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!