Friday, July 30, 2010

a grand mare is gone

The horse world today lost a great one. Molly was a grand mare. On her last adventure, she didn't make it. Some friends are camping, and all I know is that Molly collapsed and died in the night. Her owner is a great lady, who treated Molly like a queen, and Molly knew she deserved it. Molly was the horse you'd ask for to take a nervous new horse on the trail, or lead past a scary object. But she could move. A Missouri Fox Trotter who ate up the trail, loved to camp and explore, and had beautiful babies. Her last baby Glory is three I think, an image of her mother. Molly had quite the personality, and let you know when she didn't like something. Her owner kept her in line, but when Molly seriously questioned something on the trail, you should take note that something was probably wrong. Coming home from a ride she would grunt and groan like a dying plow horse, but she was just talking, maybe telling the horses they hadn't seen the world like she had. Molly was a school horse for part of her life, and I know many people who are saddened by her loss. I had the privilege of riding her a few times, and her rocking-horse canter was the best. My thoughts go out to her owner. Hug your horse, you never know.

friday ride

Bridge of Death behind Major's nose!
A new adventure. Rode with two riders from my barn, one who doesn't trail ride much, so kept it pretty mellow. I left them at Avery Pond, they turned for home, I kept going. Major barely even thought about them, so that was good. We had a grand new adventure, including the bridge of death. OK, Major thinks it was the bridge of death, I know it as the Mormon Ravine crossing. It is a rushing flow of water over a narrow, high-sided bridge. Got off to walk him across, a bit squirrely, bit not too bad (invading my space, must work on that). Rode for another two miles, was too hot and exposed, but nice views of the river. This trail would take me to Auburn in about 8 miles, but wasn't up for that today.

Heading home was the usual wanting to go too fast, but kept it under control. Coming up the bridge, you can hear the water rushing by. For about one second I entertained the notion of riding across, but in no time had hopped off to lead Major. He was more snorty, and half-way across the bridge of death he decided he'd had all he could take, rushing past me to get off the bridge. I truly did not appreciate being shoved into the railing, so we did some groundwork, and then led back and forth across the bridge, Major giving the water the evil eye, and me giving it to him!

The rest of the trip seemed uneventful, if you count deer busting through bushes and coming upon an adorable fawn and mother about five feet in front of us on the trail. Our average time home was fast, 7mph, mostly controlled. I have been asking to canter some, he has been very good with his feet, and not so good at listening to me to slow down. It's all a process, and we'll get there, though after the bridge incident I wasn't sure that I wasn't going to kill him. I'll be picking splinters out of my arm, he is out in the pasture after a nice bath and roll, munching away.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

one year ago today

I bought Major one year ago today. I had tried him out at his home, on the trail and my trainer had tried him (and said if I didn't buy him she would!). His owner drove him to the vet check, where he did great, and delivered him to my barn. She checked out the facility, and cried when she left, but I think it has been a good partnership.

Conformation photo, July 2010
They say you get the horse you need, not the horse you want. A recent blogger said it more beautifully, but of course I can't find that reference. Major isn't the 11 to 13-year-old experienced well-trained horse I wanted, but we've been good for each other, both of us learning a lot in the process. Sometimes it seems like more than a year, but most times I feel like we've just begun.

Today he'll get an extra carrot and a good scratch on his favorite itchy places. I'm glad you're my horse Major. I hope I'm a good human.

saddle frustration

I love my saddle. I feel secure in it, Major hasn't seemed to have a problem. A few weeks ago I had an equine body-worker out, no back problems or marks. In the last week there is now a line of white hair on his right side, right under the stirrup bar and smaller mark on his left side. I am sure the more-on-one-side shows my crookedness (which has been getting so much better). Maybe because of my increased mileage/2-pointing is is showing up? I am sure the problem has been brewing, but I haven't seen any signs of it.

I feel like a terrible mother. I am emailing with the saddle fitter, sent her some photos and will hopefully have her come out. I have been wanting to try out a treeless saddle, but really think that if I'm that heavy in the stirrups that isn't the way to go. I'm not a heavy rider, but I know that actually has little to do with it, more how you balance, etc.


Monday, July 26, 2010

I.D. tags

As another obsessive thing, I now have ID tags on bridle, halter and saddle. I also put one on the horse if I'm trailering somewhere. The idea came from this post by Karen Chaton. I also ordered from Pet Tags online, got them quickly and accurately, and love the orange silencer. When I fell off a few weeks ago, staring up at my horse from the ground, I was glad that if I hadn't kept hold of the reins and he'd run off that there is at least some ID on him. I know of two lost horses on the local trails in the last couple years, no ID on either of them. I know those horses got home safely, but I am sure the rider's had more work to do calling and trying to find them.

Tevis thoughts

This weekend I was with many non-horsey people, some of whom know me well enough to ask about my horse and even the Tevis (maybe because I was checking web updates while at a concert). They all ask if that is my plan, and without getting into a day-long discussion with them, I just tell them we're not at that level, and have no plans for anything that ambitious!

Huge congratulations to all the riders and horses who even try Tevis, amazing athletes all of them. It was addicting to follow it online, (I wish it worked better on my phone), but I'll be there next year to help. Seeing some of the Best Condition photos and footage from Sunday really cements it...these horses look amazing, they love their jobs, and their partnerships with their riders are so strong. 100 miles in 24 hours, amazing.

oh deer

Friday's ride consisted of avoiding kamikaze deer. Usually during the heat of the day the deer lay low, we rarely see them. Maybe because the grass is almost all dried up, they were coming closer to the lake for water, but they were everywhere! A few bounced fairly harmlessly away in the bushes, horses seemed OK with those ones. Then Major was convinced something was following him, the other horse whirled around, and a large buck was about 10 feet behind us on the trail! After another came crashing across the trail (in a steep section, lovely) we were laughing about keep from worrying!

My favorite may have been the deer that lay in wait, hiding in the blackberry bushes. I think it thought we would just go past it...but then it couldn't contain itself, and jumped from the bushes, onto the trail, about 5 feet in front of Major. Scared me to death, luckily that one didn't bother the horses (you just never know, sigh...). That one continued to trot down the trail, and across the bridge in front of us, before disappearing up the hill.

The ride was nice, a bit farther on the usual trail, I don't want Major thinking that we always stop at the same place. When we went to ride past Avery Pond he did wonder "why are we going here? This is where we stop" so I was glad we went past just about a mile, then back. Routine is too easy to develop, and the horses pick it up so easily.

Coming back, some very fast horses were heading the other direction. Usually on the trail we slow to pass, since the trails are narrow, but these two didn't slow. Major thought it would be fun to turn around a follow them! After a small discussion, all was fine. A good Friday ride.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


No destination, no plan, just a ride that ended up at Inspiration Point. Headed out on the trail, but first we encountered a large downed tree. Had to seriously bushwhack to get around, through branches, poison oak and weeds, but Major didn't take a wrong step. Once past that section, Major just wanted to canter. He was being good, but that was not the speed I wanted to go! I didn't have a destination, just wanted a short ride in the heat. Took a fun trotting trail where you have to weave through bushes and watch the footing and keep trotting till the very end, when I asked for a canter up a pretty steep hill: Inspiration Point. It overlooks the lake, where there were boats and beautiful blue water and (to Major's annoyance) no good grass to eat. So we didn't stay long, just enough to drink in the sights, and head home. He was a bit anxious to go home, so I took another trail, did some hill work, then headed back, now on a nice loose rein.

I took a minute to think about the progress we've made—it is too easy to forget about where we were almost a year ago, and to dream about where I'd like us to be, so I need to remember to enjoy what I have, what we've accomplished, and just get out and ride!

Monday, July 19, 2010

too hot

I know I could have been conditioning in the heat, but it was just too damn hot all weekend. Major was content with a vacation, I am glad I can give him some time off and not worry that I'll have a snorting dragon when it is time to ride again.

Tevis is 5 days away. I send my best thoughts to everyone competing, and wish I could be there to watch. Unfortunately I have plans this weekend, but have a plan that next year I'll volunteer to help and get a small feel of this amazing competition.

On Saturday I got to the ranch and did my usual whistle for Major. He usually looks up from grazing, but we're still working on actually coming to me with the whistle. Saturday he actually came across the pasture, and I met him at the gate with a carrot. It was probably because it was close to feeding time, but i'll take it!

Friday, July 16, 2010

like we're kids again...

Took a nice ride with a friend today. She had never been on the trails to Rattlesnake Bar or Avery Pond, despite boarding in the area for years. The cliffs had always made her nervous. I love to show people places they’ve never seen, and taking out a nervous rider is no problem (I’ve been there myself in many situations!). She is a very good rider with a nice horse, who sometimes is just a little too reactive. He and Major had a nice time today.

When we got them out of pasture it was already 85 degrees, at 9 in the morning! Major was definitely not enthused about hitting the trail, but once out there, was a good sport. We mostly walked, some trotting, seeing the sights and new trail. Coming home there is a section of trail that is very overgrown and easier to walk on foot. Our delight was in finding all the ripe blackberries, not already munched by deer! We walked slowly along, eating blackberries after a lovely ride, when my friend remarked “it’s just like we’re kids again.” For those few hours we just enjoyed our horses, no other cares, eating blackberries off the vine, wiping our stained fingers on our pants, leading our happy horses along.

Horses and the time we spend with them can be many things: too exciting or scary, relaxing, exhilarating, frustrating and fun. But no matter what, for me, I can forget all the rest of my plans, my week, upcoming events, and be in the moment, just as the horses live their lives. I never did get to be with horses (despite begging) as a kid, and most times I sure wish I had. But now i’ll take advantage of every opportunity, to live in and share their moments.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Addendum to Monday's ride...I got back from my ride and my barn owner was there. She is a 3-day eventer, former endurance rider, who doesn't do a lot of trails any more. She was wondering about my ride and my GPS. I showed her how it recorded how far we'd gone, time, etc. Looking the stats, it says: distance: 9 miles, elapsed time: 1:30:23, avg speed: 6.0, max speed: 17.9, total ascent 1,029 feet, total decent: 1,001 feet, and has altitude and speed charted every 2 minutes.

She noted that was a pretty good speed for that trail, being as technical as it is (part of the tough American River 50 ride). Lightbulb moment! I had been reading about endurance pace versus training pace, worried about how I can be quicker on these tough trails. I really had not taken into consideration the trail type: I know these trails are tough but they are just trails, right? Then thinking back to some of the blogs I read and trails they cover, many technical, but many open and wide, where you can trot (and even canter!) for more than a few minutes before pulling up to go over rocks, down steep rocky footing, etc.

I know right now we're just riding and having fun, but having a distant idea or goal is helpful to me. I really hope to find adventures on those types of trails, to go explore and really discover my horse's and my capabilities.

p.s. my GPS is an app on my iPhone. I already have the phone, so buying a secondary device would be nice, but not right now. The app is MotionX GPS, and I've been really pleased with it and all the data it saves. I just turn it on when I start the ride and forget about it. I don't use it to help me find trails, I know all the local trails too well already.

product reviews

In anticipation of my now-canceled camping trip, I bought a pommel bag. I'd been wanting one, but just wasn't sure. The cantle bag looks nicer, stays out of the way, but it harder to reach into. I ended up with a Stowaway pommel bag, and when installing it was unconvinced, seemed a bit bulky. I am now a true believer. Two water bottles, snacks, emergency stuff, maps, carrots, it all fits! Being in front I also thought it would interfere with my hands, but other than the first ride, I don't even notice it. I don't have to contort myself around to get water, Major loves the sound of the zipper: "Does that mean carrot?"

I also recently purchased new stirrups. I was happy with my EZ Ride knockoffs, but thought with my increasing riding in trail shoes I'd be safer with cages. Bought the EZ Ride nylon stirrups with safety cage, they are quite comfy and ugly as sin. At least they're really lightweight, but only having one saddle, if I ever want to show I'm sure going to need to strip a lot of stuff off of it! All of my accessories may weigh more than my saddle now. Both the stirrups and pommel bag came from Action Rider Tack, I've been very happy with all their service and super fast shipping.

My latest addition on Monday were Wintec webbers. I had the Wintec slimline straps, but couldn't pass up a sale at VTO. The webbers were a pain to get on, and I really wasn't sure they would make all that much difference, and they don't. It is such a subtle thing, but every bit of comfort is magnified the more miles I do.

I think I've been happy with my purchases because I research them to the Nth degree, and only buy when I have some money (thanks grandma for still sending birthday money). One more (big) purchase is shipping: A Haf pad. I'll have to do a lot of testing to make sure I like it. My Thinline pad does it's job, but gets truly gross after a couple rides, and I'd really like something I can just hose off.

So much tack, so little time...

change of plans

I am supposed to be camping in the mountains right now, exploring new trails, having more adventures. Unfortunately, my camping friend (and ride buddy) got very sick, and we're postponing. It was last minute, so I was packed, almost ready to laid plans and all that...

So, on Monday I stayed off of work (since i'd already gotten the vacation day) and went for a ride of course. It was nice, weather in the low 90s, breeze off the lake. There were seven rigs in the staging area, everyone wanted to hit the trail! Major was pretty fresh after a week off, but not that much different than every-day excitement. We had a super nice ride, following some of the same trails as last week's alligator sighting. The lake was a bit scary though, there were waves! Major did not know what to think of that. I am sure he has never seen actual moving water, we'll add that to the arsenal of projects.

The trail is hard-packed dirt with granite outcropping and knee-catching boulders. On most of it there is a beautiful view, a hill on the uphill side and a drop off to the lake. There are bushes (mostly poison oak) on the downhill side, so you aren't looking straight into the water (except in a couple places).To many this is a technical-type of trail, to me, it's the only trail i've got!

Major did question me when we got to our usual turn-off. I'd already decided we both needed the work to do the extra two miles, and when we turned that direction he was a bit unwilling. A few more steps down the trail resolved that, but I need to do that more often, hate a trail/barn sour horse.

In the next few days it is supposed to get exceptionally hot. Major may get a few more days off, or maybe we'll just enjoy a quiet evening ride, enjoying the shade of the forest.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


If a rider falls in the forest where no one can see, does she still make a sound?

I'd say yes. A big thump as I hit the ground, more annoyed with myself than anything.

Of course, it had been a great ride. Tried the newly revised trail to Avery Pond. Beautiful new trail, wide and not steep and scary like the old one (though I'll miss the old trail, I loved the view and amazing cathedral rocks). Spots where you can trot and canter. Nice wide bridges. We'd had a great trip, lots of controlled trotting, nice canters. It was hot, but we're acclimating OK. It helps that I like the heat, so over 90 is ok (plus almost no humidity). At Avery Pond took a little break, sponged off, though with nothing good to eat, Major would rather head home.

Heading home was great, not too much fighting. Stopped at Rattlesnake Bar for a drink and cool off. I didn't get off, just thought I'd sponge him, move on. Let me preface this by saying I had practiced. I really had! The sponge had been thrown off the horse, dragged and around his legs, wet and dry, into the water bucket, he had just been sponged at Avery Pond too! But at Rattlesnake Bar, the sponge turned into an alligator! At Avery Pond, not a problem. One mile later, an alligator! A spin, "oh, it's chasing me!" and I'm on the ground. Not in the water, on the hard bank, looking up at my horse. I sat up quickly in case he had ideas on stepping on me, but all was well. The alligator lay there, dead on the shore, no threat anymore.

Completely annoyed at myself, if I'd taken the time to get off it probably would have been fine, but honestly thought I'd practiced it enough. Would have been nice to land in the water not the dirt, but I brushed myself off and walked about a mile to make sure all parts were in working order. Got back on, rode pretty conservatively going home, I was a bit stiff.

First fall from Major, it had to happen. All will be well with some Advil and ice. And some more practice sponging...

Friday, July 2, 2010

friday ride

Having Friday's off this summer has been great. This week met up with friend Cheryl who wanted to learn to find the trail to Granite Bay. On the forest trails it is easy to get turned around, there are a lot of options. Showed her the simplest way, so hopefully she'll find the trail and be a guide for someone else!

It was great to ride with someone who follows the same rules as I do. We take care of each other, listen to our horses, and just have fun. It is different than when I am out alone, when I have a goal, but it is good. I really need to get Major out with more horses, and work on the other horse trotting off, etc. Cheryl and I both have things to work on, and together it is easier.

Both horses both lead and followed, at all gaits, and stayed very well behaved. It is good because I have to keep Major's trot a lot slower, but that is the speed I'm aiming for our controlled trot (I can actually post that trot!). Cheryl rides her horse in just a bosel, quite impressive. Her horse Dune sometimes likes to buck, but no bucks, a good ride, the horses split up fine when heading home, a good Friday ride.