Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Whiskeytown Adventure

On Sunday Scrap and I threw down some trailer miles to join a good friend and her trail eating Morgan on some gorgeous, hilly, technical trails a few hours away. Our local trails are pretty slimy and it was great to put something serious in front of Scrappy after our feisty "LD" a few weeks back. Thanks T for the photo supplementation!

arrived, escorted in by our local buddies T & Jazz
Jazz and Scrapper doing a warm up stare down. Scrap's first time up there!
I'd ridden some of the trails on the Whiskeytown LD and 50 milers in the past but this was Scrappy's first time there and we had a grand time moving out on the good footing, busting butt up "The Terminator" as they call it, and cruising around the Whiskeytown ride camp area before taking some awesome wet and rocky trails (with a few *steeps*)back up to a nice gradual descent on "The Escalator" and a good cool out walk back to the rigs.  
Scrappy wore his new ported Myler Kimberwick on the ride, and a running martingale (and I wore gloves!). I had a snaffle on board in case he really objected to the Myler but happily he carried the kimberwick quietly and *quite* responsively. He was forward and excited to move out with Jazz and started to get hinky a few times but after checking himself on the curb setting he was a very polite and engaged Scrappy, and there was no need for strong contact. I know some people raise eyebrows about "bitting up" but I've now found with two completely different horses (Desire, Scrappy) that the switch from a blithely ignored snaffle to a Kimberwick oomph nearly negates the need for strong contact. It's there when I  need it, and I don't need it often. That's just my experience and what has worked so far for my horses, and of course this wasn't an amped ride start scenario so it's yet to be fully proven. I found Scrappy's competent  responsiveness reassuring though, as he's the type to let you know pretty quickly if a piece of tack will work or not.
after the first big climb, Scrappy pretending he's concerned about the edge
(he's usually hugging it with one foot almost sliding off..!)
T and Jazz leading the way! We are both..
..hand talkers! ;-) 
( and holy horse is Scrap filthy)

We did lots of water crossing, climbing, and some rock scrambling, and I'm happy to say all 4 Renegades performed flawlessly. I've had great luck with them but the combination of water/speed or water/speed/hills is a treacherous one for any boot, and I was impressed with their performance. I was too busy riding to get good photos of the wilder stuff but here's a peek at some of the wet, anyway:

after a nice winding descent, cooling out toward the trailers and Scrap is fresh
 It was a great day on the trails and really made up for the expensive clusterfuck that was our last ride of the 2014 aerc season.  Boots, saddle, back, bit all organized and I'm so looking forward to 2015 with this new fit, motivated, and under control (?!) Scrappy.

Saturday, December 27, 2014


One of the great perks of attending religiously to this blog since 2011 is the ability to go back a day, week, or year, and get a glimpse of my perspective in that moment in time. As humans we're fabulously fluctuating beings, emotions and thoughts and desires bounding here and there like so many agile jack rabbits daily. What we thought we knew for sure one year is often met with a wry laugh and head shake at our innocent youth when revisited; after accepting that it's a fact, we must also remind ourselves not to self flagellate for not being born knowing it all. Anyway as a feisty, opinionated chestnut, I find all that particularly challenging and it seems to me that the best possible tools in this game of life and horses are the abilities to recognize an issue and then adapt, whatever form that takes. 

I began to ruminate on this because of blue skies and a sweater. My last post began by referencing the 20+ days of rain December gifted us with. Life was damp and muddy and people began to search for sunlight again. By the day after my post the sun had returned and it's been that way since, with still not a hint of rain in the 10 day forecast. There are whispers of a few years ago when it rained all December and then didn't again after January 1st-- the sky is bright, the ground is dry. Attitudes are entirely different and it's been 7 calendar days. Something worth considering, when we're in a doldrums: the changeability of life from day to day, week to week, *and* the utter responsibility for our own happiness that lies with us all.

--Oh, the sweater part of that? Just this glorious handmade creation by my mother, gifted to me at Christmas and shown below. It features galloping Scrappy and Desire's in appropriate shades and orange hearts at the cuffs, a nice shout out to my ole Orange rig.

 It's entirely gorgeous and comfortable and ironic; I've been an epic over-heater since childhood and I used to tell my mom that she was crazy for wearing the "hot scratchy" (beautiful) sweaters that she made and rocked. I'm fairly sure that at some point we even laughed over the possibility of me ever wanting a sweater because they're so warm and and and and...I love it. I totally overheated taking these photos but I love it and have really enjoyed it in the more seasonal temps the last few mornings.
Christmas treats!
The best present! truckloads of gravel and tractor time

the 3 yr old leading the grey 9 yr old...we grew us a lunker! ;-)
Oh yeah & the grey 9 yr old thinks he's a stud now & tries to herd his filly but she's too fast
The reality check of holidays and family visited and the approaching turn of the page into a new year leaves me thoughtful I suppose.  I'm often surprised and delighted by the things that I enjoy when I open my mind to the possibility or adjust my attitude, and I like who I become when I make myself vulnerable, struggle with something, and overcome, whether in horses or the bigger picture. Whatever form your happiness takes or you think it takes, pursue it. You may fulfill just exactly what you thought you would, or find a surprising new path instead. I wish you all excitement and inspiration going into in the new year, pursued with open hearts.

don't forget to love your elders! Rip gives Jay a Christmas greeting

p.s. Scrappy and I hit the trail tomorrow for the first time since GRS! Stay tuned

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Winter Holidays at RHE

There's been rather a lot of this lately:
There are many plus sides to that sort of weather, though saddle time isn't one of them. Still, we drought dwellers needs must pull on our hip waders and heft our mud shovels and enjoy this thing called Winter. Memories of dead grass and fire danger are fresh yet, holding court over the glow of fresh green and the slog through shin high mud. When the tack is oiled and packed away, the truck windows shut tight (they weren't at first though, oops!), and the AERC calendar seems far away, it's time to appreciate other aspects of life and ranch tending. Like:

the pond is back!

the grass is back 
   ---also blankets are back and all the joys therein associated with blanketing Sheza! 

stunning sunrises are back

the sun sometimes come back, and when it does everything *sparkles* with life

tis the season for large lovely trees coming indoors to scent the house and please the eye..
 ..and little gift wrap helpers!

Doing something different is back!  Enjoyed a stellar rock concert in Oakland last weekend

 ..but mostly I do the same stuff, just in rain gear, with soggy ponies..Ahhh Sheza itches

 Have a wiener-ful holiday, I know I will!

Hey Readers, If you or your loved ones are fishing enthusiasts, come enjoy the CA north state freshwater with us!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

When In Doubt, Reassess

There's a funny cycle in this whole horses+endurance world that I dedicate myself to (actually, many, but let's focus!). I'm awake, aware, curious, eager to learn and dedicated to serving my horse first, and best. All told I've been riding horses for over 20 years now and though I would have believed myself in saying that last sentence to you at any point in those 20 years, I will honestly say that I have only really begun to understand horses and reach another level of connection with them in the last 4-5 years.

 It's a funny trick of the horse world particularly that when you state one thing, the opposite usually happens, often scarily quickly. So just about the time that I claim to possess an eager, open questioning mind, I catch myself in a totally bovine train of thought regarding a puzzle at hand. I should say that sometimes I catch myself, but often it's my fellow equestrians who toss out a simple, non rocket-science-esque statement that hits me with a bright light of clarity, and leaves me sitting back thinking, "Well, DUH. Why didn't I think of that?"

We're not necessarily talking major life issues here, either. This post actually started brewing in my head because my right big toe hurt (seriously, bear with me.) Despite attentively trimming my finger and toenails before leaving for our recent multi-day ride, my right big toe hurt suddenly and terribly riding out Scrappy-Go-Weeee!! at GRS, so badly that I was hopping trying to hand walk him and get his brain back on trail. My right side is my metal ankle side and I'm always looking for/dealing with potential imbalances there, so I started focusing on how I was walking with that foot, but beyond catching myself weighting it a bit differently, and making my ankle sore trying to correct that, I couldn't figure out why my big toe in particular hurt so badly. I hypothesized maybe it was jamming into the front of my boot, but the pain was different than that, which I've experienced before.

Then I talked with Mel.

"Your shoes are probably too narrow." She typed.

But But BUT! My brain spluttered. As the sentences left my fingertips I was already laughing at myself:

"But I bought the wide Ariats and they fit great when I bought them 8 months ago."

Sound familiar?

"It can't be the saddle fit, I had Sparkles professionally fitted X months/years ago"


"It can't be saddle fit, I checked it thoroughly and trained X miles/months since then"


"It can't be the saddle, it was just fitted very recently and Sparkles is 3-6 yrs old"


"It can't be chiropractic(or similar), I just had Sparkles looked at 2 weeks ago."


"It can't be the trim, Sparkles loves my farrier/trimmer!"

I could go on.

The more I brewed on it, the more sure I was that we all go through this, to various degrees, and it also struck me that the ability to recognize when your brain has assumed the oxen yolk and is numbly straining in a fallow field is an important one, whether you're thinking about your toes or your life path. One of my favorite quotes ever is credited to Lao Tzu:

“If you are depressed you are living in the past.
If you are anxious you are living in the future.
If you are at peace you are living in the present.”

You can extrapolate that to this I think..if you're justifying your current decisions/methods with something that once was, or might be, rather than what and who you are and what you're faced with in the moment, well, it may be a (potentially futile) struggle.

To go back to my toe, after talking with Mel I put my Ariats back on and wore them to town for errands, allowing the possibility to enter my mind that perhaps these carefully tried on, relatively expensive shoes might not be fitting my current feet. Wouldn't you know it, just quieting that stubborn voice of "But I tried them on first andandand..." allowed me to feel just how squeezed my wide flat foot felt, and I caught myself attempting to stretch my foot within in the shoe to relieve the very present crunching of my unhappy right big toe.

Well, DUH. Why didn't I think of that?

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Mares Between the Rains

It's been raining here pretty much since Scrappy and I got home from our not-gone-to plan last ride of the season a week ago. At least 7 inches of rain if not more fell in a matter of days, with gusty winds to match. Because Desire and Rory's shed is framed right out my double living room/office windows, I was privy to some pretty nifty and effective horse training taking place during the endless rains. Desire is a mild boss mare, expressing herself with marvelously pulled flat-eared snarky dragon faces, the odd squeal, but not much "bite" to back up the bark. She and Rory get along well, Rory harassing her a bit like she was her own foal, grazing together, and egging Desire on to take hill runs with her daily. Still despite the peace Desire wasn't entirely buying sharing valuable shed space with Rory, at least until endless days of rain rolled in and Rory decided things were going to change. Quietly, doggedly, with gaze averted, Rory would sidle into the shed, Desire would snark, Rory would retreat. And repeat. For hours, maybe even a day. The next day glancing out the window I noticed that Rory was farther in under cover, for longer at a time. And still utilizing the same method when necessary, casual approach, non panicked retreat, repeat, repeat. Sure enough the filly was quietly and determinedly desensitizing Desire to her presence there in the shed, just the way I worked with her and the spray bottle, or Sheza and her raincoats. She was casual and non threatening, and completely persistent to the point that it was more effort for Desire to get mad at her than just accept it. It's reassuring when you see a horse teaching another horse the way you would! Anyway by the 4th day of downpours and since, I can feed them in out of the rain, side by side in the shed, with no more than some token mare ears. 
Desire, bodaciously muddy at 18 1/2
out for a hoof trim, couldn't resist hosing her off, not that it lasted
Rory is 14 hands.... at the rump!
OH HAY Scrappy, meet your new Kimberwick
Between storms I mucked the mares' entryway yesterday and with no effort on my part or influence by the other horses Rory came running to me and wanted scratches. I was thoroughly filly flattered! She has run up to me before but that was with Sheza influence, and in general while quiet she's been a bit aloof and not entirely connected with me until now.
Hey ! Whatcha doing! 
getting buff at 18 months old
filly cuddles
In today's break in the storms I pulled Sheza out to change her waterlogged rain sheet (it's been raining that much) and have a look at her hooves. The deluge of water after 2 winters with next to none have turned the land seriously mucky and I'm on thrush patrol but happily Sheza's hooves looked *great* and just need a bit of heel taken down, bar clean up, toe roll, and that was that. 

Sheza grown up face! In momma D's halter

She's 15 hands at the withers now! And maybe butt high?
 She was great for the long mane detangling/deburring process and shorter hoof trim, even modeling nicely for her liberty photos..and then went totally batty about passing through her gate home politely. When she was a wee thing blasting through gates was a desire of her's we worked on a lot, as we did today. Quietly, persistently, like Rory moving into the shed, a foot at a time, a breath at a time, over and over until we accomplished what we needed and were peacefully where we wanted. Boy, I truly love horses and what they can teach us.