Tuesday, May 10, 2011

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)!

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