Friday, February 26, 2016

leap day 2016

Leap day is special. Once every four years, rebalancing the calendar, ourselves. When are we ever given an extra day? Take full advantage!

Four years ago I wrote an explanatory post about why I like Leap Day so much, but that year I couldn't ride, it was raining. This year I was all set to ride...and showed up to find Major with a fat leg. No heat, no tenderness, not lame. I'll keep an eye on it, but I'd guess brewing abscess. Damn. 

Know what? That's ok. Even on Leap Day. Because Major ate grass and got a spa day, and then shiny and happy went back in his pasture with carrots. I went to Tractor Supply, then got a disgustingly awesome blue slurpee at the gas station, played with a new craft, did some gardening, and did nothing I was expected to.

I still think I said it correctly in the 2012 leap day post: Take a leap while you can, you never know what comes next.

detour: snow

driving to the snow on distant mountains
In January, northern California tried to recover from four years of drought. A normal amount of snowfall and rain seemed like vast quantities! But February has reverted to warm spring weather, and drier trails, and finally some time for snowshoeing.

lovely, quiet trails

dapper rock with a snow hat

following the trail

I like to snowshoe. But I'm a bit picky. I like it in nice weather. When it's not too cold. Or windy. And I don't have to bundle up like the Michelin Man. And lately we've had plenty of days like that, so riding took a backseat to exploring some new snowshoe trails.

I'm lichen the snow…

pure, snowy meadow

There was so little snow last year that the couple times I went snowshoeing I ended up hiking instead. Fun, but disappointing. Not this time! There was plenty of snow, and few people. The best kind of exploring. At one lake there was deep snow on one side, and sand on the other. Walking around felt surreal.

Ice House Reservoir

sand and snow

wood whorls

mini mountain landscape

best of both worlds: snow on one side, sand on the other

Now we just need more snow, and a lot of if. Less than an inch of rain in February means March better pour buckets…which sucks for horse conditioning, but maybe more snow time…

rock stack along an icy lake

Thursday, February 18, 2016


The rain cleared and some amazing weather showed up, drying the trails, glorious early spring days. So Major and I have been working. On local trails, on not jigging home and just not being stupid in general. These rides are not particularly interesting, and have consisted of loops and loops and sometimes taking an hour to do a 15 minutes trail home. But it's been highly effective, and there is much better behavior involved now!

But we also need to do actual conditioning. And I was thinking of the horse torture trail from Auburn to Cool. A lot of elevation would provide a needed assessment of Major's (and my) fitness. As I was hooking up the trailer Major was impatiently waiting at the gate (which I love). Let's go, let's go!

hurry, hurry, put me in the trailer

An empty staging area awaited, and we had the trail to ourselves. On the weekends this trail is becoming quite a circus, I was lucky to have a long president's weekend holiday to ride on a Friday. We passed the lovely waterfall, now complete with stupid bridge and knee-knocking railing, and Major continued to lag as we headed for No Hands Bridge. He can be terrible about conditioning rides alone, and was at his utmost stubborness, asking repeatedly "Can I go home now" like a kid on vacation from the backseat of a car.

knee-knocking railing and skeptical ears

more skeptical ears and river view

Sometimes it makes me question, does he really like this? And then he'll power up the hill on the other side, erasing doubts. He just isn't a hot, forward horse (unless you provide him something to chase!). He would rather question ALL your training methods from the comfort of his own pasture thankyouverymuch.

we did not take horrible Training Hill, though Pig Farm is almost as bad

And going up the other side of the canyon we powered along, and he exited stage right (almost out from underneath me!) to make the turn for Pig Farm trail, NOT the trail I was going to take. But while letting Major make decisions has gotten me in trouble, this time I let it be.

tired horse proves later he is not really that tired

And he regretted the decision almost immediately. I got off and walked most of the trail, dragging Major behind me, both of us huffing and puffing. At the top we meandered about, and then to the staging area, bursting with lots of green grass which helped Major recover quite quickly!

so yummy!

But soon it was time to go home, and Major knew it. So a little bouncier and faster we headed back down the hill, passing just-hung trail marking for the upcoming Western States practice run (with Lance Armstrong, it was the talk of the town).

we can follow the race trail marking too!

And back up the other side. Here is where Major shines, on the twisty, uphill single track. He powered up the three miles of trail, and got to the Robie Point road, where he said "I'm done trotting." I got off and walked along for awhile. I was more than fine with that. As the first hard elevation ride we've done all year, he'd done pretty good to make it this far!

never tired of this view

Robie Point, Major says "I'm done"

Almost home! And then I heard chainsaws on the trail ahead. I was about to dismount again when I heard the call of "horses!" and all noise ceased. The CCC crew stood aside, scary equipment getting the eyeball, until we were safely past. Very nice. But Major thought they might chase him with the chainsaws, and got a second third final wind to the waiting trailer.

It was slow. It was hard. It was 16 miles and 2600 feet of climbing. But Major has a great base of fitness, and recovered great. I was more sore from all the hill work myself! A lot of elevation it was, and we have a long way to go, but things are looking up.

miles to go…