Archive for the 'Agarita Ranch' Category

Looking Back

amywink December 31st, 2009

My favorite holiday of the year is New Year’s, and the week leading up the the new. I try to take a positive look on what I accomplished during the last year and think about what I hope to move toward accomplishing in the next year. I don’t make resolutions, but rather think about goals and aspirations, writing down things I’d like to consider for the new year. This year, I am also try to take a long look back, especially since this past year was a “5 year” mark on several things I’d aspired to do.

The course to accomplishing many of those goals was a complete surprise. I never imagined I’d be able to spend my summer working at Haven Hill, learning as much as I could about driving and horses, and in tandem, learning as much about myself in the process. But that experience (and all the amazing people I’ve met through this new hobby) is what made driving Will at Agarita on our 5th anniversary entirely possible. And with that experience, I now have what I hope to be the makings of an interesting book–something that was not on the horizon 5 years ago!–which I plan to begin writing in 2010.

The book that was on the horizon then is now in print as Tandem Lives: The Frontier Texas Diaries of Henrietta Baker Embree and Tennessee Keys Embree, 1856-1884.. The publication in April 2009 was a long awaited event and I am looking forward to the presentation and book signing in March 2010. That project was also full of Providential surprises, including the eventual discovery of the original diaries. . . . or, I should say, the eventual discovery of *me* by the owner of the original diaries!

These accomplishments represent a interesting convergence: my own recovery of a long-desired and long-denied relationship with horses (a self denied) along with the completion of a writing project which I think of as both the end of the pursuit of academic writing– writing about self (auto), life (bio), writing (graphy)– and the beginning of writing for my own life. The resolution of each story line required a combination of sheer will and individual effort as well as many fortuitous events and unimagined blessings.

It is an interesting pairing, one which I hope will move me forward into the New Year and many more wonderful experiences.

Will’s First Day at Agarita Ranch

amywink October 19th, 2009

I have been dreaming about this day since I first ventured out to Agarita Ranch to volunteer at the first CDE held there in the fall 2005. I started out timing an obstacle, then the next year, I scribed for a judge and set cones, and the next year I had graduated to Clerk of Dressage. Of course, in that time, I’ve taken many a lesson at Good Hands Training Center before I sent my horse for training and continued the lessons after he finished 120 days, working with Tom and Jerry O’Carroll throughout the next year. What excellent preparatory work all of that was our first Sunday drive! Now, I’m driving my own horse and ready to move on to the next phase of enjoying Agarita Ranch and the Plum Creek Carriage Society. Will is ready too–though he was Not Too Sure when we started out on Sunday.

We loaded up in the morning and Will was nervous about getting in the trailer–until Windy came along (whew). Mary hauled the carriages, Lisa hauled the horses, and I hauled lunch! The weather was gorgeous, crisp but warming nicely to the low 70’s, just like Saturday’s Swap Drive weather. We unloaded at Agarita about 10:15 and Will looked about excitedly, sniffing the air for bears. After some time steeping in a stall, Will was ready for harnessing and hooking. He did pretty well with his harnessing, remembering to stand still the entire time, even though his wide eyes looked around the barn. Then we hooked….which went smoother than I have seen it but not as smoothly as at home. Will was a bit jumpy and “up” looking about, but Lisa had a handle on him and we managed to get him to stand well enough for a quiet mounting of the carriage. Then we walked around on the lead rope, so he could settle down a bit–and that’s all he settled, a bit, but we were ready and off came the lead. You can see how “up” he is here:
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And so we stood for a few seconds, about all he could stand being still, and I moved him forward before he decided to go himself. Then we walked around and around and around, back and forth down the road, around and around and around the dressage arena where he took some long hard looks at things imagined. If faith is a belief in unseen things, Will is a horse of Great Faith, but he also seemed to have some faith in me and listened when I urged him forward and got him round the scary things, keeping to a nice walk until a trot was prudent. After several rounds of the dressage arena, he stopped to allow Mary to hop on the back, and off we went again for more surveying of the area.

He was still “up” and looking when he nearly scared himself silly by catching the right rein under his tail, when I reached down to move it, he clamped that sucker down, forcing himself to turn hard right. I did have the presence of mind to hold the left rein steady, call for help, and get him straightened. But that tail wasn’t going to let go of that rein. It was me holding the left rein, and he holding the right. A new kind of one handed driving. I don’t recommend it.

Amazingly, he stood. Very still. Very straight. He stood like a statue and Mary got off the carriage and undid his tail. Crisis concluded, everyone unscathed. And at that moment, Will relaxed. His head came down, his posture shifted, and he moved off quietly and calmly. Like he’d survived the attack he’d expected could now stop worrying about it all. So, off we went, around the dressage arena and in, quietly, calmly, forward. He went into the corners deep, circled as best I could do (note to self: work on circles), and we headed out, ready to take on the marathon course through the mesquite thicket at the east side (upper side) of the property
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He did amazingly well following Windy, trotting out strong and steady, listening to my hands. He even crossed the muddy puddle without batting an eye. When he moved too quickly, I slowed him with a little “brrrr” and he steadied himself and settled into a nice pace. When Windy took a wrong turn, we circled around waiting for her to return. Though he sent out a call for her–and she answered back–he continued to respond to my hands and kept himself in control. After the “thicket”, we headed “down” into the woods on the western side of the property.
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The groomed trails wound through a forest of oaks and pecans and the bright green horse herb, pink oxalis, and blue spiderwort covered the forest floor. Will didn’t bat an eye. He was pretty tired but kept his trot steady, his head in frame, and did a wonderful job trotting down the pleasant trails, happy to wait for Windy to drive through the obstacles with Lisa. “I’ll just wait here” he thought gladly. I’m sure. And notice the nice low head here. img_4592.jpgimg_4591.jpgAfter a break, we headed up to the cones course, set up in front of the Plum Creek Chapel.

Will really thought we were done and casually veered toward the barn but I pushed him on to the cones course and he obliged. Windy and Lisa went first, and we rested–standing quietly in the shade after walking around a bit–while Lisa tried the course. img_4598.jpg

We took it very slowly but he remained responsive and did his best to make it through the tricky tight course.img_4602.jpgimg_4600.jpg

He was a very very good and tired pony. We rested a bit in front of the Hotel and found ourselves with a new passenger. Perhaps a Carriage Cat Class would be in order?img_4605.jpg

After a nice rest, we headed back to our barn and Will stopped immediately in the exact spot where we’d hitched. This time, he knew we were done. And he was right. We unhooked uneventfully, unharnessed and washed the sweat off–though he didn’t really care for that–and got a big drink of water and a nice pad of hay. I was very very proud of my pony and very proud of me. We’d done our first trip out and survive to tell the tale. Team Taipan-Station Returned Successfully with No Losses or Injuries, Physical or Mental. YAY!!

I can’t wait to do it again. I hope Will feels the same.

Plum Creek Swap Drive

amywink October 19th, 2009

Saturday was the Swap Drive at Agarita Ranch, home of the Plum Creek Carriage Society. The weather was marvelous, crisp and clear in the morning, warming to a pleasant mid 70’s by afternoon. Everyone had the opportunity to practice dressage test, cones, and a mini marathon with 3 obstacles. Out on the Dressage field, everyone practiced their classical moves:
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After dressage came the Cones course, designed by Barbara Siebenhausen, contained a serpentine (Gate 13) and several challenging “W” gates, like 4 and 5 here.
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And there was a very stern judge watching the entire proceedings: img_4298.jpg
No breaking any rules on this course!

A couple of young drivers burned up the course with their minis: img_4322.jpgimg_4330.jpg

And then the grownups had their chance:
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After that challenging course, drivers headed out onto the marathon trails and the obstacles: img_4413.jpg

The trails wound around the “upper” part of Agarita Ranch before heading down “into the woods”: img_4447.jpg

Al Bulgawicz of Willow Crest Miniature Horses took his four-in-hand toward the no-water hazard,
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into the depths,img_4468.jpg

and out again img_4469.jpg

And more arrived shortly there after: img_4475.jpgimg_4485.jpg

The weather was gorgeous and the day spectacular. All of which boded well for my next adventure–Will’s First Day Out at Agarita Ranch!!