Monday, July 30, 2018

monday moment: classy

A pre-ride snack proves that we're so classy…IKEA bag is the easiest feeder ever, and no lost alfalfa scraps!

Friday, July 27, 2018


Nine years ago today I brought Major home. Too tall, too young, not enough training,  what was I thinking? We’ve had lots of ups and downs: I’ve been scared and brave and everything in between. He’s been naughty and a saint, and everything in between!

Today we adventured out to our favorite local trail, (mostly) not under water anymore. We trotted along the sand, spooked roosting turkey vultures and careened around a few corners (and an obligatory one-rein-stop for silliness). A tree munched my knee, I brushed past innumerable poison oak branches, and came home dirty, sweaty, and smiling. 

Tomorrow we are sweep riding Tevis, following the last riders out of Foresthill to make sure everyone stays safe.

We’ve had a lot of fun adventures. He’s certainly turned out to be a great partner. Most days. I hope to be sharing the trail with my brave, alfalfa-crack loving, annoying, water-splashing silly boy for many more miles.

Monday, July 23, 2018

monday moment: dream

For all those who dream of Tevis and are riding this weekend: safe travels across this venerable bridge…

Thursday, July 19, 2018

detour: Preston Castle

Preston Castle

On a muggy, overcast day, we went to explore an intriguing-sounding new location: Preston Castle. Built in the 1890s, not as a castle (even with 77 rooms and 43 fireplaces), but as a reform school, it housed the boys and employees until 1960. When the state decided to close it they let anyone come strip the building, and there is almost nothing left of the amazing interiors.

The Foundation who owns the building take a tiny donation and docents will guide you or you can wander through the accessible areas. Much is so damaged, having no roof for more than 40 years will do that to a structure, but you can see the amazing bones of the place, and what is what have once been.

grand entrance

the Director on his horse
The wards were originally from San Quentin prison, though later, as the docents explained, it was also people who dropped off misbehaving kids, and Depression-era parents unable to care for their sons. There were even a few famous residents (Merle Haggard's story was told to us by a docent!). I'm sure some deserved to be there, though not all, and life could be harsh but also seemed to have some "school" aspects (orchards, farms, the library, etc).

Oh, I have a relative on the list! (same last name)

side entrance for wards

plunge pool for decontamination

dorm room

The front entrance was grand for visitors and politicians, though the wards entered in through the side, and had to go through a toxic bath to rid themselves of lice, etc. The dorm area with original beds is a huge, vaulted room, and the library would have once been filled with books and looked out on a lovely view.

sad remains

the only remaining pieces  of original tile

the library windows and view

still intact plaster ceiling medallion

one original library door remains, only saved because it was hidden behind a wall!

I was intrigued by empty firehose reels, a metal-enclosed slide fire escape (complete with an owl living in the top!), and glimpses of past beauty.

an employees room

fire hose reel

fire escape!

even wiring was ripped out

peeling paint above a door frame

The shell of what remain is impressive on the outside, and sad on the inside, both due to the state of disrepair and the subject matter.

can make it spooky too

architectural details

brick detailing

But what a fascinating piece of California history.

(There is so much history online, and please read about it for complete details: Preston Castle Foundation, Sac Bee Article)

Friday, July 13, 2018

conversations with major: melting

Hi carrot woman!
Hi Major, I only have one carrot here, the rest are down at the barn.
But I'm relaxing in my shade!
No you're not, you were just playing in the trough in the sun, your face is all wet and water has been splashed out.
But it's hot.
Yes, and we're riding anyway.

golden trails, hot in the sun

Can you walk any faster.
I can't, I'm melting.
I'm hot too Major, but it is really not that bad in the shade.
I can't possibly go any faster.
Maybe you actually are too hot? Let's take this trail right here that heads back in the home direction.
Weee, trotting!
OK, you are not too hot. You are a jerk. Let's go to the lake.
Nope, I'm too hot to walk away from home any faster.
What if I get this little stick?
Gee, I can walk faster! 

tiny coyote pup on the trail ahead!
Hold up Major.
Oh good, we're done.
No look, coyote pups!
Dogs, whatever.
Let's go the other way to not scare them.

what's that!
What was that?!
Just quail Major, they're in all the shrubs.
Quail? That sounds scary. With teeth.
No teeth Major, the little pups had bigger teeth.
Those were dogs. These are Quail. Way scarier.
Let's keep going then.

muddy, not safe access

debris and muddy not safe access

There is the lake!
Too squishy, I don't like it.
Damn, it is too squishy, not safe.
But I wanted to play.
I know buddy, maybe the other access.
Lots of sticks here, but I can get through!
Yeah, but it still looks squishy down there too. We'll have to wait a bit longer.
Yes, we can head home.

green, but not tasty, grass (all nutsedge and Johnson grass)

See, that wasn't so bad.
I almost melted.
No you didn't.
I need refreshment.
You didn't work very hard, but a salty mash never hurts.

Hey, stop that!
But I haven't had my mash!
It is right here, get in your pasture! You don't get to eat Justice's.
He gave it to me.
No, you shoved your head under the fence and grabbed it.
Go to your room young man.
Mmmm, my mash! 
Enjoy buddy, stay cool.
I'm cool.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018


It took me awhile to recover from the cold I had at the Wild West endurance ride. Major got to relax in his pasture, play in the trough, and do nothing.

About 10 days after the event I finally was up for a brief ride. That ended up being really brief! Tacking up Major all was fine, walking him out the road, same. Out into the forest we walked, then picked up a tiny trot. COUGH! Oh no, what was that. Hmmm, he doesn't ever do that. He was not otherwise bothered, we walked along, I asked for a trot again...COUGH!

I am unimpressed by the size of your puff ball

OK, back to the barn. A couple more coughs, but he was otherwise perfectly happy to be heading back already, (maybe even a bit too enthusiastic). I took his temp (normal), no discharge, damn. I could wait it out, but I have riding plans and a sick horse would just not do!

nervous Major at the vet

Off to the vet we went (it was 102 degrees and smokey, what fun!). As a diagnostic I had trotted him in hand the day before (a couple coughs) and the day of (no coughing, of course). The vet poked and prodded. We got to do the very sophisticated test with a plastic bag loosely on his nose to make him breathe a little harder. No bad lung sounds.

I was worried about a lingering infection, as I'm due to sweep ride the Tevis in a few weeks, and no way am I taking a sick horse. So I sprung for the whole blood workup, pricey but it never hurts to have a baseline (I kept telling myself). I got the news the next day that all looked good, no elevated levels indicating infection.

Could it have been the smoke in the air? I don't think so, as that had only recently started. His pasture/feed area is not dusty. I think he may have caught a little something at the ride (there has been something going around the area) and recovered. I'm relieved, both for his health and my plans.

A few days later I took him for a hike in the forest, trotted in hand, no coughing. Decided on a better test: trotting up the hill. But it is a steep hill, and no way can I run up it at a speed where Major will trot! So I broke all the rules: no helmet, no saddle, no bridle…and no pants (ok, I had shorts on), and hopped on bareback. He trotted up the hill happily, no coughing, yeah!

Don't try this at home (unless you want to try out for the new Teen Wolf)

Stayed on the ride him back down the hill and most of the way home. I learned a new valuable lesson: sweaty not-very-clean horse and shorts on a bareback ride do not mix. I looked like the wolfman on my legs. Lovely.

only prancing horses on the trails here

But Major was cough free. We're off on the trails again.

summer sunsets