27 November 2009

Early Risers -- two

This morning, again, there's a tinge of nip in the air. Excellent weather for saddling up and going for a ride. It's quiet, really quiet, even the water in the large irrigation canal across the street has slowed it's gurgle as it passes us by on the way to parts unknown. The company that manages irrigation for the entire metro area lowers the water levels this time of the year for cleaning and repairs. December, January, and February can be wetter months than the rest of the year, even with 'monsoon season' which starts in June and ends the end of September, so there's little need for irrigation.


I digress...it is an excellent morning for a ride. Traveler, short for Traveler's Grandson, is my Missouri Fox Trotting Horse. He can certainly use the workout, it's been a long time. I know he'll be over-eager and I'll have my hands full for first 20 minutes or so until he works the kinks out.


Traveler thinks I'm being unfair, and I can feel the power under me as we go through this little routine we go through everytime we leave the house. We prance and dance sideways. We just want to go, but for my safety we can't do that, so he starts to shake his head, pull the bit, and snort his displeasure while I try to make him walk at a slower pace. When that doesn't work, he has this little crow-hop and stiff-leg dance we do until he figures out Mum isn't going to let loose of the reins and let him have his head. He snorts again and settles into the slow gait for which his breed is known, an easy 'fox trot'.


Once around the corner and onto the big irrigation canal road, I let loose of the reins a little and let him have his head. There is a noticable relaxing of the power under me as he picks up his pace and smooths out again into his 'flat walk', which can carry us up to eight miles in an hour.


My plan is for an easy workout since it's been a while and he's out of shape. Along the canal road past the house to the end of the dirt track. I slow him a little at the end of a construction fence. I want to turn him up the hill, a light heel to to his right side and he turns. He digs in and up the hill we go. At the top, he knows he needs to catch his wind, so he stops. He's already starting to sweat. I can feel it under his mane and the heat coming off his neck as I tell him what a good job he's done.


There's been a bunch of construction in the area; new roads have been cut into the hill for a new housing project where just three years ago there was just desert. It's depressing to see where these homes will be built when the economy gets better. It will certainly take something away from the ambience of future rides. I want to avoid the new construction where the streets have been paved, so I move him down the hill away from the project and onto the old canal road. I can let him have his head again here and drop the reins to fish out a cigarette. Instead of making a headlong dash, he moseys along. It's like he knows what I'm about. We wander to the end of this dirt road and cross the paved street to a shallow ditch where we water horses on big rides. He goes into the water without encouragement and takes a big long drink.


I've been dumped in this ditch a few times so I'm attentive to what he might do next. Sometimes, he will start splashing and stir up the mud on the bottom. I think he just likes to play in the water, he does the same thing with the water barrel in his pen, but I remain vigilant all the same. It's just chilly enough to be cold if he decides to go for a swim with me aboard. He stops splashing and takes another long drink as I gather up the reins and start to turn him out of the water.


We head back the way we came and he thinks we're headed home again, but I have another plan in mind for him. We turn left at the paved street and make our way along the street to the bottom of the mountain. We're going to take the 'Rock House tTrail' home. It will take us within fifty yards of the house when it ends.


The narrow trail is challenging in places with loose rock and shale along the way. there are plenty of dips and plateau's for leg strengthening, and a hearty climb to the remains of the old rock house. Its a short trail, not more than a mile and a half but a good workout. We'll take another break there before we start down the trail that goes through a neighborhood toward the house.


As I sit at the rock house while Traveler blows, I look out over the city. I can see a large part of it. It's a clear morning now that the sun has come up and the brown cloud that usually shourds the valley floor is not evident this morning. Apparently, the wind has blown it clear, at least for today. The view is spectacular.


It's so quiet up here. The noise of the fifth largest city in the United States is a distant thrum. I sigh thinking how much I'd miss the wide open space of this metro area were I to leave it and move somewhere else. I know I have issues with the excessive heat in the summer months. But this is the time of the year I like best, the fall, winter, and spring. Sure, I'll admit I miss the change of seasons of the northeast, but I certainly like the wider open spaces of this part of the country, too.


Traveler is getting impatient under me, so I turn him down the steep hill toward home. I let him have his head and he picks his way down the shale laden slope to the dirt road below. We cross the dirt road and continue to the canal road where we started. He knows where we are and heads in the right direction. He moves easily beneath me.


As we turn the corner towardhome, he picks up the pace, anxious to get back to his stable buddies. I have to collect him up and slow him down. I never allowhim to race into the yard where I keep him. Allowing behavior like that incites the other horses to chaos and running along the fences. Once in the yard, we stop at the hitching rail and he stands quietly.


I'm going to struggle out of the saddle. It's been a while since I've been in the saddle and I know I'm going to be stiff. I make it to the ground, lead rope in hand and tie Traveler off to the rail. I loosen his cinch and take off his bridle. He shakes his head releived to be free of it.


He looks around at me as if to say? 'How about a drink of water?' I tell him not yet, I want him to cool down a little more before we do that and I fish out another cigarette and walk away. He stomps in place and shakes his head as flies start to gather on his sweaty flanks.


I've got to walk around for a few minutes, stretch the legs and get them circulating again. I can already feel the stiffness setting in. Comes with semi-advanced years, letting myself go, and not riding often enough to keep the muscles in shape.


Traveler will wait a few minutes. I don't hurry turning him out after a ride. I like him to be almost dried off before I put him up. It's too chilly yet, for a bath which I sometimes do to wash off the sweat and salt. This morning I'll scrape him down with a sweat scraper. The sweat scraper looks like a long flat flexible serrated knife that will bend in the middle to get into tight places where sweat collects and can breed all manner of things that irritate a horse's skin. Traveler actually likes the sweat scraper, he gets these funny looks,scrunches his nose up to a blunt point like a dogs nose. I call it 'elephant nose'. He gets to liking it so much he will lean into me.


Almost dried off and saddle pad laid out for drying, we walk to the pasture gate. i turn him into the pasture and he bolts for the far end of the pasture. He's so cool to watch when he'shappy. He comes back to the gate just to make sure I'm still close, he knows theres a treat for him in his pen. He walks away and finds the dustiest driest place he can find, he drops and rolls getting right back up again, then he walks around in circles and drops again rolling on the opposite side. Up and off again he races for the far end of the pasture tail flying high. This time he's calling to the neighbors horses saying, 'Hey look at me!' They return his call and he comes back to the gate.


While I'm hooking his lead rope, he's searching my pockets for the treat he knows I have hidden in my back pocket. He can smell it. I've already put three pounds of carrots with a small flake of alfalfa in his pen. It's a short walk to his pen and we walk through the gate right to the feed I've left for him. Now, I can pull of his halter and leave him to the rest of his day.


As I close the gate and latch it, I look at the sky to try and determine what time of day it's getting to be and how long I've been gone into this world where it's just Traveler and myself. Flipping my phone open, it's just before nine AM, I still have all day, too.