Tuesday, April 26, 2016

other evenings

It was light outside last night until 8:15! I could still see a little bit in the twilight, True, I was mowing the lawn…but there are other non-riding evening adventures (and I don't mean trips to the grocery store). So many trails to explore now that the light has returned!

fivespot wildflower in the last of the light

When riding there are a lot of trails that are just too small or steep for horses, that I look at and think "that would be fun to explore." So I did. This evening the trail crosses No Hands Bridge, but then drops down to parallel the river, definitely too small and tight to be a horse trail!

river reflects

It isn't an official trail, just one that over the years many feet have made while going down to the river on warmer evenings than this. Tonight the trail was empty, the wildflowers closed up, busy bees asleep, the canyon in shadows long before the sun sets.

pine blossom
deceptively still

But the river was alive. Eddies and currents pulsing just below a deceptively calm surface. There have sadly already been two drownings this year, from deadly cold and swift currents. I'll take my view from the banks for now, and at a time when I have the river to myself.

downstream eddies

same river bend, upstream view
no nudes today!

Higher up on the Western States trail, the horses cross Calcutta Falls. I found where it joins the river, not quite as striking as a 20-foot waterfall, but much more peaceful.

mini Calcutta falls

Back across the bridge, no one else on trail, the last of the light toasts the hilltops above. Soon there will be even more daylight, and more people will be out as it gets warmer and the river beckons. But I'll enjoy this quiet, twilight time for myself.

evening No Hands bridge

Friday, April 22, 2016


Let's go, get it done, don't waste time! So often I'm in a hurry to wherever I am going, whatever I am doing. I am caught up in this habit, even if I have nothing immediately ahead. But sometimes I get smart and remember to re-evaluate priorities…

So I took a step back. Major seems healed from his previous injury. But I have no need to step right back into training. The April ride I was hoping to go to was cancelled. May rides are out due to scheduling or distance (and the money it takes to get there!) Mid-June is our soonest chance. And that is far enough away that I don't need to be doing 15–20 mile weekends.

love the rain-flattened grasses

forest king

So we've gone out on quiet evenings down to Rattlesnake Bar at the lake, where the footing was too squishy but the grass was long and green. And the bugs were about!

squishy grass as the lake rises
Arghh, bug in my ear!

And we've taken out a friend with a young horse for a confidence ride.

Major, trying to patiently wait for his friend to catch up. Trying.

And we've taken the upper trail through the rocks, and remembered why we hate the upper trail through the rocks!

And we've ridden along the shore of the lake, quickly filling and overwhelming the lower trail. Juxtaposed with a photo from October of last year, it's hard to believe it is this full before the snow melt starts filling it even more!

the canal wall (we call it Hadrian's Wall) covered in water

similar photo site from October, such a nice difference now!

It has taken a lot of discussions with Major to take it easy. Easy is not something he likes. Easy is not particularly fun. He is full speed ahead (except for first leaving home, that is feet-dragging annoying). But I think it is good for us both. Major has enjoyed the green grass while it lasts (and his Spring nickname, the Chubby Wonder). I know I've enjoyed the scenery a bit more. I never really thought about how easy could be so hard, but I like what I'm learning.

Friday, April 15, 2016

d.i.y: saddle cover

I have a second saddle that I really like, but I've loaned out a couple times, and will probably be selling (I want the dressage version, not this AP model). I don't want to leave it naked and potentially scratch the saddle up moving it around. But the only cover I have for it is slippery, doesn't quite fit, is always sliding off, and just basically annoying and useless. So I decided to make a "fancy" saddle cover.

This requires precision skills. You'll need:
1. Beautiful, expensive fabric
2. A fancy sewing machine
3. Lots of specialized sewing notions
4. Perfect saddle measurements
5. Your undivided attention
6. Hours and hours of time

Oh, never mind. Who am I kidding? You'll need:
1. Random fabric (old flannel sheet, about 5x4)
2. Scissors
3. Some elastic (2yards for you fancy measuring types)
4. Newspaper/something for template
5. I was distracted by Big Bang Theory reruns
6. Total time: less than one hour.

You can be extra fancy and use things like an iron, or pins, or even a needle. I didn't need that stuff.

naked saddle!
roughly traced outline

Put saddle on a rack, or chair or whatever works. Roughly drape newspaper and trace an outline.

Add 6 inches. Try to account for depth of saddle and 1 inch "hem" line. I added a bit more in back because of the deep cantle on this particular saddle. If you keep packs you want to cover, I'd measure with those attached. Adjust accordingly.

pattern expanded onto fabric

Fold fabric in half, put down your template and cut it out.
fabric cut out before elastic installed

Now here is the hardest part…fold the hem over to the inside, cut a little hole through the double thickness, and stick your elastic through. This is where it is nice to have fabric that doesn't fray much, like a flannel or fleece. (I did another cover in orange polarfleece. Glorious.)

scissors + elastic + folded hem = weave together

Repeat. Every couple-three inches. A whole bunch. All the way around. Wow, you're back where you started! (78 times on this cover to be precise)

Pull the elastic to desired stretchiness and tie the ends together. I just tie a bow, so I can adjust if needed.

elastic all woven through and tied

Put it on your saddle.

much better with saddle cover!

Now you're fancy!

Monday, April 11, 2016


The trails are delicious right now. A smorgasbord of beautiful, knee-high grasses, all available for the munching. IF Major keeps his feet moving.

oak trees bursting into leaf

I've spent the last 5+ years trying to get this horse to eat and walk at the same time. It seems a foreign concept. He surely would never make it in the wild. But this time of year, the grass is calling, and I can get him to try and improve his multi-tasking skills.

brilliant (delicious) green grasses

Most people try to keep their horse from eating on trail. But I want him to be relaxed enough to grab a bit as we're walking along. He'll stop and eat no problem. But I want those feet to keep moving.

trail snaking along

So we headed out down to the lake, to see if the trail was under water and just meander. Brilliant green grass, blue skies, light breeze, lapping water, warm horse: not much is better.

surrounded by deliciousness!

And Major did his best to stop and eat. And every time I moved him on. After a bit he seemed to get it, and would snatch a bit and keep his feet moving…progress!

water getting higher and more driftwood
driftwood…christmas tree? Major plays in the water

Major would eat himself sick if allowed to stand in one place for too long. Just like Templeton the rat in the animated movie Charlotte's Web, as he gorges at the fair smorgasbord!

Major thinks this guy is suspicious, he never moves!

As we headed home, he gave the realtor sign an evil eye (the first time he saw it he was spooked by the big realtor face!). Notice he has a mouthful of grass at the same time! He did get to stop and eat after the ride. The smorgasbord, and ride, was short, but filling enough.

mine, all mine…yum.

Friday, April 8, 2016

polo 2016

On an recent detour to Palm Springs, I finally got a chance to take a polo lesson! Lots of photos, but here is a great action shot:

see, I'm a blur in orange!

OK, so that wasn't me. I wasn't a blur of motion, amazingly coordinating my horse, 4-reins, odd saddle, mallet and hitting the ball half a field. But I had fun!

The lesson required no knowledge of polo OR horses. I don't think I'd want to learn to ride and play at the same time, but many people do. I think this sport (at the highest levels)  is for people who sank their yacht and need something else to sink their money into. But they sure have fun doing it!

ponies heading for the field

equipment for the sport

The horses were ready to go when I arrived. Legs wrapped, tails done up, and manes roached off. What, no handle!? Turns out I never went fast enough to worry about that! They were all Thoroughbreds, though shorter than I expected, gleaming and healthy, with great feet and a willing attitude. I'm sure my mare would come to regret that choice later. She had an adorable question mark on her face, appropriate for her rider…

My instructor patiently showed me how to hold the mallet, and the 4 reins. The saddle put my legs way out in front of me, almost a chair seat, but you don't sit down much (again, at a higher level, not mine!) Place the ball in front and to the right, in front of the horses leg and out about two feet. Then stand up, twist torso to the right, pivot your shoulders around simultaneously, keep your chin up, bring your mallet around and hit. Sounds easy, right?

my patient instructor, teaching me how to hold and swing the mallet

adorable pony face, I look a bit more skeptical with all those reins

ready for action, but pony is now quite skeptical

First swing! Wham, into the dirt. Second swing, whoosh, air ball! Then I hit a few, and the instructor just let me wander off. Wander being the operative word here. I'd hit it, and my saintly mare would walk after the ball, she knew her job: follow the white thing. She had nice steering and knew leg commands, much nicer than some rental string horses I've ridden in the past! Because these are actual working polo horses, just the well-tempered ones for super beginners like me.

on a mission

gorgeous views are worth it

I'd get a few series of hits, maybe 3 or 4, and think I could do it at a trot. So I'd pick up a tiny, slow trot, and promptly miss. And the instructor would come over and help me. One suggestion, just keep the mallet low and work on that.

So I did. And I practiced for more than an hour. I got better, but not by much! This game takes some serious timing and skill, and hours upon hours of practice. Like any sport. At least I wasn't sore from riding, like some of the other people taking a lesson. Only one other person had much experience. He was interested to learn about endurance, because he thinks it sounds fun and a bit crazy, though he does foxhunting in Canada, which sounds crazy to me!

our lesson group

The video above is a juxtaposition of me practicing and the professional game. It's good for a laugh! It was a really fun lesson, and I followed it up by going to the professional game later in the day. Now that is some impressive riding, even more so after my ungraceful attempts earlier! Top horses thundering down the giant field at top speed, neck and neck, after the tiny ball. Tight turns and horses blocking other horses, and these guys are game and ready for action. You can certainly tell the better riders, versus the ones who are a bit harsh, just like any horses sport!

breakout chasing the ball

lovely, keen horse

milling about, at speed, with support crews and extra horses watching form the sidelines

I'm thinking of getting a polo mallet and playing around in the arena. Major is a bit tall (and not as tolerant), and might think the whole things is stupid, but it would be fun to practice. Then next year, if I go take a lesson again, I might be able to actually trot and hit the ball!