Monday, April 27, 2015


It started out as over-thinking training. It was coming up to the ride season, I was nervous again after a year-and-a-half break, so went back and read some books/articles. Of course they say I need to do X number of miles per week at X speed. Which I have never in my life been able to do, not the mileage or the speed. So the doubt crept in.

I haven’t done a successful ride in a year and a half. Last year I did no rides due to Major’s nasty abscess, then ulcers, then lack of finances due to treating aforementioned maladies. The year before I had a successful ride at Cache Creek, but was then waylaid by a badly glued boot (my own fault) and a random lameness. The circumstances soured me on the whole thing, but the drive remained…maybe.

Then I’ve had a crappy training schedule, and not enough time in the saddle to feel like tackling an upcoming 50. But maybe the 25? I feel like I am back to square one, knowing my horse is going to be awful (not looking forward to managing a race-brained idiot). I can’t even think of the fun things (horse camping, friends, seeing lovely trails) without the worry of managing my horse (will he even drink? eat? not be crazy?)

I know there is no certainty in horses, and endurance riding in particular. But I am not a person who thrives very well on the unknown. While I do not put plan to paper, I do always have something in my logical brain, some plan of how things will go. Which I can’t do for a ride, not at my current stage of training.

But I’m going to try. I’m going to be an anxious mess with a hot horse, not that much different than the green team we were a few years ago. Three years forward, two years back. But I hope we learned something along the way. I’ll see after this weekend...

Thursday, April 23, 2015

detour: opposite lands

The last month has had much traveling and not as much horse time as I would like, but I did get to go to two pretty opposite places: Portland, Oregon and Palm Springs, California. It was like bizarro world!

North and South, cold and hot, wet and dry, work and family, both fun and interesting in their own way. Portland was for work, without as much time to relax or explore, except when I could escape the hotel in the raining evenings. I found it glorious to be walking around in the rain, since we've had almost none in Northern California this year, I felt I was soaking it all in. Palm Springs was a visit with family, and involved a lot of relaxing, random shopping at thrift stores, sitting by the pool, and much reading.

I did love the juxtaposition of it all, and when looking through my photos, figured I could show that too.

Portland water: Willamette river

Palm Springs water: oasis along the San Andreas fault

Portland blue: cool lighted tree

Palm Springs blue: skies above the oasis

Portland blooms: cherry trees

Palm Springs blooms: cactus flower

Portland opposite surfaces: old and new

Palm Springs opposite surfaces: metal and rock

Portland architecture: amazing Brutalist fountain

Palm Springs architecture: secret garden gate

I didn't wander Palm Springs as much as usual looking at architecture, as it was 95 degrees and I'm not quite used to that yet! I usually love all the mid-century modern stuff. But the desert calls....

Portland panoramic

Palm Springs panoramic

Portland exploring: Powell's bookstore

Palm Springs exploring: that is the trail?
Palm Springs has a really nice art museum, small enough to enjoy, not enough to overwhelm. I'd been before, so just went through the new exhibits, and visited some favorites.

Portland design: old water tower and sign

Palm Springs design: potholder man sculpture!

Portland horse: bronze sculpture

Palm Springs horse: also bronze, but cast from driftwood

Portland wildlife: like water off a goose's back

Palm Springs wildlife: brave lizard watches

Portland standing tall: iconic sign

Palm Springs standing tall: me in signature orange

Portland coming home: Mt. Shasta still snow covered

Palm Springs coming home: agriculture quilt

Though the traveling is fun, it is always nice to be home with the view between Major's ears. Though I did see two other curious ears on the trail…

Home view: adventuring horse ears

home view: curious deer ears

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

training challenges

I had planned on about 15 miles with some good elevation thrown in to boot. Since they were having a race over my usual trails (this time I paid attention, unlike last time!) I headed over to Cronan ranch. I've ridden here a few times, usually with friends. Once on the trails I remembered why: the trails are not very interesting alone. As both Major and I figured out…but that's later in the story.

But the trails were green and pretty as I started off in the morning from a very empty staging area.

just my trailer, alone in the staging area

big head horse syndrome (honestly, it's so hard to take good photos!)

riding with our shadow
American River views

The trail connects one staging area to the larger Cronan ranch. I love the views following above the river, and then up to the old movie set. And then we started up the hills! The first hill set was great, saw a couple hikers and that was all. The main trails are all fire roads, but we detoured down the back side to a nicer single track on the west side ravine. Then up the hill again.

old movie set

up a hill, then repeat

the trail ahead and behind

west side oak

headless horse
I found this butterfly while resting in the shade
Major was happy to stop at the top for a snack, then we headed across the ridge, admiring the sentinel oaks, and stopping for the first rattlesnake of the year! I got off and threw some rocks near it, and it slowly ambled off the trail. I made sure it was well away before walking quickly by!

sentinel oak stands watch on the ridge

first rattlesnake!

Major thinks "we're going all the way over there?"

We headed down the hill, where we were passed on the uphill by some cyclists, and out into the wide valley and across to the other side. Where Major lost all hope that we'd ever get home again. He kept wanting to turn the wrong way, as I was headed for the trailer, but he isn't used to the trails and I think he was a bit turned around!

more east ridge fire road

view back across the valley, we were on the ridge to the right

crazy hair Major asks "are we there yet?"

And I probably didn't help either. I am unmotivated by wide dirt roads: I love a snaking single track along a cliff, I am uninspired by exposed hard-packed roads, even if the view is pleasant. So we walked, and I got off and slogged alongside, until we got to the incorrectly spelled "connecter" trail back to the trailer, and found some hope after all!

"Now are we there yet?" almost
 There is a mile long switchback back down the hill, shaded and lovely, so I ran down it with Major clumping along behind. He is a most ungraceful beast downhill, but we slow trotted all but the steepest of sections. I did stop and let some more cyclists go past (they were coming UP the hill, way harder) and at the bottom we paused in the lovely little creek.

Which of course Major would not drink out of, after 15 miles, sigh. But I decided it was easier to sponge him off in the creek than back at the trailer, and after that he felt great! He was cool and refreshed and thought we should run the last mile back to the trailer. We did not. But I let him trot and canter just a little bit, before walking back the last half mile. I untacked and took Major over to eat some more grass.

I was standing there mentally evaluating how hard it is to train alone, how boring trails are even harder, questioning if I can even do this: you know all the self doubt. When a tiny ladybug took a rest on Major's copper butt. That pretty little scene made me smile. Because it wasn't the training I expected, but I rode my horse and he behaved and we did some (slow) elevation and now a tiny creature is resting alongside us. It took that little thing to made me smile: I need to reevaluate what I am worrying about and appreciate the bigger picture.

Major and the ladybug

Saturday, April 11, 2015

purple escape

lupine and granite

When you are sad, ride a horse and look at flowers.

two to beam aboard...

the lake creeping up

Add a friend and it's all a good day.

horse dwarfed by slabs of granite

The lupine this year is a little lacking. Three years of drought will do that! But it is still lovely. I don't know if the water will come up enough this year to cover the trail, but Major thinks it is very fun to play in!

a buzzard waits on the rock, probably for us to ride by and then fly up to startle the horses!

Major also thinks all things must be investigated for food. And found a few wisps of hay at the bottom of the trash can. My classy horse makes me smile.

happiness is leftovers