Monday, January 27, 2014

Same old same old!

We’re less than one month out from 20 Mule Team.
Traditionally (based on my vast experience) this is the time of year when I feel like a) everything we did the previous year was a fluke and b) there’s just no way I can ever get Dixie legged back up and c) even if I do it’ll all go wrong and I’ll break her. This year, finally, I’m only worried about breaking my horse, and that’s a fear no horse owner ever manages to completely lose. You just have to accept that they’re equal parts tough as nails and fragile as glass and go on with things.
This time last year, I was legging back up for Rides of March, and I did that by riding a steep hill loop over and over again. (Last year it actually rained, and a lot of the trails were too slick for trotting, so I worked steep hills at a walk rather than risk a slip injury.) 
I went out for one of our little having-fun rides and ended up doing the loop I did so many times last spring. Last year, Dixie would ask to stop a couple times on the hill climb - fewer times as she got back in shape, but still, she’d usually take a breather at one spot. This year, she just marched right up that hill, hit the ridge, and started trotting and cantering for home. Project Keep The Horse Fit is a success!
One of the reasons I’ve been quiet is that I haven’t had any good story-rides. I’ve noticed, especially among aspiring endurance bloggers, that we usually start off blogging every damn ride, because it’s all very exciting and new and we’ve got all these fears and problems and worries. It’s exciting to have a place to talk, and it’s really nice to get comments from people who’ve already been through the process… but after a while, you start to feel like you’ve told this story before. Because you have. Many, many times. 
So at this point, I try to only tell stories about stuff that’s unusual, and of course, to only tell my story. A couple weeks back, I took a new friend to Briones, on her adorable green Arab. He rocked it, with only a little green-horse-brain — but that’s her story to tell or not tell. My only part was letting Dixie hang back, being calm, while Gino thought about a few scary things and decided he could get past them on his own. We played walk-trot leapfrog, but I think he’s going to be ready for more advanced “games” before we know it!
Isn't he adorable? Gonna be a tiny dynamo.
Saturday Dixie and I headed over to Auburn to ride with Lucy and ~C. We went from the Overlook (the finish line for Tevis) up to the American River crossing and back. We’re not the kind of riders who ever manage to follow the advice of “train faster than you compete,” so it took about 4 hours (moving speed) to do 22 miles. There were a lot of other trail users below Lower Quarry, on the narrower trails, and everybody had some boot issues after the Black Hole.
The Black Hole is a creek crossing a couple miles from the finish. If you’re riding Tevis — even if you’re top-tenning, I think? — you go through it at night, and it’s very, very dark under those trees. Down a steep rocky bit of trail, through a rocky one-stride creek, then up an equally steep bit of trail. If your boots are at all iffy, you’re going to lose one there. 
I love No Hands. Tammy asked if this was the bridge that burned — that's Swinging Bridge, and it's about 50 miles up the trail. The area is still closed from the fire last summer. 
I have been running Dixie in the same pair of 0.5 Gloves for almost two years now. They’re stretched out, the gaiters are disintegrating, and the tread’s almost gone, but any time it’s not going to matter if I lose one, I pop them on her hinds. If I’m at a ride, I break out one of the slightly better pairs, but if I’m conditioning, I always end up grabbing the shittiest pair. Somehow these thousand-mile loose-ass half-destroyed boots survived the Black Hole. I did lose one a couple miles further along, when I led her down to the road crossing at the Quarry, but I popped it back on and it didn’t come off again. 
Once we made it past the quarry, the trail traffic cleared out a lot and we had some really nice trot/canter sets. None of our horses is really a born leader, but Lucy’s Roo seems to have decided that he wants Dixie behind him at all times, and if that means he has to lead the way, he’ll do it. When he’d get tired or his nerve would falter, I’d let Dixie march on past him and he’d make terrible faces and surge back in front. Brave, bold Roo!
She did not want to drink at the river. She did want to drink two miles later, out of a half-inch mud puddle that all the horses decided was the best water they've ever tasted. Whatever, she do what she want!
Dixie has been exceptionally moody for the last week or so. She was in extra-slutty heat on the 16th and she’s been pissy every since, but she felt really good under me. Still ragingly PMS-y, but forward, sound, and offering a canter on both leads. I can only hope her attitude improves, but I can’t complain. I’ll take “keeps boots on with a pissy attitude” over the alternatives.
Stole this one from Lucy!
On the way back, we ran into more endurance riders, with a horse Dixie knew from my barn in Oakland. Karl is a Rushcreek gelding who used to live at my barn, but he wasn’t a very good fit for that human so he ended up back with his former owner, and she’s getting him back out on the trails. They definitely remembered each other! They went nostril-to-nostril and “said hello,” no squealing or pawing. My grinchy little heart grew two sizes. 
I don't really know why I took this one. I was probably wondering about the concrete block. But it's a good illustration of just how dry it is. We're going to have some terrible fires this year.

I had to leave immediately — I didn’t even take the time to hose her down. A quick trip by Echo Valley to buy a few things (including the Woolback I’ve been meaning to buy since, oh, October?) and we headed home. I didn’t do anything special for her at all — no ice boots, no diabeetus socks — and the next day she looked great. Perky attitude, not sore, cold tight legs all around. It’s on:  we’re going to 20 Mule Team! 


  1. Hey, I know those trails! Glad you had a good ride, and Dixie looks so fit and ready to conquer 20 Mule Team! Black Hole is excellent at grabbing boots, I try to keep it slow up the hill to not just power right out of them.

  2. So glad to hear Dixie's keep-fit work has put her in good stead for this year's rides. I had to laugh at the puddle-drink - I have dogs that will refuse the nice tasty clean water I pack on a hike but drink for the dirtiest, muddiest puddle on the trail. :)

  3. YEAHHH TEAM FIXIE! 20MT adventures await :) I will do anything I can when I'm not tending April!

  4. Doing that in the dark is completely incomprehensible to me!

  5. Awesome that she's stayed so fit (can't say the same for myself, started up doing TRX training again and it's kicking my ass) and can't wait to hear about how you both handle 20 Mule.

  6. Just want you to know, I read Allan the first two sentences of the paragraph that starts: "Dixie was exceptionally moody..." and his response was: "C'mon, Funder, lets not beat around the bush, now."

  7. I love hearing about your rides, or horse stories in general... you could always dip into the past I guess.
    Oh, I keep meaning to ask, why is it called No Hands?

  8. I know what you mean about not wanting to tell the same stories...but last weekend I ran into a bunch of sweet new Green Beass who don't already know the stories.


  9. Well done!!! Both of you!

    Powering up that hill and the fact that you didn't have to do anything special afterwards are testaments to your team. :)

    And I am 50 shades of green with jealousy that you can get out and actually do something fun with your horse right now. :(

  10. That drinking mucky water, it's so odd. I had a mare that was so keen on puddles that she'd sample every one then needed to stop and stale with unusual frequency. Like some people with beer. Glad you're getting some nice riding in.

  11. "I’ve noticed, especially among aspiring endurance bloggers, that we usually start off blogging every damn ride, because it’s all very exciting and new and we’ve got all these fears and problems and worries." Yes! I noticed the same thing about me. When I first started blogging, I think I wrote about everything, even the arena rides with my horse, but I'm starting to feel like things are settling down now and every ride isn't jam packed with Stuff I Didn't Know. I realize I haven't had nearly the same number of rides you've had, but it took less than a year for me to realize that everything we do is no longer noteworthy:)


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