Saturday, January 28, 2012

good practice

Major and I got to go out with three other people today. We usually are alone or with one other horse, and it had been at least a year with a group.

We played what we call "popcorn," where everyone rides in each position. Major prefers to be in front, but tolerates all the other places too. And I have the "deal with it" attitude!

We all had a good time, and every horse was good and bad in parts. Major does not like being the last horse, and was rushing, while I held him back from climbing up the backside of the next horse. He stayed back, but sometimes not far enough for the other horses comfort zone, every horse seems to have a different space bubble.

It was just a quick ride, and we all turned for home on the trotting trail, with Major in the back. And I got the fun experience of Major cantering in place because "oh my god we're all going but not fast enough I need to be in front!!!"

And we trotted on, while he figured out he couldn't go anywhere faster with three horses in front on him on the trail. I'd rather keep moving forward in that situation, which is I'm sure I'd be dealing with a million times worse at an endurance ride.

Why again do I want to try this?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

jumpy and quick

It all started with a branch. A new one across the trail, that instead of stepping over Major took with more bounce than usual.

We'd headed out in a springy mood, but ran into a friend, and talked for 15 minutes. Daylight was burning, and after standing around Major wasn't as keen to head back out. But we did, over the branch, crossed the creek and picked up a trot. The trails are pretty good, still some slick parts, but Major did ok slowing.

Then three kamikaze deer ran across the trail. Well, two across the trail in front of us, and the other was "stuck" on the other side, dancing around. Major jumped a bit, we kept going.

Then two crazy rabbits burst from beneath us (a narrow path with lots of brush). We were traveling pretty fast, Major just jumped ahead a bit.

Loud spinning tires were next, as some idiot offroaders were stuck on slick rocks. Major kept an ear turned that direction, but was unconcerned, except for the fact I made him walk.

Up to Inspiration Point, two more deer dashed into the trees and hid. Major used it as an excuse to kick it up a notch going up the hill. At the top a break, with grass to snack on, and I watched the gorgeous sunset, trees silhouetted, lake reflecting clouds and color, a quiet moment.

Just a moment, for heading back Major was fired up. I had been wanting to work on going home at speed, ever since reading some tips from Mel at Boots and Saddles. She talked about that being the closest you could practice for what an endurance ride is like (horse mentality wise).

Pretty epic fail. Major does finally listen (his whoa is strangely better than his half halts) but there was way too much pulling. If there was safe, open trail I'd let him go fast, then turn him back. But this time of year there are too many slick places.

Zoom, another rabbit dashes away. And birds rustling loudly in the brush must have heard my request to just stay asleep.

Coming up to a dip in the trail, a frog symphony greeted us. They weren't talking when we went through earlier, so the time must have been just right. Walking through they kept croaking, and I looked down to see the puddle jumping alive with tiny frogs.

We were headed home, jumpy and quick. And I saw a light ahead, coming toward us. I called out "horse ahead" and the mountain biker slowed and talked to us. It was too dark to see him, and the cyclist asked me if he needed to stop or get off, but I judged Major's mood and thought we'd be ok. Major had never seen a bike with a light, but he was fine with it, and I was proud of him. After that I turned on my glowstick, so anyone else out there could see me.

Since Major was in a mood to get home quickly, I let him. Now that sounds like a bad training idea, but we trotted home, and kept going past it, at a trot. Then back past it again. A couple times, and gee, surprise surprise, Major slammed on the brakes when asked.

Not much mileage, not much time, but plenty of adventure packed into one ride. I'd like a less exciting one next time!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

slip sliding

One good day of rain, then a surprising break. The sun came out and we were able to explore the wet trails.

And wet they are. Not in complete mud stage yet, but the top layer was pretty slippery. Heading out Major was happy to be going, and following my SO. Major completely thinks he is another herd member, and must follow him, can't lose sight! So we worked on that.

We got to use the newly-cleared trotting trail. Someone cut up the big fallen pine, and it is such a nice trail to have back! We were trotting along and I slowed Major, in case the cut tree looked weird to him. He walked right through without even looking, and we headed for the lake.

Nice view, but we stayed on the upper trail, then turned for home. And Major left his brain at the lake. He just wanted to trot home through slippery mud, so we had some discussions and some slip sliding away. Going up one hill I knew it was ok to trot, but not more than that. He tried to canter, back feet sliding out, caught himself as I pulled him up. He didn't learn from it, but I did! So we kept it slow, to his annoyance.

This winter let us do more trails longer than usual, but reality is setting in. Many of the trails become impassible, Major wants to move out, and we start arguing about speed. It will be good for both of us to work on some refinement of listening. Maybe even some (gasp) arena work!

Monday, January 16, 2012

cold x 2

Winter is finally arriving, and it looks like rain by the end of the week. They're forecasting a super cold night (for us anyway, down to 22). I know some of you are laughing at that!

Major has been fine so far this year without a blanket, he has plenty of hay and is maintaining weight. But I'm going to put his new winter blanket on him tonight.

Choosing a blanket was a hassle, but I ended up with the Weatherbeeta orican freestyle. I measured and ordered him that size, which turned out to be way too big. Probably because he's so narrow. But I'd ordered from SmartPak, who offer free shipping and returns in sized items, yeah! So I sent it back. But then they were out of his size, damn! So I browsed their shop, and there is the same blanket, $5 more, with a detachable neck. So I just ordered that. I have the neck packed away, I can't imagine needing it here, seems like I could keep it to make blanket repairs or something.

Just as it is getting cold, now I have a cold! I am sure working and stressing way too much brought it on. I haven't been sick in at least 3 years, all my medicine is expired, but I have juice and a Joe Haldeman book, a fire and my kitty with me on the sofa.

It might not be riding, but it is still good.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

auburn to cool in pictures

Packed up the trailer, loaded up Major, picked up C and Major's buddy Friday, and headed to Auburn. We are lucky it is so close, and that the day was spectacular. Tacking up I did have a moment of panic when my hoof boot strap broke (which is why I have ordering new ones on my to-do list), but handy cable ties fixed it right up. Those things are indispensable!

a view of the bridge and really low river, looks like October not January!

Headed out and down to No Hands, meeting lots of runners and hikers, all very nice. We stopped to let the speedier downhill runners pass, the uphill folks were more than happy to stop and take a break while we passed them. Major doesn't really like the downhill, but once we got to the uphill side of the canyon he was happy to trot along. The trail is above the road here, which made for some moments when we heard tires screeching, it's a really steep canyon folks! I don't mind the heights at all, and Major must not either, as he likes to walk on the outside edge.

Major mesmerizing me for peanut butter sandwich

Over in Cool we took a break, the horses could get water and we and ate some lunch under the horses' watchful gaze. Actually Major just stares at me, hoping for a piece of peanut butter sandwich (he got some and later licked the table for crumbs, do I have a horse or a dog?). Friday likes to walk around and wrap himself around the pole, then wait to be untied.

love the new handy-dandy strap I made!

going home, blurry photo of the bear-pig-boar tree stump that Major had to eye suspiciously

Back on the trail it is a long way down the canyon. We mostly just walked this part, no one was in any hurry, and it steep enough with plenty if rocks that neither of us really like to trot it.

a view of the Foresthill Bridge, tallest in the state
the view looking towards lower quarry trail

No Hands heading west is a steeper approach
No Hands, ears and the sun setting behind the canyon

No Hands was crowded with people earlier, but just one lone guy coming back. At the far end there was a little girl who got a gleam in her eye when she saw the horses. I remember being that girl, and always stop when I can. Major stands nicely, and as sweaty and dirty as he was the girl was just happy to be petting a horse.

Black Hole is just a little waterfall right now

closer (but blurrier) view of the stream crossing

The "black hole" as it is called during Tevis is not scary during the day, but after 98 miles and in the dark I could see how the steep trail and water could be tough!

Major enjoying a snack (note my new awesome hubcaps! Orange? why not?!)

We cantered and trotted much of the last part up the hill, both horses seemingly not too tired. The big trough at the staging area was very welcome to them both, and Major tried out my new bucket hooks and smeared mash all over my clean trailer. Not a super fast ride, but not too shabby, with 2,723 feet of climbing and 2,467 of decent over the 15.6 miles, we had a ride time of 3:29. Most importantly, we had a great time!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

watcher in the woods

Another gorgeous weekend, no rain, and no rain even in sight (which is getting a little scary). But the trails are dry, and I wanted to move out...

So Major and I headed out to Granite Bay. He was pretty happy to go, a nice forward trot heading out. Then we had a little detour which turned us towards home, and even more forward trot! Than the detour ended facing away again, and he became a slug. He likes to go, so it is just barn sour, and once I tell him "yes, we're going" he is fine.

As I approached the lake, the wind started picking up. And up. I went down to the sand for a short section and the wind was incredible, and we were both being sandblasted. Major has handled wind just fine, but this was truly setting him up for a difficult situation. So we headed back into the forest, where we happily trotted along, though there were many horses coming at us from the staging area direction, we would just step aside, or they would, and everyone continued on.

At the staging area we stood by the trough, but he wasn't interested after only five miles. I hopped off and he got to have a grass snack, before I got back on and followed a runner back onto the trail. He was moving quickly, so we just stayed behind, until there was a nice wide section and I asked to pass. No problem. Most people are so nice about sharing the trails.

Then there are the not-so-nice people, and I'm sad to say this time they were other horsemen. I heard a voice yell from up ahead "Slow your horse, we're over here!" no problem, and I stepped aside, as there was room. Two ladies came through, gave me the stink eye, and proceeded to lecture me how "all" these horses were just "running" at them today, that no one should be going so fast and that I would be liable if she fell off her horse and got hurt.

At that point they'd ridden past, and I just didn't want to deal with it. But really? I'm not liable if you are on a horse trail and no one is being reckless and maybe single track, windy trails isn't where you should be today. I realize that maybe they had green horses, but maybe they should say that, we'd all understand that better. I know too we've all had bad days, so I'll chalk this up to a bad day. (I've since learned that another rider had an encounter with probably these same crabby people. It takes all kinds I guess.) Major just stood there quietly, good boy.

Then we headed back on the top trail, where it was less windy but still pretty gusty. Made great time back, and Major was (mostly) listening, and I let him trot or canter if the trail allowed. Almost home we were cantering around a wide corner when a huge gust of wind created a wall of dust and leaves, Major spooked hard left, which luckily was the way we were going! I almost lost a stirrup (thank goodness for the nice wide, caged stirrups) but managed to remain completely seated and we just continued on. That is when I realize I'm a better rider than I used to be!

At the end of the ride, Major was still full of it, but we always walk home. He kept breaking into trot, and I'd get him back down into a walk. Repeat. Until the edge of the forest: the wind started whipping around, branches were blowing, leaves flying, every direction at once. He completely thought something was after us, and scooted forward a bit, eyes wide. I turned him around to face the "danger" but he still was wide eyed, so we headed back into he windy forest, which he was OK with, but turn back around so it was behind him, no way!

He just KNEW something was there: a Watcher in the Woods. Which was my favorite scary movie when I was a kid. It was terrifying (to an 11-year-old), Watcher in the Woods was a complicated plot about strange winds in the forest, a missing girl, new people in a creepy old house, a scary old neighbor (Betty Davis), the solstice, witches or aliens...ok, it is just so bad it is good. I totally need to watch it again, and to remind myself of what Major was actually seeing there in that windy forest...

Sunday, January 8, 2012

conversation: bad day

This is Major, and I had a bad day today. First I had to go on a ride, well actually, I had a pretty good time and was a good boy and got grass and mash and carrots, but really, I had a bad day!

Because later this lady came. My mom told me she was nice, and that I needed to be good. I think I remember her from last year when she gave me medicine to make me feel better. But today she gave me medicine and I almost fell down! My legs didn't work right, and everything was spinning. Then they put this weird thing in my mouth, and there was lots of noise, but I didn't care much.

There were two vets and Mom just watched. I heard everyone talking...blah, blah, blah points, blah canines, blah blah looks good, blah blah can't eat for an hour.

What? I can't eat!? For an hour?! But it is almost dinner!

I still felt weird, but I walked down to the arena. And then I had to walk around, cause the lady had told Mom I'd get better faster. And everyone else was eating! My feet didn't work right, but I still kept trying to eat grass, but Mom didn't let me.

Finally I felt better, and I got a special dinner: extra beet pulp all sloppy delicious! And still got my hay. My Mom said it was good I had the slow feed hay net, or I would have had to wait longer because I might choke on a big bite. I couldn't have waited any longer, I would have starved!

Today I am just resting, but I get to go on a walk and eat grass later. I guess the whole weekend wasn't so bad, and now bye, cause the sun is out, and I'm going to take a nap...

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

insight and GPS

Went on a very nice hike along the Yuba River. As always, kept thinking "This would be a great trail to ride on." Except that it was far too short to bother to trailer a horse there. As we were hiking, I kept speeding up and getting too close to the SO, and finally just asked to walk in front. He moved aside, I stepped up the pace a bit. He insightfully mentioned, "You're just like Major, wanting to go." Hmmmm. I never think of myself as a very driven person. But I will say on the hiking trail we have to be moving. No dawdling, look at the view, move on! I'm not a big fan of a slow, quiet walk in the woods. Obviously on foot or horseback! When riding Major I try to sit back and relax, and we can get a nice calm walk much of the time. But I'm sure somehow I feed his "go, go, go" plan. Must ponder on this...

lovely trail, not long enough for horses!

Now, onto the GPS quandary: I like my tried-and-true GPS program, MotionX. I use it on my iPhone, as I can't justify buying a new GPS device when I have a perfectly capable one. I've tried a couple other apps that I just haven't liked. But then Funder posted info about Strava, and I figured to give it a try. So I had a small head-to-head competition. On December 31 I did a short ride, and turned on both GPS apps.

Motion X tracked me at 5.57 miles, 1:23 time, average speed 4, max 11.9

Strava tracked me at 5.7 mph, in 1:15 moving time, average speed 4.5, max 14.6
(If you look a the Performance graph, the ride chart is completely spastic. Major and I were working on walking, then trotting, then walking calmly again on loose rein)

I like the average moving speed aspect of Strava: I'm always deducting the minutes we spend standing around on MotionX. Likewise the average moving speed is then more accurate on Strava. The distance is confounding, do I use the longer Strava one or slightly shorter MotionX? (Doing the math: even if it differed that amount for 50 rides it is only 6.5 miles total, so ignore that). I like the graphs that Strava provides, though MotionX provides them separately within the app. Strava doesn't have any map integration, with MotionX I can download maps for offline use, very handy when out of service area, and an absolute when in unknown territory.

I think I'll keep using them both for awhile. With a fully-charged phone using both apps at once for 1.5 hours I only lost 9% of battery life.

And with this we have reached the end of the geek post!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

how to start the year

Best way to start the year: on my horse, on lovely trails. The weather is amazing, a little worrisome as it was the fourth driest December on record (.07 inches!) but the trails are perfect. My SO hiked, I rode, Major trotted, we all enjoyed the lake view. Welcome 2012!