Thursday, April 21, 2022

lupine lament

The lupine are not as amazing as last year, but I'd still seen some lovely images and wanted to get out there. This would be Miles' first time out at the lake (with me), and sometimes it is a lot (waves, wind, people, bikes). We started out through the green, green forest where he was very good, and then down to the lake.

I had gotten off to handwalk through the tricky rocky/driftwood access (I don't trust his footwork quite yet) and we came out on the lake and Miles had a good look about. Wide and open unlike the forest, but he wasn't too concerned.

We started off and immediately had to cross some deep mud, which took a little patience, but he walked though, no jumping, just needs ot take his time to look at things. We were riding along, I'd taken a few photos, and then it hit me.

I was just sad. So very, very sad. I stopped Miles as I couldn't see through my tears. The last times with Major through here, all our lupine adventures, they felt gone. The rides with my friend C and her horse Shane, gone too soon as well. I know they are memories but the giant hole in me felt so very huge and raw right then. I'm sure Miles didn't understand at all when I got off and slowly walked him a bit.

With a sigh to suck it up I got back on. Miles was very good at the lake, we even did some trotting! Well, until we returned to the forest, and he figured out where we were, and some barn-sourness appeared. We're working on it…by working. Circles and side-passing and backtracking and then we can walk forward without jigging. A good distraction.

Then to top it all off I took Beau for a ride among the lupine a few days later. That day I found out my friend/Beau's owner has decided no more treatment, and is coming home for hospice care. I took some videos of his ears among the lupine, so she could feel like riding the trails. It is the least I could do.

 The lupine is still lovely this year. But a little harder to appreciate.

Friday, April 1, 2022

d.i.y.: desensitizing clinic

Do you have some random crap laying around the barn? And some horses who could use a bit of training or a wake-up day? Well, I did, so I created an arena full of obstacles made from mostly trash and a few dollar store purchases (less than $10). Make your own to torment train your beasts!

people trying things out
Miles was a previous halter horse. They wanted him to be wide-eyed with his head up and fancy, but I sure don't! (That is what the halter pictures look like to me! I'm sure there is much more to it.). I don't think he'd had much desensitizing done, so I've been jumping around like a lunatic on the end of the lead line (now no big deal), laying stuff over and around him, slinging my reins over his head, he's getting pretty used to my antics! 

pinwheel flower is dumb, even when it spins

But I wanted some more structured work at it. So I started digging around in the barn trash and behind the old sheds. Hmmm, strings and bags and hoses and jump standards, I can do something with these! 

bag o' cans is TOO loud

flappy feed bags hang on the fence
I did spend a few dollars at the dollar store (now the $1.25 store!). Pool noodles, pinwheels, and a fabulous unicorn kite. No pictures of the small inflatable fish (think Nemo), but summer supplies will be coming in soon, so I'm thinking more inflatables will make an appearance.

 I had 12+ obstacles. I did not get photos of all of them, but they were:

  • hose with water/puddle
  • cardboard to walk on (this was a tough one for many)
  • tarps to walk on (this too was harder than I thought for some)
  • umbrella open but on ground
  • bag o' cans
  • fence feed sacks
  • hose snakes (pieces of old hose cut into safe lengths)
  • pinwheels
  • twine spiders (baling twine tied together then with a long string you could drag)
  • plastic bag
  • noodle pole
  • noodle walk
  • best of all: unicorn kite

I had a friend show up to help set up, but it was pretty easy. Then I wanted to walk Miles through and show him everything. The item he hated the most: plastic bag. Close second: the feed sack with loud aluminum cans inside. I walked though everything, showed him, gave him time to process, then put him away.

hose snakes
 Some other folks from the stable and next door came over to try it out. It was really interesting to see different horses reactions to the same obstacles. Some did not care, some jumped around, but we kept everyone safe. 

best unicorn kite!

kite gets the side-eye
 About an hour later I went through again with Miles and I think he had been processing some information back in his pasture. He did much better the second time. And has continued to improve! I know we are not encountering a wild pool noodle in the forest (though being by a lake you never know) but it's just making sure his responses are reasonable and he listens to me. It's hard to trust a new person he says (and horse I say!)

pool noodles (on dowels in an old pole)

noodle walk

It was so great for everyone, we all learned something about our horses, and I left all of the items in the arena (in a less-scary plastic bin) for later use. I've used a few every couple days, Miles is getting better and better about the scariest items and now mostly watches me with a look of "You sure are boring, just playing with the same toys over and over again. Can we go eat grass now?" 

Ok, what obstacle would YOUR horse be nervous about? I'm just glad there were no clowns…

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

good boy Shane

Shane's first foray into the lupine
The horse world lost another good one the other day. Friend C’s lovely horse Shane coliced, with a very bad twist. When even the doctors say there is nothing you can do the decision is still heart-breaking.

Shane learning the ropes with his best pal Friday

out on a beautiful ride
I'd been so looking forward to riding out with her on Shane and me on Miles, our new chapters. I know C had so many plans ahead of camping trips and other adventures. But sadly not to be. I was glad to be with her as she said goodbye. But please, no more right now.
he was so very handsome
You were a good boy Shane and tried so hard. Thanks for the rides we shared. Wish there had been more.
Shane and Friday watching some arena shenanigans

Thursday, March 17, 2022

new beginnings

Miles has some pretty big shoes to fill. First order: the actual shoes! He was due for a shoeing and I wanted to see how he’d do barefoot. My trimmer did a great job and said his feet were pretty good but needed some help before he could manage barefoot entirely. So he tried on big brothers boots. A bit loose, the next size down is too tight, so for now they will work. Bittersweet, all of it. 

Miles likes the eating hikes best

all dressed up and ready to go

he likes to be a bit close
We’ve been slowly adventuring. Needing to learn about each other and trust, so started off hiking. Worked on not grabbing for grass, but he follows very nicely, and is even learning the "stand on the manhole" trick that Major did. It helps that Miles is VERY food motivated and I have not found a treat he doesn't like!

his expressions crack me up

wondering what's over there

Then part hiking and riding. Been pretty steady so far, though he is not a fan of mud and water! We hike a bit, then I ride. No photos of the ride part yet. Not because he has been naughty, but because I don't quite trust myself or him with one hand on the reins!

a good trail to learn on: single track, bridges and water
Then I broke my new pony. Actually, just a scrape, and he did it to himself when the leaped after my stirrup scraped a rock and he landed next to another rock. Sigh. More desensitizing ahead! And I had the saddle fitter out and the best news: she was able to adjust the saddle flocking so my favorite saddle fits Miles quite well, yeah!

He is well settled in and pretty happy in pasture. I bought him a new hay ball that is a bit annoying to fill but he certainly likes it! I think my favorite part so far is that he whinnys as I walk up the hill and greets me at the gate. We're just spending time together, hopefully we have lots ahead, no need to rush.

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

welcomes Miles

Since Q was a temporary lease I kept my eye out, casually looking for the right fit. Too old, too young, too far away, too much money! 

I tried a few. A chestnut was nice but moved a little funky to me. A gorgeous gray was too young. A paint-Arab cross was too much to handle with some baggage. What was I drawn to? Of course bay Arabs with fun personalities. 

photos from his ad
Then I saw a local trainer’s ad: “extremely fun and playful horse” “completely confident going down the trail by himself” “going down the trail and doing some horse camping “would love to be a trail or Endurance horse” “has also camped at Point Reyes by himself.”

Downside: “still young and can get excited in large groups on the trail.”

Figured he was worth a look. Went out one afternoon and took him for a spin in the arena. Well, the trainer rode first. He didn’t do anything bad (he’d had three days off), was just a little uptight in there. His background was a show barn, with that silly show barn Arab energy. When I rode him he didn't do anything stupid, didn't feel explosive or silly, just a little uncertain. But he was so cute!

So I decided I wanted to ride him on trail. I was nervous, as I always am with a new horse. But I met them at the staging area (where I ride all the time, which was great) and headed out hiking. No problems, so got on and proceeded to have a completely uneventful ride, the best kind! Over and under, big trails, small trails, leading, following, trotting, walking, what a good boy! A couple moments of wheee, let’s go, but shut him down and he was fine to continue.

As we rode back my brain was spinning. Hmmm. Good horses sell quickly. He’s a good one. Friendly, steady on trail, even my favorite color. I’d be sad to miss out.

So they settled that. I told the trainer right then that I’d take him. Too impulsive? Maybe. But just look at this face. 

meet Miles (registered name: Bacchus DWA)
Meet Miles. An almost 6-year old bay Arabian, 15 hands. Good trail experience, even camping. Baby brain in groups needs work, but we can get there. We have lots of trails to explore. 

a walk to the staging area in crazy winds, no spooking!

settling in to pasture


Monday, February 21, 2022

thank you Q

Q and I have explored more than 100 miles of trails. We've had our disagreements, though mostly understandings. But it was always a temporary lease, and I was always looking for my next horse.

I was just getting her tail cleaner too! But she is certainly in better shape.
She taught me a lot, and will hopefully continue her trail career with her owner.

Thanks Q for a different perspective. I learned a lot.
I can use all my horse knowledge for my next adventure partner….(hint, not a gray…)

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

spring Q


It's almost a perfect time to ride right now. The grass is bursting out and bright green, birds in the trees…and it is getting dusty. Seriously we've had no rain, in winter, for 40 days. After a wet December we're worrying about fire danger in February, yeah for California! 

ferns are not tasty but she had to try

As much as it is not my favorite, every time I ride Q we do a little warm-up in the arena. Most days she needs a brain-reminder that yes, work is an actual thing you have to do. Once she remembers that she actually has a job, and can listen to the not-unreasonable requests from the puny human atop her, we hit the trail. I don't have between the ears pictures because she is not exactly the type to stop and relax (we're working on it).

love this rock monolith

This little mare sure likes to go! Walking is fine but trotting is even better. She has a great, smooth trot, and just goes along like a metronome, incredible consistent. Up hills, on the flat, though we slow for most downhills. We've traveled about 15 miles a week, split between 2-3 ride, usually an easier forest walk/trot and then a faster or harder (more elevation) ride. 

posing as we hike an extra steep downhill
Last week I took her on the rock trail, which is yes, pretty much just all rocks, to see how she would do. I was only planning on doing a small portion, as it is very tough. The horse has to slow and think about their feet, as there is flat granite to cross, rock steps, rocks to clamber up, let alone all the ducking and dodging the rider must do as it is always overgrown.

tree tangle behind us, lots of trees fallen this year
Unsurprisingly, she loved the technical trail, she just seems to like to get out and see new trail. I had to work on making sure she stayed slow, because she probably would have bounded over all of it just fine at speed (but damn the rider!). Afterwards she was dripping sweat and still managed to try and spook when we got back to the staging area at the "unexpected" horse trailer she saw from 100 feet away, guess she was not THAT tired!

after workout snack
After rides I've been rewarding her with some of the tasty green grass. When she is all cleaned up after the ride she looks like she is glowing and that lasts all of about five minutes, then I put her back in paddock and she rolls.
pretty clean!

 We're enjoying our adventures, and there are fun updates ahead…

Thursday, January 27, 2022

saddle skeptic

broad and flat
It would be easier to sit on a propane tank. At least it wouldn’t trot. Q is very round. And while overweight (1050 according to vet weight tape) it’s also just her shape. Mutton withers blend into wide back, also short backed, oh joy! 

She got her own sign, can't have a no-name horse in pasture!
Of course my favorite Solstice wide is far too narrow. I tried it anyway and rolled side to side like a drunken sailor, as the too tight saddle couldn’t settle. Q was quite tolerant but after the short ride she had totally dry patches on the “shoulders” (they’re so meaty I’m not even sure I can call them that!), so certainly a bad fit. But I’ve ridden that saddle probably 10,000 miles, it’s amazing, not getting rid of it. But not for Q. 

saddle skeptic

Onto saddle two: Freeform Elite dressage. It’s treeless, It has extra panels for taller withers (she certainly doesn’t need those!). I have a good pad with equipedic inserts. I tried this on about five rides. Good sweat patterns, and she doesn’t object, but I feel like a flopping beginner up there. After a trail ride she did the whole body shake and I almost fell off! I don't hate the saddle, but me learning the saddle and learning the horse is a tough combination. (I didn't even take any photos of it!).

old standby: Wintec 2000

one of my favorite trees didn't survive the storms
So out to the dusty saddle trunk, where I dug out an old standby: Wintec 2000. Why did I keep this? It was the saddle I first rode Major in, but mainly it wasn’t worth selling and has fit quite a few horses. I stuffed the widest gullet plate in there, got out my trusty thin line pad and sticky girth, and tried out the combo. Better, still a bit of rolling, but secure. Maybe my best option?

Duett Tango test, rear panels nice and wide
I’m not buying a saddle for a lease horse. Ok, whoops, I wrote some of this a few weeks ago…yes I did buy a saddle for a lease horse! (But you know how horse math is…I can always resell it…). I found an amazing deal on a Duett Tango. I tried one owned by another boarder on her, seemed very promising. Duett is a hoop tree, wide rear panels. It’s not as comfy as my Solstice, (twist is too wide for me) but with my Haf saddle pad (no inserts), breast collar, sheepskin saddle cover and endurance stirrups, we had a few good rides, though I still had to get off and adjust the saddle slipping. Upgraded to a non-slip anatomical girth. Better, but arghh, still some rolling! 

current setup, need to take better photos (and shorten the breast collar)
I was at my wits's end. I read some used a piece of shelf liner under the saddle pad? Seemed like it could bunch or rub. I went for the actual horse version. It showed up and was tiny, flimsy and sure looked useless. 

dumb thing is a miracle worker

back on the trail
This stupid little thing is amazing!! A lifesaver. Saddle is solid (still have to really watch placement, it’s much farther back than I’d have thought). I really thought I had a lot of tack available until now, hah! At this point the only other saddles I own are a very old charro kids saddle (my uncle's or grandfather's?) and my uncle's huge heavy western. Both are old, dried out leather and not safe (plus my butt is not fitting in that kids saddle!!) 

old saddles, not for me (but cool tapaderos!)
 I think the saddle hunt is solved for now… until she gets in better shape and changes? Oh no. 

My other adventures: taking Wesley for his daily walks!