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

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.


  1. Great post! What a wonderful mare you have there!

  2. Wow beautiful trails!! I so wish I had trails like that. All I have to ride on is the roads. :( Thanks for taking us along on your ride. :D