Wednesday, April 27, 2011

flower adventure

I know I've been posting lots of photos lately, but it's so gorgeous! The last ride the flowers were magical. Major thought they were magically delicious. It was breezy and cloudy out, but I'd been gone for a week and wanted to ride my horse. He didn't especially like that idea, and grudgingly walked up the road. I also think he's a bit bored of the trails (me too): the same trails to escape the mud, over and over. I wandered out to the lake, found some gorgeous fields of flowers and the trail too underwater to attempt.
log from last ride now floating

So headed home, sometimes it is nice to have no plan or destination, so when the trail is underwater, or muddy, you just go another way. It was a slow ride as we backtracked and stepped though mud. Some mud is just too scary. I did come to the big hill at the bottom of Lookout rock, which is incredibly steep. In the winter it's too wet. In the summer too dusty and slippery. This time it was just right..well, maybe. Up we lurched over the first section, where you can't see what is ahead. Well, ahead is a big rock and gully, so you need to stay to the right. Crossed over, too steep of a gully, up onto the bank and through the branches (getting seriously stabbed in the process). Major is willing to go up anything I point him at...maybe he needs a smarter owner.

easier hill going home!
After that I needed to jump off and assess my scrapes. The horse was fine, me, almost-torn shirt and lovely bruises starting. I walked it off a bit, and then rode home, the hill going home seeming tame in comparison. Just another adventure.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

trail in pictures

starting out, nice and sunny, down to the lake

the lake slowly covering the trail

are you sure we have to go there, mom?

underwater trail, but more on the other side

a big log, or Major the unicorn?

too deep and muddy to cross, and the rain begins

pouring rain, heading home, let's take the shortcut!

Shortcut trail is very rocky, but the wildflowers are beautiful

view from above of the gray lake, and wet, crabby horse ears

blocked trail! Swamp to the right, poison oak to the left...through the poison oak...

raincloud passing, but not soon enough

the green trail to home

snacking, steaming horse in the sun

and being tortured after all that ride by the helium balloon! You never know how the day will end up!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

miscellaneous photos

The ranch has mostly recovered from the storm damage. A crew came out with an enormous chipper and spent three days making a racket. After a little fuss, it was amazing that all the horses totally got used to the noise. In the photo is the damage to the shelter. Major's shelter is on the far right, the horse who was in the left shelter at the time is very lucky to have survived. He must have just heard the tree falling and ran out just in time.

The horses did enjoy the fallen branches, thinking they were a new delicacy. Right now there a delicious tree in the pasture, but they can barely reach it. Major did his best giraffe impression to try!

hot rod

Major was quite surprised to see an Iron Horse on the road yesterday.

After a look he sniffed "I could beat that on trail anyday!"

Monday, April 11, 2011

one last canal ride

A perfect Spring day. A good riding buddy. And a final ride on the canal trail for the season.

For some stupid reason (to be explained momentarily) we decided to go through the forest down to the canal. Not the trail I did the day before, but just to avoid walking up the road. Muddy but passable, until we got to Barking Dog Hill. The trail didn't look too bad, muddy with a creek running down the middle, so we slogged forward. Major in front..and we just sunk. He started to scramble a bit, but was good and just jumped to the firmer ground (and into the really pokey dead tree branches). I thought a bit but jumped off, thinking that leading was better. The ground ahead looked better. Unfortunately the ground was still really bad, and we had to scrape our way through the tree branches and mud. It was that or go back, and we would have encountered that big pit again. We got through it ok, a few scrapes on the saddle, and completely indebted to our good horses. I promised Major that we wouldn't do anything like that again, and the rest of the ride was much more fun!

Once we got down to the canal it was amazing how close the lake is to the trail. In some spots it was lapping the rocks right next to the trail, and there were islands that were once high points. Major was fine with most of the waves, but the other horse Friday kept giving them the stink eye, and was traveling down the trail slightly crooked: or a nice shoulder-in from a different perspective!

The trail was still so nice though, sand under our feet, beautiful views, and about 2.5 miles of access. Then the trail disappeared below the water. We could see where it went, so we did walk through some water-filled spots, and kept going until it looked like we needed to start swimming. It was really fun to wade in the water, and good practice for the horses. This water is a good challenge, it has lots of floating sticks, and they had to step over a floating log, into the foot-deep water, which gets a bit deeper before we could get out.

Major just loves standing in the water, and pretending he is a puppy and not a pony: picking up sticks from the water, lifting and playing with it, dropping it, submerging his face. The kayaker about 10 feet away was a bit unnerving and totally new to both horses, and there were many fisherman out, casting whizzing flies almost at our feet (which scared Friday, and the rude fisherman saw him reacting and didn't stop casting).

We got some really nice trotting in, and it is nice to put anther horse in front and have Major work in that situation. Major and Friday are good together. We ran into lots of other riders and friends, all enjoying the canal for the last time this season. At the staging area Major even drank from the scary tub (no idea why this particular tub is scary). We came home a much safer route, so I kept my promise.

well deserved tall grass snack
I was very proud of Major for dealing with all the different events of the trail, but still hope for some less eventful rides in the future!


Went out Saturday for an exploratory ride. I wanted to assess if any trails were easily passable, if we could do any good workouts on the forest trails. Heading out we were just walking, and I asked Major for a trot and he was just so happy to be moving. When I asked for a walk again he nicely dropped down, and then made cute little happy snorts, ears up, waiting for the adventure.

The main Pioneer trail was being used for a 50 mile endurance run, so we stayed clear of that. (The endurance ride is in a few weeks over the same trail.) I decided to head over to one of my favorite spots: the trotting trail. It was a bit of slogging to get to it, but it was holding up pretty good...until I came across the 5 foot barrier that is the giant downed tree. How sad! That trail is so great just to get on and go (hence the name). Couldn't go around at this time (too much mud on the other road access next to it), so had to backtrack. Kept heading for the forest canal access, found a nice higher trail that was mud free and completely dry in most places, so a little trotting. At the end of that trail Major thought we should turn for home, but I found a good dry hill and just let him go. It was a compromise, and we both enjoyed the brief run up the hill.

barely on the right is the trail...if we swam for it!
On to more serious trail work...the trail down to the lake has a downed tree (that you can go around though it's a bit dicey) and then the trail is so eroded you have to walk and balance across a large flat boulder to get down. I was glad Major is barefoot and seemed to have plenty of grip. I let him figure out where to place his feet, and he is careful and smart (in that situation!). Down in the sand looking right: trail gone. To the left...maybe? Went about 100 yards and nope, unless we decided to swim for it. So sad to be losing this great trail for the year...until the fall at least.

Back into the forest we went. I'd wanted to let Major move out, we're both in need of that! So I went back to the same hill and just worked it. We got to have fun as we trotted and cantered portions, but also good work as we used both sides of the trail, halted in different places and changed gaits. About six times of that and Major was sweating, I was grinning at my good pony, and we headed home with a big swinging walk on a loose rein. A good day for exploring, a good day for riding.

Sunday, April 10, 2011


The new horse in the barn needed to be shown the trails by a good steady-eddy. Instead it was a steady-Major!

The barn manager has a new 8-year-old Anglo-Arab. He looks a lot like Major, but needs some groceries and some good consistency in his life. And one aspect of that was a good reintroduction to the trails. We don't know the last time he was out, so wanted to take it easy. It is a hard time of year to show a horse the trails (since they're covered in mud) but we headed out bravely. While the new guy lagged a bit, Major showed him the way through mud, puddles, up and down hills and home again without a hitch.

It was a tough workout for an out-of-shape horse, and after 2.5 miles he was sweating. Major was not sweaty at all, and maybe even a a little bored, but was a good role model.

Sometimes I can really see how far we've come. I'm glad we got to show someone else too.

Monday, April 4, 2011

much better...and mud!

Major finally seemed to be feeling like himself on Saturday. I didn't want to over-do it since he was just sick, so on Sunday I decided to take him on a short ride, with my SO hiking along. Major seemed to enjoy his time off a bit too much, and was a bit of a jerk, wanting to just munch on grass (as that had been the last 3 weeks of walks) and trot! He has been on plenty of turnout, with the pasture totally dry and didn't offer up anything silly in the arena, but he loves the trail.

As we jigged through mud, slipping and sliding, I was contemplating all the different kinds of mud there was, a short list:
  • deep sucking mud: at least fetlock deep, sometimes with lovely puddles on top
  • slick mud: usually found on previously nice slopes and banks, a slick layer on top of firm ground
  • slippery mud: an inch or so deep, very very wet, usually on trails that are now small creeks
  • disaster mud: completely destroyed trails where off-road trucks have ruined the trail forever
  • quicksand: scary looking mud/sand that we don't go anywhere near, as even stepping near it causes all the ground to shake 
  • swamp: water and mud that was so nasty I avoided it altogether
  • puddles: those are actually kind-of fun. Once it is known what the bottom is, they are fine to go through

We took it very slow, as all the different muds were everywhere. Whenever Major thought we were going home he was a brat, so we did a lot of turning away and working. At one point he was not listening going home, and there was a nice large safe puddle about 4 inches deep. I told him if he thought he could trot through it towards home he could certainly do it the other direction as well. Major didn't especially like that idea, but we trotted back and forth multiple times. My SO thought it was very funny, and got some video, but I was pretty annoyed at the time!

The sun is out, the trails have had one more day to dry. Today I'll be tormenting Major again by working on walking nicely. And we are taking out a friend on a new horse, so we best be on our best behavior...fingers crossed!