Monday, March 31, 2014


When work is so annoying that I may just lose it with one more crabby email, it's time to ride the pony. Honestly, even if he is awful, at least he isn't trying to do my job, coming back with more stupid changes, or sending long emails copied to everyone else, thinking adding more people to the discussion is a good idea (hint, it's almost never a good idea).

Major needed something too. He actually cantered up to the gate when I got there, ready to go. Normally he sedately walks up. There was a storm blowing in, but there were a few more hours of dry. The trails are wet but not soggy. We even headed out without the normal hanging back, both ready to move.

So I let him go. Fast. Whatever he wanted within reason. Yes I'm a terrible horse mother. I let him get away with crap. We blasted up hills I usually make him walk. We cantered windy singletrack and repeated a hill set three times. We slowed for mud puddles and some bites of neon green grass, scared some deer, chased a wayward jack rabbit up the trail, and got to see how fast a startled turkey can run (surprisingly really, really fast!).

I had wanted to do a few shorter, faster rides for conditioning, so it was perfect timing. And actually, he was surprisingly good. I don't really want to have to let my horse canter for four miles before he listens, but the last couple miles coming home he was better than usual. I think compromising with more speed really makes him happy and leads to less fighting, though it's harder for me to adjust to.

(Of course fast is relative. In the forest where I ride there is maybe 50 feet of smooth trail. Everywhere else is hills, rutted, rocks and more. Major is luckily sensible enough to slow down in bad footing. So our fast rides are cantering/trotting interspersed with walking down steep hills, over rocks and detouring around fallen trees, we can average about 6mph.)

Yes, I work many hours on making him behave, and slow down. But there's a time and a place, today wasn't it.

Major trotted off with a spring in his step, I went home a little lighter. I think we both needed a ride with a little bit of controlled chaos.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

detour: New Orleans

I took a slight detour last week, about 2,000 miles east to New Orleans!

While this was a work trip to attend an actually useful conference, evenings were free to wander. The hotel was walking distance to the French Quarter, which was overwhelming and awesome and old and fun. We didn't get much beyond that area, I definitely put this city on the list of places that need further exploration.

The history was fascinating, especially coming from one of the youngest states.There is stuff there from before 1800! Cool. I'll let far too many pictures tell the rest of the story.

truly wide Mississippi. Wow that's a lot of water.

historic building, awesome oak, just grand.

Jackson Square, St. Louis Cathedral, overwhelmed by pretty

St. Louis Cathedral

just one of the cool old buildings

they named this original governor of New Orleans, but not his horse!

This is Aretha Franklin. She is a 32-year-old working mule.

She happily pulled our cart around, she had an awesome walk on her! Wasn't even sweaty after the half hour. She seemed content and sure knew her job.

Some may think this is awe-inspiring. I personally thought it was pretty creepy.

this poor horse hitch has seen a lot on Bourbon Street
old cemetery, new buildings looming in the background

crypts, their inhabitants forgotten, identifiers broken or faded away
(unreadable)...Oliver (unreadable)...who died in the defence of the city of New Orleans, in the battle with the British army, December 23, 1814.

and nature slowly gains a foothold

a fleur de lis fence guards a broken child's monument

headless angel peers out over her domain
same building and sign, someone having a little fun, choose what you like?

alligator heads. yuck. Farm raised but still. yuck.
Louisiana Supreme Court, an imposing edifice

this kitty had a hard night, sleeping it off in the window

lunch on a balcony, just taking in the city
mmm, beignets. More please (though I'll skip the coffee next time)

overlooking the river bend and the city

sunset on the way home

tell me, don't you now totally want to touch this!

Simply: Bourbon Street is totally not my thing, but wild even during the middle of week (drunk businessmen in suits anyone?). Good food. Gorgeous cemeteries, all those people, many sadly unremembered. Loved the architecture, all the French and Spanish influence creating a new culture. And in the end, beignets were worth the whole trip. Yum.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

testing spring

Almost 80 degrees and not officially spring yet! A perfect day for a nice long ride with Major, and was joined by C and Friday.

We met in Auburn and headed down the hill. This trail can get pretty busy, so we started early, and only encountered a few ambitious runners. No Hands bridge was almost empty as we crossed and headed up the other side, but took a left turn for Poverty bar.

The first mile is boring gravel road, but the rest is great footing, mostly fire road, paralleling the river. A few runners, but we trotted along and cantered up hills, admiring waterfalls and redbuds.

And we were at the river sooner than I expected! 11.2 miles in 1:45, pretty good pace for us! Major tried to mug me for my sandwich, but he finally settled for some grass (and the final bites). Major was sporting his lovely sweaty Hasslehoff chest, but didn't seem tired at all. A group of hikers came along and wondered if we were swimming the horses across! A bit deep for that, though maybe people do during Tevis training rides? During Tevis they lower the water level to make it safe to cross. The horses barely drank, but we gave them the opportunity, it's frustrating but all you can do!

(As an aside: when you visit the restroom/bushes and your phone is in a case on your leg, don't be surprised when your leg pushes a button and you hear the voice of Siri asking if you need assistance. "I'm sorry, I didn't understand that command")

So we headed back, pretty enthusiastically, both horses are usually a little sluggish on this trail. But we did more walking down the hills, and encountered more people as we passed the cave area.

But the road was wide, and we were on a mission home. We kept up a nice trot everywhere it was safe, and Major led the way through hordes of people walking, on bikes, with stollers, dogs, little kids, climbing equipment on backpacks, and one woman carrying a cat. A cat. On a hike. Odd.

Surprisingly No Hands was clear again, but there were more people on the other side. We did slow more as many of these children seemed either a bit more feral and were carrying large sticks, or were "city" families who looked a bit nervous at the big horses. We stomped through the black hole waterfall, did make a short stop for grass, and trotted up the hill.

Major was wearing old boots, and I had one cable break, but had the replacement on and moving out again in less than a minute. About a quarter mile from the end he also randomly flung off the opposite boot, which just rolled on the trail in front of us. Popped back on we still were back at the trailers in a bit over 2 hours.

There they finally drank. And got all cleaned up. And Major rolled in the dirt. I felt he did great for the 22 miles in 4 hours moving time (with half hour lunch stop), trotted out sound, perky back home. Even better, C's horse Friday, 20 years old, keeps up no problem. And was even a little strong coming home a couple times! 

Major and I are probably ready for a 50, though I'd like to do more hill work. I don't have a ride planned till the end of April. Choosing rides is tough, looking at what I can afford, how far I have to drive, take time off, space them apart, etc. I think we can handle the distance, and the trail. Emotionally it's harder when he gets race brain, but I think the only way to really deal with it is to do it. And that's scary. With some trepidation I look forward to the season. I admire other riders and bloggers with such confidence in themselves and their horses, I hope with more miles Major and I can get there too.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


It's what it all boils down to with our horses. Trust. Do we trust them to make decisions? Do they trust us enough to listen?

Last night the wind was gusting 25-40 mph. But I didn't really question riding into the forest with Major and C and Friday. For multiple reasons, but mainly, trust.

Our horses listen when needed. They are not unnecessarily spooky. We know we can always hand-walk them home. But even when the wind crazily whipped up a ridge and make a huge oak come to life (like Harry Potter's whomping willow C exclaimed) and the horses jumped, we were all ok. They came back and listened to us.

Every relationship has different levels of this. And it grows or minimizes every ride. It is everything from lowering a head for a halter, to mounting safely, galloping cross county to a beautiful dressage test. You can betray this trust pretty easily, but so can the horse. It all takes wok. It all takes time. And it is all worth it.

Even when Major is being a rushing idiot, I still trust him. I might have to let him run his heart out at a level I don't think I can ride, but in the end, he WILL listen. Sometimes it just takes more time than others. And more bravery. And I'll be a better rider, and horse owner, for it.

This weekend we are going to do a long ride to Poverty Bar, the Tevis river crossing. While I don't have Tevis dreams, I still think crossing that lowered river in the dark would be awesome. And I'd trust my horse to do it.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

the best, worst horse

Today Major and I competed in the best, worst horse contest. This is not two separate contests, but one for only the most talented of equines. Have you recently competed in this event?

You begin anytime of day, but we chose a lovely evening, after a week and a half of rain had cleared. The trails were wet but draining as we bravely set forth.

My horse was the best at actually heading out with some impulsion, and for nicely walking through puddles (not jumping). He looked so pretty in the setting sun, almost glowing orange with our tack.

We cantered some dry hills, then went to look at the filling lake. We turned slightly toward home, and began the next phase of the competition.

Jigging and pulling, my previously sensible steed tried to plow through puddles of unknown depth, avoid muddy trail by scaling slippery banks, and spook at a deer that I saw way before he did since he wasn't paying any attention.

With this awful horse I was able to practice many one-rein stops, side passing wet trail and eventually backing through the same deep puddle, multiple times. While this talent is appreciated, it is best if not often repeated, so as to not dilute the enjoyment of most rides.

Once home, Major knew the competition was not over, trying (and succeeding) to lovingly grind his sweaty, itchy head into my clean-shirted shoulder. After a towel rub down so my elite competitor would only be slightly less disgustingly dirty, he was finally rewarded with the dinner that had been sitting getting stale for at least 30 minutes.

I am now at the top of the leader boards! However, I will gladly give up my hard-won title to a better team. I don't want winning this contest to go straight to Major's head. I do believe this time of year is very competitive, so please, anyone else have the best worst horse?

Saturday, March 1, 2014

rain delay

Some days, there isn't much to do but sit around and put things on the cat.

Then the rain lets up a bit and you can go for a little walk along the canal.

And find an old friend from last year has come to visit.

Admire the tenacious scary weeds that herald spring.

Then visit the cooped-up (says he in a big pasture) sassy pony so he can have a delicious grass snack and you can groom the muddy beast.

Torture him in puddles and show him the suspicious new mounting block.

And hope the rain continues, but there are also enough breaks to ride soon.