Friday, September 17, 2021

project

(I'm a bit scattered with too many thoughts, and no coherent story to them. Instead of putting off another week, here is a rough update.)

Under smoky skies I brought home Mercury. He is a 3.5 year old mustang, and very much a project. At his old place I took him on the trails a couple times, quite forward and brave. Sticky and testy in the arena, needing some serious skills upgrades. And so very baby mouthy! Argh! (That is also why there aren't many pictures. He is either in your face or trying to eat something…)

backlit roan makes for terrible pictures

The old stable I'd been at for all my time owning Major abruptly closed, which was another stress point! I found a quiet backyard stable, with trail access, that will work for now. We've been doing some calm hand walking, just learning some new skills in a new place. I'm looking for a trainer who can come to me for some more help, as I don't have all the skills to manage a horse this young and green!


Since I'm not riding Mercury yet I'm still enjoying my time riding Beau, he is a good reminder of why I like to ride. Incredibly honest boy, we have a fun time exploring the trails while his mom deals with her health concerns. A true win-win situation.

gifted Beau a new biothane bridle in his mom's favorite color

It'll be a long while before me and Mercury can really hit the trails, so I'm also still looking for an older horse, probably Arab, that I can do more with right now. WTF?  I don't know, and maybe that won't work, but not doing long adventures on my own horse is a hole in my life I'd like to try and fill.

Having another horse and riding too has not made losing Major any easier. I have multiple very bad days a week, where the memories come too close and are overwhelming. And I just roll with it and be very sad and keep moving forward. Sometimes there is even more stress (the Auburn, CA Bridge fire was too close for comfort, we were packed and ready to go) but then there is Wesley, who reminds us all that a cereal box can really be all we need in a moment, and makes me smile.



Wednesday, July 28, 2021

the search

Major taught me too much to give up now. I miss him every day, and even typing those words bring tears to my eyes again. But as he always wanted: forward…

looking for my unicorn…
I dreaded going back to the stable. My good friend C met me there, and distracted me while we washed her horse and just hung out. That same day I ran into barn friend K, who has some personal stuff to deal with. She was hoping I could ride her big quarter horse Beau. I said I’d try!

He seems so huge, big quarter horse muscles (trained as a reining horse), but she has a well-fitted dressage saddle and I tried him out. I hadn’t been on another horse in 5 years, and that was once when Major was injured. It was Major only for 12 years! I tried Beau in the arena, he was fine, more than fine, he listened better than Major (though that is not saying much, we both hated arena work!).

Then I took the big boy out for a hike. I always prefer to hike with a horse first, to see their reactions. Since I got none from Beau the next time we went right out on trail. I’d been warned that he was too strong and could be a pill. He tried to get strong once with me, I shut him down with a one-rein stop and a growl (it was nothing compared to Major’s shenanigans) and we’ve been buddies ever since, riding 1-2 times a week. I am so lucky to have good horse friends.

But a consistent nagging in the back of my mind has me searching a horse to call my own. Searching horse ads (damn have prices gone up from so many years ago!), I have to set some parameters: Arab, Arab Cross, Standardbred, Mustang (or others?), all these seem like good options for trail and possible endurance. Do I want younger or trained? Gelding or mare? I have always preferred geldings, but nothing is off my list. I’m fine with forward but not stupidly spooky. Here are some I’ve checked out so far (no pictures for seller privacy, so have some pictures of my trip to the coast):

Young Arab/Paint cross. Lovely looking horse, just 4. Has been though three trainers with no consistency. His mom now wants a gaited horse (she bred him). Watched him work in the big round pen at her house, moved nicely in a Pessoa rig. Took him on a trail ride, crappy ground manners, very hesitant but would go in the lead, but started coughing quite badly and we came back. Attributed to the new dusty grass hay, I did go see him again at home. No coughing, trotted beautifully around the pasture not allowing me to catch him. Once I caught him I took him off property for a short walk down the quiet road and he was a brat, pulling back, half rearing with any correction, and threatening to bite. Too many things for me to fix.

moonrise over yellow lupine
Cute Standardbred with some good experience. Trainer took him right out on the trail (the facility did not have an arena) and I rode trainer’s horse. Standardbred did nothing wrong while I watched, so I got on. A bit of a choppy mover, lots of vertical movement, but walked down the big hill, over rocks, then opened up into a big trot coming up a long gravel hill, he wanted to go and was competitive with the other horse. He was just fine, but I didn’t get any wow feelings from him…

Another young Arab. This one I didn’t get far with, because he was s.l.o.w. Did not move out on the longe line, did not move out under saddle, perfect western pleasure horse. I don’t want a fire-breathing dragon, but would like something who wants to go down the trail at a healthy pace. Could this guy be taught to do that? Maybe, but it didn’t look like his heart was in it.

Drove to Southern California for an older but still very green Arab. Lovely, but terrible feet! He needed a trim badly but they said he was due in two weeks and didn’t seem concerned. That was worrying. But he moved nicely, they did a ton of ground work while I watched and the trainer rode him beautifully. He was pretty nervous of new things, and in fact couldn’t not get used to the brim on my helmet, I had to remove it! I’m not near as arena-skilled as the trainer, but I did OK, eventually. His inherent personality (very wary) and the fact he had no trail experience did not work for me. I’m sure someone who can spend more time in the arena and then transition him to trail will have a very nice horse.

Local young mustang. Very cute. Had been with a trainer then sold. That owner has had him one month and is now selling, as he is “annoying” (trainer’s words). Figured I’d look anyway. Horse is mouthy on everything when tied, but not on people. And not biting. Trainer rode in the arena, he was sticky after a month off. I rode him, he was sticky but we worked though it, nice mover. Went for a trail ride. Completely unfazed by anything. Big signs for tree work along trail, guys with saws and trucks, no worries. Nice trot, likes to explore. Needs some remedial training as he has gotten away with a lot in a month, did not want to trailer load. Promising but needs more training.

A few inquiries I’ve made have been answered fairly by people saying the horse would prefer a show home, or is not an endurance candidate (I always say that is what I want to do, even if I’m not sure I’ll be competing, because with the right horse maybe I’d get back to it), or is over budget. This is a roller coaster. But when I think back to my original horse search I knew what I wanted and ended up with taller, younger and less experienced than I had set out to find.

12 years ago this week I brought home Major. I did not think I would be shopping so soon. But I’d like to think I’ve learned a bit in the last 12 years, thanks to my big bay boy. I’m trying to take the lessons he taught me and think of a future horse and applying that knowledge. I’m not going to find Major again. But hopefully I can find a worthy partner…

wish me luck

Thursday, July 15, 2021

(cat)hartic

 


In one of my favorite books, the devastatingly sad protagonist (who had just lost his bond-animal) has a mental conversation with a cat: 

"Make a lap by the fire.…Hold the cat, you’ll feel better. Fennel the cat said.
I don’t think so.
He rubbed against my leg insistently. Hold the cat.
I don’t want to hold the cat.
Don’t talk back, pick up the cat!

…he leapt to my shoulder…He landed, not heavily, but as if someone had put a large, friendly hand on my shoulder. Hold the cat, you’ll feel better. "
(—Fool’s Errand, Robin Hobb)
 

The cat is right.

playing is very tiring
Meet Wesley. Full name: Ensign Wesley Crusher (of Star Trek: The Next Generation)

 

Telling me the whole tale of how he caught the fish-bird.

helping
He came into our home in the middle of May, I just hadn’t gotten around to an introduction. He orbits me like a small, furry satellite expecting attention, pets, hugs, laps, toys, attention, anything. He runs around like a crazy, whirling dervish, skidding across the floor and up the 8-foot cat tower, all carrying his favorite fish-bird toy. He is deadly to any paper bag, box or laundry basket. 
am I interrupting boys?
He and the older cat Jack have come to some agreement, and wrestle time is every evening. He is just over a year old, and Jack is 15.

But he seeks me out when I am sitting quietly, probably thinking too much, and wants to sit ON me, in any way possible. Hold the cat, you'll feel better.

Hanging in the catio: Jack (in the box) and Wesley on a shelf perch
My SO built and awesome “catio” accessed off our bedroom, both cats love it. I join them to sit out there in the morning, cup of tea, trying NOT to be the crazy cat lady in a custom catio with her cats…I think I’ll just have to embrace it.

 Thank you Wesley for being a bright (orange) spot in my life.



Wednesday, June 30, 2021

the end

 

everything is "the last time"…river playing
I thought we’d have more time.

To write about the ride where we found a junk robot. And the camping adventure Memorial day weekend where we did a 20-mile fun ride. And more river exploring. But Major didn’t have any more time.


we found a junk robot!
Backing up, this story will take a while to tell correctly. Major had been feeling amazing all spring. I even considered (though I promised myself no more because it was so stressful) a local endurance ride in June. I’d been doing 7-10 mile rides 2-3 times a week, he was in good shape and looked amazing.

We went to a big horse camping weekend where multiple loops were marked. We did a 7-mile warmup the day before, he was pulling like a monster. The 20-mile ride he was on fire for about 20 miles. I did get us a little off trail, and we ended up doing about 24 miles in total. He seemed tired at the end, more than I thought warranted, and I walked him in, a little worried. Then he recovered fine and I thought it was just that it was very hot, he wasn't drinking enough and it was the longest ride we’d done all year. The next day we did a poker/obstacle ride of 5 miles and he was his normal, antsy self, having to walk “annoying slow” in his terms, with the other horses.


tunnel of manzanita was so cool

right before he started snorkeling and splashing all the water out
Back home we did a nice lake ride a couple days later, and another ride Auburn to Cool, on June 6. We tried to not run over people and quickly ate up the trails and hills.

Three days later I took Major on an evening ride, just easy in the forest. Started off strong but he felt weird. He didn’t want to speed up towards home, and three miles in he just stopped. I got off and hand-walked him home. I know my horse. When he isn't speedy or half barn-sour, something is off. I did hear a little wheezing, maybe allergies or heaves or something? I am not well-versed enough on horse lung ailments to know.

our last ride, golden grass
I had the vet out when Major was not better the next day. Heart rate and respiration were higher than they should be. The vet could barely hear anything with his lungs or heart, maybe a little something? This vet knows Major the best, and in fact saw him last year during the fires when Major was a little punky from breathing the bad air. But this time the vet referred me to a specialist at the clinic, where they could scope and x-ray Major’s lungs and ultrasound his heart. We had an appointment in two days. 

For those two days I worried, but not a lot. Major was eating great, wanting to come out for walks, and whinnying on my arrival. He was getting extra mashes because it was hot, which he gobbled up.

I showed up with the trailer and Major hopped right in, thinking we were going somewhere fun. He ate some carrots and we drove the 15 minutes to the vet clinic. He unloaded fine, looking around and pulling on me to go explore, and the vet came out for our 11am appointment. She listened and thought his lungs sounded more congested, and he was running a fever (he'd had no fever any other time). She speculated that it sounded like a lung issue, that she was going to take him into the clinic and would be out with information.

more carrots mom?
I hadn’t brought a book like I usually try to when waiting. I sat outside the trailer (it was already almost 100 degrees!) and searched my phone for horse lung ailments. There were lots to choose from, so I just kept reading, getting more and more anxious.

heading into the clinic
But then the vet was walking back across the parking lot. And I have no idea of the exact words because I think time stopped. Major was in irreversible heart failure. His heart was significantly damaged, one part/valve (I don’t have the notes yet) wasn’t working at all, there were weird growths or shadows on ultrasounds, so his heart and lungs were working overtime just to keep him upright. I tried to keep it together. I wasn’t successful.

I asked how much time he had, she couldn’t say of course (not a fortune-teller) but she didn’t think it was long. Maybe I could take him home for a few days of grass and pampering? She said she’d let me think, call people, and she would bring Major back out. I called my SO panicking, and he headed right over, though it would take about 20 minutes for him to arrive. 

In the meantime my gleaming bright bay horse came out, dragging the vet along, looking the picture of health. I asked the vet if I could just take him over the the lawn so think, she said of course, she’d be back in a bit to check on us. Major dragged me around, sniffing poop piles, whinnying to the outdoor horses, over to the the lawn where we stood in the shade on the green grass. He stood looking around a bit, then went to roll. He started to roll and then then just lay down, and started coughing very hard, with white mucus coming out, and lay there, with no desire to get up. His veins looked like he had just finished an endurance ride, his breaths were coming fast with nostrils flaring. He was suffering.

How strong was Major that he hid his illness all this time? I knew what I had to to do but damn, why do we have to make the decisions? I called the vet and told her to come out, my horse was down, it was time. My SO had just showed up, and I sobbed and pet Major’s face and strong neck while my SO stood there and tried in vain to say anything that would help. 

The vet came and I don’t want to write details. It was quick, a sedative shot though Major seemed pretty distant already, and the pink euthanasia solution, I knew I never liked pink. Then he was gone. Looking as shiny and healthy as he had two hours before when we had arrived at the clinic. The vet left us with him, and I tried to find words but there were only tears. The vet came back and braided part of his tail, and my SO, who had always braided at rides, did his mane. I sat for quite awhile, but Major was gone. 

My SO was awesome and drove my empty trailer back to the ranch. I composed myself enough to drive home, and then sank into misery. Some phone calls and texts, later the blog post, and everyone being so lovely. I am glad to have shared Major, but it does not make it any easier. Shared pain is still pain.

last photo I took of him
He went so quickly it seems like there must be more to tell, but there isn’t. He did not have any bad days, just a few short moments. My days are getting easier, except for moments that bring back all that I’ve lost. I don't believe in any afterlife, so I hope the life I gave him was enough. As I walked away that day I debated looking back. When I did I only saw, between the trees, gleaming copper hindquarters resting on green grass. 



Wednesday, June 16, 2021

goodbye Major

And just like that he was gone. He was always so fast. 

I can’t find the words right now, my heart is breaking. Major was diagnosed with a grossly enlarged and damaged heart, and I thought I had a little time left. 

But he collapsed in the grass at the clinic, and I made the only possible decision. 

I’m so glad we had our adventures. He picked the final trails and flew down them alone. Goodbye my friend. 


Thursday, May 13, 2021

18!


insert first carrot here

Wow, Major is 18! And he got to celebrate his birthday earlier this week mostly how he wanted: carrots, alfalfa, grass, and no birthday hat (I didn't take the time to find it, he was relieved).
mmmm, alfalfa

mmmm, grazing

nope, not posing for your stupid photos…

How did this cute baby get so big, and still be so naughty? And wonderful too? Happy Birthday Major, I'm so glad we are partners and can't wait for many more miles…

baby Major, still the huge ears!
he grew into those ears!

Friday, April 30, 2021

thrill ride

 

start your ride

choose your lane

Have you heard about the new thrill ride in California? I rode it a couple days ago, and it’s not not for the faint of heart.  

It is called the Major Super Bloom Lupine Coaster. One passenger per vehicle. You must be this tall to reach the stirrups. Hold onto the reins, it’s a fast one! Please remain upright in your seat. Keep all hands near the vehicle, as there are many rocks along the trail. Views are beautiful when not blurred with motion. Ride lasts 1.5 hours and covers 10 miles. You’ll see ebikes, mountain bikes, hikers, dogs, loose children and horses along the coaster route. Coaster does not slow for many obstacles. Requires an e-ticket.



Major says "tastes like purple"
 
(We just flew. Major has been kept slower than his preference and behaving himself at Point Reyes, the dog trials and taking C out on her new horse. I knew Major, actually us both, needed a break. So we didn't take it slow, we took it fast, for 10 miles, and it was loads of fun, if a bit of a blur….most photos are from other slow rides to enjoy the super bloom of lupine at the lake.)
C on handsome new horse Shane on his first ride with Major

 
just amazing