The chronicles of a Friesian mare who happened upon an owner who lives outside the show ring....

Monday, January 28, 2013

We need snow!!!

Never thought I'd utter those words!  Lol.  But, what little snow we've had has compressed into slippery wads of ice and my trails are treacherous in places!

It's been frigid here for two weeks now, so on Saturday, 1/26, when the temps edged up to the low 20's (heat wave!) I took advantage of it.  I had a suspicion that all the water crossings would be frozen solid, so I had a game plan as to where we'd head out and where we'd probably have to turn back.  I figured we'd do the middle Hampstead loop via the long way around the development to avoid the very busy and infinitely more dangerous East Road. 

The nice trails off of Golden Meadow Rd are only accessible after fording a pretty significant brook, which I was certain was frozen solid.

We went to visit the marker at the intersection of the towns of Hampstead, Atkinson and Plaistow.  I love this spot.  It sits on the top edge of a mounded hill, gullies on all sides and a crater in the middle.

Close up of the Hampstead side of the marker
We couldn't continue on into Atkinson because the water at the bottom of the gully was solid ice.  So we turned back and headed into Hampstead towards the Rookery (where the Herons nest) swamp.  Half way around the loop, we encountered this.....

 Another spot frozen solid!  You know it's been cold when water that's normally rushing is a block of ice.  Brrrrr.....
What happens when your horse figdets while you're trying to put away your iPhone. Lol!
 So we turned around *again* and went alllllll the way around to the other side of the afore mentioned flow of ice.  On the way, we took a side trail to see what the Spill way looked like.  What is normally rushing water that can be heard from a distance looked like you could ice skate on it! 

See the little "foot bridge"?  Creepy.  I've walked over it before, and I almost would rather wade through up to my knees than try to balance on that!
 Not in the mood to go ice skating on my horse, we turned around again and headed back for home.  All told, we were out for just shy of 2 hours and went just over 6 miles.  Not bad for a cold January hack! :)

GPS track info from our ride.  See the gap in the upper right?  We had to turn around for the ice.  The dead end in the lower right is the location of the marker at the "three corners"

Back at the barn safe and sound.

 So, let's do a snow dance for Southern New Hampshire!  I miss the fluffy footing.....

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Born to Drive

Ever since I've had Daatje, I've always wanted to drive her.  She has a great temperament and her breed was bred for it!  I've just never had the money or the space for the equipment, so while she was started in harness (borrowed gear) as a young horse, she was never finished. 

She long lines well, has pulled a drag and was even put to on one occasion before I had to return the borrowed equipment. 

Well, now is the time to continue where we left off 8 years ago. :)  I found this absolutely gorgeous harness on Craigslist for (I won't even say how little!) a steal of a price.  It's a Smuckers Deluxe that was used on a 15 hand Hafflinger.  While it's turnback strap and traces are little short for Daatje (I'll have to buy longer ones from Smuckers) the rest fits her quite well and looks smashing!

Without further ado, here is a set of pictures of her modeling this fine pleasure harness.

See how the turnback strap is on too low a hole?  The strap should be in the last two keepers and the hip straps shoudl be further up her hindquarters.  I need this piece to be longer....

Such a pretty lady!
So, here's what I need to do:

1) Buy a longer turnback strap from Smuckers (how much are they, I wonder?)
2) Buy a driving bit (preferably a Zilco flexi mullen butterfly)
3) Make a drag for her to pull
4) Buy a set of saddle and breastcollar pads
5) Train, train and train some more!
6) Buy a nice roat cart
7) Buy longer traces from Smuckers (if the current ones are indeed too short as I suspect)
8) Hitch and go!  (after lots more training, of course)

This is one of our goals for 2013-2014.  I really, really want to drive my horse. :)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Nice to have a horse you can trust.

On Sunday, January 13th, Daatje and I headed out into the Hampstead woods to explore the trails.  One of the reasons I was so thrilled about the location of our new house was the proximity to the trail head at Golden Meadow Rd, accessing miles and miles of trails I rode on as a kid (from the Atkinson/Plaistow access points).  One can litterally be out for hours on end and travers land in three different towns.
The map above shows some of these trails (the blue line is where we went that day)  More trails extend beyond this map, but they are not surveyed (that I know of). 

It was late in the afternoon when we started, 2:00pm by the time I was in the saddle.  The sun still sets early here this time of year, so I knew it would be dusk by the time we returned.  Heading out alone, late in the afternoon on one of the foggiest days I can remember is not something to be enjoyed on a horse you don't trust! :)  Days like this day make me proud to have a solid equine citizen.  She's not the most talented and certainly shouldn't be in my barn if I really wanted to follow my dream of competing in the sport of eventing, but this is a horse you can rely on to get you home safe.  There is alot to be said for that, when 99% of the riding you do is solo, and in very scary places! 

We started out taking a left after Kelly Brook as I wanted to see if we could make it down to the old Mill site.  There are a couple of trappy water crossings that are not improved by the snow, ice and mud.  The first one is a tributary of Kelly Brook that flows across the trail in the bottom of a mini flume lined with huge boulders, hewn into square shapes as though they once supported a bridge.  The span between the two sides can't be more than 18 inches, but I've never asked Daatje to hop over it for fear she'd slip on the moss covered rocks and catch a foot in the gully.

So we went to the right of it, off the trail.  The watershed is broader there, but shallow, and but for a few small fallen trees, was a fairly unobstructed path to the other side of the little flume.  She entered the watershed and half way across, she started to sink!  "Shoe" sucking mud was grabbing at her legs as she struggled to make it to the other side.  Yikes!  I urged her on a bit faster fearing that if she lingered she'd get stuck in a bog.  She made it out (phew!) and on we went.  A fleeting thought of how we were going to get back crossed my mind but I threw it out for the time being.  We'd address that on the way back.

There was a few hundred feet of small windy trail ahead of us before we were met with the next water (muck) crossing.  This one had a small foot bridge, no more than 2 feet wide and probably 6 feet long, that spanned a boggy hole covered in ice.  I know it's boggy as I've ridden through it in the spring, when ice is out of the equation.  Not impassable, but not a nice feeling for the horse if she were to a) slip and fall on the ice or b) be supported by the ice for a brief moment only to break through into a boggy mess.

So, we sat there for a minute, facing the little foot bridge and I discussed with her the matter of attempting to cross the bridge.  It was low to the ground, and sturdily built, but barely as wide as her "wheelbase".  Daatje was quite firm that it wasn't something she was comfortable attempting and I tended to agree with her so we backed up (yup, trail so small and heavily treed that we had to throw it in reverse!) until we could turn around.

Now I was going to be faced with crossing the bog vs. crossing the flume alot sooner than I anticipated!  I had no desire to get my horse stuck in the mud, so I decided that if she was ok with hopping over the mossy rocks, then I'd let her try it.  We get to the rock gully and I give her her head. 

She never hesitated.  Not one moment of "can I do this, is this safe?".  I must say, I closed my eyes. Lol!  For Daatje it was as easy as a 1-2 hop and the ice covered watershed was behind us.  On to higher ground and wider trails, I say! :)

Here we are after crossing the mini-flume, heading into the thick woods that leads up the hill to the abandoned cellar hole.
We arrived at the cellar hole and I decided to take an unmarked trail up the hill.  A trail that I thought we had taken last time, but I was mistaken!  It was much smaller, not quite horse sized, but we managed. :)  Quite a treat though when we came across this massive winding stone wall.  Oh how wonderful it is, living in New England with all these rock walls built long ago by hard working ancestral farmers.  You forget sometimes, that these did not appear on their own, they are not a natural phenomenon.  The were built.  stone by heavy stone. 

We finally made it around the loop in the Old Stagecoach Rd Parcel and I decided to pop out at the Nelson Ave street access before heading back through the Martel Woods.  Never done that before and I thought it'd be neat to see where that was on the GPS.

The fog kept getting thicker the higher we climbed!
By the time we reached Hadley Rd/Central Street it was almost 4pm and we really needed to be heading back.  Didn't want to get caught out in those woods in the dark!  Who knows what roams around.....I kept seeing lots of tracks, even Moose! :o  So, we sauntered home and arrived just before the darkness crept in.

I love these peaceful, spooky rides.  Just my horse and I.  Not another soul to be found.  It is bliss to have a horse you can trust.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Happy New Year!

All New England Hunts Joint Meet 2012 - Crossing the Ipswich River
Woah, a blog post from the Foxhunting Friesian?  You don't say. ;)

At first I was too busy to sit at the computer, and now that the hunt season is over.....well.....there's just not that much going on.  At all.

I miss the hunting, but it's nice to sit back, relax, sleep in on Saturday mornings. :)  This time of year we putz around on our trails, plotting and planning what the new year will entail.

Standing at a check - Wentworth Joint Meet 2012
What will 2013 bring us?  Not sure, really.  I've reached the point with Daatje where there aren't too many new things we could try (without buying tons of new equipment!).  I did get an awesome blingy breastcollar to go with my western parade saddle. :)  The day after Christmas I tacked her up and we went for a hack.  She wears the western gear well.  Me?  I just feel weird sitting in that saddle.  So much leather between me and my horse!
Weaver Back in Black collection to go with our Simco Parade of Diamonds saddle
Top down view of the saddle as we head out

Here's the whole set put together.  She looks so big here! lol.  (she's only 15.3 on a good day) :)

So that's our western adventure.....getting her to the point of showing in this discipline is probably never going to happen but it makes it alot easier to have the non-riding family members hop on and feel secure!