Tuesday, May 31, 2011

is it summer yet?

Winter does not seem to want to leave! The weather hasn't been that bad...for February! Cold and windy, rain showers, hail storms, not what is expected in almost June! But I'm just about fed up with it, and so is Major, so Saturday I saddled up Major and we went out, despite thickening gray clouds.

Plus I had to make it up to Major. The poor guy has spent the last couple rides out with my friends green horse, who has been a monster. Major is so sick of that fire-breathing dragon on his tail. Last time Major couldn't take it anymore and kicked...but won't be trying that again after his reprimand. While it is a good experience to be out with many different personalities of horses, I could tell Major was at a breaking point. I don't blame him!

an actual picture of us both!
The first 2 miles I did with my SO hiking along, Major thinks it great fun to follow his "herdmate" and would like to chase him down the hills. Not an option, so we catch up on the flats and uphills. The trails are in pretty good shape, and we had fun moving along. I split and we went farther along. Major seemed very happy to be out, wasn't pulling, just trotting when asked, and some cantering over on the wider park roads.

gray skies, but pricked ears heading home
Heading home Major was a bit excited. Amazing how the same small mud puddle he HAD to try and step around on the way out became no big deal as we trotted through it coming home. The burned log that gets the evil eye is now not a bear, just something to fly by. We did have to have some discussions about not cantering through rocks, and he did finally behave enough to take the shortcut trail. It is a great parallel trail that has had some storm damage and downed trees for awhile, but SO to the rescue and it is now pruned and ready for summer...if it ever gets here.

Friday, May 20, 2011

photo shoot

Since we're not hitting the trails much (EHV-1 self-imposed quarantine) I took Major for a walk just around the property. The sky was beautiful blue, he looked pretty, so I tried to set him up for some conformation photos, he didn't exactly cooperate...

 "My mom just wants me to stand here...I think I'll wander off to the grass since she isn't paying enough attention to me..." 
Oh, such an attractive photo...could his head look any uglier?

 "What? Why am I standing here? What do you have in your hand?"

"But I have an itch, right here, and must scratch it right now"
Sigh...at least he looks shiny...

Thursday, May 19, 2011


We started out...hesitant, short-strided, balky. Attitude or something more? Turn for home...forward, reaching, moving. Hmmm...away from home, toward home...repeat for an hour.

Maybe it was not riding from the recent stormy weather (coldest May days in history!), but I think this is what's been going on. He's just too damn clever at it, and I am so cautious (especially about any lameness or NQR feeling) I know I have helped "teach" him this behavior. Major would rather be back in his grassy pasture, or even in his paddock with dinner, than hauling me around the forest.

crazy mane on crabby horse
But this time I figured it out, and Major was not amused, he was downright crabby! A year ago it would have made me nervous, now attitude just makes me more determined. Sit deep, breathe, and get what you ask for. Even if you have to ask A LOT of times. And circle. And retrace your steps. And ask again...

But back home it is all worth it, walking home nicely, working in the arena, stopping on a deep breath.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


A quick ride in beautiful weather on Friday was supposed to be the beginning of a nice riding weekend. I'd planned a fun, longer ride up to Auburn where the trailer would be waiting. We were going with Major's buddy Friday, and last night it started to rain. No problem, Doppler radar didn't show any more rain this morning, probably clear with a few isolated thunderstorms...

Until I got to the stable and the rain started. It was cold, the sky got darker, and ominous-looking. I don't mind a little rain...but the thunder and occasional lightning was cause for serious concern. We hand-walked the horses down the road, ever optimists, maybe it would clear up? No, it was looking worse, and as we headed back the sky was beginning to just crackle, both horses a bit on edge. Putting Major away and loading Friday in the trailer just as a hail storm hit, turning the ground white in a matter of seconds.

Good timing, and certainly glad we weren't on trail, as it continued to hail and rain for at least another hour. Major was tucked in his paddock with extra hay, and I went home and had some hot chocolate. There will be plenty of other weekends of better weather, I'd like them soon please!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Happy Birthday!

Major turns 8 years old today and will get lots of carrots! Happy birthday Major D!

good rat bar

It doesn't sound like a nice ride, but Rattlesnake Bar (Rat Bar for short) is perfect this time of year. Quietly shaded, almost completely mud free, Sterling Point to Rattlesnake Bar is a good test to see if Major is listening and is just fun. There is a little bit of every kind of single track adventure you can think of: up and over boulders, bridges, knee-crunches rocks and railings, gradual hills, sharp turns and steep drops, winding through trees and the ever-popular poison-oak dodge.

I had no idea, but the GPS (usually) doesn't lie: there is almost as much elevation change Sterling to Rat Bar as Auburn to No Hands. (right about 1100 feet of ascent and descent). I took this trail awhile ago, and fought Major the entire time, it was awful! This ride was SO much better. Heading out he was forward but not silly, and when we turned left and not right (to the usual now-flooded lake trail) he was a little confused. About 1/2 way to Horseshoe Bar Major figured out where we were: we were heading home! Big extended trot, but listening pretty good, until the turn off. Zoom we veered left, "fine" I thought, and we trotted a few steps that way, did a few circles, and continued on, up the big hill. At the top we continued without incident, he was listening about slowing down the steep drops and near the knee-crunching rocks.

Right before one of the bridges, we passed a few people out for a Mother's Day hike, one woman with two big dogs and a little poodle being carried in a front-facing child carrier. The dog was quite happy, and probably safer, I know a neighbor's dog was bit by a rattlesnake earlier in the week. We crossed the bridge...very slowly.

At Rattlesnake Bar we continued to the staging area at the far end. I thought about continuing, but was happy with the ride. I did some fun cantering on the wide roads around the lake, up to a lookout point, where the gray skies accented the gray water and now-underwater trees. Heading home he was more forward, but so good about slowing and listening, I was really happy. Again he wanted to turn, but when we finally got to Sterling he charged up the hill, snorting and full of himself. There was no one about, we cantered up the hill and around the corner to the staging area. Major seems to have gotten over his fear of that particular water trough, but pretty much just wanted to scratch his sweaty head on it (not allowed). Heading home there was a new scary pallet of bricks and giant tractor (same one we'd passed without incident on the way there). We just sidepassed next to it, then sniffed the tractor (again).

It was a really fun ride, and I was proud of Major for seeming to figure it out...to realize (this time) that fighting gets us nowhere (literally) and if he listens he gets to move. I hope for more rides like this: this type of ride we both come home happy (though only one of us rolls in the arena)!

weekday wandering

Went on a quiet weekday wandering ride with Major's friend Friday (and my friend Christie). It is amazing how much ground you can cover just going up and down and around and about and "let's turn here," "what's over there," where does this trail go again?"

It is nice to have a compatible horse, both horses lead and follow, and we had fun trotting and cantering up some pretty good hills. The water is receding, the mud is getting better, but it is still dictating where we go. We headed up and this one meadow area was just beautiful. A view peaked between the trees, the old oak shaded the trail, and Friday and Christie seemed to be taking in the view.

We headed for another hill I have really been enjoying, you can canter up nicely, and then there are a few options to go down. Since I was with another brave rider, I showed her the steep way down. It is an abandoned trail, which I rode years ago. Now it is overly-rutted and overgrown. If you stay to the side as you walk your way down, it is is no problem. At one point you have to step over the rut, then down some rocks, then you're back on a main trail. Both horses are good with their feet, and it is fun to challenge their minds, as well as ours.

It was a nice Spring night, and I think we both could have stayed out longer, but "real" life was calling us to our chores. We'll ride again soon, days like this seem so fleeting.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

auburn to no hands

I finally put Major in the trailer and just went somewhere. Well, not just me, I had lots of help from a very supportive SO. Getting everything ready to go somewhere takes forever! Lugging the tack from the barn to the trailer, getting it all settled, double checking everything: I think it will be better once the trailer is organized.

Major took a minute about the trailer, but then got right in. Didn't seem to fuss much, and backed out nicely at the staging area. After a wide-eyed look around, I got him tacked up while the SO packed his backpack. Having a friend along for Major (even though it wasn't a horse) helped us both. Heading out on trail Major was interested in this new place, but not spooky, and we trotted while we could. I was glad the trail was marked from the American River Ride the day before, there are some trail splits that are confusing. There were streams to cross and a waterfall next to the trail, beautiful and no problem.

Major started getting balky about 3 miles down. I still can't decide if he just decided we were done (which he does on forest trails sometimes) or if something was wrong. I got off, walked him some, got back on, and continued to No Hands bridge. I've walked across the bridge countless times, but from horseback you are much higher up! Not scary, just a better slightly disorienting view of the water. Major didn't even bat and eye, good boy!

I didn't feel the need to continue, and poor SO was going to have to hike all the way back up, so we started for home. We were going to take a longer rest break, but something just seemed NQR (not quite right). Even heading back Major was seeming balky, so I hand-walked him for awhile. I was getting back on when another rider passed us. That perked up Major! I used his impulsion and SO said to go...so off we went.

The rest of the ride was better, we trotted quite a bit, even getting into his nice extended trot. He really wanted to catch the other guy, but I held him back. He did catch up with them, fell back again, and passed at one point, and they passed us again too. It was good practice for Major. We were able to canter in one spot, to the top of Robie Point, but it was warm and we walked some of the way back from there. Major is not is as good of shape as he thinks he is, so actually listened when I wanted him to slow it down.

Back at the trailer he got hosed off and managed to find leftover hay from the day before. He seemed fine, drank OK and munched on grass while we waited. SO did the whole trail with a backpack, much more work than I did! I was still worrying about Major, so SO drove the trailer home, we unloaded and Major got a good roll in the arena.

I'd love to keep going and do more of the trail, the trailer to get there is pretty easy. I just need to figure out what is up with my horse! I'm in awe of the riders and horses at Tevis who traverse that section of trail, after already going 96 miles. It is rocky, steep and they're in the dark! Wow...