Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Seven miles!

I looked carefully at the map, wrote down the few turns, and decided to ride Champ over to the nearby state park. (It has bridle trails specifically for horses to ride on, wonder of wonders!) It looked like a good distance but actually bothering to check the mileage would have been uncharacteristic of me. Champ hasn't been out on a good long ride in at least 3 weeks, so I decided we'd just scout over to the park and turn around when we got there.

I wore my pretty boots, the ones I'd found in the back of the closet when we moved. When I found them, I briefly wondered why I hadn't been wearing them, but decided it was because they're way too wide. They're not all that comfortable to walk in, but they seem to be fine for riding.

Headed out to the barn and caught my handsome steed. He is still shedding like mad, and I got an enormous amount of hair off of him. He screamed the whole time I was grooming him. Uh-oh, it's going to be Gelding Separation Anxiety Day. Nonetheless, we tacked up and headed out.

Champ behaved fairly well getting out of the driveway and down the main road 100 feet to the small road we were going to take to the park. Once he realized I was serious and we were really Going Somewhere, he started screaming again. Champ has always had a strange hoarse voice. His nickers sound almost normal, just a little husky and low pitched, but his whinneys and screams are no louder than a person speaking quietly. All in all, I suppose that's a good thing. He screamed almost nonstop for the first mile of our trip, and intermittently the entire rest of the time.

And he trotted. There was no other speed available - either he was going to trot, or if I attempted to rate his speed he was going to stop dead and try to spin around. Well fine, you old beast, we'll trot! We trotted - and I posted - what turned out to be 3.5 miles down the most lovely country road you've ever seen in your life.

I think the big difference between Ohio and MS/TN country is that Ohio was divided into much smaller farms at the beginning. There's all these little country roads, with little farms maybe 1/2 or 1/4 mile apart from each other. Little barn, little front paddock, BIG HONKIN HOUSE, some fields. It's not all unchanged since the 1800s, of course, and there's often a series of newer houses in between the old farm houses. Kids' houses, I imagine.

In the South, the land was mainly set out in amazingly large plots for the plantation owners. There are still many plots of thousands of acres, with no road access to the interior, owned by one family.

Anyway. This is corn country, apparently. (No cotton. What a strange thought - a spring without seeing cotton flowers, a summer without fields of white fluff, an August without huge bales of cotton on the roadside.) Couple of the fields had the little signs advertising their strain of corn (I think of them as "Proudly owned by Monsanto!" signs). Almost all the fences were in good repair, mostly cattle wire with a strand of barbed wire at the top. We saw a flock of sheep, of all things, chilling out in a paddock. Two fields of horses. Couple fields of cows. Couple of barking dogs defending their yards. About 5 homeowners burning brush in their yards.

And about a mile down the road I suddenly remembered why I didn't wear those damn boots anymore. They were rubbing my calves raw. I decided to take this as an opportunity to work on my leg position - if my calves weren't swinging all over the place, the evil boots couldn't rub the flesh off of them, right? So I posted down the road, hands steady, elbows open, legs gently but firmly wrapped around my horse.

We got all the way to the last big road to cross before the park entrance and turned around. Champ was sweating some but not blown, but I'm not on a deadline. The park will still be there tomorrow. We turned around and fought about our speed for a bit. I don't mind trotting away from home - it keeps us moving at a good pace, and it's good exercise for me - but dammit, we are going to walk or gait home.

Our ride home was beautiful and relaxing, except that I couldn't relax entirely or my leg (which I was sure was bleeding) would rub against the Boot From Hell. So instead of slouching home cowboy style I had to actually ride home like a real equestrian. Hrmph.

Champ's nightmare wasn't even over when we got back to the barn. The BO and family were bringing all the horses in for their PM meal/snack, but Champ was hot and we wanted him to go outside, roll, cool off, drink some water, etc. So I put Champ back out in his paddock right as Dixie was led in. Poor guy.

Oh, and poor ME - that stupid boot rubbed a totally gross looking blister on my calf. It's only the size of a dime but it's seriously gross. Must wear half chaps today.

I'm pretty laid back about his anxiety because this is the third time I've seen it. When all four horses moved from Frayser to Como, I noticed he stayed extra close to Silky at first, and he'd scream his poor head off when I'd ride him around the fields. Then when we all went to Olive Branch, he was the same way - jiggy and screaming for the first couple weeks riding in the new place. Now Ohio, with a new marefriend, and jiggy screaming. This too shall pass!

I suppose I shall go do the Enormous Horse Meme now!

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