Sunday, 21 September 2014

My New Horse Arrives

I had been keeping an eye out for a second horse to alternate with Lady as a riding/pack horse, as she is really too small to cope with both me and my baggage.  Among other potential mounts, I had seen a pretty little paint mare on Facebook and Kijiji, but she was a little smaller than I ideally wanted and her price was outside my budget. However, when I came out to Canada in September she was still available and her price had been reduced to something I could consider.  After trying her out I decided to have her, and on Sunday 14th September owner Barb Thompson delivered her up to Spruce Hollow Corral.  Apache Delusion, or Del for short (appropriately Del means pretty in Welsh!) is a 14 year old 14.1hh registered tobiano paint mare who has bred a couple of foals and was being used as a lesson horse. Here she is making friends with Lady over the stable door.
Shandi's husband Jeremy came to the rescue earlier in the day when I realised I had left some of the cash to for her in the truck in Amherst. Jeremy kindly ran me down to the ATM in Moncton. This was particularly public spirited of him as he was off to a pulling competition with his pair of majestic Belgian draft horses Peanut and Butter.  Pulling competitions in New Brunswick are not some sort of speed dating, but knock out contests in which pairs of draft horses are asked to pull increasing weights for twelve feet.  Here is Jeremy tarting up Peanut, or is it Butter, for the fray...
Shandi arrived back from a successful trip to a Western show later that afternoon, and I was able to cadge a lift from a fellow competitor to Amherst to fetch the truck which contained all my packing equipment.  

We gatecrash a party

The Moncton section of the Trans Canada Trail is beautifully kept, and it was a delight to be able to use it on the morning of Saturday 13th September.  Skeins of geese honked overhead as Lady and I made our way along the marshland which borders the Petitcodiac river. 
I stopped on the edge of Moncton to have a coffee and an egg muffin and withdraw some more money before tackling the bridges of Moncton.   This very stylish one on the waterside walkway....

...and this rather scarier version on a boardwalk on the far side....
None designed for horse traffic I fear, but no-one seemed to mind.  Desperate to obey the call of nature, I had passed quite a few little grey sheds along the trail when I suddenly realised they were biological toilets thoughtfully provided by the Greater Moncton Sewerage Commission...

...even Lady seems to taken the hint.
I was just thinking it was time to find somewhere to rest and graze Lady when I saw a beautiful old barn surrounded by green grass - and on cue a young woman appeared and asked me if I would to stop and rest my horse!   Chris and medical marijuana grower Sarah were in the throes of holding a sixth birthday party for son Thomas but found time to guide Lady to a grassy spot and provide me with a welcome bottle of beer. 

 Fortified by the welcome rest, we soon reached our ultimate goal of Spruce Hollow Corral in the hills above Moncton. Shandi Mitton who runs the centre was away at a competition, but mother Gail fed me pizza and let me make use of her luxurious shower to wash away the grime of two days on the road in the heat.

We Sleep in an Outside Toilet

The family (minus husband Peter who had left for work, and Naomi) were out again in force to see me off on the morning of Friday 12th September...
...but it was not long before they saw me again as I had ridden down the road for half an hour when I realised I had left my maps behind - aaarrgghh
I was surprised at how quiet and unspoiled the back roads in this part of New Brunswick are..
I had expected to find an ATM en route in Memramcook to withdraw more money to purchase the new horse, but the local garage only had a mini ATM which did not accept my Nat West card. "There's a bank five minutes away" the shop attendant informed me - rather unhelpfully as she meant five minutes by car, not the hour it would take me - the trials of travelling by horse.  A group of local rednecks drinking in the store were singularly unresponsive to my plight, but thankfully a French couple took pity on me and gave me a lift.
In late afternoon I arrived at Fox Creek near Moncton and decided to stop here for the night.  No convenient barns (as I was concerned about mosquitoes so near the Petitcodiac river)  but I found an abandoned house plastered in No Trespassing signs. The neighbours assured me they never saw anyone there, so I tethered Lady in the garden, and when the expected mosquitoes descended at dusk we both retreated to an outhouse I had scouted out ...........
..evidently an outside toilet judging by the seating on the right hand side. 

Into New Brunswick

Thursday 11th September, and after several last minute international phone calls to my bank I was able to get away.  Many thanks to Gillian VanSnick for hosting us for the extra day while I sorted out my finances.  A rather ethereal photo of Gillian as I later discovered she had her eyes closed in both the photos I took..........

The Trans Canada highway from Nova Scotia to New Brunswick crosses the Missaguash valley beyond Amherst on an elevated carriageway impassable for horses.  The only other option, if one wants to avoid a considerable detour to the north, is a small road crossing the marshes.
So it was a bit of a setback to find that there had been a road collapse which Lady was initially unwilling to negotiate.  However, after taking off all her kit and commandeering a local to encourage her from behind, she walked across with no trouble - a fuss about nothing!..................

Then it was a lovely ride across the marshes to cross the Missaguash river into New Brunswick....
..before encountering our first covered bridge......
Lady was not so sure, and I had to lead her through.
We stopped for a welcome rest and refreshment in Aulac with Tracy Allen.  I had nowhere sorted out for the night, so I was very pleased when I got talking to local resident Paula in Upper Sackville, and she phoned a friend who lived directly on our route.  Lori used to work at Cloverdale Stables in Newfoundland, and greeted us at the entrance to her house with family retinue of Leah, Reuben, Silas and Naomi.  Lady was tethered in the garden, though she retreated to an old shed when the mosquitoes suddenly emerged from the forest (and I thought they had all gone!) and  I was able to make use of a lovely basement flat - much better than a tent on a rainy night!

Seen in Amherst .. I suppose comments about Australian buses are inevitable  ..

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Delayed in Amherst

Lady was not the only one to feel sad at leaving Folly Farm on Monday, but it was a glorious ride through Oxford and up over the Leicester Ridge ....... West Leicester, pronounced Lyesester here in Nova Scotia - I find it quite difficult to remember not to say Lesster!
Here we were put up by the genial Norma Tower and her partner Bill Carter.  Lady had a pile of hay in the barn while I feasted on stew with chow (green tomato pickle) and apple crisp (crumble) with blueberry ice-cream.  You may notice that blueberries feature heavily on the menu in these parts, not surprising in view of the fact that the little town of Oxford claims to be 'Blueberry capital of the World'
Norma, Bill and camera shy cocker spaniel Rascal.  They also had two superb Percheron geldings.
 It was a relatively short morning ride into Amherst, where we were kindly being hosted by Gillian VanSnick-Daniels and farrier husband Justin at Gillian's VS equestrian centre.  Gillian has worked and trained in the UK and now mainly trains warm bloods to sell on, so Lady has been in very exalted company
I suppose it was only a matter of time before I ran into the inevitable setbacks, and the latest has been that I found myself unable to withdraw cash from my bank accounts - a disaster when in the process of buying a second horse and booked in for urgent dental treatment in Amherst.

 It has meant that I did not make it to New Brunswick today as planned, but I did have the opportunity to drive down to the Petitcodiac river estuary yesterday afternoon.  The one piece of information about Nova Scotia that has stayed with me since my school days is the fact that the Bay of Fundy has the greatest tidal range in the world.  Tidal water is funnelled up the long narrow bay to form 50foot tides. And I was not disappointed - here you can see the huge mud banks exposed on the sides of the river by the falling tide.
Amazing to think that only six hours before, the sea water was up to the level of the grass where I am standing.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

To the Blueberry Capital

 Gillian met me at Moncton airport on September 4th after a flight in an old twin propeller plane from Montreal, and we drove back to Folly Farm, stopping en route to pick up my truck which had been fitted with a new battery.   Lady was looking very content and sleek after her summer break with the haflingers - umpteen thanks to Gillian for looking after her so well.
Gillian had arranged Lady's summer quarters so she had access to a grassy field and also to a fenced off section of the indoor riding school to escape the biting insects.  They have all but gone now, though there are still plenty of flies around, but in comparison to the nippers these do not trouble the horses at all.
Thursday was spent sorting out arrangements, and on Friday I spent a long day driving around to look at potential second horses to alternate with Lady as riding/pack horse. 
Yesterday I made a tentative start on the next leg when Gillian and I rode 25kms from the farm along quiet gravel back roads to the outskirts of the small town of Oxford.
Setting out across the Wallace River....
We paused to chat with neighbour and recent immigrant from the UK Charlotte (whose husband Huw is Welsh!) before a scenic if windy ride through Nova Scotian countryside.....

... stopping to picnic on tea and blueberry grunt in a grassy meadow...
Blueberry grunt is a traditional Nova Scotian blueberry and dumpling dish originating from Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, an area settled by German immigrants.  You can see my ample portion in the foreground and I can testify to the fact that I grunted in satisfaction.
Gillian's husband Nigel and son Robert brought the trailer over to fetch us from Oxford, and Nigel will drop me and Lady back there tomorrow to make a proper start.
Not the only town in Canada to make this claim!

Summer break