Sunday, August 29, 2010

booted adventure

It rained this morning. In August. Not exactly our usual weather. So I started my ride a bit later, but the weather was perfect. Low 70s, nice breeze, the dust dampened just enough. I decided to try boots for this ride, knowing I was going to try for about 10 miles and that the trails are getting harder and harder. Major has seemed fine, but I know on the longer rides he starts looking for the edge of the trail, and I needed to put some miles on the boots.

Bread Rock
This ride ended up having multiple personalities, quite a strange ride. Even as we walked up the road Major felt like he liked the boots, striding right down the (usually avoided) big sharp rocky driveway. As we headed out I knew I wanted to end up by the lake, but took a roundabout way to get there. Major was a bit perplexed at the different turns, but he sure wanted to move out. We mostly trotted with some cantering throw in, he was listening pretty nicely. I thought about taking the lower lake trail, but the higher trail requires Major to think a bit more, and I wanted to work on that. We ended up on the bike trails at Twin Rocks, with surprising few bikes! Major is fine with bikes, and I like to step off the trail and work on standing quietly, though all the cyclists started to stop before I waved them on.

On this trail Major got a bit squirrley, and was doing a little sideways silliness. Trying to get him to stop I realized one of the boots was hanging around his ankle. I jumped off, glad that was all he did with a crazy thing flapping around, and put it back on. At the top of the hill I checked them again, seeing that one was getting crooked, and fixed them both.

Heading home we rode the lower trail. Major certainly likes to get going on that, so there was a lot of pulling. Our discussion continued, as I'm sure it will for awhile. There were little scary waves, though we did wade into the water. I wanted to take the trail all the way around, but found a spot too deep to pass. Went to cut up to the higher trail and were a bit too far down, so did some mighty cross-country bushwhacking to find it. Major didn’t bat an eye, he just wanted to get home.

Coming up a steep hill with rocks we did a bit of scrambling, kept trotting...something sounded different. I looked boots on either foot! I looked back down the trail and there they were, both pointing different directions, both completely intact (velco closed, secured). Hmmm, this is going to take some practicing. I decided to just clip them to the saddle, there were only a couple miles to go.

I took all different trails home, just to mix things up. Major wasn’t the least bit tired. We came up a trail and while we usually turn left, I wanted to turn right. I was looking right, had right leg on, right rein, and was leaning into the corner when Major took the usual left turn, fast. I think I hung in the air like Wile E. Coyote, landing on my feet with the reins in my hand, Major circling around me. No harm, so hopped back on and continued! The rest of the ride was uneventful. Major wasn’t very happy with me going the wrong way through the Enchanted Forest and the wrong way past Bread Rock, but we were heading in the right direction. Walking up the road I usually dismount, loosen the girth, take off his bit, toss the stirrups up and he can eat some grass. My saddle looked too funny with all the stuff attached to it, though that doesn’t even show the water bottle on the other side.

Major got a bath and a beet pulp snack, and headed off for a good roll. I still had to wash off the boots, and will work on fine-tuning their fit. I still really like them, but they might be a little small for him now. I’ll look them over and have the other rider at the barn who successfully uses hers maybe give me a hand.

P.S. I did meet up with three trail riders on the way out, and as we all went to pass we stopped and had a nice discussion about barefoot. They asked about the Renegades (at this point I hadn’t lost one yet!) and two were using Easy Boot gloves themselves. One rider said her horse was 23 and spent his whole life in shoes, but had really contracted feet they were hoping to fix. They were riding with another person who shod, everyone doing what they thought best for their horses. I think it is good to discuss  different techniques (be it barefoot, nutrition, etc) but just to be respectful of what someone has decided is best for them. You never know what they’ve gone through!

Friday, August 27, 2010

thursday lesson

Since my Friday rides are no more, my work schedule has changed and I'll be trying to attend a Thursday night lesson (until darkness catches us). Major came to the gate: all week he's been meeting me at the gate and being rewarded with it being too hot to ride and just getting a treat. Last night it was different, and we saddles up and went to walk a few circuts around our arena before heading down the road.

I hadn't ridden since Friday because of a few crazy 105 degree days, but Major was quite well behaved. He enjoyed heading down the road, though when we turned to go to the other stable and not the forest I think he was a bit perplexed. We walked down the street and even across the busy road. Walking into the stable yard he was really unconcerned. He tried to eat the plastic chair, rain barrel, my friend's helmet...time for lesson.

The lesson was a really nice group again, where we each worked on our strengths and weaknesses. We started with working on getting a more extended, flowing walk, asking for the horse to really use himself and feeling the power in the stride. Then luckily (or unluckily!) we worked on Major's major (that is a strange phrase) weakness: suppleness. He is sometimes like turning a freight train. So we were working on bending, moving off leg, flexion on a circle and overall responsiveness. I enjoyed seeing the different lessons click in some horse's (and rider's) mind. I think we only got a few really nice steps in, and I don't "feel" it yet, but that is what practice and more lessons are for.

It was already getting dark as we headed for home. Major walked out nicely, no jigging, but steadily and happily towards home. We did stop for a few bites of grass, with no rush to get home to dinner, and he was put away with a big pile of hay, beet pulp snack and darkness almost complete. The long days are dwindling, and I hate it!

Monday, August 23, 2010

last friday ride

Back to our regularly scheduled more Friday's off. So went out on a really nice relaxing ride. As we walked up the road to meet our trail riding buddy Major saw the horse coming up the road. His head went up, our walk picked up, and he was just happy to see his friend! His friend is Friday the horse, and my friend Christie. We took a wandering path through the forest, finding familiar trails and deciding to try the canal trail to Beeks Bight. I was hoping that on a Friday we'd avoid the rude people I'd encountered last weekend, and we didi!

The trail along the shore isn't entirely uncovered, so in a few places you need to skirt uphill and find a way along. Both horses willingly went up to the lake, putting noses and feet in. A few little waves came up, Major got a little looky, but was ok. I asked him to walk in, and he certainly likes that, wanting to walk further in. But I have to ask him to stop before the bottom drops off, or we start swimming! One day we'll try that. The horse-eating burned log that tried to get us last weekend is not as scary from the other direction, but did get a sideways look as we went past. The upper trail was a bit hot, some of it is very exposed, but we were going home and they know that trail, so the horses kept up a nice pace with no silliness.

A really nice uneventful ride, our favorite kind. A few spots of trotting, a good hill climb and both of these barefoot horses manage all the rocks and footing just fine. A fine ending to Friday rides...

canal trail two and lesson

A Wednesday night ride on the canal trail was not quite as relaxing and fun as I'd hoped. Trail is fine, but Major was having too much fun trying to pick up speed in the nice sandy footing! Lots of half halts, full halts, and whoas punctuated the ride, which was just a short trip. I think on shorter rides our focus needs to be on paying attention and behaving, because 5 miles just doesn't put any dent in his fitness level (he wasn't even sweaty on an 85 degree evening), but there are a couple nice loops that distance and the time it takes after work is just right.

Making him listen did get some support in our lesson on Thursday night. Lesson is hard to get to right after work, I have to walk down the road about 20 minutes, have him ready to go, myself off work early, etc. So I'd wanted to do more lessons this summer, but time didn't allow. Thursday night was really good. There were just four people in a group lesson, all with different issues, but all the issues being address by the instructor are something we'll all encounter. It was great to watch the instructor work with a horse who is really scared of contact with the bit, and get him listening and much more quiet. I worked on not motorcycling around corners, using contact and balance. We all did some canter work, and I added some exercises I can practice at home. I think Major was mentally tired out from that one hour lesson, it feels good to practice different things with him and help him become a more solid equine citizen.

Monday, August 16, 2010

canal trail

With my saddle fitting better, I took Major out on a nice ride. I wanted to keep it pretty slow, and did some warm up in the arena first. He was ready to leave the arena after about two minutes, but we worked for almost 20 minutes, and need to do that more often! I find that I get unsure in the arena, if I am asking for things correctly, etc. We worked on bending, and we both need a lot of work on that! I was occasionally frustrated, I am sure Major was as well, so after a few final good moments we left for the trail.

I had a mini-plan, which was abandoned when I saw that some of the canal trail has been revealed. This trail parallels Folsom Lake right along the shore. When the water level is high, most of the trail is under water. I saw some people down on the lower trail, and took the upper trail to Beeks Bight, where I thought I'd catch the lower trail for the way back.turning for the lower trial, I heard some dogs barking and yelling. Coming up the hill, I saw a horse trotting away, and a couple holding their dogs by the collar. One asked if there were more horses coming, and I politely said that horses often will be coming through the area. I also asked them to be careful, and that Folsom Lake regulations say that dogs need to be on leash. I don't like confrontation, so I truly said this in a very nice manner. I got a tirade screamed at me! How I need to control my 1000 pound animal (who was walking calmly along), how dogs need to be able to swim off leash, and more. I just kept riding, did not need to get in arguments or dignify any bad behavior.

It did rattle me though. I am completely willing to share the trails, but loose dogs have already caused many accidents in the area. Most horses I know are OK with dogs, but not when they are running at them threatening to bite! I hate avoiding an area, but I may for now.

I kept riding along the lake, managing to get in an awkward rocky place when the trail disappeared. I hopped off and let Major pick his way down, what a good boy! The lake is still pretty high, and we finally did get to a very muddy, boggy area filled with big logs and sticks. I saw hoofprints going across, but neither Major or I wanted to chance it. Headed home the usual way, did a bit more exploring, and had a good time. We were both glad to be out, and back on the trails with our better-fitting saddle!

saddle reflocking

My saddle had been causing me lots of concern, so I hadn't ridden much. I made an appointment with Saddles that Fit (who I bought the saddle through) and Susan was able to come out and give me an evaluation. I am so glad it still fits, and some flocking had really just compacted (riding in 2-point will often do that she explained). She had me put it on and off Major many times, checking fits, reflocking and adjusting, had me walk him out and see the saddle move, and do more adjusting. It was fascinating to watch her pull out flocking and put more in, using special tools and technique, such an art. It was a process that took a few hours, but is well worth her expertise. When I got on to ride, the saddle still felt great, and Susan checked to make sure it wasn't pinching any more. Happy to have my saddle back!

Monday, August 9, 2010

new ride

I haven't ridden much, life has been busy, and this past weekend I didn't get to ride at all. I hate that, but it was for a good cause...a trailer for Major! I truly put the cart before the horse, and bought a trailer before I have a truck, but that will come. The trailer seems huge, but when driving home it was parked between a giant motor home and a semi-truck and it looked tiny. It is currently sitting in my driveway where i'll clean it up, then it will stay at the stable. It is a Featherlite 2-horse straight load with a dressing room, really roomy for the horses, lots of nice features. When I finally get a truck, I imagine i'll be towing it empty for a long time to learn to safely drive it.

Having a trailer will be great for adventures, but also for any emergencies. I've found a million ways to justify buying one, and all the shopping and researching has been exhausting. Now just to find that truck...