Saturday, January 28, 2012

Finding balance.

Energy cannot be controlled unless you have balance. A horse
cannot be balanced if he does not have a posture that takes more weight on the hindquarters and lifts the weight off the forehand. An impulsive horse may get faster and faster because he is not balanced. Being out of balance is an unpleasant feeling that leads to anxiety, and this makes him move his feet more - so immediately there is a connection from the physical to the emotional that feeds back to the physical again. ~ extract from 101 Horsemanship Exercises by Rio Barrett

One of my best friends (Colleen of the previous blog Smile) posted this on a chat group a few days back. I have been thinking about it ever since.

Saddling up today in the eternal search for more Derby miles and a saddle that fits Royal in which to achieve them, I decided our topic of the ride was going to be finding balance.  Someone suggested that to me, in my personal life, the other day as well. Seems timely.IMG_20120121_150218

Note the headgear! I said that’s it, I am having one as my beanie kept threatening to fly away!

Forecast be damned, it was windy and quite chilly. I was happy to have my brand new Elmer Fudd hat (all the right folks are sporting them this year!) and my several layers of unwieldy but toasty warm winter gear. Hey, how do you lose a quick ten pounds? Get undressed when you come home from riding in January in Nebraska!


I know you have seen this one of Corie before but I love it. And, look at THAT hat!

I love the bright ears forward attitude my horse takes when we leave out the drive. Of course., there are the suspicious tilts here and there at shadows, the air conditioning compressor . . . the “holy cow what are THOSE” moments (in this case it was a couple blown over trash cans that had the audacity to wiggle when we strode by).


Nonetheless Royal seems to enjoy our excursions, and the more hours I log with him, the happier and more content we are becoming with one another. As a rule. There are exceptions.

We strike out across the beanfield, and I just want his happy feet in a straight line. I chose to head up and over instead of around, figuring letting him pull a long grade is not the worst way to warm up and maybe take off a little steam. (yeah right, ARABIAN here, 12 miles later, there was plenty of steam still with us).

Riding alone today, I look out across the distant fields, much as I did across mountaintops as a kid, picked out a spot and decided to ride to it. We cut through a bunch of fields, sometimes through freshly turned heavy soil that caused my horse to really think about where he was putting those feet. Trotted a lot, loped a lot, me mostly two pointing, and allowing him to move freely under me. Staying out of his way. That’s a huge goal.

A friend of mine is on her way to becoming a Centered Riding instructor. We have been discussing those techniques and they seem to do for the rider what the natural horsemanship stuff does for the horse. I think about these things as I ride, unlocking tension in my ankles and knees, flattening my lower back, swinging my shoulders back and forth like hinges until they stay open and down of their own accord.  I feel the tension leave my neck muscles and I smile. Royal lopes happily and is still straight, little to no correction from me!

We found cool spots, a treeline between corn and soy that afforded some downed logs for jumping. Royal LOVES to jump.  Point him, stay out of his way and follow him over. I think he would jump the moon if the right person were onboard.

The saddle I am riding today is the Bronco Billy roping saddle I am trying from that same friend of above quote.  It sure does work for me. I am hoping it works for my horse. My only question is that generally, in saddle fit, I am told you want front and back screw sitting level.  While the saddle seems to sit level on my horse, the front screws are slightly lower, indicating it may be a trifle wide on him.  I used the good Teskey wool pad today and was hoping for a definitive sweat pattern. Didn’t get it.  12 miles on a cool day is not enough to pull sweat out of THAT horse!

BB Roper with shock pad

This is with a Mayatex shock pad under it. The Teskey sat it up a little more in front.  Good two fingers between pommel and saddle.

I left his face alone today. A lot. Each ride, something comes up that tells me what to do. What bubbled up out of this one was teaching Royal to find and take responsibility for himself. His gait, which needs to not change until I tell him to, his feet, which need to not be all over the place, even if he is afraid of something.

He’s not much afraid of things these days. In a few short rides, the stops and starts are almost gone. Royal does follow me emotionally, and when I spy a farm house a few hilltops away and start worrying about dogs, he is worried also. He doesn’t know it’s about the unseen maybe-dogs, and shies at a leaf, a dirt pile, what have you. Things we have been by, 10 feet past and nothing to worry about them.  I, apparently, have some responsibility of my own to find, in this search for balance. My emotional stability so I don’t freak out and upset my good horse who is trying to follow my lead as best he can. . . No wonder he has trouble staying straight!

He’s bold and brave today. Just goes where I point him.  We find a road and follow it. Shortly ahead is a railroad crossing. Took me FOREVER to get Ginger across one of these, first time she saw it. Took Royal about 30 seconds. I let him stretch his head down to have a good look, just as I would have told you to, and trusting him, let him pick his way across. I am ready, in case it’s a leap and skitter. It’s quiet careful footfalls. He is calm. Damn I love him.

AND THEN HE’S NOT. Up ahead on the left is a big pile of logs. Gotta be a bear, really considering the eight foot necked giraffe I am suddenly astride.  What I know is concealed by the tall grass to the right of us is a section of railroad track. I am not so much afraid he will fall over it as I am thinking about the uber athletic jump he is going to take when he bolts to the side (away from the bear-logs) and they hit him in the ankles.

Suddenly, I Jose. I channel him for all I am worth (Trina Campbell “Terri, WHY would you let it DO that) and the three of us tell that horse to walk through there, straight, and in the bridle.

You know what? He does it. He is obedient to my hand and leg. Maybe for the first time ever when he is really scared, he listens to me over his fears. Now that does not mean we didn’t get some quick steps and a desire to bolt the hell out of there.  But he didn’t bolt, he did stay with me. We turned and faced the scary evil log monster and the roaring wind moved some corn stalks behind it. OH DEAR GOD, he says, we are going TO DIE.

I didn’t escalate with him, (don’t get sucked into your horse’s drama, Georgia Susan), I wasn’t even tempted. We hung out a little and then left at an acceptably calm walk.

Here’s the deal. Not too long ago, I am having to breathe down my fears and concerns, to really think about relaxing so I can stay with my horse, and keep him with me. We are getting to the point where we are both coming to these things pretty darned instinctually. Might not be a big deal for anyone else on this planet, but’s it’s giant strides for us. I found myself wondering, as we plowed through a remote field, miles from anywhere, how long it would be before I would trust Riata like this  . . . awhile, I thought.

On the way home, Royal gets introduced to the life of a working western horse. You think I have forgotten all about the original topic, balance. Nope, it was is the way I sat him,. the way I asked him to ride down one row, how I felt his stride lengthen and shorten, how I would ask for longer, not quicker strides . . . it happened all day long. Easier to do than to say.

This working western horse, you might ask? What’s that all about? Well, for me, it’s about a horse that stays with you in all ways and does it on a loose rein. He’s not real broke, Royal, and it takes a broke horse to attain the levels I want to be at, with him, but you gotta start somewhere.

A set of tin sheds with a loose metal piece, clanging and clattering (did I mention, it was WINDY) was an excellent opportunity to practice. He gets big, wants to leave. I deflect his forward motion, bringing his head around and allowing him to follow himself around in a small circle. At the apex of the circle his feet have to slow, as he gathers for the next half. I release as the feet slow and ride out of the circle on a loose rein.

That’s a neat piece, right there you guys. If your timing is right, you will eventually get a horse that will walk out, head down on a loose rein. If your timing is not right, you may wind him up like a clock and have to deal with that problem. I have been there, too.

It really didn’t take long, this is a very smart horse, and knock me over with a feather, we are strolling along on a long rein, his neck is low and level with that pretty western head set that I really love (having ZERO relation to the peanut pushing of some poor show horses).  I have kind of forgotten about this bit in my latest fascination with dressage and English riding.   Being a magpie, I collect a lot of cool pieces and it would be nice if I didn’t forget them as I go!

There are some sticky parts, where he gets wound up. Doesn’t want to give his hip around and runs out through the shoulder. Uh uh. Nope no way. I tighten up in front, use my spur and the hip comes around. Sometimes he does not pick the best footing for these arguments, but I ride him anyway. Hopefully he won’t fall down, and you know, he doesn’t.  When the hip comes around, I bring the shoulder through. Again, it doesn’t take long and he’s back with me, clangy metal thing far in the distance behind us and forgotten.

When I would feel his hoofbeats speed up in a nervous way, I would give him a job to do that required him to care about where his feet landed. I would care about where his feet landed and try to stay clear and consistent in my communication with him.

Amazing how much calmer we both were on this ride as opposed to the last one. There were so many places I trusted him, allowed him to be brave and only micromanaged him when he told me he needed that. So many times he walked over culverts under us, heard the water rushing, felt the difference under his feet and was brave, not to mention the near cliff face I asked him to scramble up when we ran into a ditch barrier. Even when I almost dumped us in a bog, he put in two front feet, and as they sank out from under us, he was in the air, coming around and setting us back on solid ground. Not in a wild whirl or mad dash, just taking care of business. Being responsible. That’s what we both were, today and it was GRAND.

So, in a blog that I started out talking about searching for balance, I end up talking about responsibility. Interesting, huh?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Colleen and Terri Ride Again . . .Or . . .


Are we just completely nuts??

Once upon a time in a nightmare, years ago, I lived a life without horses. The longest nine years of my life.  Following a divorce (that was not why though the fact he was not a horse guy should have alerted me to some very basic differences in our general make up . . . ) I looked up and wondered what my life had been before I tried out the white picket fence dry lot.

Horses. I didn’t really know anybody in Nebraska involved with horses and went on with rebuilding the pieces that now included two small children and a much older, somewhat wiser me.

At a meeting I talked about my confusion and unhappiness, and how when things were really dark, I had always been able to reach a God of my understanding, not from a church pew (and I am not criticizing those of you who find Him there) but from the back of a horse, surrounded by the glories of creation.

Afterwards, a slender jean clad, booted woman walks up to me, long black hair swinging, dark eyes sparkling. She says to me that’s how she finds her God, as well, and lo and behold, she has a horse she’d be willing to let me ride, if I want to come out and visit.

Hell yahs, I do!! 

And the adventures of Colleen and Terri begin.  Those early years alone warrant a book not just a blog! I will tell some of those stories but the one I want to tell right now is about what we did yesterday.

Colleen has been working with a troubled colt she discovered on her Nebraska Long Ride (there’s a FB page, check it out) this past year, and me, well, I am up to my chin in this Derby thing.

I have also been on the search to find tack appropriate for my new life as non horse trainer. Tack I don’t plan to flip for a profit, that is quality and suits my interest in riding distance whether for CTR competition or just for the fun of it.  Tack that properly fits my two Mutt and Jeff horses. 

I have wrapped legs around horses since I was two years old. I am now 51, subtract that nine years of pre and wedded bliss and you have a lifetime of being on a horse. Other than bareback as a kid, it’s pretty much been me on top of a treed saddle, good leather between me and my horse and usually roper in style.  I got paid for my first training job when I was ten years old and I have always appreciated the feel of a saddle that would not blow apart under me if the usually green horse I was riding, did.  Those things are generally heavy as hell.

Royal in Walt's Crates saddle

Royal in Walt’s Crates saddle. Fits him beautifully, heavy as all get out

I am not whining about pitching them up, well not too much.  The cowboys I study do a throw from the hip that really negates struggling with grasping the thing and hoisting it up in the air over their backs. I didn’t think I could do it and as is my way, resisted learning with mighty effort. Colleen tortured and deviled me until I gave it a try, as is her way.  Throwing out my back, spending six months in therapy, I proved her wrong. Oh no, wait . . . that didn’t happen.

After a few fairly awkward and misguided tries, I learned how to loft the heavy things aboard like you are settling a hat on a head, causing nary a grunt or groan from me or my horse since . . . well, maybe from me, but I am like that, too.

Quite a few of my friends are doing the CTR thing, and they are doing it riding a variety of interesting looking saddles.

Enter the “search for the treeless” phase.  I was very skeptical of these newfangled things but add to the rest of me, magpie curiosity that leads me to try just about anything shiny at least once, and I give one a go a few years back.

This is before my education with the AAHS, before more than a couple lessons with Missy and later, Jose, and my leg was stuck forward in a nasty bracey way, even on the stiffest fender. On the free swinging leather of the English style treeless, they were up around my horses’ ears, and it’s a miracle I did not tumble off, forwith. Tall horse, bad idea, I stuck but HATED that saddle, and didn’t look back.

Moonshine in the Barefoot Tahoe

Moonshine in the Tahoe (this picture actually looks better than I remember it going. . . maybe lucky shot. .  .)

So, now I am trying treeless saddles again, had tried an English style last weekend that my only real gripe was that it did not protect me from myself, and some of my lazier riding habits were right out there, and unsupported by it’s unsympathetic self.


Royal, in the Black Forest Shasta

Yesterday, I tried a Western style model, thinking going out on much less reactive, tried and true Smore (Colleen’s Long Ride horse. Broke? After years with her and a thousand miles + under his hooves, I would guess so)  I know I rode in the English one with a lot more tension on my beloved Royal, sending his skitzy loopnut self through the roof a few times, so this would be a fairer trial.

I do offer Colleen the chance to back out, as the forecast grows dimmer and less inviting, day by day.

“If you don’t want to, I understand” (thinking who in their right mind would want to, down to the 20’s for heaven’s sake!) . So that she knows I have sand and grit, I say “I am game if you are though.”

SHE says “If you want to wimp out, I understand, I only have a few days left with the colt, and I am going to ride. How cold IS it going to get?

Not THAT damn cold, mutters me. Wimp out? I don’t think so.

And so I begin my strategy of layering to survive the Arctic tundra that we are, by God and high water, going to go riding in.

Smore and I, treeless!

Thermal shirt, hoody, vest, heavy jacket, 3 layers on face and legs, gah!

Setting the treeless on Smore, I frown. It really perches up there.  The five inch padded cantle is supposed to add more protection to a horse’s back and I like the theory, but you realize, that is five more inches to get your leg over, right? In two layers and chaps.

It is setting on an expensive Equipedic pad. Again, a shiny piece of equipment that has my attention. I am not gadget mad (anymore) but I am deeply interested in the welfare of my horses and their comfort while packing me around on our sorties. Colleen used one of these on her ride, with great result and a lot of my friends are riding in them as well.

They are stiff at first, until they warm up and form to the back, I get this but man, it makes for a funny looking outfit in the mean time. Colleen and I discuss the treeless. We are neither of us crazy about the material it is made out of  . . . a long way from the leather that wraps our normal gear . .. but, it’s a HECK of a lot lighter, so we will see.

It did not work out. I could go into the blow by blow of the stirrup leather that I probably buckled backwards when I raised the stirrups, I am spacially spastic that way, so the stirrup kept growing and eventually fell off.

I could go into how the damn thing rolled and wallered on my horses’ back, really encouraging me to practice my best horsemanship skills just to stay aboard.

And then, there would be the piece where we had just finished a hard lope across the coldest bean field on the planet, heavy winds blasting into our faces encouraging us reach a max speed just to not be cowgirl-cicles before reaching the other side.

Colleen says “hey, there is something wrong with your girth! Stop . . . oh man, it’s dangling under you, your saddle is not attached to your horse in any way!”

(no breast collar, no back cinch. I never leave home without them, except . . .)

We stop, she balances the thing, I dismount. In the bean field, knees stiff and complaining. After we fix this, how the hell I am going to get back on?

Turns out, the little pleathery piece that ties the offside billet had come untied.  There is not much to it, seems it could have broken, just as easy, but thankfully it didn’t. My saddle bags with my twine and other fix its are far away.

Colleen leans hard on the offside stirrup and I struggle to haul myself aboard. It was not the kind of mount that would get any scores from a horsemanship judge, that’s for darned sure. The left knee at this point has zero elasticity in it, won’t launch me and I struggle to get my 150 lb right leg over that now truly hated five inch cantle.

Saddle has compressed, pad has formed, as promised. Front end sits down low over the wither, cantle perching perkily in the air causing me to ride a downhill slope that surely is straight to  . . . okay enough of that.

Tiny pommel and saddle horn, I fear are in danger of being sucked into nether regions wanting no such things. I won’t be riding one of these things again, regardless who does what and how, with them.

At the beginning, I watch Colleen warm up the colt. He is untroubled, is in complete understanding of being saddled, ridden and agrees with it, in a body. That calm demeanor does not leave him all day long. It gets shook a couple of times. Roaring train, about 20 feet away, how would your seasoned horse do with that? Had Smore’s attention.  That said, after a hard look (zero pyrotechnics), he cruises calmly up and down, beside the thing, coming and going, with and without the aid of his buddy. NOT FREAKING BAD.

Things flapping cause some quick steps but then, once he realizes what it’s about, it’s over, he’s done with it, the ears are pleasantly forward and he’s walking out with a long, smooth ground eating stride that would be the envy of many.

Colleen and the colt, out and about

This colt had that cheerful look the whole day long!

We rode the park across from Colleen’s place, rode over concrete with painted things that most horses would really have to eyeball, he’s unconcerned. I thought this horse would be pretty brave, that first time I saw her on him a few weeks ago, and brave he is.

We rode through a very low, closely beamed pavillion thing, and he never looked sideways. I think if Colleen asks him to scramble down the sides of the Grand Canyon, those wise eyes, much older than his youth, would pick out a path and away they would go.

We did serpentines through some lovely pines. Smore was pretty disgusted with me by now, I wouldn’t let him run when Colleen and the colt loped off across a field (that was when the stirrup leather kept growing on me), my balance had to feel horrible to him, it did to me, and he was stoically accepting my presence without enthusiasm.

During the serpentines, I practiced changing reins, as Jose had taught me. Inside Leg to Outside Rein, and back again. Timing the steps to make it work as we thought about changing direction so it would happen AS we changed, not steps later and too late.

He didn’t mind that, apparently I knew some little thing after all.

The next step was loping circles in a lovely flat grassy area. My instructors in my head, as they always are (yes, it is a crowded, noisy place, most of the time), we trotted some, I got my reins correct and asked for a canter departure. Be ready before you ask your horse, says Jose (position for the transition, says the cowboys).

We bobble a few times, and then we get it and Smore rounds up under me in a really pretty way. It’s lateral work, and I am keeping his body straight on the arc and when it happens, it’s NICE.  Colleen isn’t working her colt now, she’s watching and I get nervous, suddenly it’s a judge, we are testing . . . yes, I am a lunatic. No, it’s my best friend, watching me ride her horse, and I really want to do it well for her.

I am panting, damn, I am fat and out of shape. I struggle with this every single winter (and lately the other seasons too) and not riding professionally isn’t helping as I freaking hate calisthenics and the like . . . another story.

She’s smiling, and I know she liked the same parts I did. We ride on.

Trains, dogs coming shrieking out of nowhere, oh yeah . . . There is a GORGEOUS five year old tri color Aussie guy that needs a home!! He is the grand daughter’s dog, she’s off to college and they would like to rehome him. I wish I would have pulled out my phone and got a picture. He’s heavy coated, has one blue eye and is a laughing dancing lovable fellow.

The colt, who was a little unsettled with these things on his maiden voyage, (well YEAH) is almost unflappable. His curiousity is intact without being a spazz. He reminds me a little of Royal, in that the feet will patter, but but body stays in place, and once it’s done, he could not care less and is steady under his rider.

Colleen and the black colt

Them, at Chance Ridge. She took him places and showed him a lot of things. Really helped his mind.

On our quest for miles (now she is in it with me) we long trot, lope along, and where the heck are we going? Food . . . we always eat on our rides . . .

Burgers threatening to freeze in our gloved hands, we decide to ride on through town to the river. Now there’s a worthy goal and we get it done.

Riding by the flood ravaged shore, the landscape is painted a dry brushed tannish gray. There is a picnic pavillion, with a grill sitting askew beside it painted to match. This place looks like the setting for some futuristic post apocalyptic movie, but no, it’s here now and very real.

Deep cracks run through the ground, and we pick our way with care. Who knows where they go or if they would turn into forever good bye caverns two feet beneath the sandy surface?

The colts steps into sand, sinks a little and steps back out. Colleen dismouts (gotta love this) and walks out into it herself, to test the danger. There is none and we ride across.  The colt follows her lead without hesitation. He trusts where she points him.

Across the water, in the spare, black of the trees, there are larger shapes. Eagles!!! Quite few pairs are making their homes there, and we stop, watching the majestic birds with awe.

We find a frontage road that gets us off the treacherous parts and ride down further.

We both have evening commitments, and even though I can no longer really feel the tops of my thighs, that is all that turns us around and heads us for home.

We see more dirt roads that beg us to come investigating, but that will have to wait for another day, and there will surely be a few of those . . .

Colleen says, I thought we got smarter than this, thinking of our early days of riding in any kind of weather, plowing through snow banks and what have you.

We did, I said but now we are having fun again! And so we are.

The black colt was pretty tired when we got home but we both felt he needed to experience a rider other than Colleen as his time with her is sadly soon to be at an end. They are a real pair, she and he, and I wish she could keep him.

I do some things with him, not trying to do it like she does, but wanting the colt to know that people are going to ask things of him in strange and different ways than what he is deeply comfortable with now. He gets a little trouble in his eyes as would any horse with this kind of change going on, and he looks to Colleen for salvation.

Sorry, buddy, stay with me. This is going to happen and you have got to be okay with it if you are going to make it out there in the world.

I go to a block, no way I am trying to mount from the ground with my knee totally missing in action. He very politely makes his steps to get right to come get me.

We walk off, feeling of each other, and he is surprised at the turn of events but the only way a person would know is watching the set of his ears and the slight feel of his body, wondering, under me.

He is solid and easy. I don’t want to ask too much as he’s just had a hell of a ride, but as is a habit, I gather him up a little, and we trot around. I put some pressure on him to hold the gait through the turns. I just want to see how he handles unexpected pressure from someone he doesn’t know from adam. He just responds and gives.

I am in love. SMOOTH riding, solid from head to toe, he is true to his pleasure breeding. I cast my mind for a fleeting moment to my Riata . . . I could sell her and ride  this . . . NO. I am committed to my sweet girl, and whoever he belongs to, it isn’t me.

Helluva nice ride, Colleen has done a spectacular job settling that worried mind, attaching his feet solidly to the reins and building a trust that is setting that colt up for a very bright future. If some human messes this up for him, they will have the very horse gods to reckon with, as this is a good one.

Pitching her Bronco Billy roping saddle into the back of my car to see if Royal likes it as much as I do, I am full circle, back to whence I came. Things may work for others just fine, or work for me that doesn’t for them. I am back to the quality leather, the feel of a real saddle that won’t blow apart, just in case my horse does.

And so ends that particular chapter of that particular adventure.  Today is supposed to be entirely crappy, weather wise, and I promised my husband I would stay home and hang out, as is our Sunday ritual. It is decidedly NOT crappy at the time of this writing, and I am wondering if I can get to the barn and back before he even gets out of the bed. Should have started sooner! Smile

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Great Distance Derby of 2012

Some of you already know about this, heck you are logging miles as I type! For the rest, TGDD is the brainchild of a couple of friends of mine who stole it from I am not sure where. I am sitting here, fresh from logging a day’s miles, still wearing my dusty chaps and boots because I am too excited to take them off before I write this all down.

The Derby itself is a year long endeavor to log our miles and see who comes out at the end with the most. One of those friends broke her 100 mile mark TODAY and we only got started on the first! Prolly not gonna catch her . . . LOL!

Christine and Bling

Here’s what’s developing so far. We are getting inspired to ride on days when most normal people would stay put at home.  Two of my buddies came out with me last Saturday and we bundled so thick it’s a wonder we could even mount our horses.


Thank goodness Corie  brought her mounting block or I might still be hopping around out there! 


We logged 10 miles in some biting January wind, and I would have kept going through Jess’s bitter “whatever, Terri’s” when I suggested we ride “just one more leg up the road, see what’s there . . .” except she turned her horse around and threatened to leave me to ride on home. That would have been a smidge more miles than I was up for and I couldn’t really feel my cheeks anymore, so home we went.

That really is Jess in there somewhere!

Royal and I had a what I would call a strong “medium” ride that day.  His normal big free swinging walk was missing in action, and we lagged behind, often trotting to catch up to the others. I was scowling, thinking of Ginger’s 4.5 walk stride and grumpy at Royal’s pushing for 3.5. . .


Corie on her heart horse, Zip and me on mine.

We made up for that, today, let me tell you.  He met cattle, was terrified. Okay, that kind of strong reaction often morphs into “lemme at ‘em” once a horse figures out they can chase the woolly boogers . . . Didn’t have time to get all the way through his concern but was pleased they only drew a hard look on the way back instead of a hard bound! Royal is like that . . . he freaks out, gets over it, doesn’t look back.


Today, I started out saddling Junebug, the Quarter Pony. I have been meaning to get some good time and miles on her, ever since I moved my horses down there and I have been on her a few times. taught her a couple things and really, not done much at all. She’s strong  jawed and it’s going to take a little to get her softened up the way I like them, and as with all of them. I am unfond of riding them in the beginning. The Derby inspired me today to take her off down the road and see what we could see.

Royal has made zero solo journeys in his entire life, except maybe once at the ranch, that first year. I wanted to explore the roads and fields and was none too sure my ride with him would not be me arguing to get him 30 feet past the drive way.  Turned out completely opposite of that, but who would know?

Junie gets ridden sporadically, not just by me. but NO ONE asks her to leave the yard or at best, the pasture. We headed up and headed out and the battle was on, the first three miles. By then, I had found the bean field across the road provides some wonderful riding and takes me up to town where I want to cross the busy highway without having to step foot on the equally busy and far to fast county road.

Five miles into the ride, I liked her. She looked askance here and there,  and she expressed her concern over how far she was getting from home by stepping slower and . . . slower . . . and slower. I brought a crop for just in case and it patted a little rhythm on her chubby pony butt till she saw the error of her ways.

Junebug,  our first solo ride out!

We made 7.03 miles! Not bad for her maiden voyage!

So fat, she is that I had to be very careful to stay dead in the middle of her or the saddle would tilt and roll! A few more days like this and we will see a different Junebug!

Now, it’s Royal’s turn. I had carried some anxiety about taking him out by ourselves, but Junebug beat the worry out of me and I was relaxed in spite of myself.  A little groundwork (no buck today as he first picked up his canter . . . good sign!) and I step on from the mounting block (knee WAY too stiff by now to bend that high!) and we head off down the drive.

I am prepared for spooks. balks and resistance as he realizes no one is coming with us. What I get are beautiful curly ears pricked forward as he eagerly scans the horizon. Where we goin’ Ter?Do we have to go so SLOW?

Well, no Royal, we don’t! Once into the bean field, we pick up a rising trot. I am still on guard for those sudden darts and spooks, but really there was not so much of that.

I rode this willing, forward lovely horse today. He is the dream horse I gave Ginger a new zip code in order to own. This ride, all by itself, was worth the trade. We played foxhunter up the terraces, extending his baby doll lope just to the edge of his excitement level, and held it there. We encountered a herd of strange  horses that ran, bucked, jumped and played a field away from us. If that were not enough, they are accompanied by a mini pony, a donkey and LLAMAS.  Big ears, big eyes, what the heck are those and we are back on our way.

Royal,  our first solo ride out, was fantastic

6.73 miles for Royal. We will do more tomorrow!

We ride by town but I leave crossing the highway for another day. The sun was threatening to set and vehicles were turning on their headlights. We toured the field three different times and routes, I was mostly looking to get the 3 miles I needed to complete my goal of 10 for the day. On the last round, we were just having too much fun, so we headed up the county road, south, this time, to see what might lie that way . . .

A barking dog, not worth much energy, a log beside the road that was, and I put him into the heavy soil of the nearby cornfield to let some of that exuberance wear itself out a little. Different colored piles of dirt were pretty scary and worth some starts and stops, a few jolting enough to make me grateful for how easy he is to pull up at the end of them. On the way back, he traveled over the top of them. 

I also just acquired knowledge of Royal’s real name and breeding. Heavily Crabbet bred, I could not ask for better than that.


Bey Shazhon is Royal’s sire!!

His momma though . . . A National Show horse. Yes, my Royal is 1/4 American Saddlebred, making him a NSH as well. Not my favorite cross, I know of a couple I like and well . . . he is still him, the love of my equine life, and rides like this one . .. cresting the top of a rise on a horse that wants nothing more than to eat more miles with me  . . . well, it does not get much better than this, except wait, it will and in a large part, thanks to the inspiration of the Great Distance Derby of 2012! Ride on, my friends, ride on!