Friday, May 29, 2015

take me to the river

Major loves water. And it is even better when it is splashy! Another boarder sent me this photo of Major playing in his water. I couldn't deny him, so we took a quick trip out to the lake. The water level is dropping quickly, but there are still some safe areas to play, and scare the geese with their babies.

sparkly water

geese and babies float away while we watch

cool teepee, not scary

a shiny pinwheel on top, still not scary

this teepee, however, was very suspicious

I like playing in the water too, so headed for the river on Memorial day. This portion of the river is the south fork of the American River, which is a huge destination for beginning rafting trips. On this day the powers that be raised the water levels, so the hordes of rafters could have a good time.

lazy portion of the south fork

sunflower must be tasty to this skipper

some type of statice plant, could not ID

blackberry blooms, can't wait for the fruit!
On the easy hike along the river I was amazed at all the wildflowers still blooming. Even this much drier season has plenty of flowers. The usual beach we like to go to (it's our secret spot) was almost covered with the rising water, but high ground had enough room for a towel and backpack, just right.

our usual beach, mostly under water!

underwater flowers are good indicators of the higher water level
It is fun at this spot on the river to watch the rafting groups go by: all types. It is the most basic of guided rafting, with lots of beginners, and there were boats of excited kids and families, teenagers being silly and tourists clutching their paddles tightly. Everyone having fun. I sit back and watch, read a good book, eat a delicious deli sandwich, swim a bit in the very cold water, and just enjoy a nice retreat.

a rafting company supply boat goes through this small rapid

green trail home

beautiful, but non-native, rose campion

this scary caterpillar becomes a beautiful black pipevine swallowtail

a harmless flower longhorn beetle enjoys a pollen snack on white brodiaea

ubiquitous california poppy

huge oak guards the edge of the forest

But eventually it is time to go home. This trail is a nice little loop, so back through some shady rocky trail to an open hillside covered in grasses. The cool water is almost forgotten by the time we are back at the hot car. But this is just the first of many river trips this season: the river beckons.

harvest brodiaea stands tall in grassy field

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

return of the nemesis

Life has been busy, but not a lot of fun. I spent a few days hurriedly packing our work offices with little notice, and squeezed in a few local rides. Major and I have been mainly tooling around the forest and lake trail, getting in a couple shorter fast rides, and some meandering too. It was fine, but not that interesting.

I almost fit in the packing box while my co-worker helps.

outflow from the power turbine into what should be the lake, now a creek

Major has a bad hair day

So when the chance came to do a longer ride on new trails with an old friend, I jumped on it! Even if it meant trailering the nasty canyon. Down, down, down the canyon we went, and up the other side to a very nice gated horse community. We met up with my friend B and Major's old nemesis, Ziggy. (Backstory: A few years ago B got Ziggy, who was a bit of a wild-child. And Major was so good being a babysitter horse, we'd take them out together. Major got so fed up with Ziggy bumping into his butt and being annoying that he actually kicked him! Now, I do not allow this type of behavior, but we now know that Ziggy brings out the worst in him, so keep a safe distance!)

We were joined by another cute horse and owner pair, Gabe and D, and started down the trail. The trail goes out of the neighborhood and down, down the canyon. We were traveling at a good pace and I took almost no photos, having fun and trotting along. Down a couple thousand feet, then along the more familiar river and quarry trail, till we were at No Hands Bridge. But the wrong way! We didn't just have four miles back up to the top to go, we had 11 miles back the other direction. I could tell Major was a bit confused.

No Hands but NOT heading home this time!

handsome Ziggy, not so naughty

Major tells Gabe "This is the rock plaque to be afraid of!" Gabe complies.

But Major wasn't confused for long: as we headed back he was on fire. I kept him to a dull roar, as his trot-of-choice was too fast for the others. Wild-child Ziggy was much more well behaved than hot-headed Major, a reversal of personalities. A quick stop at the river, then back up the canyon, a great ride for some elevation!

maybe those ears are because Ziggy is behind us...

where are my best friends? I still can't see them!

Back at the trailer Major was now completely distracted by the fact his new best friends were over in their area and not where he could see them. But he managed to eat some mash and smear it all over the trailer too. He looked chipper, and I threatened to just take him out again if he didn't knock it off, but he loaded nicely and we headed home.

It was fun to ride a partly new-to-me trail, to catch up with old friends and ride with new folks too. And to see that Major was none the worse for wear after 22 miles, even after only casual rides since our LD completion. There are an almost unlimited amount of trails within an hour's drive, Major and I need to get out an explore more, and take advantage of how lucky we are.

Monday, May 11, 2015

conversations with Major: birthday

Happy Birthday to me!
Happy Birthday to me!
Because I am awesome!
Happy Birthday to me!

I guess you remembered what today is.
My birthday!
That was a nice song Major.
I am special, it's my birthday!
Everyone has a birthday Major.
But mine is the best one!
OK, let's go for a ride.
Let's go, let's go.
You're impatient today.
It's MY day, let's go!

Seeing stuff, seeing stuff, I see stuff!
Yes, the forest is pretty today.
Look, an owl!
Wow, he flew right over. The other riders on the parallel trail must have disturbed him. Neat.
Turkey babies, let's chase them!
No Major, we don't chase the babies. And there is Mama turkey, let her find the babies.
Let's go, let's go!
Be patient, we're going somewhere fun.
Oh boy!

Oooh, the lake, I love the lake.
I know, this is just an easy play day.
Splash, splash, snorkeling, snort.
Getting in a little deep here Major.
Nope, this is good, I can splash, oh, this is fun, splash, splash...
Ok, that's enough now, you're going to lay down!
But it's my birthday!
Nope, let's keep walking.

Look, a weird thing!
Just a stump. I think it looks like an elephant with wings taking a rest on the shore.
You're weird.
You're the one who thought it was suspicious!
Look out there! Hey cormorant, it's my birthday!
I think he is far away and doesn't care.
He should, it's my birthday!

hey cormorant!

determined lupine
Ok, Let's go home.
Fast, quick, like last weekend!
No, maybe a little slower.
But I can go so fast!
Yes, I know.
I can go ludicrous speed!
We don't need that, and when did you see that movie?*
Oh no, I've gone to plaid!
You're ridiculous, slow down, we're almost home.

please get it off
going to my party!

Now, put this on.
Oh no, I hate the hat.
It's your birthday, you have to wear the hat. Let's go to your party.
My party? Where is my party? What is there?
You'll see.

all I've ever wanted! What, I have to share!?
Carrots, oh boy, carrots.
Happy Birthday Major!
Carrots and the lake, this is a good day.
Yes it is. Happy 12th birthday.

*Ludicrous speed and gone to plaid: if you don't know the Spaceballs movie reference, you must watch this clip at least!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Cache Creek 2015 LD: Completion!

What are we doin?

Major and I successfully completed our recent adventure at Cache Creek Ridge Ride 2015. We competed over the hilly 25-mile course, sound and happy, with energy to spare at the end. But was it a successful ride? I’m still debating. (note: almost all photo are by my SO. I wasn’t able to manage the horse and camera at the same time this ride...)
vetting in: power trot

cute mule neighbor
ridecamp view
patiently waiting

Arriving and vetting were unremarkable, Major vetted in with a 40 heart rate, which is low for him (usually the excitement gets to him). We were near friends, but not too near, with some cute mules between us. Major thought the best part of the ride were the wild oats growing everywhere, and took awhile to start eating and drinking the real food, but then was a champ at both! Ride meeting was thorough and helpful, they really know how to put on a good ride here. There were 58 starters in the 25, and more than 100 in the 50, a good showing!

Major was eating and drinking and taking care of himself. I wasn’t doing as well myself, and didn’t sleep much, worrying about every detail. But morning came, I heard the 50s head off at 5:30, and then finally got up to get Major ready. Since I haven’t competed in awhile, and no 25s since my first ride three years ago, I was reminded of the LD “Luxury Distance” at the leisurely 7:30 start.
at the start, nice and calm

walking to the start line

Which Major was awesome for! We walked a couple times around the camp, let quite a few people go trotting off, then walked out nicely, no silliness. We got to the creek crossing, started to trot up the hill, and Major turned on the afterburners. Sigh. I knew we had to do it! Lots of hills we powered up, I was hoping to burn off a little of the excess energy. No such luck. We passed a few people, then were behind a large group, and that was fine with me! Major didn’t like it, but too bad.

We stayed with that group till the first water stop, where Major actually drank! Then we fell in behind some more folks. If there are horses ahead Major will try to chase them, so staying back a couple horse lengths and taking it easier was working as a good plan. We were moving out pretty quickly, but nothing that seemed unreasonable, Major would listen to half-halts and felt strong but controlled.

Sooner than I realized we were at the top of the long two-mile downhill into the away vet check. I got off to let Major drink and scooped water on him (no sponging out of the troughs allowed), letting everyone else go down the hill. Then I had to get back on the too tall beast (only ride management request: need more mounting stumps and rocks!), but only for a bit, then I got off and walked down into the vet check. I got off way too soon, and walked probably a mile, with Major trying to drag me faster down the hill. 
coming into the out vet check
But was greeted at the vet check by my lovely SO, where Major was untacked, sponged, and pulsed in almost immediately. Easy vet check (all As except for one gut-sound quadrant B), though I noticed quite a few of the people who had come down the hill ahead of me were still not pulsing down. I was then glad I had taken the extra time to walk in. Major stuck his face is every mash pan, nibbled some alfalfa, ate a few oats, and the half-hour hold went by too quickly.
dragon horse is impatient

As we headed out SO wanted a photo. Major was already pulling and ready, but I grimaced and said “we gotta go!” This was the purple loop, and the first part was lovely single track, lined with purple wildflowers. I ended up with a couple people behind me, but after about three miles I wanted to give Major a break, and let them go ahead at a water stop. Then we were finally in our own bubble, and was able to take two whole photos of a lovely oat-filled meadow, before Major wanted to pick up the pace again.
wild oats

meadow view

So we trotted alone, it was nice. Untill we were caught by two fast mules (our neighbors in camp), they can fly downhills! And from then on the ride dissolved into a battle of wills.

I must catch them! 

No, you don’t need to.
But there they are! Ahead!
Yes, you’re fine.
I’m not fine, I’m losing!

Yes, you are, deal with it.

It was exhausting. He did still drink at troughs, but his new trick: every time I tried to get a water bottle, I hold my reins in only one hand. And he knew it. And would try to take off. So I’d put my bottle away and repeat. I didn’t drink enough the second loop!

There were some wide-open ridges, where I did let him canter a little bit to see if it helped. It did not help, but it didn’t make him worse either. But then the long downhill back to camp came. There is a trough there, so I let people go ahead, and stayed for a little bit. Then headed back down. Major KNEW the horses were ahead, and was awful. But I dared not get off as the footing is slippery rocks and dirt, I just made him walk/jig all the way down. Toward the bottom of the hill I saw the ride photographer coming up, and while I haven’t seen the photos, that will not be a nice one: me fighting to make Major walk, probably mouthing a bad word or 10. Sigh.

At the bottom of the hill the locomotive was back, and I was just tired of it. I got him stopped, did some circles, made him listen. Which lasted all of about two seconds, he was just so riled up. So I let him power trot, though I couldn’t see anyone ahead of us. But Major could, and as we came around a corner he saw three horses ahead and just took off. Half-halts were ignored, full halts were ignored, I was just a passenger. I said a few choice words, (graceful wording like “stop it you fucker”), to no avail.

So we caught up to the other three horses, who were not being idiots, and just stayed behind them to the finish. The finish is under a huge oak in a grassy meadow, I was happy to be in the shade. They took our numbers, and then told us to untack. What? Why? Because we were top 10, fifth to be exact.

Damn. OK, I know some people who would be happy with this, but this was not in the plan! I wanted to bring Major back more slowly so he wouldn’t be such a stupid hot head…

But I took the tack off my spinning horse (who did not think we were done already) and did the weigh in, before I unceremoniously dumped my saddle on the ground and told them my SO would be back to get it (I was not retacking my idiot horse). I walked back into camp, surprising my waiting SO (who thought we’d be back later, so did I!) and issuing demands to help sponge my horse (SO is very tolerant, I apologize later).
"Circle your horse!" What?

We went and vetted in, pulse was already 56 and dropping. All A’s, completion success! I was happy about that part, a healthy horse, who proceeded to literally try and drag me around camp, certainly not tired! We went down to the creek, a much nicer place to clean him up with lovely running cool water. I did go back an hour later and did the best condition judging, where I had no idea how to run my horse in a circle and probably weaved about like a drunk!
coming back from the creek
in the meadow

hills and hiney

There was an early LD award ceremony (where we did not get BC) but top 10 did get a pair of gloves and everyone got a shirt. A lot of folks left, but we were waiting for friends to come back from the 50 (so tough and hot) and have dinner too. Major napped on his high-tie, finally relaxed, and ate another pan of mash (he loves these weekends just for the mash!).

So I am both happy and disappointed in this successful finish. I really think the first part of the ride was just standard crazy, not too fast. But I think we got through the vet check so much faster, and then maintained pace. It really wasn’t until the last 6-8 miles that I wanted to leave my horse behind (there were ride and tie folks on trail, maybe they would have taken him!)

Major was exceptionally naughty trying to catch horses ahead on trail. I need to work on him listening to me and not playing chase. Oddly, the last half was much worse than the first. I had a lot of fun doing the 25, but I think Major needs to move back up to the 50s and learn how to rate himself (and listen to me).
at home: a perfect dust bath

Through I’ll the stress, I’m glad I did it. I don’t know how much endurance I’ll be able to do this year, but I have a bit more confidence that with some remedial training we might be able to have some fun.
I do not like your ideas, small human.