Monday, June 27, 2011

(wednesday) friday ride

Due to a weekend camping trip, I took my Friday ride on Wednesday. I dragged along my friend and her horse Friday, all on the hottest day of the year. We started out early, but getting ready we were already hot. It was very cute when I brought Major out, he visited with Friday, and they both started grooming each other. They are buddies!

The forest beckoned and was nice and cool. I wanted to try the same trail to Granite Bay, some fun spots I wanted to show off. The trail there wasn't too hot, and we had lots of fun trotting and cantering. And at the staging area the water was back on! Both horses thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Major is more of a scuba-diver: dunking his whole head in, spouting out water like a dolphin. Friday tried that: but got a nose-full of water and didn't enjoy it much. So instead he contented himself by just shaking his head back and forth, making nice frothy waves.

We did finally make them leave the trough, and continue on. After a super fun canter up a big hill, we walked down a steep, dry, dusty trail to a small beach paradise. The white sand, blue water, green trees, just beautiful. We were in Belize? Both horses were happy to get into the water, walk around, just enjoy. We would have really like to get off and jump in ourselves, but it was a long ride home, especially in wet clothes.

Heading home it just seemed to get hotter and hotter. About 10 miles in there is a long stretch on an upper trail, no trees, just scrub brush, and downhill, requiring walking. I think that sucked the last of our energy from us. The horses were fine, we were melting. We arrived in the forest and took the most direct trail home. Unfortunately I also got stung by a bee, but that was just uncomfortable, I was just ready to get home! We moved out where we could, the breeze of our movement keeping up cool.

Back home both horses enjoyed being cooled off and rolling in the arena. We were still hot and tired, but seeing them enjoying themselves is always rewarding. I love the summer rides, but would prefer maybe not 98 degrees, I'll settle for a cool 90 instead!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

having patience: by Major

After all those nice rides, she puts my mane in braids? How do I explain THAT to the pulled-mane geldings in the pasture? I just can't stand for this picture, it's too embarrassing...actually, maybe it is quite fetching?

I'll just stand here very patiently where she put me. I finished my carrots, I think she's gone to get more? I hear her inside, but I can't see! I'm being patient...a good boy like she said...

Maybe if I move closer, nope, I'm supposed to stay here! This is so hard! I just can't stand waiting anymore! Oh, here she come, more carrots!

rock trail

I only wanted to see if Barking Dog hill trail was open yet. When that is available I can make a nice loop, which I prefer to out-and-back. And it's open, and has had some trimming done, much appreciated! Major thought it looked different and a bit worried, but when no monsters came out, we moved along.

I was going to turn left at the bottom of the hill, but went, "Hmmm, rock trail, haven't done that for awhile, how bad could it be?" Really, I need to learn to listen to myself a bit more. I was just thinking after the ride on Friday that a short technical trail would be good. Now all the trails are pretty technical around here, not a fire road or much open space to be seen. The trail had more open spots than I remember, though they do drop off right into the lake. Major thought trotting should be fine: just a straight trail, right? That drop-off was pretty close though! It was intermitently shady, I was thinking this wasn't so bad.

the trail goes behind the big rock, very cool

Then the staircases came. Up and down rock staircases, some reinforced with wood, others just a scramble up rocks and more rocks. Then down rocks and more rocks. All out in the exposed sun, with poison oak limbs grabbing at me. I revised my opinion. The worst part of the trail is only two miles, but now I remember why we all avoid this part. Just not fun!

can't see the dropoffs here
I did take a slight shortcut home, and left the trail about a half mile before the normal forest access. It was still a bit wet on the beginning of the cutoff, but after that it is good footing, and I let Major move out, cantering up the hill until we get to the decapitating tree. It is just high enough for the horse and tack, but not the person, to fit underneath. I slow down way before it, in case Major gets any ideas, and go around to the left. The tree fell this winter, and it isn't going anywhere, luckily it is towards the end of the nice canter hill.

A quick ride of only an hour, but hard on the horse, with all that tough footing and the warmth of the day. That is the kind-of trail that makes you realize you've got a good trail-savvy horse!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

friday ride

Wow! A really great ride! I planned for a quick ride pretty early to beat the heat. Best laid plans and all that, and didn't get on the trail till almost 10:30.

On the trail, we tried out the pre-winter quickest way to the Granite Bay access...still some pretty scary boggy parts. Those will dry, but the 4-wheelers have ruined the trail. More 4-wheel crap when I saw that one of them tried to drive through Mandy's Cutoff, knocking down a fence (had to be so careful, barbwire in the area). So stupid, there is no where for them to go, the State Park f**king lake is right there! Hope they drive off a cliff...

But on a better note, Major was really behaving himself, we were moving as fast as the trail allows (so many rocks and dropoffs, but some smooth parts). He was deciding himself, a second before I asked, to slow when appropriate, so I also let him choose sometimes when to speed up. So far everything on a totally loose rein, really nice.

At Granite Bay there was no water. We'd only gone 5 miles, but it was warm. The tank isn't just turned off (EHV1 scare), but gone! I can see what might be another soon-to-be water trough, hopefully soon with this heat. I decided things were doing so well to continue on. I hadn't been past that point in awhile, but the trail was great, we were able to canter a lot. Crossing the entrance road the trail merges with an all-access trail. We stopped while two cyclists went by, then chased them up the hill. It's a big hill, it was great fun to canter up the whole thing, passing the bikes and emerging on top with an amazing view of the lake and dam.

The bikes made their way up, where they mentioned that relations between horses and cyclists seemed to be better. I am glad to hear that. I really think a few bad apples in each group were spoiling it for everyone. I headed down the hill, they went the other way. I thought about the beach, but it was full sun and warm, so headed home.

A nice canter on a side road lets you bypass going down the same big hill. Heading home I got the same great behavior. We did stop at the pond for water, but Major just looked around and snorkeled a bit. Came home a slightly different way, I wanted to avoid the mud, and I love this one loopy roller-coaster trail.

The final meadow is turning brown, but still really pretty. I did think that cutting through on the middle trail would be safe, and it was, but still some boggy parts! I have never seen marsh grasses in the meadow, but this year it has plenty, and still mushy. Not much trail to be seen, but did see a complete deer skeleton...Major didn't notice, we were heading home!

At home I stripped off the tack and Major got a good bath. I turned him out to roll and hosed off my sweaty tack (love biothane!). I did this ride with front boots (and no boot failures, I think I'm getting this down), which I hosed off but are full of foxtails. I'll spend one evening picking those out of Velcro!

I am really pleased with the success of this ride. I felt like we were a good team, each making decisions, respecting the other. I also feel much more secure this year allowing Major to canter on trail. He's proven himself incredibly surefooted, and is more consistently making better choices. I was considering last year how he always seemed so fast, I could never let him go. I realize now that I am just comfortable with his speed, not that he is any slower! My old trainer used to say it took a year of consistent riding to know your horse. I think it has taken me longer, but hopefully I'm getting there.

not complaining

Really trying hard not to complain. But 70-75 degrees to 95 in a couple days...come on! A little transition would have been nice, but again, skip Spring go directly to Summer.

Rode Wednesday, which happened to be the hottest day of the year. I was melting, but thought the cool walk in the forest shade would be nice. Went with a friend, both horses were happy to be out and a bit full of it. I was a bit worried about the temperature spike on them (let alone me!), but coming for home both horses didn't even notice as we steered them up a big hill to get some energy out.

Major was sweaty but not bad, Friday was dripping sweat. I learned that even if really hot I need to wear my half-chaps. My leg got all sweaty and gross from the horse, branches kept grabbing me and leathers are not very comfy. Once we all adjust to the weather, 95 will be downright cool!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

just being a horse

Today when I arrived at the ranch the horses were having a lot of fun. While doing yardwork the gate was left open to another large pasture, and Major and his friend had to investigate. Major, even though low-man in herd dynamics, instigates most of these adventures. He wasn't scared to squeeze by the quad and downed tree limbs, and the other followed. I got to watch them buck and fart around, dashing here and there, the light-weight fine Arab playing with the heavy (but beautifully light on his feet) warmblood. They were having so much fun I just let him be. Just being a horse.

Now the chainsaw is going and logs are being thrown into a trailer about 30 feet away. And he's just eating the newly-found pasture grass, happy.

I'm moving him into a different pasture, which has it's up and down sides. At the barn there are 2 options: small pasture with 3 horses and night in a small paddock, or a private pasture where he'll be out all the time. I'm going to try the small private pasture for a couple reasons. In the summer riding early in the morning is essential. I'll be able to take him out even if he hasn't finished breakfast and he won't have to go back into the small paddock to finish eating when we get back. Another reason is just having room to move around 24-7. If he wants to wander around in the night, or stand in the rain, he can do that. The bad part is not being turned out with others to play with. He'll be next to other horses, but can't interact directly. But he doesn't play much with his current pasture mates, they gang up on him and he is usually grazing alone. Changing practices is always hard, but I reserve the right to admit I'm wrong and change again. I think he'll be happier wandering around as much as he likes.

In a perfect world Major would live in a huge pasture with compatible friends, some grass (but not too much), safe fencing, amazing trail access and no mud, ever. There would be slow-feeders and a stream and good gravel for his feet. I'd have a heated tack room, covered arena and a permanent awesome trainer to help me. I imagine lots of people would join me wanting the same thing! It's always a compromise when you board (and even if they're kept at home), and I hope the new change is worthwhile.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

two quick rides

obligatory ear shot

The sun is finally out, the weather has warmed, and now all I want to do is ride. Work to pay bills? No way! But alas it has to be. I've been able to ride after work, and it has been lovely.

I did a quick 30 minute ride the other night, and forgot how much fun you can have in just a little time. We trotted and cantered all over the place (avoiding the new mud bogs from the last rain, soon they'll be dry). Major was in a good mood, and I pretty much let him choose. I think that is a delicate balance, and there are days when I have to guide every step, but then there are days where we're quite a team. We just rode for 26 minutes, covered 3.23 miles, average speed 7.3. On my trails that is moving pretty good, all the single track can be tough to manuever, and remembering to duck is paramount!

lover's trees
Last night we headed a different direction. Major's ears perked up...we've been this way many times, but not for awhile. We went by the Lover's trees (I've pictured them before, but they're just two amazing intertwined oaks) and up to a lookout point. I can't believe that I don't know the name for this spot, I'll have to find out. It is a good spot for photos, and we stood on the rock and took an obligatory ear shot. I was going to stop here but continued on another half mile to a pond. I did look this one up, it doesn't have a name on the map, but it is quite pretty. Major was totally enthralled. We stood in the water, he just keep gazing out, there were fish jumping and also near our feet. It was a nice, quiet spot. All I could hear was the breeze, a few birds and frogs, and our breathing.
peaceful at the pond

After about five minutes we headed for home, at a fast but controlled trot. We got to the trail we call Mandy's cutoff, and Major picked up a canter. The trail uphill has lots of twists and turns, so I didn't think the canter was a good idea. I asked him to slow, he slowed to a really nice slow controlled canter, and while I should have asked for the trot again, I let him try it. I thought after a quick corner he'd break back to a trot. Instead I got a canter though a corner, switch leads, canter corner, switch leads, canter corner, switch leads. I had no idea he could even do that! I certainly do not school in the arena on leads (though I should, I know!), and while we pick up both leads on trails this was quite cool! I am not going to make it a habit of letting him canter tight corners, but this experiment turned out OK, and let me see how athletic he is.

Charging up the hill we came down to a walk, as there is a tree trunk that will grab your knee if you're not super careful (and barb wire off trail, and a branch to whack your head on, it is a tricky spot). The rest of the way home was more sedate, but he was very hot and sweaty after this ride. We'll have to acclimate to this temperature (that should have been a month ago!).

He got hosed off (not his favorite thing) and to roll in the arena (that part is ok) and to eat grass (the best part for him). It was a fun day, for us both, and that is the best part for me.

Monday, June 6, 2011

friday rides: year 2

I have Friday's off for the next few months. So here I begin the second year of Friday rides:

I can't take it anymore! I had a weekend free for riding, and it June...again. Average temperature 87...this weekend 65.

I had a nice ride on Friday, with a friend on her horse Friday (love Friday on Friday rides). We headed out to Avery Pond and beyond, crossing all the scary bridges, with lots of fun trotting. Cantering (away from home!) over at Rattlesnake Bar, both horses leading or following. Major is fine following Friday, though he does make crabby ears and would rather be in the lead, but needless to say he doesn't get to choose.

He did get to be extra stupid a couple times, including one time I can't figure out at all. At Avery Pond just on the regular trail he thought he saw something and backed up 5-6 steps....and not paying attention there was a drop off and he had to scramble to stay on the trail! And then walked right past the area like there was nothing. He did mange to cut his leg (probably with his other hoof, or a rock) but it is not bad.

He also tried the backing-up evasion at the bridge of death (Mormon Ravine). He didn't succeed, and we rode over the bridge a couple times for practice. It isn't the bridge he dislikes, I think it is the sound of water rushing underneath it. He started in with the tap-dancing, but I just pushed him across. Friday was such a good boy, and didn't seem to flinch at all! Always good to have two horses have sane and silly moments at opposite times.

Coming home our speed was almost 2 mph faster, over pretty tough terrain. Major was doing his top-speed trot, which Friday had a hard time keeping up with, so we worked on halting and waiting, then when Friday caught up trotting again. I think it was good for Major to practice being patient. They both had fun blasting to the top at the last staging area, but settled right down. Good ponies!

looking cute, except for the June MUD I didn't brush off...
Hoping for more good rides, and that the weather clears up. Sunday kept threatening rain, and Major's leg was a bit swollen (though not hot or sore or lame) from his cut. So we walked it off (after hiking the edema was gone). While hiking we ran into friends out on the trail, everyone just glad to be out! Major got to eat among the poppies while their horses stared enviously...

I hope to fit some rides in this week, and that the trails aren't too mucky after another half inch of rain last night! Current gray skies and wind do not bode well...

This coming Friday I'll be attending Horse Expo and not riding. I'll miss the trails but I'll hopefully learn a lot (and not buy too much)!

Thursday, June 2, 2011


Some days just make you smile. The sun was finally out, and there were fluffy white clouds in blue skies. I thought about riding, but I'm riding in the morning, so decided to take Major on a hike. At first he was a little reluctant: leaving home when dinner was coming soon! But we walked down the road and into the forest, finding some yummy grass along the way. Then he was reluctant to leave the grass!

We headed up an unused horse trail, it's overgrown since some limbs block the trail for riding, but hiking is OK. About halfway up I heard a sound, and turned trying to pinpoint it. It sounded like squirrels scrambling up the bark of a tree. I looked around, and up to a large pine tree about 20 feet away...where two baby bears were clinging! Mama bear had to be somewhere, but we didn't stick around to find out. Major didn't notice anything, but I hiked really fast to the top of the hill and back down Beginner's hill to leave the area. If I'd been riding I'd have felt safer, but a mama bear with cubs on the ground is not something to mess with.

Hiking towards home we took a few more grass breaks, Major was happy to be out, and me too! The trails aren't too wet from the recent rains, and we just meandered around, my favorite kind of hike. Heading up a hill towards home, there are some big rocks. I taught Major to stand there while I got on right when I first got him. I climbed the rock, he stood there, we do this all the time when hiking. But his eager ears and glistening coat just called to me. Yes, I knew I only had a halter, and no helmet, and it was dumb. But I climbed on and he stood nicely, and we walked off. I haven't ridden bareback for awhile, I'd almost forgotten feeling the strength of the horse, but Major walked along, behaving himself, taking care of me. He was striding out with his power walk home, and I just had a smile on my face. We crossed the meadow and the creek before I hoped off for the road back.

Gold star for the day, gold star for Major. Sometimes it is the simple things that make you remember why you love your horse.