Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Tevis Time!

I've been spending lots of time talking, emailing, printing, and reading about Tevis in the last few weeks and then realized I haven't actually said a thing about it on my blog. Suddenly here it is coming up on Tevis weekend in just a few days!

I am honored and excited to be crewing for Karen Chaton and her gelding Bo, who completed Tevis 2 years ago together. Karen is incredibly organized and Bo is fit and ready-- I can't wait to be involved in helping them towards another buckle! So here's the plan:

Heading to Robie on Friday afternoon pm to collect my rider's gear, crew passes, etc, and returning to Auburn to spend the night and meet up with a carpool to Robinson Flat in the morning. Crewing RF and Foresthill and plan on being at the Finish line in the wee hours! I'll head home Sunday whenever Karen is done with me.

Hope to see many Facebook/blog/web friends from across the country throughout the weekend and best of luck to all riders, horses, crews and volunteers involved in this exciting event!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Catching Up

Blaze and I joined C and her gelding Sonny at the local Wildlife Area for a mellow ride this morning. We hadn't seen each other in ages--since Cache Creek in May, I think?--and it was great to take a relaxing ride and catch up. It was Sonny's first ride back since a problem after a ride last month and today he was a champ, taking the lead for most of the ride (unheard of for him only a year ago), and walking long and low and loose.  He is an athletic guy who knows all the Go and is working on learning the Whoa (and relax). He is making great progress though and even popped right into his trailer to go home. Go Sonny!

Heading out

Year-round creek, sooo nice (but sucks for Boot retention)

Blaze threw me a true stiff buck on our first canter of the day, all the more impressive since we were headed uphill. I hadn't cantered him since his crowhoppy gymkhana behavior last weekend and he reminded me of it! Little snot. Other than that we just cruised uneventfully, though a Glove did pop off his front hoof when trotting uphill after the deep water crossing. I'll confess my taping job was pretty shoddy and the tape itself disappeared when the boot came off. Eh, whatevs.

Trail ends on the backside of Collins Lake:

Recruited a random passerby for a photo:

C and Sonny enjoying the day:

A nice ride on a nice day. After riding 3 different horses in the last 3 days I just might take a break tomorrow. My skin is reminding me that it's had rather a lot of sun lately, while I haven't gotten sunburned I'm getting my annoying friend the sun rash on my chest and hands after the ride today.

If you're looking for me tomorrow, I'll be kicked back in the shade with a good book.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Desire Rides Again!

It's been 4 weeks since Desire's last trim and almost 6 weeks since I last rode her. In fact, with one exception, I hadn't hauled her anywhere off the property since Hat Creek Hustle in early June. And here it is, almost August! I must say that while I missed riding her, my 3 other horses (oh yeah, and life) have been keeping me quite busy. It was great to get another successful LD in on Blaze this month and finally get my filly riding in the trailer. But I was definitely ready/terrified to get Desire back out and on the trail. 

I've evaluated her and worked her a handful of times in the last few weeks, just on the ground in the arena and round pen. She had been working completely sound, but I kept chickening out of riding her! She is such a fabulous, fun ride but is 16 years old next month and I am very concerned with her health and happiness over the long term--and boy, there is nothing like a lameness in your teenage endurance horse to throw you for a loop and make you question, well, everything.

 Anyhoo this morning I had a ride planned with N--had told her I didn't know what color horse I'd be bringing--and I finally bit the bullet and decided to pull Desire to take along. We got an early a.m. hay delivery (huzzah!) and then I set the Specialized up for Desire, loaded her tack, combed the 200 stickers out of her mane and forelock, and off we went.

6 weeks later, she's still a piglet

I put her in thickly padded Easyboot Epics in the front and her usual Easyboot Gloves in the hind. The theory is that the slim line Gloves weren't giving her nearly-flat, thin soled front hooves enough protection and since her lameness was inconsistent and confusing, my trimmer and I figured eliminating one potential problem (being footsore vs. muscle/tendon etc sore) might be useful.

Did I mention 6 weeks off meant she was very, erm, "natural," read filthy..yeah those legs are supposed to white/grey not brown/red but oh well...

Desire was very happy to see Willow, when I brought her over to say hello they snuffled each other and Desire gave a very breathy, tender little nicker/grunt. We decided to take a mellow ride around the 6 mile horse camp loop and along the way encountered D, another endurance friend out for a ride on her Arab mare with her granddaughter riding her Foxtrotter mare:

Grey Girls hearing things

Desire charged along at her brisk walk in the lead for pretty much the whole loop, we barely trotted more than a few steps and she was sound and quite talkative. She kept giving little squeal/grunts when Willow would come alongside/as if to pass her, something she usually does aggressively at horses she doesn't like but sounded pretty gentle directed at Willow. She did have her ear and eye trained on Willow's every move when she was potentially going to take the lead. *eyeroll*

We passed the horse camp near the end of the loop and there were some campers and horses in corrals. Desire wanted to stop and say hello and hang out and in fact was not very happy to walk off and leave the camp. Maybe she thought it was a ride camp and we should be sticking around in case there was a ride starting in the morning ;-)

 Sheza put on a big show when we got home and I led Desire back to the shared gate of their paddock/pastures. There was a big dust cloud rising and I could just see a red streak fly past once in a while as we walked that way.


Ohhh mommymommymommy you came back!

Then Mommy dearest shared some of her hay and Sheza lost all interest in mommy dearest. As it should be.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Cruising the Chiefster & Sharing the Boot Love

Booting and maintaining the barefoot horse is, as with so many horsey things, like maintaining a regular drug habit. At first it's: OH, yeah, best idea ever, my horse should be barefoot like they are in the wild, this is IT and it feels so right! Then you apply (and lose) your first boot(s) and come down hard to the reality that these things aren't nailed on and can and will fling off and disappear entirely, unless they decide to hang on half attached and cause some other sorts of problems. BUT, before you know it, that farrier name isn't back on the list no, no, you're ordering some other sort of gadget for your boot or a different brand of boot or a different sized boot, because you WILL get your barefoot fix, no matter the impact on your bank account or sanity. Your friends ask you how it's going and your eyes roll back in your head as you say, "OH, it's awful, great, I mean, you *gotta* try it!!!!" And now suddenly you're spreading your habit, encouraging others, even as the roller coaster of the booted barefoot horse continues to screw with your body, mind, and soul. 

Am I Exaggerating? Anyone who has a hard-to-boot/maintain barefoot horse would say No. 

And yet. There is a beam of light in the darkness. Here comes my friend J with her Mustang, Sedona, and the Pintabian Chief and she's looking for another direction for their hoof care. Ohhh yeah, I say, try the boots! You've heard how unbelievably aggravating awesome my booting experience with Desire has been, you gotta try these boots! She drank the Kool Aid so I eyeballed Sedona's hoof size and on the next ride brought along some size 0 Easyboot Epics for her. The boots popped right on, Sedona stepped out nicely, and despite the hardware not tightening correctly, the boots stayed on perfectly over mileage, climbs, walktrotcanter, and literal boot-sucking-sinking mud. Amaazzzing! Now that's how booting should be.

And it continues! This morning J hauled the horse's up to her property nearly next door to my trimmer D and they connected and got Chief's front shoes pulled and all of J's horses some good trims. I met J at the lake afterwards with my tack and bucket of boots and we played the boot game now that the trims were fresh. The Epic wires had to be pulled into a tighter configuration but they stayed on Sedona perfectly for 15 miles, and I slapped the size 1 Gloves on Chief with about half a roll of athletic tape and they stayed on too, despite being large enough to literally twist on the hoof. 

Un-frickin-believable! This really hammers home the point that so much of booting success depends on the horse's movement. I'm in the testing phase of Renegades with Desire but the battle to keep Easyboots on her has been unending and costly. It soothes me somewhat that this booting experience for J and her horses is going so well! And another person is hooked...

Big antlers on the buck, squint and you can see it..lot's of deer out today

"This is my Deer Face"

 Black lined ears all around

*Slurp slurp gobble gobble*

 Knee-Knocker Bridge

 Osprey nest and the Osprey had a LOT to say

Cruising back to the trailer

Look at those mucky Gloves..still on though! 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Word of Caution

I am fortunate to have beautiful no-climb horse fencing with hot wire on top and capped t-posts, and for the most part my horses are safe and accident free. However the property we live on is an old one (like finding Indian artifacts on it Old) and with continued use things have a way of working their way up out of the ground and appearing suddenly and unnervingly. For example, I found a fist-sized hunk of rusty iron in Joey's paddock last month and promptly removed it. Yeah, scary!

In the hubbub of daily life--or just feeding time, if you're me and have multiple animals of various species clamoring at you FEED ME NOW twice a day--it is occasionally tempting to just throw hay and go on your business without giving the animals a thorough once-over, at least visually. I can't caution you strongly enough against that, it is so important to invest those few extra minutes in carefully checking your animals head to tail for any injuries, lumps, bumps, etc. Because while you may provide your loved equines with great fencing, feed, and regular health care, things can still crop up and let's face it, Shit Happens.

Case in point. This morning my 15 month old filly, Sheza, was chipper as usual, looking for scratches along with her breakfast, basically just her same old self with no outward signs of distress. As I was throwing hay to her, boss man mini Bandito, momma Desire, and the yelling goats, my eye was caught by something silvery behind Sheza. My heart sank as I realized she had about a foot of old wire wrapped tightly around her right hind fetlock with a little tail of wire sticking out behind, the only part that had caught my eye as it was otherwise quite close around her leg. She gave me no clue anything was wrong and the wire had not visibly cut her, but was wrapped tightly enough around her leg to be SCARY.  I crooned to her and rubbed all over her body and down to the fetlock where I untwisted the wire enough that when she got nervous feeling the wire move and tap danced away from me she stepped right out the wire.  She was free and uninjured and trotted away with all her filly arrogance intact. But PHEW.

She didn't tell me there was a problem and I didn't see it at first. So please, friends and readers, check your loved animals head to tail to toe, daily if not twice a day, and be sure there isn't something hiding there that might cause you all a lot of grief later.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

You AIN'T Seen Nothing Yet

I can't speak to gymkhana events in other parts of the country but in Butte County, California, local gymkhanas are like a three ring circus always teetering on the edge of going wrong. I went to the local Sheriff Posse's monthly gymkhanas fairly regularly when J still lived close by--in fact I should post one or two of our buddy photos with Chief and Blaze from a few years ago--but hadn't been to one in over a year, since my focus honed in on LDs with Blaze, endurance, and conditioning, and training and and...Today's gymkhana was the first of this year that didn't conflict with an endurance ride on my schedule so I loaded up the Blazer and had a go at it.

Feel so naked without breastcollar, boots, packs, etc! My saddle sure was light though..

N joined us with her other mare, Kate, who I have never met before. She is a very beautiful coppery chestnut and looks great in the yellow/tye dye N has her in.

Untying the ribbon

canter home

 So fast they were blurry ;)  Look at the roost Kate is throwing up

Like this shot, nice looking mare

We entered the 6 single events (2 team events we didn't do) including single stake, barrels, and the bow race. Blaze trots nicely in frame for the most part, with the odd nose in the sky for effect, but whenever I ask for a canter at a gymkhana he immediately sticks his nose down and starts trying to buck. He's always done it and I can't decide whether he's totally sour on the thought of running home or wants to be let out to flat out run home. I bought him locally as a 12 year old so there is a good chance (especially in this area and the size that he is) he was run in gymkhanas in his life at some point. Since I'm not wild about joining the ranks of those who eat shit off their horse at the gymkhana (however unlikely that may be), I usually "EH EH" him for the naughty thoughts and stick with the trot. We didn't get any ribbons, as trotting haughtily around barrels in frame doesn't beat galloping flat out, spurring and hollering at yer pony.

There was a tiny pony being ridden by a little girl and Blaze was in love. He usually spooks out and is terrified by small/baby animals (goat kids, foals, etc) but for whatever reason this petite pony looker was his kind of gal. He watched for her, snuffled her whenever she was near (and she politely nibbled his face back), and nickered at her so softly that he sometimes didn't even make noise but I could feel his diaphragm fluttering with it. Then he tried to eat the pony rider's little brother's Doritos out of the bag and that won him some serious fans, so we spent the latter part of the gymkhana extricating ourselves from a pony/kid crowd to trot our events. Blaze is a charmer, what can I say.

I was so bummed I didn't get a picture of the pony and then I loaded my photos on the computer and saw that N had taken an accidental shot of her mare's butt, but just behind it in the background was the pony! Gotta love zoom, here she is:

A few people fell off, some horses bucked, a horse or two reared, one lady was wearing shin guards and had her boots tied into the stirrups with baling twine--but we all survived.

Did I mention it's way too hot? 98 in the shade here..

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Happy Birthday and My Filly is Growing Up!

First of all, happy birthday to my wonderful husband! He is a great, positive, supportive guy and I am very lucky to have him.

And now...

TA DA!! Sheza-filly in the trailer!!!!

But first, Joey worked in the surcingle and long lines. He came out of the paddock spooky and snorty and after 2 weeks off from the trainer we were sure he was going to majorly regress at worst or be pretty hot at best. Once his fly mask was off (no limiting this guy's visibility when things are going down!) and he was in the cross ties he quieted into the routine right away and then had the best session in long lines he has had yet! He trotted off relaxed and loose instead of his usual initial high-and-tight, and even slowed to a walk in the lines a couple of times of his own accord. His head set is better each time and today he carried himself beautifully almost the whole time. It was a relatively short session as he was so much quieter and more responsive than we were expecting. For the first time when she whoa'd him and asked for a turn around with the outside rein he slowly turned and walked out of it, instead of spinning and immediately taking off. When he walked out so nicely and collected from the turn she immediately quit and took him up for a bath. He got tense and circled her for the hoof handling but by tricking his brain some more progress was made. Instead of going to his sticky right side which immediately makes him tense, she stayed on his left side but was rubbing and touching his right hind. His brain didn't go into auto-panic since she wasn't on the scary side, and he stood pretty nicely for her to rub all up and down his leg. She did go to his right side again and he circled and circled and circled endlessly until she switched sides again and touched him from the opposite side, then went back to the right, and that was apparently the combo of brain trickery he needed, as he gave in and let her rub his right hind from the right side. B thinks a step ahead of him and it isn't always easy as he is very clever! But by keeping him guessing and introducing new things while still working him on areas he feels confident and can excel in, I am seeing Joey grow in self confidence, fitness, and overall "thinking" ability.  Good things are to come with this one.


And then it was trailer time! It was a cool, breezy day, we even had some rain drops this morning--perfect weather for Sheza's first loading. I backed the trailer onto the grass, loaded Blaze in one stall, and B started the pressure, release as reward, game with Sheza. There is simply no way to drive a horse into the 2 horse straight load (especially with a buddy in there!) and Sheza wasn't particularly alarmed by the whole situation so the pressure and release method was the thing for it. 

Hmm, you want me to go in where?

Filly out the butt end, Blaze's head out the front end, hehe

Sheza was content to stand at the edge of the trailer and lean in, snuff Blaze, eat hay, but was not getting the step-up concept. I lifted a front hoof and set it in there and that prompted a few theatrics but nothing spectacular, so I tried again. She kept back pedaling so B told me to get a broom. A whaaa? A broom. I fetched a broom. Now tickle her ankles. Hmm. Really?

And tickle I did. At first the tickle worked, and it unstuck her feet and moved her forward without any undue pressure. Then she got used to the tickle and it was more of a prickly poke. If she lifted a foot or stepped or even leaned forward, all pressure stopped. She still wasn't getting the step-up under way so I started picking up her front hoof, setting it in, and then as she got used to hanging out with it there, I went around and tickled her other ankle to encourage the step up. I probably set her hoof in the trailer a good 30 times, maybe more, and then we could see she was checking out. She would get to the edge of the trailer, then sort of relax and start to get sleepy eyed. B took her out and lunged her in both directions to get her feet moving, led her back, I set her hoof in, tickled her other front hoof, and UP she went!


B let her hang out with her front hooves up, then calmly backed her out, and we repeated the set the hoof in, tickle, and step up. This time she went all the way in and was SO HAPPY to start devouring the hay in the manger that had been taunting her for so long. Got to love food motivated horses.

Butt on the right: 15 yr old Blaze
Butt on the left: 15 month old Sheza
....I think I'll need a ladder in the future

B backed her back out and it was a pretty darn nice, calm, back out for filly's first time:

Meh, still chewing, not impressed

I had to set her front hoof in again and tickle the other front and she went right back in all the way. This time we secured everything and took them for a snails pace drive down around the corner, up to the mailboxes, and back. Just a little something to let her feel the movement and hills in a trailer without pushing our luck.  She whinnied at first but didn't move around much that I could feel and when I pulled back in the driveway and parked we opened the hay doors and let them sit in there for another couple of minutes. She was scarfing hay and pretty calm about the whole thing.

She got nervous when Blaze backed out but she came out relatively nicely and snuffled Blaze immediately like, "Whew, we survived!"  She had a sweat up from the whole process so she got a bath and fly spray dousing and went back to join her shrilly protesting mini boss, Bandito. She was pretty cute and rushed right to Desire's gate to get some reassurance from momma.

 I'm so proud of my red rocket girl, she was a bit stubborn as expected but not dramatic, silly, or dangerous. There were no raised voices, injuries, or theatrics, and it ended with happy people and a happy filly who learned something very big today. So proud :-)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Fantastic Fairy Falls

A little alliteration for you on this fine, gorgeous, cool evening. Today's high was 75, partly sunny with a cool breeze--OH it was redhead heaven!!! When I saw the forecast yesterday I rousted J about riding, so this morning we loaded up Chief and Sedona and headed to the Spenceville Wildlife Area to try some other trails and just generally bomb around in the great weather.

Heading out in the cool breeze

Posture-pedic baby! I thank my early years of playing the saxophone for my riding posture ;)

 Love to see water in July, no matter the temperature

 We've gone about 1/4 of a mile and Chief is already drinking!

"Who me?"

We headed out the road we usually end our rides on and took a marked trail toward Fairy Falls, just over 3 miles from the trailer. Spenceville is largely wide open spaces, so you can either follow the dirt road/trail or just wander around. It's a fun spot to ride because you have the visibility and good footing to tear around at some speed!

Winding trail along the hillside to Fairy Falls

 I trotted ahead and set up for this shot, see how high Sedona lifts her feet off the ground? You can see the shadow her right front is casting (snug in her new Easyboot Epics)   She *never* stumbles, I'm jealous!

The falls wasn't very big but it was very cool, there was a fenced-in view point over it as it was  steep drop off into a rocky gorge:

Lower along the falls


 We were only at about 5 miles after going to the falls so we decided to swing out and take our usual loop backwards. J had to get back to town at a certain time so we felt the time crunch a little and pushed the horses at a good pace the whole day, lots of trotting, some cantering, a bit of hillwork. It was so great to be able to push them a little and enjoy the speed without sweltering and worrying about their recoveries like in higher temperatures.

Weee time to canter!

4 gates to open and close along the way, we take turns and our horses are sometimes great, sometimes terrible at it

Awww Chiefy

 Chief so wants to be an endurance pony. Let's be honest, I so want him to be one! Today was the first ride where I felt like we had built a little bit of fitness and were getting somewhere. We rode 13 miles in just under 3 hours and I still had horse left under me, where on previous rides of similar mileage it took us longer and Chief was flat out exhausted afterwards. Of course the cooler weather probably helped too! Chief has a very smooth trot but has never been truly fitted up to have a bigger extended stride and today he did his first few incidents of a bigger, stronger trot instead of his jog-to-canter routine. Cool beans!

Did I mention he never stops eating?

If all goes well in the next couple of months we have a tentative plan to take Chief and Sedona to the Chamberlain Creek endurance ride end of September and ride them in the LD.   :-)