Friday, November 30, 2012


Its only been raining for 12 hours, already I have 5 inches in my new feed tub (sophisticated rain gauge). I know we were in drought conditions, but now we have flood warnings. Mother Nature likes to overdo it a bit.

Major will be standing in his shelter, totally dry. Later I'll take him a wet alfalfa cube and beet pulp mash, I worry with the rain that the horses don't drink enough.
While Major won't go out in the rain, if I take him for a walk he'll happily go. I just have to decide how wet I want to get.

Monday, November 26, 2012

oh, behave!

I was prepared for the craziness. Major's meltdown on Thanksgiving morning was just too much silliness. Arena work it is, then a long working trail ride.

Of course the arena was busy with a trainer working a horse. Lunging with tarps and balls, no issues for Major, but I needed the room, and didn't want to disturb them. So I'd work the gravel road. And we did. Up and down, no problems, listening. Fine, so out we went, maybe the issues are trail-specific.

Down the road, out onto the trail, a nice normal trot, then we came upon a little deer. This poor young buck only had one skinny antler, and was looking for a way though the fence. The ridiculous gated community erected a 12-foot fence around their huge rural property (gee, can't let the deer, who lived here first, use the forest, or they might eat the flowers!) I didn't want to spook the deer, and tried to give him room to get by, but he just ran ahead. We followed quietly behind (though Major thought we were herding him!) until the deer got to the end of the fence and went around.

Now a true test, onto the main trail. Where Major was perfect. For 14 miles. His one bad behavior? Trying to pull over and go home. I kept telling him we had a trailer waiting in Auburn, but he'd pretend he had to pee in the weeds, pull over, and then turn around. At first I fell for it. Once he peed, there was no fooling me (yeah, I'm not that swift sometimes, he's clever about that). We crossed the noisy stream at Mormon Ravine without the usual bridge tap dancing, and continued on.

Avery Pond? Really a puddle right now.

American River? Maybe creek at this point!

We walked, trotted, cantered. Then we came across a downed tree. There was no going over or under, too big to move. It was on a very steep slope, no going below. I could have turned around and gone home, but I thought we could make it. I climbed the bank above the trail, and pushed the tree as much as I could. It only dropped about 6 inches. But that was enough to step over it, on the slope above. So I climbed over, tugged the lead, and Major clambered up, sliding, stepped over carefully, and slid down the other side. GOOD pony!

hard to see, tree down on steep slope

The trail is pretty level, with just gradual uphill (though with steep cliffs) until Auburn. We crossed the creek at Oregon Bar, defeating the terrifying stump monster (the only little hesitation of the day). The trail was lovely here, a bit damp in the shade, but some nice fall color, with the river alongside. I tried a video, which is lovely, and would make everyone seasick. I hope to get a helmet cam in the future! (anyone have one, any recommendations?)

stump monster

lovely fall trail

Cardiac Hill, always good to rest here!

Then we get to Cardiac Hill, where the trail pretty much goes straight up. But Major does like hills, so we climbed right up. Major kept thinking we were almost there (the last few miles do seem to take forever.) I decided to take the Cardiac Bypass, which isn't quite as steep, and we cantered up a beautiful hillside, but had one more hill to go. And it's a nasty one. I got off, ready to hike, and I think Major thought we were done. The look on his face, "Oh no! We have to go up that?" was precious. Poor boy, at least I'm not riding you!

What? We have to keep going?

nasty trail, all round, slippery rocks, bad footing.

At the top he was fine, miraculously recovered, and trotted most of the rest of the way to the staging area. Awesome SO was waiting with the trailer, though Major didn't want his haybag, he preferred all the yummy new grass. And pranced around after a bath totally full of it. I think he thought we were just going to ride home! I probably could have worked on some of the bad behavior problems if we headed home, but I wasn't up for another 14 miles! Since didn't need to do an LD that day, Major got packed into the trailer and taken home.

deserved snack

It was a fun ride. But I didn't work on any of the bad behavior. I'll try later this week (between the rain?) at home, which may be the main problem. Not AT home, or AWAY from home, but NEAR home. Horses sure make us problem solvers...

Saturday, November 24, 2012

turkey trot

I hope everyone had a good holiday. Some people may have done a benefit run or walk, gotten a cool tshirt. My old barn used to do a quick morning ride, and I like to continue the tradition.

But everyone else was busy cooking. My pies were made, I had the time, so I saddled up Major and went out with my SO running along. The weather was gorgeous, perfect blue skies, 60+ degrees (it's November!), the trails are a bit drier.

But my horse was still an idiot. Go-go-go he said. So walk-walk-behave yourself I said. I won. Barely. We did a little trotting, but his brain would fall out, and it wasn't the day I wanted to deal with it (knowing I had pies to deliver, turkey to eat, and 15 family members later in the day!)

I think he was the trotting turkey. Tomorrow we do arena work and then a long ride, we'll see how the turkey does then.

(Turkey Major still got some Thanksgiving treats, leftover from the apple pies. Probably didn't deserve it, but it was Thanksgiving, a good day for forgiveness.)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Dear horse thief

To whom it may concern (horse thief!),

I would like to request that you return my horse ASAP. Sure his cute face is deceptively similar, but I noticed the changes.

Do not be deceived, the original version is missing!

I did not notice at first, as we walked through the muddy forest. We were going to keep it quiet, a nice barefoot ride on newly-soft trails. We picked up a trot without any crabby ears, and he listened nicely to slow through the puddles and slick muck.

first puddles of the year

on our way to losing his mind

Out at the lake, this "new" Major was apparent: this horse only comes with three gaits: jig, manic extended trot, and runaway canter.

Luckily he also came with a stop. Notice I did not say a "whoa." But he could be dragged to a stop eventually. I took some photos of the lake for evidence. See the pricked, excited ears? This is not the crabby, supposedly tired from a season of training horse I had two weeks ago. This is not even the horse I had last week on a nice lake ride with friends. Some dark evening you came and replaced that horse with the "new" Major.

threatening skies, low lake, excited ears
"my" rock high and dry
see all the rocks? no wonder there is Granite Bay and Rocklin towns nearby
canal puddle muck, this poor horse had to walk right through the middle after stupidly trying to walk on the side

At this point I was pretty suspicious, but the next part of the trail confirmed it. We left the canal trail to take the upper trail home. This crazy beast continued the manic 14-mph trotting, through my entreaties to "easy," "slow" and "whoa, dammit."

here there were trees to "slow" our flight. Excited horse didn't even want to eat grass!

If you were testing my resolve to one-rein-stop on slippery singletrack and muddy dropoffs, don't worry, I always maintain that ability. This Major did too, little good it did. Over and over. And again. Repeat. Oh boy.

I thought we'd continue on, to at least wear this new horse out a bit, and continued towards Rattlesnake Bar. I thought the craziness would dissapate, because this new horse still obviously knows where home is, but he wanted to just keep going! It however did not seem prudent, as this trail was way too slick for antics.

This trail seems to lead to the Hobbit Shire...tucked among the rocks I suspect.

Turning for home it was totally obvious that my horse was switched. Even on a trail my original Major knew, this horse was doing the little jumping spooky my Major used to do, long ago. And jigging. When asked to maintain a simple trot, I only got freight-train pulling. So we jigged home.

I do thank you for at least leaving a semblance of brains, so when we started down the muddy embankment and started sliding this Msjor kept his footing and did not worry at all as we slid about 10 feet. He also clambered over the newly-fallen tree blocking the access road/route home.

On the road home we can often walk quietly. This horse had to prance, so I walked alongside, trying to keep up. At home he tried to roll in the arena with his saddle still on, and once untacked pretended to be the original Major, by going right back to his leftover breakfast, and asking for carrots.

Now, I know some of this may be my fault: I joked with another rider the other day, saying we could mix her horse's excitability with Major's calm attitude. Maybe you're not a thief, maybe this is some sort of "Freaky Friday" (the original, not the dumb new one) or "Big" and magical powers were involved.

Either way, I'd like my original horse back. Any one of these too-early dark evenings would be fine. Sooner than later would be best, this Major was exhausting. This Major will require some arena work, which I have very little time for, and remedial walking behavior lessons. At your earliest convenience, I'll leave the gate unlocked.

Thank you.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Lake Sonoma 50—2012

Major rockin' the trail! Baylor-Gore Photography.

To save you the trouble, we completed! Following is an overly long post with too many photos...

waiting for his buddy Friday
Major was loaded in the trailer and ready to pick up Friday and C at 8:30 am. Then a long (for me, three hours) drive to Healdsburg. But I was going home! I grew up in the area, spent many winter days up out of the fog at Lake Sonoma. A little fog on the way there, but blue skies and gorgeous weather when we arrived at Ridecamp.

another trailer ahead, and a fog bank

gorgeous weather in Healdsburg

settling in to ridecamp
We tucked the truck and trailer over on a side, so we could use the high-tie on the trailer for Major and the ones provided for Friday. There were many rigs still to come, and soon the lot would be more than full!

What are we doing here?

Major was completely unconcerned about all the goings-on, and was happy with a full bag of hay. Vetting was simple, no issues, as we went for a short warm-up ride.

Quick, easy vetting
warm up ride on the red loop

ridecamp filling up quickly
Dark comes too quickly this time of year, but the bed in the back of the truck was super comfy. The horses got light blankets, and I crawled into bed totally early. The ride managers had changed the start time from 6:30 to 7:30, which was MUCH better!

starting at dark-thirty

So onto the real story: the ride! There were three loops for the 50. Blue, then red, then blue again. I started a bit late, wanting the fast people out ahead. It was a tough start, only because it went downhill for at least a mile, and not a gradual downhill, but pretty steep. So I needed to keep Major pretty well contained, and he listened OK, but it would have been nice to let him move out a bit. Luckily there was no big misbehavior, but I saw plenty of bucking and people walking down the hill.

And on we went. Major was fresh but listening, when I stuck him behind a group of three other riders. They were moving out nicely, but then slowed too much, so we took the opportunity and passed. We came to a good uphill climb, Major's favorite, and powered up. I knew late in the day that climb would be much harder! There were more than 90 riders, and never did a find a nice pocket for myself. I really would have liked to, especially on the first loop. I didn't want to go too fast, but was often stuck behind people going a bit slower on single-track. Major wasn't really able to move at a good pace for him. He was a little frustrated, but totally behaving, so I give him extra credit. I do think it is hard if Major can't move at a "normal" pace for him, because it uses different muscles, he wasn't quite able to stretch out. I saw most of the trail from behind someone, which isn't my ideal situation, but you take what you can! There was one section with lots of ribbons missing, everyone was milling around, and it became quite a mess. Luckily some riders who had been before thought the trail went one direction, and I decided to follow them. We finally saw another ribbon, but it was quite confusing.

We came into the first vet check strong. And too hot. It took us a bit to cool down (10 minutes, too long), but then we pulsed just fine. Our hydration scores were B's, which the vet was OK with, as we got an overall A. It was hot out (75 degrees, in November!) and lots of horses were already having problems. Just a half-hour hold, where Major worried about his buddy Friday (doing the 25) and didn't eat as well as he could have.

sparkly water

But out onto the red loop we went. I found a more compatible rider, and had a nice time. This loop wasn't quite as steep, and had lovely views. A couple of slower downhills I even managed to take a couple photos, but not of the cool, winding trail through madrone, oak and bay forest. It smelled so good!

nice views along the way

Red loop went by quickly, and we were back for our one-hour hold. Major found a bucket of apples and ate a few, while again my awesome crew/SO helped sponge. I pulsed in and vetted fairly quickly, the vet was happy with Major's pulse of 52, but B again on hydration (everything else A).

Just a few, but boy are they delicious!

This hold Major managed to drink and eat some hay. He wasn't interested in his mash, but enjoyed some apples and carrots. A veritable smorgasbord was in front of him, while I ate a peanut butter and jelly and chocolate milk.

Major is NOT thrilled to be leaving camp! Look at those crabby ears!

Too soon we headed out, blue loop again. Major wasn't too happy to leave the trailers again, but he grudgingly left. He perked up nicely when we were on our way, and we went along for awhile with the rider from the second loop (I'm terrible with names, sorry!). We passed them up on hills, and got caught on the downhills. On one big downhill I got off and hiked for a bit, which gave us both a break!

blurry, cool redwood grove, I was getting tired, maybe it really looked like this

still looking pretty happy halfway through the final blue loop

Major was getting tired towards the end. I had no lagging this ride, but he was just tired. He drank well at the few troughs, and still wanted to trot the hills. About five miles from the end I did lose a wet, muddy boot. The guy behind me noticed, and I just popped it back on. We were taking it easy, but then we passed a couple people, Major found another gear, and we headed into the archery range region with plenty of energy.

archery range trail

I tried to get him to drink before the finish, but he knew we were just a few hundred feet away. So we trotted up the hill, and we were done! He seemed pretty strong, so I went to the trailer, where his friend Friday was waiting (who had successfully done his second 25-mile LD, at 19 years old!). Major was much happier, and ate mash, and hay, and drank. Crew/SO was awesome, and took off tack and sponged my sweaty horse. I had an hour to vet, but Major seemed good, so led him over to vetting.

Coming up to the finish (shadow of my crew/SO/photographer!)

Where everything was A! Taking it easy and drinking on the final loop had brought his hydration up, and he still had plenty of impulsion. I was happy to be middle-of-the pack (they said 51st) and not to have any issues. There were quite a few horses who were being treated for tie-ups, and also some heart-rates that wouldn't come down. I think the unseasonable heat, even with horses who were clipped, was just a lot to handle for some horses.

final vetting, all A's!

It was about 4pm, and there was no dinner or awards. Many people packed up and went home, but I wanted to let Major rest, and didn't want to drive home three hours in the dark with a horse who just did 50 miles. Since Major and Friday were relaxed in camp, staying was the best option. We had plenty of company, interesting that most of the larger rigs left, and it was more people with two-horse trailers and trucks who stayed.

sunset over ridecamp

The best part after the ride: a shower! Wonderful SO boils a pot of water, we add it to a cool bucket. Sweep out the back of the horse trailer, put down a clean towel, and wash away. Feels great to be clean. Again crawled into bed pretty early, I think we stayed up till 8:30, woohoo! The horses were super quiet all night, as were we!

The horses looked good in the morning. Major had a tiny bit of filing, but that is his normal after standing around (even at home if he is confined at all). C and I packed the horse stuff, SO packed the human stuff, and we were on the road by 9am.

We're ready to go home now!

It seemed like a long drive back, but we were just all tired. Back home Major did exactly what I expected: trotted up the hill, rolled and drank his "own" water, then went to look for food. I'm super proud of him! Overall a fun ride, with more elevation change than I thought (about 7,000 feet, though I can't trust my GPS). I would have preferred to not see the same trails over and over. The red and blue overlapped quite a bit, and we did the blue loop twice. I know logistically that it is easier to put on a ride where every loop comes back to base camp, but they said in previous years the trail went more around the lake, which would have been fun to see other scenery and trails.

route and elevation
Fall colors and happy horse and rider. Baylor-Gore Photography.

I ran my GPS app (Strava) the whole time, but the mileage is way off (even if it was a "short" 50, I don't think it was only 31 miles!). I think the elevation or trees must have really thrown it off. I haven't had that issue before at home, and if anyone is interested, here is the GPS track of the entire ride.

I am way too proud of my horse. And my friend C and Friday did great. And my great SO who is awesome crew not just for me, but for C, and who also managed to help put a boot on a horse who lost a shoe, catch a loose horse, and help our other friends too.

Now we rest. No more rides till spring, nothing on my calendar. I want to do some fun rides, maybe a picnic ride by the lake, explore a couple areas that are nice in winter, and just hibernate a bit. I'm ready for a warm fire, hot chocolate and a good book. Major is ready to be taken for nice walks to eat the new grass, and to hide from the raindrops. (I say that now, give me a couple weeks and I'll be anxious to do something!)

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Halloween treat

what cha doing? are we going somewhere? what'd you have? it must be for me!

Poor Major got nothing this year. Nothing he says. Except carrots. And an extra beet pulp mash. But other than that, nothing!

He did not get to wear a costume like last year. This year I was dressed as a Phoenix, as my entire office was dressed as mythology. It was great fun, but by the end of the day it was dark, windy and getting cold as I got to the barn. I was in a skirt and heels (not even once a year does that happen) with wings that had been driving me crazy all day. I was done. Major was proably happy I didn't dress him up. He nickered to me as I walked up the path...because I had a pan of the delicious mash!

I'm also busy packing for Lake Sonoma 50! How do the horses need so much stuff? Seriously. If I kept my tack in my trailer it might be easier, but half in the barn, some in the trailer, and I took the rest home to wash. It'll get done. My friend C and her horse Friday are coming with us to do the 25. C has had a very bad week, but like a true horsewoman, knows that the outside of a horse is good for the inside of a (wo)man, and still decided to come. I wouldn't have blamed her at all if she'd rather just stay home and hug her pony, but we will have a good time.

The rain is letting up, it just seemed to be a quick storm, so hopefully the trails are nice and cool, though they're saying 77 degrees for Saturday! Major isn't too fuzzy yet, but that is going to feel pretty damn hot. I may try to do just a neck clip...I've never tried that, it could be interesting. In a few hours the trailer will be packed, truck too, and we'll be loading up in the morning. Off on another adventure!