smell the pines

The past few weeks have been so busy, we haven't had time to work on our land. We did take a nice hike in the woods, and then walked the sunny loop.

The wooded paths do not connect, yet. We had to do some bush whacking & branch diving between the trails. It doesn't seem like we have that much left to clear, but in reality it will take much longer then appears. 

It is so interesting to see how the forest (and land) in general changes week to week... 

The spooky tree arms, 'er branches almost got Brad!!

Can't wait to ride the "spooky tree" trail we began creating,
with a little help from our deer friends.

Once we were out of the woods, the wildflowers that were spotty and struggling for light, stood out in bright patches along the edges of the loop...

I really like these bright orange & yellow flowers

Who knew spiderwort was a native wildflower? 

A sea of yellow

Yesterday after a very warm indoor ride at the barn, we hauled our mower for some long overdue mowing. You could hardly tell we had storms and a much needed dump of rain the night before, but you could sure smell it...mmmm...we took deep inhales...and longer exhales...instant smell of pines, from across the field...wow!!!

I've smelled pines many times before, even during rain, but never like that - it was soooo fresh! I don't know what it is about this property, but it's so quiet and serene...and 
offers instant relaxation.

Eventually we got to work. If that's what you want to call it.

Brad mowing the field island we cleaned up a while ago

Puttering along mowing one of the existing trails,
while my guy clears fallen wood ahead of me

 Brad blazed a trail through the grassy area,
until he got to the hill
 left or right?
left trail: towards the fields
right trail: further into the woods
Speaking of fields, second crop of alfalfa is done and the pasture grass we planted is looking good! So are the weeds, but those should be gone soon. 


We took one more looong look around...sigh...we already can't wait to call this home! Better get cracking on those house plans!! This land was such a unique find, don't know how we got so lucky?! I believe it was one of those things that was meant to be. If your a believer, you know what I mean...we are so grateful.

Before we left, we drove over to the area where the wild cactus grows more prevalent - they are just starting to bloom!!


turtle sundays

Finding many surprises on our land,
including tiny moss covered rocks
in a dry sandy loam area

Turtle Sundays features an odd looking pig-faced turtle on adventures.


a special day

I've started this post, and renamed it five times already. What do you name a persons hard work, perseverance, realized dreams, and then put it into words?

We just wrapped up Brad's second show, a big five day one. There were trailers from Texas and Arizona, and who knows where else. He competed in the only AQHA Ranch class offered, Pleasure Riding. Ten riders were entered in Amateur. One rider after the other ran the pattern. His number was near the end. I thought his ride was pretty darn good with the exception of the first 360 stop/transition:

As they read off each of three judge placings, we heard the numbers and names called out...4th, awesome! The next judge placings were announced, Brad's name was called right away - he got 1st - and that's when they could no longer be contained. Those wet things that leak out of your eyes when emotions can't be controlled. Happy tears. We couldn't hold them back, not this time. I'll never forget my husbands face, when he realized - I can do this!! His girl officially has AQHA points, and he put the very first points on her!! Through the quiet tears and hugs, we heard the last judge place them 2nd. 

We weren't all loud and dramatic, in fact quite the opposite. We are private people. Doubt anyone noticed our small circle of happiness. It was made up of Cierra, Brad, our daughter, our trainer and myself. I didn't brag it up all over Facebook, it's not even mentioned. Those who care, already know or will find out from us in person. I'm sharing here, because hopefully others will be inspired to follow their own equine dreams, whatever those dreams may be, at any age.
Believe me when I say it's not the winning, it's the affirmation.

On the second day the pattern was more difficult in many ways. Riders had to trot over four large trees, 'er poles. Brad did fine with those but made some other riding errors, and placed 7th under both judges. However his 360's and transition on this ride were really nice! You win some, you lose some. 

In my feeble effort to learn the ways of the show world, I've looked at many class placings from the past two shows. It's interesting the differences among the judges. Sometimes they are similar, and sometimes they are on the opposite end of the score sheet. One day you win, the next ride you don't even place. It's kind of a crap shoot. It all depends on how you roll, who shows up, where your horse is in the cycle of training, and who likes what they see, or didn't see. It changes - every - single - ride - up to the very last minute. 

I asked Brad if he was okay with me writing this post. He said yes. This comes from a very stoic man. As always he remains grounded and humble, and ready to work even harder. Words cannot describe how proud I am of him and Cierra, who knows what the future holds for this dynamic duo!!


things can easily change

With the first horse show behind us, we focused on our next adventure - camping with the horses!! A long awaited horse trip, that almost didn't happen... 

I had an awesome weekend ride on Koda, even at the lope. Monday we rode out in the pasture, and I thought Koda was short striding. Nah, I thought to myself, it must just be the lumpy ground. The second half of our ride was in the arena and at first trot, I got off. This time I was sure, he was limping!! Again. Just days before we were to leave for our trail trip. 

Brad thought I was exaggerating. But I could feel that Koda was off. He was sore on the foot that wasn't recently lame, his right front. The other foot. How can this even be happening so soon...things were just starting to get good again!! I was reminded how easily things can change.

The following night I tagged along for Brads lesson on Cierra, needing to see for myself how my boy was doing. I walked Koda around, and didn't see any favoritism. So I tacked up and headed out to the arena. Koda was fine at the walk, but at first trot - once again I got off. Our trainer saw it too, his right front was indeed sore. It appeared like another horseless trail riding trip was in our immediate future. I was not happy, more so for the thought of poor Koda having to potentially be stalled again. I had barely started regular riding, and feeling connected. I can't do another loooong lameness, making my horse crazy, disconnected recovery phase, so soon...

We changed our departure time in order to see the vet, and waited until early afternoon to leave. Before heading to the barn, we packed everything we needed for a horse, and a horse-less, trail riding trip. Who knew which one we would be taking? 

lameness exam showed no soreness on his (recently lame) left front, and slight soreness in the front area of his right hoof. Key word slight. The vet felt it was okay to take Koda up north trail riding, and recommended giving some bute. We all know it can just mask things, but he assured me I wouldn't cause any further injury by riding him because of where the soreness was located.

Our thought was if Koda did end up proving too sore to ride, as long as he can comfortably haul 3.5 hours, he can hang out with us just as easily as he can hang out at the barn. We had already planned on shorter trail rides anyways, to ease our way back into trail riding. 

It had been close to two years since the boys have been camping with us, but they seem to remember the place. We let them settle in over night and headed out in the morning...

Koda was up and on fast forward. The bugs were pretty bad, wish I had put Koda's fly mask on. I found myself riding a high headed, non-stop tail swishing, irritated horse on high alert. At some point we started leading, the longer we rode the more his energy grew. He became prancy. We came across a lot of down trees and branches from the high winds and storms earlier in the week. We rode around, over, ducked and blasted through them. 

It was shortly after we stopped and turned around to watch Brad & Nemo move a large branch from the path, that we rode into a swarm of mosquitos and saw multiple even larger branches blocking the trail ahead. At that point Koda felt so tight, I said "my horse is about to come apart, I think he's had enough". I was going to get off and walk him through it, but instead we turned around to head back to the ranch and switched horses. Sometimes all it takes is a change. 

They know when they are heading home, that alone somewhat eased Koda. But he continued leading on fast forward, spooking several times at what appeared to be nothing. Brad did a good job redirecting his energy. Nemo on the other hand was as cool as a cucumber the entire 1.5-ish hour ride. Overall Koda did good and listened to both of us, even through his edginess. 

We woke up the next day to this...

It took a little convincing that we weren't just here to relax! Our second ride was in the opposite direction, and turned out to be much less buggy. I put Koda's fly mask on, there were spots where I was really glad I did. Guess who was still on fast forward, altho much less edgy...

Everything is really lush and overgrown this year! We rode up the rocky boulders on one of our favorite rides! The Lookout, where you can see across the top of the Nicolet National Forest for what looks like infinity and beyond... 

Someday I would like to explore riding across the top a little further, without getting too close to the drop-off!!

We noticed a lot of changes in the forest, in just a couple years. The ride up/down to the look out rocks is still steep, but now it's all sand and kinda slickery...

We had a great second ride, about 2.5 hours - the boys were sweaty and glad to get back to the cabin! We passed several deer in the woods and a few four wheelers on the multi use trail, they took them both in stride. 

Our last night up north we got hit with a storm and lost power. A first for us. We tucked the boys into covered stalls, and when it blew over the four of us enjoyed more of this...


turtle sundays

Video of Koda & Nemo credit: Gina (best viewed with volume off)

Regular Turtle Sundays featuring an odd looking

pig-faced turtle on adventures will be returning.


when time stands still

Brad and Cierra made their debut and competed for the very first time in AQHA Ranch Riding! All the years of dreaming, hard work, sleepless nights and anticipation led up to 1 minute and 57 seconds. Most of which he doesn't remember. Brad has wanted to compete in AQHA shows his whole life. With the addition of Ranch Classes, and taking the time needed to train his horse and himself, he has officially begun to fulfill that dream. 

His goal was to complete the pattern. He did that and a whole lot more! He placed 4 & 5 (out of 8 entries) under two judges in his very first (of two) competitions. One of his scores was 69.5, which is great when you start with a 70. Not sure of his other scores, some were a little lower. We forgot to get copies of scores sheet to look for areas of improvement. Oops!

Immediately after the first ride there was an emotional moment, that bubbled up unexpectedly. We tried to talk, Brad and I, with watery eyes. Our trainer came over by us, she wasn't much better. We were all choked up with joy...and for a few moments, time stood still. We all parted ways, the alternative would have resulted in tears. Words cannot describe how proud I am of them!!!! I am so happy I was able to be there for their debut!!

Cierra was such a good girl, and has really matured. Brad could have shown her last year, the first year our trainer did. But he knew better. They are competing against seasoned riders and high dollar horses. Many people questioned his thinking. Everyone in the show world is in such a big hurry! He is a wise horseman, and knows some things are best not rushed. The time is right now, and they are easing into the world of AQHA showing. He hasn't shown since 4-H youth. Eventually they will also compete in Ranch Trail classes. They did get talked into entering an impromptu Ranch Conformation class, and did okay considering. Now that the first show is over, there will be a few less nerves during the remaining three. It's fun watching them grow together as a team!!


one of a kind ride

There are things in life where you don't get a do over. Many of them are first, once in a life time occurrences. You may, or may not, even want to do them over. The reality is you can't anyways, anything additional that happens is an experience that follows. Some firsts are big life turning events, others are smaller milestones. We had one of the latter. A one of a kind ride, with our own horses, on our own land, for the very first time!!!

We worked hard, so we could play on Sunday. We trailered in, saddled up and headed out...

riding the grassy area

...it wasn't long before we had to ride over logging debris. It is a temporary by-pass that borders one edge of our thick woodsand allows us to get to nicer pathsI was impressed with our horses. It has been over a year and a half since they've left the stables. They were fresh off the trailer and did a good job picking their way through the branch rubble. It didn't last long, and gave us access to...

...soft footing, forest smells and relaxing pines. Sigh. I love this path!!

We continued onto an area we recently worked on, and rode across the log obstacle. Nemo was calm, cool and collected, and crossed the logs with no problem. On the other hand, Koda needed to be asked to slow down and approached the logs too fast. He cut to the inside on the last short log before I had time to think differently. I'll be more focused and ready next time! 

Much to my surprise we turned and headed south. Apparently we need to finish clearing the entire spooky tree trail before riding any of it. Boo!! Oh well, something new to experience another day. I'm thinking of adding a little hidden troll in those spooky trees ha ha! That could be fun with guest riders. Notice I didn't say ghost riders ;)

I was really surprised to see how much work our son got done, it allowed us to ride that entire strip! Needs a little more cleanup by hand, guess who's job that will likely end up being?! Wasn't expecting that path to be so nice, what a difference! 

We made our way onto "the loop" and were riding along one of the field strips when Koda suddenly took a big sideways jump! I was fiddling with my phone, trying to take more pictures and not paying attention. Classic mistake. I felt myself start to slide off my saddle, gulp! Thankfully, instead I stuck. Whew! Have I told you lately how much I love my new saddle?!! Had I been riding in my previous one, I no doubt would have hit the ground. Good tack makes all the difference in the world. Needless to say, I stopped taking pictures for the rest of the ride.

Who knows what Koda spooked at? There were a couple turkey way across the field, or maybe a horse eating monster was hiding in the brush. He was on high alert, even more so while riding in the wide open. A string of smaller spooks followed the first big one. We rounded the corner to ride on the other side of that strip. The neighbors high flying flags were now in clear view, that didn't seem to bother him. We had a nice talk last week, so I knew their helicopter wasn't going to appear out of nowhere. We probably could have continued riding the remaining fields, but I didn't see the point of pushing Koda. I much prefer easing back into rides and giving Koda the benefit of the doubt. His world was so small for so long, he just needs time. My experience with him tells me he will be more relaxed next time, and in a better state of mind to ride those remaining field strips.

We changed directions, and continued riding through different fields. Meandering towards a preexisting wooded path. I swear I heard Koda let out a big sigh, as we re-entered the woods. Then it was onto fun riding up an embankment. So glad everything isn't flat! We ending up by the grassy area where we started and put the horses in the paddocks for a little while. They grazed, and we just hung out with them. Soaking everything in...

One of our neighbors stopped by to chat. We could all hear him slowly approaching us on his four wheeler. It was good timing. As he came puttering closer through the trees, Koda reacted with a big old spook almost clear across the paddock. Silly Koda! Glad I wasn't in the saddle at that exact moment. I don't think any kind of tack would have helped me sit that one. Our boys have ridden past many four wheelers up north, and never spooked at them before. Our neighbor couldn't have approached any better, and even parked at a distance. It was good for Koda & Nemo to experience early on, because they will no doubt see more four wheelers in the future. We enjoyed his visit, and learning more about the area. He even offered up his land for riding. Such welcoming surroundings.

Altho Koda was on fast forward the entire ride, and wasn't the calm horse he can be, we had a really good first trail ride!! It could have been longer, it could have been a lot of things. But the important part was that it was, the experience happened. So quiet, and pretty. We saw a couple turkey & a deer. No signs of the white one, yet.

It was a one of a kind ride, one to remember. 
Truly a blessing to be caretakers of this special property. We don't need permission to clear something, put up a fence, or ride across a field. We can take care of the land. Our land. For our family. A lifelong dream, that is coming together little-by-little...