DINGLEY MAZE PARADISE
Thursday April 19 2007
Dingley Maze is the name of the main Castlebar Farm property. The name Dingley comes from a valley in England, and there’s a maze of valleys here. Or so the story goes. While Meg is gone for the week, and Chris pops in and out, the business of a big horse farm rolls along daily: feeding, exercising, breaking, riding, trimming, cleaning stalls.
Andrew is the current breaker. He’s got a farm, but farming is getting difficult now with the bad drought, so he commutes 160 km a day to come out here and work with the youngsters. He prefers stock horses himself, but he respects the Arabians. “People think they’re dumb, but they’re not. They’re smart. They’re always thinking of ways to get you. If you heavy hand them, they’ll give it right back to you.” He breaks the horses in at the Glen, then brings them over to Dingley Maze, rides them for the girls, then rides them with the girls, to make sure everybody is comfortable riding them.
With this many horses, there’s always horses to trim and shoe. This week Jeremy, and sometimes Mark, have been systematically going through paddocks of horses scattered throughout Dingley Maze and the Glen trimming, while the girls catch and hold the horses and comb out their manes and tails and drench (worm) them. One day I watched them go through a group of about two dozen 4-year-olds; one day a group of coming-2-year-olds.
And there's always horses to ride: I’ve had the pleasure of getting on one or two a day. The Raven rode twice! Favorite horse? Difficult to choose... but if you pick by names, how can you not like a horse named Demon? Which was my favorite ride? Hard to say… all were enjoyable no matter how long or short they were; all were beautiful rides to my eyes, whether we were up high with views or down low just following a logging road through the forest, the horses were all fun in their own way, and the company was always excellent.
One day we did a good long 2 ½ hour ride for some of the fit working horses. We started up a long uphill climb through the forest, then up on top we wound around the maze of logging roads (? That's what I'd call them, but I don't think the eucalyptus are harvested, at least not in this area), trotting, cantering the flats and uphills, walking the downhills. It was mostly eucalyptus forests, with a few areas of pine trees. Nasari was tough, chugging right on up the hills like they were nothing, wanting to get ahead - he just wanted to GO! He has a lovely canter. There was one long uphill stretch, about a mile or so, that we just cantered along up the gradual climb, and while I could hear the other horses huffing and puffing behind me, and dropping further back, Nasari didn’t seem to be breathing at all, and he left them behind with his easy rocking chair canter. I was in dreamland bliss or something on my horse, because apparently a wallaby hopped across the road right in front of us, spooked the other girls’ horses, and I didn’t even see it! I think the Raven did though. I can’t believe I missed it! But no matter because man, what a great ride that was.
We were in and beside a state park, so all of this was state forest land, all nice footing and few rocks. Even though it hasn’t rained in ages, it wasn’t dusty. Once we started back downhill, we eventually got to a steep road where we had to go over a bunch of downed trees that had fallen over the road from controlled burns. Nasari doesn’t step over anything, he jumps, and he likes to turn on the gas as he’s going downhill. Yeehaw! Much to my dismay, I had these big thick rope reins, and I put my gloves on for most of the downhill because I’d already rubbed a few holes in my fingers!
What a great ride! It wasn’t too hot, and on the last bit coming home, we got a strong breeze for a while. It felt good and it eventually cleared the air a bit of the persistent smoke always hanging in the air, though the fires are still going pretty well on that one mountain in the not-so-distance.
Then there was the day of the Reserve ride - a group of us just cantering a couple of miles on the side of the road and back, and I had this great little gray gelding Deviate that had this great Go attitude, and he was push-button to ride. Miles of lively cantering past scarey cows and screeching cockatoos (and over cockatoo feathers - somebody had a cockatoo for lunch). Always the cockatoos everywhere - flocks of them! Wildlife spotted besides the ubiquitous parrots (never get tired of them) were a wedge-tailed eagle, a kookaburra (!! This one was just sitting by the acorn tree inhabited by green and red parrots), a marmot, a black snake, a deer; and the Raven and everybody else saw a wallaby. Oh, and flocks of kangaroos at night time in a pasture of a nearby resort, where they probably throw food out for them.
Another highlight of the day is bringing the 2 foals into the barn in the evening. The little chestnut filly tore her mouth apart in a ghastly wound (really glad I didn’t see that one, or the Before pictures) months ago - you can’t tell anything happened it healed so well. The little bay is an orphan and she’s so sociable. She likes to investigate everything on the way into the barn; today she was sniffing the saddles so Chris threw a saddle pad on her. It about swallowed her up it was so big, and she just stood there sniffing the saddle like she wanted that too!
I’m going along to an endurance ride this weekend with Christy and 3 of the horses. I asked Jeremy how far away it was, and he said “It’s close.” How close? “7 or 8 hours.” Close! To me, close is 2 hours. Not so in Australia! I’ll be sleeping in a Swag. Stay tuned for that!
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