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.

Patriot's Day Lake Almanor LD

My overall impression is: And now I know!

So, my original plan was to ride my friend's grey Arab mare in the 50. I've been helping to condition her for a month and she is a nonstop trotting machine. Aaaand Friday she was a three-legged trotting machine - she got kicked in the pasture Thursday night. Sigh. So I rode a green chestnut mare on her second LD. Fire's first endurance ride was last year or early this year, and she hasn't been ridden all that much since then. I thought a 50 would be iffy on her so I pushed to ride her LD - I think her owner would've been happy either way, and I think Fire could've done the 50, but I don't want to break somebody else's horse!

I knew Lake Almanor was an FEI* ride, and I knew that FEI rides are usually very flat, very fast, and precisely the correct distance. It didn't really sound like my cup of tea, but I'm a very openminded newbie, so off I went!

I drove by Lake Almanor
... and kept right on going, a good 30 minutes away. It is a really pretty lake and I'd love to go back to see it!

Ridecamp is in a huge meadow. The tiny glints in the distance are rigs in the meadow. Most people parked back under the trees.

We set up our camps on the far edge of the meadow and took the Arabs down to vet in. Fire vetted in with all A's, and she behaved pretty well. We let the horses graze and listened to the ride meeting and looked over our packets.

I had three different sheets of paper detailing the 25. A color map showing all the loops (numbered phases), with my two loops written on the bottom - red white & blue and pink & pink checkered. A sheet showing all the out times and phases for each distance - again, rw&b and p&p. And a written description of my two loops - really handy, except it said rw&b and green & green polka dots. I did ask at the RM, but I asked at the wrong time, they said they'd address it, and I never heard them answer the question. (Neither did two other people on the LD.) I decided I'd go with my time-honored system of following everybody else, because I usually forget what loop I'm supposed to be on anyway. I figure if you're gonna get lost you might as well have company.

At the RM, they changed the start times. They were originally supposed to be staggered every 30 minutes (100s at 5:30, 75s at 6, etc) but management changed it to one hour intervals. As a lowly LD, I got to leave at the scorching hour of 8:30 am. Yippie.

The horses ate and drank well overnight, and the owner and I managed to cram four Gloves on Fire before she headed out on her 50. She warned me that at Fire's first LD, she had to get Karen Rabow, endurance mom extraordinare, to hold Fire to get mounted. I've lived through all of Dixie's meltdowns so I wasn't too worried about it.

Fire lost her mind when her buddy Spirit left without her. I didn't care, I hung out by Dixie (who was quite calm) til 8:15, then somehow got Fire bridled and walked up to the start. I walked her in circles til 8:27, then got on. Compared to tall spazzy Dixie, she was quite easy to mount! We trotted up and down the road by the start til 8:30, then we were off!

I had a friend to ride with, A on her calm Anglo-Arab. We let the racers blow by and I told A I had to let Fire move out a bit. She was cantering in place, head down, moving 4 mph, on the verge of a total freakout. A agreed and we headed off at a fast trot. Fire's 9, but she doesn't have a lot of miles, so she's still got a baby trot. I got to lead because the other mare can easily out-trot Fire and I didn't want her to canter too much.

One of the many skills that I'm trying to master is reading ride flyers. I read "If you plan on riding with speed we recommend pads or easyboots. We have avoided rocky areas as much as possible." to mean "Not many rocks; shoe/boot up if you want to ride fast." That's not actually what it means - the whole course was on quite hard quite rocky logging roads. It was comparable to a flat version of NASTR.


The first loop went by really fast. Oddly, I wasn't scared. I kept thinking I should be scared - I was sweating so hard my sunglasses kept slipping and I didn't unbridge the reins once. Every time we got passed, Fire did the "I'm about to lose my mind" head-down slow canter, but I was careful to not hold her back to the breaking point. I made sure to ride her - there were a lot of, uh, little rocky ditches? I guess where the loggers had dragged trees across the gravel roads. Anyway, we slowed down for every one then I'd let her move back out. IIRC, there was only one water stop on the first loop. Fire played and took a sip; the other mare drank very well. We zipped through the first loop at about 7 mph - and yes, the first loop was exactly 12.5 miles!

Ride pic. My shirt is a Game of Thrones tee that says Winter is Coming. It's important to remember these things in July!

The check was difficult. We'd met up with Fire's owner (and more importantly, Fire's BFF Spirit) about a mile from camp, right after the front right boot came off. I got it back on and got back up (again, I have Mad Sk1llz from dealing with my idiot horse) just as Spirit came up. We got a half mile from camp and the boot came off again. Pounding a NQR boot on with your hand while the horse dances around is harder than it looks! I left the damn thing off; it was close enough to lead the horses in.

Fire wouldn't pulse down unless she was right by Spirit. With Spirit there, she was great - 60/58 CRI** (if I remember correctly) and all A's. We went back to the trailers, banged the boot back on properly, and drank slushy-gatorade til owner-A's 30 minute hold was up. She left and a couple minutes later my ride buddy A showed up. Time to go! I thought that was a little weird but I didn't have anything else to do so off we went to the out timers.

A was cleared, I wasn't. The P&R volunteers had mistakenly given her a 30 minute hold and correctly given me a 50 minute hold. The out timer volunteers were confused and told us to take it up with the P&R people. We didn't really have anything to take up, per se - my buddy A waited an extra 20 minutes and we left again together.

We headed out at 11:10 and it was pretty hot and flat and dismal. We hared off down what we thought was the right trail, then I realized A was looking at ribbons on the left and we stopped and powwow'd about what trail we were supposed to take. I finally said that I had two pieces of paper telling me to take pink & pink checks (and only one telling me to take green & green polka dots) and I was going to stick with that come hell or high water. We went back a half mile to the crossroads, studied the ribbons and chalk, decided we were in fact on the right trail, and proceeded on.

Our second loop (phase 4 I think?) was common trail for a long way, then a big loop down the entrance road. There were two water stops and it was exactly 12.5 miles. There was almost no shade and not much scenery. We came across one volunteer out looking for a missing horse. Our horses were, thankfully, less hyper. About 8 miles into the second loop I finally unbridged my reins.

Again, I set the pace. A was getting tired and the horses were less enthusiastic. As always, I kinda wished I had a HRM. But I don't, so I just went by how Fire felt under me. When she was tired, we'd walk a little ways, then when we hit a brief patch of shade or when the trail went downhill slightly, I'd urge everyone up to a trot. I am not ashamed to say I let the FEI racers pull us along for the last few miles! We'd walk, someone would canter by on the 75 or 100, and I'd urge the horses to chase them. We'd trot for a while after they were out of sight, then walk a bit again. I kept us going about 6 mph for the second loop (because that would get me out of the sun in two hours!) I called off the miles to go and time to go as we plugged along.


We made it back to camp with two not-very-tired horses. Fire was a total ass at the vet check line. I was That Person Everybody Backs Their Horses Away from. It was totally embarrassing, and yall know I don't embarrass easily. Spirit wasn't around, and I was determined to get that horse vetted out without her friend, so we stood in line (FOR EV ER) working on manners. When she'd crash into me I'd lay into her with the end of the lead rope. When she screamed I made her move her feet - usually backwards and forwards, but I slipped in some hindquarters too. When she was quiet I encouraged her to graze.

The LD/50 vet had the patience of a saint, and I wish I remembered his name so I could thank him for being kind to us. The Red Asshole vetted out with a 58/56, IIRC, and all A's again. She crashed into me a few more times and screamed all the way back to the trailer. Spirit was just leaving on her last loop when we got there, and Fire had a total fish-on-a-line meltdown when HER ONLY FRIEND abandoned her again. Thank God for rope halters. She screamed for a while but settled down to eat hay eventually.

We'd finished 7th out of 13 or 14, in about 4:30 total time. (Rob Lydon won 1st place FEI and BC in under 4 hours on the 50. Nothing as humbling as somebody riding twice as far as you in less time!) Completion award was a ride picture.

Overall, it was fun, but I probably won't go again. I had two problems, one minor and one middlin', but it's just not my bag.

The hold time thing was a minor problem. I am always amazed at how well endurance rides go off with so many non endurance volunteers. I'm not faulting anybody for that - mistakes happen, and if somebody wins because they let a volunteer give them the wrong hold time, well, they suck and should not sleep well at night. That's a personal integrity issue!

The conflicting info about the second loop was a middlin' problem. I compare all my ride problems to Big Horn, and hell, not knowing which clearly marked loop to ride doesn't even rate on the Big Horn scale of things! The ride meeting rambled on and on about FEI 100 mile info only, and it sucked that I pretty much got blown off about which loop the lowly 25s were supposed to do, but not a big deal in the end. If you'd done the green loop instead of the pink loop - well, they're both 12.5 miles, and it's just an LD, right? :sarcasm:

The food was excellent, the camp was in a great location, and... well, the ride award was pretty lame. (Hell, I buy pix even when I don't complete!) But mainly the trail sucked by non-racer standards. I like technical trail and/or scenic trail, with some neverending flat roads to break up the stunning views every so often. This trail never saw Lake Almanor and never climbed a hill to look at other hills. I am not disappointed, because I knew that's what FEI rides are like - but now I know for sure that I don't like them.

I want to say thanks to the people who made this ride happen for me: Fire's owner A (she's awesome, but you know I don't name names on my blog), my ride buddy A, and the woman who introduced me to Fire's owner. Couldn't have done it without yall! Also a big thank you to the ride management and volunteers - there wouldn't be a ride at all if a ton of people didn't show up to sit in the heat all day and the cold all night.

Next: Dixie, Cersei, friends!

*FEI - the racing side of endurance.
** CRI, cardiac recovery index. The vet checks the horse's pulse (first number) then you trot out and back, then he checks it again (second number). If the pulse is lower the second time, you're golden. If it's higher, the horse is tired or not fit to continue, depending on the numbers.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Check your ride results!

I almost didn't look - it hurt too much to remember Dixie limping - but I did, finally, look at the NASTR results in the new Endurance News. We're down as completing. I'll have to call the office. Sigh.

There's a big fire in California that's sending a wee bit of smoke into our area. I might have walked outside, taken one look around, and run back in in a panic to check the news. Thankfully it's 300 miles away.

Can you blame me?

I left the tack room open while I was carrying stuff to the trailer. Banders had to go exploring.


I need some kind of Trailer Organization Reality Show to select me and give my tack room a makeover.

Blink of an eye

I was making coffee this morning when I heard a tremendous crash, like a horse double-barrelling a metal gate or something. I ran out to see if it was Dixie, and she'd left her morning hay and was trotting toward the back fence very alertly. I ran far enough in the pasture to get a good view of everything and my heart about stopped. The neighbor's old skinny horse was down, awkwardly on his side, with a fucking hog panel wrapped around his legs.

I had a brief moment of panic. I couldn't remember the neighbor's names and I didn't want to take the time to get the truck, drive around the block, and bang on their door. I didn't want to leap into their pasture and spook the old fellow. After a moment, I remembered I had her cell number listed in my phone. I decided surely I'd know it when I saw it and bolted back to the house for my phone. YES! I did, in fact, remember exactly who it was when I saw it. I called and left a message and went back outside.

Armed with her name, I stood in my pasture and bellowed at the top of my lungs "D! Your horse is down in the fence!" She popped right out, half-dressed, took one look, and said "Be right there." I hustled up to my fence, turned it off, and slipped through my electric. I said reassuring nonsense to the old fellow. Thank god for old horses who know when you're trying to help. Once she came out, I stepped over her fence and met her at him.

Somehow he had slipped his rear right leg through the hog panel, up over the hock. He was laying on his left side, looking fairly panicked. D was trying to figure out how to cut the panel off, but I thought if he cooperated I could just slip it back off his leg. She stood at his head and kept him calm, and I carefully manipulated his leg and the panel and slipped it off.

I won't lie, I was terrified. If he'd freaked out and started thrashing it would've been very bad for all three of us. I don't like handling other people's horses, and I don't like trying to untrap horses, but it needed to be done. He stayed calm while I got his leg free and dragged the panel back, and he stood up promptly on all four legs.

He's limping on two legs - front left and rear right, IIRC - but he's weight bearing. I know she doesn't have the money for a vet. I gave her some Bute for him and suggested buting him for two days and if anything swells cold hosing it.

Their fencing is a disaster, and they've been really lucky so far. I have also kept horses behind disastrous fences. Never again, now that I've learned just how easy it is to pop up some hotwire. For $200 you can put up a couple rows of highly visible hottape or polywire to keep your horse off the shitty fencing you can't afford to replace. It's cheaper than a vet.

Lecture over! Look, I did brush Dixie's mane yesterday.

So much lovely fluffy hair.

I also got four tons of hay delivered.

And here is Bambers. Note how there is not a single flicker of intelligence in that eye. He is crazier than a shithouse rat, but he's my buddy anyway. :)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Action-packed day

Ok, not really. I finished stacking my hardwood then I sat down with the Kindle and read. I polished off Changes, again, then absolutely wailed on Ghost Story. I thought it was awesome. I've read a little discussion about it and I think other discussors are idiots and it ruled. Yeah, you could look at it as a placeholder novel full of boring character development, but it was really important character development. Of course I had some wild hypotheses after reading Changes when it first came out, and I was actually half-right about them. I'm glad I was wrong about the ones I was wrong about! Really impressed with the long term story arc that Jim Butcher has going here.

I know that's utterly cryptic if you don't read Dresden, but it's non spoilery if you do. (Email me if you want to talk after you read it!)

Better than Dance with Dragons and I only had to wait an extra six months for it. As opposed to five damn years for GRRM's doorstopper.

ANYWAY. In between my marathon of reading I did my food shopping for Lake Almanor and (drumroll please) I washed that horse. Somebody had asked about the Flappy Lip Thing, so I took a video for yall. Yeah, Dixie's sunburned, but not too badly, and my general horse philosophy is to treat her as a free agent as much as possible. She hates the sunscreen (and I sympathize, I hate that crap too) so I don't usually smear it on her.

Flappy Lip Face from Funder on Vimeo.

Today was Day One of working on her mane. It's really more than we deserve. I think it took 12 pumps of the shampoo bottle to suds it up and scrub it, then I used a good six ounces of conditioner on it, then I let it dry for a while and sprayed Show Sheen on it. I let it get mostly dry before I turned her out again. Tomorrow I will use like half a bottle of Cowboy Magic on it and brush it out into a glistening two foot long halo of silver. Thursday she'll have scrubbed dirt and branches back into it and we'll be back where we were Monday. Futility, thy name is horse.

I measured, and it's 27" long at the longest point.

Obviously she's standing facing downhill and she's a little stretched out, but she looks good! The stall rest lardiness has melted right off of her as soon as I started riding again.

If it looks like I didn't even wash her body, well, I didn't. It's futile. See?

So much for being clean from Funder on Vimeo.

So there's a Southern tongue-in-cheek horse myth that a horse is worth an extra $500 for every time it rolls completely over. Anybody else heard that one? Dixie's only +500 here, but I've seen her get up to +1500. ;)

Littering has never seemed so tempting

Since we didn't do much actual work on Sunday, I took Dixie out again on Monday. We trailered up to the Rides of March ridecamp near Red Rocks with Cersei. I was smart, though - I went early in the morning and I brought water for the pup!

Dixie stood like a rock for me to fly spray her and tack up. Just another amazing little Dixie transformation.

We meandered off pretty slowly - it wasn't hot but there wasn't a cloud in the sky and I didn't want the little yellow butterball to overheat. We climbed a new-to-us road (past a rattlesnake!) to a deadend at the top of a hill where Dixie was content to stand and look at stuff for a while. I hopped off and gave Cersei a drink from her Wal-mart knockoff camelbak liner I'd carried stuffed in the pommel bag. (She had to drink out of the bag because my makeshift travel bowl had a huge crack in it.) Then I tightened up my tack and we moved on to the next hill.

Cersei's camelbak liner has a screw top that's kind of hard to get screwed on right. I thought my leg was wet because the top wasn't screwed on good, so I briefly halted, re-screwed it on, and kept going, but my damn leg got wetter and wetter. Eventually I yanked the 2 liter bag out of the pommel bag only to realize that it was leaking from the bottom, where the drinking tube comes out - and the pommel bag was half full of water. Lovely. At least my left knee was cool, and Dixie's left side was cool. I flipped the stupid leaking bag over, so the tube attachment was on top, and we kept going to the next hill.

There, I gave Cersei the rest of the water from the bag, but she was still pretty hot. I had a broken bowl and a leaking water bag and a pommel bag half full of water, and I've never been so tempted to throw my trash off a cliff and call it good. We'd only gone a couple of miles but I knew I needed to take her back to the trailer to cool off, so we headed back. Dixie did not want to go back to the trailer but I hollered a lot and made her. We had to take care of the little dog.

Back at the trailer I fashioned a collar and lead out of a compression strap, a carabiner, and a lunge line. I know! I'm a terrible human, taking my dog out without her collar and tags. Lesson learned. Cers has spent enough time tied to the trailer (and she was hot enough!) to listen when I told her to stay there, and Dixie and I headed off without her.

I didn't want to go too far, just in case Cers got bored and slipped the "collar" and came looking for us, so we headed back toward the road and did some loops. The ride ended up being about 7 miles, which is right where I wanted to be. Dixie was still not very enthusiastic about going back to the trailer and back home, but I'd promised G I'd check in with him in two hours so we called it a day.

Cersei was much recovered when we came back. She's been one with the couch since Monday afternoon, but not in an overtired way - just a lazy dog who Did Something and is now good to sleep it off for a week. Dixie was just fine. Tight legs, even with a little bit of hills, a little bit of gaiting and cantering, and more miles than we've done post-injury. Wednesday (tomorrow) I'm going to meet an endurance friend and hopefully do 10-15 miles with her.

I am going to submit driving directions to Red Rocks on Mel's trail site. Right now it's just got Central Valley CA trails, but soon it'll have Northern Nevada trailheads too. I hope the rest of yall will consider submitting something too and maybe one day we can turn this into a really valuable resource for a lot of equestrians. I don't mean just my endurance friends, either - all of yall can take a couple mins to type up some directions to a favorite trailhead, write a short blurb about the footing and length, and send it in. Speaking as someone who knew no one IRL when I moved to Nevada, the Internet is an amazing resource with a lot of potential! I have met less than ten percent of my current Reno-area friends from "real life" networking - the other 90% are Internet contacts who turned out to be cool people IRL. Trailheads should be the same way!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Endurance ambassador

I just got home from a quite pleasant ride at Washoe Lake with two adventuresome trail riders, and I cannot believe how good Dixie was. She really is the opposite of all the endurance stereotypes. (Hopefully I am too, aside from my fashion sense and tack choices!) She trailered great and I met up with T at the turnoff to Eastlake and we waited there for a couple minutes for H to show up to lead us to the park at the north end of the lake. Dixie did not kick the trailer to pieces; she just stood and waited. Then we got down to the park and I fly sprayed her.

A million years ago, when Dixie was a real Problem Child, she would try to break halters to get away from fly spray. I tried to roundpen her out of her fly spray fear and 30 minutes later, dripping wet, she'd still panic and run from the sight of the bottle. I have off and on squirted her with water from a spray bottle - and by off and on, I mean maybe 5 times in the last two years. But she's been so good about stuff, and I decided that I'd just assume she was going to be fine. I showed her the bottle, squirted it all over her neck and butt, brushed it in, squirted the brush, brushed her face with fly spray. No big deal. She didn't like it from the near side and danced away but I just told her to quit and kept spraying and she stood there like it ain't no thang. So: if your horse comes totally unglued about fly spray, ride 500 miles a year and she'll improve. Nah, it's not the riding.

We saddled up and rode down to the lake. Dixie hasn't seen Washoe Lake (or any lake) since the trail trials last spring, and she didn't like it one bit then. She was snorty and dance-y and sort of hypnotized/terrified by the motion of water on sand and I didn't push the issue because she was pretty worked up that day. Today we rode to the lake and the big TB waded right in. Dixie walked up to the shore and snorted a bit. I let her look and asked her to walk in. She offered to duck out, I straightened her up, and she walked in. Like it ain't no thang.

We rode a mile or so down the lake til we hit a patch of biting flies, then we veered inland and went to check out the other horse park at the south end (the one where the Washoe Ride is held). We walked over and looked at the new stuff and found a tank of water. I knew she wouldn't drink, but I asked her to go stick her nose in the tank and she did, then we hung out while the other two horses decided not to drink either. ;) We all gallivanted around the nice new arena then headed back north toward the trucks.

The road was nice hard sand, not the deep sand by the lake, so we decided to trot and canter. Dixie gave me some nice gaits, plus a lovely round canter for a bit, all on a loose rein and totally calmly. The other two horses were not so perfect - not so their owners had any trouble, just bad enough to make Dixie look like a spotted angel in comparison.

The wind had picked up so we went back to the lake. There were whitecaps and waves, and those were pretty scary, so I'd let Dixie walk on the dry sand for 100 yards, then ask her to go let the waves slap her hooves for 10 yards, then repeat. We were maybe a quarter mile from the trailer when Dixie suddenly pointed the tips of her ears straight back at me in a very quizzical manner and the woman behind me said "you lost a boot!" They both told me at the same time!

I got down, got the problem back boot off, got the other back boot off, and got back on. Just like that. Dixie didn't run in circles or scream or yank her feet away or try to walk off while I was mounting. Absolutely no drama. Ain't no thang. (Boot failure: The toe strap came unstrapped. The velcro on those boots is pretty old, and I'll need to replace it before I do an e-ride in them, but I was pretty impressed with how well they stayed on in wet deep sand.)

In fact, the only drama was back at the trailer, where I had to beat* my poor horse into walking over and getting tied up at the trailer to eat hay. She didn't want to stop. That's three rides in a row now where she's very clearly said "I'm not through and I'd like to do more please." I think tomorrow I'll get up early and go up the road to Cold Springs and let her scramble up the foothills of Peavine - maybe that'll satisfy her!

*Ok, I twirled the lead rope at her butt for a while then cracked it quite forcefully on the saddle to make her move. Abusive, I know.

I am going to break one of my unspoken rules and tell yall that I love that horse. She is a fine beast. I didn't know what I was doing with her but I was stubborner than her and she's turned into quite a good trustworthy mount.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Got 'er done

Well, I went and rode. I was in a complete tizzy about it all day, and I finally just settled on a plan and did it without thinking too hard about it. I hauled Dixie 9 miles up the road to the end of Antelope Valley - it's a little different from our usual trails, and there's a couple miles of mostly flat packed sand roads. We did 4.8 miles in 53 minutes.

It's been a while since I really rode Dixie, so it was a good chance for me to notice what a good horse she is. Her "I don't wanna you can't make me" dead slow dog walk is 4 mph. Her super easy smooth jog, the one that's almost easier to sit than to post, is 8 mph. She gaited a bit for me but I didn't try to get her to stay in it. She's pretty bored with the trails right around the house and she's awfully barn sour if I ride her away from home, which is why I wanted to trailer out - but out in a new place she was alert but not spooky. I rode the whole hour on a loose rein.

We rode up a road about half a mile to a T, turned right and rode another mile to a cattle guard, turned back to the T intersection and kept going up the road for another mile, then turned around for the trailer. I really thought the poor horse was lost again (bless her heart) because she wasn't at all excited to turn back for the trailer. But she didn't perk up at all when she saw the trailer, and in fact she tried to duck onto a side road when we were just a few hundred feet from the trailer. I really think she wanted to keep going. How cool is that?

I brought the butterball, aka Cersei, with me. Poor Cers, I didn't ride with her much this spring and then this summer Dixie's been out of work so this was her first ride in months. You have never seen a dog so excited to fling herself into heat exhaustion. I should've brought some water for her, but I honestly didn't think she'd need it on such a short ride. Bless your heart, fat dog! She's sacked out on her couch now.

I kinda haven't mentioned our weather because I don't want anyone living east of me to hunt me down and kill me, but... I went in the hottest part of the day and it was a scorching 85 degrees with a soggy 29% humidity. When we got back, I hosed Cers down, then Dixie, then Cers again. I have decided that Dixie needs her face sprayed more. It's just not that unpleasant on a hot summer day. She makes horrible faces and flings her giraffe head up in the air, but when I quit rinsing her face and point the hose at her lips, she does the flappy lip thing. :)

Endurance stuff:

Yall, I need a new pad. The stupid woolback bunches up under the saddle when I ride hills. It's completely unacceptable. I've had a couple of recommendations for Haf Pads so I'm thinking about one of them. Here's my criteria:

Dixie has skin like an elephant and thick hair.
She's round with medium withers.
Saddle is western-type so it's got fleece underneath.
Saddle fits fine with minimal padding - the Woolback is maybe 3/4" or 1" thick.

Any suggestions?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Lake Almanor, hopefully!

I've finished all the new/new-to-me books and I'm just waiting for the new Dresden Files, so I might as well try to post. I really have started working through the backlog of unread blog posts, I promise!

Barring calamity, I'm off to Lake Almanor at the end of the month... on an Arab! I've ridden this super fun, all heart, great recoveries grey mare twice now, and I'll probably ride her in the 50. Her owner has two horses ready for the 50, and we might swap last minute, but I really do think the grey is fun so I'll probably ride her if I get the chance. She reminds me a lot of Dixie, without the extra gaits. Trotting downhill is weird, yall. So is trotting at 12 mph! When are you going to break into a rack, horse?? She's skinny and jiggy, and she's got a nasty habit of stumbling hard on level ground when she's daydreaming about whatever Arabs think about, but I like her anyway.

I am trying so hard to get my nerve up to ride Dixie again. We went out on Thursday or Friday for a couple miles of easy neighborhood walking and a bit of sand gaiting. She was totally sound, totally fresh, no heat or swelling since then.. but I'm so scared of breaking her. Nobody can tell me the magic formula of X miles Y times per week, and I desperately want that. I rehabbed her exactly like I was supposed to, and she looks great, and what do I do now? For once in my life I desperately want an Authority Figure that I can believe in 100% for guaranteed perfect results.

Tomorrow I'm going to do the pit loop. It's about five miles, easy, flat. I'm reaching out to people in town to hopefully get some company for some easy 5-10 mile rides later this week and next week. This is so hard - harder, in a different way, than when she first came up lame, and even harder than riding her when she terrified me.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Kindle calls

I'm such a bad blogger!

A couple weeks ago, I finally decided to read Harry Potter. I guess the ads for Deathly Hollows made me remember it? I tried, when they first came out, but I didn't want to read kids' books at the time. If you remember that far back (oh god I'm old), A Game of Thrones had come out the year after the first HP book, and I was really in love with dark gritty fantasy then. If you've read them both (or even seen the movies/series) you will understand what polar opposites they are. But people kept telling me HP gets better as he gets older, so I settled down and started slogging through the series.

I'd gotten to the point where they weren't so bad when I went camping with Mel. When I came back I reclaimed the house, then got sucked back into them over the weekend. I read 4 on Saturday, 5 and 6 on Sunday, and polished off the last one yesterday. They really are pretty good! I am kind of jealous of the kids who got to grow up reading them.

Then I got up this morning and half of Facebook was showing off their copies of A Dance With Dragons, so I had to get that for the Kindle immediately. Honestly I'd given up on that bastard GRRM ever finishing DWD, much less the series. It took him six years to write it, and he kept writing other crap I don't care about in the meantime and going to cons and blogging about sports and I got immensely frustrated with him. Honestly, I'm pretty sure he delayed the damn thing til AGOT finished on HBO - which is no doubt a shrewd business move and all but SIX YEARS? Ridiculous.

Other media: Torchwood USA looks even goofier than Torchwood UK was but I'm willing to forgive a lot to see Jack and Gwen again. True Blood continues to make me howl with laughter. In two weeks we get new Dresden Files!

Other stuff: Dixie's rehab is still going uneventfully. The banty managed to hatch out three (full size) chicks so far. She took off to set on infertile eggs right before the roosters started crowing and doin' their thing so I shoved some fertile eggs from the big hens in there with her. At least one of the chicks has feathered feet - SO CUTE. They're not moving around yet, but better pics will come.

I am really dreading cleaning out the stinkbomb eggs from her nest.

Anyway. I have now flung myself into DWD. See you in a couple of days.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Camping gear roundup

I was pretty sure my feet were going to blister. It was close - they were super hot and sweaty - but they didn't. Go go wool socks! I've had the same hiking boots for two years and they're getting pretty beaten up/broken down, so I give all the credit to the socks. I just bought some new knockoff smartwool-type socks at Sierra Trading Post.

My new women's Camelbak backpack worked just fine and fit much better than my old men's camelbak. It came with a reservoir with a baffle! You know how good water tanks and waterbeds have baffles to keep the sloshing to a minimum? The reservoir in the new Camelbak had a baffle. I guess it worked, but honestly sloshing never bothered me that much.

I bought Cersei a self-inflating roll-up travel dog bed at Costco, and she seemed to think it was acceptable. My summerweight sleeping bag was perfect, and I actually brought my own pillow from home - I slept amazingly well.

I last-minute splurged on a nonstick camping skillet. I'm glad I did - those eggs would've stuck like MAD on my existing steel camping skillet - but I have to get used to how thin camping stuff is and how hot propane travel stoves are. I am considering bringing my flame tamer next time! Any camping cooking tips?

I also bought a big cooler at Costco earlier this year. I dithered a lot about it - I had a perfectly useable small cooler - but it was only $30 and seemed like it would make my life a lot easier. I'm glad I did - a 7 lb block of ice kept a six pack of beer and a ton of random food cool for three full days with no problem. And I could bring the small cooler with Cersei's chicken in it without worrying about nasty chicken salmonella on my good people food.

Camping without horses, with bonus horses!

Over the holiday weekend I went camping with Mel and her adorable puppy. We're both horse campers who are temporarily without camping horses, so we set off into the wilderness with just our dogs for company.

Well, not really wilderness. We met up at Nevada City, which is doubly misnamed - it's in California, and it's hardly a city. Skillman Campground, the site of the Wild West ride, was reserved that weekend, so we stayed a couple miles down the road at White Cloud.

I got there first and got my truck tent set up. I love that thing, and I'm on the verge of recommending it - I want to see how it does in a real rainstorm and in colder weather before I gush its praises.

It's a little lower down than Reno, only three or four thousand feet. A little more humid, but with all the lovely trees you'd ever want to see. We just chilled out and talked the first night. We ate my lettuce with dinner. I grew something, and it tasted really good!! Saturday we got up, drank coffee and talked for a couple hours, then briskly hiked over to Skillman.

Part of the trail to Skillman is the Wild West trail, so it was cool to hike it and think about riding it. I haven't done a forest endurance ride yet, but I did a lot of forest trail riding in Memphis. It was similar - the trail was much nicer, because it's a hiking/biking/horse trail and not an outlaw trail cut out by four-wheelers. Definitely single track, but there were spots where you could edge a horse off the trail to let people pass.

The most awesome thing was the lack of spiderwebs. In Memphis we'd dutifully take turns riding first in line - the first person eats all the spiderwebs. There just weren't many in the Sierras.

We found a mysterious little concrete tank beside the trail! It looked like a stock tank, but I don't think anyone's ever run stock in that forest. I guess it was some kind of catchment system for the snowmelt. But Cersei knows a good thing when she sees it, and she immediately plunged right in and got a big drink and cooled off. Mel's puppy Tess got a dainty little drink, and we continued on our way.

There's a day-use trailer parking area about halfway between White Cloud and Skillman, and that's where we saw the poker ride signs. When we started seeing horses, I put Cers back on the leash and we kept making our way very slowly toward Skillman.

We were, of course, model dog-owning citizens. We got our mutts off the trail, on leash, and spoke loudly to the riders as they approached. The first few groups went by without a problem, then we came to The Wreck.

There were three horses tied to trees off the trails, with one guy watching the horses. We edged past them, a little confused, and came upon an injured rider and a woman keeping him company. We talked to them for a few minutes while more riders slowly came past. He'd come off his horse somehow, but when he tried to stand up his knees buckled, so he sat down to wait for help. It didn't look like a major injury, but of course I thought of Kate and wondered if there was something worse happening. But someone had gone back for help, so there wasn't much for us to do except keep hiking.

I don't think either of us really realized just how big that poker ride was. We were only a mile or so from Skillman, and that was our completely arbitrary goal, and if there's one thing endurance riders do, it's get to the arbitrary goal. So we kept on - we'd hike as fast as possible for a hundred feet or less, then duck off the trail and loudly greet the horses as yet another group came by.

It took forever! We nodded knowingly at the endurance riders. I ID'd a cute little Paso - they are so distinctive with their paddling gait. The dogs behaved very well. Neither of them barked or put up a fuss.

About halfway through that part of the trail, I decided poker rides are just Not My Thing. Dixie would be utterly unsuited to standing in a long line of other horses on a singletrack forest trail, and I would be bored senseless. Where's the trotting? No one was trotting!

The whole thing was a classic case of shockwave congestion. I don't mean that in a ghoulish stare-at-the-wreck way, but I think every single rider who came upon the injured fellow had to stop and ask if he was ok and if help was on the way. There was just a huge bottleneck behind him.

Eventually, we hit Skillman. We found more water for the dogs and ate our snacks and I cooled my feet off. Mel was wearing crazy minimalist Vibram shoes so she didn't need cooling off. But I got a good look at Skillman, and I see why entries are limited, trailerpooling encouraged, etc. Beautiful site, but not very expansive.

We thought about hiking on, but decided if we headed back to White Cloud we'd avoid the poker traffic. So away we went, talking and walking.

Cersei had a blast at the tank on the way back. She was tired and hot, but she perked right up and leapt into the water and brought me sticks. Little Tess jumped in the water, paddled around, then jumped out and curled up in Mel's arms. Puppies are so cute when they're tired and cold and wet.

We saw so many new things on the way back! I showed Mel what Evil Cheatgrass looks like, and she showed me Evil Poison Oak. Everything was very young, if that makes sense - it looked like May but it was really July. The Sierras had an amazing winter and the snow took months longer to melt. (Squaw Valley was still open for skiing that weekend!)

I found a magnolia. I have no idea what a freakin magnolia tree was doing growing in the California Sierras, but there it was. And we saw these pretty blue flowers - lupines, I think?

The trail opened out and there was an amazing view of Scotts Flat lake, too!

Eventually we realized that we weren't just seeing the same trail with new eyes, we weren't seeing the same trail at all. We'd missed a turn. I cussed my dog, who was ranging ahead of us and had clearly led us astray. We discussed how Dixie would also have led us astray, but Farley actually has functioning trailer radar and would've urged us onto the right trail.

My feet were hot and I slurped the last of my elyte water out of my camelbak while Mel consulted the GPS. She figured out how far back the turn was and we set back off. We took a rather obvious (in retrospect) fork in the road, climbed one more steep hill, and were suddenly back on familiar ground.

When we got back the dogs collapsed together and put off such major Z's that we decided it was nap time. I slouched down in my chair and went to sleep for a bit, then woke up enough to stagger off to bed. I think Mel did the same but I was too busy snoozing to notice her! One glorious nap later and I was ready to face the world again. The GPS reported that our hike was 10 miles - pretty impressive (to me) on foot, but really makes you appreciate the horse/bike/car as a mode of transportation.

I built a fire and sadly overcooked our steaks. Camping cooking is hard, yall! I burned the eggs both mornings - stupid 1 millimeter thick camping cookware - and totally misjudged my fire for the steaks. It wasn't hot enough to really sear the steaks, but it was hotter than I thought, so I ended up on the well done side of things. :( The nice thing is that if you're tired, anything tastes great!

Sunday we woke up early, drank coffee and talked still more! then packed up and headed out. If you're keeping track at home, that's more talking than I usually do in two weeks - but it was FUN! No really awkward silences, lots of good conversation ranging far and wide. I can't wait to do it again, with or without horses.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Vacationing muse

I have so much to tell yall but I can't get it together to write a decent post!

I went camping with Mel. Camping is fun! Believe it or not, I'd only been (horseless) camping once before in my life, and it rained and the WWII tent leaked so we walked home in the middle of the night, which wasn't hard because we'd only walked a mile into a cow field in the first place. And I've blogged every time I've been horse camping - it's been a rapid learning curve but I'm getting it figured out. Camping without a horse is much easier than horse camping and (I suppose) almost as much fun. Anyway, I've got lots of pictures and I swear I'll try and get up a real post soon.

Then I went to SFO. Of course I had Korean fried chicken and watched surreal k-pop MTV, and I went to a fun Fourth party, and I melted my new food processor. G needs to email me the picture of the damage!

The Mystery Plant turned out to be a turnip. A three pound turnip. That's on the house site. Then today I dug out two more beds beside the house, added compost, topped them with straw-mulch, and edged them with rocks - I'll put pics of that on the house site too.

Dixie has proclaimed herself healed and acted like a dumbass two days in a row - spooky and hot on the ground, cantering in place in horse jail. I figure extra riding can't do more harm than airs above ground, so today I rode her a whole block down a new street. I don't think the exercise will help as much as the mental stimulation from novel things. She's been content all evening, so if her leg stays tight we'll just walk further down different blocks of my neighborhood.

Yall may be on to something with the bareback thing. I actually put a saddle on her today - I wanted some stirrups in case she spooked - and it was kinda weird.

Saturday I'm off to ride crazy ay-rabs again! Plotting my return to endurance with A - she has plenty of horses that need 25s and 50s, so maybe we'll go off to a ride soon.

I was planning on taking Dixie in for a recheck in two weeks, but I might take her in next week. I don't really know how to restart her - mentally. I am just terrified that she'll reinjure because I pushed it too soon. Even if she trots out 100% sound for a lameness vet and there's no tendon disruption on u/s, how do I get up the nerve to ask my horse to do that again? Right now I'm thinking I'll just restart slowly - we'll sign up for two days of 25s and I'll see how she feels after the first day, and if that goes well maybe gulp a 50 again? No idea on a timetable yet.

So - everybody else has had a horse that hurt itself and went back to regular work. How do you deal with the fear of Doing It Again?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Everybody loves prosopagnosia stories

I've mentioned before that I have face blindness. It's a real thing - I am awfully lazy about a lot of things, but it's not that I'm just too lazy to pay attention to faces. The part of my brain that is supposed to store people's faces just doesn't work very well, so I have a lot of coping strategies. People seem pretty fascinated by this, so I thought I'd tell you a little more about it.

G and I went to a 4th of July party yesterday. It was small, thank god; I just give up completely if I go to a large gathering. I've met the hosts before, so I was pretty sure I was good with them. Another couple showed up and I quickly noted the differences - black dress instead of blue and white dress, bearded instead of clean shaven. A's dad was in town, so he was easy as the oldest guy there. A single guy showed up - shit, he's got a beard too - but his hair was redder than anyone else's so I could pick him out too. Then another couple showed up and the man was also an older white guy. Shit! But he had a soul patch, and A's dad did not, so all I had to do was pay attention to the facial hair there.

I think normal people don't even think twice when they meet people. If you meet someone and talk to him for a while, you just remember his face, right? And you can imagine what he looks like the next day? I can't do that, at all. I have to memorize faces the way I memorize anything else - the shape and markings of a horse's face, or where I parked the truck in that parking garage, or what the new box of tea looks like. It takes a surprising amount of effort for me.

It's easiest if I remember externalities, like clothing, hair, and accessories. That doesn't help day to day, and it's why I'm so utterly awful at recognizing people out of context. No, I won't know you if I run into you at the grocery store - but I'll definitely pretend to!

Before I realized that I am fundamentally different from normal people, I honestly did not understand why they put missing kids on milk cartons and wanted criminals on the 5 o'clock news. How the hell do yall see a grainy mug shot on America's Most Wanted and then recognize that person in line at the grocery store? I will never understand it.

Anyway, it was a fun party, made more so because I could tell people apart. Larger parties are fun too, but in a much different way, because I'm often not quite sure if I've talked to a given person before that evening. My life is always an adventure. :)