Saturday, November 7, 2020

Kentucky Derby in my Own Backyard

 The Boonies might just be my favorite place in the world. 

It's sacred ground.  Over a mile from anywhere on the farm, secluded, quiet, peaceful and some of the best grazing on the land...but how to get to it?

Up until 2 years ago, 3 of us would each mount a horse and pony two more horses to the Boonies in the morning, and back again at night.  Then, our staff changed and I haven't had skilled riders who can pony two horses through the woods, plus I started my epic year and a half of foot surgeries.

Every day I try to make a pilgrimage to the Boonies, as I said, it's my sacred place.  I run dogs there, did my foot rehab there, all the while dreaming of how to get the horses back to it.

By early Summer, I had a plan:  build a corridor from the Back Pasture to the Boonies, lined with electric fencing.  The 1 mile trail already existed, but required widening. Then the fun part of installing posts and insulators.

3 months to fruition.  Never enough time for everything around here, so most weeks, an hour here and there is all that could be devoted to it.  My new sidekick, Luke, helped me make the final push to completion last Thursday..

D-Day on Friday Nov. 6.  Jordan and Luke volunteer to hand walk the horses through the exercise circuit in the morning.

Everyone gets a chance to familiarize themselves with the concept of boundaries.

By afternoon, these fine gentlemen preferred to ride the horses back from the Boonies.

A nice stroll in the woods.

No drama.  Just one 26 year old half blind Appaloosa leading the pack.  Priceless.

ENRICHMENT.  The new buzz word in animal husbandry.  My philosophy has always been to let them live their best life:  ensure they have the best food, coziest shelter, lots of love, dedicated vet, buddies of their own kind and adventure. 

Did we ever get enrichment on Saturday morning. Alone at work, I theorized I could split the herd in half:  ride Angus and lead 3 horses to the Boonies by myself.  Took forever.  Cody kept dallying, we had to go back for him several times.  They all walked excruciatingly slow.

The second wave consisted of the last 4 horses.  I elected to ride a 20 year old warmblood called Titan. I'd never ridden him before.  Up until 2 years ago, we didn't jive.  The more I tried to coerce him to like me, the more he treated me like a common Waffle House waitress.  Then, it happened, Titan decided to start shadowing me, nuzzling me, simply enjoy my space.  We'd bonded.  I wanted to test that bond. We travelled at a walk for a couple hundred yards, then it turned into The Man From Snowy River  for the entire mile.  

I've galloped a Thoroughbred in an arena.  Nothing compares to racing through the woods, up and down hills. Titan's hackamore bridle is bitless.  Keeps people from needlessly pulling on his mouth, unfortunately doesn't have much stopping power either.  

At one point, I was in a galloping scrum of 4 horses.  I could've reached out to touch each of them...All of them at the same beat, their heads moving in symmetry.  It's the most beautiful moment I've ever been a part of.  

For the return trip, I decided to wear a helmet.  Duh.  And a Go Pro. 

And this day shall go down in history as one of the best days of my life.  By trying to give the horses I love a little enrichment, I'm the one who gained the most.

Soon, I'll be attempting to get them to slow down and build muscle, instead of hurtling through the woods.  That was never the plan.

Regardless, I've had my Man from Snowy River moment.  Taken from a 1982 movie, it's the ride I've always dreamt of.

Tip of the hat to my new BFF, Titan.  The bond between us is indeed solid.