Monday, September 16, 2013

The Virtual Trail Ride

I have come to the realization that I will never get all the stuff done that I should.

I'm the kind of person who makes a To Do list in the morning, turning the paper sideways and scribbling in the margins to cram in all the things that I delude myself into thinking I can / will / should / must accomplish before hitting the pillow that night. More often than not, my daily To Do list becomes my weekly To Do list, as more and more tasks find there way into the blank spaces. If I do something *not* on the list, I've been known to find a space to write it in, just for the satisfaction of crossing it out.

Helmet: check. Sunglasses: check. Perfect day: check!
I could write non-stop, 24-hours a day and I still wouldn't get everything written that I want to. Plus, my family would suffer. I could "Mom" and "Wife" constantly, but still not be World's Best Parent or Spouse. And no writing would get done. I could dedicate myself wholeheartedly to keeping a perfect house, but everything else -- writing, family, AND sanity -- would fall by the wayside.

This realization should stress me out. It probably would, but I have the perfect antidote to stress: a trail ride in Michigan fields on a crisp late summer morning.

Come with me, and you'll see...

I'm on Lily, a 16-year old, 16.3 hand black Percheron mare. My friend is riding Armani, an aged Hanoverian mare she rescued from severe neglect earlier this summer.

We head out behind the barn and take the field road to the back of our property:

Izzy, the German Shepherd, leads the way.

The day is perfect: Maxfield Parrish-blue sky, spectacular clouds, no bugs (!!), and no hunters (for a few more weeks at least). Everything smells earthy and warm.

A light breeze blows, and a red-tailed hawk calls while he circles overhead.

The dogs happily explore every new smell that presents itself. We keep an eye on them to make sure they don't decide to go on a trail of their own. Izzy & River the Wonder-Pit roam together...

Hitch, the kelpie, is the caboose to our train.

A left through the back of our field...

And we hit the dirt-bike paths. Trotting time!

River drops back and runs beside us, ears flying:

A mile and a half later, everyone is ready to take a break. Including Lily (aka "Miss Fluffy Pants"). So we wander into the woods.

Turn right just past our neighbor's trailer that he uses for harvesting wood. There's a path through the trees. Trust me...

Aaaaahhhhhh. It's so quiet in here, you can hear the horses' feet reverberate on the ground like a giant bass drum. It is the most relaxing sound in the world.

It rained last night, but only a few spots on the trail have any water. The horses don't mind mud and slog through without hesitation. Izzy, the water hound, sits her fuzzy butt in the puddle. Though it's a gorgeous day, Lord knows we need more rain.

We come out of the woods onto a long-abandoned blueberry field and orchard. Though it looks inviting, we don't trot. Not only has it been a long time since the trees were pruned (a real consideration when one rides a draft horse), but the ground is unpredictable, too.

You have to look sharp: portions of the path have been vandalized by moles and groundhogs. Whenever you spy a hole, steer wide and point it out to anyone else riding with you.

We find enough holes that have shown up since we last rode here that we decide this will be the final ride through the old orchard this year. There's no reason to invite trouble -- there are lots of alternative places to ride. 

We meander over to another neighbor's field. Izzy finds a woodland creature. She searches valiantly for it, but comes up empty:

Our neighbor, Bill, is an avid hunter. His Heavenly Hunting Shack -- complete with heater, working windows, and a bird's eye view of the entire field -- is just ahead and to the left. Horses in training often suspect it is out to get them. After awhile, they accept it. Lily ignores it.

The Heavenly Hunting Shack. Deer beware!

I'm too busy trying to take a picture of the HHS and I neglect steering. Lily gently veers toward home, but I veto that idea. One thing you can always count on: your horse will always know the way back to the barn.

We take another wooded road that we haven't ridden on lately, only to discover a huge tree has fallen across it. Fortunately, our horses are both surefooted and used to trail-blazing...

Meanwhile, the dogs play in the ditches that line the path...
Can you see the dog in this picture?

The wood road ends at a roadside field. The dogs are ecstatic. Evidently, the field is the canine equivalent of the Daily News.

We ride the perimeter of the field and realize that we've already gone about five miles. The dogs are finished catching up on the news in the field, and they're starting to make fewer and fewer forays off by themselves. It's time to be heading home.

So, it's back through the woods and over the downed tree...

When we skirt the orchard, the dogs stick close by. Miraculously, they never get stepped upon.
We trot and canter one final lap around the open field...
Then we head home...

The horses know where they're going: back to the barn for a good grooming, some cookies, and turnout.

You can almost hear us all go aaaahhhhhh. Stress? Gone.

Now, to tackle that To Do list...