Tuesday, August 23, 2016

trail olympics

The inspirational 2016 Olympics are over. I watched lovely horses walk, run, jump and every gait in between. I was in awe of the horses strength and finesse, agility and speed. And their amazing riders!

I think Major was watching too. Though maybe with not quite as much attention to detail. This has resulted in some recent Trail Olympics.

natural obstacles

galloping not galloping track

Major is back on the trails in fine form. Taking it easy and working back up to a level of fitness is important, though he doesn't quite believe me. Walking rides are fine. Add in some speed and high-jinks ensue. Too much time off has left him wired to explore, or explode. I've kept him in check while still getting out, but our recent ride alone resulted in some pretty epic Trail Olympics.

The Trail Olympics are open to all riders and types of horses. They are not performed at the high levels as the recent Rio games, though your horse/your adrenaline may think so!

Cross Country:
Galloping Track (no, just trot please!)
Log Jump (just step over the downed tree please, no leaping)
Bank Jump (no, stay on trail, watch the dropoff!)
Table Jump (no, leave the picnickers alone, they have nothing for you)
Water Jump with three options (small puddle = swerve around. Large puddle = stopping with silly splashing. Lake = trying to swim)
Sandy Area (no rolling!)

Stadium Jumping:
Triple Combination Fence (watch out for the tree, rock and poison oak!)
Oxer Fence (careful with your feet up over the rocks please)
Open Water Jump (no, you can just walk through the creek)

Spooking at A (long, pink trail ribbon from the running race)
Halt at X (look, grass!)
Extended Trot (wheee, going home!)
Passage (towards home when not allowed to Extended Trot)
Piaffe (when not allowed Extended Trot or Passage home)

trail hazard: rattlesnake ahead (not pictured!)

big water jump

I know some of you have participated in these sports with me, and if you think of another category let me know. I will add them to the next Trail Olympics, due to be held…the next time you're on trail!

make sure your horse has correct turnout : turkey feather is an alternative to fancy braids

Friday, August 19, 2016


sunset over Major

There was still some light to see by as we headed down the road. But the forest under trees was deeply shadowed already. The dark is coming more quickly each day. "Get out, move while you can!" my mind wails.

portrait in gathering darkness

So the full moon was a good motivator for a night ride. Choosing the wider trails with less tree cover, not only to see the trail better, but not whack our heads too much! Major and I were joined by C and Friday on a perfect August night.

We trotted while we could still see the trail, the horses completely unconcerned by the night. They hadn't particularly wanted to leave dinner, but once on the trail thought it was just another fun ride. Down to the lake access trail where the footing goes from bad to worse: tough big and small rocks and logs in a downhill gully. And this is why we trust our trail horses: Major and Friday (who could probably see just fine) just picked their way down the trail like it was nothing.

Then the moon was reflecting off the lake. There were no other lights to be seen, and there were no boats to mar the stillness. Crickets chirped, night-blooming flowers were open. The trail glowed in the moonlight. A scene my camera cannot capture, but my mind holds like a treasure.

grainy moon and lake reflection: but in reality it was perfect.

As we turn the corner a few bright lights in the distance; the top of the distant dam. But we headed the other direction, with just the moonlight on the lake as our guide. We had flashlights and glowsticks just in case, but no need.

The horses would stop for grass, or we'd do a short trot on a smooth sand section of trail. But mostly we just enjoyed the night. Our moon shadows on the rocks followed us, usually by our side but sometimes ahead, leading the way.

Too soon we headed back. The forest was so dark, with the moonlight unable to get through the dense tree canopy. Trust from me, and not a single false step from Major.

A perfect full moon ride.

Friday, August 5, 2016

conversations with Major: boring

Week 3 (of vet-prescribed rest)
I'm bored. 
I know, but you have a hurt leg and are supposed to be resting
I ran around the pasture today.
Yes, they told me. You're not supposed to!
I couldn't take it anymore!
Ok, let's go for a walk. 

Stop stopping. 
But there is something!
No, there isn't.
I think we should turn back.
Don't do it buddy.
Ouch, lots of sticker bushes grabbed me!
Yes, now stay back there.
But I like being in the front.
You were not being a good leader. 
Fine. It's boring back here. 
Boring can be good. 
No. Carrots are good. Apples are good. Boring is boring. 

Week 4
Stand on the manhole
There's a man in there?! Scary!
No, but there are evil clowns (reminder: never read Stephen King's "It" again). Just stand.
Fine, this is dumb. I only have to do this when you're riding. 
No, you have to do it when I ask. 

Week 5
Look at all the things!
It's boats on the water Major. 
Going fast, making music, so much fun!
Want to stand and watch awhile?
Yes, this is not boring!

Ok, time to head back. Please stop creeping up and breathing down my back
I'm not.
You are, you're right there!
Backing up...nope, not me!
Walk on.
(Hot breath)
Knock it off!
It's boring back here. And you're not very scenic. 
Excuse me?

Week 6
Wait, I need this!
There is nothing in there dude.
Could be, gotta check.
Come on, let's stay out of the neighbor's hay bag. 

What's in here?
Not your stuff, leave it.
Could be tasty?
I wouldn't pull that string Major. Are you a dog?
Could be food?
I don't think so. 
Not grass.
Yeah, it's just a green wire. How about we stay out of the neighbors trash?

Week 7
Time for a short ride Major, behave. 
Um, no, but let's try. 
The lake, the lake!
I know, your favorite trail is back from being underwater!
Let's go!
No, just walking. 
That is boring.

Just a bit longer, but if you want we can play in the lake?
Let's go!
Ok, here we are. 
Love the lake! So much fun. Not boring!
Not too deep! Stop pawing!
Can't hear you, I'm snorkeling!
Glad you're not bored Major. 

want more silliness? Here are more conversations with Major.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Tevis 2016

So this post took awhile. And not just because of catching up on sleep after far too many hours awake, but THEN catching up on a pile of work, and just wanting a bit of a break!

But, spoiler alert, my rider finished! She and the mule Ears Looking At You were a big hit all day. And it was a long day. Here is how the schedule works out for a crew person, so come help out sometime! Even if your rider is pulled you learn so much helping out, plus I always love the adage did not finish is better than did not start! This is a very non-sexy look at the ride, the backstage crew story, too long and detailed without many photos (too busy!), but that is kind-of what the whole day is like…

T - one day In the days before the ride I packed up my trailer with two different rider's gear. I was going to meet them at Robinson Flat, 36 miles into the ride. Some crew also stay at the start, Robie Point, and then drive down (for an even longer day!) Coolers packed with ice, feed for horse and human, all ready to go…when my second rider decided not to start. She was just not confident in her horses gaits, she just thought something was off (and 100 miles would be sure to show it.) She opted to try again another year (she finished last year). So unpack that stuff and get ready for the early morning ahead.

4:15am Damn, that's early. I left the house at 4:15am, was waiting to pick up other crew in Auburn at 4:25am. An uneventful drive out to Robinson Flat as the sun rises, waiting in the car line to drop off our gear. Gear and crew delivered, the truck is driven out of the camp to park along the road. The crew area is set…and we wait.

Foreshill Divide sunrise

driving with the caravan into Robinson

10:06am The front-runners come in looking great. Crew line up along the road with buckets and sponge, and pull tack as the riders come in. My rider comes in at 10:06am and then the next hour is so busy! Feeding horse, rider, filling waterbottles and resupplying backpacks, changing tack, and always watching the clock. Get the rider out on time!

the waiting area

helpers heading back with tack to our crew area

vetted through! His old trainer came to help

keen to head off again

And we did. then it is time to pack up our stuff and head down to Foresthill. We won't see our rider for so many miles and canyons. Luckily there are great volunteers at the other checks. A few checks you can try to get in to, but some are quite a hike and not the best use of your time.

picture stolen from Facebook, leaving Robinson

11:45am Then the drive to Foresthill. Where you wait some more. Some of my crew went back to Auburn to rest and eat, some socialized, I get a bit overwhelmed with too many people (total introvert here) so I just organized the trailer and crew stuff, relaxed, read my book, sat in the shade and tried not to melt (it was close to 100 degrees, yuck).

5:30pm Then we get buckets and cart ready for Bath Road, where the riders come in. Horses come in hot, ice water is available and needed!

6:24pm Right on estimated time! Tack is pulled, water is sponged, mule is taken to vet (and comes back great!) and we go back to the trailer to refill the camelbak, attach glowsticks, shove food into the rider, try to figure out what is rubbing her left leg raw on the saddle (attachment for saddlepacks was the culprit). And watch the time, always.

Bath Road cool down

And she's off on time! Next time we see her will be in (hopefully) Auburn, the volunteers will take good care of them in-between. We have been obsessively watching the new GPS system, following different riders, sucking our phone batteries dead in the process. It is definitely nice to have, though not all riders have them, and is a good addition to the Tevis tracking system.

leaving Foresthill (on time!)

trotting through town (photo by JM)

8:00pm Now we pack up the trailer, and all the stuff, back into my truck and the trailer that will be going back to the Auburn fairgrounds. The trailer is parked, and my crew scatters to their local homes to try and get a little rest. It is 10pm, and our rider is not expected until 2am. Sleep while you can! I am lucky enough to live very close, and a shower is beckoning (Foresthill is epically dusty). I lay in bed, too wired to sleep, but set the alarm in case. And at 1am I groggily hear the buzzing, I think sleeping for a few hours may have been worse!

1:30am But I head back over to the fairgrounds, where I check the GPS system and see my rider is about an hour behind her estimated time. She has never ridden at night, is everything OK? The dot keeps moving though, so I anxiously hope for the best. The rest of the crew straggles in. Some are able to fall asleep in a folding chair, the rest of us wait and watch riders trickle in. The top 10 have come in hours before, now riders come in a couple at a time, long stretches between, to an empty stadium but a few of us clapping each time!

Our rider has crossed No Hands bridge, she is on her way! That is the longest wait, and I'm sure the longest 4 miles of trail these horses and riders have ever experienced.

almost here! watching that little marker like a hawk
3:32am They're here! The mule looks great and strong, after their victory lap we pull tack, quick sponge and blanket. The mule decides he only wants to eat Ultium feed, none of his usual grains, and grass hay, no alfalfa. Whatever he wants! My rider looks dazed as we bundle her into a chair.

finish line! Finishing with another horse of a different type: Mustang
finish trot out

Luckily there is crew to trot the mule, as my rider looks a bit beat! With a successful trot out and vet, that's a completion! First for my rider, second for this mule (out of 4 attempts). We all talk and wait and watch the mule eat, and eat, until another hour or so has passed, when there is another vet check. Mule is good to go! Non-local people often use the nice barns and stalls, but the mule lives literally less than 10 minutes away and would be much happier at home with his friend. So we load him up, load up the rider, gear, etc, and head for home.

finally done for the day

4:58am I am done! My rider has a friend who will stay and take care of her and mule. I just want to fall into bed. I usually get up early and attend the Haggin Cup judging, but this year I was burned out from too much sun, not enough sleep, etc. and slept in! It takes another day to feel human again, and we're the crew, not the riders or horses! These mountains and canyons have a magnetic draw: train, start or finish, success is found in whatever is accomplished in the name of Tevis.