It’s Only Two Weeks Away from the Red Mud, and I was Gutted

Completely gutted. Now, there are worse places to come home to than spectacularly beautiful Vancouver Island, and so complaining is a bit like bitching that your Lamborghini is the wrong colour. And yet, there I was, bitching.

I’m better now.  It’ll only be two weeks, and BC is gorgeous, and being home with Wayde is lovely, and the Fred horse and the Alf horse are here.

The past weeks in PEI have seen Pai and me riding at South Granville, and again at Thunder Cove – where, while it wouldn’t be accurate to say that she was keen to get her little desert-horse feet wet, she did manage to avoid a full-on freak-out at the surf, and waded in up to her elbows.

Trout River, near Millvale, South Granville area

Let it be said that even though an adventurous attitude can be an admirable thing, heading out without at least a vague plan of the lay of the land means you can wind up in some sub-optimal riding locations. My bucolic randonnée along tree-lined clay roads in South Granville ended up on Hwy 224 just east of Stanley Bridge – not precisely a relaxing lane. Luckily, Pai’s only real trail-horse shortcoming is a grave mistrust of changes in footing (pink sand to red sand, grass to asphalt, grass to grass that has seaweed on it…), which meant that even though the white road markings at Cavendish Corner were clearly horse-gobbling devils, the speeding cars* and rumbling transport trucks that passed us on the highway barely merited a flick of the ear.

*Re speeding cars:  I have quickly learned to identify out-of-province vehicles without looking at the plates, by the fact that they will slow down when they pass me, and give me room. For whatever reason (is it possible that all Island horses are stunningly well-broke?), it does not seem to cross the mind of PEI drivers that there is a wee possibility that given their, um, quirky nature, the odd horse may careen into traffic step off the shoulder, creating the same (but antler-less) kind of havoc hinted at by those giant moose warning signs.

Thanks to the Jesus phone and Google maps, we quickly found our way back to the peaceful, shady dirt roads, and all was well, despite the fact that an intended two-hour ride clocked in at over three and a half hours. Meh – it was a beautiful day.

We also, finally, a couple days before I left, went swimming. Two days prior, I had gotten myself a second-hand synthetic saddle, and was ready to roll. The tide was in, and Pai was unruffled at the idea of wading around with water up to her chin, and so it took little more encouragement to send her out over her depth. My cousin Alan has pictures he took from his deck, which I’ll post if I get the chance.

I popped in to the track paddock area a few times on race night, in Summerside and in Charlottetown. I hovered around, unbuckling the odd bit of harness and lugging the odd bit of gear.

Tobins Knockout

Tobins Knockout is #6

Horses coming off the track, Summerside.

Alan’s horse Tobin’s Knockout had a couple of disappointing nights, but my friend Frank’s horse Ankaway had a winning trip.

While I’m in BC for a couple of weeks, Pai is safely settled under Frank’s care at Valley Downs racetrack in Tyne Valley, where she is odd man out in a sea of bay Standardbreds. She had a quick visit to the track a few days back, when the farrier Dean came by to give her a pedicure, and she witnessed a horse in harness for the first time in her life. She found the sight to be utterly appalling. She saw another one go out again a couple of nights ago, and she still didn’t know what to make of it.

Pai at Valley Downs

Trevor and kids came by the track last night for a visit. While Jae was gung-ho and ready to hop on Pai’s back, Julian was wisely cautious when faced with a gigantic new creature, and was very, very concerned when she showed her teeth in a massive yawn.

The horrifying yawn.

Look at all those teeth!

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Riding on the Beach

I think that cantering along a sandy ocean beach is something that is on every rider’s To Do list. In fact, I know quite a few non-horsey people who swoon to the image of themselves splashing through the surf on the back of a beautiful steed. I’m no exception, and, despite Pai’s Arab-y squeamishness about getting her toes wet, I decided to make the dream come true this afternoon.

I’d spent yesterday afternoon scouting out likely beaches along the North Shore between Cavendish and Darnley, with little success – the beaches were either too short to be satisfying, or had no easy access on horseback. The last place I checked out was at the end of County Line Road, and I hit the jackpot. It’s got over 2 km of sandy shoreline – more if the tide is fully out – and easy access from the road.

Short end of the beach.

Long end of the beach.

As I was saddling up at the top of County Line Road, a car pulled up and a gal approached me and started chatting away. Turns out she had me confused for someone she was expecting, named Joanne. She introduced herself as Tanya, and she invited me, next time I was at the beach, to park right up by her cottages along the dunes.

In the late afternoon, there were still a few people on the sand, but most of them gradually wandered back to their cottages while we were there, until we had an almost empty beach to ride along.

Pai was as reluctant as ever to approach the horse-eating waves – so gentle and tiny that they couldn’t even be called “surf” – and so we spent the first saunter down the beach hugging the dunes well away from the horse-eating waves. On the trip back down the beach, we got a little closer. We had a trot, and a canter. And then, happily, we ran into Joanne, who was wading and swimming with her gelding. Pai managed to overcome her horror of the waves in order to hang out with this new boyfriend (although she did perform some unexpected leaps over approaching waves – turns out taking your horse to the beach is a good way to develop a more secure seat). I was dying to go for a swim, but the ritzy dressage saddle with cell phone in the saddle bag put the kibosh on that idea.

Before we got close to the water, I started chatting to a couple who commented on Pai’s loveliness. When I said I was from BC, the woman said, “You’re not in Ellerslie, are you?” I said I was.  Turned out she was my cousin Alan’s wife Carol’s sister Janice with her husband Terry, who had been witness to Pai’s prison-break gallop around the hayfield the day we arrived. Janice had been thinking that this horse on the beach looked like the horse she’d seen running around like a wild thing that night, but that horse looked so much more fiery. And so much bigger.  (See – I said she was looking like a pale version of the black stallion, didn’t I?)

Janice issued a dinner invite, which I may just take her up on by dragging my Standardbred-loving cousin Alan up there with me on a date.

I’ve also got Joanne’s contact info, so with any luck, we will get together for some trail rides together. And there’s no question that I will be back to this fabulous beach.

I got back to the barn just as the sun was setting over a mirror-still river. By the time I unloaded my gear and got down to the cottage, this is what I was lucky enough to see:

Moonrise over Pai’s barn.

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