Friday, September 30, 2016

choose your own adventure

The days are getting too short. Time is speeding faster and faster, so I'm fitting in all the rides and adventures I can. What will you join me on? Choose from Ten Buzzard Ride, Canteriffic Sand Pits, Vet Visit, or Early Exploring.

What? you don't choose the vet visit?

Vet Visit Luckily, it was uneventful. I wanted the doc to give me the all clear on Major's large splint. Poked and prodded, trotted out completely sound, (all after a 10 mile ride the day before, which I did as a diagnostic). I also had the vet weigh Major on the big scale, as I think he's a bit...chunky, right now.

probably should stop the snacks

ok, maybe we're not this bad…yet

1070 pounds. Vet thought he was fine at Major's height of 15.3, just a little bit fat, nothing more exercise can't fix. So with the all clear, we're ready for increased adventures!

Major thinks there is something suspicious up the hill

Yes, Major can read! This ranch adjacent to the vet has flying pigs!

Ten Buzzard Ride Evening rides are squeezed between getting off work and the encroaching dark. Often I take no photos, and just enjoy horse and forest time. But finding the high point in the forest and seeing the lake view with eight circling turkey vultures (and two sitting on the rock), it stopped us in our tracks. (I had read earlier that more than 20,000 turkey vultures pass through California on their migration from Washington state south to Mexico every September. Here was a small group. How cool. Another random fact: A group of flying turkey vultures is called a a kettle!)

Canteriffic Sand Pits Working on our listening skills (OK, Major's listening skills) we worked on trot, walk, whoa, back, trot, mixing it up for a mile out to the lake. By the time we got there he was actually listening (yes, I should work on this more). Trotting through the sand he asked to canter, and picked up a lovely canter on single track through shallow sand. He even jumped a tiny log on trail while cantering (this horse does not jump, he's pretty dumb that way, me too.). Then we hit the sand pits! And we walked, even Major knowing speed is too hard and not safe through the deep sand.

sand shadow

lake getting lower!

sand pits

a shady break

Early Exploring The local park is not that special, but we hadn't been in awhile and needed a change of scenery. But it gets inundated with bikes and clueless hikers by 10am. So let's get it done early! Almost empty trails, golden early light and Major was having fun exploring (in spite of suspicious dead sticks). Traded trail back and forth with a nice group of mountain bikers, stopped and splashed in the green creek, and almost got ran into by another idiot cyclist coming around a blind corner at speed. Luckily, we were not the reason that four emergency vehicles passed us on the fire road, and that two fire trucks were in the parking lot when we got back!

early morning light and shadow

along the quiet creek

dead sticks are weirdly stacked

have a seat?

head-eating slime

I love how every adventure, even over the same trails, always has something different to discover. As every day gets shorter, Major and I speed up a bit, anxious to fit it all in before the dark and cold catch us.

Monday, September 26, 2016

trailer modification: hanging stuff

The trailer is an ever-evolving storage space. Sometimes saddles and tack and extras for endurance rides, sometimes day-ride stuff, soon winter blankets and more. Always it has brushes and boots, emergency supplies and water, feed and tack. Just add horse, ready to go! But so much stuff!

Keeping it organized was a chore, I'd rather ride. The thing is my aluminum trailer didn't have any way to screw something into the wall. Enter my clever SO who figured out an awesome hanging basket system.

This should work for any trailer (especially aluminum) with "channel" type supports. The baskets are sturdy, they're not coming down. Sometimes a few little things come falling out, (but maybe if I didn't have the baskets so jammed packed that wouldn't be an issue!) All you need are many washers, nuts and bolts, basket of your choice (mine are from Ikea) and a little time, but not long, I promise! One washer in the channel, one on the outside, basket, washer, bolt, nut, tighten, done!

simple washer, bolt and nut

washer sandwich supports baskets!
plenty of storage

In a few years of use, only a couple nuts have loosened and come off, I keep extras in the trailer supplies box (because finding one lost nut on the floor of a dark trailer isn't gonna happen).

washer nut bolt system also works on wood hanging rail
and a tool rack!
 I'm also never without many bungee cords and caribiners. They solve a myriad of problems!

I use bungees like this to wrap around the pile o' buckets so they don't roll all over

giant caribiners support little caribiners with pads and girths galore

The whole trailer is able to stay pretty well organized with this. And even if it isn't organized, it's at least off the floor! When I was a kid that was how we cleaned our room: as along as the floor was clean and Mom could walk across it, it counted as clean! I'll take it.

organize all the things!

Major doesn't care about any of it. Except where the food is stored (black plastic box). Now to go for a ride!

just stop with the orange mom!

P.S. Another trailer item: The tack room vinyl floor I replaced four years ago has held up great! I love it, so easy to clean! So much better than the gross carpet (what terrible idea is that in a horse tack area?)

Thursday, September 8, 2016


Sometimes it all just clicks. When there are no expectations. And you learn something new (that your horse has been trying to teach you for years.)

morning light

I've done this trail more than 20 times in the last few years. And of course, so has Major. So it is sometimes a bit of a slog to get him interested. He is difficult to condition, he sees no benefit from repeated loops, going away from home, seeing the same trail, etc.

autumn light

But this time was different. I think the difference was we're not conditioning. I have no expectations. I have nothing on our calendar. We were on the trail JUST for fun. And he somehow knew it.

Heading out in the early morning, sun already high but a tinge of fall in the air, no one on trail, he ate trail for breakfast and left behind us a small cloud of dust.

lush river bend

The usually busy canyon bridge empty. River below quiet. Cantering across No Hands with no one in sight.

quiet canyon bridge

this is the little "waterfall" that people hike to!

Heading up the other side of the canyon. A few runners. All of us in our moment, sharing these trails we're so lucky to have. Major wanting to continue, but we didn't need 20 miles. I turned him around at the top of the other canyon, he reluctantly listened but would have happily continued.

shady side

posing in NEW halter bridle!

Back down I got off to hike. Which he hates (dragging him behind me). It occurred to me, click!…why not tail down the hill? It isn't too steep, he was listening nicely, and maybe I finally listened too.

Major: I've got this

Because he loved it. Power walking down the hill that is usually a horribly slow slog, nicely waiting as runners came down more quickly and passed us.

He did try to detour us up the steep Pig Farm trail. He loves that damn trail, though it wasn't heading home, so I lead us past while he longingly looked at his missed opportunity. At the bottom of the canyon I got back on to cross No Hands again.

not going there

And the trails were still pretty quiet. Runners and hikers, well behaved dogs, but none of the madness that has been other weekends. Major brought his own excitement, not pulling, just having fun moving down the trail at speed, working together.

Major wanting to chase the runner

Almost back, we passed the half-mile marker to the staging area. I dropped the reins. The reins lay on Major's neck, within reach, but unneeded. And Major continued boldly on, happily powering along. I felt like we were flying…click.

coming home

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

trail olympics

The inspirational 2016 Olympics are over. I watched lovely horses walk, run, jump and every gait in between. I was in awe of the horses strength and finesse, agility and speed. And their amazing riders!

I think Major was watching too. Though maybe with not quite as much attention to detail. This has resulted in some recent Trail Olympics.

natural obstacles

galloping not galloping track

Major is back on the trails in fine form. Taking it easy and working back up to a level of fitness is important, though he doesn't quite believe me. Walking rides are fine. Add in some speed and high-jinks ensue. Too much time off has left him wired to explore, or explode. I've kept him in check while still getting out, but our recent ride alone resulted in some pretty epic Trail Olympics.

The Trail Olympics are open to all riders and types of horses. They are not performed at the high levels as the recent Rio games, though your horse/your adrenaline may think so!

Cross Country:
Galloping Track (no, just trot please!)
Log Jump (just step over the downed tree please, no leaping)
Bank Jump (no, stay on trail, watch the dropoff!)
Table Jump (no, leave the picnickers alone, they have nothing for you)
Water Jump with three options (small puddle = swerve around. Large puddle = stopping with silly splashing. Lake = trying to swim)
Sandy Area (no rolling!)

Stadium Jumping:
Triple Combination Fence (watch out for the tree, rock and poison oak!)
Oxer Fence (careful with your feet up over the rocks please)
Open Water Jump (no, you can just walk through the creek)

Spooking at A (long, pink trail ribbon from the running race)
Halt at X (look, grass!)
Extended Trot (wheee, going home!)
Passage (towards home when not allowed to Extended Trot)
Piaffe (when not allowed Extended Trot or Passage home)

trail hazard: rattlesnake ahead (not pictured!)

big water jump

I know some of you have participated in these sports with me, and if you think of another category let me know. I will add them to the next Trail Olympics, due to be held…the next time you're on trail!

make sure your horse has correct turnout : turkey feather is an alternative to fancy braids

Friday, August 19, 2016


sunset over Major

There was still some light to see by as we headed down the road. But the forest under trees was deeply shadowed already. The dark is coming more quickly each day. "Get out, move while you can!" my mind wails.

portrait in gathering darkness

So the full moon was a good motivator for a night ride. Choosing the wider trails with less tree cover, not only to see the trail better, but not whack our heads too much! Major and I were joined by C and Friday on a perfect August night.

We trotted while we could still see the trail, the horses completely unconcerned by the night. They hadn't particularly wanted to leave dinner, but once on the trail thought it was just another fun ride. Down to the lake access trail where the footing goes from bad to worse: tough big and small rocks and logs in a downhill gully. And this is why we trust our trail horses: Major and Friday (who could probably see just fine) just picked their way down the trail like it was nothing.

Then the moon was reflecting off the lake. There were no other lights to be seen, and there were no boats to mar the stillness. Crickets chirped, night-blooming flowers were open. The trail glowed in the moonlight. A scene my camera cannot capture, but my mind holds like a treasure.

grainy moon and lake reflection: but in reality it was perfect.

As we turn the corner a few bright lights in the distance; the top of the distant dam. But we headed the other direction, with just the moonlight on the lake as our guide. We had flashlights and glowsticks just in case, but no need.

The horses would stop for grass, or we'd do a short trot on a smooth sand section of trail. But mostly we just enjoyed the night. Our moon shadows on the rocks followed us, usually by our side but sometimes ahead, leading the way.

Too soon we headed back. The forest was so dark, with the moonlight unable to get through the dense tree canopy. Trust from me, and not a single false step from Major.

A perfect full moon ride.

Friday, August 5, 2016

conversations with Major: boring

Week 3 (of vet-prescribed rest)
I'm bored. 
I know, but you have a hurt leg and are supposed to be resting
I ran around the pasture today.
Yes, they told me. You're not supposed to!
I couldn't take it anymore!
Ok, let's go for a walk. 

Stop stopping. 
But there is something!
No, there isn't.
I think we should turn back.
Don't do it buddy.
Ouch, lots of sticker bushes grabbed me!
Yes, now stay back there.
But I like being in the front.
You were not being a good leader. 
Fine. It's boring back here. 
Boring can be good. 
No. Carrots are good. Apples are good. Boring is boring. 

Week 4
Stand on the manhole
There's a man in there?! Scary!
No, but there are evil clowns (reminder: never read Stephen King's "It" again). Just stand.
Fine, this is dumb. I only have to do this when you're riding. 
No, you have to do it when I ask. 

Week 5
Look at all the things!
It's boats on the water Major. 
Going fast, making music, so much fun!
Want to stand and watch awhile?
Yes, this is not boring!

Ok, time to head back. Please stop creeping up and breathing down my back
I'm not.
You are, you're right there!
Backing up...nope, not me!
Walk on.
(Hot breath)
Knock it off!
It's boring back here. And you're not very scenic. 
Excuse me?

Week 6
Wait, I need this!
There is nothing in there dude.
Could be, gotta check.
Come on, let's stay out of the neighbor's hay bag. 

What's in here?
Not your stuff, leave it.
Could be tasty?
I wouldn't pull that string Major. Are you a dog?
Could be food?
I don't think so. 
Not grass.
Yeah, it's just a green wire. How about we stay out of the neighbors trash?

Week 7
Time for a short ride Major, behave. 
Um, no, but let's try. 
The lake, the lake!
I know, your favorite trail is back from being underwater!
Let's go!
No, just walking. 
That is boring.

Just a bit longer, but if you want we can play in the lake?
Let's go!
Ok, here we are. 
Love the lake! So much fun. Not boring!
Not too deep! Stop pawing!
Can't hear you, I'm snorkeling!
Glad you're not bored Major. 

want more silliness? Here are more conversations with Major.