corral on Sunday and KC sulked about that.

He spread manure and I promptly filled the spreader again.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Love a Rainy Night

The rain was 'supposed' to fall lightly, off and on. On Wednesday night we put the spreader on the tractor. We enjoyed a lovely, bright sunset. As soon as he got the tractor pulled around and the seed loaded it began to sprinkle.

We believed it would be a good thing to spread grass seed right before the rain. It has been very dry lately, the last time it
rained was a couple Monday's ago. Now I'm afraid it might have rained hard enough to pool the grass into clumps and waves.

It has rained steadily since Wednesday night. I should have brought the boys in, but I did not. It was mild, not windy. Placed flakes of hay in the run-in shed. I added more before going to bed.

It rained all through the night and all day Thursday. When we got home they were at the fence gate, fussing and chasing each other. I wanted to put them into the electric corral. He didn't want the grass trampled. We put them in the corral and they immediately settled down to munch. I left them in there until nearly 9:00 p.m.; it's raining but they are HAPPY - no chasing around, just munching.

I prep the stalls for their overnight stay - water, fresh sawdust. While doing this Sprite rolls in Skip's stall. She is wet, and the shavings stick to her. I put shavings in Fred's stall, she rolls in that, too. He makes dinner (fish, onion rings, brussel sprouts), I leave them out there until nearly 9 - still raining. I bring them in to feed, check on them around 10:15 p.m. - give them more hay, Skip more water, and go to bed at 10:41.

Friday's weather status? Still raining. Sounds like more with the metal barn roof. Skip is covered in sawdust, like a powdered donut.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013


Been a lot of birthday celebrations in the office in the last couple weeks. I'll throw mine out there, too.

Sunday, October 6, 2013


We've had a good stretch of dry weather. This is great for riding, sort of, but terrible for growing grass. We all like to ride on sunny days, but the trails are as hard as asphalt and sometimes the dust cloud is impressive.

This past weekend was hot. Not just kind of hot, but seriously hot. And factor in that it is now October, who would expect temps in the 90s? The creeklettes and mud pits are drying up.

I am continuing to give the big boys electrolytes and their water intake is up.

Max helped me with the laundry.

He is growing up.

On Sunday we rode to Sykesville. It was another warm day, but staying in the shade was the best bet.

The downed Sycamore is still in the trough, and there are a couple go-arounds, neither are fit for man nor beast. One is marked with bright pink ribbons. Do not go this way. It will be a big mistake. We went the lesser, and not by much, of the two. I did not like it one little bit.

On the way back we ran into a couple, who admitted creating a third go-around, unmarked. Stay left he said, she said go all the way to the top, follow the downed tree until it touches the ground, walk over it. That is the way to go! Easy! We didn't have time to dismantle the copious pink tags and place them on this brilliant third way.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Stink Bugs

The Stink Bug fall migration has begun in earnest. I turned on the outside faucet and out came a bunch. Ick.

The dryer, warmer weather is really driving them out. They seem attracted to dark colors, too. These are the non-native imports from China, brought to you by Penn State. For years they have been trying to find a way to combat this scourge, but so far no

We've been vacuuming them up, inside and outside, and randomly catching them for a final swim in the soapy dish of water on the window sill.

Also pictured is the native variety. As in the last fifty years, I only see about two a year, not forty in an evening.