Owl Moon

Owl Moon
This was one of my children’s favorite books

When my kids were little they both loved the book Owl Moon by Jane Yoder. In it, a father takes his child (the gender is somewhat ambiguous) owling on a winter’s night.

This evening I left the barn for a short hack just 15 minutes before the sun set. As we walked through the woods, I heard the unmistakable call of a Barred Owl. Zelda and I got as close as we could to the sound, which of course was not on the trail! At one point, we were rewarded by the sound of an answering hoot. Not as deep and not as loud. The two owls talked to each other for several minutes while Zelda and I stood as still as possible in the woods, not wanting to interrupt.

There is definitely something magical about being in the woods in the dark, listening to the crunch of leaves under hoof and being serenaded by the owls.

The sun set on the ride back was quite lovely. It was almost dark and, being on a black horse at night, I felt almost invisible!



Heroes of California

California wild fires have displaced thousands and killed far too many. On Monday, these people — many of whom had never touched a horse before — helped evacuate these horses to safety.

Are you looking for ways to help?

A horse runs from the flames from a massive wildfire, Monday, Oct. 9, 2017, in Napa, Calif. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Two Facebook resource groups, Napa/Sonoma Fires Animal Evacuations and Solano County Horse/Livestock Fire Evacuation Help Page, have become resource hubs for donation information, volunteer recruitment and pet-owner reunification.

There is also a spreadsheet posted on the Solano County Horse/Livestock Fire Evacuation Help Page to help people with horses and livestock find shelters and volunteers to transport them.

As I find more ways to help, I’ll report them. Such devastation after the hurricanes and the flooding. It’s hard to take it all in.

Hunting under a Big Sky

Top of the world
This is one of my favorite hunts, especially the start where we climb up onto a hill to watch the hounds work.

Sometimes I feel guilty about hunting on a Tuesday morning. Today, I wrestled with my conscience because there was work piling up. But after several days of rain, the beautiful day beckoned. I’m glad I rode under the big sky. Freedom felt good and we came back tired and relaxed.

This hunt territory is one of my favorites, especially the beginning. We hack to the top of a hill where there’s an excellent view of the first cast.

Watching the hounds
Waiting for the hounds.
Freedom on alert
It’s hard to believe that Freedom can see the hounds that far away, but he was on alert. Once hears the fieldmaster’s horn, he knows what’s coming. This was a good first hunt of the season for him as the footing was good and it wasn’t too fast. We covered about 6.5 miles, most of it trotting.
Big open fields
I particularly enjoy the territories with big open fields. Some of these fields had big holes in them so it was important to be careful.
Planted fields
Many of the fields had recently been planted and the green sprouts glowed in the sun.


Good Hounds
The hounds enjoy a well-earned treat at the end of the hunt.
Funnily enough, Facebook reminded me that I hunted at Surrenden Farm on the same day last year. Looking at the photos, I was struck by how far behind the fall foliage is this year. Last year we were surrounded by brilliant reds and yellows.
Freedom never admits that he’s tired while we’re out hunting, but he was ready to go home. Someone who had never seen him in the hunt field remarked — before the first cast — how calm he was. That didn’t last and he exerted a lot of vertical energy!

Move over Aintree, The Velká Pardubická is now the Toughest Steeplechase

Taxis Ditch
The most difficult jump on the course is Taxis Ditch. Riders are not allowed to practice the jump and the only race in which it is featured is the Velká.

While the Aintree Grand National is one of the best known steeplechase races in the world, the title of the toughest race now goes to the Velká Pardubická  (the Grand Pardubice), a cross country steeplechase that has been run in Pardubice, Czech Republic since 1874. It takes place every year on the second Sunday in October. The length of the steeplechase is 4.25 miles (6.9 km), and horses must negotiate 31 jumps.

Velká Pardubická course
Look at this course! It’s hard to imagine how long it would take to memorize the route.

What makes the Velká Pardubická particularly difficult is that it is a combination between cross country and steeplechase. This is not a groomed track. It goes through all kinds of terrain. It is the only steeplechase in the world that is partially run over plowed fields (initially, half the race was over this kind of footing but that has been reduced as it’s so taxing), and when they are wet like they were today, that makes the footing deep and mucky. Adding to the difficulty is the course. It twists and turns in a way that makes the track not immediately obvious!

This year’s winner was No Time To Lose, ridden by Jan Kratochvil. No Time to Lose was trained by Josef Vana, who won the race as a jockey eight times.

Almost back to Normal

Freedom Hunter Pace
On Sunday, I rode Freedom in a Hunter Pace. So glad he felt good the full seven miles.

Last October, Freedom’s problem with intermittent lameness came to a head. I trailered him an hour an a half to a glorious hunter pace only to find that he was so uncomfortable that I turned around and hacked him home after two miles.

If you’ve been reading along with the blog, you’ll remember that I had his Sacroiliac joints injected. His symptoms were consistent with SI problems — sore back, difficult holding the canter. Unfortunately, the injections and mesotherapy made no difference. I kept him in light work and had him re-evaluated this spring. A new diagnosis emerged: Lyme.

Unsurprisingly, the Doxy made Freedom feel really good. After all, it’s a great anti-inflammatory. I do think it was Lyme because most of the benefits from the treatment stuck. He could canter on both leads and he felt a lot sounder. At least he did for about four miles of conditioning work. After that, he started to feel sore. He didn’t want to canter, he flung his head in the air. He was uncomfortable. [Note: this kind of soreness can come from an ill fitting saddle but I have my saddles fitted every six months, so I was pretty sure that saddle fit wasn’t the problem].

When he had his spring shots, I discussed this with the vet. Before another lameness exam, we decided to try Robaxin, according to Wedgewood pharmacy, Robaxin “is used for the treatment of acute inflammatory and traumatic conditions of the skeletal muscle to reduce muscle spasm and effect striated- muscle relaxation.”

Freedom’s been on Robaxin for about 10 days. He’s felt good for shorter rides and I’ve gradually been increasing the intensity, so yesterday I put it to the test: A seven-mile hunter pace. We moved along at a good pace and jumped the smaller fences. Even at the end he was happily cantering on both leads. I know Robaxin isn’t a long term solution, but it’s nice to have my boy feeling so good again. An added bonus? We came in second!

Hunter Pace
Yesterday’s pace event took us through Adams Woods, which abuts Walden Pond. It’s a lovely territory with views over Fairhaven Bay.

Have any of you had experience with Robaxin?

Fall is Here


While it’s hard to let the warm weather go — after all, it will be winter before we know it — riding in the crisp fall afternoon is such a treat. The light is sharper, the air is clearer and Zelda has a lot more energy. We had a good five mile ride as we watched the shadows get longer and the last of the sun’s rays illuminated the trees. I can’t think of a better way to end the work week.