Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Fair Hill Freebee: A Legend

The night we confirmed that Charlie would, in fact, require surgery, I was sitting at home in the dark (oh did I mention my house lost power for a couple days bc of a bad service line? that was fun) drinking warm beer (see aforementioned "no power" comment) when an occasional ship-in OF lesson mate texted me.

boyd is scott's young dufus special snowflake competition horse
Scott happens to be, among other things, a volunteer mounted park ranger. He's got a certified horse for this purpose, and also his younger up and coming show horse.

freebee, meanwhile, looks like he's seen the light and found god
This nascent event horse Boyd.... Well. He needs some mileage lol. So Scott is hoping to get him out more and more often, exposing him to all that the local parks have to offer.

fox hunting and old school eventing. these stickers basically define freebee in a nutshell
The park of choice, naturally, being Fair Hill. A GIANT park filled with trails of all sorts - from broad smooth blue stone lanes, carriage trails, and single tracks in the woods. Plus bridges, tunnels, water crossings, and sights of all sorts.

omg these horses tho lol
I've only ever trail ridden at Fair Hill once before for a hunter pace -- and we got hopelessly lost lol. But it's a gorgeous venue, home to all sorts of events from endurance rides and combined driving events, as well as being home to the upcoming Fair Hill International CCI 3* and 2* events (and omg the future 4*!!).

it was constant. constantly adorable too
So there I was sitting in the dark drinking warm beer when Scott texted me to ask if I'd accompany him on a ride to get his young horse out. During which, naturally, Scott offered me the ride on his other horse, 22yo OTTB Freebee.

freebee. dude. plz do not lock onto any advanced jumps during our hack!!
Freebee. Yes, let's talk about this horse for a moment. He is a special horse.

giant corner
Many years ago, after finishing his career on the track (with something like 39 starts) Freebee ended up a Sally Cousins reject. She was not optimistic about his prospects and after not being able to get him through training level, Sally told Scott he could have the horse. Gave the horse to him for free. Thus, Freebee.

table house-y things!
What unfolded next turned out to be somewhat legendary for the partnership. They stepped back from eventing to instead ride with basically all the local hunts in Maryland. Freebee dutifully stood in as Scott's whipper in staff horse when his other fox hunters needed breaks. The stories Scott told me about some of what they did together while hunting.... fucking bad. ass.

we spent a while cogitating this line
After a while tho, Scott decided to test the eventing waters again with Freebee after so much time away hunting. The time off proved to be exactly what the doctor ordered, and the pair clicked as eventing partners.

apparently the water elements are kept as dry as possible in between events - who knew??
They quickly reached prelim, with at least one 1* run thrown in there. (naturally, with the occasional school over something massive from the intermediate and advanced courses at Fair Hill bc why not).

those little log arrow skinny wedge thingys are mind boggling to me
Eventually Freebee's career as a jumping horse came to an end, so he moved right on along to being a dressage school master - showing competitively at 3rd level and schooling 4th (tho sadly they just missed out on getting Scott's bronze medal).

ducks!!!
Leading us to present time, where Freebee is mostly retired with occasional mounted park ranger duties. And, apparently, the occasional duty to haul one Emma around Fair Hill while his brother learns how to not spaz out about bridges.

fair hill ruins!
And guys - it was awesome. Freebee is hot shit and he knows it.

we crossed many many bridges of all flavors. you can see two in this pic alone
I haven't really ridden many horses with advanced training or experience. Actually - I can count on one hand the number of seriously schooled or accomplished horses I've had the privilege of sitting on:
- Pig, Austen's 4th level dressage horse
- Rico, Megan's Grand Prix dressage horse
- Lion, trainer Dan's 1* event horse

das wata!
And Freebee just oozed class. At 22 years young, he was bouncy and jiggy (but with oh-so-much suspension, Isabel's jig ain't got shit on Freebee's!) and spooking at teensy yellow butterflies when we first set out. But ever the gentleman, he would halt like a statue if I asked.

this moment immediately preceded boyd tripping, spooking himself, and nearly eating shit. ahh memories!
And so we proceeded to basically float and flit (and occasionally spook sideways or jig in place) across the grounds of Fair Hill.

another bridge!
This horse was so cool - he was clearly SO HAPPY OMG to be out doing things. And especially to be the brave experienced horse leading the way over hill and dale, bridge and tunnel, stream and wooded path.

i actually crossed this one with isabel back during our ill-fated fair hill hunter pace last year
And it was honestly soooo refreshing to ride a horse acutely aware of each of his feet at every passing moment - a horse who knew how to read the ground at speed and place his feet accordingly.

sometimes boyd led too
Actually - more than anything else, it reminded me of riding Isabel again. At least in how he handled and moved. Emotionally he was maybe more Pig than Isabel lol (and I may or may not have texted Austen immediately after to let her know I had just ridden the bay version of her horse haha), but damn what a cool horse.

oooh more advanced jumps!
Additionally, it was pretty freaking cool to see the Fair Hill grounds with the eyes and guidance of an actual park ranger. Scott knows these grounds inside and out, and everything in between.

here scott casually discusses proper strategy for approaching this style fence
Not only did he know all the current trail systems and how they crissed and crossed (including where every single bridge, tunnel and water crossing lay), but also knew where the older versions were too, and which storms or natural disasters took them out.

arena jumps set for FHI!
Including riding through wide open fields where he could point out otherwise easily missed variations in the topography that had been used for 3* events long past. Pointing out swales where once big combinations used to be, or the ruins of some other jump complex. Plus naturally all the stories of which riders had wrecked there lol.

a tunnel!!!
Actually - the company for this ride was just as awesome as the horse (probably not a coincidence lol) and I drove home texting Brita and Rachael that 10/10 we must do this again. Preferably with all our horses (tho obvi I'll take a ride on Freebee any day if the opportunity arises while Charlie recovers).

then another tunnel!
For as much as I love the rigors of training and competing, days like this spent hacking out over whatever the ground may put in front of us are so so so fun.

what a day :)
And getting to hack out on such a cool horse... well. It definitely helps make me feel a little better about where things stand with my own leading unicorn.

On one hand, I'm heavy hearted about Charlie's injury, treatment and recovery. But... on the other, I'm seriously excited by the idea of looking forward to getting him out onto these trails eventually! All in good time, right?

43 comments:

  1. That looks a wonderful day and just what you needed!

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    1. It was definitely what the doctor ordered! Love fair hill <3

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  2. Love it! I wanna meet Pig's bay emotional twin. Lol!

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    1. Ha you just might get that chance - he'll be volunteering at FHI!!!

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  3. Freebee sounds like a blast, so cool that you got to ride him! (and benefit from Scott's vast knowledge of the property). What a fun experience :)

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    1. It was a great day for sure - everything turned out a bit better than I had expected!

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  4. What a bright spot and wonderful horse! So handsome too :)

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    1. He was super good looking - tall dark and handsome just the way I like them!

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  5. So fun! And I know that ring and tunnel and bridge from when I've groomed at the 2/3*!

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    1. And totally wth, you not having power?! I'm assuming you have it back now!

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    2. Omg the power situation was ridiculous but at least they resolved the issue sooner than expected (they had expected a week lol). And yea it was so cool to hack out all along the same places in fair hill used for all the big events too!

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  6. What a great day on a super cool horse! And I'm out of it - I missed where you had confirmed the big guy has to have surgery. I'm so sorry! Duke and I are sending healing thoughts to Charlie!

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    1. Thank you! We confirmed he needed surgery with the X-rays - we found a fracture and given the massive infection of cellulitis and the fact that the fracture was abscessing, it was pretty clear this injury wasn't interested in healing nicely on its own. Sigh.

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  7. omg that looks sooooo fun!!!! and we DEFINITELY need to go. id like to go with scott too tbh, i love old school eventers.

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    1. yea seriously - scott actually has been trying to get a formal ride set up where rangers lead tours through the grounds, but i told him that even if he can't get that scheduled, that my friends and i would DEFINITELY want to do something like that with him!

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  8. What an amazing opportunity to ride that ground with someone so knowledgeable. Soaking up all that history would be so cool.

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    1. totally agreed - this area is so so rich in history but i feel like i know so little of it. getting that insider look was pretty cool!

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  9. That place looks just incredible! Perfect timing for a pick-me-up pony ride on a seriously cool horse :)

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    1. fair hill is fantastic - there's so much there, and it's so giant! definitely a good pick-me-up ;)

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  10. So much fun! Glad you got to get out and about to experience this.

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    1. thanks me too - i'm eager to get out again!

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  11. not sure what i hate most at FH the over the road bridges (Remus could care less but they stress me out) or the under the road tunnels (Remus is not a fan of those and scoots through them.

    I love Fair Hill, it is such a great ride. I hope to ride with you all sometime there for a long ass trail ride :)

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    1. yessss we need to do something like this again, it was a great time! sorry you could make it this time but definitely soon!

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    2. We need HELP HELP HELP with the over the road bridges! Well, also some of the other bridges (I think we've mastered the bridge now as well as others with a confident lead). But the tunnels we were fine with?

      I'd steal Sam but I think I'd need a new trailer for 18 hands of massive...

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    3. charlie has actually seen quite a few wooden bridges already and i don't expect that anything we saw on this trail would have slowed him down... but i guess ya never know! i'm eager to get him out there he's just gotta recover first! but yea one way or another there will be a horse in the group who can provide that confident lead!

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  12. Aaaaaa! That's so cool! What an amazing horse. Sometimes they just need a change or someone who gets them, or just does a different program.

    Hope there are more Freebee adventures!!

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    1. yea he's definitely a cool horse and he and Scott have had one hell of a lifetime's worth of fun together! i'm not sure when or if i'll get to ride the horse again, but the opportunity is there should all my ducks get in a row!

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  13. Wow! What a ride! Sounds like a great experience :)

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    1. definitely, i love trail riding!

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  14. What a cool experience!! Just sitting on a horse like that is a privilege. :-)

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    1. yea seriously! and Freebee seemed to be fully aware of that fact lol

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  15. Wow! I see a trip to MD in P's and my future

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    1. i may be biased, but i think maryland is pretty great ;)

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  16. Hmm mounted park ranger.. that sounds like a career choice I can get behind.

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  17. OMG that looks AMAZING! I wish we had a park like that near me. I grew up trail riding all the time, and I miss it like crazy. I don't even know if Rio has ever been on a trail before actually. I am seriously so bummed for you and Charlie though :( :(. Having just been through a splint fracture surgery and being finally at the tail end of the recovery period, I cannot empathize enough. Hopefully everything goes smoothly though and it's a quick recovery and you can put these splint problems behind you. So many hugs and good vibes being sent your way!

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    1. thanks, i know it's been a long road for you and Rio too. but knowing that you've been able to bring Rio along in his recovery even when he had stubbornly healing wounds has given me hope that charlie will likewise keep getting better and better!

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  18. What a special ride on an incredible horse! I'm definitely down to join in if you'll have me! Crossing everything for a speedy recovery for Charlie!

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    1. yea we definitely need to get a group together, it was a lot of fun!

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  19. I hope you get more rides on this Freebee guy, what a cool horse to sit on. And what a great friend too! He does sound like a bad ass. And I hope Mr. Charles recovers in no time flat, and you'll be out there with your own boy eyeing those advanced jumps!

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  20. Freebee sounds like such a classy guy!! And those trails are amazing - we have nothing like that here!

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  21. Sounds like it was exactly what you needed!! And sounds so incredibly awesome!! It was like your own personal tour of Fair Hill. I'm SO jealous!!

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  22. Um well this sounds like THE BEST TRAIL RIDE EVER!! Is Scott the friendly guy who stopped by your trailer at the last FH show? He seems like a total gem of a friend!

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