The Hills are Alive…with the Sound of Hoof Beats


Valerian Mist

Valerian Mist, Mountain Mare

Duncan has always had a weird presumption about the ground beneath his feet, which is that it won’t dare to vary without his consent. Let’s just say that unlike my cat-footed young gaited mare in the Appalachians–who occasionally saved my life with her sure-footedness in challenging ground–I don’t make any assumptions of Duncan.   And for the past many years, Duncan has been on fairly flat ground. Some slope, but evenly done. The occasional trail ride in a distant cinder cone foothill with narrow switchback trails he had no idea how to handle–

(NO, horse, you do not obsess about flinging one lone fly off your head when navigating a hairpin turn to a narrow down trail on a steep slope!)

He, he assures me, exists for loftier things than watching his feet.

Well, let’s just say he’s learning better.

This winter (mudmudmud), his riding ring was the mile loop of dirt road that climbs up out of the ridge-nestled bowl in which we live, flattens briefly as it curves around, and then strafes down to the cross-road that feeds in from the outer world. It’s not so steep that you instantly go, “Wow, that’s straight up!” But those of us who have biked it or driven it in slick snow have a very good idea of its slope.

So does Duncan, now. Just as he’s had a few forays into the gorgeous nearby trails that wind up and around the ridges here, with their ditches, mini-arroyos, scattered rocks and boulders, and a few places where all those things are combined on short but “gee, I hope my saddle doesn’t slide off his butt/off his neck” inclines.

(Note: yes, one day I WILL dig out those old pictures, Mona Rethia!)

Add in his pasture–a flat north area, a flat south area littered with agility equipment, and the mild arroyo connecting them between–and oh yes. Duncan is learning to respect the ground.

Not without lessons to learn–he has a particular problem with deep, narrow ditches, in which he doesn’t seem to perceive the drop–but a little experience should help with that.  Er, I hope.

More than that, the hills are s taking an aging horse whose long-term stifle issues were getting the best of him, and turning him into a horse who knows how to balance himself going up or going down, in all three gaits, with or without rider. The work is building muscle and flexibility…and it’s taken years off his frame in the four months we’ve been here.

DuncanHorse: Nineteen years of Lipizzan, learning to be young again.

Did I say Yay!..?


Up out of the arroyo...

About Doranna

My books are SF/F, mystery, paranormal romance, and romantic suspense. My dogs are Beagles, my home is the Southwest, and the horse wants a cookie!
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14 Responses to The Hills are Alive…with the Sound of Hoof Beats

  1. That’s a beautiful picture of Duncan. Funny, but today’s entry is tying together in my mind a newspaper article I just read in the local on-line paper about a woman’s “rethinking menopause” and celebrating a pivotal change in the life of a woman and my own wonder at how life keeps getting better (so far, at least), the farther into it I get. Me and Duncan growing in grace. 🙂

    • Doranna says:

      What a neat thought!

      I sure think it would be good to reposition the whole menopause thing, myself…why set ourselves up to dread?

  2. Robert says:

    My advice to Duncan is “it’s never to late to have a happy childhood(colthood or whatever).”

  3. Doranna says:

    I think he’s having a very good time! 8)

  4. Tori Lennox says:

    I want to give DuncanHorse a kiss on the nose! 🙂

  5. Doranna says:

    Hey, Tori–I’m about to go let him out into the pasture, so I can pass that along!

  6. Patty says:

    What an awesome photo!

  7. Doranna says:

    8) Isn’t he a cutie? Er, I mean, manfully handsome? (I swear, he just gave me a baleful look as he headed past the office with some purpose, heading to the north flat…)

  8. Elizabeth says:

    An old article I read somewhere (isn’t it great how good I am at cites???) talked about how some breeders of jumpers and sport horses deliberately raise the young in rough pastures and set up obstacles on their usual paths to the barn, etc. The young horses then develop surefootedness, though the owners may have heart a heart attack when they see their spindle-legged foals and yearlings hippity hopping gaily through rocks and branches, etc. Ranchers in the Hill Country insist that only horses raised on rock make good “rock horses.” They learn to climb in all directions, up, down, and sideways, recover from slips on slickrock, etc.

    I’m guessing that Duncan spent his foalhood/young life on relatively flat pastures. I can’t believe a horse that smart was a slow learner.

    Love the pictures.

  9. Doranna says:

    Duncan was on some hilly trails in the southern tier of NYS, but nothing like what’s here, or even the cinder foothills in Flag. His pastures have always been flat that I know of.

    Whereas my mare was raised and kept on Xtreme Pasture, without any flat at all, except for the winding paths carved out the hillside. She was four before she had enough ground to learn to balance a canter (but her gaits were heavenly, and she could run-walk a storm!).

    No, Duncan’s not a slow learner. He’s really just not ever had to deal with ditches, etc, before. 8)

  10. Robert says:

    “He’s really just not ever had to deal with ditches…. before.” may I borrow that line, there’s a story just waiting in the back of my brain to meet up with that as a punch line.

  11. Mom says:

    That is a beautiful picture of Duncan and his territory. See you soon.

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