Happy hacking

One of my favourite things about being here at Red Oak Farm is being able to ride outdoors again. While I was so in love with the luxury of the indoor arena at True Prospect, after 6 weeks of riding solely indoors, we were all getting a bit of cabin fever. 40 minute jog sets around and around an arena start to get pretty mindless after your 3rd or 4th horse for the day!

Passing through Boyd Martin’s cross country field on Mighty Nice

Mr Medicott enjoying a beautiful sunny morning

There are miles and miles of purpose made trails around Bridle Creek, which are regularly graded to keep them in top shape for hacking and fitness work.

Fernhill Fugitive obeying the road rules

Most days, my job is to either hack out the upper level horses to cool them down after they’ve done flatwork, or doing jog and canter sets on the horses’ fitness days. I’ve been riding out nearly every day and there are still plenty of trails that I haven’t had the chance to explore yet… And yes, I’ve managed to get myself lost a few times!

Icabad Crane – the sweetest little OTTB ever!

William Penn & Automagically

Good Enough, Yarrow & Vanderbilt

Atlas, shortly after being startled by a family of deer

Fernhill Fugitive

I have to admit to having a serious fangirl moment the first time I got to hack out on Mighty Nice and Mr Medicott… It’s not every day you get to go wandering in out such picturesque surroundings on seriously elite horses 🙂

Mighty Nice – and a mighty cheesy grin!

Sick and tired :(

Unfortunately my first couple of days at Red Oak Farm haven’t been all that pleasant. I wasn’t feeling entirely well on the first day here, but I just put it down to sleep deprivation and the long drive. We were heading out for dinner and drinks for Abigail’s 21st birthday on Saturday night which I hoped would perk me up a little, but I found myself with a splitting headache during dinner, and had to go home early.

I ended up having to take the next day off work because my headache was so bad. I slept for a solid 19 hours, waking up just to have some food in the evening, and went back to sleep for another 10. I was a bit concerned that it was the onset of some exotic American virus! However, lots of rest and bucketloads of ibuprofen seems to have sorted it out, and while I’m still wandering around like a bit of a zombie, I was at least able to go back to work today. I guess the last 6 weeks of hard work, late nights and early mornings have just caught up with me a bit. We take such impeccable care of the horses here, but sometimes we forget to take care of ourselves!

3 coffees, 4 Red Bulls and 5 states…

We’ve finally make it to Aiken! We left Pennsylvania much later than we’d hoped, and after being on the road for around 11 hours we made it to Red Oak Farm just before 2am on Saturday morning.
It was a little disappointing to do most of our travelling in the dark so I couldn’t really see any of the sights along the way, though the locals assure me that there really isn’t that much to see along 95 anyway.

Farewell, True Prospect Farm!

Cruising down 95, reppin’ my hideously ugly Philadelphia Flyers hoodie.

Rolling out of bed on Saturday morning to get to work after just a couple of hours sleep was a challenge, but it was so nice to be out in the warmer weather, working out of such a beautiful barn. The 4 of us girls are living in the newly built apartment right above the stables which is very convenient… And it’s very pleasant to fall asleep to the sounds of the horses quietly munching away at their hay.

I’m super excited to start this new chapter of my trip – stay tuned for lots more news and photos from Bridle Creek, it is such an amazing place!

The first of many beautiful sunrises at Red Oak Farm.

Shipping out to Aiken

The last few days have been a whirlwind of packing up the barn and shipping out multiple loads of horses at all hours of the day and night. I’m currently sitting in my very clean and empty apartment waiting for the last horse to be picked up by the transporter, and then the last couple of us who are left here can finally hit the road ourselves.

The super impressive True Prospect Farm rig

The process of preparing each load of horses was super efficient and well organised – it makes life so much easier when you can roll out of bed at 2am and know that everything is ready to go. Every horse due to leave wore a cooler under their stable blankets, and had their own set of turnout blankets, shipping boots, shipping halter and tail wrap neatly labelled and stacked in front of their stable door – so all that had to be done when the trucks arrived was to take blankets off, put shipping gear on, and away they go.

All set for the first load of horses to ship out at 2am

The barn became progressively quieter and cleaner as each load left, and those of us still here had the job of emptying out, sweeping and liming all the stalls. It’s been quite surreal going from a bustling barn of 40 horses to just half a dozen left this morning! A number of other horses and riders are beginning to move in now though, to take advantage of the vacant facilities once we’ve gone south.

The packing process – before…

And after!

One very empty barn

I’m feeling quite nostalgic and a little sad at the idea of leaving True Prospect – I’ve felt so at home here, I just want to stay! I really hope it won’t be the last time I get to come here though. By this time tomorrow we’ll all be settled in Aiken, and will be flat out getting back into the routine of riding and preparing for all the upcoming competitions. I’m super excited to start heading to events again – my braiding fingers have been getting itchy!

My ride to Aiken – a trophy from the 2013 Red Hills event. Can’t complain about driving 1000km in this!

The Big Freeze

As many of you would know, the US has been experiencing some pretty extreme winter weather lately. Here in Pennsylvania, there has been unseasonably early and heavy snowfalls, coupled with seriously low temperatures. On Tuesday we experienced a 20 year low, with the temperature dropping to near 0F, or -16C, but the wind chill brought that down to -34C. Very hard to convince yourself to get out of bed at dawn when you know you have to head out and work in that!

Freezing!!!

Obviously all the horses stayed indoors on those super freezing days… While we do try to get them turned out as much as possible for their mental and physical wellbeing, it’s just far too unpleasant to have them out in that kind of weather. The cold literally knocks the breath out of you when you walk out of a warm building – definitely not good for performance horse lungs!

The workload was adjusted as well, as even the indoor arena was well below freezing. All horses were worked in quarter sheets, and generally just jogged or flatted, avoiding doing anything too strenuous. One of my rides that day was 40 minutes of just walking on a horse who had tied up badly in the previous couple of days… By the end of that ride my legs and feet were so frozen solid, they felt like they were going to shatter when I jumped off at the end. Really not the most pleasant ride I’ve had here so far!

Tacking up for a ride in sub-freezing temps

While the main barn is well insulated and remains quite warm, the back barn is older and doesn’t retain heat particularly well. All the automatic waterers completely froze over, so we spent a lot of time over those days lugging buckets of warm water from the main barn in order to keep them well hydrated. All feeds were also dampened with warm water in order to get more fluids into their systems. Most horses were in at least a few layers of heavy blankets, depending on the state of their coats. It’s hard to imagine how Australian horses would manage in this kind of weather!!

So coooold….

Knee deep in snow.. Great workout for the thighs

While the super cold temperatures have passed, it still hasn’t really made it above freezing since, though thankfully the waterers in the back barn started working again today. We’ve been able to turn the horses out during the last couple of days, though not for long because the paddock troughs are all frozen solid, even with water heaters. The next few days are forecast to be rainy, but slightly warmer, so hopefully a lot of the snow and ice will disappear and make life a bit easier… We’re all definitely very excited to go South next week!

Comic, Dare, Kipper, Hokey and Tango enjoying the chance to get out of the barn

Paddock trough – frozen solid

New Years update

Firstly I have to apologise for the complete lack of posts lately. The days have been so busy, and on the nights where we haven’t been out dining and drinking, all I’ve wanted to do is crawl into bed and fall asleep watching movies.

Christmas and New Years came and went in a haze of parties. These nights were followed by some very subdued days in the barn while we all tried to deal with our hangovers. You do not know the true meaning of hell until you have to muck a barn whilst severely hungover and listening to horrendous Mexican polka music that the grooms insist on playing so loudly.

After all my dreams of a white Christmas, we didn’t actually get any snow in the days leading up to it, so that was a little disappointing. It did snow on Boxing Day though – better late than never I suppose! All the horses had the day off for Christmas, so all we had to do was the basic daily care and take it easy for the rest of the day which was nice. Right back into it the next day though – this industry certainly isn’t one that slows down for the holiday season! I couldn’t think of anything nicer than spending the day in a warm barn sharing carrots with so many lovely horses though.

A little Christmas spirit at the barn

Boxing Day snowfall

Christmas morning cuddles with Fernhill Ultimate

I’ve been doing a lot of riding lately, up to 6 a day, which has been great. I’m feeling stronger and more balanced, and starting to redevelop that sense of feel that only comes from hours in the saddle. Riding so many different horses all the time is such a great experience – you really have to be constantly thinking and adapting to each horse’s individual quirks and characteristics. Trying to remember what each horse likes and dislikes can be challenging though – you definitely don’t want to mix up the horse who has to be chased with spurs and a whip for every stride of his canter sets with the one who will buck if you use just a fraction too much leg!

William Penn & Fernhill Fugitive on a rainy Sunday morning

Our preparations are well underway for our upcoming move to Aiken, South Carolina. The first couple of truckloads of infrastructure have already headed down – things like tractors, portable roundyards, cross country jumps etc. We’ve been very busy in the barn getting the horses fit and tidying them up into show condition. Over the next week we’ll begin the epic job of packing up all the tack, rugs, feed, grooming equipment and all the other barn supplies we’ll need to spend a few months in the south.

The first truckload being packed for the trip to Aiken

As always, there’s plenty of tack to be cleaned. I got the job of cleaning all the show halters that have been sitting in the loft getting mouldy since the end of the competition season… They were in need of some pretty serious TLC!

The obligatory before shot..

And after!

There’s a real sense of excitement about the move – I think we are all pretty keen to escape the freezing weather we’ve been having lately… And I’m pretty excited to experience the Aiken party scene that I’ve been hearing so much about lately!

Am I the only one who enjoys pulling manes?

I’ve pulled about 20 manes over the past couple of days, and everyone else in the barn seems to feel sorry for me. Truth be told, mane pulling is probably one of my favourite grooming jobs – I love the satisfaction you get from the instant improvement in the appearance of their necks. Plus, once you get into a rhythm, you can just zone out and ponder all those important things like the meaning of life, or which flavour Ben and Jerry’s to try next. Of course, it’s not quite as relaxing when the horse is trying to throw you into a wall or bite your arm off, but thankfully most of the horses here are pretty civilised.

One of the babies starting to look much more like a performance horse than a paddock pony.

Clipping, on the other hand, is a complete ass of a job. It requires far more concentration, not to mention the personal physical discomfort.. especially when you’re unprepared and not dressed appropriately. I washed my clothes twice and took two showers, yet I was still itchy when I got dressed again the next morning.

Another job which isn’t so fun is picking out feet each time you bring a horse in from the paddock. When I arrived, I wondered why there was a hammer stored with the hoof picks, which were all bent out of shape. Now that I have become well acquainted with the awful icy lumps that pack themselves into hooves and involve a military operation to remove, I understand why hoof picks need to be hammered back into order. Definitely one of the more dangerous and frustrating aspects of a snowy winter!

One nasty, icy hoof

One bent hoof pick – and handsome Casarino checking it out.