Thursday, May 31, 2012

conversations with Major: silly

Hi Mom, what we doing? Yesterday we ate grass, I think eating grass is a good idea, let's go eat grass.
Let's just go on a quick ride.
Um, no. I don't especially like that idea. I'll try to eat this grass by the road instead.
No, we're just going into the forest and a quick loop.

seriously stupid
Ahh! What is that thing!
It's a truck dude, you aren't even afraid of trucks. Stop being silly and stand here.
But something must be eating it! It is being pulled into the ditch of doom! There must be a giant truck and horse-eating monster lurking, I better keep watch WAY over here!
NO, we're walking up to it, hold on while I take a picture, the truck isn't supposed to be out here, I need to report it.
A picture? Are you kidding me? No, we should definitely be getting out of here.
Stand quietly, and we will.

unicorn shadow on the trail

Why? Oh, maybe we're turning for home here? Yeah, this is a good place to turn around.
We've been out for 10 minutes, we're not turning around. Just stand here.
Oh, this is so HARD. Standing...waiting...standing...
Good boy
THAT was forever.
It was probably one minute.
I I said, forever. 

wild fig valley, always smells delicious
if you like, them, they'll be ready soon

Canter, canter, must canter.
Um, no, the trail drops off into the lake, for safety you can trot.
Fine. Trot, trot...canter.
No, now walk, there are rocks and tricky footing.
Are we there yet?
Just a bit more.

seasonal ferns
going-home ears

Oh, a home trail! Let's go this way!
No, that trail dead ends, you have to turn left and up the hill.
Hill? Oh, that is hard.
We do this all the time.
But home is the other way. Sometimes this is on the way home, sometimes it is, well, NOT HOME.
Too bad.

down the hill into darkness...

See, now we're at the top, let's just go a bit further.
It is nice out.
OK, yeah, it IS nice.
See? Now that you're not worried about going home you're not so silly?
No I'm still silly, I'm saving it for later.

blackberry trail: soon delicious, now, dangerously scratchy

I love this trail!
But be careful, there are lots of blackberries, they are scratchy.
Fine. Prance, prance, this is my going home dance.
Again, knock it off.
It's just the silly, it comes back you know.
Oh, I know...

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

poverty bar

Poverty Bar to Auburn, the last 11 miles of the Tevis. I'd done sections, but Saturday got to do a fun, round-trip ride. Our riding buddy was S and her horse Cisco. He is a big arab/saddlebred, and a gorgeous mover, very fancy. And a bit of a handful. So no matter what, we wanted the day to be fun and safe for everyone.

A little bit later start than usual, but the weather was mild and overcast. No real rain expected, and we headed out of Auburn, taking it pretty slow going down the hill (not much choice). I was obsessed about my boots, leaning over and checking constantly. (Last ride out this way was when I lost one!). I warned S about my boot troubles. Cisco is shod, but she rides with other booted riders, and understands. I hate to be an inconvenience, but wanted to warn her.

obligatory no hands bridge photo
We picked up some nice trots, both horses lead or follow no problem. Major still doesn't like to be in the front for too long with a "strange" horse (not his buddy Friday). I think when the horse gets close he just gets scared, like they'll beat him up. Poor guy, though I make him deal with it anyway! Crossed No Hands bridge, then Highway 49, which is nasty crossing, where you dash across hoping no logging truck is barreling down the hill.

Then comes Quarry Road. It is gravel and flat and hard, might as well be asphalt. Heading out, I like to keep Major on the side, and the footing is better. And we picked up a nice canter and continued. The road becomes more dirt, with stream crossings and overhanging oaks, it was absolutely perfect out. S is an endurance rider, and we both said the weather should be like this for all rides! Both horses were happy, we cantered a lot (checking boots, all OK). When the horses were head-to-head, then they thought they were racing, which led to some pulling and dropping back. But keep one behind a bit, and all was better.

trail left Poverty Bar, trail right, up to more trails
not much sand on these rivers, but plenty of rocks!
Poverty Bar crossing, middle fork American River, south shore
Before we knew it we were at Poverty Bar crossing, not passable now though! We were able to wade into the shallows, but midstream the river is really moving. At Tevis they control the water (upstream dams) because even in summer the water is cold and pretty fast. We all took a short break, the horses didn't want water, but Major was happy with an apple and most of my peanut-butter sandwich (I wasn't that hungry). He did not however, get any candy orange slices, still my new favorite dose of sugar on the trail.

goofy apple face

looking down at poverty bar crossing, far right of photo

And we headed back, quickly (oh no, wet boots now, checking constantly). The horses were in fine form, and we just kept cantering. Major would drop down to a trot to take a corner, and quick kiss would get him back into canter. Cisco is a bit quicker than Major, so sometimes we pushed it a bit. I wouldn't do that often, but I think it is good to really make him move out and see what he can do.

old quarrying with river in the background
We were flying, but before we knew it we were back at Quarry Road. And we walked it. This direction the soft side is on the river drop off, because the other side is the wrong direction for traffic, and there are many walkers and hikers on the trail. It seems pretty far when you just walk, but soon we crossed the scary highway again, and headed back up to Auburn.

Quarry Road, a long walk back
Most of this we let the horses pick their speed. So we'd trot and canter along the flat, power up the hills, then slow when they remembered how steep it really is. Major finally drank out of the tiny creek trough, at 20 miles, wish he'd drink sooner. Coming into the staging area, S asked if we should walk in, I figured they were still full of it, so we trotted in. Both horses drank good from the big water trough, then all Major wanted to do was eat. And he did, with both boots still intact, yeah!

we're back, with boots on!
The clouds were increasing, the temp was dropping, but still close to 70 degrees. Major got a quick bath, but then was shivering a bit. We had gone in S's trailer, so I didn't have a cooler, but we loaded up the horses, and on the 20 minute drive home Major was already almost dry, not shivering any longer. He was happy to prance and roll in his own pasture, and start looking for dinner. I was putting stuff away, when the first rumbles of thunder were heard, and then it just started dumping rain! Just in time! We don't get many late season rain showers, so it was fun, though a bit crazy. Probably the last rain for more than 5 months, so we'll take it!

I was so happy my boots stayed on. I refitted them the day before, and tightened them more than usual (and more than recommended). Every horse is different, and I'll just have to make sure that tightness didn't cause any issues. No rubs, but I'll have to check for any bruising on his heel bulbs. My saddle didn't cause any issues, I think the new foam is helping, though I know it is just a stop-gap measure for now. I also checked Major's legs the next day, and did a trot out. All looked good, tiny bit of stocking up in back, but that is typical for him after any long ride. It goes away with five minutes of walking. I was just a little concerned with all that cantering being different.

A fun adventure I'd love to repeat, before the weather gets too unbearably hot. Which it is set to do later this week. In a few weeks 97 degrees will seem cool, but the first hot days are brutal. But Major and I will enjoy our cooler jaunts in the forest, because really, any ride is a good ride.

Monday, May 21, 2012

brown's ravine

A new trail. A few months ago I went on the upper portion of this trail, and today decided to start on the southern end. Major's buddy Friday and C picked us up, and we drove to Brown's Ravine. The staging area was OK, but not great. The ranger specifically said no swimming the horses, maybe because the beach is public (though dogs were swimming!). A water trough was appreciated, but parking was a bit strange. But we saddled up and headed out, seeing the marina as we were leaving, which we didn't really think twice about.

That lake looks good for swimming!

The trail was rocky, but mostly shady. In the beginning we met up with a few mountain bikers (some of the trail is multi-use, but I think they were on the horse part) but we powered on. And so did the boats, and jet-skis. They were close to the trail, and quite loud, not the nature-experience we were hoping for.

sun-dappled trail
a lake of boats and already dry fields

The trail meandered along the lake shore, though high up. We went down the the water once, encountering some people pulled up on shore with a defensive dog. Major got to visit with a kid in a boat, not the usual activity, but he was his usual ho-hum self about that. The trail went very close to some fancy houses, with barking dogs and swimming pools (we were sorely tempted) and also needed some trimming work! Lots of dodging of branches, trot along, dodge a tree, walk down a rocky slope, trot 50 feet, steep rocky downhill, trot up the other side, dodge some hanging poison oak, slow for more rocks. One of those kinds of rides.

crazy huge houses on the hill ahead
new york creek bridge, a little rickety

By the time we got to New York Creek bridge we were hot and tired and ready for a lunch break. Major didn't like being behind Friday, who was walking very, very slowly being careful. On the other side we found a stopping place, and tried to refresh and relax. It is hard to do when your horse is trying to climb into your space. Can I have sandwich? What about some orange? Maybe a cookie? I'd push him back, and he'd creep up again. Brat.

looking for home, annoying me at lunch

We headed back, and it seemed to get hotter and hotter. We were DONE riding, and still 1.5 miles to go. The horses stood slurping water from a shallow creek, and we did the final stretch for home. How do some rides seem so incredibly long? This one did, and we decided this is a trail best for cooler spring weather, and fewer boats! The horses got nice cool buckets of water poured on and sponged off, and a delicious mash. The humans wanted to jump in the lake, but just splashed themselves with some water from the trough.

yummy, mashy snack
Only a half-hour drive home, and Major walked into the pasture, took about three steps, and rolled like crazy. Home is good.

nothing like home dirt to roll in

still life, with saddle
the GPS track
A few rants about the ride:
Hikers wearing headphones: You're in a nature area. On a trail with other users. Pay attention, at least with one ear, to your surroundings.

So annoyed with hoof boots: The minute his feet are wet we lose them. Once, twice, three times, four. The last straw was about a mile from the trailer. I left them off, though Major was a bit ouchy on the really hard ground with pokey gravel rocks.I was quite crabby about the situation. Re-evaluating...

On another note: We got home before the eclipse, which I was excited about, so I did get to watch that. I made my little pinhole paper thing, which was neat, but the shadows were the best, all showing the partial circles and fuzzy as the light grew dimmer. My Mom sent me a cute photo of her dog in the special eclipse glasses (which she had saved from an eclipse trip the whole family took to Mexico 20 years ago!). And I watched the eclipse and read my latest sci-fi book (which has an awesome eclipse-like cover). A good, full day. Horses and friends and space stuff and sci-fi and dogs in glasses, all my favorites in one day.

Shamus is chillin' with his eclipse glasses
Love the Culture novels

Saturday, May 19, 2012

saddle test (and the Preakness!)

I tried out another saddle today, a Sensation dressage trail model. A local endurance rider is selling it, I figured it couldn't hurt to try. I didn't hate it on first sitting in it, plus one! It felt different, but not bad. I'm not the best at determining if a saddle fits my horse. For me going around the arena is not a test, so I took it for a real test drive on the trail. Just a silly three mile jaunt, but walk, trot, canter, up and down hills, horse being silly and cantering down a hill (!): it was a good test.

Major seems to move out, no balking. If course he does that with the other saddle that doesn't fit too. He is not a good judge! I felt totally secure. It has a strange stirrup arrangement, that I thought would feel weird, but I never noticed a difference. I felt a bit squeezed though, I think the seat size is too small. After the ride a good sweat pattern, but I don't think enough wither clearance, I would need to play with shimming. It's going back, but I may test ride another, potential is there.

On another note, anyone else watch the Preakness? Watching that finish brought tears to my eyes, the heart of those horses battling it out. And a chance for a Triple Crown! As jaded as I am, (I think it's something like 11 horses who have won the Derby and Preakness and lost the Belmont since 1978) my heart skips at the thought. I've watched every Triple Crown race since I was 10. I have newspaper clippings and notes. I have jockey signatures and a photo of Secretariat winning ("he's running like a tremendous machine!") hanging in my hall, where I can see it every day. I was born the year Secretariat won, and it is something mythic to me, never having seen it, and though I'm a card-carrying pessimist, in this I hold a little hope. Could a horse join the ranks of Citation, and Whirlaway, and Seattle Slew? Part of me wants to see it, though another part likes the mythic qualities of the horses in the past. Either way, in three weeks, I'll be watching.

Monday, May 14, 2012

cache creek volunteer

Cache Creek Endurance Ride: Cowboy Camp view at sunset
I volunteered for this ride months ago. I knew I wanted to help somewhere, and I'm familiar with the area and it's not too far of a drive. I also volunteered my SO, he didn't seem to mind (I gave him an out, and he didn't take it!) At the last minute, Ziggy and B came along for the ride (literally, to enter the 50).

We all headed out Friday about 11:00am. After an uneventful two-hour drive, we arrived to find ridecamp looking pretty full! But we pulled in, and found a spot. B unloaded the horse, and I took a walk around, and let the ride managers know we were there if they needed anything. SO worked on setting up our pop-up, which I was so glad we had as it was very sunny with almost no shade at camp.

I'm just chillin' in the shade...
After all was set up, and we'd been sitting awhile (at least an hour), someone came over and mentioned it was where they'd hoped to do the vet trot outs. Umm, maybe they should have said something sooner? We asked if they wanted us to move, but they said it was fine. So we did get a nice front-row view of all the vetting in, which was fun!
vet check front row view: Ziggy!
The first night they didn't need anything, but we were to report to duty at 5:45am. I did sit in on the ride meeting, where they did a very thorough description of the trail. The vet also talked about a very cool award they give: a special best condition for the 25LD. It is designed for any place finisher who's horse (and person) seems to best prepared for the ride. They even got a blanket! I thought that was very neat (at the AR ride, my first, the ride manager seemed to me a little dismissive of the LD riders).

Sleeping in the truck was fine, except for Ziggy bouncing around the whole rig. Major ties to the high-tie, which really absorbs any movement, but Ziggy hasn't done that before, so we were better safe than sorry-loose-horse, and kept him hard-tied to the trailer. There were two loose horses in the night, but in the morning we saw off B and Ziggy and reported in. We were assigned to the Judge Davis vet check, which is the half-way point for 25s (and ride and tie) and the 37.5 mile 20 minute hold for 50s.

Arriving at the check we unloaded crew bags, set up coolers with drinks, put up the pop-up tent for the vets to have some shade and hung some signs. Then we all got a job. There were some young vet students who were doing P&Rs, and I got out timer. I got all the papers and set up my station. In the beginning I was in the sun, till I got smart and moved under the trees. By the end of the day everyone wanted my job! My SO was a runner between vets, out-timer and overall helper, which he is very good at. (Which ended up including running 4 miles of the trail, up the hill coming into the check, to re-mark it! I owe him big time.)
my shady spot
And then we waited. The first ride and tie people came roaring in. They don't have a hold time, so the rider gave the reins to waiting crew, jumped off, and ran out, I just took numbers. The horses only have to pulse down to 72, and they're off after a quick vet check. Those are some fit people, crazy!

Then came in the 25s. Some came in quick, but most walked down the big steep hill into the check. Everyone had a half-hour hold, and some were a bit antsy to get back on the trail. I had to not let anyone leave early, which sometimes literally took stepping onto the trail to have them wait another minute. Most people were gracious and understood the wait and the rules. There were lots of little pieces of paper to transpose onto the main clipboard sheet, I only messed up a couple times!

More waiting after all the 25s left, then the top 50s came in about 11:30am. They had started at 6:00am, had 2 holds already, but were at 37.5 miles looking amazing. Their hold was only 20 minutes, and some were immediately ready to go, but only a couple rude people (who were anxious, I understand). Some people were so nice, who just talked while they waited, letting their horses eat grass, when I told them time they took off with a gracious thank you. The 50s trickled in, and I got to see B with Ziggy and Redheaded Endurance with Desire, before we left at 4:30, with all horses (except two who hadn't come through) yet accounted for.
Saturday night Ridecamp at sunset
Back at camp we were hot and tired, though nothing like the riders! Still a shower set up in the trailer was awesome. B and Ziggy came in towards the end, we were getting anxious, but they did it! Management had a nice ride dinner and awards, and we stayed the night so Ziggy could rest after 12 hours of work. Sunday morning we packed up early and were home by 9:00am. I was jealous watching everyone else ride (there were 86 starting 50s, about 35 starting 25s, 10 or so ride and tie), but in the end was glad to have volunteered this ride. Maybe next time for me.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

birthday hat

She made me wear the hat. Everyone said they liked it. I know the other horses are laughing. But then I got LOTS of carrots. And an apple. This birthday thing is OK.

happy birthday!

I know he doesn't care, but I do. I think it is fun that today is Major's ninth birthday. I was going to go for a ride (probably not what he would choose) but instead I tormented him other ways.
isn't that the cutest baby face!
Major got seen by the chiropractor today! Gee, happy birthday! But this was the day he could come out. Friends had recommended this guy, and it turns out he is also a fellow endurance rider. Fun to talk, Major was relaxed and happy at the end, found a few issues I need to remember to address, and learned some new stretches. Major likes them, as long as they're associated with carrots.
good stretch at the end.
So Major just gets to to relax after his adjustment, though I may make him wear a birthday hat later (evidence to come). And he'll get many more carrots. Happy Birthday Major!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

just for fun

Training, how fast, how slow, how far...always in the back of my mind on rides (and usually in the front too!). But sometimes it is nice to get out just for fun.

Major's buddy Friday (and my buddy C) joined us and we meandered, without a plan. Well, I did want to go play in the water. So we headed the best direction for water, towards the lake! It's pretty high right now, the first access was too swampy, without safe footing. So we continued on.

At Beek's Bight I knew we could access the lake, I thought we'd go down over the sand a bit, to good footing. Nope! The lake is so high it is almost up to the parking area, but we were able to wade in. You can see the canal trail under water, but the horses were more interested in eating submerged weeds. That was fine, we sat in the sun on our ponies, talking and having fun. Major did find a tree branch to play with (I have no idea what is up with this horse and fetching sticks). Both horses had moments of pawing the water, of which we were very suspicious, didn't want any laying down!

But all was fine, and we headed back down the trail. To a sort of test: both horses had their boots on, I just refitted Major's, and Friday had new purple powerstraps. Would they stay on? Hooves now wet, trail rocky but we were moving out quickly towards home. Success! All boots on all hooves, yeah!

We stopped at a staging area water trough, that Major usually shuns. But today it was warm, or he's getting smart, or the lake whetted his thirst, but I was glad he drank. On the final stretch coming home we did a final detour (Major was not amused) through the fancy neighborhood. It is fun to ride through million dollar front yards, by the park where no one was playing, and back into the forest.

A very good day, just for fun.

saddle update

The saddle fitter came out, and expressed dismay over his marks. Last year we'd hoped to spread out the pressure under the stirrup bars, which happened, but too much pressure still. We both wish Major was more demonstrative with pain, and his back was a little reactive in certain areas.

His back is more developed than when I got the saddle a couple years ago, so I asked about other options. She still thought that this saddle is OK, and that to get better distribution I'd need to move into a more endurance or western style. But I love my dressage-style saddle!

While she was reflocking, I did retry a Specialized Eurolight. She shimmed it for Major, and I headed for the arena. Felt weird at first, but most new saddles do, so I kept riding to give it a chance. Got the stirrups adjusted, did some trotting, and already in less than 10 minutes my left hip was in pain. More adjusting, fixing my position, nope. Hate it. Sorry folks who like it! The saddle fitter said its just such a personal choice, she didn't really think it would work for me either.

So I'm going to ride in my reflocked and adjusted Arabian Saddle Company Solstice for awhile longer. A few weeks, checking to make sure there isn't more pain reaction, see how he moves, etc. That's kind-of all I can do for now.

In a month is Horse Expo in Sacramento, a great place to check out a variety of saddles. I'll keep that in mind. And keep saving into the new saddle fund just in case.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

peaceful (even with bikes)

Major had all week off, not because of too much effort at the ride, but my schedule was just packed. So Friday evening we headed out.

Saddle fitter is coming, so I wanted to ride with a white sheet beneath my saddle pad to see any pressure points. To do this you also need to get the horse sweaty. So I'd planned on just jaunting around the forest for awhile.

But when we headed out Major was happy to be out, I was happy to be out, and we just flew along. He was listening and striding out, and we cantered the trotting trail and kept heading towards Granite Bay.

Awhile ago I noted Granite Bay used to be a day trip, last time it took about an hour. This time it took 42 minutes, and we were careful as usual in the rocky portions!

I was worried about turning for home, since Major was already in a speedy mindset. But no problem, we left trotting along. We walk as we cross the gravel road at Twin Rocks, and look both ways, usually lots of bikes in the area. And I heard some coming towards me down Center Trail, which is no bikes allowed. I yelled "horse" to hopefully slow them down, but some rocks did the job for me!

The front rider just bit it, and was laying on the ground holding his crotch. The other two bikes stopped. I asked if he was OK, which was confirmed, then Major (and I) just watched with amusement. The guy asked if his bike was OK! I guess like us asking about our horses. Waited till he got up, then squeezed past, and kept heading home.

(As a side note: Why do "boy" bikes have the straight bar between seat and handlebars?"Girl" bikes don't, but seriously, NO ONE wants to land on that!)

The trail is super lush right now, and the last time through is still a bit of a blur. So I appreciated all the flowers. There is one awesome tree I've forgotten the name of, but it is covered in white blossoms that glow in the twilight.

And we were accompanied by haunting flute music. Someone was standing on the lakeshore, with the clear water reflecting sunset and shadowy trees, playing a Native American flute. We stopped to listen at an overlook, the person was below us, across the inlet. I don't know what the song was, or what it meant, but it was serene and spoke of water and day's end and peacefulness. We moved on, reluctantly.

And Major was good all the way home. We would trot, and if he got too strong I'd ask him to walk until we had a true walk, no jigging. Maybe he was peaceful too. At home dinner had already been served, but he got a bath first. He was head tossing and silly as I walked him to the pasture, I thought for sure he'd run off and roll. But he was so excited to eat his mash, he just trotted over to dinner. I watched my glistening horse, and remembered the music, and realized how lucky I am.