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.
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!
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.
The end of my summer was busy. And it didn’t include a lot of riding. So now I need to get myself and the equines in shape for hunting. Pronto.
The only way to do that is to cover some miles. Right now I’m riding the horses about five miles per day doing walk/trot intervals. Zelda is a bit more “fluffy” than Freedom (who manages to keep himself pretty fit), so the ride above shows her intervals. Tracking my time per mile is something I find very helpful because it keeps us moving and it provides a fitness baseline.
I am hoping to hunt Freedom this Saturday; Zelda needs to be able to hold a faster pace over that distance before she goes out.
How do you know when you’re riding a thoroughbred? Well, first off, I think they can read. While I was traveling, a new gate and some very yellow caution tape appeared at the entrance to our trail system.
Secondly, they are very sensitive to new things. They remember exactly what the trail looked like the last time they walked down it. Freedom took one look at the tape and the gate and started to shake. He thought seriously about bolting. Can’t you see it says caution? He asked me. We need to get out of here!
Not wanting to escalate the situation, I dismounted and stood with him by the tape. The wind blew. The tape shook and rattled. Freedom snorted and jumped. Then he planted his feet.
We stood quietly and contemplated the new path and the rustling tape. I scratched his neck for awhile. He stretched way, way forward without moving his feet and sniffed the wood chips on the ground. After several minutes, he moved incrementally toward the path. In total, it took him about seven (long) minutes to walk through it with me in the lead. For several more minutes he jumped whenever he heard something rustle.
Coming home was better. I still had to dismount but he was content to follow me through. I love how he trusts me to be brave even when he isn’t.
Then I took out Zelda. Riding a draft cross is a completely different experience.
Zelda looked at the new fence. She considered the caution tape. She looked long and hard at the grass growing behind the tape. She was mightily disappointed that she was not allowed to taste it. Then she walked through the gauntlet of tape onto the scary new wood chips like she had done it every day. I love this horse. She is smart. Sometimes she’s too smart, but she’s always thinking.
I never wanted a mini until I started following Geoffrey the Conqueror on Facebook. Now I want one and I want to go to New Zealand. Badly. I want to live in a place where you can take your mini, your horses and your dogs to the beach and let them gallop free.
All I can say is I’d like to have half as much fun as Geoffrey.