Thursday, October 31, 2019


Who says unicorns are all cute and rainbows?

My favorite holiday (and not just because of orange!) has been a bit of a downer this year, between having no power since last Saturday and my hometown of Healdsburg burning in the Kincaid fire. Halloween seemed a bit (gasp) silly with friends evacuating and social media updates of thousands of acres burnt overnight.

So I did not get to finish Major's costume, though I did find a terrifying unicorn when in Tahoe last weekend (in-town decorations are made by local grade-school classes). I love that the class wanted to make a unicorn eating a skeleton? And that the skeleton is like "oh no, not again."

The scariest thing Major has seen recently was the stupid wrong-place bench on the trail. It gets a serious side-eye every time, but maybe he sees a ghost sitting on it?

Hopefully soon friends can go home to their homes, I'll have power and water again, and crazy life in California will go on. Until then, I think I need some more of that Halloween chocolate…

the last thing you see…

Friday, October 18, 2019

conversations with major: ping pong

thwarted by driftwood
Nope, can't go that way.
I can!
No, there is too much debris, we'll find another spot.
It looks more fun down there!
I know, wait, here, we can leave the upper trail… 
do we have to go that way?

Grass! Geese! Waves! Go fast! Sand! More grass! Wheee! Ack rocks! Egret!
Ok, dude, you must chill.
But it’s so fun, and exciting, and oh, look!!
It’s a tiny motorboat.
I hear people!
They’re on the other side of the lake.
Why are we stopped?! Let’s go!
boats, things, exciting!

Look, more geese, chasing geese!
Just let them fly off into the lake.
Eek, waves!
Dude, the geese made those waves when they landed in the water.
Water splashed around, it was scary.
No it wasn’t, you’re just being silly.

Major the giraffe (and "my" rock)
Slow down, I want to take a picture of “my” rock.
There could be things over there! I should keep a lookout!
There ARE things over there.
Wait, what?!!!
Trees, sand, rocks.
Just walk ping pong silly boy.

We can’t go that way. It’s still a scary swamp. Think we can carefully work our way through the driftwood debris to the upper trail.
Home! Dinner!
Careful, go here.
Crash, big step, sideways turn, more crashing. Sure, here we are! I made it!
Umm, maybe slower next time. That word was “careful.”
I’m fine, so I did it right!
You’re technically kind-of right, but no, next time slower. 
sunset grassy knoll

Run away!
Excuse me, no, there are not monsters chasing us from the lake.
Could be.
Is that an excuse for trying to bolt up the hill?
You are full. Of. It.
What am I full of? I haven’t had dinner yet?
It. You’re full of it. Ridiculousness.
Hmm, no. Disagree.
Well, that’s nice, but you still have to walk. 
upper trail to go around the swamp section

Woah, tree!
Tree you've seen a 1000 times is scary?
Different today, gotta keep an eye on it.
No, it’s not, guess you're still full of silly. Let's head home.

golden trail home
You must be pretty happy Major.
You’re just walking home on a loose rein, enjoying the golden sun with me.
I guess it’s just nice to be out.
Agreed Major, agreed.

Monday, October 7, 2019

chamberlain creek 50

So after Wild West 50 in June, where I was stressed out and Major was a freight train, I swore off endurance. This summer I did no training rides, swept for Tevis, and meandered about. After a recent ride in the forest (6 miles of randomness) we came out into the staging area and saw a friend. She remarked how Major was all veined out and looked amazing.

And my tiny pea brain promptly forgot all the misery and signed up for an endurance ride. And no, not a simple, local one, I did at least think that a change of scenery might be good for us, so I signed up for the Chamberlain Creek ride in Mendocino county, about a five hour drive.

Major got glue on boots a few days before, and other than stuffing the trailer with more hay than he could ever eat, that was my game plan. There wasn't much about the ride online, but that is what adventures are for, right?!

Major: filled with high octane

driving though downtown Willits
Major was being cautious like the sign said!

The drive was as long as I thought, but the ride camp was very pretty among the redwoods (I've spent plenty of time in the area hiking and camping). Major vetted ok, though after that long trailer ride his gut sounds were lower than I wanted. (At the vet a lovely woman J introduced herself, said she knew Major from this blog. Hi J!!) I shoved mash in front of him, later went on a pre-ride where he was pretty fired up, and put on all my warm clothes (because 45 degrees is too cold for me, I'm pretty much a lizard and like the heat!).

out for a walk, lovely!

pre-ride creek

camp setup

vetting in (mmm, 6+ "fleshy"!) and chatting with J!
Major seemed weird that evening, so I had the vet check him (because I was being paranoid) and he checked out all ok. That reassurance should have helped me sleep, but I pretty much lay in bed all night worrying (will he eat, how silly will he be, will he hurt himself, etc). Fun way to start the day!

dark start, literally champing at the bit

At dark-thirty we headed up the hill, the start was about a mile away. At the ride meeting the night before I'd learned that the trail was mostly all logging roads. Not my favorite as they can be really hard packed and rocky (plus Major the runaway train.) I have learned to let Major let some steam off and trot right away at the start (holding him back makes it worse). So we trotted, and passed some folks, and came down a big hill onto an open road where Major's brain fell out. I pulled him up, also my ankle was bothering me a bit in the stirrup strangely, and I wanted to walk a bit. We were pretty close to the frontrunners somewhere ahead, but I did not care, I was not letting him trot at ridiculous speed on hard-packed road while not listening to me at all.

I took just one photo while riding.

So I got off and make him walk/prance behind me. A stick helped keep him back, but honestly it didn't help much. A few people passed and asked if all was ok, I explained I was just letting him get his brain back! I got back on and damn, now my ankle really hurt (not sure how you sprain your ankle while riding, but I sure managed to do it!). But at least Major was a bit more manageable. We caught up with a rider and I asked if it was ok to stay well behind and not pass. I did not want to use her horse as a brake (bad etiquette), but Major now thought he'd caught up and was close enough to "winning" so he settled down.

But my ankle got worse. I stopped and raised my stirrup a hole, that helped. But Major was then pulling to catch up. We were close to the first vet check, my horse was being an ass, I was hurt, and for the first time ever I came into the vet check crying. Fun times.

bad official photo (not the photographers fault!), leaning, hurting, Major pulling=not fun!
dejected coming in from the first loop

I could not even deal right then, and am so grateful that SO was there and knows enough to get Major some water as I hobbled about. Major pulsed right in, and we went over to vet right away. SO trotted the misbehaving Major out for the vet (sigh, so sorry vets!) and all was well for this 30 minute hold. I'm lame, horse is fine…nope, I'm going back out! Thanks to a roll of orange vet wrap in my vet check bag (yeah for being prepared!) my wrapped ankle and I headed out on the second loop (behind schedule but I really didn't care)

Major, please be more like this banana slug that SO rescued from the road
my app confirms my memory, big hill!

The second loop was a huge hill. That is seriously all I remember. My ankle hurt, I fell in with a group of mules who were going a good pace, and the hill went up and up and up. Then went down and down at some point, but it's a bit of a blur, as we ended up back at the vet check for our hour hold.

Major looked great, vetted right away, and I sat with my ankle in ice water while SO managed Major voraciously eating alfalfa (though not the mash I brought of course). How can an hour go so quickly? There was only 15 miles left, how bad could it be?

do I have to?

Hiked up my stirrup again and headed out. Trotting up hill didn't hurt so much, downhill was horrible. I had to make Major walk all the downhills, yeah, that was mostly just a fight (40 miles in!). There was a third away vet check here, just a short one, and everyone was so nice! The vet trotted out my horse, volunteers helped me limp about, and I stayed a bit and let Major eat mash as I wanted his gut sounds to improve.

whatever this mash was, Major thought it was amazing!

When we left it was a nice uphill so I let him trot. The we got to the longest downhill of all time. I couldn't get off and walk. I couldn't let him trot. I had plenty of time and thought walking the downhill was a great idea. Major vehemently disagreed. Especially when we were passed by two groups who asked if everything was ok, you know you're top 10. I DON'T CARE! OK, I did not know that, nor did I care, but instead of losing it and bursting into tears I summoned up my politeness (as I knew it was not their fault!) and I just said we were taking it easy, have a good ride!

It was the longest probably five miles of my life, Major trying to jig, me trying to stop him, just walk, please Major? The scenery was pretty here, following the creek, and I could appreciate it a little bit. I was convinced my crooked riding and horrible equitation (leaning forward to take pressure off my leg) were going to lame Major. And then we were finally at the finish. Plus, slowing down had benefits, Major vetted in right away and was mostly A's, yeah! Completion!


mostly successful vet card

We were still a mile from camp, and Major was still on fire, so I got to ride my jigging horse without stirrups, that last section. Are we having fun yet? Back at camp he had a hard time settling down, but he had mash, water and hay in front on him (even if spinning on his high-tie after 50 miles seemed like fun, sigh…).

Pausing on the way back for a one room schoolhouse photo

I took the best ever slightly warm water cowboy shower in the back of the trailer and iced my ankle from the horse emergency supplies (instant ice packs are the best). An ace bandage and I was hobbling around while Major looked great. Really not the way I wanted the ride to go, being hurt added another dimension that I was not prepared to deal with. But it wasn't Major hurt, and for that I was grateful! Having an awesome SO/crew, helpful volunteers and vets made a mostly miserable experience much better.

50 miles and and approx 10,000 feet total ascent/elevation gain, oh boy!
heading home: Mt. Konocti over Clearlake

california gold

That night, bundled up with hot tea (and lots of advil), listening to Major eating and drinking (finally) I again swore off endurance. I was stressed and hurt most of the ride, even if Major was amazing, how is this fun? The drive home was long but uneventful, and Major was more than happy to get home, roll, drink his own water and show off to his friends!

tough life

This week Major (and me too!) just got to rest (used the leg compression socks on Major after the ride, so much easier than wrapping, and he recovered great, and I've rested and iced my ankle and it is much better). I finally pried his glue-on boots off this weekend. Of course he looks amazing, ready to conquer trail. I felt my resolve wavering…(really, we horse folks are crazy)

We'll see what next year brings, but I'm pretty happy with his success (and to be done) this year!

ignore the stories, I'm innocent I tell ya!