Saturday, January 5, 2013

Blessed Be . . .

The times in a life that are worth recording. . . be it picture, song, word, whatever.  The riding I have been doing lately feels blog worthy, if only when I am down and blue over whatever trouble may lay ahead I can look back and remember how wonderful times can be. A person might wonder how riding a horse in temps that are falling close to single digits can be wonderful, but trust me, with the right gear, it is.

Ready to ride

I am wintering my horse at Shady Lanes Ranch where I work part time. There are almost 400 acres on the place, a bunch of it accessible by hayrack roads and dude ranch trails. I have access to an indoor and outdoor arena as well. Sound like Heaven? It’s damn close.

Shady Lanes in winter

The folks at the ranch are as most of that ilk, early to bed and early to rise. To my joy, I was given permission to come ride after hours as that’s the only time during the week I can make it out that way. So, now the challenge is get through a most often harrowing day at work and still have gumption enough to pull on layers and head for the barn.

We’ve ridden in the arenas a few times . . . the rails help with straightness and we practice the maneuvers we have learned in the Peter Campbell clinics. Royal’s footwork can be very, very precise. I am constantly amazed when I ask for ONE foot to do ONE thing and I get that. It’s not always that way, but it happens. That’s huge.

Arena work in winter

The other night, I arrive, saddle, look longingly up the hill toward the trails. A foot or better lies a white blanket over the landscape. The stark tree skeletons slash the sky.  Charlie and I agree it might be slick up there, I allow as I will (probably) stay in the outdoor arena and he heads in for the night. They only ask that I call as I leave so they know I am not becoming a Terri-cicle in the frozen tundra somewhere. 

I rock the saddle horn, asking Royal to place his feet, to get ready for me to step up there. The mounting has been a serious issue from day one, and why I haven’t taken care of it, who knows. I take stabs here and there (consistency . . .) but have left it go in the want for chasing other things. Peter was all over me to get him ready, to stay with him. My allowing the horse to waller all over while I get on is only a symptom of how I allowed him to get away with poor behavior. Does neither of us any favors. We have been different , both of us since we rode with Peter, and I am determined to have that difference show when he sees us again.

To my surprise (nearly always is) it works, and he stands calmly once his feet are set. I mount up, and we both gaze up the hill. Dang it! We are going to try. If it’s slick, we will know soon enough and can always turn back to the safety of the arena. . .

We really want to go there

Outdoor as my gps does not work inside. Why would you care, a person might wonder. Well, there is this Distance Derby thing, certainly worth an entire blog of it’s own, wait! It has one  . . . We log our miles, takes a year . . . virtual online horse race. Last year, I logged 836 miles. for those who want to check that out, some fun stories on there, some damn inspiring ones too.

So, anyway the gps matters. So does my claustrophobia, my utter tiredness to the bone of seeing walls, fences, rules to follow. I want to get out and adventure. And, so we do.

Riding trails I have ridden hundreds of times takes on an entirely different aspect in the winter. Dusk turns into twilight turns into dark, and we are out there, cushioned between snow and stars.  It is magick incarnate. The air is crisp and still, a creature rustles here and there, but it’s completely peaceful up there, just me and my good horse. I am filled with wonder and joy at the good fortune I have on so many levels. It is very clear to me out here how very good life is . . .

Nature’s palettes are subtler than what we do with our paintbrushes, photo shopping and other devices, and to my eye, far more beautiful. Now I am looking at smoky blues, blacks, shades of white and grays charcoal to ghostly. There are dashes of sienna, and the flash of bright red as a cardinal finds a different branch. We pause at Look Out Mountain, a spot that has seen proposals, anniversaries and celebrated many a special occasion with the folk who have been coming to ride the ranch for almost 50 years. This photo does NOT do the view justice, but it’s the best I can do with what I have. We blissfully crunch our way through the snow, up down, it doesn’t matter, we are ARABIAN and we can go anywhere. . .

Lookout Mountain in wnter

And then there were the turkeys. Coming off the back 80, we find ourselves in a deepish drift. Royal gamely clambers through and I am grateful for his longer legs that make short work of such stuff. 

A sudden rustle, louder and more distinct catches both our attention. What is that?? He wants to know, and I tell him I am not sure. . . I don’t believe the big cat stories, I have ridden all over that country and seen nary a sign . . . now I hope I am not wrong. I frown, steel myself, there is more rustling, some flapping of some heavy thing . . . where? Where is it coming from?

Royal’s ears are everywhere. We are both quite interested and concerned at the disturbing of the peace going on around us. Suddenly, the air is full of noise, movement. Large black shapes hurl themselves through the sky with thunderous clamor!

What the hell!! Royal spins (rather gently really, considering) and suggests we remove ourselves from Dodge. I have realized it is not an attack of Winged Monkeys (first thought, absolutely) but a huge gaggle of wild turkeys grumpily leaving their roosts in the treetops.  Turkeys are not graceful taking off, nor are they really adept in flight. It’s a heck of a racket. I am glad we survived.

Royal reluctantly agrees to move forward. What I know and he does not is that we have to get through this stretch to get back home or go ALL the way back around. A serious dark is setting in by now. I am none too sure of the drifts or what we will find in the dark dark so I am thinking, forward we must go. He complies.  A few stragglers go as we pass underneath, and it’s worth a small dance step from my horse but not much more, and that’s amazing, really.

Looking over the back 80

This is the woods the turkeys call home.

The next night one of those damn things take off from just a few feet above our head in a different roosting place causing me to jump, scream like a movie girl and snatch hastily at my draped reins. The insulting bump in the mouth bothered my horse far more than the rude creature winging over head. He gives me a disgusted look. It’s a turkey, you idiot. Didn’t you see them last night?

Later on though, a suspect stump shows distinct possibilities of wanting a spotted Arabian for a midnight snack. Hah, I say, whose the idiot now? He says something unprintable in reply, and so it goes.

We rode in the day light today. Visited some of my favorite haunts at the ranch. This is descending into the interior trails we no longer take the guests on and it’s a treat for me to get down in here.

Snowy trails

There are a pair of Burr Oaks (in a forest of them but these two sisters speak to me. One is shattered from a long ago lightening strike but she stands tall and proud beside her lovely sister) You have seen that tree in several other shots, you will see her again, scantily clad for Spring and fully dressed out for summer.

Favorite tree in winter


We all have goals, I think, for where we would like our horses to be as they become whatever “broke” might mean. Last year I began DD 2012 on a young horse that spooked at different colored piles of dirt. A stick on the ground was worth a sideways leap, three to six feet depending on how scary the stick, and don’t even get me started on flying cornstalks and road signs!

The horse I ride today is far from perfect. He is not where I want him to be but he is far far from the horse I rode January 2012. I imagine I am not the same person either.  The journey continues.


Dan and Betty said...

Great post. Good images. We get hardly any snow in our part of New Mexico so that kind of adventure would be very rare for us.

Thanks for sharing.


Good Hands said...

Thanks Dan! I used to quit riding late November at best and not start up again until March or so. Last year the Distance Derby inspired me to get out more, and ride further. My horse and I ran into a TON of challenges but we found out we could meet them and go on.

Still, I wouldn't mind, say, this morning, being able to throw on a jacket and go ride my horse! :-)

Punks Kid Rock said...

Beautiful! I love trail riding in winter, and wearing the proper gear is definitely important! For Christmas I got my first pair of winter riding pants, and they make such a difference.

Good Hands said...

I have greatly expanded my collection of winter wear! Picked up foot warmers the other day. Riding in winter adds an exciting component of challenge to the adventure!