Monday, February 27, 2017

Aiken day 3: Frosty lets her freak flag fly

The third day in Aiken started out innocently enough, we got to the farm, cleaned stalls, and turned the horses out for a bit, then I went for my first ride ever in my very own "ring." There is a leveled out flat spot on our property which is mostly square and most importantly FLAT. I was able to WTC in there and could probably even add jumps or dressage letters if I ever want to. Frosty was a little excited but I did not think much of it (I should have).

We cleaned tack and John's horse got a bath (thanks to the almost 80 degree temps!) before heading out to meet some of John's friends to ride in Hitchcock woods. I did not take any pictures of their boarding barn but it was gorgeous and located right outside the woods. I should have known this would happen considering the fact that Frosty has not been out with a group for over a year but she was LIT, rearing/cantering in place and generally being a pain in the ass until she was allowed to go first (then she was perfect). We even jumped around a bit in the same place in the woods as the previous day. 
Needless to say Frosty had plenty of energy to spare after that ride so we headed in to town and parked the trailer along the street. The Aiken horse district is really unique, the roads are dirt, horses have right of way and even their own traffic signals. There is also a polo field (FLAT!) in the center of town which is open to the public so I got to ride on there and go fast (really fast!). Then we went for a walk around and looked at all the cute horses and nice properties.
Polo field=flat awesomeness

Walking around town
Overall this was a really solid day with lots of riding! The next day we loaded up and headed home :(. Until next time, Aiken!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Aiken day 2: touring the training track and riding Cathedral Aisle

Our second day in Aiken was another early morning, we went to the farm to turn the horses out and they loved the soft sand (big difference from the rocks and mud at home!) It was so nice to see them able to stretch out and roll. Later that morning we went to tour the Aiken training track, I was really excited to see the track as I have never seen race horses work or been to a track before. The tour was conducted by one of the head trainers and we got to watch the horses work, see the starting gates, and see where the horses lived. I hope to stop by the track to watch the horses on return trips!

Young racehorse in training

After the tour it was time to ride! We went to Hitchcock woods which has a large trail system in the center of Aiken. I picked the Cathedral Aisle trail. Hitchcock is pretty awesome in that it only allows hiking and horses, no bikes or motorized vehicles allowed. The woods were so gorgeous with soft, sandy footing and lots of my favorite trees (Longleaf pines.) There was a small jump course and even a grass ring (with GREEN grass) further down the trails. I got to jump Frosty around a little for the first time in many months and she was loving it! The temps were in the high 60s and it started to drizzle just as we were getting back to the trailers (talk about perfect timing!)
Cathedral Aisle fences-I did not jump these because I am a chicken and they were big!

Frosty is confused by the green grass-she has not seen it in SO long (small jump/XC course was behind us)

Longleaf pines in Hitchcock woods and blue skies (this is an older picture from when we visited to look at our property)

Happy poneh and rider loving the great footing

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Aiken day 1: adventures with city water

As I have hinted at a few times before we recently purchased a second farm in Aiken, SC with 7 acres and a 4 stall barn. If you are not familiar with Aiken it is a popular winter destination for north east horse people known for mild weather, excellent footing, and lots of horse events. This past weekend we made our first trip to Aiken with the horses (we went down several times before to get the purchase of the property in order as well). 

The initial plan was to leave as early as possible and arrive on the farm to set things up before it got dark. I had most everything packed and ready to go, however, due to the fact that I hate mornings and did not get up on time unforeseen circumstances we did not get on the road until after 8am.  
Leaving late combined with hitting traffic in NC meant that it was pitch dark out when we got to Aiken. This normally would not be a problem but on a brand new property with horses along for the ride it was definitely interesting. We got the power turned on and stalls set up with shavings and hay but we still had to turn on the city water. Neither John or I has any experience with city water and all we knew was that the valve to turn it on was "somewhere near the road."
We found the box thingy that the water meter was in and popped the top off to find the mysterious apparatus pictured below (not our actual setup but close enough). What followed was turning a bunch of random screws and valves and me standing at the barn yelling if the water was on or off. I even looked up a video on youtube but we could not get the water to turn on. Just when we were about to give up and go buy a few jugs of water to get the horses through the night John found the correct valve...which was buried in the sand. I was so relieved to see the water turn on! 

Friday, February 10, 2017

Choosing a horse property

Long time no blog, along with my pastures and motivation to ride (or do anything else) winter seems to have killed my blogging voice.
This idea for this post has been with me for a while and now that I have been through this process twice on 2 different properties I guess I am now semi qualified (but not really) to roll out some tips on choosing a property for horses.
First of all, a disclaimer: If you are moving your horses home to "spend more time riding" and "enjoy quality time with your horses" DO.NOT. DO.IT. Once you are the proud owner of acerage you will spend more time mowing, weedwhacking, doing pasture maintenance, fixing problems, digging drainage etc. etc. than you ever will riding.. This post will focus only on the acerage itself, I may do another on buildings and fencing later on...

Lay of the land: Is the property hilly or flat? Hills allow for more drainage and water will tend to settle in low spots on flat land and create mud. If you live in an area with crap weather like I do you will need to consider the lay of the land and how it will effect your ability to get to the horses to feed and care for them in mud/ice/snow. If you need a flat area to ride or put in an arena, scope one out ahead of time. This is one of the biggest things I wish I would have known when we bough our PA farm. There is not a square inch of flat ground on our place and carving out a flat spot is bizarrely expensive, even without the additional expense of adding footing and drainage.

John drives the tractor on one of many hills
Water access-Properties with access to a natural water source such as a creek should go to the top of your list, these rarely freeze and do not stop working during a power outage. Barring natural water access know where water line access is or can be obtained for installing automatic waterers or additional hydrants to fill troughs. If the climate is cold these water sources will require electricity as well to run heaters in the auto waterers or stock tank heaters in troughs. Don't be like me and realize after you get the place that your horses are in a field that requiring 300+ feet of hose to fill the trough. Consider a generator to run the pump in the event of a power outage if you are on a well.
Creeks are good!
Pastures: Even if the property has existing pasture, make sure you take a close look at what is growing, remember green does not equal grass! What seems like lush green pasture from afar can be full of weeds up close. If the grass is a very old stand or has bare spots and weeds some pasture renovation may be needed before you move horses to the property. Lay of the land factors in here as well, extremely hilly pastures are tricky to mow and low lying bottom land can turn into a muddy mess.
It took a lot of work to get the pastures to this point!
Trees: If your chosen property does not already have fence installed, remove trees that can be a hazard to the fenceline BEFORE installing the fence. Also be sure to remove trees in pastures that can be toxic to horses such as sour cherry and red maple. 

I hope this was helpful! And hoping to get riding again if the weather ever improves!
Remember when green grass was a thing?