Tuesday, December 31, 2013

(not a) year in review

I admire all the bloggers with their lovely year end reviews. It's great to remember what everyone did, see accomplishments and setbacks, click back on old posts for forgotten adventures. I'm sorry, but I am totally not organized enough to go back through life and posts and write something. My year had ups and downs, I don't look back much, but hopefully learned from mistakes. Maybe I could hire one of the organized people to write it for me...

And I'm also not a resolution person. Or a goal person. So there won't be one of those posts.

Wow, how fun am I, huh?

But I do have ideas and plans, just not the type that have dates and deadlines applied yet. I want to do a couple endurance rides, maybe try for back-to-back 50s. I want to go horse camping at the ocean. But what do I really want to do? Ride my horse and enjoy the view. Honestly, it's that simple for me. Probably isn't as interesting to read about, so I'll hopefully try to spice it up with pretty pictures along the way.

So I spent the last day of the year riding casual trails with Major, who was completely annoyed with me as I made him walk up hills and not chase the mountain bikers I let go by. It was gloriously sunny and I rode in a tshirt. The last day of the year. Crazy.

Tonight I'll watch hobbits ride ponies at the movies, then the ball drop while sipping milkshakes. I'm a bit hobbit-like myself, enjoying the quiet life with just a few adventures here and there.

Happy New Year and happy trails for 2014.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

photogenic rock trail

The Rock Trail (officially the Pioneer Express Trail) is a short, tough, photogenic three mile section, which we often avoid. But it is lovely and interesting, with rock-laden singletrack, boulder-hidden trails and sweeping views of the empty lake.

Major also saw the ghost of Christmas past. He was quite convinced of the waving monster, until we got about 6 feet from it and realized it was a non-scary bag.

Major stopped a few times and stared out at the vista. I wonder what he is thinking? I look out and know the lake is at 21%, the lowest in decades, and we've had no significant rain or snow yet, and worry about the coming year. I wish I could look out as simply as he does. I didn't even have to ask him to stand quietly while I took photos.

We cut back into the forest, just a short, calm trip today. Quietly rejuvenating.

Friday, December 27, 2013

so that's what it takes

After a good holiday, I needed a good ride. I also needed to get Major under control, he's just been hot, hot, hot lately. Luckily he isn't naughty under saddle, just fast. But I've had to explain we don't need to be at speed all the time!

So we headed out alone, where it's easier to deal with silliness. And we trotted, and trotted, and cantered, over everything as long as he behaved himself. When he didn't we circled and backed and life was miserable. So be good=move out like you want. Be naughty=do not fun work until you listen.

It took about 10 miles. Then he started thinking maybe all trotting wasn't so fun. But still we kept going. Soon I had speed, but within limits, on a loose rein.

A few setbacks for the next couple miles, but then we walked home nicely. Of course, maybe it's only because he was tired. But maybe in there a hint of learning/remembering occurred. Maybe, hope springs eternal.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

be bright

Merry Christmas from Major (me too, but he's much cuter.) Wishing you peace, happiness, health, time. May your days be merry and bright.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

solstice crash

I was going to post a lovely tribute to the solstice, my love for more daylight, and planned on a good training ride.

Best laid plans...a stupid cautionary tale...

I got a call that Major had cast himself. In his 1/2 acre paddock. I have a very talented horse, who likes to sleep in the most awkward place. I've tried to fix it, obviously more is needed. But he was fine the barn manager said, and I was headed down there anyway to ride, but changed my plan so instead I'd just check on him.

Major was bright eyed and happy to get an extra mash. Then we went for a walk, in case he was stiff, and just to eat some tiny green grass shoots that are popping up. And he seemed good, so went for a tiny hike in the forest, just a little loop, less than a mile. He was dragging a bit away from home (as usual) but perked up as we turned for home down the hill. I liked our shadow on the shortest day of the year.

I was just hiking, none of my hop-on-bareback I sometimes do, when I tripped, and dropped the leadrope. I am usually a death-grip leadrope holder, but it just happened so quickly. And Major saw nothing in front of him, and took the opportunity to run home like he wanted to all along.

My instinct said "grab the rope, he's getting away!" I somehow caught the end, but was quickly dragged as I couldn't get back on my feet. Luckily my brain yelled "let go of the rope you idiot!" And I lay there and watched Major's bay butt disappear down the hill.

I dusted myself off, started to run after him, realized I was missing hat and glasses, backtracked about 10 feet to find them, and started home. We were truly only about 1/2 mile from home, but with a country road with fast moving cars between the forest and stable.

My adrenaline kept up for awhile, then I had to slow down. I knew if he crossed the road safely he'd just go home. I crossed the road: no dead horse. Two people saw him run by and were in the process of going to get him, but I called the barn manager and he was on the lookout.

I walked/jogged back to find Major was caught by the gate by the barn manager. He said Major was just waiting there. I'll be getting the manager a nice gift! Major looks fine, though he ran home with the lead rope dragging. (Which terrifies me since I once watched a loose horse gallop off, step on its lead rope and shatter its leg.) So now I'm a little paranoid and will be checking him later for any stiffness or soreness. Back in his pasture he went and investigated breakfast and took big drink, looking content.

Me? Advil, neosporin on some cuts, I'll be fine too. I checked Major at dinner time a few minutes ago, he looks good, trots out fine, so I gave him a new toy to torment him (he has to roll it and the treats come out. We'll see if he can figure it out, he's not the sharpest tool in the shed.)

Let's see, what did I learn to do for next time?

1. Only fall going AWAY from home (when I did that once before Major just stayed with me).

2. Hold onto the damn leadrope, but don't try to hold into a horse running away.

3. Ride silly horse more often so he isn't so damn raring to go.

4. Teach Major to stay with me. Not sure how that would work, he's pretty bonded to me most times, but we were just too close to home.

5. Don't write about horse being naughty or nice, he then has to prove it.

Horses are certainly good at changing our plans. But either way it's the solstice, and it's lighter from here on out.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

naughty or nice

This time of year I'm not riding for any goal, or doing any conditioning. I'm just riding, for fun. Because I love my horse, and we love to explore and trails are great and time with friends is fun. I still wish I had more time to ride, but with early darkness and late work hours, I'm a bit of a weekend warrior, with just short bareback forest jaunts in the darkness after work. So when the weekend rolls, around, Major and I both want to get out and explore!

the American River from Avery Pond, we could have safely walked across it

on the second day of xmas my true love gave to me: 2 horses and a teepee

So here is a weekend to ride, destination Avery Pond. And it was awesome. Trotting and cantering on a loose rein, forward but not silly, I love my horse! Nice!

Then we turned for home.

Let's just say I didn't love my horse for awhile there, but I did get to practice what the start of an endurance ride was like. Naughty.

A madly rushing fool, not listening, hell-bent for home. I don't think so. We fought it out, I barely won, and didn't have much fun in the process. Coming back we have to walk the road, always hand walking. With a kite-horse prancing beside me, staring at silly things he's not afraid of, skittering across asphalt. Guess he wasn't tired (they really don't seem to lose that much conditioning!)

Just a brat. I'm planning a good ride this Saturday, by ourselves, so I'll have all the time in the world to correct and deal with the silliness (I just really hope I don't have to ride 20 miles to do it!).

Major better watch out, his stocking might be stuffed with coal instead of alfalfa if he keeps this up.

Friday, December 13, 2013

tour de forest

An epic ride adventure (no, but fun) into the wilds (near the stable) exploring miles (only 6.2) of all the peaks (highest elevation here, about 800 feet) at a blistering pace (umm, under 5mph) in the forest.

start the day by removing ice from troughs
Major annoying Friday: "I'm not touching you, not touching you..."

I wanted a simple ride, and so did Major. I convinced C and Friday to come along too! Cold winter riding is compromise: we didn't want to get the horses too sweaty, our hands were cold so we didn't want to put on hoof boots, it gets dark too early to stay out late. So what trails should we do? Tour de forest!

The forest trails are a spaghetti of unused roads (except by idiots, more on that later), smaller established trails and tiny almost unused sections. Footing is good, if a bit frosty in the shady spots. I know all the trails pretty well, but C wanted a refresher, so she got to navigate!

Cougar Rock

"Dude, are we going home yet?" "Umm, I think we just started."

First, set off for Inspiration Point, via Cougar Rock (obviously not THE Tevis trail Cougar Rock, but the rock where my friend actually saw a cougar!)

Inspiration Point

And we found Inspiration Point, charging up the hill like banshees. And decided to go down the hill on the other side and check out another scenic overlook, Three Oak Knoll. Then came charging back up, a bit out of control, but we worked on that.

Three Oak Knoll

After a slight trail miscalculation by C (but now she knows the correct way!) we took Ridge Trail, down the big hill, which has no name. I'm thinking Bad Dirt Hill seems appropriate.

Bad Dirt Hill

Onto glorious Lookout Rock. Such a beautiful spot, marred by idiots who trashed and burned a car, throw glass bottles everywhere and graffiti boulders.

Lookout Rock...and abandoned, burned car

Still a pretty view, just watch for broken glass

Look, if you're gonna graffiti, at least do it well. Is the top "art" supposed to be a drawing of a penis? Improve your skills!

really? That is art? I don't think so.

Onto the back trail, which gets nasty rutted. Trying to avoid that, went up the super steep hill (it's seriously pretty crazy steep, not passable if wet or muddy) and meander to Dottie's Hill. Vultures perch here, and there are at least five trails to get there. (I mentioned finding your way can be a puzzle!)

Dottie's Hill

We took a single track down the hill, and encountered a fallen, frosty tree. Can't go straight over (limbs on the other side to trap legs) so we found our way around.

Friday being all handsome

NOW are we going home?

frosty log

And worked our way home, taking the Sacrifice Rock trail. With nice scenery along the way.

awesome rocks hide under green shrubbery the rest of the year

Native gray pine, often with two trunks like this

I think we may have missed a peak or two: the top of Stabby Hill is pretty scenic, as is Beginner's Hill. Guess we'll have to continue Tour de Forest another day. Quite an epic adventure.

mmm, moss snack

Major doing what he does best

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

open wide

Dental day at the barn. The local vet does 2-for-1 dental in December, a good deal for the stable. And we all split the travel fee, so I think the vet was busy with 10 horses (4 private owners, the rest the stable owner).

shiny horse, yes that is his "winter" coat, he wants to live in the desert I guess!

Major was interested in the proceedings (little did he know) and went second. I love this vet, he actually did Major's pre-purchase exam and has been his vet ever since. He looked him over, all looks good, 15.3, weight 994 by the tape, right about 5 on the BCS scale. He's usually naturally closer to 4.5, but being a bit heavier going into winter is great.

He got 2/3 of a horse dose of sedative, as he's a lightweight with drugs. Turns out he needs even less as he stood splay-legged and a bit too drunk for awhile (vet made a note for next time.) The vet showed me the issues on his teeth, and proceeded to file down the points and ridges.

dentist and helper, making teeth work better
so sleepy, almost feel sorry for him...but don't

After that, Major also got a weenie cleaning. And stood around looking pitiful as the sedative wore off. Within 45 minutes he was back to his obnoxious self, trying to untie himself and chewing on the tree, so I turned him out in the arena and did some tack room organizing.

I put Major back in his pasture, and he proceeded to bother me while I rearranged his stall mats and helped a friend haul water to a still-frozen trough (some hoses and pipes are still frozen, though we're thawing.) Major thought that whatever was in that green bucket just must be for him!

sophisticated new hay carrier, spent a fortune on it...

Then I brought up the blue bag from the stable. Major totally knows the blue bag has crack hay in it for him, and nickered as I walked up the hill. (The blue bag is my favorite new way to haul a loose flake of hay. You know how the hay flake falls apart, get all over you, etc? Get yourself a blue Ikea reusable bag. Huge, fits multiple flakes of hay, super sturdy, hay doesn't stick and best part, cheap, like $1.)

All the poking, prodding and indiscretions were forgiven when Major got his crack hay.

no hay until we have pretty ears, not crabby!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

actual weather

I know, I know, snow, whatever. But...snow! We never get it. It's fun...for a day. I'm pretty done with it now. I'll take my mild winter please. I had lots of snow at my house (don't laugh, it's a lot of snow for here. I won't laugh when you say 95 degrees is hot).

Major lives about 600 feet lower in elevation. Almost no snow, but he appreciated a warm mash (who am I kidding, he appreciates any food-type product).

A nice walk and the sun came out, though frost-blanket wrapped shrubs are a little suspicious.

Now it'll be clear and cold, it's a waiting game to see what freezes. Hopefully nicer weather will return soon, and we can visit the trails, and continue winter adventures.

Friday, December 6, 2013

cold and...snow?

pretty but frosty

You know it is colder than usual when a friend from update New York emails you to ponder: "How is it colder in Auburn than the Hudson Valley?"

I know we northern Californian's look like wimps to the midwest or anywhere north, but honestly, 20 degrees overnight? And snow possible?! That is record cold for this area, I actually broke out the midweight blanket for Major, he'll be warm and cozy, and love to make him a warm mash, just to make ME feel better. This cold snap is across the county, so everyone and your horses stay warm!

But it's Friday, and as long as everyone is cold and inside, here is the best new version of a holiday song, ever! Captain Picard sings "Let it Snow!"  Now I'm going to have some tea. Earl Gray, hot.

spoiled horse!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

trail twice traveled

glorious december at the lost lake

Major and I headed out for a weekend ride. We had already zoomed around the day before at the lake, with varying degrees of good behavior, so today was just a putz around in the forest day.

I took a slightly roundabout way out: there were some trail riders ahead of me, but they were moseying along. Even on a quiet day Major still wants to go, so we left the staging area on the straight trail, then veered right, crossed the canter road and up a steep unused trail. We've only done this trail a couple times (including the time I was handwalking and saw two baby bear cubs with no mama in sight, that was a quick trip that day!).

Inspiration Point: always lovely

We continued to meander the forest, ridiculously charging up Inspiration Point, Major always wanting to turn for home, me turning him the opposite direction. But he was good, and I let him pick the speed mostly.

Then we turned for home, and I let him pick the course. This is fascinating, if you haven't done this with your horse, do it. I did make him mostly maintain a trot, but we left Inspiration Point and took the trail back towards the cougar rock. That I expected. Then Major chose to cross the main wide trail, and keep going…did he want to keep riding? No, he went straight for about 300 yards, turned on a small offshoot we often take, and headed home. OK.

Then the next weird thing: we cantered the next corner and almost always turn right and down the hill. But Major turned left, down the opposite way of the shortest distance home, and found the tiny trail we'd come up the hill on! It is almost impossible to find the turnoff from this direction in the dry grass. We haven't gone down this trail, ever I don't think. But he brought us right back to it, though there were shorter options home.

unused trail, except now by us!

At the bottom he did make his usual odd decision: turn left and go up and down the butt burner hill instead of the shorter, straight trail directly back to the staging area. I did alter his decision-making a bit when he thought we should practice our downhill cantering skills. I was inclined to disagree, so after a little argument on the hill, (Yes, you can back up the hill. No? Yes! And then you CAN circle over rocks and bushes. Good boy!) we walked into the staging area quietly.

I was fascinated by Major's decisions. Not always the shortest route, definitely not the easiest route. He knows all the trails in the forest, so he was not confused or lost. He chose that unusual trail back, but then his favorite trail after that.

I think this is a fun experiment. I may try this winter to continue this test, on shorter rides pick an unusual trail out and see what happens. Anyone read the short Stephen King story Mrs. Todd's Shortcut? One of my favorites. Who knows where we will end up.

Monday, December 2, 2013

changing traditions

Thanksgiving is all about traditions. Until your parents move to Palm Springs. Then it’s all out the door when they offer to fly you down for the week!

flying in over a southern California ski resort
hummingbird staking his turf

It’s desert, but it isn’t that hot this time of year. (OK, I just wrote that and realized where some of you live the weather might actually be cold and wintery, sorry!) It was 70 degrees most days, a few high clouds, and we had fun hiking and exploring.

We hiked the slot canyons, climbed rickety ladders, saw a river, tried to look for mountain goats, visited an impressive home, wandered the neighborhood and STILL managed to fit in a whole turkey dinner plus leftovers (thanks Mom), before we crammed ourselves back into the plane to come home. Traditions be damned, it was a good escape.

There are too many photos, but I just couldn't decide. Too many adventures, too little time. We started out in the slot canyons, near the Salton Sea. We chose the ladder canyon trail, hidden by enormous boulders, pictures don't do it justice, weaving and inching through canyons not much wider than your shoulders, the sky just a sliver overhead.

canyons are wide to start with

then get a little narrow
older wooden ladder and still rickety new version
cool cactus pattern

SO had to do a rock stack

blooming ocotillo cactus

The canyons have ladders because it steps up in elevation in a very tricky way. At the top, a glorious view. There are rock cairns to mark your way, as there are no trees or signs to help!

out of the canyon, view to the Salton Sea

folded hills with more hidden canyons
Dad adding his rock to the cairn...at the very top

landscape makes you feel small, SO on an overlooking hill

back down wasn't so easy

coming out of the canyon

tiny men playing: look closely, there are shoes SO put to look like the rock fell on someone

Then it was off to the place where hikers often see mountain goats. Sadly, they were hiding, and the major river is a tiny creek right now. Visit in a few months and the road is unpassable as the water overflows the road.

Whitewater river: not much right now
but the valley was lovely

Walking the neighborhoods is always interesting. I love the modern houses, great desert landscaping, and especially the creative artist on one block.

one house has art fun with reindeer, there is a complete set

every palm tree should have a velociraptor

this found art is my favorite
this is the type of neighborhood where houses have names

We spent the last morning quickly visiting Sunnylands, an amazing estate. It is owned by the Annenberg Foundation (which uncultured me only knows from their sponsorship of NPR and PBS shows, they do a lot more). We only managed the visitors center and gardens, unbelievable opulence. I know I'd spend my money differently, but it was gorgeous. I appreciated the great gardens, and so did the creatures I found within.

Sunnylands visitor center entrance

reflecting pool

artichoke agave

not bothered by spines

amazing caterpillar

becomes gorgeous butterly

And we flew home late. It was a bit colder, but good to be back. And you can guess what I did the next day: went out to visit Major and ride. I needed to burn off some of those turkey meals!

flying home over Sacramento sunset rice fields

back home, the giant airport rabbit greets you