Wednesday, January 30, 2013


a very foggy start
Heading out, expecting a quiet weekend ride in the dense fog. Chasing the SO down the hill, Major was already having a good time. And here was a group of runners. We stopped so they could go by, it's easier for them to run by than for me to be a jerk and have them yield trail.

trail obstacle

And we kept going. More runners. "Hey, you know that horse is chasing you?!" a few exclaimed. SO kept going, I slowed for the steeper sections (which were also terrible nasty muddy) and more runners.

There had been no signage that there was a run. Turns out, it was just a huge group practicing running the canyon. For 15-25 miles. Running. For fun. I'm glad I was on my horse, though feeling a bit guilty (they can RUN this? Damn…).

We let most runners go by while we stopped. Major was a total gentleman, going from a canter to a dead stop, letting random people pet him. "He's so pretty!" they said, "Can I pet him" others said (sure, pet my sweaty beast). On wider trails I just stayed way to the side, telling runners Major was fine with them, they were safe. One group said "Ever hear of ride and tie?" to which I explained the horse would love it, me, not so much. Then the nice experience of hearing those runners say  "There's someone who can really ride," as I sidepassed off the trail at a trot and kept going.

I think Major and I were both a bit proud of ourselves.

little creek, hills turning green
I took a different route, as the runners were coming down from Cool and I didn't want to bother them even more (I know we share the trails, but if I can make life easier for all of us, I will). So I took Quarry trail. Major wanted to go, so I let him, and we trotted and cantered out, about 8 miles.We could have kept gong, but I don't need to be putting in major mileage (oh, bad one, Major mileage, sorry about that).

relics at the old quarry

get on. Just get on so we can GO!

lime green lichen

We turned for home. My crazy beast wanted to take off, but I kept it at a big trot and flew down the trail. I have no idea how his boots were even staying on. I hadn't done any adjusting and he'd just been trimmed the day before. But through creeks, mud and hills they were perfect. This is where I lost a boot last spring, so I'm pretty cautious. I don't want to hike this trail and look for it!

Coming back across No Hands and towards Auburn the runners were still toiling up the hill. They have the advantage when going downhill, but uphill, advantage horse. Major wouldn't drink from creeks, waterfall or trail trough, which is frustrating. He was pretty sweaty with his (light) winter coat and all the exertion. More regular people were out hiking, and kids. That shining look in their eye when they see a horse, and the cries of "Horsey!" are hard to resist. We stopped and Major was lovingly petted many times. He was sorely disappointed that no one offered treats.

We passed a few runners, coming up behind and waiting for a wider spot to pass. I stay back so they're not nervous, saying "We haven't run anyone over yet!" as we pass. We also kept playing leapfrog with a runner with a cute spotted dog, pass him on the uphills, he'd catch up in the mud or downhill areas.

Finally back at the staging area Major took a little drink from the trough. I looked down, boot gone! Damn! I know it was lost in the last 1/4 mile, because I remember making sure they were on at the last trail junction. I tried to get my SO's attention, he was working on my trailer (yes ladies, and you can't have him. Washed it out, installed a couple things, awesome). A couple of little kids ran over, "He only has one shoe on, that's so SILLY!" one exclaimed.

Yeah, not silly. Just as I was setting to tie Major up and go hike for the lost boot, here came the runner I'd been leapfrogging with, carrying the muddy boot! Love! I was profusely grateful. It felt like a good karma day, treat others as you'd be treated, etc. Every runner was nice, no one wearing headphones and oblivious to their surroundings, everyone sharing the trail, out enjoying our beautiful area.

Boot restored, horse cooling off, small unknown children throwing grass near his mouth, SO handed me some lunch and took Major to the trough again.

An excellent day.

my new favorite photo, a man and his girlfriend's horse.

Friday, January 25, 2013

conversations with major: good boy

Let's go.
blank stare.
Come on.
But it is SO close to dinner! I can hear the dinner truck. 
Yeah, I've been trapped in my office all day, so too bad, let's go.
Ok, fine.

Keep walking.
Keep walking.
More grass.
Move it!
You don't have to be so mean, I AM starving you know.
Stop pouting.

Let's walk this way, up the hill.
Home is that way.
I know, but we're going up the hill.
Longing look.
You're not fooling anyone, we're just going to circle around.
Fine. Trudge, trudge, trudge.

Now down the hill.
Prance, prance.
Um, excuse me? Stay back.
Prance prance.
Back it up!
Oh yeah, sorry, I forgot.
Prance prance.
Stop it.
But I'm back here, not in your space!
We're just walking down the hill.
YOU were, I was dancing, 

Look, creatures, let's watch them.
I see, the deer family is pretty hidden.
Look at them look at me.
Is this a staring contest?
What? Huh?
Nevermind. Now let's go back this way.
I'd rather go this way.
Really? Ok, fine.
What, I win? 
Sure, that is the long way home.
But there is grass over here. 
OK, have a snack.

Now we're done, heading home. Let's practice tailing up this hill.
I'm in charge!
Just walk.
This is awesome!
Ok, turn here. Now we can try a slow trot.
Huh, what? What are you asking? Oh, trot! Now I get it! Weee!
Easy, good boy, slow trot.
I'm winning!
Ok, that's enough.
But we just got started.
Yeah, but I'm outta shape for running.
That wasn't running!
It was for me, I can't go much faster.
2 slow legs, I'm sorry.
It's ok, that's why I have you.

Ok, enough practice. It's getting dark, this trail is narrow, I should lead.
I can see, I know the way home.
I know, but I'm in charge again.
Fine, as long as we go home soon.
We can still jog home though.

Is this a new trick?
Why are you down there?
How long do I have to stand here? It's almost dinner.
Ugh. Ok, I can get up now.
Can we go now?
Just wait.
I've been waiting
Yeah, we'll I'm covered in mud, it wasn't on purpose!
You fell? I thought it was a new test! Oh, falling is not good.
Yeah, I know. But you're a good boy and didn't step on me.
I would be in SO much trouble!
You would, but you're good. Lets go home and get you dinner.
I'm a good boy.
Yes, you are.
Thanks for taking care of me.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

that's more like it

A week of no riding after our grand misadventure at Cronan. No big injuries, just not enough time. Which gave the weather time to warm up and become January perfect.

Major and I headed out, already it was probably 50 degrees and sunny. Puddles were frozen in the shade, but we flew to Granite Bay. He was a bit spookier than usual, leftover worry from last week? We saw some people bouldering (small rock climbing) and he just froze. We walked up to them, "Oh, they're people" he realized, and walked off again. I kept him moving, as moving feet didn't have as much time to think about silly. But I also tried to keep it at a trot. At the canter I kept getting some silly jumps forward, not in the mood for that!

We were the first to use the trough that day, as evidenced that it was still frozen over too! I was about to leave the staging area when some recent arrivals took off ahead of me. That's fine, I'll wait, they looked like they had their hands full. Major sure wanted to go straight after tham, but we waited a bit. Not long enough, as they were still up ahead, circling naughty horses. Again, we waited, and when they cut on a side trail we kept going.

I had wanted to ride down by the lake, but they were having a large mountain biking event. There were tents and vendors and lots of people. Combine that with Major's amped spookiness, I decided to be prudent and take the high road. Literally.

dam nice view
We cantered up the big hill, which is fairly straight and graveled and let him run it out. At the top a slight breather, and back down the other side.

near the beach, ears says "home is that way!" though it's actually not.

This is where the American River ride went UP. We went down, met up with cyclists and runners, no issues. Ate a bit of grass by the beach. I was going to continue on as the road circles around. Major did not realize it was faster to go home the road, and wanted to go back the way we came. Fine, we'll take the longer path. And back up the hill we went. Problem was he tried to channel a bit of the bad horse from American River, so at the top he got stopped and had to work and think. And we walked down the other side much better.

Back at the staging area we were very calmly standing at the trough, I was happy for his quietness. Then here come those same horses we followed out, coming back! They were amped up and super jiggy, Major saw them and thought it must be an endurance ride to have horses that silly! I should be silly too! Um, no, not so much.

We headed home. He was still pretty forward, but under control. He is still good and slows over all the bad rocky spots, but slowing down just got him extra crabby. So fine, we'll go father. At the forest we usually turn left. Nope, continued onto rock trail. His steps faltered…thwarted!

rock trail view

Rock trail is hard, so went for a bit till his brain re-engaged, and headed home. We were able to actually get a nice walk through much of the forest, Major was super sweaty after a good workout, and got mash, his cooler, and I attempted to dry him off. But it was so nice and warm, I wasn't too concerned that he was still wet, till he rolled in the dirt and it became mud. Hopefully it'll just brush off tomorrow, right?

scratch my sweaty head, please?

I probably let him get away with too much this ride. Though I needed to just move, and so did he. Sometimes that just works.

Friday, January 18, 2013

fun model behavior

My SO stopped at our new Tractor Supply to check it out (how great is that already!) He bought me a tiny plastic little horse, because it looked like Major. Already awesome, right? Extra bonus points for him.

Let's make it even better. And customize!

Find the cutest face picture of your horse.

OK, done.

I have a white paint pen, and drew on Major's crooked blaze. Remember, this model is three inches tall, and the head is less than an inch long. You cannot be exact, but close enough is good. And then I added a little white sock, and tried to make that hoof lighter but not white.

It wasn't quite enough (I wasn't done playing). So I darkened the mane and tail with permanent marker, and added a tiny dorsal stripe. Love it. Done! (Sorry if you have a paint horse, you have a lot more work ahead of you! But if you start with a tiny plastic thing, that costs less than $1, it would be a fun afternoon project!)

Be extra ridiculous by finding a photo, printing it on large paper, and making a backdrop. Now take a silly photo.

And then another, adding your horse to all the silly stuff that is already on your desk.

Model Major is among friends
Now get back to work...

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Cronan Ranch: good and very bad

I headed out with Major and C and her horse Friday for a fun new adventure at Cronan Ranch. It was three-quarters awesome adventure, and one-quarter absolutely terrible. The question is: how DO you desensitize your horse to parasailers on the trail?

icy parking

It was cold and icy when we arrived. We parked at the nice new Magnolia staging area. C had brought along some crack hay (alfalfa mix) for Major, so he never even looked up or moved as I saddled up.

delicious crack hay and ready to go
"connecter" trail, spelled wrong on every sign. But good signage otherwise!

And we headed out. The trails were a mix of mud, nice footing and ice. Sometimes frozen mud ice. But the views were worth it, the horses able to handle the mud and they handily trotted through much of it. We were both booted in front, barefoot behind, and had pretty good grip. And Major was SO excited, but good, to be on new trails. Ears pricked, he looked around every corner, wondering where we were going. No wonder he gets bored at home!

Add caption"Why am I standing in the freezing water?"

We happily trotted along, the trail under trees and along the river, crosses a creek, up a steep muddy hill. Down by the river is a lovely spot, which is inaccessible to the horses in the summer, when hundreds of river rafters (this is the south fork of the American river) converge on the spot every day.

not very patiently waiting equines

I'm so tortured

gratuitous cute face picture

We stopped and ate lunch, the horses were not happy to be tied to nearby trees, when they normally get to be in our faces while we try to eat. I still saved Major some PB&J.

old movie set

After lunch we headed through the valley. There is an old homestead, which is actually an old Michael Landon movie set. Then we took a fabulous ridge trail, with sweeping views, great trotting, and some gallops up the hills. I did learn to stay farther back from a horse galloping in mud, after getting a clod of mud on my sunglasses!

valley panorama from the ridge trail

A break for some photos on the ridge, where we saw horseback riders, hikers, bikes and parasailers in the distant valley. We headed down the hill, which was still completely solid ice at 2pm in the afternoon.

Last photo of the day, parasailer a tiny white dot in the distance

At the bottom of the hill is the first staging area, and a spring for the horses. They of course were totally not interested, and we began to take the Down and Up trail home. There was a parasailer far up on a hill, and another on the ground a few hundred feet away.The horses were just walking, and I was JUST thinking about getting off and walking, when the sail caught the wind and lifted into the air.

The next few moments happened so quickly, yet in slow motion. Major turned and bolted, I steered him up the hill, hoping it would slow him. I had his head turned, trying to stop him, and he'd slow to my whoas, see the monster/parachute behind him and take off again. And we were heading for a barbed-wire fence, which I'm pretty sure he didn't see or even care about. So I decided to bail off, and hold on, which I did, landing on my feet, with Major hitting the ends of the reins as I dug my feet in. He madly circled around, completely terrified.

And I looked for C. And didn't see her. And Major continued frantically run around, the parachute still in the air, I saw Friday down the trail, looking at Major. Friday saw him and trotted closer. And I saw C down on the trail, gingerly sitting up. I couldn't get nearer to her, as both horses were almost oblivious to me. I let Friday go, his reins over his neck, knowing he had already come back to Major, he probably wouldn't leave again. The parachute continued to billow. C managed to croak out that she was OK. Well, alive and not unconscious!

She was able to get up and hobble over, already a black-eye was forming. Friday was still completely an idiot, Major calmed down as we left the area. C was NOT going to be able to walk this off, and we were at least five miles from the trailer. So we decided I'd leave her at the closer staging area and ride back to get the trailer myself.

Major had no problems leaving his friend behind, but I did! I was worried, but there were people around if C needed more help. So I headed back, though I walked past the parachute area. I couldn't take that trail, there were still other parasailers out there. So I had to go back the long way. But Major was a rock star, calmed right down, and we trotted home, making good tine where there wasn't slick mud.

Luckily C called and got a ride back with another nice equestrian. So she would be able to rest at the trailer till I got there. The woman who dropped her off said it would be a long while till I got there. She probably isn't familiar with determined fast riders and horses, as I showed up fairly quickly. Major was still barely sweaty, the day was so cold, but he got a mash and his cooler. C was not moving so good, and we packed up the horses, and I drove us home.

Good things to know how to do:
  • be in good enough shape to run/walk quickly with your horse on trail, I could have hiked home the five miles no problem.
  • be able to drive another person's rig
  • have your cell phone ON your person (mine is always on my leg)
  • desensitize your horse to a parasailer
OK, on the last one, a bit hard to train for! Major is pretty trusting of me, and goes through and over everything I point him at, is one of the bravest horses I know. But was completely freaked out. I'm sure there are horses there who have no problem with it. Take him out to the area on a lead and expose him? That's the only thing I can think of. Anyone have a similar scary experience? Or a horse that handles parasailers? How?!

I'm glad C is only bruised and banged up. I have a sore shoulder, the horses are fine. It could have been much worse. So, a great ride, except for a few minutes...that's all it takes to ruin the day!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

quiet. cold. repeat.

All is quiet. And cold. I haven't been in the mood to bundle up like the Michelin man and try to ride much. Oh yes, laugh if you must, but a high of 45 is cold to me!

I did put on layers and join my friend M and her horse Zoe for an early (9am, ice on puddles, too cold!) ride. She calls her horse a trail horse, and Major an endurance horse, but both horses totally behaved themselves. She wrote about it nicely on her blog, I don't need to repeat it! And she took a good picture of me (all bundled up!) and Major on the rock outcropping (where she encountered a mountain lion a couple years ago!)

Another quick ride with B and Ziggy, along the lake, over the hill, controlled silliness. Both of us not wanting to boot up, both horses ably trotting over sand, rock and dirt. And trying to charge home! I think both these horses could go 25 miles no problem right now, but we kept it much shorter.

And today a quiet walk in the woods with a very bouncy horse. Major pulled me along, practicing tailing for some of the time. Walking alongside I looked in his eye: he was happy to be out, boldly moving forward, wondering where to next (hopefully the next grass patch). My friend C and her horse Bandit were along for the walk too. Major liked trying to trot, which made Bandit act up and be reprimanded. I swear I saw Major smiling after getting his friend in trouble.

It's still a bit hard to readjust to less riding and too much darkness. I'm hoping to trailer out for a new adventure this weekend, and until then I'm happy on the sofa, my kitty next to me, wood fire burning, and a good book. (The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi, check it out.)

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

first day ride 2013

How you start the year is how it will continue...

My old trainer said this every year, as I tried to get a school horse for the annual New Year's Day ride. I think I rode every year, and I remember those horses: lovely Manzanita, and dear Echo, even once on the trainer's own Molly.

This year was on my own lovely Major. The day was cold and perfectly clear, January as only California can create. Along came my friend C and Friday.

We were set for an uncomplicated ride, the barn had some excitement earlier in the day! A fellow boarder fell off on the trail early this morning, and her horse ran all the way home, crossing the road, saddle beneath its belly! Scary! Horse is fine except for a few scrapes, rider too after a long walk home. NOT a good way to start the year, I wanted no repeat of that for our ride!

So we took it easy, and enjoyed the sandy lake trail, blue water, quiet geese and good company. Major had a few moments of brainlessness, cantering in the sandy stretches when only trot was asked for, but really, was pretty good.

Then we ran into my old trainer! I haven't seen her in years, and she always had a hard times with names and faces. She didn't remember C or I, but was out on her horse for the New Year's Day ride too. Happy trails!

We stopped for grass snacks along puddles and took it easy coming home (though we've been trotting through every puddle. The rule is if Major won't listen and trots when I didn't say so then he has to keep trotting through the puddle, which he didn't like. Except now he likes it. And I need another training tool!).

Happy New Year 2013! I may be disappointed that we do not yet have rocket jet packs and robotic house maids, but I am happy with my old-school transportation, my horse.

Here's to many more miles of trails in 2013.