Archives for February 2011

Sunday, February 27, 2011 – Ride Day around the Neighborhood

After a leisurely breakfast I fixed for us and my brother, Brother and I went for a nice long ride around the neighborhood. He lives in an area that is steeped with equestrians, and there are paths beside every canal and wide shoulders along every road in order to accommodate horses, so we just weaved up a road and down a canal for nearly three hours. He used to have horses a long time ago (when he had a wife and stepdaughter), but he hadn’t been on one in ten years, and he never was much of a rider, but he managed to stay on well if nothing else! It was fun, we had a good time, and we were able to chat and catch up on old times. The horses, of course, were brilliant, despite the strange rider and new saddle (Brother had a nice saddle he retrieved from his closet and cleaned up yesterday), but typically, Clio still refused to canter, though I got a few nice ones in on Apollo. Weather was again warmer than usual, but there was enough of a breeze and occasional shade on the journey to make it comfortable. We’ve been getting some sun, so we’re starting to look nice and healthy!

Thursday, February 24, 2011 – Ride Day at Jonathan Dickinson State Park

After a few uneventful work days, we loaded up the horses in the trailer and set off on the 20 minute drive to Jonathan Dickinson State Park, just off the beach north of Jupiter. We paid the $6.00 entrance fee, got a trail map and headed down to the equestrian area. There were quite a few cars parked there, but none with horse trailers, so it looked like we would be on our own. It was a beautiful day, unseasonably hot (better than unseasonably cold!), but there was a nice breeze coming from the beach that cooled it down a bit, still making it in the upper 70’s. Trails (well, actually, roads) were very well marked, mostly sand and grass so the footing was excellent. Lots of long straight-aways for trots and canters, though Hubby’s mare isn’t too keen on cantering when the weather is this warm, but she has a fast trot that’s about equal to my gelding’s lope anyway. Extremely easy, level trails, so they did get a little boring after a while, though it’s never too boring not to be enjoyable! Mostly widely spaced tall pines and scrub palms covering the terrain. Took the red perimeter trail, then weaved around a couple of the inner trails just to keep it interesting. Rode about 2 ½ hours or so before packing up and coming home. A beautiful day, just the kind of thing we were looking forward to here in Florida!

Monday, February 21, 2011 – Travel Day to Jupiter (FL)

Set the alarm for 8:00, but had breakfast in the RV before we left, as the entire drive was only about 90 minutes, so even with stops we’ll get there in plenty of time. Left the campground at 10:30, and our first stop was for fuel (we found diesel at $3.49/gallon, which is a bargain rate at the moment), then at a propane place which, unfortunately, didn’t have anyone there to fill our tank, so we moved on, figuring we could pick some up once we get where we’re going. Next stop was at the Depuis Wildlife Management Area Equestrian Center, where they have a free RV dump, plus we wanted to see what it looked like. We heard many nice things about the trails, and the only drawback has been that they don’t allow dogs, though the last few people I spoke to indicated that as long as you keep them quiet and relatively hidden, i.e. not flaunting them past the campground host’s site, that it’s not as vigorously enforced. It’s a moot point for now, though, as we’ll be staying at my brother’s ranchette and can easily drive the 30 minutes for a day ride, but it was good to know for the future (and for others who are following our adventures). Finally we arrived at my brother’s place about 2:30, and an hour or so later, had the horses pastured (with a new pasture buddy, Gandalph the billy goat), the RV set up with electric and filled with water, and the satellite dish up and running. Brother showed up a bit after 5:00, and we chatted awhile before settling down for the evening.

Sunday, February 20, 2011 – Second Ride Day at Hickory Hammock

As the weather has turned hotter, we got up and out earlier to avoid the main heat of the day. Today we started going around the loop the other way around, beginning at the entrance to the campground and heading east. This part of the loop is open, so the sun was hot beating down on us, but it was early enough to still be comfortable. By the time it became hotter, we had reached the more shady area. We didn’t do much trotting and cantering today, though, because we didn’t want to stress the horses with the heat. They still have some of their winter coat, though it’s coming off fast, but it’s more than what they should have in 80+ degree temps, so we stayed at a walk for the most part. It was a very nice ride, with one stop to get water at a hand pump about a mile before we reached the campground, where we rested for a few minutes. Interestingly, by the time we got back, a number of other campers, with and without horses, had arrived, and all were much more friendly, forthcoming and conversational than anyone we had experienced from the trail riding group yesterday. I guess there must be something about the competition that prevents people from being as nice as they probably could be. Anyway, we switched the horses into new stalls so we could clean the old ones better, and spent the evening relaxing and getting ready for our departure tomorrow.

Friday, February 18, 2011 – Ride Day at Hickory Hammock

Slept late, then after breakfast saddled up and started following the trail that was the route to be used for the competition tomorrow. We were under the impression that each of the obstacles had already been put in place, but in reality we only found one, a tarp on the ground at stop 3. We also thought it was a linear trail (every map we had indicated it was a linear trail), but in fact they had made a loop by following the fenceline. Because we missed it (it was poorly marked), we didn’t see what the last three obstacles were (there are six total, apparently). We’re still hoping we’ll be able to observe tomorrow, but it’s beginning to look like we won’t be able to. Anyway, the trails were lovely, passing through some beautiful huge live oak with moss hanging down, typical old Florida terrain, lots of palm trees, and even a few cactus (which I thought we left behind in Texas! 🙂 Trails were sand and grass, with some great straight-aways for some trotting and cantering, something we’re really doing a lot of these days. We followed the trail north until we reached a four-way intersection. We went straight at first, and in about ¾ miles, we came to the end of the trail, at a gate on a busy road. We turned around and came back to the intersection, and turned south. After about a half mile there was a fork, but no trail markers, so rather than risk getting lost, and still believing all the horse trails were linear, we headed back. Had we kept going, apparently, we would have made the loop, but once again, bad maps that don’t match bad markings ruled the day. Disappointing, but at least we learned about it later so we can take it again on our next ride. There is also a trail that goes south out of the campground, but it seems to be mostly in the open, and the sun is a bit too hot (at least, in the afternooon, which is when we’ve been taking our rides lately), so I don’t think we’ll be taking that on. By the time we got back from our ride, several more campers had started coming in, so we had a few conversations with some of them. It seems most of them are newbies, we only met a few folks that had been to an event like this before. In the evening, we thought there would be a big bonfire and everyone would gather, but there was a small bonfire and only a few people gathered, mostly folks just stayed near their own campsites. Again, a bit disappointing, we had hoped to develop some camaraderie, but that didn’t happen either. Oh well. Maybe things will improve tomorrow! The ride was nice, at least.

Saturday, February 19, 2011 – Informative Day, Sort Of

Got up early enough to walk over to the “riders meeting”, which turned out to not be a meeting at all, at least not one that indicated any signs of organization. The organizer didn’t start on time, and after 15 minutes of waiting, she started out apologizing, saying that she was waiting for the judges to “get in position” before conducting the meeting. Of course, as she started speaking to a few people, others stepped in to try to hear what she was saying, and started asking questions, so she started (I guess you could call it that) to start the meeting. Unfortunately, she was hard to hear, and after about five minutes someone finally handed here a microphone, which she didn’t know how to use so it didn’t help much. It seemed very impromptu and worse, amateur, and I ended up walking away shaking my head at the audacity of someone charging $58 to participate in such a shoddily-run event. I may check out another one to see if it’s just the organizer or if they are all like this. I don’t see it as being worth the money or effort. The “breakfast” was coffee and iced tea and one chafing dish of some kind of burrito mix, period. I didn’t bother to go back to see what lunch was like, because there was no set time for that either and I wasn’t about to hang out all day just to confirm what I already knew. Most everyone had packed up and left by late afternoon, pretty much leaving us on our own again, with only a few folks remaining. Anyway, spent the rest of the day doing some computer work and watching TV, planning on riding again tomorrow.

Thursday, February 17, 2011 – Rest and Errand Day near Sebring

Hubby spent the day doing a few chores, while I ran back in to town to pick up the mail, which arrived this morning, get gas and do some grocery shopping in Sebring, which is about 15 miles away. Temps are good and warm now, in the low 80’s for the most part. People here seem to be pretty nice, lots of older folks (no surprise there), and many seem to be ex-military, which always seems to lend itself to a nicer, more friendly atmosphere. Surprisingly, not that many people showed up today, we thought there might be a few early birds. The only challenge here is that water is a hand pump (which they just replaced for a new one), so water has to be carried to the barn about 20 yards away. Other than that, since we filled up with water before coming here, this is a really nice place. Looking forward to our ride tomorrow!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011 – Second Ride Day at Rock Springs

With weather warming up more and more every day, and temps in the 70’s today were perfect for our ride. We started out today going in the same direction as the Riding Stable tours from across the road, but we quickly lost our way again, once again trying to follow trails that were incredibly poorly marked on the map (which is particularly ironic because on the map they warn to “avoid getting lost by staying on marked trails”!) In any event, though we had decided that today would be a shorter ride, it ended up being about the same length because of all the missed turns and lack of landmarks. We even crossed paths of an old rundown horse camp in the middle of the park, further evidence that the only thing this park needs is a bit of better management, which is so often the case. I’m certain that an ambitious public servant would be able to rally enough volunteers to spiff up a place like this in no time, but that seems to be a quality sadly lacking these days. Oh well. When we got back we gave the horses a quick bath, hoping they would stay clean for half a minute (wishful thinking, of course), put away everything else we weren’t going to need in preparation for our departure tomorrow. Tired from the ride, so we went to bed early, knowing we were getting up in the morning!

Monday, February 14, 2011 – Work Day

Extended our stay here through Wednesday, happy with the accommodations and the trails. Spent the rest of the day running errands and working on the computer, getting caught up on some work and resting from our long ride yesterday.

Sunday, February 13, 2011 – Ride Day at Rock Springs

Warmer temps prevailed today, so we saddled up and headed out on the trail, map in hand. It didn’t help much, though. This is another case of the map not matching the trails, and the trails not being marked well enough to follow them even if they were. The roads, which crisscrossed the trails (which were also roads, just less used), weren’t on the map at all either. None of the usual landmarks were marked, like lakes and buildings and primitive camping areas, so that was of no use. Despite the challenges, we managed to follow enough of the green trail toward the Wekiwa River to approximate where we were. We finally found something that’s marked on the map as a horse watering trough, which in fact was simply a marsh next to the trail with a sign where you could give your horse a drink. According to the map, the river should have been nearby, but by that time we had been riding over two hours and didn’t really want to go much further, so we turned around and headed back, trying to find a loop that would get us back. We finally did manage to end up in the field where the Deere equipment was, and made our way back to the camp. Despite the challenges created by the poor map (which we’re getting all too used to!), the trails/roads themselves were pretty good. Some were through old growth live oaks and swampland (though the trails were dry) and others were through much more open spaces with lots of squash palms and the occasional Royal palm mixed in. The footing was mostly good, firmly packed dirt and sand, with only a few areas where the sand was deep enough to be a minor problem, so we got lots of trots and canters in. A wonderful ride, though a bit longer than we had intended, but the horses didn’t seem to mind. They’re getting fabulously fit again, strong and full of muscles, with lots of definition, and their stamina in super now. We just have to keep it up so they don’t get soft again! Had a relaxing evening, well satisfied at our beautiful day!