Friday, October 28, 2016


What haunts our trails? What lurks around corners, behind trees, beneath rocks? What is spooky on the trail?

noise in the shrubbery!

something killed the balloons!

mud puddle ate Major's head

skeleton rider

really dead thing

evil seeds

scariest of all: late for dinner

Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 15, 2016


Today is 2 minutes and 25 second shorter than yesterday. 2:25 less minutes of daylight. 2:25 less time outside. And it's increasing as we get closer to the winter solstice.

But we have time. There is always a little time.

The first big storm of the year was blowing in. But we had time. And trail. And clouds blowing in overhead, wind-whipped mane.

But we had time.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

show time

Well, it could have been worse!

We certainly did not win any prizes, and there is much room for improvement, but we survived our foray back into the "show" world.

This was a very casual local show, and our portion was held on the trail behind the actual show arena. Major and his friend Friday (and my friend C) arrived a bit early so we could wander about. Major was pretty unconcerned about the surrounding, as was more interested in whatever C had thrown into the delicious hay bag. We were parked right next to the warmup ring, but even that was unimpressive. So far, so good!

(As an aside: we could immediately tell we were not at an endurance ride: these people could not park! So much space between trailers, they could have fit a lot more into the tight space without using the overflow, but I digress…)

This was the Western day of the show, English had been the day before. So there was pretty bling to be seen everywhere. My dressage saddle and helmet may have gotten some looks, but we warmed the horses up and practiced a bit, then headed over to the trail area to start our class.

waiting before the class

Here is an obstacle-by-obstacle re-enactment and my pretend scores (out of 10 per obstacle):

1. First judge takes our number and explains we need to go to the marker on the ground, and sidepass over to the gate. OK. Go to sidepass, stop, need to sidepass left, Major steps right INTO my leg. Argh. Only one step though, then we sidepass over to the gate.We did it but ugly: Score 4

2. Then we need to take the rope gate hanging on the tree, open it, walk through, close the gate. Rope gate? We hadn't practiced that, only real gates. Damn. The gate was an utter disaster. No excuses, but he was focused on everything except me, including the puppy and owner on the trail about 10 feet away, talking to a rider just standing there. But we did open and close it in the end. Score: 2

3. Walk horse between parallel poles about 10 inches apart (it is supposed to be a very narrow trail). Major at first thought it must be a sidepass, being so narrow. So he was a bit hesitant, but then did it ok, with a little knocking of poles. Score: 5

4. Dismount onto the mounting block, then trot horse about 20 feet, around pole, and back. This is a trick: you need to either unclip your reins and put them on the halter, or have a leadrope. I knew this an unclipped my reins, and Major and I did our endurance trot out. Pretty easy. Score: 8

5. Lead horse over to another mounting block, and get on without moving the block. Since we never move the block, and Major knows a cue "one step" to line up, no problem. The trick here: check your girth before getting on, judge will watch for that. I remembered! Score: 9

6. Ride horse down into creek, past the scary plastic bag, turn a complete circle in the creek, getting all four hooves wet. Major was a bit forward, thinking he was leaving his BFF Friday behind. He wanted to charge back up, but we walked, and I remembered to stand up in the stirrups and get out of the saddle coming up the hill. Score: 7

The next obstacles was a little way down the trail. And Major was fretting about Friday, and Friday was freaking out that Major was leaving. Sigh… and we had to wait awhile while the previous person finished, Major heard Friday calling to him, he called back, but just once. Arggh!

anxious Major, forced smile, gee, is this fun?

7. Finally our turn! Go up the the picnic table, pretend it's a rock. Dismount on the off side. Get down and check the horse's right front foot for a stone and clean it out. Tricky part: have your own hoof pick. Win for me! Got my folding hoof pick out of my saddle bag, done. Remount from the off side. But I forgot a key element: check the girth (every time you mount). Damn. Score: 6

8. In front of you is a half box with lines made of flour. From about 20 feet back, trot your horse and stop directly in the box. Yeah, we've got this! Perfect stop. Score: 10

9. Ride through three uneven cones, don't go outside the flour lines, about 30 inches apart. Walking forward, no problem. Backing, um, not so much. Obliterated the first cone, stepped outside the box, did the final cone OK. Judge (an old friend) said "Maybe if he was less anxious." Yeah, I think that too! Score: 4

Estimated final score: 55/90. Ugly.

finished, but distracted Major waiting for Friday (obstacle 9 on left)

Through this all poor C was dealing with Friday having a melt down, even when he could see Major. He probably would have been better to go to the show alone, but your unfortunately, you ride the horse you have that day! After we were done we did hang out for awhile and watch the kids ride adorable well-natured horses and ponies. Some putted around in too-slow western jog, but there were some cute pairs. And Major and Friday just stood there, watching everything calmly.

watching arena, my trimmer's daughter on her adorable pony!

relaxing after our bad rides
I'll await the real scores, hopefully I wasn't too nice to myself! And maybe next year more than a week of practice. But I'm glad I went, and to have the reminder that I need to do some arena work more often than never!

Saturday, October 8, 2016


A few days before our mess of an arena practice, I came home after being gone almost a week. First thing I did when I got back was go see Major. He was happy to see me, though he probably would have been just as happy to have had the apple and carrot provided daily by friend S instead!

But I wanted to get out, even if it was threatening rain! Turns out he did too. Major briskly set the pace, and we headed for the lake. The wind was rising, and I thought better of taking the exposed, sandy lake trail. Instead we opted for the more often tree-covered upper Pioneer trail.

gathering storm

changing redbud leaves

Not a single person on the trail. A silent lake. The only sound was the wind in the trees. A few drops fell on the dusty trail (and dusty horse) but we avoided the larger storm. Redbud trees the first to show their fall colors.

over-shoulder dusty rain-dappled horse
Kings of all we survey.

I am monarch of all I survey, my right there is none to dispute." -William Cowper

Thursday, October 6, 2016

arena ugly

Oh, that was not pretty.

Not every ride goes as planned. And certainly not our last (and only) arena practice of the year. I somehow had the great idea that I would attend the local show this coming weekend and do the basic Trail class. It actually isn't an arena trail class (thank goodness) but takes place on the small trail behind the horseman's arena, with many of the same type of obstacles.

waiting for obstacles to be set up

mmm, a leaf!

So I should practice, right? Now I actually do practice on trail, backing and sidepassing, turning on the hindquarters, etc. But maybe we needed some refinement, and obstacles! I was enthusiastic.

I set up a tarp and cardboard to walk over. And an L to back and barrels to work. A pole to sidepass over. Friend C was also up for the challenge. She set up a flour line and box, scary bags on the fence. We had umbrellas, buckets, things to drag, it was good.

On a positive note: Major will walk over and through anything. Tarps, cardboard, no problem. He did put his nose down at the flour line…and tried to eat it! Dragging the feed pan was scary at first, then just fine, same with the yellow toy bucket filled with sand.

non-scary flour line

flour nose, not tasty

Now for the ugly. For a horse that will easily move from one side of a wide trail to the other with just light leg pressure, sidepasing in the arena was impossible. Major couldn't possibly remember to move off my leg. With encouragement (dressage whip) that improved. Briefly. C was also quite frustrated with her horse Friday.

Major's attitude wasn't quite "I don't remember how to do that." Instead it was "F* you, I don't WANT to do that!" So we'd work something, then take a break. I'd set him up for success (first, just take one step sideways) which was met with head flinging, backing nonsense. Correct response, we'd move on. It did get better, but showed a big hole in our training.

Standard backing was better, though not pretty, working on straightness is very necessary! And not continuing to back when all pressure is off. And not plowing through obstacles. Oh my.

We also trotted and cantered, that was fine. We went back out of the arena to give the horses a mental break, Major opening the gate perfectly. We practiced out on the road, again, both horses were very good, nothing like their behavior in the arena. Arghh!. Then we went back into the arena. And Major refused to sidepass over to close the gate. He was saying no more practice, let's go on the trail! But he doesn't get to decide that. We had not been practicing that long, and he was fine outside of the arena. Sigh.

Ok, totally my fault for not ever practicing in the arena. And just because we did this great a few years ago doesn't mean Major remembers. Though he still knows things like leg, sidepass and backing, and should remember to MOVE OVER when asked and not behave like an a** in general. Being in a sandy arena versus a forested trail should not make a difference on that.

So we will practice some more. And still go to the show. Because we can learn from every experience. I already learned that we need to practice these rusty skills. I'm figuring did not place in a show is better than did not try!

I'll fit in another practice arena ride and a fun ride before the show. I'm pretty sure our fun ride will be doing all the trail challenges, but in the forest! I'll return with the event debacle details and results next week…