Monday, August 25, 2014

deal with it

I often tell Major to just deal with it: We're not running home like an idiot, deal with it. No, there is not something scary in the woods, deal with it, etc.

This weekend I decided to "deal with it" for myself. I decided to go out with some local endurance friends, who ride much faster than I do. These folks often top 10 rides, and Major is not in the best of shape after such an odd year. But I decided to deal with it. I know the trails, I can go off on my own if necessary, plus they're good people, they won't kill me. Right?

Fellow boarder E and her small-but-mighty horse Tux were coming. We had some time while we packed the trailer, so turned both horses out in the greenest pasture to eat. Major loves everybody, I wasn't too worried, but we still stood and watched for a bit.

Major tried everything he could think of to get Tux to play with him. Tux just ate. Leaping, bucking, head-flinging ridiculousness ensued. Tux just ate. Major was so frustrated, he ran over the plastic-covered compost pile, circled around Tux, reared right next to him. Tux just ate. Major continued to throw a fit that his new friend wouldn't play.
Join me mini one!

Come on, come on!

Just play already!

Look at me, come run!

It was hilarious and ridiculous. Major was a willful child not given what he wanted. Finally we caught them and loaded in the trailer for the short ride to Auburn. Where we met our friends and headed out. These experienced endurance horses and their people know their jobs. One horse Italic is a great downhill horse, so we were able to keep up a better pace than usual down hills. Another horse Will is a crazy awesome uphill horse, so he set the pace there. We tagged along the whole ride, Major even behaving himself behind, at speed, and actually the whole ride!

From the Auburn overlook, we four horsemen headed down the hill. Major was very happy to be out with friends. Our last ride here was a trudge to the bottom of the canyon. This time we flew, he loves the “competition” of riding with others, even if we’re all staying together. No winning this race buddy!

at the start of Quarry road

Down the canyon, across No Hands and the highway, and out the Quarry road, definitely faster than my usual pace! A group of climbers with a giant climbing pad and dangling crap attached was a tiny bit unnerving to everyone, but quickly passed. We sped down the road, eventually taking a turn up the Brown’s Bar trail. Which goes up and up some more, next to a creek. While everything is really dry, the hanging grape vines and shade from the oak trees give a semblance of cool. The trail is nice single track, with roots and rocks for some tough footing.

along Brown's Bar, me in orange!

Well, I thought it was tough footing and uphill. Until we got to the Goat Hill trail. Oh my. Tough, steep, twisting single track, with knee-bashing trees, parts of the trail needed to be almost jumped up and slid down. Goat horses needed for sure! Almost at the top Tux and Major took a break, they were tired. But when finally at the top and moving on, quickly recovered. Way better than I thought. From here the view was across the canyon, absolutely gorgeous (however my phone/camera decided to misbehave all day, so I stole all the photos from E!).


across the canyon, and distant quarry

We found a water trough before crossing Highway 49. Major snorkeled but didn’t drink. Arrgghh this horse almost always waits till 15-20 miles, just kills me. We continued on, down, down the Cool side, back across No Hands. Major found another gear and wanted to lead the charge up the hill. So I let him for a bit, but then we let the good hill horse Will pass us, (ok, completely blow past us) and Major knew he had met his match.

At the end, Major finally drank his fill at the Auburn trough (after at least 18 miles) and looked great afterwards. The next day he was prancing around, raring to go. I am so proud of my out-of-shape horse, who is actually in better shape than I ever thought. I really don’t do any rides where I push things. I tend to stick to the tried and true paces, long-slow distance, etc. I worry too much, and kept an eye on my horse all ride, but he was never too tired, never not willing to go.

I was glad I decided to just "deal with it," which led to a fun new adventure with good people, and renewed appreciation for my horse. Not having done any endurance rides this year, I'd forgotten his spirit and strength on tough trails and when pushed beyond my comfort zone (mine, not his!). It felt great to be flying down the trail, pushing some limits.

P.S. And for another laugh of the day, I took my smelly tack home, where my very old, crabby cat Thomas loves to roll all over it. And then hiss and growl at the neighbor's kitten, who was somehow annoying Tom just by watching her. Too funny. Like Major and Tux in the morning.

Thomas (left) annoyed by tiny kitten, "stop watching me!"

Sunday, August 17, 2014


Major was wound tight this morning. I had been gone camping for three days (glorious, cool, foggy coast, pictures of that later) and he had nothing to do but stand in a nice grassy pasture and eat. Or run around and be silly. But he reserves that for rides. Sigh. 

He did not want to stand still as I tried to have a conversation with another boarder, so I had quick discussion on stand-still-right-here-now! Then hopped aboard. To the quickest, nicest walk ever. Usually it's a slug fest heading out, so I'll take it when I get it!

Into the forest on the main, rutted trail. A discussion ensued about not blasting through ruts that make me nervous that he's going to break a leg out there.  But I let my guard down for a moment, and he makes some poor trail choices. 

Like the middle elevated tightrope section of the rut. Really? Shouldn't an experienced trail horse make better choices? Guess I need to pay attention.

Then we came up to some very fearless deer. I put the camera away, and said sweet nothings, but they didn't move till we were almost on top of them. Then of course three went one way, the other "trapped" with Major between the herd. So we waited till they got themselves settled, the lone one bounding in front of Major, and headed down the trail again. 

Major made the turn away from home, so we kept going. Guess he wanted to explore. We had a close call with a careening mountain bike (really, slow down when you're joining the main trail. With some horses that would have been a scary wreck!). At the other staging area people were just saddling up, and we were half done with our ride!

Blasting towards home Major was being exceptionally good. I know for different people and horses this could have different descriptions. Here is my reality: I put on the riding gloves heading home. He wasn't pulling but we were also moving at close to top speed for the trail limitations, which makes him happy. I keep a mid-tight rein with some slack, just enough to grab up quickly if needed. To slow him down required effort. But he'd mostly listen, walk when needed. But was nowhere close to tired or done. So when the turnoff for home came...we kept going. Because I'm evil that way. 

He slowed to a dull-roar trot, mindful that we'd missed our turn, but quickly amped back up. His gait of choice is extended trot, because canter is too much work. We slowed for blind corners and stepped off trail for six horses to pass. Two of whom had minor meltdowns passing a quietly standing horse. One horse turned and was backing down the trail, bumping into fellow riders. No one had helmets. Sigh. We just stood quietly. I do love that we can go from crazy canter to standing nicely. 

The other staging area was packed, horses just tied and waiting to head out. I had 12 miles done by 11am, it was close to 90 degrees. Major ignored the trough and wanted to trot back down the pavement. We walked. 

My hell-bent speed horse tolerated obnoxious bikes, leaping deer, badly behaving horses and random joggers and dogs. He made a few odd footing choices. I think I'll forgive him. I look back after rides like this and can remember the beginning rides of barely trotting, silly spooks and no communication. I know I'll have more crummy rides too, but days like this, I'll remember. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

sunrise, sunset



With a copper horse in between (shoving dinner in his face after a good lake ride).

and the road home

Less complication. More appreciation. Less is more.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Back to the canyon

It had been awhile since I trailered out. Major thought so too and almost jumped in the trailer! We headed out early to ride, and what better choice today than the end of the Tevis trail?

This week I saw some horses camped at the fairgrounds, settling in, pre-riding the final few miles. Today all the trailers were gone, headed to Robie Point to ride camp, vet, and await the start early tomorrow. 

I followed the ribbons down, trying to convince Major it was our endurance ride and maybe he shouldn't be so lazy. He changed his mind and charged across No Hands and up the other side, where we went off trail and headed up to Cool instead.

It was hot, dry and dusty, and I finished at 11am. The Tevis riders will be dealing with the heat and so much more: elevation, rocks, physical and mental exhaustion. For 100 miles. I am humbled by their talent and dedication. My 12 miles was paltry in comparison, a mere 12% of what riders will attempt tomorrow.

I will be watching from the sidelines, too many other commitments this year to help out. Thanks to all the many volunteers and crew who make it possible. And a big good luck to all the Tevis riders. Safe travels.