Wednesday, September 26, 2012

go. just go.

I'm back, in body if not in spirit. If you haven't been to Glacier National Park, it must be on your bucket list. Hiked for miles, touched a glacier, saw mountain goats, big horn sheep, a distant bear and many chipmunks, and just sat and enjoyed the amazing view, peace and quiet. Hundreds of pictures can't do it justice, so I'll just give you a few. (No retouching, the colors are like this!)

Lake McDonald
On the Road to the Sun at a traffic stop, a small view...
Avalanche Lake
Oh so cute, fuzzy mountain goats

trail ride to Sperry Chalet
Lake Josephine

The trail to Grinnel Glacier
Grinnel Lake, Lake Josephine, Lake Shurburne

I hate being in pictures. But this is an awesome picture. I should BE this awesome.

Upper Grinnel Lake and the Grinnel Glacier (mostly out of picture to the left)

Entering Blackfoot Indian territory

Turning autumn

view from our hotel room at Many Glacier

Sunrise from the balcony

And if you're going to go, you've got about 15 years before the glaciers are gone. There is a very cool research project of the glaciers, repeat photos: same locations, years apart. This one is almost the same picture I took, and the others are just as fascinating. So go!

It was hard to come home from a vacation like that, but I did miss the horse and cat. My cat was well cared for and still pissed off when I got there. She followed me around incessantly when I was home, crying to never leave again. Then asked to go outside. Whatever. Major didn't care I was gone, he got good care and was spoiled (as usual). And happy I did not bring home a pet mountain goat. But he was happy to get out and go for a good ride, out in the woods, on the trails, though not quite the same...

Sunday, September 16, 2012


Horse is staying home, I'm going on an adventure.

Glacier National Park, photo by National Park Service

Hopefully I won't be eaten by a grizzly, but will hike, see mountain goats and touch a glacier…

Glacier National Park, photo by National Park Service

Thursday, September 13, 2012

conversation with Major: home

Ride time!
It's been a while.
I know, I'm busy at work and you were a little hurt.
My leg was broken.
No, you had a scrape and it was swollen, and I couldn't quite see if you were OK, so you got to rest. But it all looks good now.
I think it is still broken, and I should just eat grass on a walk.
You eat grass all day in your pasture.
It's not GOOD grass, it is OLD grass I have walked on.
We'll find you some good grass on the ride, how about that.
OK, you promised.

No, I'd rather not go there.
Is something out there?
No, I mean, yes. Monsters.
Um, no, I think you're being silly.
I'm not silly, you are silly who does not think there are monsters in the woods. At home there are not monsters.
We're still going to the lookout, it has been awhile.

Look, look, deer!
I see her, she is standing right there, you're fine.
Oh, I'm fine. Yeah, I knew that. I'm not afraid of deer.
I know, you're brave, let's keep going.
I think we should turn for home now, I'm traumatized.
Just pick up your feet and trot.
So much work, going away from home.

Oh, I like this sandy trail, TROT!
Seriously, the one time you need to walk, there are too many stabby branches. WHACK! Good thing I have a helmet on Major, slow down.
I don't have a helmet, maybe I need a helmet, my head is nice and pretty.
You don't need a helmet. You can duck and I'm way up here.
Fine, I will walk, but this is a fun canter hill.
Just wait, and we'll go soon.
See, now we're at the top and we can rest. My shadow reminds me of Don Quixote.
What? Donkeys? Where?
No, my parents had a Don Quixote statue that was tall and skinny and looked like that, and kind-of freaked me out as a kid.
Should I freak out at the shadow-man?
No, you're fine, just stand.

You know, that is the way home.
I know.
That way.
Yes, I know.
I am looking towards home.
I know, good trail horse.
We could leave now.
We're fine. Just wait.
10 seconds later does not count as later. Just stand.
Fine. Standing. Waiting, mmm, dead grass.
You do not need to eat that.
You promised you'd get me a snack.
There isn't any good grass here, on the road home there is good stuff.
Yes, we can go now.

Oh, fun, let's go, trot trot, TROT!
Keep it reasonable dude, this is just a short easy ride, for relaxing, not working.
But we're going home now!
I know.
I do not think you understand.

See, yummy grass.
Not so sure.
You wanted green grass.
Maybe I don't like this.
Then let's walk on, we'll get you dinner at home.
OH, THIS grass. THIS grass is delicious. You should have said so. Let's just stay here.
We have to get home, and clean you up, and dinner is soon.
Home? No, I'm good, we can just stay here.

Yes Major. You can wear it.
I don't want to, I look silly.
I know, that's the best part.

Friday, September 7, 2012


shiny horse shames my dirty tack

I was supposed to clean all my tack and assorted accoutrements when Major was on rest for a month. That didn't happen.

So I finally took a day, and decided to give it my all. The saddle was the worst, so dusty and sad. After cleaning it looks so pretty I almost don't want to ride in it...almost! I do wish that the black leather didn't fade, but when clean it looks almost black, but soon dries again to light-black gray-brown. Damn.

Actually, the saddle bags may have been the worst. How to describe it…I can't, see the photo evidence:

pack rat in my saddle bag? Nope, just my stuff

The usual: granola bar, glow stick, string, gum, fruit snacks, chapstick, vet wrap, matches, bandana, loose almonds, mummified carrots. Yes, the foreground objects are not hairballs from the cat, but mummified carrots, months old. I am rarely disgusted, but yuck!

The rest of the tack is much easier to wash, just hose off.

lovely orange again, not dusty rust-colored

I also finally got around to washing the winter blanket last worn at the endurance ride in June. Yeah, should have gotten to that sooner! I also ordered a new rainsheet (on clearance from Smartpak, if your horse is a smaller size sometimes you can find good deals there!).

clean, won't last long

I even painted the rubber feed pan! Easier for the barn to distinguish his pan from the others.

Major Danger gets a new feed pan

I was running low on supplements, and ordered Major his California Trace (upgraded to the Plus, shipped to me and delivered the next day, awesome service), picked up bags of beet pulp and grass hay pellets, and fed him many carrots. Housecleaning accomplished! (Oh, the actual house…well, I left the Roomba running in the kitchen, does that count?)

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

skillman adventure

Even with access to such great trails, you can get a little bored, so I'd been wanting to trailer out somewhere. I was going to head out by myself, but friend S and horse Cisco gladly joined us, and we headed up the hill to Skillman (where the Wild West ride was held) where the weather would be cooler and we could explore the trails.

Monday was beautiful, there was almost no one in the campground, and we parked outside the gates and tacked up. I am a little familiar with the trails, having camped there two years ago and doing the endurance ride, but S hadn't explored much, since she was unfortunately pulled on the first loop of Wild West. So we headed out on the trail I knew, planning for about a 15-mile ride.

early on, didn't want to stop = blurry photo
The trails are mostly well-packed dirt, though we did manage to find a few good rocky places (and take photos mostly there, what was up with that?). Major went along nicely, though we avoided cantering, as Cisco was being a bit of a brat. Major and Cisco are both content to lead or follow, and we took the trail towards the White Cloud campground and Highway 20. The trails weaves along a dirt bank with trees very close, knee-clobbering close! (I only got a little clobbered once.)

happy exploring
actual evidence I was riding! Most pictures are just ones I take with ears

We encountered quite a few cyclists and hikers, all were very polite. A group of kids pet a patient Major, one kid saying "I like the mark on his nose. This mark, right here," pointing to Major's dot in his blaze. I remember being that kid, and I like letting kids pet the horses. We went through forest and scrub, dirt and rock, single track and road, and circled back to the trailer after 13 miles. The horses were willing to drink a bit, and Major chowed down on hay, while Cisco rested. We ate PB&J and then headed back out. Major seemed raring to go, Cisco was more subdued.

But then we found a lovely trail. And put Major in front to do his nice, quiet canter, but Cisco wanted none of that! Major thought a fire-breathing dragon was behind him, and got nervous, so we switched places. Putting Cisco in front S really let him go, and moving out he was happy to canter along. Cisco is a bit faster than Major, and Major puts his ears back in serious mode and motors along. It is so nice to find a spot for a sustained canter, and we let them continue up the road, to a clearing.

Major and I coming down the trail

S and Cisco on the trail ahead

And then headed back, though some of the home trail was really rocky. Both horses stopped to slurp out of a tiny puddle, they hadn't had enough at the lunch stop! We were almost back though,and when untacked, took them to the trough where they finally drank and drank. It took 19 miles for them to figure that out! We also sponged the horses, and Major rolled in the dirt (muddy now) and then was shivering. So S loaned me Cisco's cooler, and Major seemed fine. The water was awfully cold, and Major was not that hot. Next time I'll just wait till we get home, dirty horse or not.

We drove home, down the hill, where it was much hotter. We turned them out in the arena, where both horses just wanted to snack on weeds. Major actually looked like he wanted to go back in his paddock, so I turned him out where he promptly rolled in the grass, trotted up to check on his hay situation (plenty of leftover breakfast) and trotted to the trough for a big drink.

shake it off, buddy!
Pretty easy to just go an hour away to escape the heat for a fun adventure. And this was the longest ride we'd done in months, Major was in great shape, bright-eyed and happy, no issues with his healed splint. It is so heart-warming to seem him happy on the trail, in his element. Mine too I guess!

Saturday, September 1, 2012


At dusk you can still see shapes and the trail glows a bit before you. We headed out, Major and I joined by Ziggy and B. Major was the leader, and headed out with no hesitation. Into the forest the huge moon hung just over the trees, and an owl swooped across the meadow.

The forest was dark, and getting darker. The moonlight doesn't penetrate the canopy, but Major didn't care. I'm sure he could see, but we were worried about hitting tree branches, as the trails aren't nicely groomed paths, but instead winding single-track. Just walking along, but the biggest, swingy walk I can ever ask of him! He was enjoying the adventure. Ziggy was a bit more nervous, and stayed close behind.

Major was a bit unnerved by a fallen tree branch, broken and glowing white in the dark. During the day he wouldn't have even noticed. But we got by with just a brief pause and serious eyeballing. Then we headed down the to lake.

On a slight downhill Ziggy was worrying about Major up ahead and wasn't paying attention, and tripped and went to his knees. More inattention and nervousness than darkness. And the worst downhill was to come. The access to the lake is rocky and full of driftwood, but I'd done it only days before and know the trail. I pointed Major where I wanted him to go, and goat-like he walked down the rocks. Ziggy followed, not so sure, but made it safely.

The beach was windy, and looked like another planet in the dark. Major actually stopped for a bite of grass, and we walked on. He hesitated a few times when he saw deer bounding away, but was steady. We came around a corner and the wind died down, the lake reflecting the moon, amazing.

Where the trail was open we tried some trotting, and Major and Ziggy were more than game to go. More game than we wanted to be in the dark! A bit of silly jigging and pulling before walking. Major would have trotted along like usual, but we held the horses back, just wanting a nice ride, with limited silliness.

Up ahead a small black thing ran along the path. with white thing, a skunk! We kept our distance as it ran down the trail, probably thinking we were chasing it. Finally it got enough ahead I couldn't see it, maybe hiding in rocks, but we just sedately walked, not wanting to scare it!

Our shadows looked brave and beautiful, horses and riders silhouetted on rock, the wind blowing mane. It was too dark for pictures, but I have the image of that in my mind.

We finished the lake trail far too soon, and headed back. We came up the switchbacks, and let the horses trot. I just kept my head down and let Major find the trail, it was too dark for me to see anything. He powered along, no hesitation, and any thought of me guiding him stopped when he took the correct trails when I thought we should turn. My direction was a bit off, but not his! Ziggy had enough forest, so we came back through the quiet neighborhood. We had orange glow necklaces and Major had a green glowstick, but we were very dark on bay horses and dark tack. One car came by, but slowed when his headlights caught us on the side of the road. Otherwise a quiet walk back.

I could do this every night. Completely trusted my horse, and he was awesome. Already planning for next month...