Sunday, July 27, 2014

five-year anniversary

view of Avery Pond from our last ride, turtle posing on the log in the center

I didn't ride today. It was 103 and muggy with smoke from nearby fires. Today I let Major just be. And remembered five years ago when I brought home a too young, too tall bay gelding, with one white foot and a funny blaze with a spot. 

spot the blaze, the one a kid said was his "go" button

He's still too tall, and far from perfect, but he's mine, all his faults...OUR faults, and good things too. 

he would eat till he popped if I let him

He was just happy to be turned out for a bit in the overgrown pasture. I don't think his head ever lifted, except when I whistled. 

In some stories he'd whinny and come running out of love for me. The love for grass won out, he looked at me and put his head back down. And that's ok.  That's my Major.

Friday, July 25, 2014

detour: Sierra Buttes

While I wouldn't like to repeat the tribulations with Major over the last few months, is has allowed me to have a bit more balance in my life. Instead of the summer being training for a ride, then going to a ride, recovering from a ride and repeat, I've been able to go on some pretty nice adventures.

My most recent detour took me to the Sierra Buttes. A very small mountain range tucked into the Sierra's (not sure if they are technically separate or geographically the same), it's the same elevation and similar to the Loney Meadows area, where I did some fun horse camping last year.

It is lovely, I cannot capture the scale of a mountain, with some snow still holding on, towering over a lake with sheer cliffs plummeting into the blue. Or a sweep of pine trees giving way to crumbling black rock, while the green stream meanders below and orange lilies glow in twilight. Really, I will let the photos tell the story, though they only capture a tiny portion.

verdant and rocky, juxtaposition in the Sierra Buttes

where are we going? I don't care, just go

bridge over the lovely Milton Creek

just looking up

visited by an alien life form

love this flower, soft and pretty: pussyfoot

a small sentinel stands alone, just beginning

large sentinel is done with living
hidden spots in the shade: leopard lily

sparkly morning creek
Salmon lake, with tiny islands

a trail view of Salmon lake

the trail was just a bit rocky...

a dragon trapped in a tree (see it?)

creeping phlox fades from pink to white
deer lake, a good place to rest
resting with a gorgeous view

blue butterfly gets minerals from mud

poser: orange frittillary

exploring columnar basalt

Sardine lake, a popular place

upper Sardine Lake and the Sierra Buttes, with rock stack feeling very small

wood embracing stone
another short hike on the iconic trail

Loves falls, name-sake heart-shaped rock beneath
just ducky: merganser family

on the way home, a cool respite in the Yuba River

I just swim and read, someone else (my SO) is more dedicated

A restful trip, I'd like to have more time. It was truly nice to not worry about the horse, I haven't done much camping without him in the last few years! But I miss that too. Too much fun stuff, not enough time. Just finding some balance.

Monday, July 21, 2014


found boot, minus the mud it was buried in
From deep beneath the waters, my lost boot was retrieved! Not by me, but by my awesome SO. Who not only let my horse chase him out to the lake for two miles, but packed along goggles AND a snorkel to find my boot buried in the clay mud. While I kept riding.

He's a keeper folks.

before I abandoned him and went riding, he graciously took a photo of my tripod horse

It was a weird weather day, with a tiny sprinkling of unusual rain, just enough to make drop marks in the dust. We slammed on the brakes when I saw about three feet of rattlesnake stretched across the trail, and watched it slowly disappear into the brush. And ran into an old friend on the trail too! (Literally almost ran her over, that's why we slow for blind corners!)

Major was super full of it today. And I did the best thing: let him go. I have worked and worked to get this horse to have a nice slow and/or medium trot, but that takes 20+ miles. Until then I have walk, 10+mph trot and two canter speeds: reasonable and bolty (not allowed). Today I averaged a 12mph trot (when we could trot, our trails are tough) and a nice canter for 10 miles.

No fighting me when we can do a ride like that. This seems to be a whole different style of partnership than the obedience model that was drilled into me in the past. I still question does he learn a bad habit because we're going at the speed he wants? Or do I succeed because I'm getting what I ask for? Or are we both just having fun? I think the more I ride and learn the more questions I have.

All was going great until I hit the last stretch, and literally hit it: a large branch that fell on me as I glanced off its dead branches. Thank goodness for helmets and non-spooky horses that stop from a canter. Found boots, rattlesnake tails, cool breezes, cantering along single track and a bruised shoulder. More than 50% good works for me.

reunited and it feels so good...

Friday, July 18, 2014

trivial pursuit

Sometimes the world is just too much to bear. Atrocities, conflicts, disasters I have no control over still feel overwhelming. Balancing the need to know with my need for sanity. 

This morning I had to decide. Turn off the radio. Step away from the NPR. Stop the phone updates. Go ride your horse. This isn't ostrich head in the sand ignoring, it's survival. 

He nickers when I walk up. His biggest concern? Did I bring alfalfa?

Into the forest and through the woods, like the song. Then to the drought stricken lake. Ok, some concerns just happen to be in my backyard. Damn. 

But the trail is sandy. The way is known. I spend the ride attempting to find the brake pedal on my slightly out-of-control horse. But it is a good thing. Blue skies, slight breeze, breathe deep. Simple, a world apart. 

I searched but my lost boot did not emerge from it's watery grave. The mucky depths maintained their hold. But all is not lost. A good day, a good horse, a good ride. Trivial in the world order, but for today, it works. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


Get up! Get up! I yelled at Major as he tried to lay down in the lake...with me still on him! He loves the water, so I decided I'd do a ride out to the lake, and try for a swim.

All we were going to do is play in the water. So we chased followed my SO out to the lake. It was only just barely 100 degrees (I used to think anything above 100 was just the same. It isn't. 100 in the shade is OK, even riding. Even 102. But much higher than that is try-to-hide-in air-conditioning time.) Once in the sand Major gets all excited and a bit prancy. We'd only gone 2.5 miles, but I untacked and stacked everything on a rock, and headed out into the water.

We both waded right in. The lake is so warm it's almost like a bathtub. The sandy bottom is mucky in places, but it was a safe muck, not the quicksand in other portions of the lake.

come snorkeling with me!

And Major splashed. And snorkeled. And I splashed him while he looked on curiously. But he didn't want to roll, or go much deeper than his knees. He wasn't hot or sweaty enough. So I hopped on bareback.

heading out into the deep

I've never been in deep water with Major before, and wasn't sure how he'd react. I had my SO keep a hold of the leadrope. Yes, this might be extra cautious, but I have two reasons for that: one friend's horse got scared, dumped her and ran out into the lake swimming for who knows where, the far side? He was finally caught, but had to be treated for pneumonia. Scary. Another acquaintance's horse decided to roll, he wasn't quite quick enough, the horse rolled, dumped him and hightailed it for home. No thank you. Extra caution for our first time.

add some pawing...

this is deep enough Major thinks...

Major was much braver when I was riding. He walked out about belly deep, and played, and thought about it, but he really didn't seem to want to go any deeper and swim. He had no friends out there, and it was a new thing. So we left it at that. I could have pushed it, but why? This was just a fun experiment.

We were all cool and refreshed. Even more so after my great SO went diving for my frickin' lost boot! Never did find it in the muck. My fault: the boots were loose after a recent trim. I didn't adjust them as tight as I could have. Damn. Maybe the lake will recede some more and an orange Renegade will emerge from the depths...and we'll go swimming to find it.

Major says time to go home, look mom, that way...(look, only one boot too!)

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

conversations with major: I'm back!

Here's Major! I'm back to normal!
Dude, you were never normal. But you sure seem better.
But it's fun to tell everybody "Here's Major!" I should be a star.
Stop saying that, it's creepy
No, it's fun to feel good again.
But you've never seen "The Shining" 
I've seen the sun shining. Oh, the moon too. 
No, it's a scary movie, not for horses. The bad guy says "Here's Johnny!", plus there's a big old hotel, and haunting and ghosts and snow...
You're right, I can't see that. Snow is scary! Too cold for me. 
Sigh. Let's go tack up.

OK, chubby buddy! Let's go.
I'm Major.
I know, but that girth is pretty tight after time off.
Not my fault.
I know. Let's go for an easy ride and work some off.
OK, can we go this way?

What's that awful noise?!
Stop jumping around. 
Screaming eels!
It's not screaming eels. It's screaming babies. They must be having a party in that house over there. 
That party does not sound like fun. 
I agree Major. Let's go. 

Woods are lovely, dark and deep. No. These woods are dry, hot and full of snakes.
a bit warm for the ride

Down the trail, down the trail, we're going down the trail. Argh! Smelly thing! Dead thing! Scary, turn around!
Easy dude, just stand here. Yuck. Dead bloated deer. Poor thing must have been hit by a car. But we're going this way.
Yuck, no, have to walk right next to it!
OK, I'm not fighting this battle right now. I'll get off and walk you by.
Very suspicious, something killed it, could still be here!
No, you're fine.
OK, I'm fine now. It's back there, we're safe.
Gee, thanks.

NO, walking. Remember, taking it easy
I love this trail!
I know, either way is home.
I'm going home!
No we're not.
Turn this way.
Turn this way.

Who's that? 
Looks like a mom and daughter running.
I should chase them!
That could be scary for them. Let's keep it slow.
But she is running. She is a pony!
No, but she has a beautiful pony tail. I think it is nicer than yours. Let's just pass them nicely.
The little girl just said I was sooo pretty.
Yes, you are.
I should prance along. 
No, let's just behave.
Knock it off.

SNORT! What's that!
A man, running up the hill.
Naked Sasquatch! I know it! 
No, it's not!
Arghh, could be scary.
It's not, let's catch up.
OK. Chasing is awesome.
Catching up, not chasing.

No, still a half-naked runner, behind a tree, with a large dog hiding behind him.
Yeah, that's what I meant. Very suspicious.
Just move past him.
OK, let's go, what are we waiting for?
You to stop being an idiot?

Boat and umbrella in the tiny distance. Very suspicious.

What's that! 
It's so far away dude! A boat onshore with umbrellas. You've seen it before.
You are ridiculous after not enough riding.

hot, dry trail

Look, geese! Must run them down!
Hold on buddy, they're in the muddy section, don't want to fall in.
Must chase geese!
Stop pulling on me. Stop it. Just stand here.
But the geese are over there. In the water.
Yes, we can wait and be careful. The mud is like quicksand.

Now can I go in the water?
Yes, but over here is safer.
Dude, slow down, we can't go too deep.
I'm in the water, in the water. Look, a stick. Look, grass underwater. Look, I can blow bubbles.
Dude, you're so silly.
I LOVE the water! I can put my whole head under!
Good job.
But it is more fun to blow my water snot on someone else.
I know, it is often me.
Yeah, right.

I love the lake!

How long can we stay?
This water is awesome.
I know, but it's almost time to head home buddy.
But, I don't have play water at home.
No, but there is dinner.
Right now?
No, but pretty soon.
Then we can wait. And I can play.
You're right, we can. Take some time. Thanks for the perspective. Horse time is different.
Horse time is the best time.
Yes, it is.

viewing the shrinking lake

many years I'd be standing in deep water right here
rattlesnake point, a blind corner heading home