Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Wendy Copp rides into Woodstock

I rode into the Woodstock region on July 3 and was immediately impressed with its horse friendliness. Besides the very excellent trail system they have around those parts, in choice places along the road someone has stationed beautiful water troughs. While Jolie and I rested beneath a tree in a very rich pasture, a fancy carriage drove by pulled by a pair of Oldenburgs, and as we made our way toward our night's destination we came upon a fellow in a cart driving his Morgan. We chatted for a bit and his eyebrows flew up in his head when I told him where I was staying for the night.... A woman from the Vermont Horse Council had arranged for me to stay with someone named Steve Leninski, who I learned was quite a controversial figure in town. He's a Ukrainian fellow in his 70's- an avid polo player who decided that he wanted to make a polo field on the mountain behind his house -- so he proceeded to dynamite the top off until it was flat enough to play on -- this took a whole year! Among other things he told me that the way to cure a horse from biting is to stick road kill in its mouth. The way to cure colic - give the animal a mixture of diesel oil and garlic. When his daughter was learning to drive, he jumped his horse over her moving vehicle. In any case he was a great character and a gracious host, who has permanent for sale signs on everything inside and outside of the house....

I stayed in the Woodstock area for five days, spending one night outside under the first clear skies in weeks, and one night in an incredibly outfitted barn and a few nights with Gina Lancaster who was my tour guide in the region. We rode up to the top of Mount Tom in the Marsh Billings Park, where horses are welcome and where Jolie had an unexpected attack of terror after staring down at the town below. Suddenly out of nowhere she wheeled around and took off with me down the trail. It was a good half mile before she settled down again. Was she in a rush to go shopping? Did she want to get her hair done? What?

Over the July 4th weekend we finally began to get a string of dry days, and so everywhere farmers set to work cutting hay (I learned that years ago July 4th was the traditional time to cut hay here -- I guess before mechanization -- now in a good year its normal to get 3 cuts). So the smell of grass was in the air and in every field there were wind rows or wagons being loaded with bales. It's a relief to see the hay piling up because we've all been worried that there would be no horse hay available this year. Corn is another matter. I've seen only one good field in all my traveling- most have scrawny plants or no plants at all -- which is why they've declared a state of emergency for the farmers here. The early rains just ruined everything.

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