On Sunday November 22, I was scheduled to ride at the Wildlands with my friends Kerry, Gary, and Kathy. Kathy was going to borrow Gary’s Quarter-pony, Peyton, again. They first met two weeks ago on an impromptu neighborhood ride, and got along very well! Peyton blew away all our expectations and earned the nickname “The Trail Assassin” with his steady demeanor and easy gaits.
At the last minute, Gary had to back out, but Peyton was still available to borrow. Since her trailer was smaller and easier to maneuver in unfamiliar driveways, Kerry headed over to pick him up. I parked my rig in the entrance of the driveway and walked up the hill.
Peyton saw the trailer in the driveway and did his version of whistling over his shoulder and walking away. It took Gary about 10 minutes and several cups of grain to coax him into being caught! Peyton even threw in a little freakout as he left his stall, just for good measure. As he walked through the barnyard to the trailer, he and his barn-mate Rocky called to each other forlornly. It was at that point that I realized he hadn’t been taken off the property without Rocky for the last year, and had never been trailered anywhere to ride! “Hmm, maybe we should rethink this”, I thought to myself. But I didn’t say anything because Kathy was really looking forward to the ride, and Gary is always calling me a sissy. Or is it my horse that he calls a sissy? I don’t know anymore.
Kerry’s warmblood-size straight-load trailer, with another horse already inside, looked pretty inviting to ME but apparently not to Peyton. Gary started to lead him on and Peyton had two feet on the ramp before freaking out and running backwards. I got close enough to just touch his hip and he stepped forward, but after a few minutes it was clear that a little more persuasion was needed. Nobody had a dressage whip handy so I walked to the edge of the driveway and picked myself a dead Goldenrod weed, nice and thick and stiff at the bottom of the stem, and fluffy at the top. It was amazing, as soon as I waved that weed behind him, Peyton stepped right up into the trailer! I didn’t even have to touch him. I made sure to fasten the butt bar before Gary tied him, and stashed the weed under the manger in case we needed it later.
Arriving at the small parking lot at the north gate of the Wildlands, we jockeyed the trailers into position (no easy task) and unloaded Peyton first. As he backed out, his wide load belly got caught on the butt bar that was hanging down next to the divider and he ran straight out backwards before calming down and standing quietly. With that experience fresh in our minds we decided Kathy should tie to the gate instead of the trailer! She just draped the lead rope over the metal and he fell asleep like an old cow pony while she brushed him. What a good boy. This picture was taken after Kathy woke him up by walking near him with the saddle. I’d make a comment about his weight, but as you’ll see, our endurance athletes are looking a bit ... fluffy ... themselves!
Kerry and I were both using new treeless saddles for the first time. She had just bought a Freeform EnduroX, and I had just received a loaner Barefoot Atlanta. I’ve been using a 2006 model of Barefoot Cheyenne, and the new models have built-in panels that help disperse the weight.
Here’s JB in his Freeform EnduroX and his original Easyboots... he got his shoes pulled for the winter on Friday and has been a bit sore on gravel.
Here’s Zephyr in his Barefoot Atlanta. I don’t have a pad to fit it yet, so I’m using the one from my Cheyenne. You can see how differently it’s shaped.
Here’s Zephyr all ready to go, with Easyboot Gloves on his front feet. He doesn’t really need them at the Wildlands, but I wanted to use them anyway so I could see how they did with 2+ weeks of hoof growth. As it turned out, they didn’t stay on long enough to really tell... but that wasn’t through any fault of theirs!
When it came time to mount up, I approached Peyton to check his cinch, and he freaked out and ran backwards. I grabbed one of the reins and he stopped, blowing hard. When I threw the rein over his neck he freaked out again. I have no idea why Peyton is so twitchy around me, but now that I know he is, I know I need to go over there and work on it! I could see Kerry was starting to think this was going to be a disastrous outing so I reassured her that it was just me, that Kathy and Peyton knew each other and got along really well. Kerry was visibly relieved to hear that we probably wouldn’t have to scrape Kathy off the ground with a spatula.
Before we mounted up, Kathy told us she was practicing for someday going on a Foxhunt, so she had purchased a fancy steel flask and loaded it up with creamed sherry. She took pity on us not having flasks of our own, and provided us with a variety of little nips of various liqueurs like Buttershots and Lemon Drops. It was the first time Kerry or I had done shots while we rode! More on that later.
In the first half mile of our ride, JB slung his right front Easyboot off TWICE. That was all it took for Kerry to take me up on my offer to loan her Zephyr’s Gloves. (And frankly, that was all it took to start us drinking.) We were pretty sure the Gloves would fit, since Zephyr wears the same size Easyboots as JB does. Unfortunately we couldn’t get JB’s left front Easyboot off, so that one stayed on and Kerry put one of Zephyr’s Gloves on the right front. I packed the other Glove away in my saddle bag, strapped the Easyboot onto the top of my jacket behind my saddle, and continued on with Zephyr barefoot. He was just as happy as he could be. I can remember back when he couldn’t walk over there without wincing at each step! That was only a few months ago!
Of course we took it easy on the nips... every now and then one of us would yell CHEERS and we’d take a sip, chased with water, and of course none of us had more than a shot total over the course of the ride. It was great fun, but I suppose you had to be there. For one thing, all these disclaimers are taking the fun right out of the joke.
One of the funniest things about it was that I didn’t have my Fuzzy Logic riding pants on, so I had no thigh pocket to stow my nips bottle in. I didn’t have my jacket on either, and hadn’t put my pommel pack on my saddle yet. Instead, I stuck the bottle down the waistband of my pants... which soon meant that I carried it in the fold of my thigh, inside my pants. That sounds awkward, but I didn’t really feel it there at all, and it ended up being better than where Kathy stowed her flask!
After a while Kerry and I switched horses so we could try out each others’ saddles. We couldn’t do any more than walk, though, because we didn’t want to bother changing stirrup lengths. Go ahead, call us lazy. Anyway, you can see JB in his mismatched Easyboots, and Kerry in her Fuzzy Logics pants.
Here’s Kathy on Peyton, who is barefoot and flatfooted, and still rocked it in the Wildlands without pain. As far as I can tell he has never worn shoes. Oh, and I believe if you look closely you can see part of Kathy’s flask in her left hand!
Some gorgeous scenery on Mountain View Road! The horses ain’t bad neither, even if Zephyr does look like he’s about to pee.
Unfortunately, somewhere along this road, Kathy dropped her flask, which she had been storing in the back pocket of her jeans. If she’d only told me that’s where she had it, I’d have told her it was a bad idea! All that trotting and cantering was bound to jostle it out! I’d have shared my nips with her but by that time it was all gonesies.
Barefoot buddies (left) and the view Kathy saw most of the afternoon (right):
By the end of the ride, we all agreed that Peyton ... “The Trail Assassin” ... is worth his weight in gold. (That’s a lot of gold.) He never spooked at anything, went through everything he was asked to, is incredibly comfortable to ride, and somehow managed to squeeze his belly between all the trees on the skinniest trail we were on (Hillside Trail) without banging Kathy’s knees. We still don’t know how he did that, it’s a mystery.
Here are the three amigos. Lord only knows what the horses were discussing.
As you can see in the picture above, eventually JB did step himself out of the left front Easyboot, at which point Kerry borrowed my other Glove and continued on.
When we got back to the trailers, Kerry told me she was DONE with the original style of Easyboots and wanted to order a pair of Easyboot Gloves from me. No problemo, and, having used the original Easyboots myself a few years ago, no surprise either. (I can’t tell you how EASY the Gloves are! And the only thing I’ve managed to do in order to make one come off is to lose a screw out of the gaiter and, 10 miles later, canter up a rocky hill. It stayed on while trotting, just not cantering.)
The sweat marks under my loaner saddle looked pretty good, but he didn’t really get a sweat going under there. I’d have taken a picture but we were losing daylight and it wouldn’t have come out that well. I think another good hard ride is necessary, with a lot of trotting, before I’ll know whether the VPS panels in the saddle are doing a good job dispersing my weight.
Kerry was in a hurry to get home, so we decided to see whether Peyton would get on my trailer, which is a 2-horse slant load with a rear tack, which makes the opening very narrow. Surprisingly, we didn’t even need The Weed to help encourage him, and even more surprisingly, his belly fit! I decided to worry about whether he would unload once I got him home. He actually did fine once I crawled in there and stood at his head while he backed out... he didn’t even bang his belly on the side!
After we got Peyton tucked away, Gary told me that after we left, he walked inside to find his two young daughters, aged 5 and 7, bawling their eyes out so hard that nobody could get a word in edgewise. Apparently they were CONVINCED that he had sold Peyton, or sent him “to the big farm” where all the cows go when they get big. Once he was able to get them to listen, he told them Peyton had just gone for a ride, and they stopped crying and went to play. Apparently they’re not scarred for life, and for that we are all grateful.
All that fresh air knocked me right out; I was asleep in front of the TV by 8.
Good times... good times...