Tag Archive: horses

omg ponies

last weekend, we went to wellington, planning to catch up with some good people and finally visit kapiti island, a long-time goal.  the people part went great; the predator-free sanctuary island park, not so much.  high seas, sleet and hail caused the ferry operators to (probably sensibly) cancel all crossings for sunday, the day for which we had booked our permit.  2009 doesn't seem to be a good year for our vacation plans, what with great barrier reef falling through over easter, so here's hoping our sojourn to the US in two weeks is a little less star-crossed.

well, as we were driving around upper (the) hutt visiting people, we came across these two shaggy bundles of equine ridiculousness.  they were basically hooved teddy bears.  and their tiny ears, velvety nuzzling noses and warm pony breath definitely helped to ease the disappointment a little.  miniature horses are often evil-tempered (small dog/napoleon syndrome, i guess), but these guys were lapping up the attention, and we were happy to give it to them.


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astride again

a week ago, i revisited the site of last year’s horse disaster. i’ve been riding once between then and now, but not for aut six months. all my old injuries have faded into small, weird (painless) dents or lumps, and feeling has returned on the front of my shin (where i got a particularly good kick), so it was time to risk another round. three other friends were also keen, so the four of us drove down early on a stunning day.

we rode out around 10am, with one additional rider in the group, a beefy guy who had done some riding in his youth and just wanted to give it another go.  the weather remained glorious throughout the three hours, although the tide was huge, so there was no beach-riding. we did take the horses up a few small creeks, which involved clinging fast as they scrambled up and down a few steep banks, and we did get a few canters in. i was on my friend bert again, a solid, dependable, slightly roan gelding with a tendency to zigzag broadly down any non-flat surface. bert had a bit of fun with a leap-into-gallop maneuver near the start of the first canter, but behaved admirably otherwise. the other extraneous bit of fun involved rounding up the cows that had wandered down to the beach and were gazing with complete bemusement at the salty swells. the next-day stiffness was partially conquered by a few successive baths, and a little checking around confirmed that while the others would also need a few days to loosen up, we were all keen to go again, and sooner rather than later.

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back on the horse

i went riding again yesterday – same place, different horse.  the weather was rotten all weekend (much like the rest of last week) and our original plan to ride on sunday was foiled by hail and thunderstorms, but luckily our visiting itinerant canadians flew out late enough yesterday to squeeze in a morning ride.  and the day was glorious.

we were greeted as we drove up by a cute clydesdale foal keeping guard at the gate, all shaggy feet and whiskers, and by a fiery little stallion about a hand shorter than the clydie, and separated by a strong fence.

as before, we rode sedately down through the farm valleys, amongst cows (including a crazed calf that charged my horse) and wild turkeys.

there were a few slippery spots due to the recent heavy rains, but apart from walking down any sort of incline in a ridiculously exaggerated zigzag, my horse bert behaved himself. 

the beach was clear of footprints, scoured by a chilly wind coming off the substantial surf. 

i had been warned that bert had a penchant for rolling in soft sand, but he didn't seem interested in giving me another close enounter, so we stayed upright.  and in spite of the recent storms, the sand was largely clear down by the tideline, and the sand was firm underhoof.  further up the beach, however, we found a variety of interesting tidecast objects.

there was evidence of historic debris, too.

we had a nice walk north along the water, then came back to the starting point and divested ourselves of fragile and flapping objects before heading off for our canter.  this was my first ride since the fall, so i was a little nervous, but tried not to convey that to bert.  and he was very good to me – he wanted to gallop, but consented to the canter and even dropped into a trot when asked.  he wasn't a huge horse, so even the canter was a little bumpy, but i stayed put and didn't have too many panicky flashbacks.  and it felt great to get another uneventful run under my belt.  i was never planning to stop riding, but i guess the first time after a spill is always going to be a little tense, especially if it's been a few weeks.

we returned at a leisurely pace along the beach to the shelter and had morning tea before starting the climb back up to the farm.  the horses were enjoying the fine weather as much as we were, although i think bert was hamming the uphills a little with his emphasized puffing and sighing.  the only other moment of note came when we crossed a creek where the normal sloping bank on the other side had caved in, leaving a cutaway at about the height of the horses' chests.  bert thought he wanted to jump the bank at a spot that was more like the level of his chin, so we had a brief battle of wills and wits, but he ended up seeing reason and we took the more sane route, still getting a good jump out of it.  no more rogue cattle challenged us and the horses were unperturbed by the flock of noisy paradise ducks that accompanied us through several fields, and we returned to the yard on schedule about three hours after departing.  bert and the other horses got thank-you carrots before we headed back to town, and i feel good about going back in the future.

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the taste of sand

when i was little, i used to eat sand, and many other yummy, crunchy, outdoor mineral-based things.  (and it hasn't done me any lasting damage at all, twitch twitch).  i thought i was over the habit, having had no sand-cravings whatsoever in the intervening 20-odd years, and even joked about it a couple days ago with some friends.  little did i know.

yesterday some friends and i went to check out a horse trekking place about an hour south of auckland.  we were booked in for a three-hour ride, and were joined by a fourth rider plus the guide.  the first stages of the ride took us down through beautiful farmland and valleys to the beach, on the west coast of the manukau harbor's south head.  the cliffs were misty and green, and the sea was pounding blue and brown, making for a spectacular landscape.  ours were the only hoofprints on the beach.  the horses knew as soon as we got to the sand that the best part of the ride was coming up, so although we kept them at a walk partway up the beach and back, they were dancing at the bits and raring for a run.

my horse, a dun mare named kahlua,  turned out to be a speed demon.  as soon as i gave her her head, we were off up the beach like a shot, although to my surprise she preferred to run up in the driftwood line, and nearly unseated me jumping a log.  i guided her back down to the water's edge, where the real excitement started. we had a fantastic gallop for a few hundred meters, until kahlua aimed to overtake the horse in front of us, but instead of passing politely, headed right up her tail.  i guided her off to the left, but she immediately shied at a rock, this time tossing me out of the saddle for real.  i slid down her right side (lightly clunking my head on the way down, probably against saddle or hoof) and into the deep black sand… with my right foot still stuck in the stirrup.

well, if kahlua was spooked by a stationary rock, she really didn't know what to do with a flailing body trailing off her right side.  so she kept running.  i was dragged for probably a few dozen meters, in which time i flipped myself over from back to stomach a few times to try to free myself and to see if any other rocks were approaching that i might get dragged over.  in the end i opted for stomach – fewer pounding hooves in front of my face, and i probably didn't want to know about oncoming rocks anyway.  and did i mention eating sand?  yeah, lots of that. 

in seconds, or minutes, or years, i came free and came to rest on my side.  at this point i knew i was fine – not dead and pretty sure nothing was broken, so the next few minutes were probably the worst for the onlookers, as i lay in the sand unmoving.  shortly i was able to take stock of my limbs and found that although my left leg, which had been flapping around under the horse, was very sore, nothing else seemed painful, including the foot and knee that had been snagged in the stirrup.  i was too dizzy to sit or stand for a while, but was otherwise completely fine, to my own and everyone else's amazement.  i did catch a ride back up the hill in a truck instead of on horseback, but other than the developing bruises on my leg nothing seemed amiss.  i spent the rest of the day with a light headache, icing and elevating my leg, and sleeping, and today can confirm that i actually i did get off with only bruises.  they even cover the normal day-after discomfort of sore infrequently used muscles. 

the most lasting effect, in fact, seems to be the sand, which i expect will gradually dislodge itself from my ears and eyebrows over the course of some months.  maybe i'll even be sandless again by the time i next go riding.  :)

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