Monday, October 29, 2012

rump rug project

I don't even know if I need this. But it doesn't hurt to have one. Colder months are approaching. And orange fleece was so cheap. And I've already finished my Halloween costume. And there were a few days of rain. So I need a project or I go stir crazy.

Now, I'm domestically challenged. I can use a table saw, but a sewing machine scares me. Last time I tried to use it I spent half an hour trying to thread the damn thing (I even have the instruction book!) and the bobbin gave me fits. I think it all stems from the trauma of my sixth grade home economics class, where I tried to make a turquoise plaid skirt (it was the 80s, forgive me) and proceeded to sew the hem of the skirt to the pants I was wearing. Seam rippers became my friend.

So I hand sewed this project. It only took a few hours in front of tv reruns, a quick try on by Major, then finishing the edge. Many quicker/nicer ways to make these, or buy really nice ones, but this worked for me! I totally stole the idea from Adventures on Arabee (who has great directions), with modifications by Boots and Saddles.

gather materials

Gather materials: A yard of your favorite fleece fabric. A small amount of plain cotton fabric. My color choice being orange, these upcoming photos will burn your retinas, do not blame me. You also need velcro, 1/4 inch elastic, buttons and embroidery thread. Also needle and thread. Or a sewing machine if you're actually clever like that.

cut square (nice to have a tile floor for grid!)

make simple edging

Make sure your fabric is cut square, and fold in half. (I used 60 inch wide fleece, which was just right). Make a piece of edging out of unstretchy fabric (plain cotton, I had this already). My edging was 3x20, folded to be 3/4x20.

attach velco, button and elastic

I then centered and sandwiched the cut edge of the fleece in the edging. And just stitched it together. I cut Velco to 10 inches, then sewed male to female parts so it was 20 inches long. I attached those 14 inches apart on the edging, which I'd measured on my saddle was right for using the lower back D rings. Outside of that I attached a large button, and on the flip side 15 inches of 1/4 inch elastic. Repeat on the other side.

trying on his clothes, yes I usually have a girth on my saddle!

Before I finished anything, I wanted the horse to try it on. Major stood there and wouldn't look at me. "Why do you make me wear these dumb clothes? Nope, not paying attention, orange is not MY favorite color."

rounded corners, stitched, blinded people....

I took the blanket home, and did a blanket stitch around the loose edges (one side is still the folded edge.) I rounded the corners for aesthetics, yeah, because a rump rug is all about how cute it is...

Actually looking pretty cute all decked out.

Will I use this? Maybe for a cold ride. Right now I'll probably not attach it but throw it over to keep him warm. But just like how it rained in June at the Skillman ride, I'd rather be prepared!

Now, what else could I decorate it with? Hmmm, I'm thinking flames...

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

racing the storm

We never saw the sun on Sunday, it threatened rain all day. Overcast sky, cool temps, a hint of damp months to come.

heading out, gratuitous ear/no hands/river photo
 But we rode, and it was good. Major and I joined Friday and C at the Auburn Staging area. We boldly set off about 9:30, C smartly bringing a windbreaker just in case, I was being braver (I have a new day-glo orange sweatshirt, I wanted to try it out. It is so bright it hurts your eyes to look at it. Awesome.).

Fall river, this is about all the color we get around here

Down the canyon, across the bridge, over the highway, down quarry trail to Poverty Bar. Trotted and cantered, Major and Friday are well matched. This ride was a bit of a test, I'm going to try the 50 at Lake Sonoma, and C will do the 25. Were the horses ready? Are we? 11 miles, and then a quick lunch break.

my lunch view, constantly bugging me, "what cha got there?"

Major had his own carrots, then sampled everything I had: peanut butter and jelly, a few almonds, candy orange slices, and kept bugging for more.

poverty bar crossing

dreaming about riding the other side

The trail continues, on the other side of the river. This is where the Tevis riders cross, water is held back in the upstream dam to make it safer. This time of year the water looks low, but is deceiving. No crossing for us, so we headed home. The horses had lost some motivation. It made me worry a bit, Major was dragging, I'd ask to trot and he would, then slow when the opportunity arose. Friday did the same. We walked plenty, they didn't seem particularly tired. Hmmm.

Hawyer cave: you go first

We stopped a moment to look at Hawyer cave, where cool prehistoric bones were discovered, locked tight now because of vandals. Could a mammoth walk in there? Maybe the mammoth bones were dragged in by predators. How cool would it be to go in there?!

Life-vest borrowing station, too many drownings on this river

We crossed No Hands bridge on the way back, picking up a trot in the middle of the bridge. C is NOT a fan of heights, but sure puts up with all the crap I want to do, excellent riding buddy! Major found his motivation, and picked up a trot on his own. We continued to trot up the hill, stoping to wade through the beautiful waterfall (he did not drink) then a little bit father on is a dirty little spring/puddle next to the trail (where he slurped off the top). He found another gear, some nice cantering, and a quick gallop (with whoops and hollers) up the Robie Point hill. Both horses kept going till the staging area, where everyone finally slowed down.

 still life (blurry random) with muddy boots, muddy sneakers and reins.

all done, warm, snack, good

It was getting brisk, a breeze picking up, too cold for a bath. But sponging and I threw on Major's cooler so he'd be dry when we got home. (I know, my cooler does not match my color scheme, that will need to be remedied one day.)

its good to grind the sand into your face

and be sure to coat both sides evenly

Back home Major was pulling on the lead as I took him into the arena. Halter off, he ran off, dropped and rolled, hopped up, did some ridiculous bucking and trotted around. I opened the gate to his pasture and he ran up the hill, dirt clods flying, to eat his leftover breakfast.

He sure didn't seem tired at all! I'm a bit concerned over his lagging behavior earlier. He was bright eyed, seemingly happy, should not have been tired. Was it just attitude? I'm leaning that direction unless I see otherwise. But then I worry that he isn't happy doing this job. I'll take him on a shorter speed and hill workout this coming weekend, see how that goes, and evaluate for Lake Sonoma. I sure want to go, for me it is "home" turf, though I've never ridden a horse there!

Sunday evening the rain finally caught us, and it poured down all day Monday, with crazy wind, local funnel clouds (possibly tornadoes), and more rain to come. Soon the trails will be a muddy mess, but for now I'm hoping it clears the air and settles the summer dust.

threatening clouds at sunset

Saturday, October 20, 2012

conversations with major: spa day

Hey buddy!
What are you doing here? You were here already when I got my feet cut off.
You got a foot trim, and were a little bit of a jerk.
I try to pull my foot away when I think he's going to cut my foot off.
You know the trimmer, he is a nice guy. He hasn't cut your foot off yet.
But he COULD! I am being cautious.
Right. OK, Let's go.

Oh good! You don't have riding pants on, so I just get to eat grass.
Not exactly.
What do you mean?
Just stand here. Put these on your feet.
But I got new orange boots last week. I like my orange go-fast boots. These are ugly clunky, NOT fashionable. Ah, now they have water in them!
Just a quick soak after a new trim, gets any yucky stuff out.
Whatever. Not interested anymore. Carrot?
You have to stand for awhile and be patient.
You always say this "pay-shunce." I think you should pay someone else, I don't like to stand here.
Good, because we'll be done in a few minutes.

Done, yeah, we're done, let's eat grass. Wait, I don't want to go over there. 
It's the last warm day of the year.
Not sure what that has to do with anything...oh look, a snack!
It's some bribery for after...
I don't know what this "bribery" is, but it looks like my new favorite snack, alfalfa cubes, oh boy. Gimme! Wait, after?

I am wet.
I know.
But I see my snack. Is it "after" now?
Sorry, no.

I am not talking to you.
It's not that bad Major.
I was wet, which was bad enough, Now I have poison on me.
It's soap.
It is scary white stuff.
But you'll be SO nice and clean after.

Get it off. I can see it. And I am still wet. The poison will kill me.
Not dead yet!
It's not funny.
I think it is, sorry buddy, one bath a year, you'll be fine.

Here you go, though you were a bit dramatic.
Oh, my treat! Yum! nom, nom, nom.
See, that wasn't so bad, right?
Can't hear you, I'm eating, I haven't eaten all day.
You still had some hay in your slow-feeder when I got here, leftover from breakfast.
Oh, that hay, it wasn't GOOD wet stuff, plus it was in the torture net.
You eat just fine from the net.
It takes me longer than EVERYONE else to eat.
Well Major, you're just special then.
I know.

Let's just go for a walk, and you can dry off.
Let's eat here.
This is the best stuff, but I can barely reach it!
There is plenty all over.
THIS stuff is good. It is UNDER the fence, can't you see?
Not especially Major, you horses are weird.

Behave yourself, and you can eat out here.
Out here! In the runway?
Do NOT think of it as a runway Major, it is the chute between pastures, You can only stay here if you behave.
This is the BEST grass.
It is the same weeds in your pasture 50 feet away.
Nope, these are better. I'll behave.
I've heard that before. But you need to dry a bit more.
Just because.

Time to go back now.
But I haven't finished eating all the grass in the runway.
There is too much for one day, maybe later.
Is NOW, later?
No buddy, sorry. Back in the pasture.
OK, oh carrot in my salt pan, yeah! trot, trot, oh, poo pile! I should roll!
Hey Major, come over here, have another carrot.
Oh boy, more carrot! 
Good, that distracted you a bit.
What, huh? Distracted? From what?'re just so clean and pretty...
Don't worry, I know I smell weird, I'll roll soon.
Just TRY to stay a little clean, I think you look and smell pretty.
I think you're the weird one...

Friday, October 19, 2012

friday ramblings: ride differences

I have access to lots of different types of trails, but rarely think about them. I don't often actually look at my GPS. I just push record, push stop, say "oh, 9 miles" and that's it. I don't want to worry and stress about it, I'm more the type to "feel" how my horse is going.

But my recent ride made me look, just for fun, so I mapped out an elevation chart and stats:

Auburn to Cool: 14.8 miles, 2:40 moving time, 5.5 mph, elevation gain 2,545 feet

Granite Bay: 9.6 miles, 1:52 moving time, 5.1 mph, elevation gain 899 feet

Skillman: 19.3 miles, 4:08 moving time, 4.7 mph, elevation gain 2,600

Lake by moonlight: 6.6 miles, 1:45 moving time, 3.8 mph, elevation gain 439

From looking at these tracks I quantify what I already knew, like why my time to Granite Bay is usually slow (all those little up and down and up and down where we have to slow). And Auburn to Cool is hard, lots of down, lots of up. Skillman is nice because it is up, then level, up then level. And the lake is great, nice and level the whole way once you're out of the forest.

It is fun to look at this, though I don't take the time to compare ride to ride. There are too many variables, like did I go with a friend where we chatted a lot, was the lake by moonlight or during the day, was it extra hot that day? I could see how this could be interesting for doing the same track over and over, but I rarely do that and am not that organized. For endurance rides you've done before it would be interesting to compare one year to the next, though again the variables are hard to control for. My average speed, even when moving pretty fast on these trails, is "slow" for endurance. These technical trails don't lend themselves to (safely, for me) much more speed.

If I was to really worry about this, I would not have fun. Like I said a few posts ago, there is training and fun, and sometimes it is both. Some people get very interested (or worried) about their progress. Some, like me, just don't worry so much. So why track with GPS anyway? Because the geek in me thinks it's fun to see elevation on a ride, or how many miles we're doing, or how the ride that seemed like eternity was only 12 miles. For me it's not to reach a certain goal, but just in general. I've never set out to say "We're doing XX miles this week." I know that works for some people, but I have a love/hate relationship with deadlines, lists and goals, (mostly hate, though long-term goals I'm OK with).

As an interesting exercise and avoiding actual work on a Friday, this was an excellent project...

Monday, October 8, 2012

longer solo ride

I usually ride by myself, but most of my longer rides are with someone. Not only is it nice to carry on a conversation with someone other than my horse, it also keeps the horses a bit more motivated. But this weekend everyone was busy, and Major had to listen to me up and down the canyon.
Where is my buddy going?
No, this is not my naughty face...not me...

We actually started out with my SO. But he was running, and can go downhill much faster than I want Major to. Major kept looking for him, and would see runners ahead and speed up. It was very cute, his buddy was gone! I'd say "Where is he? Let's go get him." And Major's ears would perk up and he'd trot.

ribbons and glow sticks, it felt like an endurance ride!

There was an endurance run the day before, and I followed the trail markings all the way to Cool. There were even still-glowing battery tealights along the trail! Major was happy to be out, and the trail down to the river is nice because it is steep, then levels off for a section of trotting, then steep again, and repeat. Near No Hands Bridge we met the scariest object of the day: a porta-potty where no potty has been before! I was glad no one came popping out of it, Major was already very suspicious.

that potty is NOT supposed to be there.

My SO was waiting on the bridge, and was heading back to Auburn, while Major and I headed up to Cool, where Major really found his groove. It is an incline the whole way, not the steep-then-gradual like the Auburn side. He is at his best on that type of hill, just powering up it, I'd ask if he wanted to walk and he just kept going. There were very few riders or runners out, it was a nice fall morning and we had the trail to ourselves.

someone left alfalfa, are you sure this isn't an endurance ride?

In Cool there were a few trailers, but it was quiet. We stopped for a bit, where Major didn't want a drink (damn) and didn't want to go home the same way. He wanted to head back out the other side of the staging area. If I had taken that trail I'd have to loop around the longer section, which is hot and in the sun, and I didn't really want to do a 20+ mile ride! So Major lost that request, and with crabby ears we headed back.

But I don't WANT to go back this way.

Seriously, you'd think I was torturing him. I'm glad he wants to explore, and it made me feel a bit guilty, but most horses like going back to the trailer! So we headed back down the hill. And that is the part I don't really like. Since it was all gradual uphill, of course it's the same downhill. But a bit too downhill for me to really want to trot much of it. I would trot slight downhills in a competition, but a long downhill like that I feel is really hard on their legs. So I got off and walked some of it, and he carried me the rest, but most of it walking. It was dull, so Major got a running commentary on the trail, "Oh, yeah, scary rock dude, good job, keep going, no, don't step there, bad choice, come on, let's trot, ok, easy. Yeah, I see that turkey, ok, let's chase it. Now keep going, we're not stopping here."

Still working on the bridge, I have no idea what they're doing

We did almost get run into by a runner. Yes, you read that right, a runner almost ran into my horse. I saw the person about 30 feet ahead, looking down at the ground, with earphones on. I said "horse ahead!" like usual, no response. So I just stopped. And she kept running, and running, and finally about 3 feet in front of Major she jumped, startled and said "Oh, I saw his hooves!" all surprised. One more step and she would have run into him. Good thing she was going so slow! Next time it'll be a bear or a mountain lion lady!

rock cliff ahead is looming over the trail

Shallow fall river

So we got over No Hands and started up. Now Major found another gear! We trotted and cantered in all the places we could. I met my neighbor as she was heading down on her horses, and stopped to chat a bit. Major wasn't pulling, but was leaning the direction we should be going. Goof.

fall shadow

He didn't pull or be silly the whole ride. Being away from home works wonders on him mentally. Back at the Auburn staging area he had a big drink and got a quick bath. His boots worked perfectly, though a new pair is coming soon, as the tread is pretty worn. They were caked in red clay dust, so they got a bath too. And the sweaty bridle, I love a staging area with hoses! Major stood bored as he was sponged off, acting tired, not wanting his haybag. So of course I think did we overdo it? Not drink enough? Does he feel OK? Sometimes I worry about him because he is so quiet, and I still have a hard time judging an "issue" with his normal "I'm bored of this when do we go home I know we're going home" routine.

Of course as we pulled into the stable he was dancing in the trailer, though he didn't get let out until he stood quietly. Then he rolled in the arena and thundered into his pasture to get a big drink of "his" water and trotted over to eat breakfast leftovers. Miraculous recovery! It was a great solo ride. Though of course if we're with our horses, we're not alone.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

training or fun (or both)

There have been a few bloggers lately who have hit an endurance wall. They or their horses are just not suited, or are tired of all the training, and just need a break or a different challenge. I admit that I'm not really an endurance rider. I've only done one LD and one 50. I don't put myself in that category. Or maybe it is that I'm not a fan of categories. I'm pretty sure I will always put more miles in just having basic rides out on the trails than serious training (though training can be fun too, if you're not burned out of it! And every ride is a training ride. I hear my old instructor's voice in my head for that comment.)

I think reading blogs sometimes make people a little stressed that "everyone" is training, or conditioning, or going on some big endurance ride or adventure. I write more about the big days than the basic ride-from-home trips too! I think more likely most riders are just enjoying their horses, whether that is competitively, or training, or playing around or "just" trail riding (which is not a "just" in my book). I think it is great whatever way you choose to enjoy your horse. Just get out and ride (or take horse for a walk, groom them up really nice, feed them too many carrots, watch them hang out in pasture, that's good too!).

I've just been going out and having fun, working on my "junk" miles. That is what some endurance riders call miles that aren't for training and conditioning. It is what I call just having fun. I still track them on GPS, it's now an addiction, and only takes a second to push the button, but I don't really care what my distance or speed was, just prefer to get home before it's too dark!

Some recent "unimportant" rides:

I went out and did a Major-in-charge bareback ride. I hopped on, just a halter (and a helmet!) and we started down the street. And wandered into a field he wanted to check out. And took a bite of some grass. Then wandered out into the forest, where I let him sniff every poo pile and blast up every hill. The only thing he was not allowed to do was jig home. Once that discussion was settled, we walked home. He was happy. I stayed on with a smile on my face.

An evening ride towards Rattlesnake, when we took a trail up a hill Major had wanted to go for a long time. I knew it just went up to some houses, but we checked it out anyway. At the top Major seemed a bit incredulous, "This is what I came all the way up here for? That sucks!" I laughed at him as we started back down.

"my" rock, by moonlight
I did another moonlight ride along the lakeshore, it was gorgeous. And the end of September was warmer than August, which was strange. Fewer horse-eating deer were on the trail (maybe because I kept yelling "Run away!" like Monty Python and the Holy Grail) and Major showed his good friend Friday that there was nothing to worry about.

Went along the lake with another friend, trotting along pretty quickly, both her horse Ziggy and Major being brats. Then her horse lost a boot. And we turned around to backtrack, and were suddenly riding perfect angels. Which pretty much even continued when we turned back around!

golden sunset view between sweaty ears
An evening jaunt to Granite Bay, staying on the upper trail, which I was totally bored of this winter, but now am a bit bored of the lake trails. Major and his buddy Friday were mostly well behaved, did lots of cantering and twisting trails. I'll let Major blast along in some sections, he's so good on his feet on the narrow, rocky singletrack, I can tell he is having fun!

Enjoy the smaller views: a super cool fungus!
I think this weekend I'll trailer out, it'll be an adventure, there will probably be pictures. I know first and foremost it will be fun. But not more fun than the small rides that make up most of my schedule.