Saturday, December 31, 2011

looking forward, looking back

Just like last year, I'm writing about how I am not making any resolutions. But maybe a few ideas are percolating around up there...

Looking back. I had fun adding up my GPS trail miles for 2011: I had no idea I had 669.98 miles! (Let's be crazy and call it 670). 200 miles more than last year! That is why I keep track: if anyone had asked I would have thought it was about the same. More rides, longer distances, that is a lot of hours spent with Major. It is paying off...most of the time. It is still hard to remember how far we've come, especially on the difficult days. I'm sure there will be more of those to come, but the good days will hopefully outnumber the bad.

Most of those miles are booted, with the same pair I started with, no wonder I need new boots. Other than that I am pretty happy with my tack, though I dream of an orange biothane halter/bridle. And a fleece seat saver. We'll see if the new year brings enough overtime hours...

Looking forward. This part I hate. I am a live-in-the-moment person. I don't like to plan. If I do plan, then I just start worrying already. Not planning actually keeps me from stressing out, surprisingly. But, gulp, I'm planning (dreaded word) to try an LD ride this year. I had hoped to last year, but spring was too early and fall got busy. I have to review the AERC calendar, and have some qualifications: not too far from home and not in bad weather (no snow for me). I've talked to a couple friends who have suggested and/or discouraged certain rides, I'll be reviewing my options.

I'm worried already! Major will be an idiot. Everything will go wrong. Sigh...deep breath...months left to plan and train...

Mainly hoping that 2012 brings many good, fun, trail rides, with a happy, healthy horse. I hope all the same for you!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

random ride

A mid-week ride, and the trails were so nice and quiet. I was supposed to ride with a friend, but she backed out this morning, needing to clean house, crazy! Major and I headed out, he was in a springy mood, and I completely confused him the first couple miles.

He always wants to take this one trail at the edge of the cow pasture. So I let him. He was excited, and picked up a canter, came to the crest of the hill...and came to a screeching halt. I was prepared, as the trail is just a short firebreak behind the houses that back up to the field. Poor Major. Then I wanted to try the trotting trail, which is still blocked by a huge fallen tree, but the second half is accessible. We did have to bushwhack a bit, and Major thought we were turning for home. Sorry dude.

I'd had enough rides on the canal, so took the upper Pioneer trail option. We trotted along, with a short detour down to the sand, because I wanted to do a little loop. We ended up at the nice little pond, where Major likes to stare out, watch the egret hunting, do some snorkeling, and get his feet wet.

After that we headed home, though we did have to stop at the rock lookout to replace his right front boot. Muddy boot + rocky gully = need new velcro. He liked looking around, and was looking back the way we'd come. But he was ready to go home.

A bit too ready. So I pointed him up Dottie's hill and let him go. But half way up we encountered eight hikers and an unleashed dog! The dog ran at us, a bit too aggressive, and I yelled at it. The people were able to grab him and put a leash on. I think we just surprised the dog, but still a little scary. Major did calm right down, and they all wanted to pet Major. He has a very "cute" face to people (though I tell him he is handsome).

We kept right on going up the hill, pretty fast, which is probably why I didn't notice loosing the other boot! Damn. Backtracked, clipped both boots to the saddle, and headed home.

And Major was all in a tizzy. Then he heard something in the woods (it was turkeys), and just lost it. I think the combo of exciting hill, dog, going home and noises just set him off. I got the big explosive snort and managed to stay on while he piaffed his way down the trail. It was better to keep moving, to direct the energy, because there was no shutting it down. Finally he settled, though not entirely.

So we had another little session when we encountered two other riders heading back to the neighboring stable. We piaffed after them back to the staging area, but then I made Major turn around and head back out until he could listen. It didn't take long: he knows the drill mostly now, and settled down into a walk home.

By the time we got back he was dry, and I put my saddle in my car to bring it home and clean it. I kept thinking that you never know when a ride starts how it will end, and sometimes it is just a string of random events. The barn got a hay delivery while we were out, and Major's only thought was "Best afternoon ever."

so very wrong

I realize I'm completely strange, as I clean my saddle, adding good moisturizing creme, and Silence of the Lambs rings in my head: "It rubs the lotion on its skin, or else it gets the hose again."

But my saddle looks nice. And I don't have a basement. No worries...

(redneck saddle stand stolen from the garage, classy)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

be merry

Major wishes everyone a merry Christmas (and wishes his mother would stop embarrassing him).

He didn't care at all, and quite enjoyed when we freaked out at least three horses... suddenly Major had the power!

Bye everyone! I got some good presents from Santa, hope you did too!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

christmas eve ride

Presents were wrapped. The few little things left to way was I going to any store. The house was clean(ish). Someone else is cooking dinner. All that's left is to go ride.

The barn was quiet, the trails silent. I rode to the staging area, where there was a single car, no horse trailers. A perfect weather Saturday, 60 degrees, no breeze, no clouds, December! But everyone must be frantically finishing up plans.

We walked down the hill to the lake trail, then I assessed Major's attitude. Pretty good, so he set the pace. We cantered most of the trail, a nice loopy-rein slow canter, around corners and over rocks, he wasn't being silly, just good.

We stopped for a snack, then continued. We did have one discussion, where I did need to remind Major that Santa was still watching and weighing naughty/nice, so we did not need to tear up the hill for home ignoring me.

After that a quick trot back through the forest, grass along the road home, and again ignoring the opportunity to roll in the sand arena for a good roll in the dirt pasture.

A good relaxing time. And a very good gift from Major.

Friday, December 23, 2011

and Festivus!

Anyone up for the Feats of Strength? I prefer the Airing of Grievances!

If you don't follow silly pop culture holidays, just ignore this post. But for some levity, I thought I'd mention the started-with-Seinfeld holiday that has a life of it's own. Like Frank Costanza, I hate how commercial Christmas has become, and Festivus, celebrates that. I especially like the idea of no tree: just having a pole, no decorations. This year I don't have a tree, too much hassle, and I am loving the simplicity of the white oak branch on my mantle (not quite a pole, but closer!)

There are many holidays and traditions, but anyone can enjoy this one: a Festivus for the rest of us!

Major thinks any holiday is silly, but he still had this conversation:

Frank Costanza: “And at the Festivus dinner, you gather your family around, and tell them all the ways they have disappointed you over the past year!”

Major: “The tradition of Festivus begins with the Airing of Grievances. I got a lot of problems with you people! And now, you’re gonna hear about it. You, Mom. You do not ever give me enough treats. Apples especially! Carrots are fine, but come on, throw me an apple to two, or three. And all the riding? Really? I need my weekends for napping in the sun, not this adventuring crap! And soon everyone will know, so I just have to tell them: You did some pretty sneaky and annoying stuff earlier with ornaments and tinsel, what was that all about?"

Everyone will have to wait a few days to find out...

Meanwhile, Major and I have fit in a few quick rides, he ate some plastic evergreen garland (just a taste), and the holiday craziness is upon everyone. Happy Festivus!

Thursday, December 22, 2011



There are many reasons different cultures throughout history have celebrated this moment. A turning point in winter, in the darkest days some light ahead. Since ancient times people have come together to celebrate, I am joining them: welcoming the light, the change of season. Though there is more rain and mud and snow ahead, at least I'll be able to see it!

Tonight will be another bareback ride through the forest, I know I'll be imagining that it seems just a little lighter today...there actually is one more minute of daylight. Then one more. And soon we will be out of the darkness, but appreciating the light all the more.

Happy Solstice!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

nice pony

Sometimes plans change, and it still all works out for the best.

I was set to go on a bareback ride, and meet my friend C and her horse. But she called, having a bad day, and just decided to meet me and walk along. We wandered into the forest, me bareback on Major, following C hiking, with her dog too. I rode awhile, cantered the road, then changed my plans.

I told C we're switching, and to get on Major and I'd walk awhile. She has never ridden him, and hasn't been bareback for a long time. She was a little apprehensive: I knew she'd be fine, she's a good rider, and Major knows to listen. So I gave her my helmet, found a log, and she got on.

Major didn't even care. After a few steps to get her balance, we walked (and some trot) in the forest, almost dark, winding through trees, some smaller paths, some wide sandy patches. I hiked along, just enjoying the company of horse and friend, which is what I set out to do anyway. A slightly different organization, but it worked.

I went the long way: it was very dark when we got back, and a cold 42 degrees. I had fun, C felt better, and Major got some carrots and grass for being such a good boy. I'm very proud of him, he can be such a jerk sometimes, but he really is inherently good. (Or maybe he still believes in Santa, he is only 8, and wants to make sure he is on the Nice and not the Naughty list!)

It's the holiday season, 'tis better to give than to receive.

Monday, December 19, 2011

double ride

After last week's adventures in speed, I wanted to take is slower, but still put in some miles. My friend B and her horse Ziggy were up to the test. We wanted to do a mini endurance ride, coming back home halfway through and then heading back out.

Major did not seem to annoyed with Ziggy along, who is often his archenemy. They both headed up the trail, and jauntily trotted towards Rattlesnake Bar. Perfect weather, not too cold, no dust, lake view. The park is closed to vehicles, so we tried to get a good canter on the dirt roads. Both Major and Ziggy know that we often turn around here, so they were a bit sluggish, but we kept going, and they relented. Coming around the corner, there is a large yellow caution sign, warning boaters of stuff. Ziggy saw it as we passed and gave a huge spook into the road! B managed to keep her seat, she was happy to have boots on when she landed on the asphalt, and then manged to crack a joke: obviously Ziggy can read, and the sign meant "Imminent Danger! Must run now!" It is always good to laugh when your adrenaline is going!

The ride back was less eventful, even though we took them the "wrong" way home: they were very good at pointing out when we kept missing the turns back to the barn. Back home we untacked, gave them a drink and wet mash snack, ate some lunch, and headed back out.

Going back up the road Major seemed pretty chipper, but Ziggy was dragging, He does use up quite bit of energy worrying about the horse in front, the speed, the scary stuff...but we hit the forest and both horses just shut down. We used all of our riding skills just to keep them walking a reasonable pace, they soooo did not want to go out again! They were just dragging down the trails, we both needed a crop! I thought the lake trail would perk them up, so we hit the sand and headed for Granite Bay. Major was in front, trotting along, when he sidestepped, threw on the brakes, and declared himself done. I don't think so! We continued and got to Beeks Bight, where we had to decide: continue on or head back. Both horses were being so good, none of the misbehavior I had last week, so we headed back. Ziggy was in front and didn't know where were were, so he didn't think we were going home. Major knew, but kept it to himself in the back!

We eventually cut down to the lower trail, Major took the lead back along the lake, and he certainly knew where we were! We took a cutoff from the lake trail into a very unused access to Pioneer Express trail, and then back into the forest. Major did the strange sidestepping thing one more time, I think he just didn't want Ziggy behind him. No kicking at Ziggy this time, very good behavior, but he will need to get used to someone back there! He is fine with most others, it is so hard to figure out their quirks.

The ride back was good, because both horses were pretty tired. The mileage wasn't too high, but the Pioneer Express trail is pretty taxing, with lots of up and down and rocks and dropoffs and bridges for them to think about. They were so good they got another snack and a good currying. Back in his paddock, Major was more interested in his leftover breakfast (I don't know how he could still be hungry!) than me, but I told him what a good boy he was today, and hid some carrots in his salt bucket.

All in all a fun adventure, though I know nothing like a real LD, still good practice and something different. And now I know for that second ride from home I need to carry a crop!

Monday, December 12, 2011

crazy man

I went on a ride with two wild and crazy guys today: Major and my SO. OK, so my SO was just crazy for running along next to me for 2.5 miles. Major was just a wild man.

We headed out, Major his usual dragging, and through the forest to Barking Dog Hill. We wandered through there, walking and trotting. Major thinks it is great fun to chase my SO, though we never get too close. Down to the lake and the sandy trail, mostly walking, or we'd trot then stop to snack while SO caught up.

We only did 2.5 miles (in 45 minutes), then split off . SO headed back to the barn, and I turned around and went back out. And out came Major/Crazy Man. Asked for a regular trot: got huge giant fast trot. That would have been fine, if he wasn't also pulling, trying to canter, and generally being a jerk. No brakes, not listening, finally a compromise: you can do your fast trot if you slow over rocks. That was as much as I could get.

So we headed on the lake trail towards Beeks Bight, flying past the cutoff for home (but not without some fighting). Stopped for a breather (mine!) and some grass, and turned around. I asked for a trot: and right into a canter he goes. Sigh...more of this. Again past the cutoff for home, back on the canal trail, a little less fighting (but not much). Around blind corners (I yell to alert anyone we're coming, luckily no one was around). Passing all the other pleasure riders we had already passed in the other direction! Past the other cutoff, now heading toward Rattlesnake. On the lower trail, on the upper trail, he just powers along. I had some other things I needed to do, or we would have been out all day!

Back up to the trail that parallels the road, I made him listen. We were heading home, and the road is 10 to 15 feet below the trail, and one spook that direction sends us down the bank. He was prancing and being silly, we circled and even when I dismounted he pranced behind me up the road. Really dude?

Back at the ranch I untacked and let him roll right away, hoping the sand would help dry the sweaty mess. It did a bit, but still he needed a good toweling. There is only so much you can do when it is too cold to hose.

When I finally looked at my GPS we'd done a total of 13.1 miles. The first 2.5 miles in 45 minutes (with SO). The last 10.6 miles in 1:18! Including breaks! No wonder it seemed so fast! I seriously can't be doing that again though without him listening better, so hoping this week to fit in a couple arena sessions (where he usually listens just fine, so not sure how it will help, but I have to try!)

I am hoping next week to do what a friend suggested: go out on a long ride, and come back to the stable. Tie him up, untack, give some hay (and eat some lunch ourselves) and head back out. A mini endurance ride.

sweaty horse rolling: didn't even take off his halter or boots yet!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

dancing in the dark*

Bridle, bareback pad and helmet, we started in the dark. I just needed a ride after a super long work day. Major was happy to oblige, and moved out down the dark trail, surefooted. A bit too fast a couple times, I'm not as secure taking single-track trail corners at a fast trot bareback as in my comfy dressage saddle! But on a better straight section, a bareback canter was just what we needed.

There was a little bit of moonlight, but it was cold. Major was warm and we kept moving, just a couple miles, but enough to reset my mind and remember what an awesome horse I have. That I can hop on him bareback, go out into the dark forest, not worry about spooking or much silliness, enjoy the moonlight and the silence.

We came home quietly in the dark. I know Major could have stayed out longer, but I need to work up to more bareback time. He was grateful for carrots and mash. I was just grateful.

*Yes, my title is lyrics from a super cheesy Peter Wolf 80s song (I am so NOT hip that I have never heard the Lady Gaga version that came up in google search!) If you need a good blast from the past laugh, check out the oh so awesome video...

More useless trivia: Wolf's first single "Lights Out" was originally titled "Dancing In The Dark" but because of the release of Bruce Springsteen's single "Dancing In The Dark" being released at the same time, Wolf renamed the single.

Monday, December 5, 2011

weekend warrior

I hate being a weekend warrior. Dark during the week makes it a necessary evil, and I'm starting with a horse who is in good shape, so it isn't the same as pulling out an out-of-shape pony out of a stall, but still feel a bit guilty.

Major didn't seem to mind, as he was bouncing at the end of his leadrope on Saturday morning. He had actually been perfectly calm, even with the strong winds, when some imaginary noise set him off, then everything was so exciting! But we headed down the road to meet Friday at the staging area. When we arrived Major was still too much, so I headed into the forest alone, for some quick work. We trotted up the big hill, galloped the road, and headed back. "We're going home!" he thought. But back at the staging area we just stood while Friday finished up, and Major realized we were not going home, and settled right down. Heading out again, he didn't want to take the lead, he was a bit miffed...too bad.

The trail to Rattlesnake Bar was the less obvious choice, everyone else was riding the lake trail, so we encountered very few people. We had a great time moving along, and while trotting up through some trail steps, my heart lept in my throat as I heard:


Ahhhh, what was that?! Major hadn't flinched, and we cleared the corner to find an excited white arab, but that was the strangest horse noise I'd ever heard! Both horses just motored along, while my friend and I laughed at our fear, we'd both been terrified for a moment. Strange trail happenings. Luckily the rest of the trail was uneventful, even a super fun canter along the winding path, where last year neither of us would have even considered doing such a thing. A few chargy moments going up the hill towards home, but back at the staging area Major was happy to much on grass while we stood around and talked in the sun.

On Sunday I wanted to go out and just do a short, simple ride in the forest, to let Major stretch out from the day before. He had other plans, and was full of energy, so we did quite a few canters, and I tried to video it. He thought that it was a good time to get too close to bushes, and a hand-help camera phone video can make you pretty ill while watching, so don't say I didn't warn you! I think I'll wait to do any more video until I get a helmet cam!

It was a beautiful day out, and I think of trotting along in the forest as pretty quiet: clip clop, clip clop. The video tells a tale of rattling bags and jingling caribiners, no wonder the deer hear us coming! At the top of the hill it was gorgeous, and we had fun coming home.

Lake and turkey vulture
I might be a weekend warrior this time of year, but I like to think I'm the cool Amazon-woman kind...

Don't take my snack, I'm still eating it, see my foot is in it!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

sandwich rides

just a cool overcast view of the lake
 A few quick rides sandwiched between too many hours at work. Last night I dashed out of the office, and got to the ranch in almost dark. I still decided to take Major out, walked up the road, and into the forest. Dusk does not last very long these days, and it quickly grew pretty dark. But we could see enough. I hopped on bareback, we walked a few paths, and he took me up a big hill at a trot. Then I jogged down while he trotted behind me, back to the stable and his waiting dinner, 30 minutes, tops. But the best part of my day.

fairy ferns
I had a great longer ride this weekend, taking out Major and his friend Dune. Dune did just fine keeping up, even if I had to constantly tell his owner that Dune was not tired, we do not need to go back just because he has been good for 5 miles. Dune was bright-eyed and chipper, I kept Major below warp speed, and a good time was had by all. Along the upper trail all the ferns have sprouted between rocks, looking like something from a fairytale. I know many places are damp enough to have ferns all year, but ours are so fleeting they are special.

When we got back to the stable I was really glad for Major's shorter winter coat. Dune was a sweaty mess, Major had already mostly dried. He still wouldn't roll in the nice sand arena, but of course coated himself nicely in the pasture, both sides. He doesn't mind these sandwich rides: he is in the moment on the trail, in the moment back in pasture, in the moment eating dinner.

Aren't these weeds pretty in the sunset? Major doesn't care, there is grass!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


For: Family. Friends. My SO. A job. Health. House. Major. Thomas the cat. Friends pets and horses. Living in a great beautiful place. Sci-fi books. The New Yorker. My iPhone. Music including BNL, Cake, The Decemberists, Hey Marseilles, 80s punk and Oingo Boingo. Pumpkin muffins with cream cheese frosting. Someone else cooking Thanksgiving dinner. Wood burning fire. Good tea. Hot chocolate. Warm socks.

(not necessarily in that order)

Things Major is thankful for:
Carrots. Apples. Coming home after a long ride. Grass. Mash. Mom scratching my itchy spots...did I say carrots already?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 21, 2011

more wild(life) ride

Where to go...always a dilemma, but we headed towards Granite Bay, through the forest sprouting green grass and yellow fall leaves, onto the upper Pioneer Express trail. Friday and his owner joined us, we were all happy to be out, and she noted how the dropoff is either into the lake or onto the rocks, depending on the time of year, not something she likes very much.

And then we came around the corner we met a rider and hikers at the most awful part: Rattlesnake Point! No going around, very little room. Major had enough room to just stand aside while the woman decided to get off her horse. The two hikers just stood on a rock off the trail with their dogs. Friday had no room to step aside, so he backed for awhile, then they were able to pass. There is a leash law, where all dogs must be leashed, but these dogs listened to the owners and were just good. No problem with those kind of dogs!

We then came across a few worrisome dogs. One man had two very happy golden retrievers, who had no recall whatsoever, and while Major and Friday were fine with them as they ran up and bounced around their hooves, some horses would not be, and those dogs might get stomped (or spook someone). Another group of about five people had 10 dogs between them, none leashed. We had been going to trot that section, but kept it slow, thinking about the dogs seeing a running things and coming after them. I love dogs, but common sense isn't so common out on the lake.

Coming out of a forested section, I thought there was another dog on the trail, but there was a beautiful coyote ahead of us. Often they are mangy and scrawny looking, but this guy looked so healthy and fluffy. He was trotting down the trail ahead of us, in no hurry, so we just walked along. He just stayed on the path, traveling wherever he was going. He was only disturbed when a rider was coming the other direction, and dodged off the path to the side, and stood watching us. The rider was a friend, and we chatted for a bit, he had thought for a moment that the coyote was our dog! As we moved off the coyote had already melted into the bushes, I'm sure to hunt some mice (or look for some little dog that people might bring!).

We were going to head to Granite Bay, but it was warmer out on the lake trail in the sun, the trail through the sand was so nice, so we headed back along the water. The whole trail is open now, even the boggy area, and the horses were happy to move along. It is only a few miles along the lake, and we quickly came up to the staging area, which was just packed with horses and people. A whole group was back from a ride and having picnic lunch, with paper crunching and tin foil blowing, quite a gauntlet. I had told Friday's owner I was taking her somewhere a little evil, but I actually hadn't meant the staging area!

Instead I meant we tricked the horses, and didn't go home the road, but trotted through the housing development: gravel, then driveway, gravel, driveway again. I wouldn't take a shod horse over that at speed, too much slippery concrete, but Major with boots and Friday barefoot were just fine. Back in the forest we were almost home, and tormented Major some more by making him trot side-by-side with Friday, keeping pace, when he just wants to be in front and win that race.

Finally stopping, I found a couple cool feathers in the same place I saw the owl last week. Are they owl feathers? I can't tell, but they were soft and fluffy and Major wore them like a good indian pony.

Walking back there was also a dead tree filled with little downy woodpeckers, chirping and carrying on. Major was happy to stop for a snack while I took a couple photos and enjoyed watching and listening to them.

The clouds were rolling in as we finished, the temperature had dropped, but Major was already dry, and I treated him to some soaked grass hay pellets, carrots and salt. He was happy to slurp it all up, and go finish the breakfast hay he had missed. I just watched him for awhile, he seemed content. Me too.

Sunday, November 20, 2011


Major hates the rain, so I had to drag him for a walk. The rainbow was awesome, almost worth missing a day of riding.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

mish mash

Lately, horse time has been a little bit of everything. With the sun already gone after work, I have just enough time to quick ride in the arena (blech, I know I should, but the forest is calling) or a quick hike. The hike is great for both of us. I try to get finished before complete darkness sets in. Major is perfectly happy out there in the dark. Me, on foot, not so much...lions and tigers and bears, oh my! (well, we do have the lions and bears!)

sunset, with Major...
It is good to work with Major on the ground too. He is so much better already at trotting along behind me when I run. I still don't completely trust him going downhill, he forgets and is too close, breathing on me. No way! Back up sir! I think he likes the forest hikes (he also gets to stop for grass). We see some great wildlife: huge bucks looking for girls, and an amazing Great Horned owl floated up out of the field where it had been hunting, to perch in a tree and swivel it's head to spy at the intruders.

Great Horned owl on the tree
I did fit in one ride this weekend, where Major was just confused. We headed out, and did 6 fast miles on our own. Major thought he was going home, and we cantered up the hill to the staging area. Where we met Friday, and went back out and did another 6 miles. Major was not exactly pleased with that situation, so it was great to do it. I told him it was like a mini mini endurance ride, with a "hold" at the staging area.

squiggly branch and fresh green grass
I think most of the winter will be spent like this, just happy to fit in the horse time. Adapting for the season. Hunkering down, warms coats for us both, hot chocolate and warm mash, quiet hikes and lake trails.

Friday, November 11, 2011

rainy day recipe

Stuck inside a few days ago, I desperately wanted to bake something. But did not need any more cookies (Halloween candy is still haunting me.)

So I made Major some cookies! I have made them before, but usually I just throw some stuff together. This time I figured I'd write it down, to have an actual recipe, in case some other bored horse friend would like to spoil their beasts.

Super easy. And you can use healthy/unhealthy ingredients, depending on how cheap you are/how much you love your horse/what you have in the house.

First grate some apples. How many? I did 3 large red/green apples. Any kind. You can use carrots too. I do not suggest grating your thumb. It really hurts and is pretty gross.

grate apple (not thumb)

Add some other stuff. I added:
2 cups oats (just the regular kind)
1/2 cup brown sugar (seems healthier than white, ha!)
3 Tbsp salt (good for the horses)
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup syrup (I used generic bad fake maple syrup. If you love your horse you can use molasses, but it is kind-of expensive)

add all the ingredients, easy!

Mix it all up. I also added the leftover-crumbs-at-the-bottom-of-the-bag granola and grape-nuts cereal (just to use it up).

mix it all up, looks and smells yummy

Put it in a mini muffin tin. I sprayed it with some vegetable oil. You could try to make little balls too, but it is pretty wet. If you want to do that, leave out some water. Tins are way easy. (As a side note, I hate the silicone muffin pans. Useless crap that everything sticks to even if you spray it).

shove in some pans, a little messy

Oh, turn on the oven to 300. Shove the pans in. Let them cook 1-1/2 hours. I just make sure they seem really dry. Sometimes longer. Then I just turn off the oven and leave them in there, to get them really dry.

Then I put them on a pretty plate and serve them to my precious pony.

perfect treat for ponies

HA! No, I throw them in a bag and keep them at the stable for treats. They're always a hit, no matter what I throw in there. Major will eat anything, but all the other horses love them too.

feed many many many (this is from Major)

When baking, it makes the house smell really good, like apple cake, but if you try one (yes, I did) they're a bit salty for human taste (and too hard!). Make some! Takes just a few minutes, cheaper than the store-bought ones, and your pony will love you.

Disclaimer: These treats are not for horses with sugar issues, etc. I'm sure you could make them better/more healthy, etc. I just wanted to make a yummy treat. If you grate your thumb off, also not my fault.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

ride torture

See those ears? They were mighty crabby that we were not headed the other way. Which was towards home. Instead we got this far, turned around, and backtracked over our path. We were not going home because SOMEONE could not control themselves, and thought we needed to canter everywhere, including over rocks, downhill, around blind corners, and not listen.

Back this way, then again did not turn towards home. Instead we continued past the trail towards home, and took the lower trail, then the upper trail, then the lower trail. Major was all in a tizzy. Which was the point.

At least it was helpful. Not especially to Major, but I did come across the same people 3 times, trying to find their way back to the parking lot, and was able to help them. Major needs more help than that (at least on this day: it was cool, he'd been standing around the day before from the rain, and he just wanted to GO).

It actually was a really fun ride. Is it wrong to enjoy tormenting your horse?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

conversation with Major: rain ride

Major was already under his shelter.

"It isn't even raining yet!" I scolded him.
"But it is going to, and I can't get wet."
"We're going to do a short ride, I think we can make it before the rain starts," as I slowly walk him down the hill.
 "But it might rain, and I could get wet, I might melt, and I think it is dinner time."
 "It'll be fun, you'll see your friend Friday. Could you BE walking any slower?"
"That was sarcastic Major. Honestly, move it out."
"Fine. But horses don't get sarcasm Mom."

Saddled up and headed down the road, dragging my horse behind me.
"Rain, gloom, doom, wet, no shelter, miserable."
"What did you say back there?"
"OK, let's step it up, we're meeting Friday. You remember Friday? We're taking him on a rehab ride, so you have to be good."

Major tries to stop to snatch grass. Stop to poop. Stop and longingly look towards home. I keep marching ahead, and realize I've forgotten my helmet! I find a convenient rock and mount up, trotting towards home.
"Yippee, home! Yeah, let's canter the road!"
"OK, let's go Major!"

We canter up the road, arrive at the gate, dash inside, grab my helmet, back out the gate, hop on my horse, turn back down the road.
 "Nope, no arguing, we're going to be late!"

Back down the road we go, and see Friday's trailer in the staging area. Friday is hiding inside, because it is raining! But we head out anyway, and actually both of the horses seem pretty happy to be out. We stick to the forest, thinking under the trees will be less wet. Major whines a bit.

"Why does Friday get to be in front all the time?"
"Because we're mostly walking, and you trot too fast and too much, we have to take it easy. You were too fast and silly yesterday, so think of this as your community service."
"He seems fine to me."
"Yes, luckily he seems to have recovered, but rehab takes awhile, just be patient!"

Back at the trailer we say our goodbyes, and Major is happy to head back down the road. Back at the stable, I dismount, and I can hear the ATV filled with hay distributing dinner. It is raining pretty hard now and almost dark.

"OK, let's head back in. I'm wet, you're wet, and now my saddle is getting wet."
"Mmmm, grass, this is delicious. Let's stay out here, this is good."
"But you're getting wet, you might melt," I remind him.
"Nope, I'm happy!"

I drag Major back inside despite his protests, where he gets the indignity of being toweled off, and put away with his mash and plenty of hay. He nuzzles me with a disgusting mash face, looking for another treat.

"That wasn't so bad, right?" I ask.
"Nom, nom, nom. Don't bother me anymore, I'm eating." 

He has already forgotten, living in the moment of good food and shelter.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

goodbye Hickstead

I was going to write about my great, fun ride along the lake today. But I came home, checked online, and am devastated by the loss of glorious Hickstead.

I love watching showjumping, the amazing partnership as these horses trust their humans so much to launch over huge jumps, and Eric Lamaze and Hickstead were such a pair. The gold medal at the 2008 Olympics was spectacular, and Lamaze always gave so much credit to his horse. This photo breaks my heart (not graphic).

I will NOT be watching the video of Hickstead's collapse that is all over the net. I'll remember him in his glory. He gave his all until the last second. You never know when that ride might be your last.

I need to go thank Major more. Even when they annoy us, they give so much. Hug your horses.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

burning daylight

So little runs through my head every minute lately. I hate this end of season, back to dark after work, brief forest forays, weekend warrior rides.

I was about to head out yesterday when my barn owner stopped me. Our new boarder had fallen off earlier in the day, and I got a status report (broken ribs, some internal bleeding!). I feel terrible, she was going to do her final endurance ride of the season this weekend. The barn owner cautioned me because it was really windy, but she knows I'm determined (and that Major is good).

So I headed out. Blustery wind, but needing to ride. I am sure Major can sense my desperation, and we cantered through the forest, on paths that will soon be too dark to navigate at speed. The light even at 5pm was filtered gold, the sun's last rays blindingly low through the trees.

He was pretty up, the crisp air, fallen leaves, bursting quail. I was adjusting a new set of reins (not sure if I like them yet) so stopped a few times, where he did stand nicely while I pulled and messed with things, then I'd ask him to move off, and we'd spring into a trot. I didn't want to do too much and raise a sweat, another hazard of these cooler evenings.

Coming home I even let him canter the final gravel road. He wasn't interested in going home for dinner, so we stayed outside the gates munching grass and watching the sinking sun. By the time everything was put away, the sun was gone and a glorious purple sunset made the trees into silhouettes. That made up for it, a little bit...

Monday, October 31, 2011

the masked bandit

I spent a long, fun day at work in my gunslinger/cowboy costume, and thought I'd relax and visit Major. When I arrived he had to inspect my costume, smelling all the dirt and paint. I took a quick photo, he seemed calm and quiet.

I turned my back to get the camera, and when I turned around I was confronted by the steely gaze of the Masked Bandit!

He had stolen my guns and ordered me to march ahead of him, towards the roadside. My heart was racing as I heard the steps behind me, clip... clop... closer...closer. He forced me to step aside and hold the rope, I was afraid of his nefarious plans, so followed his bidding.

He forced me to walk up the road, while he grabbed bites of grass in his terrifying jaws. I knew I was next, but I hatched a plan. The barn manager came along, with her hidden weapon. She confronted the Masked Bandit, who couldn't draw his guns fast enough to defend against the carrot! He was caught, and I put him in the local jail, where he placidly ate the jailer-provided meal. But in the dying light, just as I turned to leave, I saw the defiant gleam in his eye, and knew his good behavior was all a ruse. The Masked Bandit would return again, I know not when, but until then I will sleep with a carrot beside me, if I sleep at all. In my dreams I will hear clip... clop... clip... clop...

Goodnight...and happy Halloween!

Monday, October 24, 2011


The canal trail is so much fun! I just can't can't stay away!

a rockier section, but gorgeous, green and blue (Major loves the green!)

Two great rides over this glorious weekend. The weather was just perfect, even a bit warm. On Saturday we headed out with Major's friend Dune. Dune's owner can be a bit nervous, but when we push her through things (safely) she really enjoys herself. She only wanted to trot: she cantered away from me on the canal (and survived). She needed to be in the lead: going home Major lead back up the road at his fast trot (and survived).

I was concerned at first about Major on the canal. When we had gone out before alone, we mostly walked through the sand, trotting it was too hard. We were behind Dune, and Dune was trotting (not too quickly) but Major preferred to canter. Was something physically wrong? Then we took the higher hard dirt trail home. And I got a big nice trot. I think it is just easier for Major to canter in the sand, I'm sure every horse is different.

Through all this I was testing Major. Since his misbehavior earlier in the week, I actually set him up for the same issues. Not that I wanted him to fail, but I needed to put him in the situations, and deal with it. Going up a hill in the back did not lead to bucking. And having a horse on his butt going home did not lead to kicking! We had a couple crabby ear issues, with quick corrections. The problems are not solved, but it was good. I do think more of it is an individual horse (nemesis Ziggy) and the energy of the two of them together.

The Headless Horse!

Today I went out alone, taking the trail backwards. Major wasn't too excited to be heading out, but by the lake he was happy to move out. I asked for a trot, but kept wanting to canter in the sand, and was minding so nicely, so we did, lots. He was careful over rocks and driftwood, and when he'd get too fast a little pull would settle him back down. There is almost no place on our trails to canter longer stretches, so we both need the practice. He was working well on balancing himself, and I have to remember to breathe!

Same balancing rock as last post, from the other direction, the water is already farther down.

We cut up through the driftwood, and the mental shift "we're going home!" kicked in. At the forest road leaving the lake, I asked for a canter. I got a hellbent-for-home gallop! OK, re-adjusting expectations. We had a couple discussions, and came to an agreement: we will head for home as long as you keep it at a trot. Any shift upward in gait will lead to turning around. So Major kicked it into high gear. We trotted home, literally twice as fast as our earlier cantering. My GPS clocked us at 14.8 mph, average! That was only for a short section, but that trot feels like flying.

Home in one piece, more grass snack, and a quick bath (since it was 80 degrees). There aren't many days left with the combination of the weather so great and trail conditions good. These are the days...

Thursday, October 20, 2011

it's alive!

Halloween (my favorite holiday) is close enough for the silly title of this post. But truly, it's alive, the canal trail lives!

I was planning on a fast ride with Major, to see if I could (even though alone) dig up any of the issues I'd dealt with the day before. I headed out, towards Granite Bay, and walked trotted, just casually, as he had no interest in any form of speed. So we meaneded, till I'd push him up a hill or down a straight stretch, Of course he'd perk up when he thought we were heading home.

I did want to see the lake level, so headed through the pit of rocks, logs and erosion to the lake. It was way down, and I could see trail both directions! I followed the trail to the left, where there is still a huge morass of water and mud, it will take awhile for that to be safe. But to the right there was some sandy trail. Not much, maybe about a half mile, before another muddy mess stopped us. Some areas smell a bit boggy, they've been under water for 6 months (exactly! My last ride on the canal was April 18).

Canal ahead, and a smoke monster from Lost (OK, a tree, looking weird)

I could have hopped back on the main trail and continued on, but now the spirit of exploration had me. It did not have Major, who was completely clueless about the trail, wondering where we were. I got back onto the Rock trail, then down onto the other side of the mess of the left. There is some very deep driftwood to go through, Major was careful, but it twists and turns. The path is somewhat obscured with branches and leaves, even the parts that were exposed when the rest was submerged.

Lots of driftwood, yes, the trail is though there

Once on the trail, you can tell it hasn't been ridden much yet. The sand is very deep in places, there are random rocks and driftwood strewn about. Major was pretty cautious about everything, it all looked new and different! That is the issue every year with a trail that changes so much. My favorite are all the blind corners. Most horses learn to slow a bit, craning their neck around to try and see. Later in the year it gets easier, but many people use this trail, and you can come around the corner to rides, hikers, or boats next to the lake.

Cool balanced rock and a blind corner ahead

We kept it pretty slow with all the obstacles to navigate, as well as the sand footing. Major got quite a workout walking in the sand. I know sand needs to be conditioned to, and was being careful, but Major did try to canter once in some deep sand, and not again! It was too much work, he figured that out pretty quickly. I also decided to be extra nice, and we took many breaks for the fresh green grass.

Grass on top of the berm, right at horse height!

About half-way though, a lightbulb came on in his mind. "I know where we are!" It was hilarious. He now knew we were heading home, and got a little more springy. Then I asked him to listen, slow down and even stop for grass. Grass trumps going home!

Every year this wall is still cool. Reminds me of LOTR style.

It was a good ride, though not what I'd planned. I am happy to have this trail open again, as it is different training and conditioning, and new scenery. I'm still planning on many training rides to address the previous issues, but it is hard to plan for certain kinds of rides, you just never know what will happen on the trails. Sometimes a day spent exploring is just good for the soul (of horse and man).

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

bad behavior

Take a fit horse who has had more than a week off. Mix in some nice cool Fall weather. Add in a trail ride with his archenemy. It all adds up to some bad behavior.

It started out fine, the usual slogging up the road. Neither Major or Ziggy is ever enthusiastic about leaving home, though once we hit the forest I asked for a trot and immediately got the great big, boingy, reachy stride. Major was glad to be out, and we trotted along, even over a small log (he just steps while trotting, doesn't jump, though most other horses do) and all seemed fine. He made a few snarly faces, which were immediately corrected, because I know it leads to worse.

Then we switched, and Ziggy got to lead. And Major's ears got all crabby and he jigged along, "I must keep within 2 feet of Ziggy or die!" while I tried to hold him back. And we switched, and switched, and both horses were silly, cantering in ridiculous places, cantering to keep up with slow trotting, just in a mood.

We should have stayed out longer, but you know, life gets in the way, and we had things we needed to do back home. So we trotted up the hill, where about 20 feet from the top both horses just lost it, took off, Major throwing in a buck for good measure. It took a few strides to stop him and reprimand, but I knew, he was not sorry, he thought it was fun. After circling a bit he was still not very contrite, but moved off a bit better. Then at a stop he kicked out at Ziggy, who true, was crowding, but NO EXCUSE! I was so frustrated! At least I had company, as Ziggy's owner was dealing with the same shenanigans.

This type of thing is so hard to train for, since it doesn't happen when you're alone. Or with some other horses. Just ones Major has decided for whatever reason he doesn't like. But he doesn't get to make the decisions, and I just have to work on catching him in that split moment before. Reading my horse. And every horse is so different.

I used to ride a gray mare a lot. She was great, except when she thought she was behind or being left. She would do a twisty-head thing and get both reins on one side of her neck! Clever, but I learned pretty quickly to know when that was coming, and pretty soon all it took was a little tug on the reins and a sharp "ack" to catch her before she tried it. I'm not in that same place with Major yet, but we'll get there.

It was just getting dark when we got home, so he didn't get the workout in the arena I was planning on. And I also knew that outside of the set-up situation he would have been fine. So as frustrating as it is (for Major and me!), I'll be planning some more rides with Ziggy, setting up those difficult solutions, asking for the correct behavior, and expecting it. And correcting mistakes. And continually working on it.

And to top it off, Major sweaty mess with the pleasant weather and his winter coat coming in. I debated, but it was not cold enough last night, so he got hosed off and turned back out to eat dinner and dry. Later in winter we'll have to keep our afternoon riding less enthusiastic, or I'll have to walk him dry with his cooler.

New season, new challenges.

Monday, October 17, 2011

a horseless adventure

A real vacation, getting away from it all, but still I saw horses everywhere. I missed Major and a week of riding, but saw lots of great things, and dreamed of riding a few of the trails I explored!

One day spent at Hearst Castle. I had been there years ago, but was still blown away by the amount of amazing stuff this guy hoarded. More money than sense, and personally I think much of Europe would like their ancient, historic stuff back, but still wow. They did use lots of horses (it was originally the only way to get there), there were some historic riding photos of Hearst, and he imported some desert Arabians for his ranch (at a huge expense of course, why not?)

Huge tapestry with these pretty Renaissance (?) horses.

Loved this horse, think the man is Poseidon or something Greek. (nice butt)

Italian Palio flags decorate the dining room. (Palio is a crazy Italian horse race)

Just a ceiling was 3-D and probably 10 feet tall.

OK, not a horse, but Diana the Huntress. There were NO horse statues on the grounds, which was strange.

The remains of a mile-long bridle path. Once covered in vines and fruits, imagine riding here.

Leaving the castle a quiet drive up the coast is needed, just to relax your eyes. But keep a lookout for the descendents of the escaped Hearst zoo zebras, just alongside the road. We pulled over to take photos of these, and the next day we saw another bunch with a foal, who was brown and fuzzy and so cute (through binoculars).

Zebra herd, they really blend in so well to the dry grasses.

Later in the week we did a steep hike, along Salmon Creek in Big Sur. Awesome waterfall, even better views. And evidence of horses! It would have been a tough ride, and no trailer space at the trailhead, so I wonder where they came from? There are seemingly thousands of miles of trails throughout the area, so I'm sure you could pack in for a great trip. Maybe someday.

Just one view along a trail.

A few more days of hiking, then onto more civilization. Drove past some nice looking "ranches" in Carmel, so fancy to be beyond my idea of a ranch. But then onto the Monterey Bay Aquarium, to see the new great white shark (only 4 feet long, but impressive) and the very cool seahorse exhibit. I am not sure how they thought of horses for these fish, maybe some of the crazy dishy Arabian faces?

This is a local Pacific kind, looks the most horse-like, but still a stretch.

Major got a fun week off, with his caretaker walking him to eat special not-in-the-pasture grass, feed him apples, and do nothing else. He happily trotted up to greet me when I came back, and I'm glad to be home and to enjoy this great fall weather to ride. I am sure more horseless adventures will still manage to involve horses, one way or another.