Tuesday, January 26, 2010

(Not a) Wild Pack of Family Dogs

Headed out on the sloppy slushy muddy trails today. Dixie was unusually skittish at the beginning of our ride, behind the pueblo house. She is a spazz and I'm used to that, but it seemed a bit different today, so I started thinking about coyotes. And I got that Modest Mouse song stuck in my head!

We rolled on down toward the mines. We'd just gotten down the hill by the flat bit of trail near the Road to Nowhere when Dixie slammed on the brakes. I looked where she was looking and saw several coyotes about 50' away. They are so amazingly camouflaged - I saw three or four, but there could've been more. We sat and watched them for a few minutes. Often coyotes move along, doing whatever they do, so I was waiting for this group to keep going.

They didn't. They stared at us, and for the first time, I really viscerally understood why horses get nervous when you stare in their eyes. One would stare at me - and I'd stare at it - and then I'd realize that another one was moving, so I'd watch that one and it would stop and another one would start moving. All of a sudden I realized they were trying to flank me to get to Cersei (who had no clue they were there).

I whistled to Cersei to turn around, and once she'd passed behind us I let Dixie turn to follow. The coyotes immediately moved in closer, so I wheeled Dixie and ran her a couple feet at them. The coyotes were not remotely afraid of us, but they did stop when we charged. Then Dixie and I turned and lit out for home. Dixie was so freaked out she kicked at Cersei as we cantered past her. Dear, sweet, innocent oblivious Cersei was unfazed by getting kicked at, but she did put on a burst of speed once she realized we were gonna go fast.

I let Dixie canter uphill til she got tired, then pulled her down to a rack and risked my neck by checking behind us a few times. That was pretty pointless; you can't see them unless they're moving, and I dared not turn around for longer than a second or two. I never saw them again, and about a half-mile later Dixie relaxed and we walked on in.

I am very aware of where Cersei is at all times, and she's a good dog with a really strong recall. It's still really risky taking her, and it would completely break my heart if they got her. I'm not sure what to do, really - just accept the risk and continue taking her, or price out an air rifle and try to tag one the next time they start hunting my dog? I could get a regular rifle, but that would be even harder to desensitize the horse to.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

My broken heart is on the mend

I had such an amazing fantastic ride today, and I realized about halfway through that I trust Dixie, finally. I don't miss Champ quite so much. I love my hot hardheaded spotted yak!

Stats: 7.24 mi in 1:45, 4.1 mph.

I wanted to do 10 miles, but didn't quite make it. If I really want 10 miles without dealing with traffic, I have to do two loops of the mines, and that's just so psychologically boring and daunting - head out, "finish" the ride back at the barn, then ride back out AGAIN. So I just wandered and explored and made the whole thing a little bigger.

We started off behind the pueblo house, then headed down the sandy trails toward the mines. Took a detour and cantered down the Road to Nowhere and it was absolutely wonderful. I wasn't nervous at all, and Dixie was incredibly responsive :D Then we worked our way all the way down the mine canyon - over snowy rocks, downhill - and I just gave her her head and she picked her way downhill like a very large mountain goat.

I think ~C will know exactly where we went next - I went exploring up a gravel jeep trail I'd noticed off to the west, and I ended up on top of a hill where I could see Pyramid Hwy and Alamosa Dr. I'm pretty sure it leads to the boarding stable on the other side of the hill - the gravel jeep trail had old rotten hay and horse manure spread in the low spots. Getting to the top of the hill was a steep climb, so we took a breather for a minute then headed back down. I kept a little contact, stayed very light on her back, and asked her to walk, and she was perfect.

Dixie really had no sense of self-preservation when I got her, and she's really gotten so surefooted since we came to Nevada. :D

Slogging back home out of the canyon was hard. Deep, soft, wet sand and a slight but neverending incline. I kept her pushing at a walk, and every now and then I'd ask for some speed. I think we cantered once more on the way out and racked a couple times.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Persistence pays off

Today was another of those days where I felt like all these slow miles and all this planning and worrying IS actually paying off. I can look at my spreadsheet of distance/time/pace info, and I can look at my horse, and I can really tell she's getting fitter. This is so cool!

I only had an hour to ride, so we did trot/rack sets up and down the short gravel road, then one loop behind the pueblo house. Total was 4.11 miles in 52 minutes, at a pretty respectable 4.6 mph average. I kept the trot/rack sets fairly slow, at about 7 mph, and kept the walk sets fairly fast, around 3.5 or 4 mph. When we got back to the pasture, she wasn't sweaty! YAY!

I stuck with the new plan of keeping Dixie moving and not letting her think about the invisible monsters. When she'd get really nervous and reluctant, I'd let her stop just til she twitched an ear back at me - under 30 seconds - then I pushed her forward again. It worked very, very well - last night it snowed, so we were back in that scary white alternate reality.

After we got back, we worked on trot-out again. She is still all bug eyed about me holding that whip and making her move out, but she's starting to get the idea.

Today was one of those exceptionally beautiful days. The sky was pale blue with tons of huge puffy dramatic clouds, the mountains were beautiful with their patches of fresh new snow, and the roads were mostly dry. As AareneX says, it's good to be alive. And it's very good to be in Nevada.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

I eat my words

It didn't snow all morning, so I went to town for groceries. Then it started to snow, but it was more like snow drizzle. I called it lame Memphis snow and kicked at the slush and headed home. The snow gods got very angry indeed and it began pouring down snow. They closed Donner Pass so there was tons of traffic on the highway headed north, and it took me like 25 minutes to go 5 miles. Then I stopped at another grocery store (I'm picky, what can I say?) and watched people spin out like retards.

I have decided driving on snow isn't much harder than driving in the rain. I spent about 10 years driving tiny lightweight ricer sports cars, with no ABS, usually with bad tires, and those things will hydroplane and slide with any amount of water on the road. Driving a medium weight truck on a couple inches of snow is pretty similar... except that (almost) everybody around me is also going very slow.

We have plenty of food, and we're home safe, so whatever happens is ok with me :)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Trot, hooves, snow

The forecasted snow for yesterday never appeared. I stayed home because the weather sites were so insistent about that 100% chance of 3-5". Today they said the same thing - no, really, 2-4" of snow, 100% chance. I couldn't stay home another day, so snow be damned, off I went to visit Dixie.

The wind was howling at S's, so I'm glad I wasn't planning on riding. I picked Dixie's hooves, then worked on AareneX's method of teaching the trot out. It took a while to get a trot on the longe, but eventually we got it, from both sides. Then I had her start off on a circle but kept her going straight, just for a couple of strides. Lots of praise and we were done.

She had one very "good" spook, too. I never hard tie her to my truck; I just loop the lead around the cleats on the side of the bed. Yeah, she could get loose, but where's she going to go? Straight back to her buddies or straight over to the hay barn. There's a small risk that she'll get loose and totally lose her mind and hurt herself, but I'll take the chance.

I've got a plastic bin in the bed of the truck, with horse treats and beet pulp stored in it. I was rustling around in there (like she's seen a million times) and a piece of ICE fell off the lid while I had it raised. Dixie got all bug-eyed and bolted backwards about 10 feet, taking the rope with her. Then she stopped and snorted, and I told her what a good girl she was and slowly lowered the lid and walked around the side of the truck. She looked at me and at the bin for a while, then, all on her own, she sighed and dropped her head. I clicked and slowly walked over and gave her a treat. I'm so proud :) She saw a scary, got spooked, then calmed herself down.

Then I took hoof pics. I measured her feet, too, but I'm not sure if I measured right. I think I will measure them again next time I go up there.

The wonky foot (LF) still looks really weird and lopsided to me, but I am just not worrying about it. I've never had a horse that would fearlessly trot on gravel before. I've never had a horse with such a tight white line, and so little flare, and such round feet. The LF is asymmetrical, but it seems to work for her. It's endlessly amazing to me how her feet went from horrible to mediocre by going barefoot, then mediocre to amazing by living and riding a bazillion miles in the desert. Horses are remarkable!

Ok, pictures. Click to embiggen.

Right front is the high-heel hoof. I rasped a bit at the heels, but that looks like live sole in the buttresses so I left it alone. After I took these, I went back and rolled the toe wall a bit more. And her frog looks puny, but it just peeled off a layer last week.
Right front solar

The whole capsule looks long, but I am certainly not going to carve at her sole to make her hoof shorter.
Right front side

Left front is the wonky one. This is after I trimmed a bit of the medial toe to maybe help with the breakover. I've been trimming a smidge of medial toe about once a week, but I haven't noticed a huge improvement.
Left front solar

The whole foot looks very weird in this picture. I don't know if it's the dirty walls, the way she was standing, the gravel, or if her foot IS weird. Shrug.
Left front side

After I got pics and measurements, I headed back for home. Right as I got off the highway at our exit, it started snowing. I am such a southerner, I got the giggles about it. SNOW! Eeeee! Now it's pouring down snow and I'm trying to decide if I want to go to town tonight for the BCH meeting.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Snow stings!

Well I got a ride in, barely. S was off work for MLK Day, so I headed out just before noon and rode with her. The wind was whipping when I got there, and it started snowing on us a few minutes after we set out. We rode for about an hour total - we got cold and the horses stayed dry. The wind was flinging tiny little snowballs in my face and it kind of stung.

I can't get Dixie to trot out (or gait out, for that matter!) I've been trying for a couple of days now, and she gives me the most WTF look when I kiss and jog ahead of her and try to get her to trot with me. Maybe I should longe her in a circle to remind her that kissy-noises mean "speed up!" then kiss and run in a straight line?

I keep meaning to get pics of her lovely feet. That white line is tight, tight, tight. She's keeping her walls worn down too - I'd be worried but it's picture-perfect for just-trimmed feet. Except that she hasn't been trimmed for five weeks! Maybe the ground will freeze again this week and I can get some clean foot pictures. Everything's muddy right now and it's hard to get a clean shot.


Sunday, January 17, 2010

White/Grey Death '10

The storms from California are starting to roll into Nevada. Stead, where I live, is catching it worse than Spanish Springs, where Dixie lives, so I think I'll be able to ride regardless. And of course Truckee, up where Zach lives, is probably getting buried under snow right now, so I'm not complaining at all!

Yesterday I rode with S. We did the canyon - about 6 miles in 2 hours. (I don't feel like plugging in the GPS for the exact numbers!) Dixie behaved, the humans had a nice chat, and I didn't see anything new or noteworthy. Kind of boring, but very good stuff.

Then I made a huge batch of chocolate chip cookies and went to the NNGHC meeting. It was a potluck, shared with the local CW re-enactor club - I can't remember their name, but they were pretty cool! I met some really nice people, and talked to a few kind of weird people, and ate very well indeed. Then I drank a lot of coffee, because it was 9 pm and I was 30 miles from home. When I got home I couldn't fall asleep. I think I laid in bed, half-awake, til 3 am.

Oddly enough I did not feel like riding today, and it's a good day to give her a break. I rode Friday and Saturday, and as long as there's not a ton of rain forecasted I'll ride tomorrow and Tuesday and maybe Wednesday too.

Friday, January 15, 2010

No news is good news

Wednesday Dixie and I had a very nice ride with CM who rides Mama. I don't think I've gone out with just Dixie and Mama before, and I figured they'd be ok but I was a wee bit worried - Mama is very much the omega horse, and Dixie is the Queen Bitch. They were great together. CM and Mama do ok alone, but Mama won't lead in a group (until she turns the Magic Corner to head home!) So Dixie and I led out.

We did the Mines, kind of. When there's snow on the rocks in the canyon, we cut up the side of the hill and ride above the mine canyon. 4.0 miles, 1:18, 3.1 mph. The really nice thing about Mama is that she walks fast! She can't walk at 4.5 mph like Dixie can when she's really working it, but Mama moves out really well for a QH. We talked about trotting and cantering the nice bits when the weather warms up - the trails were really soggy that day. A very nice ride.

Today I pushed Dixie for a faster average - we did 6.03 miles in 1:38, a 3.7 mph average. That includes about two miles of slow warmup and cooldown, and that's definitely a solid pace for us. She was tired but not exhausted on the way home. I saw a coyote - neither Dixie nor Cersei noticed it though. And Dixie sidepassed about 10' to the left and back when she noticed some evil wicked new gravel on the road - she cracks me up.

There are bad storms coming in to CA this weekend, and the weather service still isn't sure how much snow we'll get next week. I'll definitely ride tomorrow, with S, and maybe Sunday with her as well. Then hopefully I can get in one more faster ride Monday before the snow starts. Double hopeful it won't be much snow and I won't get sidelined for a week again!

I joined AERC a couple days ago!! Once I get my # I'll send in my entry for the Rides of March LD. Will the weather cooperate enough to get Dixie ready for a 30 in two months?! We shall see!

The snow's been melting fast this week, and there's a couple of puddles beside the road. And my horse drinks out of those puddles on the way home! Part of me is like "Ewww gross horse, don't drink out of that nasty puddle" and part of me is like "Yes! Drink when you're thirsty! Any time you want!" I've been letting her drink.

I do feel better about her not drinking at the NEDA New Years' ride now. If she'll stop at a puddle to drink, then she'll drink anything. She just wasn't thirsty on that cold day.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


On the way to the gym. Saw a guy waiting at a bus stop wearing a chain
necklace. About as thick as safety chains on a trailer. Ends were held
together with a padlock. WTF?!

Sent from my iPhone

Monday, January 11, 2010


I've been thinking about this for about a week, mulling it over and trying to get a good post, but that's not happening, so I'll just post it anyway.

Dixie's very unbalanced to the right. I'm left handed. My instinct, when I ask her to circle, is to circle left. These things are obviously connected, and I've started deliberately adding more right-hand turns. It took a while for her to get this way, so it'll take a while to correct it.

I have a barn backpack. I carry apples, powerbars, the GPS with charger, that kind of crap in it. I always sling it on my right shoulder. Same with the Camelbak. Maybe I should try carrying them on my left shoulder?

In the dead of winter, my desire to go work out waned significantly. I just started going to the gym again last week, and I think I should spend more time doing yoga before and after lifting weights. Not sure what else will help me become more balanced, other than general awareness.

A sense of wonder

Today I picked back up with cruise control, same as Friday. The horse-beatin' lead rope only had to spring into action twice. Dixie's not a stupid horse; she's just going to take as much ground as I give her, and I've given her a lot of slack lately. I got on, rewarded her for standing still, and asked her to move off. She took two steps and stopped, so I hollered "WALK!" and walloped her with the rope. She didn't get mad, she just walked off and didn't give me much trouble about it again.

I had a Plan today too - one full lap down the short section of road, then one trip around the pueblo house, then a surprise. I had to wallop her one more time for oozing down to a walk when I'd asked her to trot, but again, after that she stuck to the gait I requested. I should note I'm not riding truly Western - I give gentle dressage cues with my legs every stride. So the walloping isn't coming out of nowhere - she's already ignored my first two "asks."

When we finished our circle, I had her keep walking past the barn. Oh no! Her head was up and she was a bit jiggy, and every now and then she'd try to sidepass off the road and turn for home. I made her walk about 2/10 of a mile past the barn, where OMG! Look! An apple has appeared! I'd dropped it off from the truck on the way to the barn. :)

One of AareneX's mares (Story?) thought every new "scary" thing in the world was really just a sugar packet dispenser. I loved that story, and I'd like for Dixie to have some really exciting and pleasant surprises happen to her. She needs a sense of wonder about the world. :)

I dismounted, fed her the apple, loosened the girth, and walked her home. (I walk her home quite a bit - it won't do me any harm to walk, and it's a nice way for her to cool out and relax with me.) Anyway, Dixie was pretty worried about something invisible over the horizon, but she did eat the apple. Every bite of it seemed to bring her "back" a tiny bit.

After we got home, I worked on the wonky toe just a bit again. I've got it pretty balanced right now. And our stats were 3.0 miles in 52 min, with a dry relaxed horse at the end. I want to go a bit further on Wednesday - either a double loop around the pueblo house, or maybe the mines. We'll see how the weather holds out, and how waterproof my jacket really is!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The terrible, horrible, no good ride

Thanks to everybody for all the comments on my last post. I do really appreciate it, it's just that I had a Bad Ride Friday and I didn't feel like talking about my stupid horse or thinking about her or writing it down. I was sulking.

It's so much easier to only write about our successes and good rides, but that's really not doing anybody any favors. I like to look back and see how horrible my horse was in the past, and if I never write down the horrible, I won't have anything to look back on in 2011. And this is, hopefully, a teaching blog. It's more of a "don't do what I did" style of teaching, but that's valuable too. I remember the weirdest bits of training philosophy from reading yall's blogs - but it's almost always from someone fixing a disaster. It's not at all helpful to me to read "Oh, we did Tevis, I'm tired but it was no big deal" or "Worked on canter pirouettes today; my horse was very soft and round." It's fun to read that, but I don't learn from it.

So. The terrible horrible no good ride.

Almost all of our rides are out the driveway and to the left - that's where the really open space is. Friday I decided to go right out of the driveway, down the road to ...??? She wasn't in a ~mood~ when I got there and headed out, and we made it about 3/4 of a mile before we came upon some barking dogs and she got nervous. I kept pushing her to work through it and keep moving forward, and we made it past a gauntlet of dogs on both sides of the road before she just shut down.

Dixie's scariest habit is just freaking out and forgetting humans exist. When I'm on her back, I can't get an ear, I can't get flexion, I can't get any movement based on any cues. It's a precursor to melting down and bolting, so I don't even try to ride it out anymore. I just get off and wait for her to "come back" to me. It doesn't happen all that often - less than once a month - and honestly, it only happens when I push her too hard mentally. The problem is that the "too hard" point is not static, so I don't always know when it's coming.

Anyway, we'd walked exactly one mile down the road when she came unglued. I got off and got her off the road and checked the GPS - I figured it'd take 5-10 minutes for her to calm down and acknowledge me again. I waited patiently while she circled around me, head up like a Saddlebred. I gently lunged her in small circles - not to burn off energy, just to get her thinking about how I existed and was controlling her feet. I asked her to back up and asked her to follow me as we "crazy walked" (Kate's term, but I love it so I'm stealing it!) I did all these things, over and over, for THIRTY MINUTES, to no avail. She would not even look at me!

She probably would've stood still enough for me to get back on and ride her home, but it would've been either a bolt home or a huge nasty fight to keep her from bolting, so I didn't even try to get on. I gave up. I walked her home. And the more I walked, the madder I got.

By the time we got back home, I decided that I have health insurance and a magical helmet and I didn't care if she killed both of us, we were going back out. I was totally flummoxed about how to help her work around the coming unglued issue, but the only thing I could think of was to work more on cruise control - staying in the speed I ask you for.

When I first got Dixie, she was so terrified of the rider on her back she would've racked off a cliff if that's where she was pointed. It was horrible - extremely unsafe, with a fearful horse who didn't even look where she was putting her feet. I spent a ton of time letting her know it was ok to stop and look at scary stuff, and it was ok to walk slow sometimes. Now she's at the point where she stops and looks TOO much. I hesitate to ascribe human motivations to a horse, but it's like she's sandbagging. Maybe we need more balance - if it's really scary, we'll stop and you can look at it. But I will not let monsters eat you, and I need you to go when I say go.

So I got back on my horse (who was acting totally normal again) and we went back out and worked up and down a short gravel road (to the left!) I carry a spare lead rope clipped to the breastcollar D's, draped over her withers, and I used that as my horse beater. I'd ask, with voice and the gentlest possible leg cues, then again with a good squeeze and some heels, then I'd start whacking with the end of the lead rope. It's just a nylon rope, no popper or metal hardware, so it didn't hurt her, but it definitely got her attention. I probably had to resort to the horse beater the first three times I asked her to move out away from the barn, and after that she'd walk or trot/rack on polite leg cues. No cantering - our minds weren't right for that!

When I decided to head home, I worked her at the driveway too. I'd ask her to trot about 20' from the driveway, then absolutely insist she keep trotting PAST the driveway for another 20'. Then we'd turn and I'd have her walk briskly PAST the driveway. Rinse and repeat probably 10 times.

Dixie actually did very well. She didn't get pissy - no head tossing or tail wringing - so I don't feel like I was unfair or asked too much. I am not sure if getting her more responsive to my aids will help with the coming unglued problem, but it's definitely something worth working on either way.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Rack on!

My horse was glad to see me today! She perked up her ears (normal) and walked all the way over to the gate (not normal!) Dixie is not a snuggly cuddly pocket pony, so just having her walk to meet me at the gate is a HUGE breakthrough, and it made me so happy all day.

5.86 miles in 1:53. That includes our long walk-and-stop-to-stare warmup - it's less pitiful as 4.5 miles in 1:13. It wasn't really the ride I planned on, but I think it was the ride she needed.

I wanted to ride out to the Road to Nowhere, then cut up to Sky Canyon and do some road work. The Road to Nowhere is a real road that's not a real road. The Mines trail crosses it, and it runs about .7 mile from a cul-de-sac to Sky Canyon, but it's blocked off at SC with a chain between two posts. It's a perfectly nice normal gravel road, for a subdivision that never got sold. Every so often there's a short post in the ground with a numbered letter, I guess showing where Lot #Whatever is. Nobody uses it for anything, so it hasn't been plowed and it's still covered with a couple inches of mostly-virgin snow. Pretty nice footing right now. Interestingly, it predates Google's sat maps of the area, and it's not listed on road maps.

When we got down to the Road to Nowhere, Dixie was pretty wired, so I let her rack up to Sky Canyon, about a quarter of a mile. Then we turned and I asked her to walk to the cul-de-sac end, but she thought that was a horrible and unreasonable request and kept breaking into a rack. Every time she'd break out of the walk, I'd circle her, she'd slow back to a walk, and we'd walk in one or two big circles, then continue on our way. Sometimes we'd go 20 feet, sometimes we'd go 5 feet before she tried to take off again. I just kept at it, and eventually she figured it out and we walked at a good clip down to the end. The gravel cul-de-sac, on the side of a hill, is the closest thing we've got to a dressage arena, so that's where we're going to work on bending nicely.

You know how horses are affected by an invisible black hole centered over their barn, so they always want to lurch toward the barn and balk on the part of the circle away from it? That's what I worked on today. I'm left-handed, so I tend to make left turns whenever I'm circling her, and it really shows. She figured out what I wanted and made some surprisingly nice counterclockwise 20 meter circles, but clockwise? Terrible. She really can't bend at all to the right. Ugh. We kept at it til I got a couple of nice half-circles, then we quit.

We headed back down the R2N to the intersection with Sky Canyon, then went down into a little wash and back up a trail that would lead us to home. Once we got up the hill onto the flat sand trail, I asked her for a rack and just let her rack on as far as she could. I've done this once before with the GPS, and she racked for .16 miles before she slowed to a walk - and that day she was pretty fresh. Today, after all that previous work, she went all the way from the canyon to the turn for the trail leading home, .28 miles! That's decent improvement, I think.

A couple of times today she'd offer a trot, but it was that super-bouncy Big Trot, and when I'd post it she'd break up to a canter. I know it's because my weight is shifting off her back, but I'm not sure how to deal with it. She'd trot, I'd post, she'd canter, I'd sit back down and half-halt her, and she'd rack. Gaited horses are even more of a mystery than w/t/c horses.

Today I offered her barely-soaked beet pulp with delicious alfalfa leaves mixed in. Obviously I was trying to poison her. I put a little more alfalfa on top, and she delicately nibbled off the dry hay and tossed her head in a fury when she'd get wet nasty beet pulp in her mouth. I suppose I will break down and buy some bran for her. Silly spoiled horse! Eventually I put it in the feeder in the pasture, in the hopes that another horse will eat some and she'll get mad and eat it just to get revenge on the other horse. It's not poison, really it's not!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Confusing mare

We did a short fast ride today - no one will ever know how short or how fast, because the GPS was out of juice. And the iPhone GPS was sure it couldn't find any satellites. The iPhone also had an adventure on Saturday - when I got out of C's truck, I dropped it, stepped on it, and didn't notice it was missing til I got home. S had visitors over that night, and somehow none of the 5 pickups ran over my poor phone! It was muddy but seemed to work ok when I found it Sunday. Except it just would not lock on to a GPS signal today - I suspect the antenna got frozen or something.

ANYWAY. We rode along the hill toward the Mines, cut down to the Road to Nowhere, then gaited up and down the road a couple times. Saturday I couldn't get Dixie to gait, which was weird. Today I couldn't get her to trot. She was either racking or doing that annoying thing in between a trot and a canter. I'd really like to get my posting groove back, which requires some practice!

It must have been the footing. The Road to Nowhere and the trails back to S's are gravel or deep sand, with a good bit of wet snow on top, but nothing's packed down - just some hoofprints from traffic. The roads at the ride Saturday were gravel, with deep, cold, packed down then churned up snow. I think she sinks right through the wet stuff at home and gets good traction on the ground.

Dixie was kind of a horrible monster on the way out. I didn't have the heart to be really annoyed, though - she did so well Saturday. She spooked and bolted from Cersei at one point and made it three strides before I one rein stopped her. She was really glad to get to gait FAST, and she was really attentive on the way home. I use the last 1/4 mile to work on contact - I try to get her to stretch out and chew the bit and slow down a bit, then pick her head back up and walk faster with more energy, then repeat. Some days she's just not willing to participate, but today we got a very nice dialogue going.

My Princess will eat beet pulp if it's not too gooey and it's got some bran on it. I'm going to cut back on the bran slowly, maybe add in an apple sometimes. And I rasped a bit on that wonky front toe, smoothing out the foot she paddles on.

I want to do something different Wednesday. Maybe we'll head over to Palomino Valley and do some riding on the roads over there?

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Epic win!

We had about the best first endurance ride possible!

The good: Dixie loaded, ate, peed, pooped, and kept her cool remarkably well. Diego did the same, and they got to be trail buddies - but not so BFF4LYFE that we couldn't leapfrog each other. The horses saw NEDA driving carts for the first time - they're like homemade chariots. They were a little snorty but didn't come unglued!

The bad: Iffy footing. No drinking. I led that horse to water no less than four times - two different types of water - and she just wouldn't drink. I definitely have to work on that - I think I'll try offering her flavored water at home (ACV? apple juice?) so when I offer her flavored water at a ride, she won't think it's unusual. And I think I'll give her some salty food first thing in the morning before a ride, so hopefully she'll be a bit thirsty when she steps off the trailer. Thoughts? Suggestions?

I talked ~C into signing up for the 20, but we should've just signed up for the 10 mile. Woops. It was one 10 mile loop, ridden once or twice - all roads, and all covered in about 4-6" of snow. The snowy bits were excellent, but there were miles of that slippy ice you get from traffic on snow. The iffy footing was one of the main reasons we decided to stop at 10 miles.

The horses got all big-eyed about the carts heading out, but we just hung out for a few minutes extra at the trailer til most of the riders headed out. Then I mounted up and ~C led Diego and off we went. Diego was doing his best snorty bug-eyed tail-up wild Arab impersonation, and Dixie kept wanting to rush off faster and faster, so we both made lots of circles on the side of the trail. Every time Dixie got tense and rushed, I pulled her into a big dressage circle and rode the circle til she focused on me again. Diego got to run in a circle once, but otherwise he just gradually calmed down on his own.

We walked probably the first three miles, before the horses had settled in enough to pick up the pace a bit. I asked Dixie to gait a few times, but the footing wasn't good for it - she'd start to rack, slip a bit, and trot instead. So we trotted. Dig's slowest trot is faster than Dixie's fastest flat walk, and Dixie does not believe she can trot any slower than she does, so we started leapfrogging. I'd trot ahead a bit, then drop to a walk, and Diego would jog past, then we'd repeat.

Amazingly, we passed a group of three riders. They'd started out a bit faster, but we caught up and passed them some time after the halfway mark. One guy on a green horse stayed behind us the whole time, so we came in 5th and 6th from last (on the first loop) - pretty respectable. I think most of the greenies only did 10 miles.

Dixie worked up a good sweat on the last half of the loop, but I really haven't conditioned her to trot for miles. She wasn't exhausted, and she seemed to have a good time. We came back to camp, offered them water, pulsed in (58, then she got mad about the stethoscope and went up to 60), let them eat for a few minutes, and went back out for about a mile, just so they'd get used to ride -> eat -> ride. I think we did the 10 mile loop in 1:45 - not record breaking, but not embarrassing.

Next official ride I'm planning on is the LD at Rides of March. I've got plenty of time to put some speed on her, and if she's still yaklike I'll clip the underside of her neck in early March.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!

May this year be better - and calmer - than last year. This time last year I was living in Mississippi with three horses - my good horse Champ, my retiree Silky, and my crazy Dixie. I was perfectly happy to become a Mississippi good old girl and never leave that beautiful messed up state, but life happened. The economy sucked, and my husband's job (at the time) transferred him to Ohio. Silky's congestive heart failure got to the point where I decided to put her down in February or March, then we had to pack up everything and move.

Ohio was the most perfectly normal place I've ever lived. I don't thrive in normal :( I had the horses at a very nice barn, but it was very arena and show oriented, and I never felt like I fit in. In April, Champ died, very unexpectedly. He had undetected liver cancer and it hemorrhaged - my husband and I hauled him to OSU for possible colic, and in about two horrible hours it became clear that he was dying. It was a huge blow. I still miss him, and I feel so lucky that he was so patient with me and taught me so much.

Dixie went from being my project mare that I would one day be good enough to train to being my only horse that I had to do something with. It was really tough, and we spent a lot of time (we are still spending a lot of time) going one step forward and two steps back. In retrospect, she was not trained to do anything other than rack fast and not buck. And I am not a horse trainer - I have just figured out, through lots of introspection, asking stupid questions, and trial and error, how to train MY horse.

2009 was a really mixed bag. I made a lot of progress with my horse, and I moved halfway across the country, then all the way across the country. I love Reno, and I feel like I've landed in endurance heaven. If I hate endurance, it's still trail heaven! But this is the Year of Endurance. Dixie and I shall make our 20 mile debut tomorrow, at the NEDA ride in Silver Springs. Well - we're going to sign up for 20 miles. Crysta and I are sure we can do the first loop, and we'll see how the horses feel after that. If I pull, no big deal - this is more about keeping Dixie calm and focused than testing her physical conditioning.

She's had about two weeks of light work, so I want to give her two more weeks of LSD conditioning, then I think it's time to start adding in some speed work, weather permitting. What have you done to take your horse from "pretty fit" to "badass equine"?