Endurance develops strength of character in us~ Romans 5:4 NLT

Friday, October 20, 2017

Into the Wind ~

 At the stable I was asked to keep Farah out all day - so that her run could be scraped.  No problem at all, since my plan was to see the Fall colors at Waubonsie.  Dazzling sunshine - a strong wind - at 20 to 30 mph. with 40 mph. gusts.   Since rain is forecast for tomorrow, today was the day to get out!

Quiet when we arrived, just as I had bridled Farah, a group of four riders returned to the trail-head.  I had my camera off the saddle & caught the image below.  As the years have gone by & I've watched the gold girl mature, I keep thinking that she can't be more beautiful.  I'm biased - yes - but with good cause.
 Stately & aristocratic - with so much presence - truly a one-of-a-kind mare.  She's adjusted well to life here in Iowa - the bugs, heat, cold etc.  Certainly a more extreme climate than the one she was used to.  The wind doesn't even bother her - in the spring & fall we get plenty - she hardly twitches an ear.
To the trails!
 I couldn't believe how colorful things were once we were into the timber!  The golds, rusts, oranges, all on a backdrop of the trees that still held onto green leaves.
Down the Trail~
 I let her go at her own pace - the footing was perfect & having her barefoot is so nice.  The trails were littered with the colorful fallen leaves.  It had been a while since we'd done all the hill work, but Farah attacked them in her usual style & tossed in a buck just to keep me on my toes.
Top Trail~
 We'd just rounded the corner when two hen turkeys came out of the brush & started up the trail in front of us.  I slowed down & a second or so later a big tom took flight right over our heads!
Far Views~
 Now, the views are opening up & you get more of the feeling of being up on the higher ridges of the park.  Not really territorial - but pretty none the less.
Trails edge~
 The day went from sunshine, to partly cloudy later in the afternoon.  The filtered light turning the colors of the leaves almost a neon against the gray backdrop.
Ms. Farah~
 We made as many miles as we could, doing each loop twice in both directions & the pretty section that I call Tall Trees to finish up the ride.  It was warm, probably upper 70's.  Farah worked up a decent sweat with her newly thickened coat.
A typical yawn~
She asked to stop once & spent a few minutes yawning - something she's done forever.   Back at the trail-head there was only one other rig parked at the far side.  Since the Asian Beetles have hatched out this week & they'd been thick here last year - I was surprised that they weren't bad today.  Farah got a bath & she was dry almost faster than I could get her wet!
Farah & Nika~
I made the drive home & turned her out in the yard.  Nika actually laid down nearby for the first time!  Usually she moves further away.  Back at the stable, the run had not been scraped - with rain tonight - I can only hope it will get done next week.  Another gorgeous ride, I'm hoping to go to  Indian Caves before all the color is gone.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Our First Full Year ~

Sumac - Pierce Creek
Today - marked exactly one-year since we arrived in Iowa!  I couldn't think of a prettier place to spend it - than Pierce Creek.  It was another of a string of perfect Indian Summer days...  But with the brisk mornings & shorter days, I know that change is just around the corner.
Through the obstacle~
Since our ride out from the stable a week ago & with the rain on Sat., I felt lucky that the trails had dried enough.  We had the place to ourselves, just the wind & the sound of birds.
 I wanted to do all the trails, especially in the Timber, to see if I could find the place where we hope to start work on the new trail the first weekend of November.
Sumac in full color~
 Out on the east hill trails - the colors of the day were so striking & strong!  I love the light of Fall, it has always seemed thinner somehow - more fine, more ethereal & more fleeting.
Into the Timber~
We were well on our way into the Timber when Farah stopped & grabbed what looked like an apple off the ground!
Cracked open~
She instantly spit it out & I dismounted to see just what it was?
It was dripping a milk like substance in seconds & was very segmented.  I asked & have since found out that it's a Hedge Apple.  I'm told that they sell for up to $5. at the farmers markets both for decoration & as an insect & rodent deterrent!
Gorgeous Trails~
There's something almost magical about the Timber Trails - the rustle of the branches in the breeze, the smell of the leaves, the dull thud of Farah's hooves on the soft soil.  So quiet here - I wish we could ride on into forever.
No deer today, just a huge hawk that had followed us from section to section.  Every time a gust of wind came up, leaves would fall through the air like huge raindrops.
Fall Golds~
We did find a couple of the trail markers that Randy had put in.  Since we have yet to experience a freeze, let alone a hard freeze, the underbrush is still almost shoulder high.  I'm hoping we get one before our scheduled work day.
Around the east side of the lake~
Most of the bright red leaves had blown off the Sumac along the lake shore.
Near the NE corner~
We rode on up to the NE corner.  The home under construction there is just amazing.  Round stone covered turrets at three of the corners.  Several construction personnel working, all friendly on such a perfect day.
West side of the lake~

 We again crossed the dike & took the trail along the west side of the lake, then up to the northern trails there.

The video finally uploaded.  Here she's bipping & bopping along at 4.7 to over 5 mph.

Crossing back south~
We covered ten-miles, looping back a couple times & had a great run up the north boundary fence.  It was so much fun that we did it twice!

So many changes in just those last twelve-months.  Instead of riding from 1,000 to 1,500 miles a year, I'm down to scraping for the 300 we have to date.  It seems  a waste of a fine, fine horse to have her stand so much.  She's such a good friend & partner - it's hard to see her under-ridden after all our years together.  Now, we're just a short way from the cold of the Winter months - we'll be spending some days in the arena - we're lucky to have that!

When we got home, I unloaded Farah & two of our neighbors came over.  Lisa with her handsome nine-month old Grandson, who's eyes were as big as saucers when he saw Farah.  Butch arrived, we took Farah back to the stable & enjoyed a quiet dinner at Toby Jacks.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

A Little Adventure~

A bright, sunny beautiful day!  Perfect Fall weather after our rain of last week.  Sat. morning we had rain, but the rest of the weekend was beautiful.  Of course trails were closed & I so wanted to ride.  After my morning of matt making - I met Butch for lunch - then loaded my saddle & drove out to the farm.

Farah's run was all mud - thankfully it dries quickly here.  Her new shoofly leggings (Second set this season.) had mud all around the bottoms.  I got those washed out before leading her over to the Bronco.  As I attached the carabineer to the door handle, I said a little prayer that my good girl would be Good!  She was & it was easier to saddle her there than carry everything over to the barn.
On our way West~
Without shoes, I kept her to the shoulder of the road.  You can tell - even in the photo how wicked the rock roads are.
Looking up at the field we later circumnavigated~
It's such a shame that the old Girl Scout camp was sold to a private party.  It would have made for such nice riding.  We came to the gate & seeing all the bright green grass growing under the trees...
Sunshine through the Timber~
I decided that we weren't going anywhere anyway & let Farah graze.  The sleekness of her summer coat is now disappearing under the new growth of winter's coat.  We'd followed the road down, then up a big hill & around a corner that turned south.
Enjoying the green grass~
Back again at the grassy field & after taking a careful look - I decided that we'd be fine riding the perimeter.  There was a house up at the top, a truck was there, but no one around to ask if it was OK to ride.  As we came along the trees at the top, there was a break in the fence & trail heading right into the Timber!
On the Trail~
It was Stunning!  The ground was wet, but without any traffic & a covering of fallen leaves, Farah wasn't slipping & hardly left a mark.
View from the ridge~
I could tell we were climbing up & traveling along a ridge when the view opened up between the trees.  We rounded a corner & headed down a steep hill.  Farah stopped & went into her full alert mode!  It's seldom that she stops on a trail these days - but today was the day.  I took a good look & saw a hunting blind up in a tree just ahead of us.  That's when I realized how stupid I was...  Riding a brown, deer colored horse, wearing black & not a speck of orange on us...
At the pasture~
We turned back.  As we reached the top of the hill again, I couldn't help but try one more trail that we'd seen going in.  I had a feeling that it might circle around & end up attaching to the one we'd been on.  There was a decent deadfall to our right - if a trail was there - it looked pretty rough & I'm so leery of running into barbed wire.
First leg going south, was the last we took & ended at the pasture you can just see.
Farah was making deep grunting noises & her back was so rounded up that I knew a buck was right under me.  I dismounted & gave her a carrot to try to distract her.  When I re-mounted, I let her go & GO we went!  Right back up the hill at a semi-controlled gallop & out the gate.  I tried to keep her civil as we returned to the road shoulder.
Farah's Stable~
She curled her neck & was booking down the shoulder, on a mission!  Her gait felt so weird?  I looked down at my GPS & she was going 5.7!  I think it was still technically a walk - but was the fastest I've clocked her.  Of course she thought we were going to turn into the barn & I had to tell her that was Not going to happen :-)  A field had been harvested, so I pointed her that direction & we galloped to the top of that hill.
Corn gone~
We walked in a few feet, but the ground was so saturated that there was no point in trying to ride around it.  The farmers are having a hard time harvesting the corn & soy this fall with all the rain.  Again, I dismounted & let her graze along the shade of the trees before we started back.
Trees starting to turn~
It's so nice to see the trees turning golden, I'm hoping to see some reds & oranges too - but I'm sure that's dependent on whether we get our overdue first frost.  Omaha had there's Tuesday night - but the Glenwood area was spared.  Now, the weather forecast is for mild temperatures well into next week.
View from the top!
Amazingly enough - we managed to squeak in five-miles & 725 ft. of elevation gain.  It was nice to get in a little saddle time without trailering 100-miles.  I was so excited to be able to ride this October & now the rains have delayed my plans...  I'm staying hopeful for next week!

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Brushy Creek Recreation Area~

Our first time camping in Iowa & in 18-months!  I was so happy that we'd finally be going to Brushy Creek Recreation Area.  Every horseperson I've talked to said it was the nicest place to ride in our state.

Our shakedown trip & new logistics for us.  The drive down to the barn where Farah is boarded is so steep,  we decided to pick Farah up with the Bronco & bring her home.  There - Butch would hitch the trailer to the truck & we'd be on our way.  The trailer had a flat...  Only the second time in 22-years & heaven knows how many miles - that has happened.  Butch put the spare on, took the tire for a repair & we were on the road a little later than we'd planned.  Traveling here is so different from what we've been used to.  No multiple lanes full of stop & go traffic, no stop lights & once we turned off I-80, just miles of country roads with no one in front of us the entire way.  A 185-mile trip, I used both Google Maps & a paper map to find our way.
Farah stands tied~
Check-in time was 4 p.m. & we were there well before that.  I was a little concerned - we'd never asked Farah to stand tied for a weekend.  She's always camped in her electric corral - where she can move around, roll, etc.  Our spot was in the north campground, it's smaller than the very large one to the south, beautiful with clean restrooms & plenty of water hydrants.  Almost everyone had huge rigs with large living quarters, the comfortable choice here in such wide-open country.
Setting up camp~
Butch hooked the beefy carabineer clip that I use with my Blocker Tie-Ring to the heavy gauge wire that was bolted between the hitching posts.  It took Farah about two-seconds to figure out that she could walk from one end of the posts to the other, the clip sliding along.  I was so proud of her - not once over the weekend did she test it, even when we were away at the registration table & the nearest horses left on a ride.

We'd volunteered to help with the BCHIA Poker ride.  Sat. morning we woke to sunshine & what seemed like a very cold wind!  Registration started at 8:30 & we finished up a little after 10:00.  By then my hands were frozen stiff & I was ready to saddle up & see what I could of the over 40-miles of trail!
On our way!
Farah was feeling fresh, I had on my North Face vest!  We had a map, our neighbors had offered to wait to ride out with me, but since they had one young horse that they said was slow to the extreme - I decided we'd be better on our own.
The view from the Preserve Trail~
We traveled about two-miles south along the edge of the park road, before finding a rider who told us we were on track & that around the corner would be the start of one of the prettiest trails here.  Wow - is about all I can say!  It was totally like something out of a Mark Twain story!
Perfect footing~
Farah is barefoot & the footing couldn't have been nicer!  Soft dirt & we did some moving out!
After riding through the stunning timber, we came out on the above underpass, just a couple miles from the south equestrian camp.  We met so many friendly riders & it was such an incredibly beautiful day!
South camp~
 We took a short break here - most riders were out to get their five punches to draw five cards & be eligible for some of the great prizes.  As usual my cards didn't win us anything - so after a snack I decided to head north & take different trails.

The country in the park is so varied!  From Timber to grasslands, more varied than I'd imagined.  I decided to take the trails that were as far to the east as I could & find the All Weather Trail around the lake to get back to our camp.
At the stream~
It was so wonderful to find this beautiful stream!  The water was crystal clear, rocks on the bottom, we were both reminded of Pilchuck Creek, one of Farah's favorite spots.  She waded in, stood out in the middle & yawned.
Field of Grass~
In places it was like riding through a Monet painting.  Just the wind blowing the tall grasses~
We came to a couple places where finding the trail was a little sketchy.  At this point there was no signage & we followed a dirt track for a couple miles before I realized that we were going away from the lake.
First Bridge~
We turned back, took the other way & found the first of the bridges.  I really had no idea just how big this lake was!  Farah started across the bridge, just one stop to check the piece of transition steel that she made sure to step on :-)  Being barefoot - she didn't get the usual ringing sound that shoes make :-)
So Beautiful!
Once across we found this amazing trail through the big timber.  This All Weather trail has a crushed limestone surface - very nice - horses are allowed throughout the year.
On the trail around the lake~
At least now I felt like we were on the right track, since the map I had was cut off at the top, so didn't show the trail to the north that we'd need to take to get back to camp.
Mileage marker 7?
When we found this marker - I was sure we were on the trail around the lake.  I called Butch & told him that we'd probably be back in about an hour.  Boy was I wrong!
Another view of the lake~
This lake has so many fingers - around every turn was another incredible view.  Even with the stiff wind, the surface of the lake was amazingly smooth - just light windswept ripples.
My favorite view~
Another couple miles - we made a turn & ended up at the bridge we'd crossed to get here!  No way!  I had No idea how we'd done that & it certainly didn't show any loop trails on the map I had...  So - we crossed back the way we'd come & looked for another trail that headed the way I thought we needed to go.  
A different Bridge!
By now it was almost 4 p.m., the clouds were moving in & we were down to three pieces of carrot & three grapes :-)  I told Farah that we'd both be getting pretty hungry if we didn't find our way back soon!  As luck would have it - my Garmin hadn't taken a full charge & the battery failed about half-way through our loop, so it was of no use.   I had a feeling that Farah's feet were getting tender from the crushed rock.  I'd been dismounting & walking a mile now & then to give her some relief. 
Final lake view~
We crossed the bridge & met a couple fishermen standing in water along the dike trying to get their boat engine started.  Neither had any idea where the north campground was.  We came to another intersection & road to another boat ramp.  Finally - there was another marker with the number 3!  I no longer trusted these markers - but gave Butch one more call & told him that this time we were again going to be back in an hour! At this point Farah decided to take charge, moved over into the tall weeds along the side of the trail & hit her trot!  
Our Route from the North to the South Equestrian Camp~
Suddenly, I could see trailers through the trees!  It didn't look anything like the way we'd gone out - but once we came up the final hill - I realized that we'd returned to the north Equestrian camp at the far end from where we'd left!  Yippee!  It was five p.m.! 

Farah got her bath & dinner.  We'd both had a blast!  It was just so wonderful to have miles & miles of trail to ride without running into a perimeter fence.  We covered over 22-miles & I didn't even get to all the trails I wanted to!

Sunday, we woke to a chill wind & light rain.  Butch had a trip to Des Moines on his schedule for early Monday - so we packed up & headed home.  I'm really looking forward to another trip here!