Monday, April 30, 2012

My humblest apologies, princess

As I was scooping out a tiny handful of BP tonight, what to my wondering hands should appear but a cat turd. :headdesk: I strongly suspect that if I buy a new bag of beet pulp and put the lid on it so the cats can't get in she'll go back to eating it. Why, cats? There's a whole acre of delightful sand. Why?

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Weekend Update

(Doesn't that title just bring you back to the days of your youth when SNL was funny? Or at least when you were young and THOUGHT SNL was funny?)

In no particular order:

  1. Dixie is on strike from beet pulp.  I am refusing to negotiate with terrorists.  Well, ok, I'm negotiating to the extent that she gets a much higher % of hay pellets and a much lower % of beet pulp... for now.  :ominous glare at horse:
  2. G has rented a fabulous house for us in Daly City.  It's huger than we need, it costs a bazillion dollars, but most importantly:  pets ok.  Yahoo!  Move in on the 19th.
  3. I have someone coming to look at renting this house on Tuesday.  Fingers crossed!
  4. My unspeakably fabulous purple and blue fringed half chaps have arrived.  No, you may not see pictures now.  You must wait for ride pics.
  5. I have been doing yard work pretty much nonstop since Friday and I filled up 21 bags.  Dead tumbleweeds, dead weeds, live baby sagebrush.  Now the yard looks like a barren rockpile instead of a weedy rockpile.  Improvement?  
  6. I haven't ridden my beast since last Saturday.  Que sera, sera.  I think she'll be ok.  Hoping to get out for a pleasure cruise with the Cersei-dog tomorrow afternoon.  
  7. I am oddly zen about Washoe.  It appears that I am focusing all my worrying on moving instead.  Hopefully this means we'll have a delightfully fun 10-hour ride.  
  8. The Former Dr. Seuss room is entirely full of packed boxes, except for enough room to open the door.  The garage is de-junked.  The cat room needs sweeping and scrubbing, and the blue room is now the Other Room of Boxes, but the rest of the house is clean and airy.
That is all.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Sword of Darwin

I haven't posted in a while, because everything here alternates between ennui and icky gross ~feelings~ about moving that I don't want to talk about. But today I killed a spider, and I thought, well, people blog about even sillier stuff than this, why not? Also, there's precedent.

I am in the minority about spiders in the house. Most people, I think, kill all spiders on sight. But I try to live in peace with spiders. Unlike yellowjackets or cockroaches, spiders have a place in the world. That place is outside, or up in the rafters of a barn, and preferably not inside my house. But if they do come in, they are welcome to stay if they follow a few simple rules.

  1. The spider must be no larger than a quarter (preferably, no larger than a nickel) with all its creepy bitey arms outstretched.
  2. The spider, if it is a web-builder, must create and maintain a web at ceiling level.  Corners are best.  Corners near lights are ideal, so the spider can eat the little bugs that fly in and buzz around the light.
  3. If it is a wolf spider, it must FFFFF STAY THE HELL OFF OF ME.  Nothing makes me scream and do the Spider Dance like a damn nickel-sized wolf spider running across me on the couch.  

The Tub Spider this morning broke all the rules. I first noticed Tub Spider when it was behaving properly - up in the corner of the bathroom ceiling, not too large, chilling out. It seems paradoxical to approve of a spider in the corner of the bathroom ceiling, considering one is often naked in there and the spider could snap and leap upon you at any moment, but think about it: you've got all your weapons at hand. If you're in the shower, the water protects you. If not, you've got the makings of a protective Toilet Paper Mitt at hand. And if all else fails and it does go all rabid-dog on you and you panic, there's something you can squirt at it from the cabinet under the sink. Bathroom spiders are safe spiders.

But this morning the Bathroom Spider had molted, grown to the maximum permissible size of a quarter, and had moved house to spin a web in the tub. No sir.

It should be obvious that I don't like to kill things, even large uppity spiders. But I consider myself to be acting as the Sword of Darwin. Nature is red in tooth and venomous-fang. Creatures that are evolutionarily unsuited to where they end up get killed. If I kill every spider that migrates from the ceiling corners to the bathtub, eventually over many spider generations I will help create a less-than-quarter-sized species that ONLY lives in the corners of the ceilings. They will eat gnats and mosquitos, thus allowing me - and YOU! - to sleep better at night. I am doing a service for the world.

So I calmly grabbed a dustpan, dispatched the spider, made a small toilet paper glove, and threw it away. I didn't scream even once.

Now, if I can just keep it together when I have to crawl under the house and turn the swamp cooler water line back on...

Sunday, April 22, 2012

25 in Galena: a novel-length post

I cannot figure out what to call this post / this ride. We went up Thomas Creek to the trailhead, then over to Jones/Whites Creek, then over further to Galena Creek Park. So I'm just going to call it the Galena ride!

"You wanna do what?"

All these parks are in the foothills of the Sierras, just north of Mt. Rose Highway, southwest of Reno. A short 40 minute trip from my house, and we actually rode out from C's house! C rode Diego, S rode Taz, I was on Dixie, and despite our best attempts, Jess The Dog busted loose three times to come with us, so C let her come.

We went exploring on the way up - we followed the singletrack along Thomas Creek, then detoured off of that and explored some fire roads, but we couldn't find a horse-safe way to cross Whites Creek. There were some lovely little trails, but they meandered back and forth across 12" wide footbridges. So we kept ending up on boring fire roads and eventually made our way west to the trailheads. There's three trailheads, pretty much in a line running north-south: Galena is the biggest trailhead, with decent trailer parking, just off of Mt. Rose Highway. North of Galena is the little Whites Creek trailhead - good for cars, but not really trailer parking. And maybe a mile north of that is Jones Creek trailhead, which also has trailer parking.

So there's three major trails that run west from those trailheads, along the three creeks then switchbacking up the ridges. There are shorter north-south connector trails between the three creek trails, and there's a few spur trails higher up. We rode south, to the Galena trail, and followed it west and up into the mountains. Our plan was to take the trail over the ridge and then follow the Whites Creek trail back down most of the way to that trailhead, then cut north again to Thomas Creek and follow THAT all the way back to C's. That's probably clear as mud - it's so hard to describe!

The first 10 miles were all new to me. We got to the first good water spot at 10 miles, and I vaguely recognized it - I'd hiked part of this trail, a week after we moved out here! I know you will find this hard to believe, but there was a time when I didn't blog every damn thing I did. :o Anyway, here's some good pictures of the trail from August '09. A lot of this:
Down the trail

The water spot was a creek crossing, ankle-deep on the horses, with some logs for people to walk across. Dixie didn't want any water. I didn't even try to coax her to drink. A ride like that is the perfect opportunity to let her learn from her mistakes - we weren't going fast enough or far enough for her to REALLY get hurt, metabolically speaking, by not drinking right away.

We tackled the climb to the top of the ridge. About 2 miles of switchbacks, not too steep but certainly not easy. (I sure as hell didn't hike all the way up it in '09! Oddly, now that I've been here for two+ years, I think there's plenty of air to breathe, but back then I was gasping just walking across flat ground.) Jess The Dog does not have a firm grasp of the third dimension and was pretty confused by the first couple of switchbacks. Taz would round the hairpin and head on up the trail, then Diego, then Dixie, then Jess would turn around at the hairpin and start back down the trail. I proclaimed her to be The Simple Dog, but after a few switchbacks she figured it out and I had to take it back. She's the Not So Simple Dog.

S and Mt. Rose

Near the top, there's a spur trail that leads off to a pond about a mile away, then the main trail continues over onto the north side of the ridge and down to Whites Creek. Dixie was licking her lips and acting pretty regretful on the big climb to the top, so we took the spur toward the pond. There was a little snow patch that the horses calmly squished through, then a slightly bigger snow patch with a hiker on the other side. He said it was only 5 minutes to the pond so we headed across... like dumbasses.

That 50' of snow on the trail was very quickly belly-deep for the horses. It was Taz in the lead, then Dixie, then Dig, and the horses were too close together - once Taz was committed there was no way to stop Dixie or Dig and turn them around. They went leaping through the snow like giant antelope with us trying to keep them where we thought the trail was and somehow we made it to the clear patch safely. We immediately realized we'd fucked up and decided to turn around, but Diego was having none of it. Every time C turned him to face the snow he was like "oh hell no I'm not going back in THERE" and he'd spin back around to face his buddies. The trail was way too narrow for me to try to squeeze Dixie past a spinning Diego, and I don't think any of us really wanted to RIDE it again anyway, so we got off. C lead Dig slowly through the snow - slowly, because if you stepped in the horse prints you sank past your knees, and if you stepped on the tops of the snow you sank slowly to your calves.

I followed, trying to keep Dixie on the trail and not get stepped on, and S brought up the rear. She let Taz go when he started leaping, so I let Dixie go as she got panicky, and both horses charged past Dig and C at the end of the snowbank. I grabbed Taz's lead on his way past me, and S went off at a fast walk toward Dixie. She went about 20', then changed her mind and came back toward us and I snagged her lead too. GOOD HORSES.

Looking east to Little Washoe Lake

We checked them over. Everybody's boots stayed on - Dixie had a toe strap undone. Dixie had one nick halfway up her rear left cannon, but that was it. We were so lucky to do such a dumb thing and get away with no injuries.

Since we were at the top of the ridge anyway, we checked the trail heading down the north side, but we almost immediately ran into a tiny patch of snow on the trail and decided OH HELL NO. So back down the switchback, back to the creek crossing, where Dixie decided that the water was DELICIOUS. A loose stray dog, a pack of day trippers, and a guy on a mountain bike weren't enough to stop her from drinking.

(Another '09 picture)
No bikes past this point

Dixie led on the way down the steep bit of the trail. She's got a nice fast downhill walk and she usually watches where she's going quite well. Except once, where she tripped on a tiny rock and almost went down. I put out a hand on the dirt to roll off (to the right, for once), realized she wasn't going all the way down, braced everything and leaned back, and up she came again. I sort of shook out my shoulders and thought "did that just happen?", but yes, it did happen - S and C saw it.

We took the same route back north to Whites Creek, then headed west up the Whites Creek trail toward the cutoff to Dry Pond and Thomas Creek. The signs said 0.7 miles to the Dry Pond turnoff, and we'd gone about 0.6 when we saw some hikers coming down. We asked them how far they'd gone, and they said they'd just turned back at a big tree across the trail and they hadn't passed the Dry Pond turnoff, so we turned around.

Back down to the paved road, a quarter mile or so to the Thomas Creek trailhead, a stop for a drink in the creek, and we headed down the singletrack along the creek back to C's house. Once Dixie started drinking, she drank at every opportunity. All the horses enjoyed the early grass. Taz lost a lot of boots going up the switchbacks at high speed, and Dixie lost one for no discernable reason a couple miles from the trailer. We all got pretty sunburned. Jess the Not So Simple Dog was still chasing rabbits at the very end of the ride!

A lovely ride with great company. I got 23 miles on my GPS, but I didn't start the timer immedidately - S got 24.something on hers. So glad I went!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Like short rides? Go somewhere else.

I posted what yall said - that 20+ people would be interested in short rides - and the mailing lists exploded with hatred for the idea. (And for the record, it wasn't my idea to begin with, and I'm not a RM so I wouldn't profit from it!)

I don't understand the LD hate. 25 mile rides are not endurance. Nobody inside the sport currently tries to say they are. (Maybe they did in the past?)

The thing is, I don't see it as a zero-sum game. If I spent the next 20 years doing nothing but LDs, that's not going to decrease the accomplishment of anyone else's 20 years of doing 50s, or 20 years of doing multidays, or 20 years of doing 100s, or 20 years of FEI racing. But that's not how many, many people in AERC see it. They insist that LDs are a threat to the very foundation of endurance. Shorter rides are the barbarians at the gate.

What gets me is that those same people say they're deeply concerned with the decline in membership. Apparently they only want new members who are committed to riding 50s on Arabians. I was so excited to try endurance ON MY HORSE. Doing it with the horse I already had, in the breed I preferred, was a huge draw for me. Knowing that if we couldn't hack it at Real Endurance (tm), we could still participate in the lower levels of the sport in LD rides was the icing on the cake. I totally fell for the bullshit about "almost any horse of almost any breed can complete 50s."

If the only real goal of the sport is riding 50s, and my horse can't do 50s, am I no longer welcome?

I'm not giving up, but I'm really disillusioned. The furious posters I read today are not the endurance riders I've come to know online and in Nevada. Maybe the other Nevada riders DO feel that way, but they're nice to my face. I'll tell you this much: I vote with my wallet. I didn't like that FEI ride and I won't go back. If I go to a ride I haven't been to before and get the feeling that LDs or non-Arabs are second class citizens, I won't go back. But I will keep going to rides. I will keep riding my own ride, and when I finish, I will have won. That's the motto, and until they change it, I'm living it.

Hopefully this is the most emo blog post I'll ever put up!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

I hate blogger so much, or, where'd my comment go?

I've had comment moderation on, ever since the Russian spammers found me a year ago. In that time I have blissfully accepted like a bazillion comments and "marked as spam" like 100. Until tonight. When I clicked over to blogger and clicked the check box and clicked the button next to it and DELETED FIFTY DAMN COMMENTS aarrrgggghhh. There was no "are you sure" confirmation box. There was no "deleted 50 comments, did you fuck up? undo?" box. Just gone. I "rebuilt" them from the comment notification emails I get - if you're subscribed to the last three-four posts I put up, you've gotten a lot of emails about it. But if you're reading this months later: no, I didn't go on a comment deletion/reinsertion spree. I just pushed the wrong button.

Google, I can't believe you did me like that. I may have to break up with you. First the horrible unreadable word verification, then the two-"word" verification, and now you ate 50 comments? I hate you.

A question - all answers welcome!

Most of y'all have been reading my blog for a while, and most of y'all are not endurance riders. There's a periodic discussion on Ridecamp, the endurance listserv, about how to attract new riders to the sport, and that discussion always includes shorter distances and their place in AERC endurance.

So here's my questions: Are you interested in endurance, at any distance? Why or why not? Would you be interested in a 10-15 mile endurance-type ride? A 25 mile ride?

You may be thinking that a 15 mile "endurance" ride sounds exactly like CTR (competitive trail riding), and I kinda think so too. I don't have a dog in this fight - I just think that Ridecamp is an echo chamber. By definition, the only people reading Ridecamp are those who do endurance or are interested in doing endurance. Talking on Ridecamp about how to attract people who aren't officially interested in endurance is guesswork at best.

I think the main difference between limited distance (25 mile) endurance and CTR is that CTR has more judging. Correct me if I'm wrong (Dom and Tammy, I know you've done CTR) but in a CTR you often have a pace you must hit - if you go too fast or too slow you're penalized. CTR judges look at all aspects of your horsemanship and horsekeeping - here's an example of the extent of their judging.

Endurance rides are concerned only with the fitness of the horse to continue. You have a maximum time to complete a ride (less than 5 mph will do it), and your horse must be judged to be sound at the start, vet check, and finish, but other than that, anything goes. You can do your 25 miles in 3 hours or in 5:59, your choice. Your horse must compete drug-free, and I think you have to have a saddle, but that's about it.

If you are sort of maybe interested in long fast trail rides, would you pay, oh, $40-50 to do one? You'd get vets on standby in case your horse got into trouble, food, a t-shirt, your miles tracked/possible year-end awards, and the opportunity to camp with crazy people like me.

I assure you that any sound horse can do 15 miles in under three hours, with a couple months of conditioning. Almost any sound horse can do 25 miles in six hours. Doing 50 miles in one day is metabolically and physically hard on horse and rider, but 25 miles or less is really not difficult. "I don't think my horse can do it" is the only excuse I won't believe in the comments. "It sounds like hell" or "just not my thing, yo" or anything else is perfectly acceptable! A lot of yall have disciplines (hunter/jumper/dressage shows, I'm looking at you) that just don't sound like my thing at all.

So: interested in endurance? Interested in mini-durance? If you read this, please take the time to say yes/maybe/hell no - I'd really appreciate it!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Sightseeing: Fort Churchill NV

I think it's pretty evident that I live my life in the hopes that I'll only regret things I've done, not regret the things I didn't do. To further that goal, I'm going to try to do the day-trip rides I haven't gotten around to yet. First up: Fort Churchill. It's a Pony Express fort with cool ruins and it's on the river so there are Proper Huge Trees.

Back in January, pre-clipping, I rode "the gym" near Ft Churchill with C and S. You park across the road from the fort and there's a big network of nice hilly trails to trot up and down. It's a good workout, but it looks exactly like the rest of Nevada and there's not much water. Not what I wanted today.

I loaded up some lunch, a horse, and a dog, and we went to the actual park at the fort. Dixie was skeptical.

Look at all these trees!

They're just starting to get haloes of chartreuse. In a week they'll be properly springlike.

Cersei approved of the river.

OMG HUMANS! Two ladies (the only other people I saw all day) were coming down the hill to the right and Dixie could not take her eyes off them.

We just plonked around for about two hours total. We rode on all the no-horses trails, circled back to the trailer and I ate lunch, then rode up and down the river. Cersei had The Best Day Of Her Entire Life! (I think every day for her is TBDOHEL, but today was bester than usual.) Dixie was appalled that we were totally alone but she did everything I asked - go slow, go fast, step over branches, walk in the river, etc.

On the way out I got a couple pics of the historic stuff, but I didn't have a lot of luck taking pictures from horseback.

The blacksmith's shop (repurposed as the tool shop, but with the original building/walkway).

It was a beautiful day. Adobe fort buildings in the distance:


The "gym" is in the hills behind the buildings.

The cemetery. It's got a proper fence around it to keep the spirits in!

And I saw mustangs! They were on 95 between Silver Springs and Fallon - a little band of about 8, napping. Three sleeping standing up on guard duty, and the rest curled up like dogs snoozing in the sun. When I came back, the band had gone and one was grazing in about the same place.

When I got home, the cats went into full-on Stranger Danger Attack Cat Mode about the strange new dog I brought with me. Apparently Cersei didn't smell right anymore. The kitten GROWLED at her and Banders was pretty close to crackninja-ing her.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Switching gears, switching tires

First, here's the other two NEDA photos. I think this gait stuff is fascinating, and it's my blog, so you get to read about it too!

Picture A: Dixie's doing a step-pace. The front left has almost finished picking up and the rear left is coming up. In a step-pace, the front left will touch down, then the rear left, then the right side will pick up. Some horses do a horrid jouncy pace but hers is quite comfortable - you can see I'm sitting it easily.
Also note the big tree casting a shadow on the top right corner of the photo.

Picture B: She's doing a foxtrot. Now the diagonals are picked up - the front left is further along than the rear right, which is just pulling off the ground. The front left will touch down before the rear right - again, it's pretty smooth. It's postable, but it feels like a western pleasure jog even though you're going 9 mph.

Here's the cool thing - look at the tree! It moved from the top left corner to right of center. Jumper people, help me out - those pictures are one stride apart, yes? So she just did this superfast bobble with her back legs - slammed the rear left down and yanked the rear right up while the front left was slowly completing its path?

ANYWAY. So I decided to trim Dixie's feet this afternoon, because long toes make her stumbly. Lazy Funder that I am, I didn't trim them before the weekend ride. So I grabbed my trimming tools and got to work on her, but after getting really sweaty and annoyed doing her back feet I decided the rasp was dull. I looked it over and the tips of several of the teeth are woobly. So I went to the trailer to get the emergency rasp (actually a nice Black Diamond, but for some reason I got a pony-sized one and I'm used to a horse-size rasp, so it lives in the trailer.)


Shit. Got the other rasp, ripped through her front feet like I was carving butter, threw her back out in the pasture, and headed to town. I knew I needed a spare, but I hadn't gotten around to getting one yet. Les Schwab hooked me up with a spare and a trailer jack thingie, and I came back home.

You do know how to change a tire, right? I know most of you have grumpy men who will fix these things, and I think we ALL have USRider (right?), but you should know how for exactly this kind of situation. For a trailer, all you need is a lug wrench and a drive-on tire stand thing.

STEP ONE DO THIS FIRST BEFORE ANYTHING ELSE: Loosen the nuts. Unless you let some jackass at Walmart with an impact wrench install your tires, you are strong enough to break the nuts loose. Right is tight, left is loose, so turn the nuts counterclockwise.

After the nuts are loose, then you drive the trailer up onto the tire stand thing and take the nuts all the way off. Should you, oh, jack the trailer up with a truck jack, or even drive upon the tire stand thing before you loosen the nuts, you will quickly realize that you have fucked up because you'll just spin the wheel and not the nuts. I am the voice of experience here.

Get all the nuts off. Pull the evil flat tire off. Put the spare tire on (probably the hardest part - tires are unweildy and it's hard to get the lugs lined up with the holes). Hand-tighten the nuts. Back the trailer off the ramp thingie and tighten the nuts as hard as you can, but don't do them in order - do, say, the top one then the bottom one then the left-top one then the right-bottom one etc. I go a good half-turn on each nut in order and it took me about five passes to get the nuts tight. Check them during/after the next trip to make sure they're tight.

PRO TIP: Never let some jackass with an impact wrench install your tires. NEVER. Real tire people are supposed to use a torque wrench that only tightens the nuts to the proper torque. Jackasses at Walmart just go at it with an impact wrench and overtighten the nuts so that no human can remove them. Would you rather have Your Man / USRider change your tire or haul your whole trailer to the shop to impact-wrench the damn nuts off?

Another pro tip: once you figure out which of the four ends of the lug wrench fits your nuts, mark that end with your colored duct tape. You do have duct tape in your "colors", right? I think eventers use colored electrical tape; that works too.


Then I plugged the tire. The culprit:

For this, all you need is a tire plug kit, a tire pressure gauge, and some way of inflating the tire again. I have a cheapie 12v that lives in the truck, but it would take like 45 minutes to inflate a tire to 60 psi so I broke out the air compressor. But a little $12 car inflator WILL do the job, and it will get you home if you've got a slow leak while you're away.

Again, you can hassle your grumpy man into doing this, or you can pay somebody $10-30 at a tire shop to do it, but it's good to know HOW.

STEP ONE DO THIS FIRST! If your tire is still mostly full of air - like if you noticed it looked low and saw the nailhead sticking out of it - let the damn air out of it. Like, almost all the air, to where you can squish it almost completely with your fist. I will never forget the time I let two grown men talk me out of plugging my own tire because it had too much air for any of us to shove the pointy thing in there. :headdesk:

Anyway, you've got two pointy things - a stabby awl and a giant sewing machine needle. Pull the nail/screw, stab the awl all the way in and waggle it around. This is not easy. Put the tire in between your legs and lean all your weight on it. Then, somehow, thread one of the incredibly sticky caterpillar things in the sewing machine needle, stab all that all the way in, turn the needle a quarter turn, and pull it out. Magically, the gooey stuff should stay in there. Blow the tire back up. Pour some soapy water on there and see if it bubbles; if not, you're good. That's what your tire shop will charge you $20 to do. It's probably worth $20, but sometimes it's not convenient to take the tire in.

Monday, April 16, 2012

NEDA April 2012 - speed work!

So no 50 this weekend. My last post told yall that High Desert got postponed at the last possible second. I called and got a space in Whiskeytown, outside of Redding CA, but the weather sucked. It was snowing in the mountains when I went to sleep, and it was still snowing most of the day Friday. I-80 to I-5 would've been an extra 100 miles and the storm was worst there. Highway 395 to Susanville, then west to Redding, goes over much lower passes but there were still chain controls and slushy/frozen roads all morning. I almost went for it anyway but my horse didn't ask to go and she doesn't deserve to get in a wreck because of my ego. You can read about what I missed at Redheaded Endurance.

I'm pretty fiercely disappointed. I really wanted to get a 50 done. But that's life, especially in endurance.

So instead, I went and had fun at a NEDA ride. It was in Silver Springs again, but it was almost all new trail (or at least trail we haven't done this year.) I've been working on setting a moderately fast speed and sticking to it - faster than I'd do a 50, but not as fast as Miss Thing thinks she can go. Yesterday, I dunno, we walked out down the street and picked up a trot and I thought "why not?" I let her go. I have 0 trail pictures because we probably walked 100 yards of the 20 miles. That horse flew.

Here's the Strava map:

And here's the secret performance graph.

The first seven miles, we chased the carts and lead riders. And by "chased" I mean it was a nonstop arm-pulling head-tossing fight. It was not ideal. I should've stopped and made her pay attention to me, but honestly, I was having fun too. I'm glad I've put such a solid mental base on Dixie - we've done far more rides with us cooperating than with us fighting about who's in charge, so I don't think there's any harm done.

Anyway, in the midst of our last "dammit you cannot canter" fight, Dixie tried to switch gears and tripped. I went over her shoulder like some kind of damn parkour ninja gymnast. Like, seriously, it was the single most graceful thing I've ever done in my whole life. Her front end went down, I neatly somersaulted over her left shoulder, rolled back to my feet, and walked over and grabbed the reins while Dixie was still scrambling to her feet. She yawned a few times and shook her head, but she moved ok on a circle and straight. She skinned some hair off of both of her kneecaps, and she busted a heel bulb. I walked her out about 50' and climbed back on, and the fight for control was over. She picked right back up at 9-10 mph but rated very nicely. Clearly I should've gotten control at the very beginning.

So we zoomed on in to camp and I got her pulsed down in a couple minutes. I drank some water and fed her some carrots, then back up and out again. I was quite curious to see if she'd run out of go with that fast first loop, but amazingly she kept right on chugging.

We were alone in a pocket for the next 45 minutes. I blew right past the very clear trail markers at the top of The Hill right outside of camp, but noticed that there weren't any hoofprints and got it sorted out with only about a half mile of detour. We went back up, found the turn, and slithered down the stony backside of the hill. I asked for a trot, she protested that we were clearly lost because there were no other horses in sight, I smacked her once with the crop, and away we went at about 8 mph.

I knew there was a small group behind me, slowly but surely closing the gap. They eventually caught up a couple miles from the finish. Dixie found new life with a herd and settled right back in at 9-10 mph. We came in 10th, which is my fastest NEDA finish ever.


My smiley-tights work, yall. Remember how I said they'd be like protective coloration? No less than three people have said I look great and did I lose weight. No, sorry, I have not lost weight and I have in fact gained weight this year. But you cannot tell how fat I really am under those neon smiley faces! Ha hah!

I got a new shirt from Sierra Trading Post early last week, too. It's some sort of miraculous high-tech fabric, mock turtleneck with a BIG front zipper so it'll be easy to take off in the saddle. It was 50s-60s during the ride, with sometimes hot sun and sometimes sharp wind, and I was perfectly comfortable. I also got a new fanny pack - the old one was disintegrating - and it also worked out. Possibly more comfortable than the old one.

All day I kept thinking that I'd probably actually broken something and I just hadn't noticed from adrenaline or something, but I never FELT sore from my crazy roll. When I got home and showered, I did find the beginnings of some road rash on my left knee, so I slathered it with that Zum muscle rub I bought a while back. It looks much better today, no swelling or new bruising, so I'm going to declare the Zum is the new miracle product for humans.

I feel good today, actually. No new bruises, and I'm only sore from riding. Dixie looks good. She's moving freely, her legs are cold and tight, and the scrapes on her knees aren't bad. There are some benefits to having a thick-skinned hairy horse!


The clip job worked great. As fast as she was traveling yesterday, she never sweated like she used to on a 6 mph 20 mile workout. On the next warm day, I'm going to bathe her and finish clipping a couple inches up her belly and hindquarters - she did sweat a lot there. I really like the 7F blades I bought - they cut her winter coat down to just a smidge under summer thickness, and the rough look doesn't leave many lines even if you have all the clipper sk1llz of a drunken barber student.

Dixie trotted/foxtrotted a lot, but she also step paced quite a bit. She rolled into a rack a couple of times, but she didn't hold it for more than a few strides, and she did the Weird Thing quite often. She seems to like it.

Waiting to start.

Ride photo. That's a step pace. I've got another photo, taken a second later, of a step pace, then the third one has her shifted into a trot. When she doesn't trip, she's incredibly smooth about swapping those legs around.


I'm really proud of that horse. Her mid-speed (trot and trot equivalents) has gone from 5 mph to 10 mph in three years. I haven't really planned it that way, either. I thought she'd always be a very slow mover and we'd just need to "trot" most of our rides. At this point, I think we could walk all the tricky bits and walk the uphills and still finish in time. Providing we ever make it to a 50! :headdesk:

Next attempt: The Sunday 50 at Washoe. Sunday, because it's slightly easier, but mainly because it's co-sanctioned NEDA so I'll get NEDA miles too.

Thursday, April 12, 2012


I was going to title this "the rug is yanked out from under me" but that phrase always makes me think of the scene from Ghostbusters:

I just discovered that High Desert has been rescheduled. (THANK YOU, ~C!) There's a tiny little notice on the AERC website, if you happen to think to check it before you, oh, BUY ICE and PACK YOUR TRAILER, but no, I did not get a phone call or an email or a Facebook posting. I am wicked pissed.

And I'm incredibly disappointed. I feel like the tablecloth has been yanked out from under me. I was in such a mood, all day - I have been hoping and planning and training for this for ten and a half months. I wussed out at ROM but I'd screwed up my courage to enter the 50 at HD. And all of a sudden, I've got no 50 this weekend. Whiskeytown is full. I don't have a health cert, cause I wasn't planning on leaving Nevada. And I don't even have a Coggins yet - I didn't need one for HD and I was going to get it in early May when I get her teeth done!

So right now my New Plan is to do 25/25. I'll go out to Red Rocks tomorrow or Saturday, hopefully with some friends, and do 25 miles out there, then trailer to Silver Springs for the NEDA on Sunday and do another 20 then. Well. I guess that's not 25/25, it's more like "20 and I'm bored / 20 and we're done" but WHATEVER.

I mean, look at this horse. THIS HORSE NEEDS RODE.


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Intermittent update: Stuff I Read, spring '12

OMG, the last time I did this was the beginning of March. Surely I can remember a whole month ago? Surely? Ok, here we go!

I got caught up on Laura Crum's kindle releases. Well, today she released Hayburner, and I'm clearly slacking because I haven't read it yet. ;) But I'm almost caught up on her books! I'm still really enjoying them - she writes such good, realistic characters. Nothing in them makes me really grit my teeth - the men and women are multidimensonal and they interact with each other believably. And her place descriptions are amazing! Having read Slickrock I desperately want to learn to pack. She really captures the beautiful, remote, terrifying, captivating reality of the mountains. (I could do without all the calamities that befell Gail!) And maybe this sounds weird, but central California doesn't sound like such a strange place to me. I've been to the Bay Area, so I know what the climate feels like, and I can really imagine what Santa Cruz / Watsonville / Salinas are like. It's not such a scary unknown.

Interspersed with the Gail McCarthy books, my Kindle died. It was heartbreaking. I was without an ebook reader for like five whole days, yall. Luckily I had a paperback on hand - I bought it on a trip to Borderlands with my friend AWS last summer, but, urgh, it's made of dead trees and I have gone digital. Still, I was glad to have Soulless by Gail Carriger, dead trees and all, nearby in my time of need. It's steampunk-y, and I have never been all that fond of steampunk. Something about the gadgetry + the Victorian setting + the hipster love of the genre has always turned me off. But I really liked Soulless, and the rest of the books in the series. They don't take themselves too seriously, without (quite) descending into farce. The characters are good, the pacing is good. The first book is the weakest, and I never quite got over my annoyance with the twee names of the background characters, but they're solid.

Then, much to my delight, the new Holly Black book, Black Heart, came out. It's the third in a trilogy - White Cat, the first book, was utterly captivating. Red Glove, the second, was kinda meh, but that's not unusual for the second in a trilogy. (I mean, other than Ents/Gandalf the White, does anything happen in The Two Towers? Every time I reread LOTR, I completely skip all of Frodo's boring-ass journey into the land of blah blah gollum shadow. Second books are a necessary evil.) But anyway, Black Heart made up for the second book. They're YA, but very dark and gritty, and the main character is so confused and so likeable.

Continuing my streak of new-book good luck, I realized that A Perfect Blood by Kim Harrison was out. Yes, I know. It's totally urban fantasy, and nobody wants to admit to liking urban fantasy. That's ok. I have no shame and I'll admit to it and you can sneak off and read the whole Hollows series without telling your snobby friends. Kim Harrison's books are really good urban fantasy - you have to like the genre to begin with, but if you do, you'll love them. Dead Witch Walking is book 1, and APB is book 10 - there will be 13 books in the series, so it's headed toward a finish.

Fresh off the heels of my success with Gail Carriger, I tried to read some shit called The Affinity Bridge by George Mann. I might go back to it... but I'm 16% of the way in, not captivated by the plot, and annoyed at the two-dimensionality of the characters. Like Soulless, it's steampunk, but it's boring steampunk.

Likewise, I made it 15% of the way into some utter shit called Hounded by Kevin Hearne. I guess it's urban fantasy, but it's shitty urban fantasy. The main character is 2000 years old yet thinks and acts exactly like a grown mortal adult, and there's all this background filling in that detracts from what little progression the plot makes in the first 15% of the book, and bahhhhh life is too short for this nonsense.

Then Aarene said I should read Divergent by Veronica Roth, and I am somewhat ashamed to admit to yall that I read it in one sitting. It's YA / dystopian future. There are plot holes you could drive a dump truck through. None of the characters quite come to life like Cassel Sharpe or Rachel Morgan did, but I could not stop reading it. I can't really tell you why it was such a good read, but it was.

I need to read The Hunger Games, because I have a sneaking suspicion that Divergent is, mmm, in the same vein. Anyway, consider Divergent to be a YA "airport thriller." It's captivating yet not very deep.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Long slow distance around Washoe

So Sunday (I know, I'm so slow!) we trailered down to Washoe Lake and rode with R. Dixie "knows" R's gelding Ranger and they are both levelheaded creatures who get along great. (Ranger is one of the last DR Thunder Bask babies, and I gotta say, I'm really impressed. Too bad he's w/t/c only!)

(^^ smiley face tights!)

I'd given Dixie a neck clip earlier in the week. I got a really nice line along her shoulder, then a different nice line along the other shoulder, and, well, it turned into a neck-and-shoulder clip.


I clipped the underside of her belly too. I will probably run the belly line a little further up and clip the lower part of her hindquarters later this week, but I was afraid if I did too much I'd piss off the Snow Gods and they'd smite me with a blizzard.


I met up with R at her house and we trailered a couple miles away to Jumbo Grade, to avoid a big hill. We had plenty of hills scheduled already!

R is fun and easy to talk to, so the first couple miles flew by as we chatted. But when we got to the top of Jumbo Grade, I was missing a boot! I had to backtrack maybe a quarter mile down a mustang trail to find it, but I got it back on and had no more problems with boots. It was the front left - when I'd slapped it on that morning I'd wondered if it was a little crooked, but when I looked at it again later it looked fine. Guess I was right the first time. I need to trim the front boots back and I just haven't yet - maybe tomorrow!

We trotted along the ridgeline, with R explaining how the Washoe endurance ride trails come through the hills on the different loops. She'd offered to take me on the "yellow loop" or take a shortcut through an aspen grove, and I said I wanted the prettier ride, so aspens it was!

"Aspen grove", my ass. It was a forest! A teeny weeny forest, but the biggest one I've seen in Nevada. The trees were substantially taller than me and Dixie, and I couldn't see the end of them. Definitely a forest.


(I mashed the "enhance" button on a lot of these. Cell phone cameras just don't do well at altitude - the shadows are usually way too dark and the lighted areas are often washed out. I "enhance" a lot of my photos, but I invariably feel kinda guilty when I don't tell yall, because lytha always discloses her image enhancements!)


ANYWAY. They're aspens, so they're a popular target for Undying Redneck Love Manifestos. AB + YZ 1994, yeah! I thought about hopping off and carving "F <3 G" on one of them, but I contained my inner redneck to look classy in front of R. Untitled

We meandered through the forest and up a valley and BAM we were on top of the mountain. 7,336' - not too shabby, but not an amazing accomplishment. (We started at 5400, and the lake itself is right at 5000.')

Ears up, looking around.

Looking down at Washoe Lake, and over to the Sierras, and on the other side of them, Lake Tahoe.

I can see my house from here! Ok, not really, but I can see Peavine - it's the farthest big peak, at 11 o'clock, and my valley is at 12 o'clock.

I like this pic a lot. There's R, and Ranger is "listening" to her, and little Lady the indomitable Border Collie, and Slide Mountain / Mt. Rose just chillin' out in the background.

After some picture-taking by the humans, and some very limited grazing by the horses, we continued on our way. (Dixie and Ranger did in all the grass on the peak, and I bet they didn't get a good mouthful each - it's still really early for grazing up there.)

We headed south, toward Carson City.

Everything's so hazy because it's Nevada. If it's not snowing, it's on fire. (The Forest Service was doing a controlled burn in Dog Valley, up by my house, and the smoke hazed up the whole valley.)


They were out walking an English Mastiff and another dog, which normally would've been of notable size but it looked so teeny next to the mastiff that I really don't remember much about it. Maybe 50 lbs? Anyway, you can clearly see two people and one XXL dog in that picture.

We made it past the people uneventfully and down to the Cinder mine. I mean, I don't think they mine cinders or something, it's just called the cinder mine. I googled it, of course, and there's some Cinder Companies who are operating or have operated mines in Nevada, and some extinct-volcano cinder cone mine locations, but none of them seemed like the one we rode past. ANYWAY. It looks cool, and the road is nice for the heavy trucks.


We sort of wishy-washied our way down the mountain toward the park. This is exactly why I never ride a given trail for mileage or time the first time I ride it - we mutually agreed to pass up a trail around a hill toward Carson to head toward the lake, then we came to a fork and I knew that one spur went nowhere so we passed that, then R knew that the next turn went nowhere so we passed that, and before we knew it we were back down the most direct path to the lake.

Did I mention it was Easter? The volunteer fire dept Easter egg hunt had just finished, and when we headed to the troughs at the horse parking area, a mob of tiny children appeared to :high pitched squeal!: PET THE HORSIES! :squeal squeal!!!: Our horses were like "oh mobs of screaming kids, no big deal."


Have I mentioned lately what a freakin' outstanding brain my horse has? And how impressive R's horses are? Ain't no thang.


We'd been in the saddle for about 4 hours, but the horses weren't sweaty and tired at all. They were just cool with it.

We took a lunch break in the pavilion. R had some chili cheese Fritos from the food truck (argh it's the one Southern food I have never learned to love) and I had some delicious almond butter + nutella goo. Dixie had a little slurp of water, and Ranger drank like it was going out of style, cause he's got more sense than her or something.

Then we roared north up the twisty fun singletrack to the end of the park, crossed the road, and trotted on back to "camp."


The parking area is multiuse for horses and dirt bikes, and the dirt bikers were out in force by the time we got back. Ain't no thang. Our horses were (NWS!) honeybadgers about it.

I logged 16.7 miles, almost 3k' elevation gain, in 4:40 elapsed time / 3:46 riding time.

Technical stuff: I electrolyted Dixie a lot. Definitely overkill, for the amount of clipping I'd done and the amount of aerobic exercise she did, but I'm still slowly ramping up how much salt I give her for a long workout. She wetted her mouth at the several little springs along the way, and drank a bit from the trough at the park, and chowed down on her sloppy mash at the trailer. The ratio of electrolyte powder to applesauce was higher than I've done before, and it didn't inhibit her appetite.

I let her, well, nuzzle the water in the earlier bits of the ride, as a sort of not very scientific experiment. Mel did a great writeup on the hydration seminar at the AERC convention, and the takeaway message for me was "if a horse gets her mouth wet, it temporarily shuts down her thirst receptors." Dixie is the queen of rinsing out her mouth but not actually drinking. I thought I'd let her act normally on this ride, and when we do High Desert I am not going to even let her sniff water til 10 or 12 miles in. I know, it sounds so cruel, but I know she is absolutely fine doing at least 15 miles with no water at all. I would like for her to learn that if she sees/smells water she needs to DRINK IT, not rinse her mouth out and wait for something better a couple miles further along. So no more me urging her to drink - I'm going to electrolyte her up and keep her away from the water unless she pulls me to it and demands to drink. We'll see how that goes.

I carroted Dixie all day. Actually, I forgot to bring carrots and R let me raid her stash, but the point is, Dixie got bites of carrot off and on all day.

I drank my whole camelbak of elyted water, plus a small bottle of water I bought at the park. R insisted on powdering me down with some crazy dry sunblock, and my face got a little pink but not burned. (My forearms, which escaped her, are very pink.) I ate better than my horse - some nuts, the almond butter, and a powerbar, plus a hearty snack of hummus and fruit and beer at the trailer afterwards. (Thanks again to R, for letting me chow down on your good stuff!) If I can eat that well on a 50, I'll feel great at the end.

I wore the smiley face tights, which ROCK, and the Patagonia panties, which worked just fine. (TMI! I've been doing my short home rides commando, and that also works just fine, but I wanted a long test with actual underwear.) I also swear by, uh, cycling lube. I use But'r, but YMMV - a lot of endurance riders like Bodyglide or Anti-Monkey Butt Powder. Try one, try all. Your ladybits will thank you. Or your manbits, whatever you've got down there.

I got off once, I think, for a steep downhill that was like a waterfall of fist-sized rocks. I had such horrible experiences early on with trying to remount Dixie in the middle of nowhere, and I'm really cautious about dismounting when I don't know there's a place to remount ahead. I wore my knockoff barefoot shoes, and my feet were comfortable in the stirrups. When I did get off, I could feel that I was walking on boulders, but the rocks didn't hurt my feet or anything. Somebody asked earlier how the barefoot shoes handled rocks, and I can now say that they protect your feet adequately but not excessively. I didn't feel invincible, and I didn't hurt my feet.

It was a really fun day, and a good long ride with a friend. No speed records, no calamities, no amazing breakthroughs. Just two good broke horses hauling their humans around for the day (and one amazing Border Collie keeping watch over us all!)

Next ride: One more hill workout tomorrow or Thursday, then HIGH DESERT on Saturday. I've got Dixie chowing down on huge mashes of salted beet pulp, Stable Mix, and ration balancer, plus epic amounts of hay. She'll be well fueled, and I think she's in better shape than this time last year. Time to roll the dice!

Next up in the blog: A little house stuff I haven't mentioned that I suppose I should blog about. Or some book reviews? Or some recipes? What do you want to hear about between now and Friday?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Brain returned, body sound!

Today we hauled off to the vet. I'd been planning on having them come out on Saturday to do spring shots, but then my friend R invited me to ride on Sunday, and I dunno about you but I feel like crap the day after a shot. And, as R pointed out, if I hauled her in, I could get a basic lameness exam and hopefully feel better about getting back into ~real 50 mile endurance~.

(Those are "sarcasm quotes" - I'm pretty agnostic about the Great 50-Mile Debate. Periodically a huge flame war will erupt on Ridecamp, the endurance listserve, about whether LDs are real endurance rides, worthy of prizes and year-end awards and general recognition, or if they're just the home of green horses and old horses and timid riders. I think 50s are more special, I think they require a lot more management for the metabolic stress, and I also think "just" riding 25-30 miles is a hell of an accomplishment that should be rewarded.)

So yesterday I called and cancelled Saturday's visit and got an appointment for today. It was at 2 pm, but without really thinking it through I hooked up the trailer at noon. Then I groomed Dixie for a while, but I'd left my phone in the truck, so when I got bored scraping white hair off of her I loaded her and we pulled out. At 12:20. Argh, I was going to be so early, and you know what that means - if you're early, the vet's late. I stopped at a Starbucks in the mall parking lot and even got into a conversation with a random dude who had admired my pretty mare, but I still got to the vet clinic at 1:20.

The only problem with Comstock Equine is that it's right on a busy highway. Like, a four-foot chain link fence and 8' of grass is all that separates the trailer parking from the four-lane highway. Oh well, Dixie's a pretty good endurance horse, she'll cope. I tied her on the side away from the highway and hung a bag of hay and hopped up on the fender. She paced around nervously for five minutes, then chilled out and ate hay and dozed off... for the next hour+. Yep, the vet was late.

But I had my iPhone so all was well. Here's my secret go-to for alleviating boredom: and Both of those sites offer up medium to long articles, drawn from current events and from classics. I read quite a few articles - the most interesting were The God of Gamblers and Paintballing with Hezbollah.

But anyway, her brain has returned! YAY FOR SNOOZING BESIDE A HIGHWAY! And the vet finally showed up (she had some tooth and hoof emergencies that threw her whole day off) and she totally remembered us. I mean, the girl with the spiky hair and the enormous paint TWH are hard to forget, but you never know.

Wellness exam: heart and gut sounds good, no sand in the guts. Teeth have hooks. (FINALLY. I get them checked every year, but - I feel like a bad horse owner admitting this - in the five years I've owned her, I've never had her teeth floated.) Good weight, blah blah. Got the four-way (Eastern and Western encephalitis, tetanus, West Nile IIRC), Rhino/flu, and strangles today. We agreed that I'll come back in May for her teeth, Coggins, health cert, and rabies. And I think one more that I'm forgetting. The vet is very conservative on floats, so I feel ok letting her do this - I don't think she's going to go crazy and flatten all of Dixie's grinding surfaces.

I don't usually vaccinate strangles, but every barn I talked to wanted it done, so we did it. I knew it was intranasal, but I was thinking more like when I get Cersei vaccinated for kennel cough and they squirt a puff of something up her dainty doggy nose. Nope, strangles IS intranasal, but it gets squirted WAY up in there. Dixie flipped her head straight up and waggled her nose around like she was a pissed off camel getting ready to spit, and we all got well out of her sneeze range and laughed at her. I still don't think it's a very effective or worthwhile vaccine, but I highly recommend it for the laugh factor alone.

Eventually, she decided not to sneeze killed virus all over us, and we did the lameness exam. Her front legs feel perfectly normal, and she moves... weird but sound. Both the vet and I watched her for a quite a while. Straight lines on hard ground, circles on hard ground, and circles on soft ground. She did a running walk and a pace on a straight line, and some weird stuff in circles.

Let me back up. I know this is the world's longest blog post about the world's least eventful vet visit, but bear with me if you're at all interested in gaited horse gaits.

Dixie does this smooth trot thing. She's done it for two years now - sometimes it's a perfectly sittable trot, and sometimes it's a sproingy you-better-post-that trot. They sound almost identical, and they both have the same diagonal throw-you-forward trot feel, but one of them is definitely an easy gait and one is a dressagey trot. I decided the nice one was probably a foxtrot. In most of her recent ride pics, it's a foxtrot.

But lately she's started doing something even weirder - instead of having the diagonals lift off together and come down rears-first, she trots on one lead and foxtrots on the other. So it's RF and LH up together, LH then RF down; LF and RH up together, LF and RH down together. It feels almost like a canter. It is, in fact, the lazy half-ass canter I've mentioned before in our hill work. I think it's not desirable because (a) it's not four-bear or two-beat and (b) I have never heard of such, so I don't let her do it under saddle for more than a few strides. She'll move up to a canter or a rack, or down to a foxtrot, when I ask. But without a stupid human up there jigging the reins, she did the Weird Thing A LOT on the longe on a circle.

The vet and I watched her for a long time. She switches "diagonals" according to what direction she's going - I think we both thought she was lame the first time she did a circle at the Weird Thing, but then she swapped "leads" when the tech sent her out in the other direction. And I told the vet that yes, it's something she offers under saddle. We pronounced her sound. It looks weird, but it's totally consistent, it's not a weird flinch, and she swaps "leads" so it's not some muscle problem higher up.

So I came home, thrilled at how GOOD she looks. I mean, she feels good under saddle, her attitude is good, she looks good on the longe when I'm holding the lead, but it's not the same when you're standing inside the circle directing the show. And I thought "I wonder if that Weird Thing is a real gait? I should check!" And you know what I found out?

Not only is the Weird Thing not a real gait, she wasn't foxtrotting. A foxtrot lifts the diagonals together, but the front hits first. Most of her ride photos are either step-pacing or real foxtrotting. There's no such thing as an official gait where the diagonals lift off together, and the rears hit first. And since that doesn't even exist, of course the Weird Thing doesn't exist.

Oh well. She looked really good, really efficient daisy-clipper movement, not stiff or hesitant. I'm going for it. Put my entry for High Desert 50 (link to .pdf) in the mail today. Gonna give Dixie a few days off for the shots, then do a long ride (hopefully with R!) this weekend and maybe another hill set on Tuesday of next week.

I think I've put a heart rate monitor on the I'd-Like-To-Buy list, too. I am really getting interested in finding out what her most efficient gaits are on various types of terrain. Off to breathe into a paper bag re: High Desert...

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Tragic theft at my house

Sometime early this afternoon, my horse's brain was stolen. My husband thinks it was aliens, but I suspect government scientists. :(

This morning one of the moving companies came by to estimate the house. After he left, I had two hours to kill before the next person came, so I caught my very mannerly mare, tied her up with a hay bag, and groomed her for over an hour. I went at her with the trusty Slick 'n Easy, which always sounds like a club song to me, but anyway, I got all the loose hair off, eventually. Here's some purty conformation shots. Dixie was perfectly behaved - she wiggled at the beginning and I whopped her on the shoulder and after that she just sighed deeply and let me go over her about ten times.

I jacked with the levels on this one because I was shooting into the sun, but I'm looking at the horse more than the prettiness of the picture.


I checked her feet - the fronts are totally clear of thrush, but now there's a bit in the back feet, so I treated them. I trimmed a bit off one of her heels, but there wasn't much to do. Dixie was an angel for the hoof work.

Then I turned her loose in the back yard to feast on the lush spring grass.

If you click to embiggen you will, in fact, see green stuff on the ground.

Dixie wandered around and looked at things. After she ate all the grass, I fed her some carrots, then I let her loose beside the barn. Eventually, the second moving company rep showed up and I put her back in her paddock.


The moving lady did her thing, I ate some lunch, and I went out to catch my horse again for a ride. She was all snorty and fidgety but I paid her no nevermind and mounted up to do the double hill ride. We headed out.

Dixie spooked at the dogs she's seen on every ride we've ever done. She looked real hard at a car at a cross street. She tried to bolt sideways at a canter at a crossroads in the trail. We popped over a tiny hill and she slammed on the brakes to stare in utter horror at a mylar balloon caught in a sagebrush by the trail. She couldn't walk past it on the trail and had to sidepass 10' off into the thornbushes to get by it. Then a plastic bag in a bush, then another plastic bag, then the mini horses, then the dogs ARRRRRGH. Eventually we started up the hill proper and she didn't get better but I did make her work too hard to fret over malignant bushes.

We went down the back of the hill and out into the valley, a bit further than we usually go, but I wanted to go out for an hour. The return trip was slightly better - she was rateable - but the damn mylar balloons tried to kill her again. When we got home I tied her up by the fence where she eats dinner, every single night since we moved here, and went in the house to get a drink of water. When I came back out she was standing at the end of her lead as far as she could get from her bucket.

I walked out. Dixie rolled her eyes at me and snorted. I looked at what she was looking at. I'd left her beet pulp bucket, the very same white bucket that always has food in it, the one she's always trying to get her nose in to see what good stuff is in there, yes, that bucket was laying on the ground under the feed bucket on the fence. I resisted the urge to hit my head on the fence and instead moved the deadly white bucket in the barn. She still stood at the end of her lead and snorted. I had to scoop out a bit of her delicious ration balancer beet pulp mush and hand-feed it to her to prove that there wasn't a demon hiding in her feed bucket.

Horses! :flings hands in the air: So did aliens steal her brain? Has she been taking lessons from Bill and Juanita's mustangs? Is this my punishment for not riding for a whole week?

Monday, April 2, 2012

Ride endurance, become a demonstrably better person

Yall, I am quite pleased with how well I've got my shit together lately, and I think it's all because of endurance.

I coasted through the first thirty years of my life, honestly. School was easy and I never had to try very hard, and it never actually caught up to me, even in law school. It's not like I did all that well, but I wasn't at the bottom of my class or anything, and I didn't have much follow-through. You know how it goes - at the beginning of the semester/year, you make grand plans and fill out a Dayrunner full of exactly what you need to do to pace yourself and fully comprehend all the material, but about three weeks in that all falls by the wayside until the week before finals, when you suddenly attempt to cram the whole semester's worth of education into your brain. If you're at all good at test-taking, it's not hard to pass, and it's honestly easier to cram than to diligently study a little every day.

And even when I first got into horses, I did the same careless stuff. Forget to check the weather and ride in the rain. Put off buying hay til you're down to your last couple flakes. Take the bridle home and oil it, then forget it at home and ride in a halter. You know, normal stuff.

Then I started going on longer rides, and thinking very deeply about the logistics of ridecamping, and my actions started having immediate consequences. Forget my water? I can ride three hours anyway and get miserably dehydrated, or scratch the ride (I was boarding at the time) and have to reschedule it. Wear the wrong clothes and suffer. Worry that my suffering was hurting my riding and therefore my horse.

And the sheer amount of planning was pretty daunting. It would've been an easier road if I had an Arab. It would've been an easier road if I had a trainer - but endurance trainers are few and far between, and one of the reasons I picked endurance was because you don't need a special horse or a trainer. How many miles had I done that week? When was my next rest day, when was my next long ride, when should those things happen? Do I need boots? A crupper? Electrolytes? Supplements? Riding clothes? I was the only person who could answer those questions.

At first I just made up the answers and guessed at the gear we'd need, but gradually, I started dialing it in to more accurate answers. My poor husband and my poor mentors suffered patiently through my figuring it out process, and I like to think that I've become much less annoying these days. ;)

When the training at home turned into trailering out and ridecamping, the stakes went up again. I was somewhat ready for it at that point, and to date I have not forgotten the horse, saddle, bridle, or water. (I think I've forgotten everything else at least once, but those are the really crucial elements.) I gradually figured out what needed to go on the lists, and how to pack and check off the lists, and how much time it took to do each of the bazillion discrete tasks you need to do to finish a ride.

And at some point, all these newfound organizational skills started to bleed over into normal life. Moving from Ohio to Nevada (pre-endurance) was very spur of the moment. We got it done, but it didn't go perfectly smoothly, and I didn't do some crucial tracking on some long-term elements (it took three weeks for my truck to ship, and four weeks for my horse to ship - the shippers screwed up, but I didn't follow up either!) Moving from the Reno apartment to our house (post-endurance) went much better. I got about 75% of our stuff packed in the three weeks before the move, much to my husband's consternation. (I don't think he really planned on living with a tower of boxes in the dining nook.) And now I'm getting ready to move again, and I am on the ball.

I've had a pretty good idea of my boarding options and price ranges for two months. I got all those barn tours done over the weekend. We have a plan for finding a house. The property manager came today, and I know what my next steps are there. I've got a couple of moving companies coming tomorrow to estimate the move. The house is show-quality clean, and it's been clean for three weeks. I know who I need to call and when I need to call them. I'm on it.

And again, I blame/credit this all to endurance. For one of my first rides, I just threw a bunch of shit in a duffel bag and went haring off to a ride, and when I came back the house was destroyed and there was no food and all the clothes were dirty and I was exhausted and it sucked. The next ride I did, I made sure I had some easy to cook food in the fridge and some clean clothes waiting (in the dryer) for when I got home, and life was much better. The ride after that, I actually folded all the clean laundry and I washed the sheets before I left, and it was heavenly. It was like some basic life lesson finally clicked: If you prepare properly ahead of time, things will magically be much better.

If you, too, would like to become a better person, I suggest that you take up some overwhelmingly complicated hobby, such as endurance riding. :)

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Endurance driving: barn tours

Just got back to the house from an 830 mile road trip. That's 440 miles of there and back and 390 driving around there.

I got up Thursday, dropped Cers with the boarding kennel, and drove to SF. I went straight through the city and down to Pacifica, where I called First Barn Manager and got directions down to her first property, right on the PCH between Pacifica and Montara. As you can imagine, the views are breathtaking. There's a bit of Bus Plunge Highway, with switchbacks between rock-slidy cliffs going up and crashing-surf cliffs going down, but after just a couple miles it flattens out into a scenic drive along the coast. FBM showed me three properties she manages, and they were all similar - I'd call them mostly paddocks with shelters. There was some pasture, but the horses out there are all supplemented with grass/alfalfa so that's no good. The second of her properties had a couple of available paddocks that were long, skinny, and drained pretty well, so if I ended up there that's what I'd choose. They all backed up into Open Space land with established trails, and they were reasonably priced.
Barn 1 HMB
Barn 2/3 HMB

Then I drove down into Half Moon Bay and over the hills north into the peninsula (another bus plunge road). When you zip up to the top of the hills, you're in this long skinny zone of undeveloped land where the San Andreas fault is, with a huge rift lake (Crystal Springs) running east-west along it. Shockingly beautiful.
Crystal Springs Reservoir
Crystal Springs

I-280 runs along the fault, and it's got to be the most beautiful interstate in America. It's 8 to 10 lanes, divided, and everybody goes about 85 mph, but you can't see a damn bit of human habitation. It runs along the southwest side of the Santa Cruz hills, so you can't see the intense development in the peninsula or the less-developed coast. Just you and a hundred other people driving as fast as possible through rolling green hills, with a lake beside you.
View of the lake and 280:
Skyline Blvd looking toward 280

I took 280 out to Woodside and stopped off at The Horse Park At Woodside. I wanted to see how long it'd take to drive from out there back into the city, and The Horse Park seemed as good a place as any to turn around. The Horse Park At Woodside is the kind of place that demands initial capitals any time one mentions it, and it is categorically not the place for Dixie and me. It is a place for Andrea. (Or maybe pre-Texas Andrea - I think she is slowly but surely becoming a redneck. Welcome to the family!) Anyway, I pulled in there, looked around, and pulled right back out and went back up 280 to 101 and into SF about 5 pm. It took me about 20 minutes to tear-ass back up to South SF and cut over to 101, about 20 minutes to zoom up 101 to the Potrero exit, and about 20 minutes to make it to my exit, one mile further up the road. Oy vey. Bridge traffic is bullshit.

I parked the truck at G's work, met up with him, and we taxi'd over to the apartment and went to the little Vietnamese joint across the street from his building. Everybody's been saying it's not a good year for crab, but dammit I wanted crab, so I got crab, and... it wasn't very good. I couldn't get the meat out of the shell. I didn't care! It took twice as long as usual but I ate every bit of it.

The next day, I rolled promptly out of bed and trucked on down to Portola Valley, to meet Second Barn Manager. This one is in Arastradero Preserve, which looks like it connects to Foothills Park and all the Open Space stuff up in the hills. If we get a house down that way, that's definitely where I'm boarding - they happen to have a one-acre pasture where the horses are already eating grass hay, with an opening because a pony passed away. One acre is bigger than she has now! The people seemed nice - I talked to a couple of boarders before SBM showed up - and it's not too fancy, very reasonable rates. I don't know if we can get a house out that way, but I'm going to call the manager tomorrow and send her a deposit to hold that space in the pasture for me. Pasture plus grass hay plus trails is absolutely perfect.

After that, on to Third Barn Manager, on Skyline Bus Plunge Boulevard near the Bus Plunge to Half Moon Bay. This was easily the fanciest barn on my list - stalls run $850, and most stuff is a la carte (blanketing, grain, trailer parking, lessons, etc.) But they had pasture board with grass hay, and trail access, so I went to go see. I got there way too early and watched the owner give jumping lessons to his ... office staff? working student? and a couple of boarders. Lovely covered arena, with seating to watch people work, and blankets and a heater. The heater was necessary because it was 50 degrees with a brisk cloud moving through! A beautiful facility though, and TBM was really quite polite and friendly. About 150-250 more than Second Barn, but grass hay and trail access. No requirement to be in training, and no requirement to use their trainer (one jumping trainer, two dressage trainers). I do not think it's really where I need to be, but I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it, and if I ended up there Dixie would be perfectly happy. My biggest worry is that it's very cold up there all year - while part of me thinks that'd be just peachy I think Dixie would suffer if I took her down to some hot endurance ride, and that road is too hairy for me to haul out regularly.

I drove down from the hills and out to Foster City on the bay to have lunch, then drove around looking at neighborhoods. As far as I can tell, it's kind of like the east coast of Florida - unbroken development, with a new city name sign every couple of miles. Totally amazing that only two miles away there's all this beautiful undeveloped land. Everything's just crammed in and the zoning doesn't make intuitive sense to me.

Fourth Barn - I really liked it. Beautiful horses, a beautiful barn but most of them were on pasture, a dressage arena built into the side of the hill so as you rode it looked like you were looking over a cliff down to the ocean far below, tons of pastures built into hills... and no trail access. And no grass hay, just grass/alfalfa or wheat. And no way to haul out!
Uncool driveway to awesome barn

The barn was up a mile of potholed switchback gravel road, off of La Honda Road. Here's a screenshot. I dunno if I put the marker in exactly the right spot, but it was somewhere along there...

Most of the horses there are retirees or older horses, and I wouldn't hesitate to send my retiree there either! We realized pretty quickly that I wasn't a good fit and had a nice conversation anyway - she told me about the area, some places to look to find private boarding if I wanted, that kind of stuff.
Awesome barn in La Honda

Then back into the city and out with G's work friends for a little while, then off to bed.

Saturday we got up and headed out for another heroic day of driving. The last barn was a place that had been closed for several years and is getting ready to reopen. It's 5 miles south of Half Moon Bay, up a warm and sunny little canyon - the BM says she grows tomatoes, so it can't be too cold and foggy! The property is a tiny little space running up a hill - the owner's house overlooks the barns. There's one barn that will have stalls, three or four individual paddocks, and three two-horse paddocks. The paddocks are all graveled, so no standing on soggy ground. About 10 minutes' ride up to the end of the canyon takes you to a trailhead into Purisima Creek. Grass hay, trailer parking, wash rack, reasonable rates. If we end up in Pacifica / HMB, that's my choice down there.

After looking at that barn, G and I drove around the peninsula all day. We looked for a shoe store, got infuriated with the GPS, got snappy with each other, ate lunch and made up, got coffee in HMB, and parked by the ocean and watched the tide come in. Eventually, we went back into the city and met up with friends for dinner. I was super tired and came totally unglued when the place we were going to eat dinner at said a two-hour wait. I mean unglued like I was bawling on G's shoulder when two of his friends hopped out of a taxi to meet me for the very first time. It was such a good first impression. But I pulled it back together and we went to a bar with Asian food and had a good time anyway. (Fried rice with pork belly and kimchee! OMG so good!)

And today, back to Reno! The cats survived on kibble, the neighbor took great care of Dixie, and Cers was just delighted to see me. (But the kennel told on her - she also had fun while she was there!) This week I've got a property manager coming to look at the place and two moving companies to give me estimates, and I need to fit in some riding.

The next AERC ride is High Desert, where we did our first fifty last year, but it was not an easy ride. I am thinking about doing the 30 at High Desert (lots of hills and rocks, but only for 30 miles) and doing the NEDA ride in the same area the next day (20 miles, pretty flat). I'll get 50 miles in a weekend and will feel ok to tackle a 50 at Washoe at the end of the month. I know I have got to quit dithering and just enter a 50 at some point. I know. Real soon. I just want to cry when I think about Dixie limping to the vet check. I will suck up and do a 50 soon.