Here there be dragons...

"I'm telling you stories. Trust me." - Winterson

Winter Hacking

Ever scan through your junk-mail folder in hopes there might be something good in there that got overly filtered? It’s a smaller version of the moment before you find out the winning lottery numbers don’t match yours... Ok, random. I know. But I caught myself doing that today and it made me smile.

So Crisper, the little cat I adore so much that I kinda inherited the first day I moved in, has learned the bunkie’s heated. Hahaha yesterday he followed me in and was soooo comfy and sleepy when I went out to ride that I left him alone. Later that eve I had a mouse issue so I went and got him. He was not thrilled at me waking him up and far less thrilled when we had to walk past the coyotes (me too admittedly) – although brave little kitty was growling his heart out at them. He settled as soon as we were back in the barn, dealt with my mouse issue, and when on about his kitty business.

But then this morning he wasn’t there following me around supervising the way he usually does. I was starting to get a little concerned that maybe he’d revisited the coyotes after I’d left. But then I had to pop my head in the bunkie to get something and when I opened the door to go back out I see Crisper beelining it from the barn to the open door. Waited half a second for him to get there and let him in. When I came back an hour later he was quite at home. I’ve seen him explore the couch and the tables, but he’s clearly decided the chair is HIS. Which is not necessarily the best life decision since he blends rather well in said chair and just may get sat on! Hahaha But it amused me how fast he figured out where warm and comfy was. So now he hangs out here unless I need him to catch some critters *g*

So a few days ago Rebecca was here helping me out – or more accurately being useful while I sat and watched *g* and we decided it’d be fun to go for a snow hack on Sunday. No lessons that day so the horses should be up to it. All good. So Sunday rolls around, and by the time it’s time to go hacking it’s bright and sunny and that kind of stunningly gorgeous that you only get a couple times of year. Why do you only get it a couple times of year? Well because it comes with the bitter cold. Like -20 cold. Brrrrrr. But being both determined and dedicated (those are the words I choose to use, although I will admit stubborn and insane were suggested) we bundled up and out we went.

Started our ride innocently enough in the arena. R had never ridden Jack before so I thought we should see how he’d behave and I wanted to work on Apollo’s canter a little (it’s his least confident gait). Well warming up I discovered A is incredibly one-sided. If it weren’t for the fact that he’s about 3x the width of the average TB and 1/3 the speed, I’d think he was off the track. Hahaha ok so that’s good to know, I can fix that. As to the canter, it’s there and it’s incredibly smooth. Sweet. Just what I was hoping for. R’s doing fine with Jack, although seems to think he’s not going to be her next EQ horse for some reason. Can’t imagine why >;-P (for those who might not understand that, R’s smaller than I am and Jack’s roughly the size of a small truck. Doesn’t make for the most traditional combination. Kinda like me on Apollo for that matter!)
So we head out on our hack. Jack’s being a little looky – and at the things he sees every day! Like his own paddock *g* hahaha but not bad, just looking and growing a little taller than absolutely necessary. Apollo’s wandering along, not terribly quickly, but not phased by much. All is well.

Then we get to where I turned Jack around the last time he was out here and he’s pretty convinced that’s what we should do again. Besides, there’s a SCARY THING up ahead (read xc fence :) . Fortunately Jack brought along a mac truck for safety, and with Apollo carefully placed between him and the SCARY THING, Jack was good to go. And seconds later in the lead again.

So we head down to the plateau. Navigating the hill was no problem at all – both horses come from backgrounds where hacking is part of life. My thought was we do a lap of the plateau and then head back. Partially cause it was stupidly cold but more because I woke up sore from hiking in the snow the day before so figured should take it easy on the horses. It’s deeper than it looks!

Our lap went well. R even took some photos! But of course the lap ends us back at the far end of the field where we started... And I kinda wanted to go up the other side. So figure we’ll just walk back to the other side of the field and head home. No problem right? After all, they’ve already been there.
Uh huh, you’re not new here... What *was* a surprise was which horse lost his little mind. That’s right. Apollo. Sainted, bombproof, husband horse had a complete meltdown and bolted. Now this wouldn’t have been a big issue in itself – after all, I can ride as fast as he can run. And let’s be honest – he doesn’t run all that fast! Hahaha and really, I almost doubt you could fall off him if you tried. The problem was that he was in such panic mode that he wasn’t focusing or paying any attention to where he was going – all that was going through his little mind was RUN and we were rapidly running out of space. And I had no steering. I dropped my dressage whip just-in-case that was exaggerating the situation, and while most of me was trying to figure out how to make Apollo turn or stop before we hit the fence (which I’m quite certain we would’ve gone through), another part of me was worrying about R on Jack. Cause if Apollo left, I was pretty sure Jack would’ve too. And R’s a great rider, but being quite happy inside the ring, she’s not quite as used to the random gallops as those of us who event...

So Apollo’s going as fast as he can, completely oblivious to the fact that he’s going to crash, when at the last second I get him turned. He’s still going, but now he can see Jack again and stops. Poor guy, I could feel his heart pounding rapid-fire. N he’s on super-high-alert mode. R, who had Jack well under control (me doing the concerned friend thing for nothing – I should know better :), comes over. “Ok now, everybody just breathe.” A was still having trouble with that idea. Jack has the horse version of an evil grin on his face. Apparently he too had gone for a run when Apollo left, but there was no fear in his, more of a “well if he gets to play, so do I!” mentality. R also lacked steering, but got him back to her fairly quickly. N really, Jack’s the smoothest thing on four legs, so all good. Just a little disconcerting when it’s not asked for! I think when we do actually ask him to gallop it’s going to be a lot of fun.

Well we’re now at the side of the field I wanted to leave from, but of course can’t take them home from that. So we had to go around again. A was super high the whole way. Started to go again a couple times, but I’d learned his signs and could stop him before he really started. He sort of does a couple quick steps with the hind legs first and then goes – needs to get a running start! Well that and I doubt he’s ever gone that fast in his life. He was probably just a *little* tired, although still running on adrenaline. He didn’t really come back down to his normal self till we were back near the paddocks. Jack was a superstar. Did the odd “can we bounce now?” move, but when R said no, he listened. As I’ve said, smart pony. Very smart pony. He led the way back, even stopping on the hill to let A catch up. Earned his carrots :)

So that was the fun and games of A’s first and J’s second winter hack :) Slightly more exciting than anticipated, but tons o fun and worth repeating next week *g* By summer they’ll both be xc pros!

Pics on the GRS FB page. Will put here later if I get home at a reasonable hour :)


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