Monday, February 24, 2014

conversations with major: up and down

Let’s go!
But it’s breakfast,
I’ll get your breakfast in the hitching area.
Ok, fine. Mmmm, breakfast.
You look super classy Major.
I know.

Have you even moved your head the entire time I’ve been tacking you up?
What? My mouf is full I can't hear you.
I don't think that's how it works. Again, keeping it classy dude.

Let’s go, let’s go.
Oh, you’re in a good mood, huh?
Can we go fast like last time but not over the bridge of death?
No, we’re not going that way. Plus, you were brave over the Mormon Ravine bridge last time, even with the rushing water. Today we’re just going to work some hills.
Then go fast?
No, just hills, here’s our first little one, let’s go.
Nope, we’re walking hills today.
But, but…that’s hard.

See, not so bad, into the forest.
I think we should turn here.
That is home.
Duh, I know. Turn here.
No, we just started.

 Up Beginner’s Hill.
You wouldn’t call it Beginner’s Hill if you were climbing it!
I’ve hiked this with you, it’s hard, so keep on trucking.
Truck, where’s a truck?!
Just walk. No, walk.
This is sooo hard at the top.
OK, now trot, it’s the flat part.

Ok, this is a little hill, but you can trot since it isn’t very steep,
Weee, must canter!
No, trot!
Fine, woah, big branch!
Yes, we dodged that one! Easy now, walk down here.

This doesn’t go anywhere.
Yes it does, Three Oak Knoll.
But no where else.
You’ll see.

Now let’s walk back up.
Sooo far up the hill, this is so hard!
Yes, but good job, now one more time.
Whaattt? Again?.
Yes, we're practicing.
Fine. Walking down, walking down.
Ok, turn around and...
No, walk.
Ok, fine, canter. Not a good plan, but try it.

Look, we made it to the top so much faster!
Yup, now back down again.
What? You said one more time!
That was before you decided to go all sassy on me. We’re walking hills today, remember.
Too bad, one more time, really, IF you walk.

See, that wasn’t so bad.
I think I need a drink.
Here is a disgusting puddle.
Mmm, delicious.
Your ID tag is jangling around and driving me crazy. Let me tie this leftover ride ribbon to it, just stand here.
But my feet are wet and there is nothing to eat in this vast wasteland.
You're fine. Just stand still. Oh yeah, we’re classy Major.
I know.

All we do, down and up, up and down.
I know, but it’s good practice, wait here at the bottom.
We have to go up that!  I can’t, too hard, just too hard.
You can! Woohoo, at the top, good job buddy. Now we can trot.
Yeah, trot!
Aren’t you more tired that that crazy man trot?
Nope, let’s go home!
Not yet, contain yourself.

This is dumb.
Working. Back, trot, sidepass, turn around, walk, back.
Well if you’d listen we could skip this stuff. We're getting closer to home.
I know, I'm thinking about dancing!
No dancing, just listen.
Really, up and down, no fun at all.
Really? Then I guess we can just stand here and admire the new green plants.
Ok, I guess this is fun enough, let's go.

One more thing to do,
No, I hate it.
Yes, just stand here.
There could be clowns in there.
There aren’t clowns.
I hate the manhole cover.
It’s not scary.
I know. But I have to stand here and be good. That is hard.
I know. Now both feet. Good boy! Here is a carrot piece.
More what, manhole cover?
More carrot!
Maybe later.

OK, here is your treat, lots of yummy grass,
Mmmm, thanks, so itchy, so sweaty, I should roll.
No you don’t! Not with your saddle on, just wait 10 minutes till we’re home.
Then more carrots?
Then more carrots. And a little bath, you’re sweaty and dirty.
And I’m classy.
You’re classy Major.

Friday, February 14, 2014

love him, love him not

I had an unexpected day off, trails are dry, let's head out! I knew Major would be a little full of it since it had been two weeks since a real ride, but you have to get out sometime.

The lake trail's sandy footing beckoned, and Major was joined by our friend Friday for a jaunt. The sky is gray, but no rain, and it's humid and warm, more weird winter weather. Everything was actually going ok, trotting merrily along, if you don't count Major being a twit pulling like a freight train and Friday was beginning to think he should follow suit.

It's all fun and games till the helicopter arrives.

Yes, a helicopter. On the trail. Doing maneuvers. At first it just flew by, pretty low over the lake, we just kept the horses walking no big deal.

Then we could hear the rotors behind us, and saw the helicopter blades just over the edge of a rise. Now it was time to get off.

The horses weren't actually reacting, but we couldn't tell what the helicopter was doing! Was it going to come over the hill right next to us, flying low? I'd love to desensitize to a helicopter, but you need slightly more controlled circumstances! I did really want to take a photo as it flew so close, but restrained myself. Instead I took a photo when it was a little spot far away, just to be safe!

So we stood for a bit, waiting to see where the helicopter was going. I was able to read the markings clearly when it flew by, it was a CDF (Cal Fire, in charge of wildland fires in the state) practicing water pickups. So plumes of water were falling from the rising helicopter, then they'd go back around to a slightly different spot and practice again. Super glad they practice this stuff, great organization, but we decided to head back into the forest and skip any more lake trail today.

Major was convinced we were going home, so we didn't. We wandered the forest, turning the direction NOT towards home, letting Friday lead, and other horse-frustrating experiences. At one point we turned off a trail onto larger road and Major thought it would be a good idea to just try taking off.

Which is why I ride pretty defensively. Not even a full stride before I got that silliness under control. We need a ride of many, many miles, but I actually don't want to condition much right now. I've looked over the AERC calendar and am probably not doing a ride till end of April, and then starting with an LD 25 for the beginning of the season.

So Major and I have some time to work on behavior. "Love him not" when he's an idiot and we're fighting. "Love him" when he is so good and we have so much fun. But I do of course still love him even when naughty. He got a Valentine's carrot and all I got was covered in horse sweat, snot and shedding fur. Just another dysfunctional relationship.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

getting educated

puddles reflect blue skies again
I took my kite out for a walk earlier in the week. After 4 days of rain and “trapped” under his shelter, he was a bit anxious to get out! Major was jigging at the end of his leadrope, and needed some serious reminders to stay out of my space. I’m sure the folks driving by on the road saw “the woman in the orange jacket beating her horse.” We were actually working on “do not run into me or you will have to back really far and into the puddle.” Perception. At least (so far) he has been smart enough to not run around in the slippery muck. Even when hand-trotting him up the road he stopped and walked in a slippery area.

I spent one of the rainy days at the Loomis Basin Endurance seminar. Lots of people, and so much information. There were also some booths for tack vendors, American River Ride, local feed stores, and more. Too much information, but here is what I processed:

1. Electrolyte Research by Langdon Fielding, DVM. One study says one thing. Another says another. Super hard to do a controlled study since electrolytes can be altered so much with diet, exercise and just genetics. Do what is best for your horse. They talked about what electrolytes are most important, and how plain salt might work for many people. Err on the side of too little rather than too much.

2. Body Condition by Susan Garlinghouse, DVM. I’d read this research before, but it was great to hear it in person. Dr. Garlinghouse studied about 300 Tevis horses and recorded Body Condition, how far they went, did they finish. Horses 4.5–5 on the BCS had a much much higher rate of finish than horses 3.5-4. So keep some extra gas in the tank as she called it. Body fat going into the ride will make the difference, not dietary fat during the ride.

3. Minimum Fitness Levels for starting the ride by Jay Mero, DVM. This was information on conditioning, which was pretty general as it is so specific per horse, terrain, etc. The importance of rest, progressive loading. Horses show no appreciable changes in fitness after three weeks of rest. Humans aren’t so lucky!

4. Gastric Ulcers by Gary Magdesian, DVM. I don’t even want to go here. So much controversy right now about should ulcer meds be allowed in competition. AERC debates this regularly. Horses did show some ulcers after rides, mostly very minor ones.

5. Tevis Data Analysis by Kathie Perry. Lots of statistics, all pretty interesting, but also a Tevis movie was playing the background which was great. Tevis has also decided to not allow very low (I think 3.5 or below) or very high (more than 8) body conditions to start the ride because of their very poor competition statistics.

6. Lameness review by Langdon Fielding, DVM. Dr. Fielding (who is one of Major’s vets) discussed lameness in endurance and scoring. Explained the concept of “down on sound” to watch for the head bob. He also showed some lameness videos and tried to help us see the slight lameness. Very hard.

Overall a very worthwhile event. I liked that the evidence was presented in a scientific way, and science concepts explained very clearly. Then the vets talked about what could work for your horse could be different, and some explained what they do, as an example. It is hard to stay general when endurance is so individual-focused, but I have lots of ideas floating around in my head, and I like to err on the side of too much information rather than not enough! We can learn from many different sources, but our horses are the best teaches. Do what is right for them.

I learned something else this week: A four mile bareback ride of walk/trot makes me more sore than a normal training ride of 15 miles of trotting. See, always learning!

crooked tree on crooked trail


Friday, February 7, 2014

good gray skies

I am reveling in raindrops on grass, new buckeye leaves, and the fresh smell of rain. Actual storms are rolling through the area, all the little birds finally out and about, it seems like nature has woken up.

raindrops with promise of green
new buckeye leaves

I love to take Major on misty walks. While the rain will melt him in his pasture, he doesn't mind geting wet on a walk. But puddles, now those are to be avoided at all costs, except on a ride, when they're different. Sigh...

take me to grass, slave girl...

mmm, blackberries

oh no, puddles all over!

must avoid puddles!

hiding behind the weeds, maybe she'll leave me out here in the grass

On a chilly rainy day, I give him some extra treats. He totally knows the blue bag. It has alfalfa. And works perfectly as a crack snack pack (fun sized!). Usually I just dump it on the ground, but sometimes he gets his nose in there too quickly!

Whatcha doing in there?

love the crack snack pack

useful blue bag (from a sunnier day)

So the rain will continue, and I have a weekend of no riding, which feels weird! Like regular winter! Last week I fit in a fast ride, a slow ride with friends, and a short ride, which is a good balance. This weekend I could catch up on some projects, instead I'm going to attend a local endurance seminar! It is hosted by Loomis Basin Equine (the vets for Tevis), and has an interesting line-up of speakers. I'm sure I'll be presented with way more info than I can comprehend. But I hope to learn something along the way, a good way to spend a rainy day.