Wednesday, February 29, 2012

leap day

Once every 4 years (though not years divisible by 100, unless divisible by 400) the space-time continuum (calendar gods) add an extra day to balance all life in the universe. (really, it's a bit insane)

I use it to do the same. For as long as I can remember, I take the day off work and do something fun and get things done. Of course, my first choice would be to ride my horse! February has been mild, and if work didn't get in the way (grateful for a job, just wish it wouldn't cut into my leisure time so much) I could have ridden every day.

So today it is raining. Really raining. Appropriate for a strange day of the year. Major will have to wait another four years, I'm not so dedicated to riding in the wet stuff. But I contacted some riding friends and instead of hitting the trails we're going to lunch (to talk about hitting the trails!)

Making the best of a situation, figuring out solutions. Feel familiar? Riders do it all the time, from big picture to the smallest thing.

So take a leap while you can, you never know what comes next.

Monday, February 27, 2012

major rocks

Since our good ride yesterday, I wanted to push my luck and try to keep a sedate pace and not many miles. So I chose a trail that you can't go very fast on: the rock trail. I've written about it before, and June was the last time I did the trail! But it seemed like a good day to have Major think about his feet and have some nice views along the way. People paying close attention may notice something the same in every photo (and not just his ears!)

Our first obstacle, go around and not under!
Last part of the good trail before we drop onto rock trail
Don't go up this way, I tried it before, not fun.
Now THIS is the rock trail. Yes, that is a solid piece of granite you go down over.
At this point we are not very high above the canal trail, which you can see below. Which is much easier. Major questions my judgment.
Getting the idea? More rocks. But only about 1.5 miles of this type of trail.
Not just small rocks, there gorgeous huge ones too.

Major thinks "42.5 miles to go!?!?" No, just a trail marker (distance from Sacramento)
We were done with the rock trail, and continued past this driftwood mash-up.
Going home ears, fun little bridge to trot over.
Thwarted! A new tree down! Major was sure he could go over it (um, no. We backtracked just a bit to go around)
walking home, with purpose!
well deserved snack!
We didn't see the sun until the very last photo, and then it wasn't much. It was quite cold, but Major hadn't gotten very sweaty. He looks like a yak, and I know I could shave at least his goat beard, but he's starting to shed, so I'll be lazy and just wait. It was a fun ride, where he was nice and careful with his feet, even at some speed over rocks. I wanted to do this section since it had been so long, and I'm hoping to do the AR 25 at the end of April!

Did you notice it? The little piece of hay in his mane/forelock in all the ear shots? I obviously am a bad mother and didn't brush his mane (I almost never do). Never even noticed it until I looked at the photos. It is probably still there!

Saturday, February 25, 2012


Two horrible rides this week. A quick forest jaunt turned into a big fight with no brakes. We worked transitions up and down the only smooth road in the forest, and Major just Could. Not. Listen. Must. Jig. Everywhere! The next day arena work was just horrendous, our brakes are fine in the arena but everything else is crap (we will be working on that stuff). Which led to working along the gravel road on transitions, since outside the arena is where the brakes fail. I was not very happy with my horse.

So I was a bit trepidatious about today, going out with Cisco and S again. But we'd planned it a couple weeks ago, and headed toward Granite Bay. It was a bit windy in the forest, but not bad, but we were glad not to take the lake trail.

And Major was fine. We followed Cisco, who had too much time off and excess naughty energy, and Major kept his sanity. We led and he power trotted along, I said no cantering and he listened. We stopped at the staging area but neither horse wanted water, so we continued.

Down to a trail I'd never tried before, (I must come back and explore that area) and up the fun canter road, and then out towards Beals Point and the Dam. Bikes whizzed past us, lots of them, and joggers and dogs. Both horses were good, then we ate some grass and turned for home...

And Major was still pretty good! Notice I left out Cisco. S had her hands full of a lovely prancing pony. He looked very fancy and handsome, but couldn't settle down. And remember when I mentioned it was windy before? Now it was really blowing. Cisco led home for awhile, he hates being behind and we just wanted to get home in one piece. Major trotted along behind, keeping up but not pulling much.

When we got to the forest we decided to walk a bit and refocus. Major thought about jigging but stayed in a nice walk the rest of the time. It was really good practice. Cisco was jigging along, and a couple times got too close to Major, who thought about naughty behavior (flashbacks from crazy Ziggy) but no way, that is not acceptable!

In the end a good ride, and we all know what we need to work on. Major redeemed himself, but I have my challenges still. Every ride is just moment in time, and while you can plan and train for what you want, you just have to work with the horse you are riding that day.

Today I was happier with my horse. And he was happy to have carrots. His life is simpler. But mine is good too.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

falcon crest

keeping busy with multiple haynets (one was Fridays, much better grass)

A day off and where to go? I didn't plan much in advance, but loaded Major, picked up his friend Friday and C, and headed for Falcon Crest. Not the 80s soap opera (which I never saw, I was more into watching other quality programming like Family Ties or Silver Spoons), but a great trail access on the other side of Folsom Lake.

down to the lake, a great canter back up

cool tree, crabby ears (thought we should go home behind us)

Friends had said in passing that it was a good place to ride, but north or south? South went toward another staging area 10 miles away, so we choose north, and headed out. Great views, skirting along between mansions and the lake. Gorgeous properties with misplaced priorities: huge houses, acres of grass, no horses! All that trail access out your back door would be amazing. We rode as the trail went from open and clear to rutted and overgrown, telling ourselves that it was an adventure! But the trail wasn't very fun, so we got to a small stream and decided to try the other direction.

a bridge crossing the river (old, before the dam), usually under water

Major thought we were going home, and hurried up, but we passed the trail to the trailer and headed south, on a great trail! Lots of good trotting and cantering places, we should have gone this way to start with (now we know)!

buckeye trees just starting to bud

lunch! I'd never had those little cookies, yum!

It was so warm out I was in a tshirt, and both horses in their winter coats were pretty hot, so we didn't go too far. A quick lunch, then headed back. It was odd that the trail was marked with lots of orange surveyors tape, and at the base of the trail home Friday spooked a bit: flour arrows and signs had appeared. A running race was happening the next day. Major didn't even notice, and we headed back up to the staging area.

heading home, ID tag flapping

a very dry snack!

We got a good long canter up the gradual hill (with a pause in the middle to go around a downed tree and remove Friday's boots which had come off and were flapping around his legs). There was a trough barely full of water, but Major figured out how to reach all the way in to get a drink, then scrounge for a few bites of grass (there should be more but still not enough rain).

C thought it was sooo funny to capture my sophisticated mounting technique
A fun ride, beautiful day, and an actual picture of us both (not just ears!)
Next time we'll go south, there is supposedly a long bridge to cross and the trail is just as good. A future adventure!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

double the opinion

My opinions, and Major's too, on recent stuff:

Boot Fitting
Mel from Boot and Saddles was nice enough to come out and help me with my Renegade boot fit. Good thing too! Major needs a cutback boot (I'd been using the regular fit), and the style is different than the last time I ordered (more than 700 miles ago!). She gave me a few tips on boot retention, and that the cutback will help some of the issues. Of course I'd just gone 19 tough miles the day before with no problems, so I think I'm getting the hang of it. She was also really nice as we chatted school and endurance and horses!

Major: What? There was someone here? My Mom gave me a wheelbarrow of hay and I just ate the whole time. I like the wheelbarrow better than the travel hay net, and she said she'd have to walk all the way over to the trailer to get the hay net, so I got the yummy wheelbarrow. Oh, and some new orange things on my feet. That are not carrots. Can I have a carrot?

Freedom Feeder
I wanted to review my Freedom Feeder after six months of use. I also moved to a different paddock, so moved the feeder. Major hasn't eaten any holes in it, and though the way I mounted it tore a few strings, it is still sturdy. The material seems flimsy, but it obviously very strong. It is very easy for the barn manager to fill, and Major seems to like it. His hay lasts a bit longer, and I've almost convinced the barn owner just to stuff it full all the time, which they do on colder nights. I think he would regulate himself.

more interested in his mash!

Major: Dinner! Here comes dinner! Oh, I still have some leftovers from breakfast, yum, this stuff is tasty. Oh, they're putting it in the net. That's OK, I've figured it out. See, tiny bites through the net, just like grazing! Oh, but Mom is here, let's go for a walk! I don't really care about leaving dinner so much. It will be there when I get back. Look, I have a carrot in my mash! I knew I was special.

And my friend Friday has a travel size version! I saw it and really needed a snack before the trail ride. Friday didn't want to share, but see, I'm eating lower than him, and I'm cute (and annoyingly persistent), so he let me.

Cleaning the Tack Area
Little mice were finding the tack area very hospitable. So I got a trap and caught two live mice (which will be eaten by another boarder's boa constrictor). I'm sure there are more mice, but there was some mess I needed to clean up. How do two mice chew up/eat a whole sponge in less than a week? And not die? Anyway...I really needed to organize, and how does the tack area accumulate so much stuff? I took everything out and restructured and cleaned. I have a few things that need to go in the trailer, but some things, like why do I have two circular metal curries, that I haven't used in at least two years? (I use the shed flower, I love it). And two giant bottles of shampoo? It only took an hour, and the tack area is much better, though I need a better boot organizing system (the plastic tub is too hard to access quickly)

a small area, so much stuff to fit!
And I'll watch for symptoms of hantavirus/bubonic plague for the rest of the week. And I got home, changed my clothes, and still had a tick crawling up my neck when I sat down to dinner, ahhh! Time for a shower!

Major: What took you so long? I thought we were going out? I watched you drive up, and say hi, and then you disappeared. I kept worrying. (Me: No you didn't, I saw you grazing) Did you find the carrots when you were in there? Or the oat treats? 

Grazing Surcingle
To be fair, I don't actually own this product, but saw it in a catalog and laughed.
A grazing surcingle, to hold your lead rope. $79.99. Really? I have one of those too, it's called my hand. Ok, is it that much easier than paying attention? I admit I'm pretty slack and Major sometimes steps on the rope or gets it between his legs, but usually I'm paying attention because I'm walking a 900 pound animal on the end of a rope! I'm glad that Major doesn't panic (I've mentioned before where Major does the opposite of panic: he keeps grazing until he hits the end of the rope, and stays there, "stuck" until he randomly moves a foot or I help him.) If you did have a horse that worried about ropes, I wouldn't attach it to the side of him. I'm going to save my $79.99.

Major: We're going for a walk, look there's grass! Oh, I can't pull, sorry Mom. Now I can eat, yummm, this patch is better over here, no, this patch is greener. Ugh, I can't quite reach, I'm stuck...oh, I'll eat this patch right here, oh, now I'm not stuck. Remember the one time a carrot fell from your pocket and I found it on the ground? That was great.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

valentine's wishes

Cookies for the barn manager!

Major (and the herd) wish everyone a happy Valentine's Day. Hug your pony and give him extra carrots (says Major).

Major's cookie has his boots on (just me wanting to use more orange icing!)

Monday, February 13, 2012

a 32-mule ride

Major and I were heading out with new friends, Cisco and his owner S. She is in more serious training for 50-mile rides, but we thought we'd see how the horses worked together. I wasn't sure if Major could keep up: Cisco is big and flashy, and loves to show off in his paddock, while Major usually stands around like a slug.

But we headed up the road, and were surprised at the staging area completely packed with trailers! I know the weather has been nice, but this was crazy. Then I noticed a trend: "Haulin' Ass," "Nice Ass," mule silhouette...hmmm? Maybe a club? Well, hopefully they left much earlier or went the other direction.

Headed down to the main trail, with Cisco in the lead. And he is quick, but so is Major, and we trotted along at a good pace. Major slows for rocks and downhills, and I often ask for a walk in areas, but S is a determined rider, and we kept going, though it wasn't anything beyond Major's abilities. In the beginning Major seemed a bit taken aback, or tired, but I think it was just different circumstances, and soon we were all rolling along.

Then, halt! When we see the tail end of 32 mules! Cute palomino one in back riding drag, nice guy told us the club name (which is something like elegant longears), said he'd let them know we wanted to pass. Umm, this is all singletrack, so it may be awhile. But trail riding is all about adapting to circumstances, no use worrying about it.

It was nice though that we were pretty close to Rattlesnake Bar, and after about 10 minutes behind the mules (and a few "short ears") were able to pass them by taking the lower road. We trotted along parallel to them for quite a while, 32 mules is a long line! S had a plan to do about 15 miles, so we headed to Avery pond (with some good cantering mixed in). I do like taking a short canter or walk break, just changing the gait and using different muscles (horse and human). We passed the pond and across the Mormon Ravine bridge, where the stream is roaring, and the powerplant outlet is usually under water! The water level is unbelievably low in the lake, and in this section looks like river (like before the dam went in).

Water level usually up, closer to the top! This was deafening (though it looks small here!)

River barely seen through the trees, should cover gravel and opposite bank

We kept going, meeting a few runners, then headed back. The horses kicked it into another gear, but were a well-matched pair. We again passed the mule group, who had stopped and were having a picnic, tableclothes on tables and the mules tied up to trees. We took a short detour up a hill, and S needed to adjust her saddle, so we dismounted. Major stood there quietly (and ate some poison oak stick before I could stop him), while Cisco danced around being silly. We noticed Major was less sweaty, and wondered if he is in better shape, or just sweats less, or is lack of anxiety the cause? So many factors in every ride.

And we kept going, passing the staging area and taking the canal trail. We took a break and walked a bit, but both horses recovered well and we decided to do the whole loop. So through the sand, then turning for home, a bit quick but some semblance of control going home. Major lost his brain entirely a couple times on the trotting trail, But I pulled him up, and we finally cooled them out and walked home.

My GPS said 19 miles, which is one of the longest rides we've done. I gave Major a snack and hosed him off, and began leading him up the hill, when he was prancing and silly. So I made him listen, down to the arena, and I turned him loose, where he cantered away, bucking and twisty-head, no lack of energy!

After this I feel more confident about being able to do the mileage part of a slow 25-LD, but there is the emotional part (me and Major's!). That is the hurdle. I'd like to spend some time in the next month trailering out, going on a short ride, practicing with my high-tie, water buckets, feed pans, etc.

wet horse, and the only blue sky I saw all day

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


Major had most of last week off, while I spent three days snowshoeing at Carson Pass, then hiking at Markleville, and then playing in the sand at the ocean. All in amazing weather, tshirt at the beach! Northern California rarely gets weather like this, and I feel pretty lucky to be able to go all these activities. Everywhere I went I thought about horses. Riding in the snow would be fun, though I think you'd have to be careful if rough snow/ice on the horse's legs. On the hiking trail I saw signs indicating how to high-line your stock, and imagined upcoming summer trips. But my favorite would have been cantering the bluff trail above the Sonoma County beaches. No horses allowed there, but I'd love to take Major to the coast.

But I digress: Major had the week off, but I worked pretty hard. So getting in the saddle today those first trot steps I was feeling pretty sore! But he was raring to go. A friend had posted how she trotted the whole "trotting trail" to Dottie's hill, and I decided to do the same. It was fun, and got Major good and fired up. I thought about the trail to Granite Bay, but I didn't have much time. I headed down to the lake to do a small portion of the canal trail.

And here came the crazy/fun/brave people! OK, they are not crazy (maybe?), but they ride like a bat-out-of hell ALL the time. G & H are the nicest people, and asked me to join them, but truly, I don't have the guts (or the seat) to ride like they do. My friend B was with them, and she told me later that she just put her horse on the other horses tail and went! I am working every ride on Major's manners I don't think that is the best situation for him, though I'm sure he'd think it was great fun!

The one time we stopped: I just couldn't pass up a photo of the rising moon
But he actually watched them fly up the hill toward us fairly calmly. Then we headed for the lake. He wanted to go-go-go but we worked on keeping it an insane trot, not a canter. His canter is often slower and nicer than the big trot, but I could tell he wasn't listening or collecting up at all, and all strung out I'm not cantering over rocks! So we big trotted, and it was nice to maintain speed for a longer distance. So often our speed graph is crazy up-down as we slow for rocks, down hills, etc. The canal trail doesn't have the obstacles, though we did startle some deer and I was worried about coming around the corner to a flock of Canada geese! Major just kept flying by.
this is what the rest of the ride looked like: what, just a blur? yep!

So many, many, many half halts later, we ended up doing the entire canal trail and cantering up the tiny switchbacks at Sterling Point. He wasn't tired in the least, and I still let him trot, knowing I was going to have to throw the cooler on him back home. We could have gone much farther, but it was almost dark by the time we spied the light on in the barn: we'd been gone exactly an hour. The cooler helped dry him a bit, and luckily the weather is mild, so I turned him back out with his beet pulp and hay. He sat contentedly munching, and I towel-dried him a bit more. He was clean, I was filthy, and that's how we horse people like it!

In the past I wouldn't have even done a ride like today, which for some people is mild, and others is crazy. I was on the edge of comfort today, but I know my old instructor would be proud of me pushing my boundaries. crazy/fun/brave is all relative.