Friday, January 31, 2014


classy Major

My glorious apple-eating steed welcomes you to Year of the Horse. I know most pictures are "oh my horse is so cute." Yeah, this, not so much. Dirty, goofy, eating an apple, this is reality. But still cute to me!

We had some rain! My unofficial rain gauge (mason jar on my deck railing) said about a quarter-inch, woo, hoo. But even that lackluster appearance made the air better, and gave a tiny bit of hope for the season.

Major of course thought he was melting. And was supposedly trapped and hiding under his shelter. Because wet stuff was falling again. But happily came to the gate to go for a walk in said wet stuff. Which is obviously totally different when someone is taking you to get snacks.

A scarce bunch of hidden grass, we trampled down some blackberries to get to this deliciousness.

This should be a season of rest and rejuvenation. I like to give Major some time off, but with the weather so weird it's been more riding in January than usual. We both feel the need to get out! But not much serious training, that can wait.

streets where the park is! love it! Of course the neighborhood is tract houses...

So my own feet have propelled me along. A short jaunt a couple hours away to visit friends and family, quietly enjoying the season. A little hike in a suburban park. Someone joked long ago that new subdivisions and streets were named after that which they displaced (Oak Creek, Deer Park, and here, Arabian Bridle Path!).

dry fields should be covered in green

oaks stand sentinel, they've seen droughts before

the lazy Russian River meanders past exposed gravel
glorious sunset

waiting for more rain

This winter season may not be what I expected, but it is still lovely in it's strange austerity. And we're still going to get out and enjoy the trails, just inhaling dust much sooner than usual!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

another cool adventure

Under impossibly blue skies on a glorious three-day weekend, we took a January trip to Auburn for a fun ride to Cool. It should be cold and damp, with average temperatures of 55. Instead it is dry as a bone and 70 degrees. Officially in a drought with no end in sight, we desperately need rain. But might as well make lemonade out of the lemon weather and ride while we can!

Major hopped right in the trailer, and not just because his hay bag had a flake of crack alfalfa hay. In Auburn he surveyed the scene and then found his hay net to be the most interesting. I love a horse that is happy to eat wherever I tie him! When his buddy Friday arrived a few minutes later, Major nickered to his long lost love, momentarily distracted, but dove right back into the net.

one last bite of the good ground stuff (even if the reins are falling on my head)

The boys (and us girls too!) we happy to hit the trail. And we headed out, encountering very few riders, but quite a few runners in the morning. Major behaved impeccably, just having a good time and we were so happy going along I didn't even stop for many photos (you've seen it all before: the view, river, trail, etc.).

obligatory view, a hiker took our photo coming across, we're famous!
the shortcut trail, by the trail sign actually .2 longer than the standard trail (?)

The way down to the river takes a bit of time, we walk down the steep parts, trot the flats, then down again. The Cool side is different, one long gradual uphill, Major loves it. We can trot almost the whole thing. At the top we considered just stopping and turning around, but the horses were sweaty. We rode to the staging area, thinking maybe they'd like a drink from the nice trough.

Of course not. Major enjoyed a snorkeling adventure, and Friday took one gratuitous sip. Horses. We humans did take a break for peanut butter sandwiches at the convenient picnic table. Remember the tales of Egyptians keeping their prized horses in their tents? Do you know how annoying that would be? Both horses tried to prove it to us, and of course their annoying antics were rewarded with bites of sandwich. Bad owners.

hidden on the right, C is valiantly defending her sandwich from the sweaty horde

Heading back the horses kicked it up a gear, but not once did I have to pull or fight Major, (only at home and endurance rides do I seem to need to do that, arghh.) We also worked on being a horse ambassador. We walked by children with shining eyes, seeing the pretty horses, and Major is so good at stopping and being pet. I was that kid, I would have been overjoyed if someone had let me pet their horse. We even stopped for a photo with a birthday girl. I know all that takes time, but really, why not? As C noted, better to bring happiness to someone rather than them cursing the poop we leave behind!

river and bridge from above

We cantered the final stretch to the staging area, where after 16 miles the finicky horses finally drank from the trough. Major was more interested in eating the little bit of grass, but did manage to find a nice spot to roll after he was all nice and clean.

now all is right with the world: coated in dirt

Clean then dirty horses, happy and dirty people, a picture with a horse making some little girl happy: now that's a cool ride.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

my own two feet

The other day at work I watched a coyote trot across the early-morning empty parking lot. Squirrels catch my eye as they run up the tree outside, and a flicker keeps trying to find a place to make a nest in the roof overhang. Could be worse while I sit at a desk in front of a computer all day!

But I do try to get outside when I can, just for a quick walk. I am lucky to have access to a lovely nature area (which would be even lovelier if we ever got any rain!). I guess Major and I are the same: we just like to explore.

towering oaks shade the path
their fallen leaves cushion the trail

buckeyes try to roll under foot

no daydreaming as you watch out for low-hanging branches

and don’t trip on the fallen ones either
The creek swirls by, salmon-habitat

and sparkles between walls of blackberry
blackberry vines also protect a secret

acorns nesting in an Indian grinding rock

probably for centuries, the Maidu Indians ground acorns here by the stream. What a perfect location.
lichen lives on mossy oak branches

old fencing appears between trees

oak galls hide harmless wasps
a hint of spring already, native iris leafing out

grudgingly heading back to the office

I can walk a couple miles in half an hour, and when I come back the day doesn’t seem so long. It is fun to watch the season turn, to see the buckeye leaf out, the stream fill with runoff, the blackberries ripen and for the hidden wildflowers and ferns to show themselves. Almost no one explores this hidden world steps away. They are the poorer for it, and I am enriched.

Monday, January 13, 2014

nap time

Major is an exceptional creature. He is the best napper at the whole barn. In the beginning the barn owner thought something was wrong with him, but now we know he just likes a good afternoon nap in the sun.

not even bothered by riders in the arena (photo from my friend!)

I get sent pictures of him flat out while someone rides in the arena (his pasture shares a fence line), or curled up in his favorite spot. When he is naughty I tell people they should wake him up and make him run around. But he is very good at conservation of energy.

shhh, the pony is sleeping

disturbing his beauty rest, total bed head

When I arrived the other day he was flat out sleeping. He heard my car and sat up, but I was obviously disturbing his beauty sleep. He groggily walked over to the fence, knowing I am the carrot woman.

Major really is the epitome of Newton's first law of motion: a body at rest will remain at rest unless an outside force acts on it, and a body in motion at a constant velocity will remain in motion in a straight line unless acted upon by an outside force. (borrowed from the NASA website)

I'm the outside force in this equation, working on Major to slow him down, to make the "constant velocity" less than a 12mph trot.

Today on a short, windy ride it worked. We headed out with his buddy Friday in tow, the lake trail didn't seem too windy at first, but it was gusting pretty hard soon enough. Major was being a bit silly with the wind (regular rocks are not scary, and do not give that log you're seen a million times the hairy eyeball look!) but we kept everything in check, and had a reasonable speed day.

We also did plenty of (to Major) annoying things, including walking big hills, and practicing slow "pole bending" on a row of fence posts, backing down and then back up a small ditch and putting a foot on the deadly manhole cover (clowns live in there you know, I almost can't blame him, I was scarred for life by Stephen King's "It".)

We came home the right way: with coming everyone reasonably happy (though there are never enough carrots distributed for true happiness).

not stealing carrots

not going to knock this over (does this angle make my butt look big?)

no really, I won't knock it over with someone's saddle on it!

Thursday, January 9, 2014


I had other words for my horse last ride, but this is a family blog…oh wait, no it's not, but I've calmed myself a bit.

new tights, I'm in love with houndstooth!

Heading out for a little lake loop, just wanted a short, quick ride so I could get back and watch some football. I didn't boot because the footing is great. I naively thought "He's been so good, we can trot and canter the whole loop, be done in a hour, I'll be home by 1:00."

dreaming of a lake at normal level, even though we lose this trail

Not to be. I missed almost the whole first half of the game. Oh, but this is a horse blog. Ok, we headed out, down Barking Dog hill, my poor mistreated horse (who hadn't been ridden in four days) trudging along. He heard some hikers ahead and got a little perkier, stepping out. We passed them, and down onto the lake trail. Nice trotting, passed a friend heading the opposite way, still good behavior.

Then there were some horses standing next to the trail. We passed them, and Major thought the race was on. Even if they were still just standing there, facing the other direction. An argument ensued between me (trot like a normal horse) and Major (I must race everywhere at all times) idiot.

Then his tiny pea brain saw tiny horses in the distance. Obviously those horses were winning the endurance race. And our earlier argument escalated into full-out war. There was no forward movement that was not him being a rushy idiot. So we kept going, and going. Passed the turn for home, where he normally will begin to think twice about misbehavior: no reaction. Take the tough rocky upper trail (barefoot): no reaction. Haul him into a circle: momentaty ceasing of naughtiness, then back to old bahavior. I was getting pissed off, which is not good or useful.

walking hill

walking road

So we walked. There would be no fun cantering. There would be no trotting, not a single trot step. There would be no jigging. Any behavior other than walking received either circling, backing many feet, turning around, sidepassing, or other not fun behavior.

It didn't help.

actually standing at the pond, momentarily
walking by alligator rock

We did manage to stop at the pond momentarily and stand still, where he wouldn't drink (but I saw a  bobcat, that was awesome). Four miles later we crossed the road close to home, still trying to jig, and I offered my jerk horse to the endurance riders heading out. He could stand to be ponied for a bit, right?

still trying to jig home

He does behave better when we go at speed for 15+ miles. But I do not want to put more miles on, as he just gets fitter and fitter and I think it's too much to not have time off, etc. He behaves nicely in the arena, so I can't fix this there.

So what to do? I guess some walking rides, listening rides, to see if he gets it. Though I think he will. It's when we add in the speed combined with seeing other horses. He isn't herd bound, just way too competitive. He will be 11 this year. Shouldn't he be over some of this crap?

Of course after the ride he was a hot, sweaty mess. He tried to drink his sponge water. His feet looked awesome (glad to know he can do it barefoot if needed). I still gave him carrots.

Sure I love him, but I don't like him much sometimes. Jerk.

…cannot reach the carrot, trying to strangle myself…(he was supervised of course)

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

setting forth: salt point

Usually I'd spend some of my winter vacation playing in the snow. But there is no snow (except what the ski resorts are making.) So what to do? Camping!

Camping in January is usually wet and cold, and the coast is usually foggy and damp, often windy too. But again, not this year (really rest of the country, we all need to share. We'll take a little cold and rain, it's only fair).

The Northern California coast is always calling. I grew up here, and it still feels like home, though I've been gone longer than I lived there. I hadn't been to this section for quite a few years, but SO and I got the truck packed and headed to Salt Point State Park. Which I had forgotten is almost too beautiful for words.

These rocks are sandstone, and the salt water reacts to them in a very cool way, creating a rock called tafoni. It looks like lunar surface, or sometimes dinosaur skin, or maybe just something magical.

There are tidepools and bluffs, hidden trails and sandy beaches. Better than anything on TV, I could watch the waves crashing on rocks for hours.

little turban snails, they were actually all hermit crabs!
stump beach and shadows

near fisk cove

evidence of sandstone quarrying, which supplied San Francisco with building materials

I could watch this for hours, exclaiming over the next wave, then the next

Of course we don't go anywhere without some rock stacking. SO was pretty determined this time. I just watch and read my book.

an awesome double rock stack

I just find rocks with lines and line them up
the trail home (and dry creek)

I was reading a great new book, The Half-Made World while I was there. It is an odd genre-defying novel: fantasy/steampunk/western/history. It took a bit to get into it, then I was hooked. The author describes the (fantasy) West in the book as a place where sky and water and cloud and elements are one and the same, where you can't tell where one begins and another ends. That exactly describes this coast.

at the edge of the world