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