Monday, November 30, 2009


Had a short fast(er) ride today. We meandered around a couple of the shorter trails. I decided to learn from the Failed Experiment and just call the first hesitant part of our ride the warmup. ;)

Lap One, the warmup, was 1.03 miles in a whopping 28 minutes. Lap Two, which included a bit of very steep hill work, was 1.07 in 14 minutes. Lap Three, a short mixed twisty-and-straight trail, was 1.24 miles in 17 minutes. Not counting the warmup, that's about 4.2 mph; counting the warmup it's still 3.3 mph.

Tomorrow is the full moon, so I am going to wear all my clothes and go out with S. ~C and I are planning on doing a longer ride Friday, and I want to give Dixie one day totally off this week. That means either Wednesday or Thursday I'll do a normal ride - maybe the short scenic trail plus the Mines. The other day she'll get off.

I need to buy fruit for my faithful steed. I am out of apples and tangerines! Time to go to Costco.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Invisible swordsman!

Today we did the Mines, backwards, plus some extra wandering in the desert. It was 5.18 miles in 1:43, average 3.0 mph.

We meandered off at our usual pitiful pace, but Dixie picked up her speed pretty fast headed down the wide canyon trails. Everything was going pretty smoothly til we rounded a corner and encountered the Invisible Swordsman. I don't know what else it could've been - I sure couldn't see anything there, and Cersei couldn't see anything either. But Dixie was sure a monster was lurking. She did that Horse Helicopter Thing. You know what I'm talking about - the horse starts snorting with that extra WHRRR noise and helicoptering her head up and down to get a better look at the monster. I just sat there and talked quietly to her til she decided the danger was past, and we continued down the trail.

She was pretty nervous after that brush with death, so I rode extra calm and things went well. We made it to the furthest out point and turned onto the canyon that would take us home and proceeded up it. Then the Invisible Swordsman struck again! (Or more likely, Cersei broke a branch behind us.) Dixie lost her shit and bolted up this narrow canyon. On the first stride, I hollered "Dixie!" in exasperation. On the second stride, I reached forward and grabbed the left rein as far up as possible. On the third, I briefly considered how one-rein-stopping her was a Very Bad Idea, but how letting her run was An Even Worse One. I pulled her head left, up the canyon slope onto a pile of boulders and tree branches, and she stopped instantly. What an awesome mare!

We continued toward home, but she was even spazzier and I kinda lost the trail and ended up at the top of a sand slope, surrounded on all sides by nasty rocky footing. My only choice was to turn around and head back down the slope, but Dixie felt very stupid. Like, she was going to either plunge down the slope on her forehand or she was going to bolt down the slope and kill us both. I got off and walked her for almost a mile, and she gradually calmed down more and more. We detoured down a wash til I found a mounting block - a juniper that was probably 500 years old and hadn't ever grown more than 24" high. I stood on the scraggly stump and she lined up perfectly by it!

We did a little more exploring on the way home. I found a mountain we can climb next time. That sounds kinda silly, because everywhere you look there's mountains, but some of them are too steep for me to comfortably ride back down and most of them are too rocky. I'm not worried about Dixie's feet as much as I am about her slipping! :( But this one looks doable.

The three of us shared a tangerine when we got back safely.

Lazy holiday!

I'm not merely neglecting my blog, I'm neglecting all of my friends' blogs and my horse and the kitchen too.

Thursday we had a private Thanksgiving feast. I thought it was partially really nice, not having to go anywhere or get dressed up, and partially really lonely, for the exact same reasons. My husband loved it - he can't really relax if he's got Something To Do coming up, so holidays are usually very tense for him. (Me? I can sleep on anybody's couch if I'm full and there's football on!)

We didn't do turkey. I have actually never cooked a turkey! Ever! They're so big, and so inherently bland. The biggest bird I've ever cooked was a goose for Christmas a couple years ago. I'd be willing to try a wild turkey, or maybe a small free-range heirloom bird, but not a grocery store turkey. That's because turkey is vastly inferior to the traditional alternative, HAM. I made a brown-sugar ham, mashed potatoes, ham gravy, green beans, and rolls - all homemade, of course. I meant to take a picture but by the time the last few pieces came together I'd forgotten all about it.

After stuffing myself, I promptly fell asleep on the couch listening to the ballgame. Ahhh, now that's Thanksgiving.

Friday's weather was overly dramatic. It was in the 50s when I headed out to see Dixie at noon, but there was snow coming in by 4. WTF? ~C trailered out with Diego to ride with us, which was totally cool for everybody concerned. Diego got to see scary new things, and C got to see my nice trails, and Dixie got a buddy, and I got good conversation. Cersei got to scare the pants off poor Diego, too - SIGH.

I had an internal timer going - I wanted to get back with the horses in time for them to cool down and dry off completely before the wind really picked up, and for me to get down the mountain and headed home before the snow started. I figured we'd have plenty of time to do the Mines slowly, and we actually did. Unfortunately I (accidentally) turned off the GPS at 1.61 miles, but we did about 3.5 miles in maybe 1:20.

Diego started out doing that Arab Tigger thing, and Dixie wasn't exactly modeling calmness either. I think she suspects she can't outrun him. My theory is that Dixie likes having other horses around because you don't have to run faster than the bear, just faster than your friends. Anyway, Diego was pretty bouncy so C led him til his tail went down, then rode, then walked, etc. He's doing that green horse thing where he's much, much happier if his human is in front being the bold leader, rather than up on his back. I have walked more miles than I (redneck that I am) care to admit in front of my own silly mare!

Dixie really thought we should run home when we turned the "magic corner." I had to get up in her mouth more than I like, but she didn't actually even break to a trot and I didn't have to circle or yell or get frustrated and get off - she listened! Once I got her attention, it was just miles of constant half-halts, which is tiresome to ride but effective. It was very good for both of us - we both like to go fast, but she is not in TWH race training.

I forget that other people don't ride with small yellow dogs on a constant guard circle. Cersei popped up behind Diego in a canyon at one point and the poor fellow jumped straight up in the air and bucked once. Luckily C was leading him, and to his great credit he settled right back down. I made sure to keep Cersei on point after that!

It was a very good ride. We live an annoying distance apart - it takes about 45 minutes for C to trailer up to Spanish Springs - but hopefully we'll keep riding together once a week or so!

Everything went perfectly according to my timer - we got the horses cooled off before the wind got too bad, and I got home right as it started to snow. I took some pictures of the Overly Dramatic Weather from the grocery store parking lot on the way home - these are like an unstitched panorama.

Looking west:
Dramatic lighting at Smith's

Dramatic clouds at Smith's

Southeast (with bonus seagull!):
More dramatic clouds

A snow cloud ate Peavine! Our apartment is at the very base of the peak you can barely see.
Invisible mountain

It snowed an inch that afternoon, then NOTHING. Graham and I were all excited because the weather swore up and down we'd get 1-3" overnight. We got nothing!

Yesterday was very lazy. I read two books and ate a lot of tangerines. Today I'm getting back in the saddle!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Failed experiment

I tried something that didn't work out today. But I looked at it as a scientific experiment, and failure is just as valuable as success.

Stats: Mines without the Mines, 4.12 mi in 1:21, average 3.0 mph, max 10.2 mph. I don't think I've ever explained the whole Mines trail, and it's important to the story. We walk down the road for almost a half mile, then head off on a singletrack sandy trail, through the sagebrush and over some small hills, for about 3/4 mile. Then we go down a very short but very steep slope into a canyon, head out for another half mile, then turn back towards home up another canyon. The canyons are wide enough for two horses abreast, with moderate to deep sand footing. The canyon gradually becomes jeep trails, the same sandy footing, and we pop back out at the end of the road a half mile from home.

Dixie has gotten so much braver, but she's still very slow for the first mile or two headed out. She'll walk forward, kind of hesitantly, for a couple hundred yards, then she has to stop and stare. After she stares for a bit and maybe sighs, she'll go forward again... for another hundred yards. This goes on for a mile or two, no more, when she somehow becomes resigned to her fate and snaps into get-r-done mode and we chug down the trail.

It seems to me that everybody who's really successful at endurance (or CTR, foxhunting, eventing, or even dressage) talks about having a horse who loves its work. In outdoorsy sports, that a means "let's go see what's down that trail" attitude, not an "oh jesus I think that rabbit's looking at me" attitude. Nobody ever acts like maybe their horse just wants to stay home, so I'm hoping we all gloss over those days when the horse would rather stand in the pasture and fart. So I'm operating on the assumption that as Dixie gets fitter and gets more and more successful (i.e. not scary) rides under her belt, she'll start looking forward to our work.

And it's not like she's really resistant, anyway. After I tack Dixie up, I unclip the lead rope from her halter and stand on the tailgate of my truck, and she walks over so I can mount. She just has to be encouraged to head out and face the trail. Not forced or bullied, just gently encouraged. Same in the arena - she's perfectly happy to let me climb on her back and then let's just stand here ok?

Anyway. She's very stop and go in the early part of a ride. She's not extremely nervous anymore - when she stops, her head stays pretty low and she's still breathing normally. Usually, I let her stand until she flicks an ear back at me, then I ask her to walk forward again. Today, I decided to try to push her to keep walking forward.

We pushed on (I felt like I was nagging, which I really don't like to do) through the sagebrushy part of the trail. When we got to the scary dropoff into the canyon, she STOPPED. She wasn't tired, just nervous. It felt like she was really getting panicky. It took 20 minutes of me just sitting and her just looking around before she decided we were ok to proceed. I never got off or let her turn towards home, and she never got really upset - she just needed to stand. And pushing her til she mentally HAD to stop ended up being slower than letting her pause on her own. Experiment failed!

Eventually, Dixie relaxed and we headed on, quite peacefully. She wasn't particularly excitable coming home - we did a bit of trot/rack/canter on the straight jeep trails, and she didn't try to bolt on me. She did cross-fire on me at one point. We were cantering past a tree, and she spooked at it, jumped sideways, and came back down on the wrong lead or feet or whatever. I asked her to slow down, and she dropped back to a rack.

So today's question: Did your horse always love her job? Did he or she eventually grow into it? I think she's still improving, so I'm not too worried, but I do wish she loved heading out on the trail as much as I do!

Monday, November 23, 2009


Dixie totally foxtrotted today! I think it's official, she's offered me every gait possible now. My horse rules!

Rode with S Saturday and Sunday. We did 6.5 miles, roughly, both days. We explored a little bit - Saturday we went up the side of the canyon, but we ended up on private property so we turned around. Sunday she showed me a different bigger mine off the main mines trail.

Today I wanted to do a slightly shorter ride at a faster pace, so we went down the wide sand trails to the point where they enter the mine canyon. Then we turned around and came back up the deep sand at a nice fast walk, then when we got to better footing I let her canter. We ended up doing three walk/canter sets, about .5 miles walking and .2 miles cantering each time. By the last set she was getting tired, so I asked for a trot, and she trotted a bit then broke into a foxtrot. It's quite nice! I hope she decides she'd rather foxtrot than dressage trot, but we'll see.

I was quite pleased with Dixie. She rated her speed for me! No fights! And she only spooked twice on the way out - those devilish jackrabbits.

Cersei and I are both really tired, and I'm pretty sure Dixie is too. I might take tomorrow off.

Friday, November 20, 2009


Today's post will have even less of a unifying theme than normal.

I didn't ride this morning. I got up at 7, to go ride at 8 after Dixie had finished her breakfast, but the wind was already howling. The weather said sustained winds of 40 and gusts up to 65, and I believe it. I was going to study a bit, but I ended up studying with my eyes closed under a warm blanket, if you know what I mean.

I headed into town shortly before noon to get a haircut and do the grocery shopping. The wind was amazing! On the highway, I hit three tumbleweeds and one fairly large chunk of wood, and barely dodged a big piece of hard plastic and a flappy loose sheet of tin. While I was stopped around town, I started recording some videos to try and show yall what it was like. (I have wide ranging tastes in music - you are forewarned.)

You can't take a picture of the wind, not under any normal circumstances. But you CAN take video of large metal poles swaying in the wind, so here's the Dancing Poles at Plumb and Kietzke.

Crazy wind in Reno, NV from Funder on Vimeo.

When I went to get gas at Costco, the wind wasn't howling quite as badly but the storm clouds were coming down the mountain. The trees are whipping, but the whole truck is shaking too.

More crazy wind in Reno from Funder on Vimeo.

When I got out of Costco, it was sort of slush-raining. As I climbed out of the valley back to our home on the mountain, it turned into snow. Please remember that I was born and raised in Mississippi, where it NEVER snows. Any snow at all is cause for panic, school and work closures, and lots of celebration by kids. Our grocery stores sell out of milk and bread. Little old ladies publicly implore Jesus to save us from the white death. Little kids run outside to make 12" snowmen, everybody slides off the road into the ditch, and rednecks do donuts in the empty parking lots. I am fully aware that other parts of the country get so much snow that they're just jaded about the whole thing, but I am not. I get as excited as a little kid when the white stuff appears!

SNOOOOOOW! from Funder on Vimeo.

Cersei, on the other hand, doesn't approve of water falling from the sky. She loves to snuffle snow and wallow in mud puddles, but she doesn't like feeling the snowflakes or raindrops falling on her back. She's kind of torn between snuffling the snow and running back home to get away from the flakes! (I actually talk in this one - a rare video indeed. I probably sound like you think I sound.)

Cersei is not so sure she likes snow from Funder on Vimeo.

And now for the horse stuff. Dixie needed a cooler to help her dry off, but I wasn't sure if I should get fleece or wool. Plus, those things are really expensive, and I can't turn her out in a blanket! The weather here fluctuates too much (see above), and one of the other horses in the field is a master at undressing his friends. So I decided I'd only blanket her to dry her off after rides, and something homemade would do - at least for now. So I bought 2 yards of soft, fairly absorbent fleece and one of those horribly ugly grey wool "emergency blankets." I clicker-introduced her to the fleece, made some markings, and brought the fabric home. I sewed some velcro to the neck and belly of each piece of fabric, and I have homemade coolers.

Would you like to see Dixie's fleece? I thought you would! Here is a rather long video of me and my obviously colorblind horse. This is the fitting, where I just tossed it on her and marked it - tomorrow I will see how well it velcros on.

Dixie must be colorblind from Funder on Vimeo.

I really think everybody should do a bare minimum of clicker training with their horse. It's like teaching a horse a one-rein stop - it doesn't take very long, and you don't have to c/t every interaction, but it's there if you ever need it again. I showed her that fabric, asked "touch it," and she got a treat. You can see she's not too sure about it the first couple times I wave it around, but she clearly knows that standing still will get more Frosted Mini-Wheats. And she was totally unconcerned - after I turned off the camera, I kept fiddling with it and it flapped wildly in the wind and she did. not. care. one. bit. What a good girl! C/T is a really easy way to make Scary Horse Eating Things seem like Good Things Where Food Appears, and it complements classic training quite well.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Putting the "slow" in long slow rides

Oh man, today was Scary Day Part 2. We did 2.09 in 50 minutes - lots of stopping!

It's trash day in the neighborhood, so we have to very carefully make our way around those sneaky trash cans sitting at the end of each driveway. I encourage her to investigate them and I praise her mightily when she does! But each new driveway has a new trash can, and horses just don't generalize well. Stop, all bug-eyed, and stare. Approach the monster can in full imitation Arab mode, stepping very lightly with an arched neck. Slooowly stretch that neck out and sniff the monster can. Relax almost completely, because it's obviously not a monster, just a trash can. Move 50 yards to the next monster can.

When we left the road, she changed to looking for monsters in the scrub. Lots of slamming on the brakes and staring around. I eased her through it until she started slamming on the brakes without her head up - that's when she's gone from really afraid to "I wonder if we can just go home now?" Sorry, Dixie, we cannot just go home now.

We'd just worked through all that and started to pick up some real forward movement when ZOMG monsters! Actually, it was the neighbors, on two horses, so she calmed down real quick and let me talk to them for almost 15 minutes. Then they rode off in one direction and we headed off in the other - look, a training opportunity! She got "frozen" and wouldn't move for a while, but she wasn't trying to turn and run, so I'll call it improvement.

Then we racked almost all the way home. She is getting fitter!

I am getting the Garmin figured out. It's not very intuitive. I told it I'm riding a bike, so at least it displays my speed as MPH and doesn't auto-pause when we stop!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


I do not understand the weather here. From the venerable National Weather Service:

Friday: A chance of rain between 10am and 4pm, then snow likely, possibly mixed with rain. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 61. Very windy, with a south wind 20 to 25 mph increasing to between 35 and 40 mph. Winds could gust as high as 55 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%.

Do you see what I see?
Friday: A chance of rain between 10am and 4pm, then snow likely, possibly mixed with rain. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 61.

So. The low on Thursday night will be 38 (above freezing, for my metric friends). Then Friday, after 10 am, it will snow and/or rain, and it will get up to 61 (which is sleeveless-vest weather, even if you're a thin-blooded Southerner). How can it snow when it's above freezing and headed up to 61?

Who knows. I should try to ride before 10am, I suppose, before the driving slush knocks me off my horse and I die of hypothermia in tee-shirt weather.

Ambushed by Satan's Minions

Yay, I used the Forerunner today! It works ok, except it wants to tell me my pace in minutes per mile instead of miles per hour. I think there's a way to change that, but I haven't tried yet. Also, the damn thing auto-pauses if we stop moving. That's cool in some circumstances, but I think it's more honest to let our time standing still drag down our total pace.

Her best head-nodding let's-go-somewhere forward walk was about 14 minutes/mile, and her fast rack or medium trot is 7 minutes/mile. I think that's about 4.2 mph and 8.5 mph, respectively. We did the whole Mines (4 miles) in exactly 1:01... plus the untimed pauses.

The biggest pause was when the demons appeared. We were chugging on towards home, in the canyon, when we came around a corner and HOLY SHIT DEER. Only 50' ahead, halfway up the canyon wall, were a big mule doe and a lovely 6 point buck. Dixie froze, head as high as it would possibly go, and started shaking. The doe looked at us and the buck didn't even climb to his feet. Dixie started slooowly backing away and I asked her to stand, so she did. Everybody kept staring at everybody else, except for Cersei, who hadn't figured out why we stopped. After a couple minutes, I said "Shoo!" The deer stared at me. I said, louder, "Bang bang!" The deer were unfazed. Then Cersei (bless her heart) realized what the horse and I had been looking at and let out an enormous bark. The buck leapt to his feet and he and the doe headed over the hill.

Dixie was still terrified, and it took a lot of very gentle coaxing to convince her to keep going. But she did, and she stayed in the gait I asked her to be in! Almost all walk, a little trot, and a little rack.

Yall might remember that Dixie doesn't usually like to be brushed. I spent a long time trying different brushes, techniques, ways of approaching her, and I finally gave up. I must brush the dirt off before I ride, so she must stand still for it - sorry, kiddo. When we got back today, my poor hairy yak was pretty sweaty, so I rubbed her down really well with a towel and walked her dry. And you know what? She loved it! Stuck her nose out and waggled her lips around, making happy horse faces. Yay! Then when I turned her back out she absolutely wallowed in the dust and got back up as a rare brown-and-bay paint. Sigh.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Clinton Anderson review

I really wanted to go ride today, to try out the Forerunner, but I thought Dixie deserved a rest day. We don't actually go very fast yet, but she still needs down time. I really don't want to injure her! So today's post is a brief yet rambling review of the Clinton Anderson gaited horse DVDs.

He works with two horses, a lazy stiff pacey black mare and a hot bolting palomino mare. The owner of both is a Fearless Teenager - she demonstrated the palomino bolting when she drops the reins, and she was more annoyed than anything else. I often wish I was a fearless teenager! The black mare needs constant kicking to go forward at all, and she paces pretty bad. They're flat shod, but she rides in the usual long-shank curb bits.

I watched the first couple sessions with the lazy black mare and all the sessions with the hot palomino. I haven't seen any other Clinton Anderson stuff (other than the demo at the show), but he says he treats gaited horses exactly like trotting horses. The videos are filmed a week apart for 4 weeks. He gets some respect from the ground, then mounts up and teaches them NOT to take off when he drops the reins. Then he does a lot of "suppling," every single ride - he wants the horse to yank its head around and touch his boot when he picks up the rein.

This is the first point where I was like "well I am not going to do this and I'm not so sure it's a good idea." I don't want a horse that snaps her head to my boot when I touch a rein - I want a horse who will eventually touch my boot if I keep asking her to bend. And he drills this suppling exercise HUNDREDS of times a ride, after doing it hundreds of times from the ground, every single ride. I don't think this is a good idea for a couple of reasons - I do not want an unthinking automaton horse with a conditioned response like that, and I am not sure that's a physiologically good way to stretch your horse.

After all the suppling, he teaches the horses the one-rein stop, then "cruise control." Cruise control means (obviously) "don't break gait." It's sensible enough, and follows standard training procedures. 1-2-3, ask very softly, then more forcefully, then whap the horse with the end of the lead rope til you get the speed you want. As long as the horse is in the gait you want, leave it alone. ORS if it speeds up, 1-2-3 if it slows down.

Here's where Clinton Anderson differs from most gaited horse people: He does NOT care if the horse trots or canters. He says that in his experience they'll gait once they get strong and/or supple enough, so he just rides out the trot and canter as they appear. In the last videos, the horses are definitely doing a four-beat moderately fast gait - not real running walks or even fast racks, but a walk at a nice trail speed. Maybe 5-7 mph.

He did some other drills - turn on the haunches and turn on the forehand - but again, they're very Western-ish reining style moves, not the dressage-ish stuff I am going for. I honestly didn't pay all that much attention. Again, I don't want my horse to do a reining spin when I pick up a rein and put my leg on! And again, he drills and drills the horse on the moves. I thought reining people thought there's only a certain number of spins in a horse's hocks and you shouldn't waste them?

Anyway, I'm glad I borrowed and watched the DVDs. I wouldn't be thrilled if I'd bought them, but I don't think I'm the target audience anyway. They'd be very good if you were scared of your horse - "here is exactly what to do to stay safe and get a rideable horse." And it's nice to see someone ride a gaited horse WITHOUT hauling back on a huge curb bit.

There's other clinicians I'd really like to see / work with - Howe They Walk, Liz Graves, or (warning: TERRIBLE site ahead!) Walkin' On Ranch, just to name some of the gaited clincians. There's plenty of "normal" horse trainers I'd like to work with too, of course. I don't feel like I wasted my time with the CA videos, but I don't think I'd go to one of his clinics either.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Many miles

Big update!

Saturday S and I did the Palomino Valley ride.
Distance: 9.53 miles
Elapsed Time: 3:54:24
Avg Speed: 2.4 mph
Avg Pace: 24' 35" per mile
Min Altitude: 4,928 ft
Max Altitude: 5,702 ft

The good thing was that Dixie was completely comfortable walking over the roughest rocky part of the ride.

The bad thing: she was never really mentally with me the whole ride - she led ok for the first half of the ride, then rode along Summer up and down the mountain, but she wouldn't ever give me her attention. I got frustrated and started trying to get her to pay attention to me when we were about 1.5 miles from home - asking her to circle and change speeds. She got more and more frantic as Summer got further ahead of us, and I ended up getting off and leading her for a while. She was so mentally checked out that she wouldn't even drop her head and look at me when I was in front of her, and I was so frustrated and angry. I walked for a half mile or so, til we'd both calmed down, then got back on and rode her home.

It's just one more challenge for us to work on. She does fine alone, and she does fine if she's leading other horses, but she gets totally unglued when another horse passes her. This will never work for endurance, or for any sport other than "leading QHs on very slow trail rides," so we'll deal with it.

Sunday I did not want to deal with it. I rode with three other people, and I let Dixie lead. This was the Canyon Ride, and I am quite impressed that the iPhone didn't lose satellite signal down in there. I forgot to turn the tracker on when we left, so it's maybe .4 miles longer than it says:
Distance: 5.56 miles
Elapsed Time: 2:02:13
Avg Speed: 2.7 mph
Avg Pace: 21' 58" per mile
Min Altitude: 4,804 ft
Max Altitude: 5,513 ft

I am always on the lookout for new places to ride. When I zoom in on the sat map, it looks like there's a jeep trail / horse path leading up out of the canyon about halfway along the trail - just south of where the trail changes from N-S to NE-SW. I will have to remember to bring the iPhone next time we ride, so we can pull up a map and look for that maybe-trail in the right spot.

Anyway, my horse was superb on Saturday. I have been really concentrating on halting with my seat before I pick up the reins, and it was showing - she halted so softly, often just from my seat, and waited pretty patiently for the other horses to catch up. (No, she has no problem at all leaving other horses behind; she just doesn't want to be the one getting left!)

Today I really meant to give her a light day, just a little schooling, but it didn't really work out that way.
Distance: 5.81 miles
Elapsed Time: 2:01:57
Avg Speed: 2.9 mph
Max Speed: 10.4 mph

We worked on being forward about going out, and coming home without rushing. There's one particular spot where she loves to rush home, for no reason that I can see, so we worked there for quite a while. I am extremely amused at this picture.

She eventually quit blowing me off and walked nicely around that corner and we got to go home. But as we got back, S had just gotten home and I decided to do a tiny ride with her. Tiny, hahahha. We were out for another 1:15, and the sun was behind the mountains and it was FREEZING by the time we got back. I rode Dixie just at the edge of her comfort level, right at the point where she and Summer got nervous about being so far apart. I kept her paying attention to me - wandering through the sagebrush, halting softly, backing softly. She did well, but it'll take more time, I know.

When I got home, the charging cradle for my Forerunner had arrived. I'm reading the manual and watching MNF. I just can't keep using the iPhone GPS for all my rides - today's 2 hour ride sucked over half my battery, and Saturday's 4 hour ride took 95% of the battery. It looks like the Forerunner will give me the same info, plus I can overlay my track onto Google Earth and get screenshots - it's just a crappier interface.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Things are clicking into place

I have read a lot about horses in the three years I've owned them - just about everything online, all the horse training books in all the libraries I've lived near, books my friends have mailed me. The thing I never read, that I wish I had read, was some kind of reassurance that eventually things start to click into place. Apparently, they do!

Today Dixie and I did the Mines. The SCARY Mines, down in a canyon where a bear could eat us, going past the mineshafts that clearly have demons lurking in them. She was fantastic! Not perfectly loose and relaxed, but not so antsy she made me nervous and I made her more nervous. I watch her head mainly, and her head was held juuuust below the point where she's really nervous.

Another thing that's paying off - when I think she's nervous, I ask her to stop. When she's nervous, she sometimes even stops on her own. Then we just stand there, facing the scary unknown, until I sigh - and then she will sigh, and her head will drop a bit, and I'll ask her to walk forward, and she will. My horse RULES.

Here's today's results:
Name: Track 006
Date: Nov 13, 2009 3:13 pm
Distance: 4.45 miles
Elapsed Time: 1:17:32
Avg Speed: 3.4 mph
Max Speed: 8.4 mph
Avg Pace: 17' 26" per mile
Min Altitude: 4,766 ft
Max Altitude: 5,377 ft

Notice that this trail is a bit steeper - we went up a bit, then down about 500', then climbed gradually back up to about 5,100'. With the altitude, and the "new scary all alone" factor, I'm pretty happy with 3.4 mph. And this time I am pretty sure 8.4 mph was our true max speed - I managed to grab the phone while she was trotting up a straight jeep trail, and it said 8.4, and it felt about that fast. Again, she surprised me with her walk, hitting 5 mph a couple of times.

The most horrible thing we encountered was a flock of Terror Birds when we were almost home. We were rockin' on up the last straight jeep trail at a very nice forward trot when the Terror Birds (probably some kind of jays) started plotting her dismemberment (squawking at each other) and circling around to hamstring her (flying out of the junipers away from us). She almost lost her cool, but I got her to stop and stare til the birds finished squawking and moving away from us.

Here's our map. Hope y'all had lovely days with your horses too!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Stupid big lick people

Yall probably already read Shame in the Horse Show Ring, so you've probably already seen the latest post. That's why I don't show. That's what Dixie went through before I got her. In fact, that's exactly how she acted when I got her.

Watch a couple of the videos at the Waterfall Farms Colt Preview. That is all those horses know to do - go forward, as fast as possible, and turn before they run into the arena wall. I promise you, they're hot as hell and completely ignorant. And they're BABIES! Conventional redneck wisdom says to break out TWHs when they're 18 months old, maybe 24 if they're slow growers.

Show Walkers have such horrible lives, but they're such sweet horses through it all. It breaks my heart. And I know those padded colts look like the gangliest clunkiest things in the world, but they really CAN be good using horses. So:

1) Don't support those fuckheads who breed and show padded horses (unless you really fall in love with one)
2) Don't think all gaited horses move and act like those poor babies.

That is today's Gaited Horse PSA. Dixie had the day off, so that's about all I've got.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Movie night!

Today I was totally fed up with waiting for the Garmin charging station (even though it's been a reasonable amount of time and it's not actually late yet) so I took the iPhone GPS thingie with me. The iPhone GPS is really quite nice, lots of features and maps and stuff, but it's substandard because if you lose cell reception, you lose the GPS function. And it eats battery like MAD. And I have to take my attention off my horse and reach down to my bag and pull it out, then unlock it, then look at it, then not drop it, relock it, and put it back in the bag. Ugh.

But here's our stats for today:
Name: Track 005
Date: Nov 11, 2009 11:34 am
Distance: 3.49 miles
Elapsed Time: 59:05.7
Avg Speed: 3.5 mph
Max Speed: 10.2 mph
Avg Pace: 16' 55" per mile
Min Altitude: 5,179 ft
Max Altitude: 5,470 ft

I don't think the 10.2 MPH is accurate! What was interesting, though - I checked several times when Dixie was walking forward quite briskly, but still loose and supple. The kind of walk she usually does when we're leading a pack of horses toward home, what I have been calling her normal walk. It's 4.7 mph!

Here's a map of where we went - the scenic trail (over the mountain) then the pueblo trail.

Then C sent me something interesting she saw on a mailing list about gaited endurance horses, and it mentioned Clinton Anderson. S had loaned me the CA gaited horse dvds, so it seemed like the universe wants me to watch them already. I just started, and it seems like I have in fact been doing it right. CA says to take them out of the curb bits, trim their feet naturally, get them bending with a snaffle, and then let them trot and canter to figure it all out. Hmmm. I HAVE REDISCOVERED THE WHEEL, YET AGAIN!

(fake edit: Dammit, I had a clever title picked out. Then I forgot to work the title joke into the body of my post. Then I forgot what the joke was even going to BE! I have the attention span of a butterfly.)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Slow day

We did pretty much the same as yesterday - I rode Dixie alone for an hour, then met up with S and rode for another hour. Today I noted my time on part of the ride - we did 1.87 in an easy 35 minutes, which is about 3.2 mph. I didn't let her really open up on the straight stretches, either. Where we cantered yesterday, I kept her to a nice flat walk and a trot today.

I appear to have remembered how to post. Whew - yesterday I was lurching all over the place, but today I got my sea legs back. Nothing really exciting to report. I mainly wanted to get down my MPH on that short trail for posterity. :)

Monday, November 9, 2009


Oh hey, I haven't posted in half a week. If I don't write it down as soon as it happens, I forget to blog.

Thursday was an off day. Friday I had lunch with ~C down in south Reno, and it was a perfectly nice day - sunny, a few big pretty clouds, not too windy, about 60 degrees. So I headed north to ride Dixie, and either the wind came in with a vengeance or it was just locally windy up there. We boldly headed out together in 20 mph winds with gusts of about 35. Not as impressive as WHP's Wind but plenty windy for Miss Ox-Head. She was a total brat headed out, and I actually took pity on her when we got to the end of the road. We gracefully turned around and I gave the tiniest squeeze to indicate that she could walk home now, and that evil cow exploded and tried to bolt home. That just made me mad, so we careened through the sagebrush turning tight circles having a big fight. When she finally realized I was totally serious and I was not going to let her run home, she walked quite nicely back to the corner. Then we turned right instead of left, and I made her go up two hilltops. At a brisk walk, no less! Then she had to walk nicely back home. I think we turned for home three or four times before she quit trying to explode. Every time she'd start to tense up, ready to set her head and bolt home, I'd spin her around and we'd go further away. Finally, we turned for home and she kept her ears on me and her neck loose, and we walked very calmly home.

Saturday I had to go shopping so I didn't ride. I did stop at the REI garage sale, and I picked up a Garmin Forerunner 205 for $35. It needs a charging station, which I've ordered, but even so it was a steal! I may never know Dixie's heart rate, but I will soon know our distance, time, and MPH on our trips. That'll help a lot.

Sunday we all did a quick ride down to the Mines, and Dixie was quite well behaved. Better than some of the other horses, honestly. Then we humans headed over to the Clinton Anderson thingie, and S won the door prize! She now has one of each of his DVDs, and that man has put out like 30 DVDs. She is going to loan me the 6-disk gaited horse DVD, so we'll see what he has to say. Otherwise, he was really entertaining and I picked up a few new ways to think about things, but nothing earthshattering.

There's outliers like Nevzorov and those horse-tripping Mexican cowboys and Alexandra Kurland*, but most everybody else is saying the same thing in different ways. Pressure the horse til you get the desired behavior, then release instantly. Take breaks so the poor thing can calm down. Don't get tense. Clinton Anderson isn't saying anything new - he says the same stuff, in his own words, in an entertaining way. And that's good; the more different ways of pressure/release I see, the better I will get.

Today I did a double ride - Dixie and Cersei and I headed part way down the mines trail, then we cut over some hills, then we came back up the end of the mines trail. She got nervous and rushed when we cut across the hill, but we got calmed down again before we got back on the trail. Then, since she seemed so soft, I let her go home as fast as she wanted. We racked up part of the trail, trotted up another part, and cantered on the shoulder of the road. Her canter feels like flying! I hope I can start adding speed work back in - I hope she doesn't blow up on me and want to run everywhere now.

Anyway, we cantered up part of the road, then I had her slow to a walk part of the way, then I let her trot a hundred yards, then we walked back home through our sagebrush obstacle course. Doing all those unpredictable serpentines around the bushes in the lot next to S's is really helpful for both of us. I have to pay attention and ask nicely, and she usually chooses to listen and cooperate.

I timed things just right, and S had just gotten home when we got back. She saddled Summer and we headed out for another short ride, down the scenic trail. Dixie did quite well for her second trip out. The second trip was all slow, so she was dry and cool by the time we got back.

I think it's going to snow this week. Yuck.

*Yall do realize I'm not comparing Mexican horse-trippers to clicker trainers, right? Just that those three are the farthest extremes of working with horses - all pressure from one, and no pressure from the two?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Oh, Wikipedia, what a glorious timewaster you are

I didn't ride today. I could've, I suppose, but Dixie hasn't had a day off in just over a week.

While wandering around Wikipedia tonight, reading about Lord Byron (who now rivals Sir Richard Burton as my favorite Englishman) and Henry the Eighth's wives and Louis Riel, I somehow ended up back in ancient Greece. Bucephalus means "ox-head"! I should have known this, because I know that Bo is ox and Cephalus is head, but I didn't put it together. Anyway, I shall refer to my heifer Dixie as an ox-head from now on.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Hah! I totally rode my horse - who is definitely in heat - on the short loop again! And she was actually better than Monday! Cersei came with us. She's gotten very serious about her job. No more dashing off ahead and behind; she sticks with us on point or heeling the horse. I think even Dixie appreciates having a dog to defend her from the evil rabbits. :)

So we call the short loop the Pueblo Loop, because it circles around the adobe house nearby. Google Earth says it's 1.8 miles, and it's almost totally flat. There's another loop, the Scenic Loop, that's about 2.5 miles, and it goes down the side of the southern hill, along the base, and back up to the top. The Mines is harder to see from sat maps, but I'm guessing it's about 3.25 miles. The Canyon ride is about 5 miles, but it's scary scary stuff for Dixie - there could be wolves around the next corner, and how would she see them in time? And of course Palomino Valley is very hilly and about 9.5 miles. I have plenty of options for rides, with either deep sand or rocky stuff to get her legged up.

I think next time we go out alone - probably Friday or Saturday - I'll shoot for 5 miles at a good steady walk. Either the Mines, or Pueblo plus Scenic. I don't have a watch, so I'll have to remember to bring my phone and see how long it takes us. I know the distances, and if I take her out alone I can get a good sense of how fast we go on average. Then I can add either miles or speed and work out a better plan.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Silver and black

Well, our moonlight ride was only half a success. The horses did great under the circumstances, but we timed things very poorly.

We waited til the moon was almost over the hills to the NE, then headed out. But the sun wasn't all the way down - it had just dropped behind the mountains to the west - and we were riding west so we couldn't see shit. The sky was bright and the earth was dark and it just wasn't a good combination.

But we were riding down the gravel road, so we persevered. We stopped for a while at the end of the road, til the sky got darker and the moon was all the way up, then we started down the straight sandy trail. But as soon as the trail headed downhill, even a little bit, we couldn't see anymore because the moon just wasn't high enough.

We were undaunted and turned to head home a different route - but then we were riding directly toward the moon and I swear to god it was too bright to really make out the trail. I could kind of see the trail, but that particular trail is just a twisty path through the sagebrush, and the bushes were casting huge long shadows and in 100 yards I wandered off trail and ended up against somebody's fence and we said fuck it and went home.

Our horses looked fabulous in the moonlight! S was on Summer, who is also a paint, and the horses were just glowing silver. The scenery was a million shades of grey, from midnight black up to pearl-grey. Really beautiful!

Dixie behaved quite well. I suspect she thought we were going to die and came into heat real fast in the hopes of getting some before death, but I won't know for sure til tomorrow. She stopped once to pee and Summer nickered at her, which he never does unless she's in season. But my sure sign that she's in heat is our monthly battle about the bit - she H-A-T-E-S contact and slings her head nonstop when she's in. I have to be extra light with her. I'll know tomorrow.

No pictures - it's hard to get a moonlight picture to come out from horseback, and I knew Dixie would need all my attention. Yall can imagine a silver horse in the desert :)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Another small step

Yesterday a group of us did the Palomino Valley ride again. I took a bunch of pictures, but if you don't love the desert (hi Mel!) they will probably look boring to you. I walked Dixie down the far side of the mountain, where the road was really rocky, and my calves hurt SO BAD today.

Dixie did just fine and led the group most of the way. S asked us to lead, because Dixie moves out faster than the QHs, and we make better time when she's in the lead. I don't mind leading, because it's good for Dixie - she has to be brave, but it's not as hard for her as being totally alone is.

Mainly I was impressed with Cersei! My dog is pretty awesome. Very early on, maybe a quarter mile from S's place, three loose dogs went running across our path baying at the top of their lungs. Cersei quivered like maybe she ought to chase them, and I yelled "No!" and she stayed with me like glue. We encountered a couple more dogs, and each time I told her to stay with me and she did. The trip's about 9.5 miles, so it tired her out but didn't exhaust her.

I took some video too yesterday! This is when we were almost back home, just cruising down the trail at a TWH's medium walk. My friend on her paint was falling farther and farther behind, and the other three horses were waaaay back there.

Walking down the trail from Funder on Vimeo.

Today I left Cersei snoozing on the couch and went out alone with Dixie. And we did it! I kept her busy weaving very precise tight serpentines around the sagebrushes and before she even realized it we were 1/3 of the way down the shortest loop trail. After that she got a little nervous - we had to stop and stare at every bird and jackrabbit, no matter how far away it was - but she didn't lose her cool and freak out on me. We racked down the sandy straight section of trail headed home, and it was just wonderful. She has the BEST gaits.

She can only rack at a decent clip for about a quarter mile, then she either slows down to a fast walk or breaks into a trot. A very dressagey trot. A trot like she's a cross between a Saddlebred and a kangaroo. It is not remotely a jog. I'm not sure how much I should be asking of her, so I usually just ask her to slow back to a walk. I guess I should ask the endurance mailing lists?

I know that horses can rack for longer periods than that, but I'm not sure if it's good for them to rack that long - it's a naturally inverted gait. Should I (gasp) let my gaited horse trot, just so she works some different muscles? Or should I just keep pushing the walk? Her walk is getting faster, and I don't want to confuse her or ruin her muscle memory. Any ideas?