It’s a strange thing to say that returning to the state of New York feels like coming home. I said that recently to someone who replied, “See, you really are a New Yorker.” I shook my head at that, I certainly don’t feel like “A New Yorker.” First of all, that seems to imply The City – and the ponies and I are waaaaaaaayyyyy out west and decidedly rural. Secondly, this feeling of comfort and familiarity will all too quickly yield to a desire to escape the inevitable long, cold, snowy winter – which is coming. Yes, I know it’s only early September, but the Maple leaves are starting to turn and in the past few days the season has shifted – the air feels different – my very cells are warning me that it’s time to fly South!
It’s been a gorgeous two weeks! Great people, gardens burgeoning forth with all manner of fresh vegetables, apples falling off the trees offering themselves to the ponies. I have to remind myself to take photographs because everything seems so “normal” – it’s hard to remember that it might not look like that to people in other parts of the country/world. New Mexico looks normal to people who live there, Louisiana looks normal to people who live there, I happen to have spent a lot of time in New York so I kind of take it for granted.
Most of the nights in Pennsylvania I spent happily camping – late summer hammock bliss. Most of the nights in New York I’ve been invited in to people’s homes. There have been two lovely exceptions to this. One night I gypsy camped (read: trespassing) beside a lovely pond in a forest belonging to a logging company. The ponies grazed a hay field that had been baled for the last time this season and the deer objected vociferously to my presence in their territory. The neighbors came with pizza, wings and blackberry pie – yummy! The other stop was in a palatial old barn – a paddock for the ponies and electricity and a fridge(!) for me. I slung my hammock and we took a rest day (visited by reporters from two local papers). We were guided to and from the barn on beautiful wooded trails by Annie and Flicka – it’s such a treat to get to ride on trails once in a while!
Last week we stopped at an Amish farrier to have the ponies’ hooves trimmed. He did a great job and said that their feet were in really good shape. Jesse had a chance to check out an Amish buggy up close and personal for the first time and he also continued his forays into interspecies communication by befriending a pig. I’m really sorry I didn’t get a photo of him when he was actually grooming the pig – nuzzling right between the shoulder blades, which I imagine must be a tough itch to scratch in pig world. Finehorn looked on with disdain. We were there for two hours (had to wait our turn) so I took her packs off which she did appreciate, tho I’m sure she would have liked the saddle off as well.
Finehorn has been having real issues with other equines lately. She’s extremely attached to mr.James but hasn’t even been willing to be civil to any other horses we’ve met. She and Flicka had it in for one another (Flicka was making eyes at Jesse, who wasn’t immune to her charms) and she even tried to start something with Kit the Percheron mare she was introduced to back at Strawn’s. I’m not sure when this started as she wasn’t like this back in Tennessee at Meriwood farms, but it’s certainly become a trend. Then Friday she met a horse that she actually treated with respect! This was Prince, a big black Percheron gelding at Al-Ma-Ja farm. I’d wanted to get a photo of the two draft horses together (Fjords are a draft breed, despite being pony sized) and she was actually quite polite about the process. Jesse James whickered nervously through the whole process until I finally brought him over to join the conversation, much to his relief.
Today I spoke with the “adventure trails and guiding” class at Houghton College. I talked about tethering versus high lining and the ponies helped demonstrate. We covered camping with horses in desert, mountain and suburban environments and the sort of horse that does well on a long ride. I tried my best to be informative and entertaining, but the ponies absolutely stole the show. They really don’t like being ignored and were their usual funny, charming selves. I think my favorite moment was when they discovered the big mirrors! Houghton is a Christian liberal arts college with a top notch equestrian program, mostly focused on eventing. Jesse and Finehorn looked decidedly out of place among the big warmbloods in the stalls. There are several arenas (we were in the indoor arena as the weather was drizzly today) along with extensive trails and a cross-country course. Tomorrow at 8am I’ll have an audience as I pack up – and a mounted escort as far as Fillmore. We’ll be riding the Greenway north from here for at least 35 miles – really excited about that!
And for those of you not on facebook, this article recently came out in the Jamestown paper, enjoy! http://www.post-journal.com/page/content.detail/id/627175/Woman-Riding-Horse-Across-Country-On-25-Month-Long-Trip-Stops-In-Clymer.html