While we commented on how cold it was, we had to remind ourselves that it was December 16th and we shouldn't even be able to do this! With roads clear and fields dry, a couple of my friends/clients and I decided to make the most of the extended mild conditions and plan a trail ride. This was especially monumental because two them started out just a couple months ago as clients that had not much experience with their horses. Now they are trailering their horses to new places and exploring the great outdoors. It was super fun to see them maneuver a steep down hill that neither of them was convinced they could do. Try replicating that in the ring! A special thanks to Barbara whom hosted the event and then at the last minute wasn't feeling up for the ride. She was a great sport and from the sidelines took pictures and started making plans for the spring.
For the grunt of the winter, I did some training at the facilities of Circle F Stable in Wallingford, Vermont. Watson and I honed in on our riding and driving dressage basics. I got to finish a fall project of getting a four year old Morgan-Percheron cross driving. It was Kodi's first time off his farm. Boy was he in for a surprise.
Rose is a driving Morgan mare that I ride. Through saddle work I can more easily encourage bending, softening to pressure and just relaxing. Her owner and I would consult about how Rose was doing. On the days I didn't ride her, Barbara would drive her. Skip is a five year old Quarter-Belgian that I am working with to refine his ring work. Skip has really improved his canter and transitions. He has a mastered the bend off your leg when changing rein. Yesterday, I got to take Skip out on the trail while my friend rode Watson. The wind was howling but both horses really enjoyed the time out of the ring.
I know next winter sounds a long way away, but it is not too early to book training time with me there. There is a two month minimum for starting horses under-saddle or for driving. Have your horse ready for next spring!
Some pictures from France, I will narrate as I go.
Charalais Beef cows are white while the Limousin Beef cows are a chestnut color. Both are common in the area where I am staying. It is farm country. The roads I drive on are more narrow than most driveways in the States.
I don't know how old these collars are, but they blended in with structure of the barn. Old farm houses in Vermont are about 200 years old. Structures in France can be easily be 300 years old and still occupied. Living quarters for humans were often occupied over pig, cow and horse stalls. Tiny towns are called hamlets. Driving through these hamlets feel like driving into the past. Except for a couple modern vehicles on the road and maybe an overhead street light, you wouldn't know it is 2013.
This is just a typical pretty doorway I found in Lasserein, a village in the foot hills of the Pyrenees Mountains. In this area, many Merens Ponies spend June through October in the mountains to graze, almost free-range. Merens Ponies are the reason I was invited to France; I was there to help my friend/client find a pair suitable for her.