Friday, June 28, 2013

conversations with major: inconceivable!

There is a problem.
Yes, I see that.
I am trapped under my shelter.
You are not trapped.
It is wet!
I know. This is a weird rain storm in June. Let's go for a walk.
Wet! June! Inconceivable!
Where did you learn that word?
We were watching movies.
There is a lot that goes on that you people don't know.
Oh, really? Well, we are still going for a walk.
And get wet? No.
Yes. We go through this every time. And every time you survive.
There is a first time for everything.

Mmmm, moss.
See, this isn't so bad.
Not yet. Mmmm, berries.
See, getting better?
I'm not sure yet.

Oh my! What is that! It jumped!
It's a squirrel. It was just on the ground, it wasn't scary. You SAW it jump into the tree.
It had fangs, rodents of unusual size!

Let's eat this, it looks tasty.

I do not think that word means what you think it means. You do not know how to choose.
Oh really?
Yes, this stuff, right here to the left a little bit, is much better.
It is the same crabgrass.
It is different. One foot over there, yuck! This, delicious.

Let's head back now, there will be more time tomorrow.
Oh yeah, let's go!
What happened to just slogging along?
I was resting.
Well, now you'll pulling, knock it off.
I wasn't doing anything.
Um, yes, you were. Another discussion we have previously had.
I am unaware of that.
Well, think on it, and I'll see you tomorrow.
You will leave me here, trapped under my shelter?
See you tomorrow, if you survive.

Hey, you survived! Lets go for another walk.
I don't want to go far, I just want to eat.
You're just stalling now. So we'll go for a longer walk.
I am skeptical.
Yeah, but I have the lead rope.

Now this way.
That is the poison-oak trail.
Towards home. It goes home.
You are fine. We've been out here for 5 minutes.

There is something in the bushes.
What? Where? I don't see anything.
I could have sworn I saw something! No matter. We should go home now.
No, you're just being silly.
Not me!

You get to lead, but be good.
I'm in charge, I'm in charge!
No prancing, I can't keep up!
Fine. What's that!
OK, also no abrupt stoping.
Don't go fast, don't stop, geee!
Knock it off or we will stay out here in the forest.
OK, behaving!

I see rain.
Just clouds for now.
We might get wet again.
I don't think so this time.
You don't THINK so?
We'll make it home.
For dinner!
Yes, for dinner.

I see something!
It is far away, let's go.
But what's there?!
A lady walking in the pasture.
Oh, who cares.
Yes, I already said that.

Now we're back.
But there is a rpoblem.
What's that?
My special bowl is empty.
It had some carrot pieces.
Not enough, they're gone.
I guess you have to wait till our next walk, maybe it won't rain.
I have built up an immunity to the rain.
Oh good. 
Until next rain.
As you wish.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Wild West 2013: not as planned

Life, lemons, right? This weekend was a bit of that. But all's well that ends (mostly) well...

Pre-ride, sun dappled trail

A pre-ride on Thursday afternoon (after vetting all As) was uneventful. But reminded me again how gorgeous these trails are! Major's buddy Friday (and my friend C) were here to try the 30, together the horses were happy. I was nervous (but eating!) and ready for Friday morning.

I woke all night every time Major rocked the trailer, but at 7am was on my spazzy, dancing horse. Headed out towards the back of the back, but pranced our way past people. Finally I just had to let him move out or risk worse behavior. Major cranked it up into extreme trot mode, and stayed there for about an hour. We were flying, and it was perfect. He was bad about wanting to catch the next horse on the trail, and we worked on that a bit, but always within trot parameters. 

The first loop was a 30-mile out of camp and back. Long first loop! And crazy varied terrain. My least favorite had to be the singletrack through tight pines, ducking to avoid branches, swerving to avoid hitting your knees, with the footing being fine silty dirt and fist-sized rocks. Fun! He wouldn't drink at the first stop as we began traveling down the long hill to Scott's Flat Lake. We did this at a moderate trot, but then came the uphill. 

Major is totally an uphill horse. We powered up that hill, all dirt road, I was amazed. He would try to break into canter, but I didn't let that last long. We were in a nice bubble by ourselves. He drank a bit at the top, now we headed for home. 

the only ride photo I took, rockin' the braids!

No slacking of pace, no bad steps, just a machine. Funder was right, without much conditioning he was still crazy strong. We covered the first loop in three hours. We were at pulse when we came into the hold, which was an hour. 

Back at the trailer Major was a bit worried that his friend Friday was leaving (for the 30 mile second loop). But still managed to eat and drink. I'd been shoving him full of mash: he seems to have almost bottomless capacity for it!

Walking to the vet I had my SO trot him out: something looked wrong. At the vet Major got all As, dancing around I had to work on naughty behavior. But from the first step of trot-out I knew: we were done. 

I had the vet do a close inspection. No swelling, no heat, no soreness, no flinching. Looked like the hoof. Under my glue-on boots. Damn! (Insert stronger 4-letter word here)

Back at the trailer Major was awful. He wasn't convinced he was done, and was totally fired up, ready to finish this ride! He knew we hadn't gone far enough yet! He pranced around on his hi-tie, and also fretted for his boyfriend Friday, I fretted a bit but honestly couldn't do much at that point. We waited till Major stopped dancing around, and very patient SO pried off his really well-glued-on boots. There was a tiny lump of the glue under the sole. Could that have made my princess and the pea horse sore? Could be. Or did he whack a rock or step wrong? Hard to tell. 

No sense hurrying, but I wanted a vet to look at him again. About 5pm I had the same vet check him over. 98% improvement! But not perfect. I was done for the weekend. 

I could have taken him to a different vet, who might not even notice if I didn't point it out. But I have one horse. I had broken him and felt bad. And I'm not willing to hit the trail with less than 100%, or more. In hindsight should I not have glued? Maybe, but I'm not much into second-guessing. 

I'm in this for fun. As stressful as it is, it is fun in the end. I'm not chasing points. I don't have a mileage goal. I just want to ride my horse, and sometimes challenge ourselves. And when I can't, I'll regroup and go home. I have trail rides and camping and another endurance ride planned for later this summer, I want Major to be healthy for all that. 

Being in camp you see everything that is going on. And my pull seemed minuscule compared to the day's eventful happenings:

• In the morning a horse tried to follow his buddy down the trail, while still in his corral! Managed to drag it at least 30 feet, getting caught up with a folding chair, before he was stopped. No major damage, but scary!

• My friend's horse was pulled for metabolic and needed to be treated. She was also awaiting word if her first grandchild was coming into the world.

• Man fell off his horse and got a very bad concussion. His friends put him back on and brought him back (how else do you do it out on trail alone?) Rescue helicopter was buzzing around, but I heard he chose to go home. 

• (not for the squeamish) Man was dismounting when his rein looped around his thumb, horse pulled, first joint of thumb popped off! Man got into camp and the ride director got him a ride to the hospital. (There is no cell service at camp, honestly faster to drive someone to help rather than wait for an ambulance.) My friend C's husband found the missing digit, which was put on ice and delivered to the hospital. Man and digit were flown to San Francisco for surgery. 

See the excitement you miss when on the trail?! More than I need, thank you! Perspective: things could be worse! 

We relaxed all evening, took the horses for walks, stayed up late on the longest day of the year with a big glorious moon. This morning got packed up and headed home, where shiny happy Major promptly rolled in his pasture, trotted around head flinging, cantered to check on his food situation, and trotted over to his water trough. 

I'll keep an eye on him this week, trot him out, watch for bruising and anything else. Disappointing, but I'm ok with all of it. I want a decade horse, I know we'll have some bumps in the road, this should be a small one. 

Baylor/Gore photography

But I do love Wild West, and the beautiful trails. I hope to be back next year. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


As ready as I can be for Wild West. Trailer is packed. Horse looks ready (though we haven't done much training lately, he should be maintaining fitness, right...?!). Boots are glued...

Yes, I attempted to glue on boots. I managed to take exactly one photo before I started. After that things were a little sticky. Literally. There was epoxy, rubber gloves, paper towels, rags, sandpaper and tools all in one sticky mess. But they're on. Will they stay on with a rookie installation? I'll see (and carry back up strap-on boots!)

I am going to just chill, and eat, and try not to worry. I do not HAVE to do anything. I would LIKE to do two 50s. I am entered for both days on these familiar trails. Tack has been working. I will try to remember to take it minute by minute. And eat.

I have every snack I have ever liked. And some I don't. Then more on top of that. Major has good snacks too, including crack alfalfa, some sweet feed topper, and many many apples and carrots. He got one apple early. Love apple face!

I could laugh or stress. I'm going to try laughing, as my fingers are still sticking to the keyboard...

Sunday, June 16, 2013


I took a friend on a casual ride out to the lake. She hasn't been on the canal trail for a few months. In theory it is impassable in parts. But we like to wade in the water. You can see where this is going, right?

We had a great time trotting through the sand. We actually had not even reached the impassable part yet! We wanted to wade in the water, Major just strides right in and starts his snorkeling. We were laughing. I mentioned how when standing in water is is good to keep your feet out of the stirrups in case the horse decides to lay down.

Apparently Major understood this conversation. And wanted to test me. And laid down without warning!

Ahhh, my saddle! My phone! Get up, get up! (And get off my foot too!) Luckily he only made it partway down. I ruin all his fun. I was too busy laughing to care much. And my phone still worked, though the camera got a bit waterlogged (I figured it out and it is fixed now, yeah!).

And I got back on and made it the whole way around the impassable trail. Not impassible with a good water horse and some creative trail blazing. It was great fun.

And now we're planning to take the horses swimming. Leaving the tack and cell phone safely on shore. Anyone been swimming with their horses? What is the safest way?

(This whole ride was a nice distraction from the fact that June 21 and 22 I have a two day endurance ride and I am freaking out about two 50s. More on that later.)

Monday, June 10, 2013

horse expo 13

Captain America's horse...
This weekend was an expo adventure. HorseExpo. Or as it also looks when you see the all lowercase web address: horsexpo. hor sexpo. (Not sure if I want to attend sexpo?)

OK, anyway! This year I had a small, specific list: replacement helmet, snap-on bridle, certain fly mask, biothane beta breast collar, folding saddle stand.

These are not the breast collars I was looking for...
Anyone who knows me knows I do not do bling... Orange, yes. Bling, no.

And how much did I find after hours of wandering booths, etc? Nothing, nada, zilch. Damn.  Walked for miles and saw a million booths of crap I have no interest in. LOTS of western stuff. Almost no english stuff. One endurance vendor who I like but didn't have the stuff I wanted. The one vendor I liked last year (Action Rider Tack) was not there (I'd been hoping to sit in a few different styes of saddles they usually have). I signed up for a free drawing of some brand of beet pulp, other than that I pretty much have my feed/supplements chosen.

This big Percheron's name was Lazarus, he filled the whole stall.

There weren't really any clinician demonstrations I wanted to watch (Melinda from Boots and Saddles wrote up the perfect description of the event, read it for my exact feelings as well). I did listen to a few seminars (Clair Thunes and Nancy Loving) and while very good I had heard it before and was just cementing some ideas.

horse sculpture is pretty neat

I saw a finished reining horse sell for $14,000, and a 3-year-old western horse doing sliding stops sell for $4,000. I saw a neat obstacle-course contest that gave me a few evil ideas to try out on Major.

As my SO said: "All you need for the apocalypse."

It was still pretty fun. I hung out with a friend on Friday and SO on Sunday. Half price tickets and some bad fair food (garlic fries and a smoothie!), total cost about $30. Still an entertainment value, but I have been disappointed at the lack of variety in clinicians, since it is now almost all natural horsemanship, which is fine, but the same year after year. (A few years back they had Karen and David O'Connor, that was interesting).

Will I go again? For half price and to hang out with friends? Maybe. For stuff? No. For clinicians? It depends if they improve the line-up.

I think I might rather spend the day on a nice ride with my horse. Or creating that pool-noodle glittery-boa obstacle course challenge…

Saturday, June 8, 2013


103 yesterday. 105 today. I was going to try and fit in a ride before it got hot. At 7am it felt warm, I knew by the time my ride was over it would be 90+.

So instead Major got a popsicle. Of carrots. Yes he is spoiled and I am ridiculous.

When I got to the stable he came trotting up to the gate. And he was wet! From the sprinkler! You may not understand the momentousness of this occasion. Major does everything to keep from getting wet, including trotting away when the sprinkler comes, staying under his shelter in the slightest drizzle and dancing on the wash rack. (Of course none of that on the trail.)

Maybe he figured out that cooling off wasn't so bad! I'd intended to hose him down, but since he was wet we just went for a quick walk.

Where he discovered delicious grass under the tree. And then that the tree is full of yellow plums. He ate a few, and he does spit out the pit, but I don't think they're good for him (must research.)

Then I put him away, and gave him his carrot-sicle. It was a hit!

The weather is going to cool down, but this is just a quick preview of summer.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013


It was hot already. Expected high of 95, so I headed up the hill to cooler weather and lovely trails at Skillman horse camp. This is where Wild West is held every year, and I've done other days camping and riding here too. I was joined by Major's friend (and my friend) Friday and C.

Just an hour away and there are gorgeous huge pines, just-finished blooming dogwoods and lots of green! But I have very few photos, as we were burning up the trails!

The horses were both pretty happy to be out. Major loves "new" trails, ears pricked we trotted along. We slowed to walk a rocky section, and just as we were leaving it Major's head came up, "Something in the trees!" he alerted, though not that worried. I tend to dismiss his silliness and just move on, but took a glance. Yes, yes there was something. A bear! A pretty cinnamon-colored bear. That turned to go the same direction our trail was heading! Damn! But I kicked Major into a trot, started whistling and just went down the trail. The bears are not a threat, just something that could concern the horses. Not to be seen again, the bear disappeared into the woods, we kept traveling.

Distant lake view

Down and over lots of roots, vista views of distant lakes, snaking trails through pines. On the snaking trails I remembered something I'd recently read. If there is a too-close tree next to the trail, turn the horses head INTO the tree, which will bend their body away.  It is probably something many people already know, but it was lightbulb "duh!" moment for me. I always apply leg, but there are those times when the tree is super close/horse is not listening so well. I tried this a couple times, totally works! I also forgot one time/was distracted and have a lovely bruised knee to show for it.

Don't take your lowered El Camino on this road (what is up with the car? I love it!)

The trails have great footing, we flew along. My favorite part was Hallelujah Hill. It just keeps going up and up, switchbacks and steep. Both horses just motored up, no slowing, loose reins as the horses navigated themselves through the footing and turns. Skillman. Skilled. Skillz.

Green as far as the eye can see
Green and purple, a pretty picture of C and Friday

We cantered smooth dirt trails, and a lovely green viney section, Major getting a little goosey one time as the vines grabbed him. Some of the trail is built into the hill, so the hill just drops away to pines and green underbrush. There are loop-de-loops as the trail drops away 5 feet and back up in a short space. You ride those either really well or really badly, depends on your timing. I got better as the day went on!

Let's go, let's go!

We took a break back at the trailers and headed out out again, wondering if the horses would be annoyed at leaving. Nope, fit and raring to go! Just another hour, then back to the trailer for good. There is great horse water at the camp, and we talked to the camp host, who used to be a sword swallower. Yes, a sword-swallowing, flame-eating renaissance fair guy. Cool. Through horses you can meet some pretty interesting folks!

Horse eating firepit. Or BBQ.

The scariest thing Major saw all day was back at camp. The firepit. Or maybe the BBQ. Both got the evil eye. Both horses did great, 20-year-old Friday keeping up with Major just fine. And Major was super strong, we didn't even go far enough to tax him at all. So I contemplated. And thought. And pondered. And sent in my entry for two days of 50s at Wild West at the end of June.