Wednesday, May 22, 2019

recent adventures

Major and I have been exploring new and old trails, and having a (mostly) uneventful time doing so!

A recent trip to Auburn we took the same old 'barrel" trail (Tamaroo Bar), but took a detour along the lovely lower river trail. It only goes for a bit over a mile (unless you're riding an actual mountain goat), but parallels the river.
dangerous river this year—cold and fast
still weird, and cool

The only problem was Major thought any time we headed south-west we were going home. He was very adamant about it too! Towards home…zoom! We have not ridden home from here this year, nor do we do it often (it is 10+ miles), so I don't know why he got it in his head. His favorite "trail" of the day where he was trying to be his zoomiest…up the (maintenance only, no cars) concrete road (we try to stay on the side but there is not always shoulder). Sigh.

Major's favorite trail, I literally had to hold him back (yes, it is heading "towards" home)
dam trail

We went another direction over to Grass Valley. Empire Mine park is lovely, but there are only 14 miles of trails (per their website). We managed 15.4 miles, covering almost every trail (and some twice). I don't come here often because I get a bit bored, but Major really likes the wide open trails (even when a pair of barking, slobbering bloodhounds rushed a fence!).

nice and shady, and space to move out!
Powerline trail (cleared for the high power lines, the pines are otherwise as tall as the stanchions!)
Almost all the trails (And I rotate their map over my track because why is North pointing down on their map orientation? Weird)

Closer to home, the lake is really full, and snow is still at record levels in the mountains! They are releasing a lot of water daily from the dam, but it will be a long time before we ride that lower trail again. A few lupine have not been swamped, and their lovely flowers gather in some hidden pockets.

lower trail underwater
clear water in the "Belize" section of the lake. Perfect for snorkeling!

Major is unimpressed by heart rocks

And after every ride, just when you are tired and want to sit down, there is cleaning up Major, putting away tack and trailer, all the chores. But no matter what, don't forget to pet the cat.

Bonnie the cat. Must pet. Or else…

Sunday, May 19, 2019

creature feature

I share the trails with all sorts of friends. Some two legged, some four. And some with no legs or many! Hiking or riding I always keep an eye out for my friends, though my pictures aren't the best with only my cell phone, I still thought you'd like to meet some of them.

I'll start with the smallest! Ladybugs love Major. I'm sure he ingests some of them while munching on grass, but they're little red/orange bodies just look too cute.

It has been a bumper crop of caterpillars this year. They drop from the trees, crawl along your saddle, or even onto the book I'm reading at lunch.

Not quite a pipevine caterpillar, I'm not sure on this one!

tussock moth caterpillar attacking ships (on the cover of my sci-fi book!)

With caterpillars come butterflies. And those that eat them. I found this crab spider who captured a pipevine swallowtail, creepy but cool!

Another hunter: a sharp-tailed snake. He looks large, but is about the size of a pencil. He was fierce though: when I picked him up he wrapped around my finger and didn't want to let go!

This dragon blue-bellied lizard has disdain for us all. But he is so lovely (and too fast to catch!).

Out at the lake there are lots of birds, (though I didn't see any bald eagles this year). A lone black vulture perched a distance away on a pile of branches, I just liked the quiet.

And I saved the cutest for last. A coyote pup clambered onto the trail in front of us. He was looking in the distance (maybe looking where Mom had gone.) He looked back and saw Major coming, and skedaddled back into the bushes (probably where he had been told to stay!). Love this little guy.

I'll keep an eye out for all my friends. Does anyone else see any wildlife on the trails?

Sunday, May 12, 2019


A very sad event happened on a local trail: a horse tried to turn on a very narrow trail, lost it's footing, and slid down the side, where it broke it's leg. It had to be euthanized. This is a tragedy for horse and rider, and I have nothing but sympathy for them. There were posts wondering what trail it was, and I realized this is a trail I ride weekly. I never thought this section was particularly dangerous, but it sadly was for that horse.

aster among the rock

Some folks called for the trail to be closed, some for it to be inspected, (which was done, and it was determined it wasn't any worse than other parts of the trail), and some remarked that horses and riding are inherently risky activities. There was a comment that all of our trails should be brought up to a higher safety standard. While great in theory, that would literally mean about 95% of the trail in question (Pioneer Express) and probably 85% of the Tevis trail (just to name a few!) would be deemed unsafe.

This brought up many different, and sometimes conflicting, ideas in my head. I DID almost slide down a (even steeper) cliff alongside the trail myself earlier this year. Luckily my athletic horse saved us. It could have gone very wrong. Maybe I should have been paying more attention to exactly where he places his feet, and riding more aggressively, but I do let Major pick the trail most of the time. Will I be more attentive in those steep sections after that? Most certainly!

But the section where the event occurred is one I have never worried about. The American River  endurance ride had gone through this same section (and the one I had a problem with) two weeks before. The trail was not different then, and all those horses were unscathed. I'll also continue to ride this trail, and probably rarely think about the hazards. But I know some folks will now avoid this trail, as is their choice.

But on another note, I have an acquaintance who is starting a green arab. And who has done lots of ground work and prepared the horse well. But when she posted a picture of her on the horse with no helmet, I think I gasped. And I thought that I didn't really want to go ride with her if she doesn't wear a helmet. But if that is a risk she is willing to take, should I be ok with that?

I rode Major on a new-to-me trail the other day. It was safely inland, with no cliffs. And we were just walking. But he managed to find one sharp rock, and cut his foreleg. I noticed when I looked down to check his boots, and his white sock was covered in blood. It was a small cut, and I was able to clean it up and doctor it on the trail, with no lasting consequences. Should I avoid this trail? Should I be more aware that something can happen?

Why are we standing here? Because I'm cleaning your cut leg!

Accidents will happen. Some due to riding, some due to horses being horses, and some due to difficult circumstances. Is it a true accident or does everything have a reason or cause? I don't have any solutions, except what works for me. I think everyone has a comfort level, and that should be respected. But I don't want to be judged for my risk analysis and decisions being different. What about you?

feather along the trail

Friday, May 10, 2019

happy sweet 16

Happy birthday to Major, who turns 16 this year. Where did the time go?

I didn't know him then, but the cuteness! He still has that much forelock.

hiding from the birthday hat

I still managed to find the slightly bent personalized birthday hat. Which Major tolerates, but certainly it is not his favorite!

How do you keep finding this hat?

Seriously? I'm trying to eat.

Happy to spend another year with this complicated creature in my life. Here's to many more.

hiking with no hat to delicious grass: perfect birthday!

Monday, April 29, 2019

monday moment: sneaky

Major thinks he is being so sneaky as he darts past me in the "forest" in the upper pasture. He only gets to play in there when I come back from a ride and the other horses are put away for dinner. He bucked and farted his way…to his own gate, to be let in for dinner. A true wild spirit…

Thursday, April 25, 2019

d.i.y.: feed sack grooming tote cover

Guilty admission: I have a messy grooming tote. I do not wash my brushes very frequently. Crumbs, mud, pieces of dead carrot and dirty hoof picks abound. Purple-stained leather gloves, bottles of stuff and spray and random tools get unceremoniously shoved in. Every few months it gets overwhelming, and I toss a few things back into the storage box, and hose the tote out. That is pretty much all the cleaning it has gotten for 15 years.

and this is cleaned out…

But I like THIS tote. My friend C got it for me as a gift when I got my first horse. It is not orange, but it is useful and does not need to be replaced. But if I could cover the mess…

I saw some covers you could buy and others you can sew (totally not going to happen), so I made one up (I'm sure I'm not original) and here is a basic guide.

tools needed, just add tote!

Materials needed:
Feed sack (the plastic-coated kind, not paper)
sturdy tape (like duct tape, colors help!)
not necessary but could be helpful: utility/hobby knife and glue

The trickiest part of this is the measuring and figuring. My feed sack (Major only eats one thing that comes in a bag), when opened and torn parts trimmed, measured 25x30. My tote, across the top area, is 13.5x17.5 and the handle is 9x2. You need to figure in the "drop" down the sides, and mine came out at 5.5 each side, (because that would fit on the sack!) (Larger sack would mean you could make the drop larger, but honestly, this has been working fine.). The second tote I made I got smarter: I made a basic template and traced it. Do what works for you.

measure and draw lines
or use this basic template (if you have the same tote)
and trace into position on bag (I wanted the horse on the bag to be in a certain position on this one)

Draw all the lines needed on the back side of your sack. Measure twice (or three times!) then you can cut. Do the handle first: cut a double Y cut, crease and fold back, and tape the edges.

how to make the handle cut

clear duct tape is otherwise useless, good for this project though!

Now the sides. Crease the lines really well, back and forth until the fold holds (an old credit card works well for this). Now here it would help to have a helper, (and that is why there are no photos) but fold one edge in and the other up to create the corner. Tape on the inside (so if it is ugly it doesn't matter!). I also tried glue, but it didn't really work and don't recommend.

inside after rough taping

Then you can clean it up a little. Put the tape nicely along the inside corners, along the bottom edge, handle edge, etc. I got "fancy" and did that part with my colored duct tape!

completed tote cover!

Cover created! It took about an hour, but half of that was measuring and trying to take photos in my dark living room (sorry!). It might not be the prettiest, but it works!

Where are my treats? Can I lift this off?

I could see at certain busier barns this might help with "borrowing" of stuff, as an added deterrent. Major gave it a thorough inspection and as long as treats can still be provided, gave it his approval. I know all of you have sparkling clean grooming totes with perfect brushes, but if you still want to make one, have fun!

This is the second one I made, because I am vain and liked the design better of a bag I found in the trash

Thursday, April 18, 2019

not pictured

the "cow pasture" view
Some rides get lots of pictures, some get almost none. Most are pretty similar: pretty scenery, Major's ears and/or face…yeah, that's about it!

entwined oaks
new trail improvements, now needed in about 400 other places!

Last ride, while admiring the view (again) but not stopping much, I thought about all the things I saw that day that were not pictured:

Pink redbud blooms covering the trail
Cooper's hawk flying on the path ahead of us
Major blowing bubbles in the water trough
Glancing down the dropoff to see a tiny hummingbird perched on a branch
Swooping sideways, a red-shouldered hawk catching a gust
Turkey footprints in the mud puddle
Blooming lupine under the water as the lake rises

watching people down at the lake

Those are what I remember after a ride, the basic view picture just reminds me of all those things.

From the sublime to the stupid: then I laughed and reminded myself of "not pictured" in the school yearbook. There are so many things Major could be: most likely to barge into the unknown, class clown, best piggy impersonation…does your horse have a class title?

Sunday, April 14, 2019

detour: headlands

My preferred detour: the ocean. Spending the weekend with ocean smells and views, cold wind and warm sand is good for my spirit. The first stop was in Bodega Bay, out on the spit of land simply called the Head.
Bodega Bay turning into mud flats as the tide goes out

The trails on the Head can be cold and wintery, all year round, but were pretty perfect the day we were there. And just easy, rolling trails with blue sky, gray sea and green grass views. The Bodega Marine Laboratory is on government land out there, not open to the public, except special days. I spent a few weeks there one summer as a teen, and learned I did NOT want to be a marine biologist (but it was fun anyway)! I'll re-visit another time. They do have a webcam in the cove that is fun to check out!

the laboratory below on horseshoe cove
For as vast as the northern California coast is, these parts are very lacking in trails. Sometimes it is because it in inaccessible, or they ran Highway 1 right on the cliff, or it is private land. But sometimes it all comes together, and I was happy to explore the new Jenner Headlands Preserve, recently opened by the Wildlands Conservancy.

car looks tiny, Russian river, Goat Rock views
This area is north of Bodega Bay, in Sonoma County. They have a nice, small parking lot, informational panel, and even a map! The trails that were open started off pretty steep! I'm not sure if they did more than drive a tractor over them and call it a trail (I'm sure they did, but they're a bit rough, and sometimes hard to find!) but the views were worth it.

this is just to the first overlook, complete with telescope
one of these things is not like the others! top row: tufted poppy, bowl tube iris, golden eggs suncup. bottom row: rosy sand crocus, baby blue eyes and a native succulent (my best guess at identifications)
keep going…

There were wildflowers, and we even found a deer antler! In all my miles of hiding and riding I've never found one, assuming they are usually gobbled up by critters or hidden in shrubbery. I'll be back to explore more of the trails (a few were closed for treacherous conditions), because we didn't get even close to the highest point!

The fog was creeping in, and the hiking day was done. The sunset decided to put on a great show over Bodega Head.

the fog comes on little cat feet…

crazy cloud sunset

The next day, hiking along morning sand, it was almost time to go home. Almost too cold for bare feet, but here was a sand dollar, and let's just take a few moments more…

non-native Pride of Madeira is still an awesome plant

left behind

simple ways to remember