Thursday, June 30, 2011

Smart Filly

I rode Desire bareback this evening and had Sheza along in the arena while my husband did sort of a "photo shoot" of us which was great, I never have photos of me riding my horses because I usually ride alone. Also my husband is a great photographer, even with just our little point and shoot digital camera. Today was the first time that I corrected Sheza and she immediately fell into line! Usually she tries at least once more (if not many more times) to get away with whatever she is doing but today she planted her feet while leading and started shaking her head like she was going spazz (like a fish on a line, I say) but I said my "eh eh" No noise at her and she immediately jumped forward and started walking again like miss manners! It was a very pleasant surprise. She is a smart and beautiful little gal.

Horse Thoughts

Okay I've had about 6 false starts on this post now, for some reason I can't quite phrase what I am trying to say. Maybe coz its 5 pm and rather warm for thinking. Yep, I'll blame it on that. The gist of what I wanted to briefly write about is the contrast in focus between having a mare and foal to work with and then having a horse (my gelding, Blaze) that I am actively pursuing endurance riding (at least LD) with. On the one hand I have my filly who I try to at least spend time with 3 or so times a day, in addition to the halter, ponying, tying, etc work. She is so fickle and can't decide if she wants to be friendly about half the time, so its all about slow, quiet patience with her. Then I have her mom, Desire, who is being an absolutely fantastic mom but is ready and willing to transition back to a saddle horse, and I am so dying for her to become that again as well! She is a really smooth and exciting ride and I am so looking forward to our future trail miles. But I have to be patient with that drive as well, since my filly isn't even 3 months old yet and I can't quite whisk mom away yet! Then there is my steady fellow, Blaze, who I have come so far with in the last 2 years, and I am sure will go many more miles with yet. In his case my focus is pretty much just on miles at this point. I do little tune-ups in the arena (almost said I like to do them, but really I never quite LIKE time spent going in circles, though I know how important it can be) to keep him attentive and not just going into ra-ra-race mode every ride, but for the most part we saddle up and hit the trail, whether its here out our front gate, at the lake, alone, in a group, doesn't matter. Of course when it comes right down to it, my approach to all three animals is basically the same, and slow quiet patience applies to them all, and myself, at some point during almost every interaction we have. Its just a re focusing of energy depending on which horse I am dealing with. I have to digress a little here and say I feel quite fortunate that I am able to experience this rich diversity in my own little horse herd and I am really looking forward to the coming years, hopefully spent with all of them. I was telling my husband this morning that I think its almost better that little girls who love horses don't get them when they are young, because that awareness and appreciative feeling for the great gift of a horse just isn't there as a kid. I think we all know of parents who get their little girl a horse or pony and then end up shouldering the burden of it. Of course no one generalization applies to all horsey girls, but I know I spent my childhood playing with horse toys, pretending I was a horse, and treasuring my one riding lesson a week that my mom, a business owner and single mom of four, somehow managed to get me to. My riding horizons opened up even more after moving from Maine to California when I was 10, as my next door neighbor had a FAT old Arabian mare (seriously, never seen such a big hay belly before or since) who I spent hours and hours riding. I got my very own first horse in high school and as much of a blast as that was, I know I didn't fully appreciate it and sometimes whined and didn't want to go muck her stall where she was boarded, but hey, that's high school right? Anyhow, looking at the halters on their hooks in my own tack room next to my own wash racks and then turning to look out at the fields and my sweet gelding, gorgeous mare, and stunning little filly--well, I guess I just feel darn lucky and grateful!!
All that aside, I've done 20 fun miles of riding on Blaze this week, as well as riding Desire bareback for the first time which was such a blast. I plan to do that again tonight when it cools. Tuesday it absolutely poured and yesterday it was cool and cloudy, which was a really nice break from the heat. Forecast for 4th of July weekend is 100+ degrees and lots of tourists so my horses and I will be laying low and staying cool for the next few days!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Falling for a Girl

That's right, I'm really starting to looooooove my momma mare, Desire. She is so funny and has a very interesting attitude and personality. She is calm and quiet about things I think she might potentially be bothered by (jumping on her bareback, having the baby spazzing around her with the lead rope when I pony, etc) but gets nervous about random things, likes the hose. She is going on 15 this yr and has been an endurance horse so I know she has had endless hose baths and she always lets me spray her, but the sight of the hose still makes go into her 'tense stance' which is really funny, she sort of parks out and eyes it like its going to eat her, but stands perfectly still and lets me do what I'm going to do. Trailwise, I've only ridden her on the little loop inside our big pasture and she definitely eyeballed some things and snorted a little but hasn't shown any real spooks. She has a rub from my stupid girth (ordered the mohair string girth and some wooly covers for my stirrup leathers today) so I decided to ride her bareback this evening. I was a little hesitant to jump on her bareback, just because it was the first time with her and since my accident that initial moment of swinging up on a horse (aside from Blaze) makes me a tiny bit anxious. I used my mounting block and had to do the tiniest hop up to get on her and she stood like a rock and was very unimpressed. Which was great! The filly started trotting after us while she was at liberty, though not all the time, and she seems to be getting the idea about ponying along beside us, even without a lead rope. For some reason Sheza decided as of last night and today that when I get on Desire (this is holding Sheza's lead rope, to practice ponying) its very terrifying and she needs to freak out, which makes mounting safely a little bit difficult. I don't have anyone to hand me the rope once I'm mounted soooo. I worked on it this evening, first I just stood on top of the mounting block and let Sheza get used to that, then I leaned forward and acted like I was about to mount and the filly spazzed backwards like I had hit her or something. Very weird. Once she stopped doing that I finally eased onto momma's back without any more drama. Who knows what little whispers in Sheza's ears tell her that these things are scary! She seems to get over it and learn everything quite quickly though so I am just taking everything in stride and so far really haven't had any issues. The most frustrating thing so far in my first-foal experience was Sheza pulling her touch-me-not shenanigans last week, but she got over that and it really wasn't so bad. Overall I am enjoying it immensely, and really falling in love with my girls!

P.s. riding Desire without a saddle is really comfortable and her trot is sooo smooth, even bareback! Yay!

Saturday, June 25, 2011


I have a friend visiting for the weekend so this will be brief BUT, big news, after a week of being a touch-me-not, Sheza filly stuck her nose right into the halter this evening!! She tried playing scared-y cat for a minute or two and then suddenly I showed her the halter again and she just put her nose in it! So rewarding. We rode all the horses together tonight for the first time, my friend rode Blaze and I rode momma Desire, with the filly ponying and then loose for a while too. We stuck to the arena for safety but we had a great time and put away the horses at dark. I love getting in from playing with ponies at 9:30 pm! Summer days :)

OH and Desire trots like a BEAST, I can't believe how fast and smoothly she can trot, I can't wait to be going down the trail on her!!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Wrangling the Wild Beast

That would be my 10-weeks-as-of-today filly, Sheza Total Brat. It took me 15 minutes of coaxing and treating her like a wild untouched mustang to get the halter on this evening, but I did it. I let her sniff it and played putting the nose band over her nose then pulling it off, all the while scratching her neck which paralyzes her with itchy glee, which is quite helpful. Finally I managed to swing the crown piece over her head and buckle it before she had time to flip out, and once I had the halter on she followed me right away on the lead rope without missing a beat. So, GETTING haltered is a painful process for the moment but once there she remembers we've been doing this since day one. This evening I put my good endurance saddle on the mare instead of the western saddle. The endurance saddle doesn't fit perfectly with the panels right now since Desire is still plump but the girth on the western saddle really gave her a rub the other night and I didn't want to do that again. I considered riding bareback but trying to do that and wrangle the baby with no one home in case of emergency or accident didn't seem wise. I used my usual waffle neoprene girth like I use on Blaze (only the longer one!) and did it up snug but looser than I had been before and it didn't rub her at all this time. It didn't particularly rub her the one time I tried it before but it rubbed a scabby bug bite that was already there and I think that scared me off it. Also I think I was cranking the girth tighter than I usually do because she is so round and I didn't want to risk the saddle sliding but I am getting more comfortable with the mare and I know that isn't necessary, so I did up the girth securely but looser than previously and there were no new rubs. I didn't work her up into as much of a sweat as the other day either, because I was more focused on practicing ponying with the filly. I ponied Sheza around the arena to get the feel of it again and make sure she wasn't going to try pulling back (much less likely to when I'm leading her off the mare but still) and then went outside the arena and around the loop "trail" around the bottom of the big pasture. Again I was a little hesitant to go very far in case the filly or mare spooked and there was no one to find me out there, haha! Better safe than sorry at my old age of 24, eh? The ride was short but it was good practice for all, I also brushed Sheza and picked up all of her feet, and de-wormed mare and filly. The mare is getting better about it, the first time I tried to de-worm her we had a real battle, last time I sort of tricked her and snuck it on her, and this time I let her sniff it and then slipped it in her mouth with no real issues which was nice. The filly was curious and of course let me stick it right in her mouth and chomped at the paste and swallowed it all down nicely. I fed out hay to all (except grossly fat mini horse) this evening for the first time since I moved them to the east side of the property, they have been grazing morning and night for the last few weeks and there isn't much left, plus what is left is getting pretty yellow and unsatisfactory for maintaining an endurance horse and a nursing mare and foal. So back to hay it is. It was nice to have that break on the hay expenditure though! I have bales of 3 grain mix, a few bales of grass hay, and a few bales of alfalfa left at the moment. Hay prices aren't dropping so far this summer as they have in the past and we are still at 10 or 11 bucks a bale which is unfortunate, but I am always grateful to have quality hay to buy right here at my local feed store down the road. I have been out of the mare and foal grain for two days, waiting for the feed store to get more in. This is the first time there has been a lapse in my special ordering the mare and foal and distance feed with our local feed store, in general they do a great job and keep me stocked up with all the quality feed I need. Its certainly preferable to having to drive into town and pay top dollar for feed that usually isn't half as good!
Today was cooler, lets hope for the same tomorrow! My good friend is coming into town for the weekend and we are planning to ride Blaze and the mare in the arena with the filly along too--should be an adventure!!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Fickle Filly

Early this morning I decided to work the mare. The sun wasn't on the arena yet and the forecast calls for nearly 100 degrees today, so I figured it was now or never. Or not til about 8:30 pm anyway. Little miss prissy pants, aka Sheza, decided she was a wild filly who had never been haltered before and wasn't going to be caught. Mom Desire stuck her nose right in the halter and was patient as ever, but miss filly was not to be tamed. I decided to test mom and filly's will and took the mare out alone, leaving miss touch me not. The filly was racing in circles whinnying immediately, but the mare followed me away without a backward glance. Desire didn't even whinny back while in the cross ties, though she was doing her little shuffle step as usual. She isn't quiet in the cross ties quite yet. Need to just leave her in there for 20 minutes or so to figure it out, probably. Anyhow I saddled her (still with my western saddle until she loses some weight) and took her down to the arena. I longed her for bit and worked on getting her attention on halts and direction changes. She stood quietly to be mounted and went right into her freight-train-not-paying-attention walk around the perimeter. I am still not quite speaking her language because I am so accustomed to Blaze and my communication style with him, which is pretty relaxed and subtle. I think this mares needs a little "louder" cues and a firmer hand. She is willing and clearly just wants to go down the trail, and she will come into hand after a few corrections but her first reaction certainly isn't to please, which Blaze's is. I'm confident she will get softer and more attentive with more work, I'm sure I'm not quite speaking her "language" yet either. I absolutely love her forward walk and her trot is to-die-for smooth! I've never understood seeing people trot down the trail on their horses and barely come out of the saddle, but now I realize they just had smooth horses. Blaze and his predecessor, Angel, both have god awful rough trots and you are thrown so far out of the saddle that sitting it is near impossible. On Desire its almost more effort to post than to sit. We worked at the walk and trot only, working on softening and doing lots of large looping circles to keep her attention on me. She didn't whinny but she did have half her brain on the filly out of sight in her pasture. The circles seemed to help her remember where she was and what her feet were doing. I don't want to work into the canter until we are on the same page at the walk and trot. The filly quieted down and the husband reports she was hanging out at the fence with uncle Blaze. The mini, Napoleon, of all the creatures, was whinnying once in a while. Go figure. We rode out of the arena and down around the loop trail to the bottom of the big pasture and up again, and out to the wash rack. The filly started going wild again when she saw momma. We had been gone out of sight for a total of 25 minutes. Filly, at just over two months, quieted down and hung out with Blaze. I'm thinking that's a good start to the eventual weaning process. I am going to go with the gradual method because I won't be able to separate them completely out of sight and hearing, as the abrupt weaning method requires. Mare and filly are going to have to live together for their life times so I am thinking gradual separation and building of self confidence is a good way to go in our situation. Maybe I'm completely wrong! We'll find out. I am open to hearing any and all advice on the matter.
I noticed when I was hosing Desire off that the girth had rubbed a little pink spot just behind her elbow. I only rode for 25 minutes so that's no good, I need to get a different kind of girth. Going to ask her previous owners if they noticed skin sensitivity with her and what kind of girths they use. I think I remember they have mohair string girths, but we'll find out. It was a little frustrating to have the filly be such a brat, we've been going along so well and now she decides she is going to act like a little wild mustang. I'm sure its just a phase and we'll just keep at it until we make progress again.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Hat Creek Hustle pro photos

Bits, Ribbons, and Tie Dye: Hat Creek Hustle 2011

Well, we did it. Despite some very DUH moments, Blaze and I made it through the Hat Creek Hustle LD ride (25 miles) and came in 8th place. I would be extra triumphant about being top 10 but there were only 13 completing riders in the race so its not that amazing. Still, it went well and Blaze gave it his toughest go. I am extremely glad I got pads put on him as the promised lava rocks were there in force. Even with pads he had a few oo-aaa-eee moments over the rocks but I'm thinking it was more the impossibility of getting a flat footing on large pointy rocks than actual discomfort as he was freshly (a week and a half ago) shod and padded all the way around. We actually drove home last night after dinner and the awards, got home around midnight. We had been planning to stay and come home this morning but I finished about noon which gave us the whole afternoon to rest. We pulled out of ride camp around 8 pm and were showered (YAY!) and in bed by midnight. I do the driving with the horse trailer so I was pretty beat when it was all said and done. Actually, I am still beat today. My ankle is a little swollen and sore as well. I only ran a mile or so all told in the race but I had a few ankle rolls on the uneven soft forest-y ground that I think inflamed it a little. In general I prefer to give Blaze the night to rest at camp but it sure is nice to have all day Sunday after rides to just loaf and nap! And to get that first hot shower before bed, ooh la la! As for today, I honestly can't be bothered to unpack my truck at the moment. At least I got the perishables out of the cooler, right? :)
Okay, now back to the beginning! I did all my packing for the race Thursday as we intended to leave early Friday. I decided to wash Blaze's green Beta tack in the washing machine as I love how shiny and new it comes out with such minimal effort. More on that later. Everything was packed and ready for our 7 30 a.m. departure and the husband, Georgia the chihuahua, and I headed out on time. The drive up was easy and pleasant enough, it was 150 miles from our door to ride camp. I really didn't realize how high we would climb to get to the ride, so I barely brought enough warm clothes and blankets for cooler climate. It was warm when we arrived but quickly cooled and was probably 38 degrees overnight, which is a little different than our mid 50s we had adjusted to here in the valley! Luckily I snagged my husband's polar fleece jacket on the way out the door of the house; I commandeered it and wore it all night and for the start of the ride the next morning. Vetting in went fine and I explained Blaze's interference mark(s) and cut off his wrap to show the vet, she notated the card and all was well there. The theme of this years ride was Tie Dye and bizarrely enough I chose to wear my iRide t-shirt I got at AERC convention which happens to be tie dyed!

back of ride t-shirt

Vetting in. The vet in tie dye is Lindsay Graham!

I had no idea they did themes but clearly the force was with me on that one. Where the force wasn't so with me was on the whole bringing my bit thing. Remember how I said I decided to wash my tack? Well, I un-clipped the bit on its hangers and hung it on Blaze's bridle rack, then took the bridle to the house to wash it. Dried it in the sun, popped it in the trailer. Never went back and got the bit. I tacked up for an evening ride Friday at camp before the ride meeting, put on the bridle, put my hand back in the trailer to grab the bit and said something close to "@8-%&(!%&@(#!!!!!!" No bit. NO bit. Not even the S hackamore. Here, panic sets in. Incredulous panic. Okay, stop, breathe, this is an endurance ride, shit happens, somebody must have an extra bit. Luckily Blaze goes in your most basic, average snaffle bit, so its a likely spare to be found. What if I had some crazy confounded contraption that no one else would carry? You can see that I still don't believe I did this by that rhetorical question. Who forgets the BIT? Really. Okay, we all make mistakes, so off I go with my ice-breaker, Georgia (not sure that an anti social Chihuahua is a great ice breaker but she is kinda cute), to find a bit.

Georgia the ice breaker

Our immediate next door neighbor didn't have any extras but the folks next to her had 2 spare snaffles, just no bits hangers. Yep, I left my spare bit hangers at home too. Extra bridle, but no extra bit hangers. Or bit. Duh duh duh duh duhhhh! They offered me a complete bridle set but it was a sort of thin rope bridle and I wanted to try to keep the bridle situation as close to normal as possible (and some small part of me rebelled at ruining my forest green color coordination!!! I confess). There were so many more camps to check that I knew I could find some bit hangers and just be able to throw that on Blaze's own bridle. I did borrow their D ring snaffle and journeyed on through camp looking for bit hangers. I got literally 4 husbands who said "well, I really don't know, when the wife gets back you could ask her!" which was really classic and hilarious. Very willing to help but no clue what bit hangers were. Actually some of the riders I asked didn't know what I meant by bit hangers either which I found pretty bizarre. I was under the impression it was a common bridle set up but a lot of folks only had the full headstall that goes on over a halter and were confused by the bit hanger request. Maybe everyone was hitting the bottle early? Haha! Not really, but I am noticing that endurance riders really enjoy their alcohol for the most part. There was an older fellow who literally stumbled through the woods past our camp and on up the way, weaving around into people's sites like he couldn't remember where home was. Anyway, I finally found a lady with bit hangers, and, best of all, they were black! Of course I would have taken them gratefully no matter the color but the black just meant that they blended in nicely with my tack. :) I was just putting the bit in Blaze's mouth to finally head out for a little ride when the guy that lent me the bit came over and said his wife wasn't feeling well and they were leaving. I offered to give the bit back but he said "Nah, don't worry about it, just mail it back when you're done" and gave me their address! I couldn't believe it, how wonderfully generous of them to just lend me, a complete stranger, an essential piece of tack without a moment's hesitation, then trust me to mail it back whenever. I am putting it in the mail tomorrow morning, and am SO grateful to them for enabling me to actually ride this ride! Blaze was feeling strong and frisky and while I probably could have managed to do the ride without a bit, it would have been a ridiculous battle, especially at the beginning. Hooray for the generosity and kindness of endurance riders!

Borrowed D-ring bit & hangers. Thanks folks!

The race started at 7 and I was surprised at how few riders there were. 15 people started and 13 finished. I think there were about twice as many 50 mile riders, and there was a 25/50 again today, Sunday but with even less riders. The camp was pretty full up though so they clearly limited the ride entries to what the venue could handle. It was a lovely camp, by the way, in the big trees with lots of shade, wild flowers, and very bright green moss.

Okay I feel like this story is getting a little jumbled but I must say, I am tired. Rooster and birdies woke me up at 6 after getting to bed at midnight. I will try to keep on track. Start of the ride: I was behind a group of 3, one of whom not very politely told me not to "get behind her at the start" when I briefly had to move over to the right side of the road, yes behind them but not that close, to let a group of oncoming riders pass. And the race hadn't started yet. Oh well.

Heading to the start

They took off at a trot at the actual start and I did as well, to get some space between me and the horses behind me who were acting up pretty strongly. Once I was well ahead of them I dropped back to a walk and had a mini battle to keep Blaze walking as the 3 ahead sped out of sight. I found the gap between the riders in front and behind and we stuck there for the first 10 mile loop. It was nice dirt/sandy single track trail winding through trees, then looping back to a gravel road and on home to camp. The end of all the loops, and also the finish line, ran below our camp site in easy sight so I could call up to Josh when I was heading toward the lunch vet check and he was waiting there at the finish as well. We did the 10 mile loop in an hour and a half and Blaze pulsed right down to 52 back at camp. We had to pull tack with only a half hour hold so things were a little rushed, but Blaze got all As with an A- on gut sounds, as usual. He is always quiet on gut sounds coming in off the trail but once he starts pigging out you can hear his gut burbling just standing next to him. He wasn't interested in his Bar Ale feed or his hay but grazed a bunch and had some carrots, then it was time to head out on the 15 mile loop. Oh, he drank great throughout the ride, tanking up before the ride, out on the trail, and back in camp for the hold. The temperature was quite cool in the morning and never hot all day, but there were plenty of water troughs put out everywhere on the trail, mostly at major trail turns. We headed off down a gravel road for the start of the 15 mile loop and it was very quiet, only the slightly muffled sound of Blaze's padded hooves. About a half mile out I saw a large snow white owl sail through the trees and across the road in front of us! It was really beautiful and I tried to see where it landed but it moved quickly. I'm not 100% sure it was an owl, since my distance vision is crap, but I can't imagine what other white bird would be gliding smoothly through the trees like that. We trotted for a couple miles and when I slowed to let Blaze walk down a hill I heard voices behind me. A pair of riders passed me and said hello and I really thought I recognized one of the gals, but it didn't come to me right away. We ended up together again at the next water troughs and I was still trying to figure out who this gal was. I took off before them and started up a long, gradual hill, with a nasty amount of quite nasty rocks. We walked and walked up this hill and then the trail started to peter out, and suddenly I was looking frantically for ribbons and couldn't remember when I last saw one. We finally came out of the barely-there trail onto another gravel road without a ribbon in sight. Yep, we missed something somewhere and were off trail. It was a really unfriendly rocky climb to the top and Blaze was pretty winded, but we turned and walked back down the hill. Luckily (for my peace of mind, not for them) we came around a corner after about a quarter mile and saw the two gals from before. I called "hey, are you lost?" and they looked quite confused and said, "No, I mean, we don't think so.." I pointed out there were no ribbons around and I had just hit the road at the top with no ribbons. The gal I recognized got off her horse and jogged back down the trail looking for ribbons. When she took of her helmet and I saw her wearing a bandanna I suddenly remembered I had ridden with her testing out a horse she was selling for a client, and she was the one that inspired me to get the wrist Garmin for mileage etc. I asked her riding partner if the gal's name was Amber and yep, sure enough it was her, AND the riding partner was the one that actually ended up buying that gelding I had tried out. She wasn't riding him in this ride but said she had done some rides on him and enjoyed him. He was a lovely horse but I am very happy with my mare and then filly I ended up with! Amber didn't yell anything up to us and we didn't want her to have to walk back up the nasty hill so we headed down and found her another quarter mile down the hill and still no ribbons. Finally about a mile down we found the sharp right hand turn we had missed! Oops! The trail was straight up hill and wide and clear at that point so we all just looked straight ahead and kept on going, instead of seeing that sharp right turn off the trail. We wasted at least 30 minutes and two miles of awful hill on that mistake, but oh well. (Lots of other riders did it too, turns out, and they promised to mark that turn with water troughs next year) The three of us were together for another couple of miles then they stopped for bathroom breaks and photos so Blaze and I headed out alone. The trail got really nasty rocky and was threading along the side of a cliff with a good drop off, which was slightly alarming on a semi-clumsy horse, but the view of the slopes of forests and higher, the snow covered mountains, was pretty spectacular. Should have brought my camera on that loop but didn't. Here is a snap by Josh:

We finally got off the steep rocky trail and rejoined the end of the first loop, then had the last few miles of wide, nice trail through the woods back to the finish line. The long walk over the rocky trail had Blaze and I both impatient and when I asked for a trot on the nice trail he stretched out into his biggest extended trot, and even broke into an easy canter for half a mile or so. We came across the finish line with 4 hrs and 30 minutes of riding time, plus the half hour hold, so technically a ride time of 5 hrs.

Crossing Finish line

We got passed by a couple of people thanks to that missed turn and wasted that half hour but that's really okay as I was just glad to finish the ride with a healthy horse and in spite of the forgotten bit and missed ribbons. They offered to pulse me down at the finish line but we had really hauled the last few miles so I opted to walk him over to the vet check itself and pull his tack before I pulsed. He was down below 60 by that time and we got right through to final vet check with no line. Blaze ended up with all As, possibly a B on gut sounds I honestly don't remember. He tanked up on water before and after the vet check and was gobbling the alfalfa and carrots the volunteers had put out.

Final vet check

We were back at camp and relaxing by 12:30. Blaze napped before he started eating again, but eventually he tucked into his Distance pellets and had some hay. He got more stressed out by horses going by on the trail below camp throughout this ride experience than he has in the past, even doing a little mini rear once while tied to the trailer! Dork! He never got too out of hand though, it was like horse goes by, Blaze whinnies and gets nutty for 10 seconds, and he's over it. He tried to be alert to horses going by after the ride but he was really sleepy and his eyes kept closing when he had a mouthful of hay. I felt about the same and Georgia, the husband, and I hit the tent for a nap. Speaking of, the husband went fishing both days and caught a couple of fish which was a nice perk for him.

Ride dinner was at 6 and as usual after rides I ate a giant plateful and was hungry an hour later. Awards started and Dr. Lydon wasn't calling the placements in the 25, just names, but he happened to say "lets see, came in 8th, oh here we go, Aurora Grohman" so we found out where we finished. Amber and her riding partner actually finished ahead of me because they pulsed down and got their finish time right at the line where I walked over to the vets to do it, but I really am glad that Blaze had pulsed down that quickly after that extra hill we accidentally took and trotting so strongly to the finish line.

Gotta get that tie dye! Notice Dr. Lydon in the hat, aka "that guy with the
mustache who always wins" according to husband

After awards we finished packing and headed on home, and here we are today, all happy and healthy, if a little tired!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Race Packing & Rambling

Today is packing day! Usually I am dithering around getting things prepared a couple of days before we leave for a ride but as I am getting the hang of things I am less anxious and as of last night hadn't prepared a single thing. While each ride is its own challenge, especially doing all these rides I've never done before, I am beginning to feel more confident about the 25 milers, as in hey, I just did a 20 mile training ride the other day, no big deal, so this ride is just another trail ride. That is my mantra for keeping calm about a ride: Hey, its just another trail ride. I've completed a fair number of 25/30 milers with success over the years of getting in and out of endurance (selling horse to go off to college, getting another, starting over, horse gets injured, rehab, then getting another, horse doesn't want to do it, sell it, get another, do a race, break my leg, out for a get the picture). I've even top 10'd a couple back when I was trail guiding on the beach with my mare 6 days a week and she was scary fit. Ah, memories, she trotted that 30 mile race like it as nothing, came in 2nd place, and could have kept going. Now I know that 25/30s are technically training rides and not even "endurance" so to speak, but its the level I am at now and as such I treat the distance with respect and its an endurance ride to me. That said, I am getting more comfortable with it all. I will get all nice and comfy with 25s this year and then (hopefully) get to be all nervous trying 50s for the first time next year! That's the beauty of endurance though, there is always another challenge, a new trail, a triumph, or another set back to over come. If it was easy and you just went and won a race and had reached the pinnacle, well, that would be no fun.
As for packing, I started at it this morning. I am guilty of not cleaning the residual hay out of the back of my truck from getting hay at the feed store. Now, did you know that old hay scraps+rain=scary mold scum stuck to the truck bedliner? Well, now you do. And so do I. It was, well, scary. I got the broom thinking I could just sweep the truck bed out but I grossly (literally, gross) underestimated the gunk in there, so now I am waiting for the hubby to be done filling his feeding tank so I can get my hose back and spray the bed out. I always know summer is here when the battle for the long hose starts. At the hot/cold wash rack (yay! I love it) I have two hoses hooked together so they are long enough to drag to the farthest paddock to fill waterers, but the husband of course knows its also long enough to drag and fill his feeding tank for the garden. He is a major green thumb and mixes up "feed" for his plants like a mad scientist. We sure benefit from it though, vegetables and fruit galore every summer. This year we scaled back on the zucchini (we've been using baseball bat sized Zs for target practice the last few falls, planted too many of those things) and way up on the melons. We planted melons everywhere and I can't WAIT to gobble some up. Delicious! Here I am rambling again..back to current status is: tack washed, trailer cleaned out, feed prepared to travel, camping stuff organized and ready to load. I just need to hose out the truck bed and put all the camping goods and hay bale in it, check all the truck fluids, and load my tack when it dries. And its not even 9 am yet! See, no need to stress and pack days early.
Blaze seems fit and in fine fettle for the race. I rode him yesterday early, just 4 or 5 miles to keep him loose. I am trying a new method in my interference mark wrapping, which is taping the non-stick pad I put over the cut to his leg before wrapping, so that when and if the vet wrap starts sliding down, the pad should hopefully stay in place and keep protecting it. The mark itself is getting smaller and is healing but I just can't take any chances letting him re-clip himself and start the process over again. I should have splint booted him in the hind as soon as I got hind shoes, I could have avoided this whole scenario! But live and learn, Clarabell, as my granny would say. Speaking of, I have recently convinced her to read her first (this) blog, and I am very glad she is so that she can keep up on our excitement over here in horsey land. If you are reading this granny, see you soon and love you!
The husband has relinquished the hose, I must be off to continue packing!
Oh, and a reminder to myself, should I look at this again before I go: DON'T FORGET THE MASH PAN! Last race we ended up feeding Blaze out of a plastic bucket lid...

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


I don't honestly know how early people start their foals ponying but I assume, with all things (except riding itself), the sooner the better. Sheza halters and leads well, MOST of the time, but she still plants her feet and tries to have a stand off with me once in a while. I really want to get her ponying so that I can start riding Desire out and ponying baby, since I can't physically hand walk them both and the menfolk aren't exactly jumping up and down to help. I longed Desire out this evening with the filly at liberty, then put filly on the lead rope and mounted the mare. No way to find out what would happen without trying it, I reckon. I can see that it would be very nice and convenient to have an assistant for some of the baby training stuff but that is a luxury I don't have so I am muddling through the best I can. Sheza tried to play stand off a couple of times on the first circuits ponying around the arena but since she was essentially just following mom she seemed more willing to follow than when I am leading them both on the ground..though she is following mom in both those cases..well for whatever reason, my leverage being up above, who knows, she was less resistant and I didn't have any big tugs or fits to deal with, which is nice since Desire was in freight train mode, speed walking around the arena. She has a GREAT walk and I am excited about it but the poor baby (already sweaty and having run laps around the arena like a nutter when she loose) was trotting to keep up with mom's walk and was an absolute sweaty mess by the end. Desire had a lot of energy in her so I turned the filly loose again after she ponied nicely for probably ten minutes, and turned my attention to the mare. We worked on walk and a little trot, I definitely have some figuring out to do since I am so used to Blaze and all his cues but the mare and I seem to be on the same general page. She does stick her nose in the air with a stiff neck and try to just trot trot trot which I find unacceptable. She knows how to collect but was pretty rusty on it. I worked on big circles and transitions and direction changes to try to keep her paying attention and she did start to soften. I am really excited about Desire as a trail horse, she seems to really have an engine under her and her trot is SMOOTH. Its really bizarre to be jamming around the arena at speed and not being popped out of the saddle like Blaze. Hooray for that! I rode Desire in my western saddle as my panel saddle doesn't fit her well in her current, shall we say "plump" state.
It was a good session over all and we got done around 9, just as it was getting dark. Its kind of nice that the horses are just out on pasture and not on a hay schedule right now, I feel less guilty pulling them in the evening to ride since they have been eating all day and not just then getting to eat a hay dinner. I hosed Desire off as she was super warm and sweaty where the saddle had been and it was still warm as dark was falling. It was about 90 degrees here today, hence not starting to ride til 8 pm!
Hooray for my horse girls! We'll be ponying on down the trail soon. Oh, and Blaze's deathly slow nag walk will come in handy to pony the baby in the future, she will be able to keep up with him just fine (if not outwalk him)! Haha!

Monday, June 13, 2011

A Wild Flower Ride

Yesterday morning I met my new riding buddy at a new trail head. She tried it out last week and enjoyed it and we figured we would avoid the weekend riding traffic at Lake Oro and check this spot out. Its about 25 minutes from the house, about the same distance as the lake, so either one works. Apparently hardly anyone knows about it and we certainly didn't see a soul, though the trailhead is right on a road in a neighborhood. There was lots of shade and beautiful fields, a lovely stream, and wild flowers everywhere!

It was about a 9 mile ride out and back, with two nice long, gradual uphills. A nice distance and exertion level for Blaze to keep loose before the race. I will ride him lightly here Wednesday and then we'll head out Friday. Can't wait!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Looking Forward to Tomorrow--and Next Week!

Been a couple days of silence here on the ole blog, time just flies when the weather is warm and the sun is out! I gave Blaze Wed & Thurs off after our 20 mile ride Tuesday, and was planning to ride yesterday, but got awful food poisoning Thursday night and was pretty much out of commission yesterday. My husband and I went out gallivanting fishing and enjoying some beautiful peaceful time by the river on Thursday but we grabbed a quick lunch out and I think that was what caused the nasty episode that night and into the wee hours of Friday. I can't recall the last time I had food poisoning..actually I honestly think it was WAY back when I was a kid and my step dad cooked up mushrooms he had picked (he actually really does know his mushrooms, in general). The entire household was sick as dogs that night, with the exception of my step dad. Figures! Anyway that was years ago but may indeed have been the last time it happened to me. Yesterday I felt like my insides had been scoured out with a bristle brush! I feel just fine today and its a bit cooler day, though still plenty warm when working out in direct sunlight. I just mowed up the last big lawn so we are once again caught up, though I'm sure it will have to be done again a few more times. Today I moved all the horses over to the east side of our property which has 2 big pastures and a smaller paddock all grown chest high with grass and flowers and weeds..yikes..we were planning on getting it mowed, then we attempted just weed whacking it..well anyway, its a bit of a mess this year but today was the day to move everyone on over and see what, if any, dent they make in it. I would have moved them over ages ago and had it more in control but it rained for a couple of weeks and the horses pretty much live in their sheds when its raining, so I left them in their paddocks with sheds for the duration of that. There is one shed on the eastern side of the property and trees in each pen, but its mostly open pasture. I like having them over on the house side because they are essentially in the front yard and easy to interact with, also easier to catch in a paddock than a big pasture if they decide to be punks! Anyhow they are all moved over and waterers set up so they are busy eating as fast as they can possibly eat. I think I'll take mom and filly out for a stroll down the dirt road this evening, as long as the husband will help, and then put them in their paddocks for the night so they don't just explode with grass eating madness! They have all been on enough grass in the last few months that they aren't in danger from all the grass but for my own peace of mind I will stick them back in their "dry lots" for the night. Also that way they can all get their appropriate grain without any complications or more rearranging.
Tomorrow I am meeting the same friend I did 20 miles with earlier in the week at a new riding spot! I am pretty excited. She already checked out these trails last week and said they were nice and nearly no one knows about them so we should have it all to ourselves which is nice. It will be great to ride in a new spot as well, though I have only trailered out the once since the virus so for the moment I am still ready to ride anywhere, any time, as long as its off this property! This time next week, fingers crossed, Blaze and I will be out on the trail at the Hat Creek Hustle race up by Manton. It seems like forever and a day since the last ride beginning of May but it also seems like it was just yesterday. Blaze's feet were done up with pads on Tuesday before we rode so they are looking just fine. I am a little nervous about the interference mark on his hind that I am still keeping wrapped, he is completely sound and going down the tail fine but I don't want the vets to think its something bad. I am thinking I will bring him to vet in with it wrapped so we can trot out without him hitting it, then unwrap it and show it the vet so they know what it is and can notate it on my card so I don't have to keep unwrapping it for each vet check. I will probably have to re wrap it at lunch time anyway since it did slip significantly more on our ride Tuesday when we were really trucking than it has on my shorter rides here. I'm sure it will work out I am just always a little gun shy about new things at a ride, especially a ride I don't know, and vets I don't know. I have been on the receiving end of some pretty brusque, assuming vets who weren't very kind in the past so I'm a little skeered! That's about it for now, hoping to take some photos of the new trails tomorrow and will share them here if I do!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Good Practice

Yesterday I met a new friend at the lake to ride. I met her at the Cache Creek Ridge ride, though we didn't officially meet. She was crewing for the gal I rode the last 6 miles with and I connected with them on good ole Facebook. Come to find out she lives right here in the area so we hooked up for a ride. I had no idea how long we would ride since usually when I join others its a much slower and shorter ride than I would do, and her horse is green. The weather was so beautiful (sunny, 75) that we just kept on jamming and rode pretty much the whole length of the trails, except one short loop on the parking lot end we deemed too short to bother with. It ended up being a 20 mile trail ride in 5 hours riding time. We stopped for 10 minutes grazing and recovery at the top of the big hill but otherwise were pretty much trucking. Her horse did well especially for a greenie, as we encountered horses, dogs, hikers, bridges, stream crossings, deer in the bushes, and an air compressor turning on behind us that neither horse enjoyed. Blaze was his usual steady self and gave his usual heavy eye balling to every rock we passed. He grazed at the top of the hill; he didn't drink at the stream crossing (surprise..not) at about 12 miles but the less scenic stream we crossed only a mile or two from the trailer he found quite appealing and took a healthy drink. He peed about a mile from the trailer, which is funny because he never pees while I'm mounted so he must have really had to go after tanking up at the stream, he couldn't even wait to get back to the trailer! I had brought my upright Igloo cooler of water (though no ice and drinks in it, I didn't realize we would ride so long!) and to my surprise and delight Blaze drank heartily TWICE out of his blue bucket. Maybe he really is getting the hang of this self preservation thing. I suppose he doesn't drink on our usual training rides because he just doesn't need to. Riding hard yesterday with some heat (compared to the cold rain we've been having) he chose to drink quite a bit before we got home, so good on him. It was a really fun ride and great practice for Hat Creek which is the weekend after this one. Can't wait!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Another Redhead!?

It looks like my filly Sheza is shedding out into a nice deep red chestnut! Everyone was pretty much assuming she would turn gray and told me to look for white eyelashes/hairs around the nose and eyes. She has never had white hairs around either, her eyelashes are red, and she is shedding out red! I will of course love her no matter the color but MAN will she be a beauty if she does stay red and grows up with all those flashy white markings. I'm sure her color will vary with the seasons etc but at the moment she is almost the exact color of my hair! Redhead power! Oh and I am speaking up about this finally because my friend, a horse trainer who grew up on an Arabian breeding farm, and the gal that helped get me back in the saddle after my accident, came over today and seconded the redhead opinion. I was pretty sure but figured I wouldn't make any statements until I had a second opinion!
I woke up to blue skies this morning but by the time I showered and went out to feed it was all gray and cold again. This is such a cold, wet spring! We are supposed to get another storm this weekend and not see the sun until Tuesday. Of course who knows, the weather is very changeable around here. The only thing I'm sure of is the rain! That never fails to make an appearance when predicted lately. Anyhow I was planning to trailer to the lake for the first time in three weeks (due to the virus) but the weather was hardly encouraging so we just went for a shorter loop ride here from home. There is one loooonnng stretch of the dirt road that is wide and flat and you can see way in front of you for cars so we like to stretch out and do a little sprinting there. That's a rush! Blaze is so responsive, when I would gallop (or canter, sometimes) on my old mare Angel it would take a "landing strip" as I called it, to stop her!! I mean she went into nutty race mare mode and on more than one occasion we were doing a 1 rein stop. Blaze will stretch out and haul ass but the lightest touch or word and he is slowing instantly. He is getting better at relaxing into a more mellow canter too, I say "easssssyyyy" when he starts trying to go race horse on me and ask him to round and supple and he is getting better at relaxing into a nice rocking canter. His interference cut is looking better, the wrap is staying up and on and the cut is starting to heal over, so that is great. I am going to be overly cautious with it and keep it wrapped a few days longer, its just now healing and if he hits it with his shoe once it will be raw again. He cracks me up standing out in his paddock with his dress, I mean blanket, on. It is the right length for him but he is so short you don't see a whole lot of leg coming from underneath the blanket, and he has bright purple vet wrap on his leg. Ahh what a cute fellow.
Made myself run another mile today! I say made because I started to jog next to Blaze and it wasn't one of those running days where it feels gooooood, it was one of those where the body is already sore and jogging feels more like "ow eee oo ah" than anything. I forced myself to push through that initial discomfort and then loosened up and felt better finishing the mile. And of course afterwards I am just glowing hot and exhilarated, and posting actually feels easier, as my legs are all warmed up and feeling loose.
Well here comes another weekend of rain. Blaze is blanketed so he doesn't get cold and stiff after our gallavant today (we didn't do many miles but did enough "work" in it to count). Monday the farrier comes and Tuesday I am riding at the lake (hooray!) with a new endurance friend (hooray!). Time to get my sweatshirt and fuzzy boots on!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


The morning forecast had been 30% showers when I looked last night but this morning it showed 70% rain and thunderstorms. Of course that didn't stop me, though I did decide not to trailer out and just ride from home in case the skies did open up. My husband's friend came up with his son for a few days, from Santa Barbara. His son had never been on a horse before so before I left for a ride we put the little boy up on Blaze and walked him around the yard. Blaze is such a saint, he was perfectly behaved and calm, then when the little boy got off and was petting him B had his head all the way down to the boys level and was being so quiet and cute. Then when I head out on the trail he is Mr. forward, trot, canter, anything you like. Pretty awesome qualities to be in one little horse!
We had a good ride, almost 7.5 mile loop up to the top of the ridge and back down and home. I jogged a mile (mostly) downhill next to Blaze which felt great. Its so much easier to go for a run when your horse is with you, I find! He does a lovely little controlled jog and we just truck down the hills. I ran a flat and one uphill too, just to see if I could. I haven't been running since I broke my leg a year and a half ago and I do miss it, so its nice to mix some jogging in with the ride and give Blaze that break as well.
We made it back in the driveway just as rain drops started to fall and made it under the roof of the wash/tack area as insane HAIL started pounding down. I am SO glad we weren't out on the pavement walking home when it started hailing, good grief. We were literally in time by seconds! I put Blaze's waterproof warm blanket on since its pretty chilly today and now intermittent rain. I think we found the only sunshine of the day and now its time to bundle up and hide inside!