Wednesday, August 22, 2012

In which we visit the Great White North and meet very Nice Brown Horses

I'm probably dating myself by referencing the classic Bob&Doug McKenzie skits on Saturday Night Live, but seriously, that's how Swamplandic Murkens where I live refer to our friends in British Columbia, which is less than an hour drive north of Haiku Farm.

Last weekend, we went there.

Not just to Canada. 
racing sulkies

We went to the harness races at Fraser Downs!


Marga toured us around.  She's a mutual friend of Greener Pastures, the standardbred adoption agency that paired Fiddle and me together all those years ago.
Proud Standie fans: Ryan, me, and Marga

First stop: the barns!

The barns were quiet and peaceful. 

Marga introduced us to some of the drivers. 

We bet for him in almost every race!

 Everyone was so friendly, and happy to answer our "we-clearly-ain't-from-here" questions.

We figured that we wouldn't be able to touch any of the horses scheduled to race,

Red Star Kash is hoping that somebody will feed him some black licorice

but we were wrong.

A kiss for luck!

Ryan is a sucker for a pretty horse-face

I'm a big fan of huge-headed horses

Somebody come and kiss me-e-e-e-e-e-e-e!
(See, standardbreds do come in grey...but not very often)

Remind anyone of somebody back home in the pasture?

The last time that Ryan and I visited here, we asked about the gear hanging from the rafters.  We were thinking that they keep it up there to keep it out of the way, but they told us that the stuff hanging up high is less-likely to be eaten by rats!
Tell me: was the rat-thing just foolin' the dumb Murkens?

Enough chit-chat, time to warm up.  The horses and drivers headed out to the track...

Have fun, Tim!  Pace fast, Kash!

and we headed for the betting desk.  If there a proper name for that place, I didn't learn it, but Wilma (the betting teller) did her best to educate us on other matters.
Wilma offered advice and also gave Ryan a quick horoscope reading.
Now THAT is above-and-beyond.  We bought tickets from her all day.

We placed our bets. 

Total gibberish, until you get used to it.

Most bets are $2.  Can you say "cheap entertainment"?  

$2 Canadian is about $1.99 Murken.  We mostly called it even.

We didn't have much of a betting strategy.  We bet on the horses we had petted in the barn, the drivers we had talked to while we were visiting there,

or the horses owned by friends
#2 Semper Fortis, son of Ryan's mare Whiskey (Millbank Counsel)
is just starting his career as a racehorse

Spectators aren't kept far away from the track. 
Yes, we are pretty much standing on the track as they race by.  Awesome.

In between races, we petted the pickup horse
Not a standardbred, but still a very Sensible horse.

and talked about how much fun it would be to ride in the Cadillac that they use as a combination starting gate/camera vehicle
Notice that the car is zooming along right next to the racing horses.
And people wonder why standies don't worry much about fast-moving
traffic when they start working under saddle...?

and how much fun it would be to RIDE IN THE SULKY!!!

Like heeling out on a sailboat, but way more fun.

We definitely had more than $2 worth of fun during each race.  We won some money and lost some money.  Semper Fortis finished 2nd, and we each won enough on him to pay for lunch. 

Overall, we all came out a bit ahead if you count all the smiling we did all day.

We want to go back and have more fun.

Some of our friends think they can arrange a sulky-ride if we return.  

What think ye, local blog readers?  Want to go up to the Great White North with us this fall?  We could caravan up and cheer for all the fine standardbreds, and have ourselves a fine time.

Leave a comment if you're interested.  If you're too far away to join us, tell me where you are and I'll try to find a harness race near you to attend, okay?

It's so. So. SO. GOOD.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

In which bloggers collide twice in a single week, and there is sunshine

Lytha and I used to see each other all the time.  We didn't get to ride together much (because our horses were usually stabled on opposite sides of a very large Swampland county), but we participated in a lot of the same events, and sometimes we'd hang out and make soup and talk about horses when we didn't have horses close-at-hand.

Headed up the hill, watching for deer...and bears
Then, she fell in love with a wonderful man and moved to Germany (and she took her horse with her!).   Now we don't see each other so often, because she can only visit the American Swampland every 18 months or so, and my budget for European travel is, uh, pretty much non-existent.

But this week, Lytha came to visit...and I finally got to take her riding!

"dirty car"!

She has always been meticulous about car-washing (and truck-washing, and horse-washing), but this is a rental car.  I had to take a picture, because I've never seen her in a dirty vehicle before (except in mine, obviously)

Green grass, bright sunshine, and a happy pony.
That's a good day, right there.

It was great to see Lytha on a horse that wasn't one of the dead-headed school horses or the green sale prospects that she's been riding lately in Germany.  She saddled up Hana and out we went.  She said that Hana feels a lot like Princess Buttercup , the pretty little chestnut mare she used to ride in endurance when she lived in the Swamp.  The mares are of similar size and color and temperament--both pretty and nice to ride.
The "photo by the Monument" is obligatory,
even when the position of the sun makes the picture kind of awkward.

Hana was not a Bad Radish for our ride.  She was perfectly sweet.  And she had fun, too!

Jogging the downhills.  I had to pony Hana so she wouldn't drag behind.
Obviously, I was still aboard Gigantor when I snapped this picture!

I used to get off my horse and jog down the hills too...when I had a shorter horse and knew I could always hop back up.  These days, I've conditioned Gigantor to carry my butt down the hills gracefully, which she does.

Hana would really like to stop for "lunch" in the meadow.

I hope I see that smile on my friend's face when she finally finds the right horse to buy in Germany!

Checking the GPS:  nine caches found, eight caches not found

Back at the parking lot:  her man had amused himself geocaching while we were gone...and didn't realize that we had parked the horse trailer 10 feet from the rental car!  I guess the purple flames on the rig didn't make a huge impression.  Huh.

They are heading back to Germany soon, and I won't see them again for a long time.  I hope they find a nice horse there...soon.

The very next day, I threw both horses in the trailer again so Hana could guide Monica around the same set of trails.

We didn't see any deer on either day, but Monica and I did see a young bear scampering across the trail ahead of us.

Big trail-riding grin.

Up at the Monument, Monica has an unusual approach to photography

Hana doesn't understand why you would take a picture of something other than Hana.

Before re-mounting, we availed ourselves of some of the local cuisine.

Monica can get the thimbleberries that I cannot reach.
Some days I think it must be really convenient to be tall...

Hana loves to work.  She also likes to smile for the camera.

Obligatory "overlooking Puget Sound" photo

On the wide-trail back to the parking lot, Fiddle scooted over to Monica.  "Uhm, she's asking for a hug," I said.  Fiddle thinks that her Auntie Monica gives good scritches, too.

"Hug, please."

We travelled the "tourist loop": 8.5 miles, a mixture of logging road, trail, uphill and downhill, with some deep forest and some open meadows and a few big Views To the West.

If you come visit the Swampland, I'll take you too.

Who's in?