Wednesday, August 9, 2017

hawk eye

A flash of a dark shape caught the corner of my eye. A bird was battering himself against the glass, trapped in an atrium stairwell. And not just any bird, but a red-shouldered hawk. He fell to the ground exhausted, and I covered him and wrapped him with my overshirt. There was no one around so late in the evening.

I’ve heard a screeching hawk hunting the forest near my office. I love the call of these small but fierce birds. Was this the one I’ve been hearing?

I took him to the edge of the woodland area behind my office. His beak was gaping open, eyes wide. I softly set him down. I did gently stretch his wings which appeared unhurt. I quietly left him there in the golden weeds. Then I tried to call wildlife rescue.

Who were closed for the day. Decisions. I could put him in a dark box all night, and hope he survived until 8am when they reopened. Or let nature take its course.

I got a box and towel from the office. But just waited. About 10 minutes later I walked down to the edge of the parking lot and woodland, he was still there. His wings a bit akimbo, laying strangely in the weeds. I thought the worst.

But on hearing my hesitant steps, he launched himself into the air and took flight. Was it just fear, and did he later fall from the sky to crash into the forest below? I don’t know. But I watched him fly across the pond reeds and into the forest. I think part of my heart took flight with him.

I hope to hear his screeching cry another morning, disturbing the silence, reminding us of his small strength.

hawk hunting ground: overgrown pond and oaks

today, there were only turkeys

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Hat Creek Hustle 2017

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, OK, maybe that's being a little dramatic. Plus, I think I've heard it somewhere before…

the ride was incredible well managed and marked, but some tough, rocky trails

So Hat Creek Hustle went very well and as planned for 32 miles. But I wasn't doing a long LD, I was doing the 50. Damn.

are we there yet?
It was a long trailer trip (we stopped for some breaks) but the ride camp was lovely and shaded. And it was cooler than the valley! Major got right down to business: eating. We explored camp, did a quick tack check/reconnaissance ride, and settled in to wait. I was a bit concerned about his weight, I think he is a little fat, but the vet was very nice, and thought that since he's just such a big, tall horse that his weight was appropriate, 5 BCS. (Though I saw plenty of much thinner big, tall horses!)

first thought at ride camp: what's there to eat?!

sunrise anticipation
Ride morning came at 5:00am after a fitful night's sleep, with a ride start at 6:00am. Major ate yet another beet pulp mash (he ate so much mash I almost ran out of feed!). I was really anxious, and trying to be calm, because Major has always fed on that energy. I guess it worked, because while he wanted to move, we were able to walk for the first 1/2 mile or so, and after that it was a much more controllable trot! I did keep him reined in, if I let him that trot will go from 7-8 miles an hour to 10 or 14 in a couple strides!

The first 15-mile loop went slower than usual for us, but that was fine, I was keeping him in check. The trails were mostly roads, but dusty dirt, not much gravel, which was great. Everything was so well marked, pie plates and ribbons and markings everywhere! We came in and vetted all As for a 30-minute hold.

View of Mount Lassen (I think!)

Out again the first part of the second Orange loop followed the Pacific Crest Trail. It was sandy single track, my favorite! But sadly that didn't last long. And I should have known it: we were at the base of a volcano (that last erupted in 1915). We came upon a red-dirt graveled road. That went on and on. And on. A gradual uphill that would never end. It was the longest 7.5 miles of my life.

red dirt road

continuing forever

rocky view from the rest stop

At the top there was a small rest stop and a turn around point. There was water and hay, so we rested a bit. Then the long trip back down the hill. I didn't want to trot down it, so I walked Major down on foot about 2 miles, then remounted where the trail turned off. Onto a dusty road/trail littered with rocks. Oh boy.

shadows and hoof prints

distant snow-capped Mount Shasta

and more rocks!
I think that is where I felt the first off step. Really intermittent. Almost like "Did he just step on a rock?" After a few more intermittent lame steps I knew I was done. But there were 8 more miles back to camp. I was totally despondent. Dusty, crying, sniffling, it was not pretty. So sad and beyond disappointed that I broke my pony. Again. And I'd been so proud of him doing so well! I passed some spotters and let them know I was taking the flatter road back (it mostly paralleled the trail, and I would not block any riders that way).

It was a long hike. About 1/2 way I got back on and trotted a bit up a hill, yep, I could still feel it. Back to hiking. Major was dragging me back to camp, but it felt like it took forever to get there. I stripped tack, my SO who was nicely waiting at the loop end point hadn't seen me come in, so I surprised him when he saw me walking Major back down to the vet, "We're done."

The vet didn't agree. We pulsed down, and the vet didn't think he could see much of anything. Maybe something? Or maybe not? But there were 10 more miles of rocky trail, I'd already gone off course, I was done. I rider optioned. So I got to do two new things that weekend: a new-to-me ride, and rider optioning, woo hoo (not).

Major didn't care. He was back at the trailer, there was food, there were fun things to watch as the horses came into the camp. He was awesome. If one good thing did come of this all weekend I was really proud of him: no issues with camping, little concern about other horses, listening better while on the ride, eating like a champ.

evening contemplation (a break from eating)

We stayed that night, I thought Major should rest after 40 miles plus a long expected trailer ride in the heat, morning sounded like a better option. An uneventful drive home, he was happy to roll, drink home water, and ask for another mash.

a good home roll

So what to do? Way back in March we had a ride where he felt not quite right. However, I've done more than 200+ training miles since then, with literally no issues. Since we came back I've trotted him in hand multiple times, and did one easy ride, and felt nothing. So how to diagnose? If there is even an issue? Did not letting him do his preferred pace have anything to do with it?

Baylor-Gore photography, purchased

Baylor-Gore photography, purchased

My favorite vet has mentioned before wanting to see the issue (lameness) and then diagnose, instead of just throwing tests at what-may-be. Right now I truly feel he'd see nothing, not on hard ground or soft, I've trotted on pavement and sand. So I may take Major out on a longer ride and not hope/hope to see something. Until then, I'll watch the sunrise over one of the Tevis canyons behind my house, be proud of my horse, and take it day by day. And there's no getting around it: still be highly disappointed.

glowing sunrise

Friday, July 21, 2017

detour: cooler mountains

Fleeing the week of 105+ degree weather, the mountains offered little respite. But 90 degrees at 6500 feet still sounded better, and camping, swimming, kayaking and hiking sounded like a great plan.

how much can you cram in/on a Subaru? A lot.

First things first: launch the kayak for the first time this season. The rivers have been running too fast and cold for casual kayaking, but now it's just right. There is something about water and granite and blue skies (and no cell service) to make you stop worrying about all those projects you left on your desk...

just breathe

old, cut tree with logging marks

tiny tree among granite

I didn't take any photos of our lovely camping spot, next to the creek, with a short walk to the lake. But I took full advantage of putting my feet in the creek, and a comfy chair, with a 800+ page new book, (the last in one of my favorite trilogies): now that's a great weekend.

a lovely start

meadow of mule's ear, not blooming quite yet!

But I guess I should put down the book for awhile (and it was way too heavy to put in my backpack) and hit the trails. For a short hike, no monsters this weekend. Except in the lake! I had really wanted to swim after our couple-mile excursion to the lake, but it was filled with catfish, swimming along the surface, intensely interested in whatever. I don't like fish that I can see. I got my feet wet and that was all.

perfect Salmon lake

too many catfish

But we continued, there were many lakes along the trail, and eventually there was a great one to take a lunch break, read my secondary (much more lighter-weight) book, and breathe the cool air.
granite trail
Sierra phlox
The trails are mostly granite, interspersed with giant boulders to climb around and over, and this year, still snow! The lakes were all full, there were fallen trees and a lot of debris on trail, but hidden flowers were everywhere.

pretty in pink, mountain heather

removing some jammed-up debris (and singing Toad's "Dam Would Break" for awhile after this...)

Sierra fawn lily

it wasn't that hot out, but I couldn't resist laying the snow/ice.

Back in the campsite, I hefted my book, ate marshmellows and looked up at the trees. And then back at my book, because honestly, what's going to happen next?

along our camp creek

Thursday, July 13, 2017


The same trails. The same trees. The same easy-access staging area. It was all getting a bit dull. But it was too hot to trailer far, I wanted to start early!

pretty, but boring

different day, same staging area

So time for a new perspective…I put it in reverse! I trailered to the usual staging area, and decided to just ride home from there (and my trailer would be driven home by S.O., awesome!). We are very lucky to have such an amazing trail system. Major thought he was in heaven! He always wanted to head home from these trails, but I had been too focused on elevation and distance, to just have a fun ride.

barrel trail: Major didn't care at all

giant piles of leftover gravel
Stu the Dog's trail!

Hidden water trough: lovely water, Major disdains
First I wandered up and down the hills a bit, just to get some elevation training (since it's all downhill going home). I finally rode down the strange hanging barrels trail, Major didn't care at all. We waded into the water, then stormed back up the hill…and towards home. Major couldn't contain his excitement, 'You mean we really are going home, not fooling me and turning around soon?" Nope, let's go!"

A little river play time
then back up the canyon and back down towards home

While it might be steep cliffs for a bit, it is what we're used to. So no worries as we trot along. It was a great, different look at the same trail. Panoramas opened up ahead, that had previously been hidden behind me. Boats on the lake (where we could walk across last year!)

the vertigo photo! (yes it was that green right here, weird I know)
I'll take this view

After the cliffs, it's an easy trail. And no one was out! Early + hot = empty trails. I'll take it.

haha, nice ears on the bridge of death
another disdained trough...sigh...
It's a sparkly!

We were home before noon. I think Major was pleasantly surprised at our turn of trail. And even better, my trailer had already been parked by my great S.O. I think I could get used to this new perspective.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

d.i.y.: fly veil

The flies are terrible this year. I’m assuming from all the wet weather? Even trails far away from stables and animals are inundated with the nagging vermin. Poor Major tossed his head and I flapped my reins in his face (he knows I’m helping) through 10 miles last week.

I’d seen fly veils online, they’re cheap to buy. But why buy something for $6.99 when you can spend hours doing it yourself? (Plus, I’d end up buying even MORE stuff, because that’s always how it works.)

lacking in the forelock department
Ha! Actually I spent less than an hour. And all with stuff I already had. And customized. Win!

Gather supplies. I got together random string, velcro, elastic, scissors, thread, measuring tape. I ended up using just the velcro and paracord, but you could use elastic, shoelaces, baling twine, etc.

I measured the browband of my old bridle (my current bridle has no browband). I added a couple inches for good luck because it seemed sensible.

Make the velcro strips, making sure scratchy side doesn’t touch the horse. I took the two velcro pieces, attached so you have one scratchy and one fabric, stitched them together, and then attached them to the piece I used as a browband.

Cut the desired length, mine were 20”. I cut 10, some black and some orange, because it is what I had. I’d probably do a few more, but you can add more later too. (Now that I have tested it, I would add a few more.)

Tie them on by making a loop under the brow string, then pull the ends through. Arrange semi-evenly. And you’re almost done!

You can put a little glue if you feel your cord will come undone. It really depends on what material you’re using. I put a drop of gel superglue (best stuff ever) since the paracord wanted to slip around.

You can trim them all exactly, if that’s your thing. I just left it: close enough!

Carefully burn the ends if using paracord/nylon/etc. (Do not under any circumstances touch the smoldering cord to extinguish, therefore attaching molten nylon to your finger, leaving a nice burn. Yeah, don’t do that part.)

Now you’re done! Install on your bridle, and install on your horse. (Really though,  make sure your horse is ok with flappy string around their face. I take no responsibility if your horse freaks out because the tentacled monster is attacking him.)

Bonus: custom caterpillar! I found this little guy while working outside on this project, and he matches. So awesome.

Major was very bored with the whole "posing" thing. I did a test-ride in the super-fly zone (no, not superfly like “cool” but too many bothersome creatures). It worked great!