Wednesday, August 2, 2023

make a wish


I found a big, pretty dandelion. Miles thought otherwise.

Thursday, July 27, 2023

saddle fitting

My saddle fitting saga continues. Originally I had Miles in the Solstice I used for Major (which I love, love love!), but it left white marks under the stirrup bars. Too narrow on meaty shoulders? I had it reflocked…and he hated it even more!

So I tried my old standby Wintec 2000. I put in the widest gullet…nope, too pinchy on wide shouldered Miles. Wintec endurance same problem, and also too long. 

How about my almost new Freeform dressage? Miles likes it, I hate it, feels like I'm perched. And I don't even have the added panels installed.

what saddle will work?

I had liked the standard Freeform I tried a long time ago so I found an inexpensive one to try. A few times around the arena, felt semi-secure (though I'm really missing some knee rolls), so let's hit the trail! Once I got used to the treeless thing (I think I had to re-learn how to ride!) it was OK. Not great, but OK. I've been using it for about six months. But Miles didn't seem to like it. Didn't move out very well, sometimes a sore back. And this is with a couple different tests of good treeless saddle pads.

Five saddles and three nice saddle pads…one horse
I'd exhausted my saddle collection (please don't count, yes, that is one horse and five saddles) so I had an independent saddle fitter out. She suggested a hoop tree (and losing weight, which Miles is working on through diet and more riding which I can't do without a saddle that fits, arghh!). I tried an Ideal saddle, super comfy, but would rather not order a new one (used are hard to find) until we get in a little better shape at least. I borrowed a Duett Tempo, size 34, from the local used saddle shop. (Of course I used to have a Duett Tango 38 for Q, the mare I leased, and I sold it, it's all quite comical).

Ideal TT saddle seemed very nice

The 34 was too small but saddle fitter noted that she had a used Duett Rondo 36 that she had not brought that time, that I could trial. She delivered it the next week and evaluated it on Miles. It seems to fit pretty good. Wrong color, I don't love the short billets and wish it had a longer leg panel. But if it fits him I decided to see if I can figure it out! I did have to go buy a longer girth (love the used tack shop!).

how cute am i?

chunky monkey in the Duett Rondo

It's been three rides, longest of eight miles, with some good hills, cantering, etc. While I don't love it, it is fine, and Miles seems to be pretty enthusiastic and happy with it. Since I now have my sheepskin cover on it and my pommel bags attached it seems suitable for now. 

I still think I'll look into the Solstice extra wide, at least just to try! But I think I need to sell a few saddles first…

The rest of my tack I'm happy with. Love the snap-on bridle, reflective rope halter, beta grip reins and the padded breast collar. And I finally got Miles his own pair of sparkly boots!

sparkly new copper boots (old Freeform on him here)
But I needed to go through all my old boots. Once all in one place…oh my, I never throw anything out! A few pieces were beyond repair. Most are just worn, though some are more serviceable than others. I'm thinking about offering the used ones up for giveaway, just pay shipping, on some Facebook groups, but then that seems like work too. Maybe when it gets cooler and I don't want to ride and the garage is not 110 degrees.

Anyone else have any saddle suggestion to look into? I like the idea of Reactor Panel but it's an entirely different system and seems complicated. I'd like to stick with more dressage-style, the longer leg is better for long rides, and I know that I am not a fan of Specialized. Other than that, there is too much info out there and a million opinions! While Miles works on losing weight I'll keep doing my reaseach just in case…

my supervisor


Thursday, July 20, 2023

ups and downs

(Photo spam post. So much for "I'm going to update more." I say it's because I've been riding and it's too damn hot to work in my office on the computer, but…)

a favorite view

Yeah, I'd say summer is here!

In the last month we've ridden 70 miles with 7,300 feet of elevation gain, but our ups and down aren't just elevation. Miles had too much fun camping and after we came back needed a refresher on not being barn sour on rides from home. I had a couple epically annoying, jiggy rides. Dragged along poor S and Rocky for a couple of them. Thank goodness for good friends with solid horses!

pony does not give  *uck about my opinion
One morning we headed out early to Granite Bay. The lake is so high some of the trail looks very different (water below instead of rocks). This is the highest the lake has been in many years, which is good, though the lake trail being underwater is disappointing. On this ride we switched off and on who was in front, with Miles losing his privilege when he got too stupid. I take him out enough alone that I think using the other horse to remind Miles we're not doing what he wants (as well as my instruction from the saddle) is ok, though I may be wrong about that!

one of the lake drop-off trails

Beals Point overlook

I tried a longer ride to see if that would help, or just enforce, not rushing home. I also stopped for pictures, to just make him deal with his life, and to drink some water, keeping it chill. I don't think the 11 mile out-and-back to Avery Pond tired him out, but he did have 5.5 miles of coming home to be reminded not to make poor choices. And he did ok! 

new fashion, looking out through the ear holes?

trail covered in cottonwood "snow"

star thistle pokey trail

Avery trough, so nice but no drinking today
river so high it is the lake here now!

I get bored doing the same rides over and over. So we wandered about in the forest one day, then went to Auburn the next time. I hadn't ridden to Cool since last fall I think. I rode with S and C down to No Hands Bridge, then split up. I wondered how that would go…but Miles didn't look back. See ya guys! We went up to Cool and relaxed a bit at the staging area.

rerouted trail doesn't parallel the highway any more!

gotta snack for the long ride ahead

Foresthill bridge (but traffic is SO loud!)
The trail has gotten especially rocky after the last wet year. On our way back I hand-walked most of the way down the Cool side of the river, taking it easy and giving him a break. I'm having a hard time figuring out Miles' fitness. Since coming back from Cool includes about a 1000 foot climb at the end, I didn't want him to over-do it, so I tried to keep him to walk and easy trot. He did chose to canter up Robie Point (and was behaving himself), then I got off and walked down (and found a toy, he was not impressed). We came back with plenty of energy, I'd rather be cautious than burn him out!

terrible No Hands railings now

found an alligator!

almost back to the Auburn staging area trough (Tevis finish line)

playing in the big boys pasture

The next time out in the forest I decided to do some bushwhacking. I love this one trail that only I use, so it's pretty overgrown! I spent some time trimming some bushes and trees, then out to the oak knoll overlook here, one of my favorites. Then randomly decided to go see what the lake was like. The access I use had a small footpath alongside, completely overgrown and squishy, so it is now just a slab of rock. I think Miles is part goat! He needed to be reminded not to rush but did fine. There was no lake trail, and no getting to the water with the shrubbery and washed-up debris piles, so time to head home. So I tried letting him trot a bit home…a few big reminders where I just turn him around and we go back, past where he was naughty (breaking gait, not listening) then we start again like nothing happened. He is making better choices more often! 

oaks don't mind the heat

down one of my favorite trails

it has a newly installed trail sign (by bike riders I think). Hmmm?

three oak knoll

climbing over granite

no getting to the lake here!
Until the night ride. S wanted to try going out at night as she is sweep riding a night section of Tevis in a few weeks. Maybe Miles was mad he didn't get to finish dinner, maybe it was being out at night. But the jigging home on a three mile ride was arghh! (And I didn't get to do as much correction as I'd like, it being dark and being with S).

night ride sunset

camera still sucks at night photos!
So I set off early this morning with the intention of recreating that ride (but during daylight). We left breakfast at home (he had a small snack only) and he was super good, we trotted home on a loose rein. Seriously? I'll take it, but double arghh for inconsistency!

morning field of flowers

Miles does not think we should stop for photos
So the ups and downs continue. The temperature is pretty limiting right now, but we have another camping trip planned, and a lot of summer riding left to go. I'm not feeling the need for a goal, but sure do like thinking of some long rides I can take!

Also, I got another new pony, what do you think1? I had one just like it as a kid. I need a name, he joins another one (all white) in my yard. I guess I've got a thing for bays…

another bay pony for me!

I think my cat has melted. How Wesley?

Thursday, June 22, 2023

horse camping: skyline napa

Horse camping is fun again! There are too few words and too many photos, though I randomly did not capture some of what I wanted (epic rocks, camp set-up) I think there are enough to tell a (long) story!

I headed out Friday afternoon with Miles, and C with Francisco and S with Rocky, for Napa, California and the Skyline Wilderness park. I'd read a little bit about it (rocky, lots of bikes, but horse camping!) and often would scout somewhere first but I'd read enough and it is pretty local (less than two hours drive). Having very little idea of what to expect was actually a good thing (less to worry about).

camp setup

We all arrived safely (after a lot of traffic) and laughed while I backed my trailer (I'm still very bad) and after a quick set up (new camper is nice for that) decided we wanted to see the trails ASAP! I had a print out of a map and them downloaded into my phone, but the trail system is pretty basic. (However, it did not show topography lines…that will come up later!). We headed out the wider Lake Marie Road trail, and were encouraged by gorgeous views right away! The trail wound up the canyon, but in a manageable way, to the lake.

first view

trough with a view

heading up the hill

love these ferns!

Lake Marie (and right, blooming buckeye tree)
We didn't want the ride to be too long, so we headed back on the Buckeye trail to Passini Road trail. Buckeye was lovely single track with blooming flowers, and some knee-knocking trees, but Passini was very steep and rocky. I got off and hiked that one! Coming back we were perfectly set-up to enjoy the afternoon views out into Napa, grapevines and mountains, it was beautiful. 

down Passini road

Miles inspecting the signage (it was well done everywhere)

our homeward view
I am always a bit anxious that somehow Miles will get loose and run away, though I doubt he'd go farther than the next food source. But this camp I did braid an ID into his mane, and secured his lead overnight with an extra clip, since on the last trip he did untie himself. I only woke up about 30 times in the night listening to him eating, laying down, playing in his water, pawing, chewing, pooping, peeing, nickering to his friends, and all the horsey sounds he manages overnight. Does he sleep at all?

hi, I will be annoying you this weekend.

ID braided into mane
The morning was a bit overcast, though not cold (we're having an unseasonably cool spring here in Nor Cal). We wanted to wait until it cleared a bit to ride (for the views!) and decided to play on the obstacle course. I didn't take enough photos but there were tires at different heights, a bridge, a teeter-totter bridge, poles, and a car-wash (fire hoses hanging down to walk through). Miles did them all (even the teeter-totter!) but did not like the car-wash!

morning in camp

obstacle practice

ready to head out
The sun was starting to peak out when we headed out. We decided on Skyline trail, and it was a very tough climb at first! The first part goes up and up, and is really, really rocky! I should have realized this is a canyon. Any trails other than the center one are going to have to go up the side of the canyon and come back down! But once up we were rewarded with great views. We did start encountering our first bikes of the day. They were all very nice and the trail was easy to share. There were cool old stacked rock walls, views for miles and lots of native plants blooming. We did detour off Skyline to Buckeye when we saw that the next part of Skyline went straight up and then back down (on the map), we decided we didn't need to prove anything. Miles was doing great, we were putting the horses in different positions, and while he does not like to be in the back, he did it (and we worked on not tailgating).

S coming up Skyline

vineyards views

the panoramas were awesome

stacked stone wall

epic tree and wall

flowers, views, stone walls, so lovely!

view to the other side from the ridge

Back at Lake Marie we took the pleasant sounding Lake Marie Creek trail which was not as pleasant as we expected. It was just rocky single-track in the beginning, and we wanted to let some bikes go past but there was no where to pull off. But they were nice and we did finally find a place. This happened a couple times. The trail did finally drop down by the creek, and the horses could get a drink, and that was very lovely with ferns and babbling creek.

Lake Marie dam crossing

Lake Marie, looked very tempting
We could have taken the road back, but Manzanita trail didn't look too bad on the map. I was wrong. It might have been better going the opposite way, but there were big sections of slick rock, and big rock steps, and we were going down the 19–24% grade (I always prefer going UP over steep rocks). So it was slow going. I lost a boot somewhere in there, replaced it with my backup (wet boot after creek crossing then rock hopping is my recipe for lost boots. I was not going back, it was an old boot with my phone number on it. Maybe someone else will find it!). More difficulty in passing bikes (but everyone was still nice). Your horse better be ok with bikes and walking sticks for this park! I didn't take enough pictures of the rocky trails because I was trying to lead Miles, not fall myself, and worried that I was taking my friends on some sort of death march!

following, not tailgating

it doesn't capture it, but very steep dropoff!

heading into the burned area

Manzanita trail

amazing to see the recovery that has happened

It was interesting to see this part of the park, which was burned in the 2017 fire storms in Sonoma and Napa counties. There are old rock walls that can be seen, and the undergrowth is coming back. But the manzanita that the trail is named after is just burned trunks, it is very slow growing and will take a long time to come back. But this trail seemed long and hot, and C had her saddle slip and took a fall! That part was terrible. But she sat it out a bit and seemed ok. I left Miles in between horses while I checked on her (she was in front) and he just stood there, sad there was nothing to eat but scrub. We walked a bit after that, and it seemed never ending, but soon we heading down a hill (steep switchbacks on slippery dirt) and were pretty close to home. Phew!

shady singletrack, much better

almost back to camp
That night I cooked up a spaghetti dinner in my camper (so easy), and C and S provided salad, bread and dessert (homemade pound cake with strawberries!). Camping food always tastes amazing. We took the horses for a walk, over to the obstacle course, and then just around the property. The camping isn't amazing, but it's a nice open field, with water, a clean porta-potty within easy walking distance, showers (could be cleaner) a bit farther away, and easy trail access. But the sunset was spectacular, worth the price of admission!

mmm, spaghetti…

restful view

Miles liked to stand up and take in the new view from up higher

Miles sunset

camp sunset
I slept marginally better (since Miles hadn't killed himself the first night). We needed to leave by 11, but that means I could fit an early ride in. S wanted to ride in the giant arena that they have there, and C wanted to do the obstacle course and round pen. So I headed out for a trail ride by myself, planning on just taking the main easier trail. I'd been worried that the rocks and hills were more than he was used to, so didn't know what kind-of horse I'd have. Plus taking him away from his now best friends!

morning, and Miles dunking hay

weird fenced gauntlet you had to ride through

beautiful, but inaccessible, lake

property was originally part of the Napa State Hospital
I shouldn't have worried! He was full of it. No problem leaving his friends, and wanted to trot. So we did! We even got in a canter up the lovely shaded hill. I did make him stop and inspect some ruins (old foundations?) of a little house/shack and a weird area, carved out from the hillside, that had a doorway in the back? I've got some researching to do! 

heading up!

what's this weird carved doorway?

an old carved stone foundation? Steps (right) and fireplace and chimney (left)

spring seeping from under the hill, or where trolls live

fields of gold
As we turned around I wasn't sure if I'd have the sensible horse or the barn-sour one. He wanted to be a little rushy but with a little discussion we kept it to a trot (when sensible) or walk. There were a few groups just heading out on the trail, we passed bikes heading out and a couple families. Miles is very good and likes to say hi to the kids, but I could tell he wanted to get back to his buddies.

heading back home

rocky and walking this part!

Miles is ready to go home, lined himself up!
We got back to see S practicing her cantering in the huge area, and C just finishing up. We got packed and ready to go, and had a simple drive home. A successful weekend of only about 18 miles, but they were tough miles and in a new place. More importantly I had fun, my friends don't hate me for choosing the rock trail (they did have fun!) and I think Miles did too! I'm super proud of Miles and impressed by how level headed he was about the trail, and camping, and that he seems to take care of himself really well. I honestly came back wanting to plan another camping trip and looking at my schedule for July. Any suggestions?

that was fun, can we go again?