Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Summer of the Good Horse

I think I've had a hell of a good horse ever since her first 50 at High Desert. I didn't really realize it til she got hurt at NASTR. Dixie was SO good for her rehab - first horse jail, then handwalking, then (bareback!) light riding, and now trailering out to slowly ease back to real endurance conditioning.

Before High Desert, she was a jerk about trailer loading. When we got where we were going, she'd eat hay for a while, dig holes by the trailer, Stare Into The Distance, not drink, and be an ass under saddle.

Now, she loads pretty easily. She eats, and she looks around with a soft eye. She drinks when she's thirsty. She moves out willingly away from the trailer (and kinda drags headed back to it!)

I decided to take her to Patriot's Day Lake Almanor, even though I wasn't going to ride her. I'm following Aarene's lead and just exposing her to different stuff, all the time. I figured we'd get there early Friday and I could ride her around camp. Saturday she could chill out at the trailer (and optionally dig holes) and then Sunday morning I'd get up and ride her on one of the loops, then we'd head back home. My plan, as always, didn't go off flawlessly, but it worked out.

Fire's owner A got hung up at home and couldn't leave her place near Susanville til 2:30, so we didn't get to camp until late afternoon. I got Cersei and Dixie settled, then needed to vet Fire in and listen to the ride meeting. Dixie was chill on the trailer ride out and settled in to the serious business of eating once we got there.


Ridecamp wasn't really much of a place to ride around on Saturday afternoon. The meadow was logged a couple decades ago, so it was full of half-rotted tree stumps. Plus I was hot and I was more interested in drinking beer and talking to people, TBQH!

People! I met Bird the Redhead and her husband. She finished the LD on her cute gelding somewhere just ahead of me and she actually got to show for BC (probably because her gelding has ground manners, lol!) I hung out at her camp for a while, then she came back to my camp and met Dixie. She took a nap and I took a shower and I didn't see them again, but I look forward to seeing them at some other ride.

I talked to a lady with a standard poodle for a while. Cersei and the poodle got along well together, and the poodle owner had just finished the 75. And I met an anonymous reader - I think she did the 50; I hope I'm not underestimating her. ;)

So Saturday was a lot of trotting, a little beer, and one camp shower. I bought one of those black plastic bag camp showers last week, as an impulse purchase after Mel talked about them. I am all about the little luxuries: fresh socks at every hold, and now, a shower after the ride. I threw the shower bag on the hood of the truck when I left, and after I completed it was the perfect temperature.

I just couldn't get excited about booting Dixie up and doing 12.5 miles on logging roads on Sunday. I was kinda meh about it when I went to sleep, and I woke up at dawn thinking "ugh logging roads." I got up about 5:30, made some coffee, and decided to ride Plumas NF near Janesville on the way home.

Morning fog:

I'd parked in this iffy spot in the meadow near a tiny creek. (Cersei loved the creek!) When I stopped, I wasn't 100% sure I could get back out, so that was weighing on my mind all day Saturday. I tied Dixie to a tree, paced around looking at the stumps hidden in the knee-high grass, and backed out in 4-wheel drive.


I backed into a stump. D'oh. I was going like one mile an hour so I didn't even scratch the paint, at least. Dixie was Most Displeased to see me moving the rig without her and she wrapped herself completely around the tree while I was getting extricated. Eventually, I got out to the silt-and-lava-rock road and rescued my poor forgotten horse.

I'm on the other side of the "don't park here" cones, which are not to be confused with the "your friend is saving you a spot" cones. Don't make my mistake!

So away we went to Janesville. I blithely drove up to the one trailhead I know in Janesville, up a legitimate bus plunge road. I was quite calmly lugging up a sheer cliff S-turn at a reasonable 25 mph when an idiot biker with bitch on board passed me, barely missing getting splattered by a half-ton hauling a 30 foot motor home coming down. Anyway. I got up to the parking area where I catch-ride the Arabs and unloaded my four-leggers for a fun ride.

Now THIS is mountain riding!

We sort of hared off in a direction I've never been before and found a bike/dirt bike trail. I decided that I'd ride at Cersei's pace, not at The Speed Dixie And I Should Do, so we just kinda ambled along ears up with the yellow dog bouncing ahead. Lucky for us, we found a little slew just a couple miles in!

Remember how I said she's such a good horse now? Dixie just waded in, drank a bit, and started chowing down on that lovely grass. I let Cersei cool off in the water, then we plodded on.

I sort of arbitrarily decided we'd head out for 3 miles, back for 3, and do a loop around the meadow for another 2 or so. We got to 2.5 out and Cersei started a quail. And her flock of babies!

The babies had just barely fledged. One flew toward and past me in a panic and it was still fuzzy, with just enough wing feathers to get it off the ground. Dixie stopped, quite calmly, and Cersei bounced around in a Labrador frenzy of excitement.

Momma quail puffed herself out just like my momma hen does and charged at Cersei and Cersei backed off (just like she does for my momma hen!) I thought it was video worthy so here you go. If you turn up your sound all the way you can hear Momma chirping over Cersei panting.

Cersei starts a quail family from Funder on Vimeo.

I didn't think the momma quail needed to deal with us twice so we turned around there. The trail was really narrow in spots

And really steep in spots

And Dixie was a total honeybadger about it. (Oh my god surely you know that link is NOT WORK SAFE don't click it at work!) She just walked calmly through it all. I hopped off one very steep bit and led her downhill, down this short 45 degree downhill slope and over a log and under some trees. She ate a tree branch while I broke off some face-height branches. She did not get antsy or fall on me. She's a rock star.

We headed back near the trailer, then turned off for the loop around a meadow.

There's another slew, so Cersei splashed for a while and Dixie ate for a while. We trotted in a circle around the meadow

and popped back out at the trailer. Dixie's ears looked almost disappointed, and Cersei was not on the verge of heatstroke, so we turned around and did the loop backwards. Back through the woods,

back to the slew, more grazing and splashing and drinking, then back to the trailer.

We all hopped back in the rig and headed for home. Cersei, at least, was tired.


  1. DANG girl that is ROUGH terrain for a rehab! Be careful!

  2. Janesville looks way more like my kinda ride than how you described Almanor! And no snooty FEI folks.
    So glad Dixie's back to feeling well--I was going to say "back to her old self" but from your description, she a better horse than she used to be. Yeah! I guess miles and a little maturity do wonders for them.

  3. Andrea - god I hope it's ok! She was just walking along, as calm as she is in the quail video. I didn't push her forward or pull her back, I just let her move out at 2.5-3 mph and explore. FWIW she hasn't had a bit of heat or swelling since the week of the original injury.

    ES - Thanks! XD

  4. You said it - she's a rock star.

  5. What a BEAUTIFUL place to ride. I wanna go! Sounds like your Dixie is really growing up. I have so enjoyed following your move to Reno with her and your rides. How old is she this year? My Windy turned 9 this year; every year I say "this is it, she finally found her head!" Its fun when they just keep getting better and better. You've done right by your Dixie mare!

  6. Your rehab program sounds perfect to me. Nothing wrong with walking on trails, especially if the trails are as fabulous as those!

    Also, I'm jealous. We can't GET to our mountain trails this year, because the snow still hasn't melted. Yes: July, still too much snow. Eek.

    Honeybadger video: awesome. Gotta show it to the girls at work (um, in the back room, not at the reference desk)!

  7. She's getting to be a really great horse - thanks for taking us along on your ride.

  8. Thanks :)

    Tammy, she's 9 also. So is Fire! Her brain is growing up, but being worked with a lot helps even more.

    Aarene, our highest trails just opened/are still closed. The last ski resort closed two weeks ago! :O

    I don't usually say this, but I'm so glad I'm not riding the Tevis this year. It's gonna be very muddy and very dark in October.

  9. What the heck is it with injuries?

    Moon came back better than ever after his back spasm too. Gotta love it, but it does make you wonder what clicked in their brains.

  10. Lucky Cersei - sounds like just the kind of adventure my lab Emma would have loved - quails and all!

  11. So beautiful. I am also so jealous because I am just waiting out the heat, hoping that one day I can ride again before it all ices up in a few months.


  12. Wish I'd been there to ride too! Just looks like perfect weather & perfect trails! Love those "colored" ears! :-)

  13. It is definitely the summer of the good horse! What a good girl Dixie was!! I haven't been trail riding in so long... your pictures make me miss it so much! Maybe next year.

    After Lilly's rehab she was worse, but maybe it's because we're not quite done with rehab after all. ;)

  14. I swear i am going to haul down there and ride with you this fall. :| I love Nevada with all of my body.


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