Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Tales from the Workplace, Trucking Edition, Part XIII

I am posting stories from my job, because I think they're funny.  I've done my best to disguise my company name, even the industry, and to keep the people I write about and even some details of the situation anonymous.  If you know me, and know where I work, please don't include details in your comments.  I'll have to delete your comment and reconsider posting these stories.

So the trucking company mentioned in Part XI, who we hadn't used in a while, couldn't remember why, and now we remember why ('cause they SUCK)?  I noticed another shipment on the schedule that indicated we'd be using them, and asked the boss what was up with that.  He said that (a) he was desperate because none of the other trucking companies could take a load that we needed shipped by a certain day, and (b) anyone can have a bad day so he figured he'd give them one more shot, but if anything went even SLIGHTLY wrong, we wouldn't be using them again.


They were due to pick up a load from us at 8:00 a.m. on Tuesday.  11:00, and we hadn't seen them, but lo and behold, there's an e-mail in the boss' inbox from them.  Get this:

The original driver (who'd they'd checked with prior to assigning the load) had her eyes dilated yesterday and can't drive.  Um, I've had my eyes dilated, and while different people could have different reactions, for me it just messed up my close vision (i.e. Excel spreadsheets were very hard to read), but I was fine for driving as long as I used dark sunglasses.  Second of all, that was YESTERDAY, and the worst of the effects are over in a couple hours, let alone 12+.  Lastly, why did you say you'd be fine to drive a big rig if you knew you had an optometrist appointment and would have your eyes dilated? 

The dispatcher said they do have another truck a few hours away from us (actually, they named a town that IS a town in Oregon, but also a town in the midwest--maybe that's the one they were talking about), but the original customer who was going to have a load going onto that trailer rejected it because it has "a couple of holes" in it.  Um, I wonder how bad they are?  The fact that our loads are all well secured on pallets and/or in packaging means small holes wouldn't be a problem for us, but are we possibly talking about a rust bucket that might not even make it to the destination in one piece?  

Luckily, we ended up finding another trucking company that could take the load, and are "firing" this one, for good this time.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Grizzly Mountain Endurance Ride

Finally, our first endurance ride was upon us!  We packed and packed and packed, and then determined we were ready.  I'd asked to get off work at noon, and sometime prior to that, I'd realized that I left my bag full of clothes at home.  Oops.  So I had to run home (opposite direction from Shar's) and do a couple other errands first, but got to Shar's by 1:30-ish.

We loaded up the rest of the gear, gathered up the horses, she trimmed Flash's bridle path, then we loaded the horses and put some hay into the trailer behind them, and we were OFF.  Well, except that Shar called me when we were barely out of her driveway to ask me to grab her purse out of her other car.  Ha!  Glad I wasn't the only one forgetting crucial items.  At first I couldn't find it, and had her rather worried when I called her and she walked me through all the places it could be and it wasn't in any of them, but then I finally found it, basically right where she said it would be in her car but hiding rather well.  So I met her at the grocery store, and we were finally actually on our way to ride camp.

We parked next to the other boarders at Shar's house, Holly and Graham.  They'd already set up their corral/camp, so they actually helped us get the corral panels off the side of Shar's trailer, which was really nice--those suckers are heavy!

Speaking of helpful, Holly also went to register before we were ready to and brought back extra forms, so we were able to fill them out first, saving some time.  We took the horses up and got in the vet line.  It was pretty long, but there were two vets so it was moving pretty quickly.

Shar and I took turns registering for the ride (turn in a form with rider info, horse info, and signed release, get a vet card with our names and assigned rider #) while the other held both horses.  Boy, they're such a handful, what with standing quietly together.

Here's my first official vet card:

My name, Arya's name, and the ride name, right there in official pencil.  :-)  

We were riding the 10-mile ride, which meant we were assigned a letter instead of a number.  Each distance has a different numbering sequence so other riders and the vets, etc., can tell at a glance which distance you're riding.  As 10-mile riders, we are the lowest on the totem pole.  Our ride doesn't "count" (doesn't go in the record books), so it's polite for us to yield to longer-distance riders at the vet checks.  Similarly, it's polite for riders who are done riding and waiting for their final vet check (horses have to be "fit to continue" even when you're actually done) to yield to riders who still have further to go, as the clock keeps ticking even during mandatory hold times, meaning riders want to leave as soon as the hold time is over, yet the hold time begins once the horse is pulsed down, before the vet check, so the time they spend waiting for the vet is time they could be resting/eating/drinking/going potty instead.

Anyway, we each registered and got our vet card, then soon enough, we were at the front of the vet line.  Here's how she did on the vet in:

Pulse was 48.  Lower is better here, and 48 isn't GREAT, but isn't bad, either, considering this was her first experience with ride camp.  I hope to see lower numbers on vet-in in the future, but we'll see.

Mucus membranes, jugular refill, and skin tenting were all As.  This is checking her hydration, and we'd only just come from home, plus we allowed the horses to drink just before vetting in, so this is good but not unexpected.  The capillary refill is measured in seconds it takes for her gums to turn pink again after having a thumb pressed against them to blanch them.  One second is good.

Gut sounds are listened to in four quadrants (upper and lower on each side), and she is a voracious eater, so got all As.  Anal tone, muscle tone, and back/withers are all to check for muscle soreness and/or fatigue, and she's had nearly a week off, so of course got As.

Tack galls and wounds are checking for injuries, rubs, etc., and she had none so got zeros.  This isn't necessarily a disqualification, especially if there are well-healed scars.  Of course, if you have pre-existing injuries, you'd want to point them out to the vet so they aren't counted against you at later vet checks.  If injuries or rubs do happen during the ride, they wouldn't necessarily disqualify you either, depending on where they're located and how severe they were.

Anyway, she got A- for gait and impulsion.  Considering I couldn't even get her to trot beside me on the lead a few months ago, and that we hadn't practiced enough, this was actually pretty good for us.  She doesn't have the peppiest, snappiest trot on a good day, so as long as she's not lame, I'm happy.  She did get an A for attitude, though, so I guess the vet felt she was happy enough to be there.  :-)

We took the horses back to our campsite and settled them in with some sloppy mash for calories, hydration, and electrolytes.  Horses are NOT dainty eaters:

I started to braid Arya's mane (in addition to looking pretty, it helps cool the horse to not have a shaggy mane hanging on one side of the neck, preventing evaporation--braiding opens it up to let the sweat evaporate from that side as well as the other), then Holly and Graham said they were going out for a practice ride.  I'd been wanting to do that so Arya could get some exposure to all the excitement and also see the beginning of the trail, so I jumped at the chance to ride with some buddies she and I knew, and tacked her up.

I was really nervous, but tried not to let Arya know that.  :-)  We stopped by a water tank to let the horses drink (or rather, to show them that they were going to need to drink strange water from various types of tanks throughout the next day).  Around this point, Arya started realizing that Flash wasn't with us, and we ALWAYS ride with Flash.  She whinnied for him--that's always weird, and it was my first time being on her when she whinnied.  She also decided that might be a good time to head back to camp, but when Graham and Holly headed toward the trail on Emma and Ace, Arya decided it wouldn't be so bad to follow them.

We followed the ribbons out of camp, to where they made a hard right turn and crossed a dirt road and a ditch right next to the corner of a pasture with a cow, a dog, and a couple goats in it.  The horses were a bit concerned about these strange creatures, but we made it past them and continued down the trail.  Not too far, though, and we realized it was 6:30, and rumor was that the ride meeting would start around 7:00.  So we turned around, and once Emma realized we were headed home and she was now in the back instead of the lead, she started jigging.  Graham kept her under control fairly well, but Arya was getting a little antsy having an antsy horse behind her, and I was getting VERY antsy since that's what we think led to the two bucking incidents we've had.  So I asked if Holly wouldn't mind being the filling in the sandwich between Emma and Arya, providing a bit of a buffer.  Everything went well and we made it back safely.

In the meantime, the saddle fitter I'd worked with online only up to this point messaged me that she was in camp and I should come find her.  So I messaged back to ask where she was, and it took a while but I finally found her.  Surprisingly, she said the saddle I'm using is actually a pretty good fit.  She recommended removing a little bit of the (admittedly VERY generous) padding from the right side, as that shoulder of Arya's is bigger.  She even did the surgery for me.  How nice!  By this point, the ride meeting had already started, so rather than take Arya back to camp (FAR end from the ride meeting) and back to the meeting, I just headed there with her and stood in the back and let her graze.  Her whinnying for Flash may have been a little bit disrupting, though.  Oops.

At the end of the ride meeting, we announced a little "Green Bean" party at our campsite.  Green Beans are basically anyone new to endurance, with a horse new to endurance, or "new at heart," or experienced and willing to share wisdom with the newbies.  So basically, open to anyone willing to share knowledge and a love of horses.  It was fun to meet people we "knew" from Facebook and put faces to names and hear people's plans for the next day.  But soon it was dark, the party was dwindling, and it was time to head to bed.

The next morning, as we were getting ready for the day, Holly called me outside to see the sunrise.  The cell phone photo doesn't really do it justice, but it was kind of like when a harvest moon is rising, and it looks all huge and red on the horizon, except it was the sun.

I finished braiding Arya's mane and did Flash's, too.  Originally, we thought the 10-mile ride would start at least 30, if not 60, minutes later than the 30-mile ride, but it turns out since the two head in opposite directions on separate trails, they went ahead and had them just 10 minutes apart.  I'd figured that I'd be able to help Shar get ready, then focus on getting myself and Arya ready, but instead all four of us got ready together and mounted up at the same time and headed for the trailhead.  Shar and Holly were running a little late for their start time, but that was okay because they didn't want to start right in the beginning with all the front runners anyway, plus then Graham and I were ready to head on down the trail at the same time.

As we started down the trail, we could see up ahead of us, at the right turn, that there was a large group of horses, probably ten or so, who were all having some excitement at the sight of the cow, dog, and goats.  There was dancing and prancing.  Right about then, a couple riders came up behind us and asked to pass.  Graham and I were in no hurry, especially with the chaos up ahead, so we pulled off the trail and let them pass.  Then the guy's horse started freaking out, either at the cow or the other amped-up horses, or something.  The horse was bucking and spinning.  The guy ended up getting off and hand-walking the horse, so of course we got back ahead of them again.

In the meantime, the large group had made it past the right turn, but then turned left and headed DOWN the road instead of ACROSS it.  I hollered that they were not on the trail, but they couldn't hear or didn't listen or something.  So Graham and I took Emma and Arya toward the cow of death.  They were a little skittish, but we made it past.  By that point, the big group had realized they were going the wrong way and had turned around and come back, and were right behind us.  Plus the guy with the spazzy horse was right with us, on foot.  Great, so now we're all in one big, spazzy group.  We walked out ahead of them for a bit, then let them pass us and get ahead of us.

Graham on Emma ahead of Arya's ears and pretty braided mane.

At first it seemed like the trail might be kind of boring, just winding around the sagebrush, but it eventually got prettier and it turned out to be rather varied around the 10-mile loop.  The majority of the group got out ahead of us enough we weren't following right behind them anymore, and we picked up a couple other riders that wanted to join our slower-paced group.  One was a first-time endurance rider on her mare's third trail ride EVER.  The other gal was also riding a mare, so we realized we had four mares, three women, and Graham.  He was a good sport, surrounded by all those females.

At one point, the woman with the really green mare was riding beside Graham on Emma, and must've gotten a little bit too close, as Emma kicked her.  She got the woman's ankle a little bit, and really scared the horse, as she freaked out a bit and dislodged her rider, who ended up falling off.  Luckily, she wasn't badly hurt and got right back on.  A little while later, the other woman wanted to help her horse learn that she wouldn't die by being in the back and that she couldn't just jig along the trail freaking out the whole time, so she said she'd like us to go on and leave her behind to ride alone.

Overall, it was a really great ride.  We rode through open sagebrush, juniper trees, meadows, and a really pretty forest.  The trail varied from sandy to rocky to nice packed dirt.  The views included mountains and seeing camp intermittently throughout the ride.

The experiences included being passed by faster riders a few times.  Arya didn't love that.  I always knew we were being approached by her ears turning back (they were usually forward if we were in front, or relaxed if we were following a buddy) and her body tensing.  We would pull off the trail and attempt to face the riders passing us as they went by (rather than keeping her but toward them).  Then we'd get back on the trail and have to keep the horses focused while the others rode away from us.  I learned that trotting while the others were still in sight wasn't the best idea--Arya wanted to catch up to them.  Duh.  Doesn't take a rocket scientist.  :-)

What was funny was that the pair with the spazzy horse at the beginning of the ride passed us about halfway through the loop.  Except this time the woman was on the spazzy horse and the man was on the other horse.  We thought it was weird that they were passing us, considering they'd passed us early on in the ride (twice--right at the beginning when the horse was bucking and spazzing, then again shortly later after he mounted back up after walking on foot a while).  Then a couple miles later, they passed us AGAIN.  This time we asked why/how, and they'd taken a wrong turn.  A couple times.  A little bit later, they were still in view, when we had a confusing moment.  The ribbons are ALWAYS supposed to be on your right.  We were following the green loop, but green, blue, and pink were mainly the same loop, with blue and pink each doing some extra mileage by veering away from the green loop for a mile or two then rejoining it a bit later.  So we had to carefully watch the ribbons to make sure there was green included in the colors.  In this pretty meadow-ish area, there was a caution ribbon (warns of a turn or other situation ahead), but we couldn't see a turn.  Ahead, there was a ribbon in a bush, but it was on the left.  That's not right.  (Ha!  I'm so punny!)  The couple with the spazzy horse were directly ahead of us, but by this point we obviously knew that just because they were going that direction didn't mean we should.  :-)  I volunteered to ride in that direction to look for another ribbon to see if it was the right trail, while the others looked around near the caution ribbon.  Sure enough, the ribbons I was seeing were only blue and were only on the left, so it was where the blue trail came back from one of its extra loops to rejoin the green trail, obviously.  The others found the trail--it veered off from the trail we'd been on at nearly a backwards angle, like a switchback.  So we turned around and headed off down the correct trail while the other couple continued on down the wrong trail, backwards no less.

Strangely, they never did pass us a fifth time, but we did see them back at the vet check, and apparently they tired of the spazzy horse (or making wrong turns?) and beelined back to camp instead of following the correct trail.  Heh.

We trotted a few sections, but between all the green horses and not wanting them to think we could just run and run at a ride, the terrain, and the people passing us, we ended up walking a LOT.  It took us nearly three hours to make the loop.  When we got close to camp, Graham got off to walk Emma in, and I did the same, even though clearly their heart rates were going to be fine.  In fact, their heart rates were SO fine that "my" pulser couldn't find Arya's heartbeat at all at first, and it took four pulsers to finally find Emma's heartbeat.  But both were under the 60 beats per minute requirement, so we were officially "pulsed in," and just had the vet check to go.

Here are Arya's scores:

She got As on mucous membrane, jugular refill, and skin tenting, but it took two seconds for her capillaries to refill.  Not sure if the C means she was also graded as a C (on an A to F scale) or what.  As on anal tone, muscle tone, and back/withers, which is great.  No tack galls or wounds.  And she got As on gait, impulsion, and attitude this time.  So even if the capillary refill is a C, she was judged "fit to continue" and officially "completed" the 10-mile ride.  Which doesn't count for anything, so isn't really official, but whatever.  We did it, and she was in good health and attitude.

Graham and I took Emma and Arya back to camp and gave them some mash as their reward while we waited for Shar and Holly to come back.  Arya really enjoys slurping up her mash!

When Holly and Shar got back, Graham and I did we could to help them.  As their time to depart got close, I started tacking up.  My plan has always been to join them on the second loop (if ride management allowed), so I could log 20 miles and see how prepared we were for a 25 in two weeks.  However, I'd been having some digestive issues and had used the outhouse three times since returning from the first loop, plus they were planning to maintain a pretty fast pace, so at the last minute, I ended up deciding not to go.  So I guess we're just going to jump up to 25 miles in one fell swoop.  Oh well.  That's how most people do it, and there's always going to be a first time.

It took us nearly three hours to do the 10-mile loop, but they completed it in under two hours.

Triumphant return!

Flash still had some of his slop left over from "lunch," and he dug right into it.  We'd put Emma into the corral with Arya (since otherwise they were both alone), and Flash was on the outside of the corral so he could have his mash and alfalfa hay all to himself.  Emma was VERY interested in Flash's mash, though.  She kept trying to sneak a bite through the bars of the corral, but flash kept chasing her off:

She started to learn that her opportunity was when flash took a moment to swallow and lick his lips--she'd dive in and lick the edges of the bucket, since she couldn't actually reach the slop inside.  Silly horses.

The humans also got fed and hydrated, then we decided to start packing up and head home.  We got all the stuff loaded up, then the corral panels (again with Graham's help--thanks so much!), then the horses.  We all caravanned back to Shar's place, put the horses away, watched them roll then frolic (clearly not as exhausted as their humans), and unloaded some of the stuff.  Then we ordered pizza, Graham and Holly shared some salad they'd brought, and we all had a nice dinner together to cap off a wonderful ride.  Graham and Holly went back to the ride camp to attend the awards, and learned that they finished 20th and 21st.  Woo hoo!  Four happy riders, four happy and healthy horses among us--can't ask for better than that!

Next step--attempting 25 miles at the Still Memorial Ride, not far from (and even sharing a couple miles of trail with) Grizzly.  I'm so proud of Arya for what we've learned together so far, and ready to achieve another goal with her.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Tales from the Workplace, Part XIII

I am posting stories from my job, because I think they're funny.  I've done my best to disguise my company name, even the industry, and to keep the people I write about and even some details of the situation anonymous.  If you know me, and know where I work, please don't include details in your comments.  I'll have to delete your comment and reconsider posting these stories.

We, like many businesses, offer payment terms to our customers.  If they pay within 10 days, they get a small discount (unless they pay by credit card, as adding the discount to the fees we pay to accept credit cards would probably eat our entire profit margin).  If they take longer than 30 days to pay, there is a small finance charge (and in fact, it's only calculated once a month, so they could theoretically take longer than 30 days to pay and still not incur the finance charge, but we don't advertise that fact).

We have a customer who used to pay on time.  Rather quickly, in fact.  Lately, they've been taking 2-3 months to pay each invoice, and had racked up a few dollars worth of finance charges.  Well, more than a few dollars, but still well under $100.

They just wrote us a check (hand-written, as many of our customers' checks are) and on the memo line, wrote, "This Finance Charge is STUPID!"  Ha!  Well, not paying your bills on time is really what's stupid, but whatever.  At least they paid it.  :-)

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Tales from the Workplace, Trucking Edition, Part XII

I am posting stories from my job, because I think they're funny.  I've done my best to disguise my company name, even the industry, and to keep the people I write about and even some details of the situation anonymous.  If you know me, and know where I work, please don't include details in your comments.  I'll have to delete your comment and reconsider posting these stories.

We've incurred charges from trucking companies for "helping" to unload our trucks before.  Apparently, the drivers get a little extra pay for this, so they can be pushy and/or disingenuous about this service when talking to our customers, and make it sound like since they're standing around anyway, they'd be happy to help unload.  Then we get a surprise fee on our freight bill.

So we added a note to our bills of lading, right above where the driver signs to accept the load, saying that they are NOT to load, unload, or handle our product at all.

Then the other day, we get an invoice that has an unloading fee on it.  I called the freight company, and the billing person said that her supervisor wouldn't let her write off that charge, since the customer signed for it.  Sure enough, on the bill of lading, just above our note about the driver NOT being allowed to unload, someone had hand-written "driver unload" and signed.  

I asked to speak with the billing supervisor, and told her that whether the customer signed off on it or not was moot--their contract is with us, and our "contract" states that they may NOT unload.  Even if our BOL didn't have that note on it, they should be calling us to authorize any action that was going to add a fee to our bill, and especially since we DO have that note on there, they should have called (and, of course, didn't).  She did agree with that, and agreed to remove the charge, but suggested I call our customer anyway to figure out what happened, which I planned to do anyway.  At the very least, I was curious whether it was the driver's idea or the customer's.

So I called the customer and asked her what had happened that day, and she said she honestly couldn't remember.  But she was surprised that they (the customer) were supposed to unload the load themselves.  Now, we do have two types of customers--private customers that can afford to buy an entire truckload of our product at once, and stores that resell it to private customers who can't (or would rather not) buy an entire truckload.  This was a store.  Their entire business model is to buy and take delivery of large shipments and parcel them out to shoppers in smaller increments.  Weird that they feel it's not their job to handle these large loads.

So it's still not entirely clear whether she ASKED the driver for help, or he offered it, but she did take him up on it (though the driver never contacted us or his company, so that's on him).  I let her know that if she wanted the driver's help in the future, she'd need to let us know so we could authorize the freight company to authorize the driver to help, but that we'd be passing the charge along to her if she did request help.  

She said, "Fine, I'll pay the fee this time, but I won't be ordering again.  Your product is too..." now, what's an adjective I can use to stay anonymous?  The chocolate analogy doesn't really work here, but let's just say that she said the product is too brittle.  Softer is better, but of course the product can be TOO soft.  But in general, being too brittle is seen as a bad thing, industry-wide.  We have a few types of products, with varying degrees of brittleness, and at first I assumed she was complaining about the dark chocolate, as it does tend to be the most brittle.  But no, she was complaining about what she called "vanilla."  Now, we do sell white chocolate, but there wasn't any white chocolate in this load, so I was confused, but once I asked her the color of the packaging, I figured out that she was referring to our milk chocolate (not even close to "vanilla," but it (along with the white chocolate) is one of our SOFTEST (in a good way) products!  She said, "that's what your sales guy says, too [um, yeah, because it's a quantifiable thing, and we quantify it in two ways, both of which say it's nice and soft, but apparently you know better], but all I know is what my customers tell me, and I'm constantly having to take the stuff back because the customers say it's too brittle."  I said that's really odd, as our dark chocolate IS known for having that problem occasionally, but the milk chocolate she got (not white chocolate like she keeps saying) NEVER has that problem, and pretty much can't due to our manufacturing process.  She did say that the chocolate doesn't go to the usual type of customer our product goes to, but another type (let's say our typical customer is someone who's going to use it in candy, and she sells this product to ice cream people).  But still, brittle is brittle and soft is soft, and I don't know how they can say our milk chocolate is brittle, but whatever.  

So apparently my call about the unload fee was the straw the broke the camel's back on this unhappy customer, and we probably won't get any more orders from them.  Sounds like it's good riddance anyway, though.  Ugh.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Smith Rock

Shar has some new (and likely temporary, until they sell their current house and buy one nearby) boarders at her house, and they wanted to go for a ride today, so all four of us went for a ride today.  Shar asked if we were up for the Smith Rock loop, warning us that there was a "sketchy" piece of trail, and we'd have to cross the river twice.  Arya is NOT good at crossing water, but I said as long as Holly and Graham didn't mind a potential river-crossing lesson taking up a bit of time, that I was game for it.  Apparently they were, too, so we loaded up all our respective horses into our respective trailers, and made our way to the trailhead.

We tacked up and set off, and had to walk through a parking lot then along the road behind more parked cars to get to the trail.  We were about halfway through that experience when I realized Arya was doing GREAT.  We saw all sorts of people with all sorts of equipment, had cars moving past us a couple times, and saw a couple dogs, and she did great through it all.  Barely even blinked.  What a good girl!

We got to the trail, and it turns out it's the same trail most people walk down to get to the river and a lot of the climbing.  It was interesting taking our horses down the paved (first with asphalt, then with concrete) trail, with a bunch of tourists, but again, the horses did absolutely great.

Shar in front on Flash, then Holly on Ace (the grey horse, who is 24!), then Graham on Emma in front of me and Arya

We looped around on the trail at the bottom left of the photo

After a bit of walking along the river, we came to a sign that said "horses ford here."  So apparently we had to cross the river.  This is NOT Arya's strong suit.  I followed the horses in front of me right up to the edge of the river, but then Arya put on the brakes and said "Uh Uh."  I tried a time or two to get her lined up and pointed into the river, but by that point the other horses were most of the way across, so Shar said to just wait and she'd come back for us.

She did, and she suggested the same thing I'd been thinking--I hop off, and she would pony Arya into the water using the lead rope (I normally leave it behind, because I can use a the reins to clip to the halter if/when necessary, but we'd purposefully brought the rope along on this ride for just this reason).  I hopped off, she snugged Arya up on a pretty short rope, and headed toward the water.  She actually went in with very little coaxing!  Yay, Arya!  Shar circled back around toward me.  With the side she had Arya on, and the side of the river I was on, I was gonna have to mount up on the "wrong" side, if I was going to mount up while she was still in the water.  I've only done it once since getting Arya, and that was with the mounting block.  Arya was a bit lower than me (in the water, me on the bank), but not that much.  Plus she was a step or two away from me.  I tried, but couldn't get my foot in the stirrup at first.  Shar scooched Arya's butt over toward me, and I was able to, but it was still scary mounting up that way, knowing I could easily end up in the drink.  But it went fine, and I got on and even got my feet in the stirrups while Shar waited patiently for me to get situated.

She kept Arya on a short leash, and we headed across the river.  It wasn't very deep, but clearly had large round slippery rocks, as the horses would slip and stumble a bit once in a while.  Rather exciting, but it went fine.  Toward the other side, Arya put her head down toward the water a time or two, but I was worried about her wanting to roll, so I didn't let her drink.  I probably should have, in hindsight...

After a successful water crossing by all four horses, they got a bit of a break to graze (well, Ace and Emma got a LONG break since they crossed so well the first time!), then we were off down the trail again.  The trail was relatively level and smooth as it followed along the river, and there were a little bit fewer people, so we trotted a bit.  There were some low-hanging branches we had to avoid, though!  A tall girl on a tall horse is VERY glad she wears a helmet!  There was one branch so low I had to bend over all the way against her neck, and it still brushed my shoulder blades!

All along the trail, we kept meeting people, some with backpacks, some with dogs, and except for one dog that really wanted to chase the fun horsies (who Arya gave some side-eye to), she did great!  She looked and was curious, but I assured her I saw the strange humans, and we kept on going.  There was even a guy who was carrying folded-up pads on his back, a BIG cube-shaped package.  Ace was really curious about that, but once he sniffed and deemed it safe to pass, the others, including Arya, just went right on up the trail, no problem.

Then the trail started climbing and climbing.  We went up and up and up.  We came to a narrow stretch of trail with steep hills going up one side and down the other.  Then the narrow trail got steep itself.  And rocky.  There was a spot where the trail split--the uphill side was rocky, but more level, and the downhill side was smooth and flat-ish for a bit, but ended with a steep rocky climb back up to reach the main trail.  Shar had warned us to follow her on the uphill section, but Arya didn't listen, and I steered her too late, and we took the downhill section.  Climbing back up onto the main trail, my legs were so far back in order to maintain a vertical posture overall, and her hind legs were working so hard to climb the rock, that my heel made contact with her thigh or hind knee (stifle) or something.  Luckily not hard--I doubt she even noticed.  She was SUCH a trooper on that stretch of trail, and when I was over, I asked Shar if that had been the scary part she warned us of, and she said it was.  It really wasn't THAT bad, but probably because of all the hype, plus the fact we'd done other sidehill trails so I'd had some practice.  If she took me on that early on, I would have been MUCH more scared, for sure!

Soon after the scary stretch, the trail dumped out onto a double-track dirt road.  It was still really steep, and the horses were huffing and puffing, but it was much safer.  :-)  We rested the horses occasionally so they could catch their breath, and maybe so the humans could take some photos, too.  :-)

The cars parked all in a line on the right side of the photo are a couple hundred feet above the lowest point of our ride--they're on a plateau above the river bed.

The zig-zag trail to the left of the photo is Misery Ridge, a popular (and aptly nmed) hike.  Not for horses.  :-)  But we came from the river below it, around to the right, then up the road at the right side of the photo.

Panorama--click to embiggen

Holly and Ace led the march up the hill--Ace just ATE up the hill!  Shar on Flash is next in this photo, then Graham and Emma.  I'm bringing up the rear again--did so most of the ride today.

When we got to the highest point on the trail (we weren't quite at the very peak of the hill we were on, but close enough!), we stopped to give the horses a nice long break.  I loosened the cinch for Arya, took my helmet off, and even took her bridle off so she could eat unimpeded by the bit.  We all rested for a bit and took some photos.

From there, we set off on foot for the long, steep-ish downhill section, to give the horses a break.

There's a thing endurance riders sometimes do called tailing.  It's especially helpful going uphill.  While on foot, you hold the rein/lead with one hand, get behind the horse (don't try this at home unless you know the horse is up for it!), and grab its tail.  Going uphill, the horse can help pull you a bit, making it easier for the human without taxing the horse nearly as much as riding up the same hill.  We were going downhill, but I saw Holly practicing this skill with Ace and decided to give it a try with Arya.  When I grabbed her tail, she clamped it down and "glared" at me with her ears.  She wasn't amused.  Then it's like she thought it over and told herself, "Wow, humans are weird.  But if that's what she wants to do, no skin off my nose, I suppose," and she relaxed.  I hung onto her tail and she "pulled" me downhill (which was actually kind of scary when the footing got roly poly!), and her tail was quite relaxed, swaying as I swayed.  Nice to know I could probably take advantage of her help on an uphill section if I needed to.

When the trail leveled out a little (it was still going downhill, just not as steep), we all adjusted our tack as necessary and mounted back up.  Soon after that, we reached a stretch of trail Shar and I have ridden on during our other long hilly rides.  It was just a brief stretch of known trail, though, and we turned off to head back into Smith Rock State Park.  We soon spied the river again--more gorgeous views, but I forgot to keep taking pictures!  There was some more sections of sidehill, but not anything we couldn't handle after the stuff we'd already ridden today (and in the past).  We wound around under Monkey Face, and started seeing a bunch of people again.  A few times, I offered to let people pet Arya, since we were the last horse and could catch up easily enough.  There were a few spots where people were high above us at the base of a cliff, and she would kind of tilt her head up to keep an eye on them, but she handled all of this so well.

Words can't describe how pretty this ride was, and I can't believe I didn't take more photos!  We got back around most of the way back to the trail back up to the cars, and saw another sign telling horses to ford the river.  We turned, went down a steep hill, and got to the bank.  We were still pretty high above the river, with only a steep little gully going down into the river.  Holly even asked if that was where we were supposed to go in.  Yup, apparently so.  It also looked a little narrower, and therefore deeper, here.  Shar headed in with Flash, and Arya started following pretty much on her own, so I took advantage, kind of cut Graham and Emma off a bit, and stuck Arya's nose to Flash like glue.  She hesitated, and was actually quivering at the thought of going in, but between being thirsty and following Flash, she went in without much ado.  She put both front feet in, paused, and plowed the rest of the way in.  Holly and Graham were close behind us, and all four horses went right across.  It WAS deeper than the other crossing, though--we all got our feet wet!  I was SO proud of Arya for going across without having to be ponied and without much hesitation, even!  She got to graze for a little bit as her reward.  Then we hit the trail again, got back up to the main trail, hiked back up the concrete and asphalt and onto the road, and posed for pictures in front of the sign before heading back to the trailer.

Happy much?  :-)  Well, the horses don't look too amused, but they're TIRED.

When we got back to Shar's, I took Arya over to the water trough, and she drank for quite a while, even after Flash left.  I took her over to where her fly mask was so I could put that on her, and she drank some more from that trough.  Then she went and found a nice patch of dust and dried poop to roll in, then drank some MORE.  Oops, guess I didn't let her drink enough when we were actually IN the water!  Flash rolled, too (though he'd already rolled earlier when Shar first let him go), then Goodwin rolled.  Then we saw Graham hosing Emma off, and Arya and Goodwin actually walked over toward the fence to watch.  That was pretty funny.  :-)  I've been meaning to see how Arya does with getting hosed off, but oh well.

I left, went home, had some Mexican food with Nathan for dinner, then painted the hoof boots sparkly purple.  This color:

No more horse riding the rest of the week.  I plan to exercise by "wogging" on Tuesday (though weather may make me change the day), and spend the rest of the days this week packing for our first ever endurance ride we'll actually be riding AT this weekend.  We'll arrive Friday night to get the horses vet checked and attend the ride meeting.  I plan to walk Arya around and then ride her around at camp to get used to the hubbub a bit, but no more than a mile or two.  Then Saturday is the big day.  Shar will leave an hour earlier than me to do the 25-mile Ride, then Arya and I will set off on the 10-mile ride.  Sounds like Graham and Emma may join us, plus there will be plenty of other people I "know" from Facebook and probably even from our mock endurance ride a few months ago.  Watch this space!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Vet Visit

So today was vet day for all the ponies at Shar's place.  (Well, two of hers and the one of mine, not the baby or the other boarders.)  But first, we cleaned out the stall we were going to use for the teeth floating, then I wanted to shave Arya's brand so the vet could read it if she wanted to be sure she was signing the right BLM paperwork (in order for the prior owner to officially take ownership from the BLM, and then be able to officially transfer ownership to me, someone official (like a vet) has to sign off that the horse is in an appropriate facility and being taken care of.

First, I got her mane out of the way.  Cute pigtails, Arya!

Ready to attack with clippers.  She eyes me warily.

All done!

The first set of clippers didn't cut her hair at all, and the second set had a guard on that barely let it trim any hair, but luckily Shar has THREE sets of clippers, and the third time was the charm.  After all the futzing and false starts, she didn't mind the actual clipping at all.  Just as I finished up, the vet drove in, and Shar hadn't gotten her horses out yet, so by default, Arya got to go first.

We discussed what she's eating and the vitamins she gets, which the vet says are fine.  We discussed what vaccines we should do and when.  Then the vet took a peek in her mouth, and declared her teeth quite good.  She pulled out a file and filed down a couple sharp edges, but said they weren't bad at ALL, and that was all she needed.  Arya didn't LOVE having someone poking around in her mouth and filing down her teeth, but I rubbed her face (which she loves), and it seemed to calm her a bit, and she settled down.

However, since she didn't need to be sedated, I'm on my own for cleaning her boobies now.  Gonna have to actually get her used to it myself.  Oh well.

The vet signed the BLM paperwork and we chatted a bit while Shar fetched her horses, then Arya's part of the appointment was over, just like that.  Easy-peasy.

Flash wasn't so lucky--his teeth were bad enough, and his demeanor non-easy-going enough that he got the drugs.  It's so funny to see a "drunk" horse.  Their eyes droop, their lower lip droops, and they stagger if they try to walk.  When they propped his head up on the padded stand, then propped his mouth open with the speculum (yep, similar tool to that one), at first Flash wanted to protest, but he just couldn't bring himself to care enough, and eventually kind of gave in and just napped.

Flash, still not sure about what's going on.

All done!  Just gonna take a little nap now...

When his teeth were done, his down-below got a little groping (checking for a "bean" in the end of the penis), then he got to go sleep it off out in the round pen, and it was Goodwin's turn.  He was even less amused at all the harassment, starting with the shot.  But he, too, got over it with a little help from chemistry.  Once HIS teeth and private parts were done, he joined Flash out in the round pen and we settled up with the vet.  It all went by much faster than I'd expected.

Goodwin's turn!

So I fetched Arya from where she'd been tied to the trailer, and compared her brand to what it should be, based on her registration number and the cheat sheet.  It matches!

The first symbol means she was captured on US lands, the next part after that is the last two digits of her birth year, with the first on top of the second, then the next two digits indicate which state she was gathered in, and the last four are unique to her (within the birth year and state, of course).

While the boys slept off their drugs in the safe confines of the round pen, I turned Arya loose to mow down some of the tall grass around Shar's place (with her blessing and at her request).  Then I spied one of the cats and had an idea...

Arya was busy eating, so barely even noticed, and the cat was unsure at first, but then realized this was a nice warm fuzzy place to sit, so he stayed there a while, actually.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Combo Ride

Shar and I decided to add something new to Arya's and my repertoire--a combo solo/joint ride.

Shar and Flash took off around 5-ish and hit the trails hard, getting some good speed going.  I work till 5, plus Arya and I are more in the "rest" phase before our ride next weekend so didn't need to ride as hard as they planned, so I showed up at her house around 5:30, caught Arya, tacked up, and was in the saddle by 6:00, starting out on a solo ride.  We planned to meet up out on the trails at some point and end the ride as a joint ride.

It was funny--I made a quick restroom break before mounting up, and Shar's husband was in their house, so when I knocked on the door and asked to use the bathroom, he was like, "Oh, you missed the ride with Shar, huh?"  So I told him we actually planned it this way.  :-)

As we were riding out the driveway, Arya was not too sure about this whole "riding past the trash cans" thing, but even before we were completely out the driveway and even with the trash cans, she either realized they were fine (we often ride on the night they're set out, so they're not foreign to her), or she realized acting scared of them wasn't going to make me turn around and call it quits, and by the time we turned next to them, she was like "whatever."  Silly girl.

As we rode away from the house, she was very "looky," but I concentrated on my breathing (and singing along with my music, and soon she was relaxed and sighing and groaning out her tension as well.

We passed the house with the previously-noisy-but-lately-eerily-silent dogs, and while they barked the last time Shar and I rode past, they were silent this time.  Weird.  Just about then, we saw someone ride by the perpendicular road ahead of us on a chestnut horse.  It occurred to me it could be Krista, who lives nearby, so I hollered "Hi," but no response.  Arya was very interested in this other equine ahead of us, so she perked up, and we trotted to the stop sign and checked for traffic.

We turned in the direction the other horse had already gone, and Arya was on high alert.  Then the other rider kept going straight, while we needed to turn left.  Arya disagreed with me about turning, but did so without much fuss (so much progress from the ride where she didn't want to leave the "home" block!).

We trotted and walked down that block, turned left onto the next block, and walked once we were next to the pasture where this cute bay horse sometimes runs right up to us.  This time, the lady who lives there was in the pasture with the horse and a dog, scooping poop.  She commented that we were having more fun than she was.  Yup!

When we got past the pasture, I paused to give Arya a treat for doing so well so far, especially past the horse, lady, and dog, and we were immediately swarmed by bugs, mostly mosquitos.  Ugh.  So we headed down the hill, but of course not very quickly, which meant still being swarmed by bugs.  Ugh ugh ugh.  Arya wasn't a very big fan, either.  I'd actually sprayed her with fly spray before tacking up, but I hadn't gotten her face, or myself at all, and the bugs realized that.  Ugh.

As soon as we got to the bottom of the hill, we started trotting.  I'd been so proud of myself and her on our last ride--me for trusting her not to go tearing off with me (not that she's ever shown a sign of doing so, but fear isn't always rational) and riding her with a loose rein, and her for not taking advantage of that.  But since we were solo, I wasn't able to relax quite so much, but I did fairly well.  She protested my clinging to the reins a few times, but mostly we were in agreement about how fast to go.  She also shied sideways a couple of times and came to a dead stop once or twice, but we survived.

We got to where the trail kind of lets out onto a dirt road.  Normally, the trail parallels the dirt road for nearly the entire way, with maybe one little spot where it makes more sense to ride on the road.  However, they just graded the road, and apparently widened it a bit, which cut out some parts of the trail where it was closest to the road.  So we needed to get off the trail and onto the road, then ride along the road a ways.  The equipment had left tire tracks with a diamond pattern, and apparently Flash and Arya thought it looked like the world's biggest snake laying on the side of the road, or something.  I could see Flash's hoofprints dancing all around the area, and Arya was all snorty, too.

We also came across a plastic bag, which had apparently spooked Flash so bad that Shar came off (but landed on her feet!).  Arya stopped dead in her tracks and snorted at it.  I let her look at it, made her face it, and made her take a step, then let her think it through some more.  She decided it wasn't too bad, and went on past it.

I texted Shar when we got to the spot we'd agreed I'd text from, and then my phone accidentally dialled her as well, so we were able to communicate where we'd meet.  Arya started acting up at this point, really wanting to trot, so I tried to keep her to a walk instead, so we made slower progress than we otherwise might've.  Just about when we started being able to trot again, we spied a familiar chestnut horse in the distance.  Arya saw him too--her head went up, her ears went forward, and she was VERY curious who it might be.  She didn't realize it was Flash until she got close enough to smell him, I don't think.

We started to turn around for home, when Shar said I should see if she'd be willing to continue the direction we'd been going, away from home, while she and Flash kept going the way THEY'D been going, toward home.  Well, that sounded challenging, so we gave it a shot.  Arya didn't WANT to head that way, but after a little convincing, she did, and even trotted a bit.  So I stopped her and tried to reward her with a little carrot treat, but when I turned her head toward me to get the carrot, she was like "Oh, I get to go toward home and toward Flash now?  Score!" and had no interest in the treat.  Oh well.  Turning toward home was treat enough, I guess.

We all trotted toward home, but Arya got pissier and pissier as I tried to hold her back to maintain a little space behind Flash, and at one point even threw in what was either a canter stride or a tiny buck or something.  Uh uh.  This is where she gave me so much grief on our last solo ride that I had to get off and ended up walking all the way home.  I asked Shar to please walk, and she did.

But then we found the trail that goes up a rocky hill and spits us out onto a gravel road at the top of a cliff, paralleling the route home we were currently on.  Once we got up that hill, Arya wasn't on familiar trail anymore and wasn't pissy, so we played some leapfrog games.

Shar and Flash passed us cantering, while we just walked.  Arya wanted to speed up, which wasn't surprising, but a little check with the rein reminded her that WE were just walking.  Then we passed Flash (us trotting, them walking).  She's gotten good at this game--the first few times, she did NOT want to pass him, but now we just trot right on by.  Good girl!  They passed us at the canter again, we trotted past them.  Then they cantered past while we trotted.  On the right side (we usually pass each other on the left, just as a car would pass a slower car).

We trotted while they trotted, and we each rated our speed to be able to pass each other.  Arya actually did SO great at this, I was shocked.  I just had to THINK "slower" and she'd slow to a slow trot and let Flash pass.  I had to think "faster" plus squeeze just a little, and she'd speed up to a nice clip and pass Flash.  She did SO great.

Then I said the real challenge would be SLOWING to a walk while Flash pulled ahead of us, so we tried that.  Not so successful, so that'll be something to work on.  And of course it'd be more of a challenge with strangers, and especially at a real ride with all the excitement in the air, but she's doing great at the leapfrog games with Flash.

We got home, and I got to put my brand new fleece seat cover on my saddle--I had one just for my bottom, and I just received one that covers the whole seat plus all the way down the fenders.  Fleece is great for both hot weather and cold, and provides a little padding as well as sweat absorption.

Then I tried Arya's brand new fly mask on her.  It fits great, but looks pretty stupid and makes her look kind of like a ninja.  :-)  (The halter wouldn't be under it while out in the pasture, of course.)

Does this fly mask make my head look stupid?  Sorry sweetie, but yes, yes it does.

Then both the ponies got a little treat--grazing in the front lawn area:

Friday--VET VISIT!  Not sure if Arya's ever had her teeth done, so we're getting those checked, and done if necessary.  And if it is necessary, I'm gonna clean her boobies while she's "drunk" on the drugs, then hopefully maintain it from there (she's not a fan of me messing with that area).  We'll get some bloodwork done to see if she's got too much or too little of any vitamins and minerals in her system, and discuss vaccines, but the most exciting part is the vet will (hopefully!) sign off that she's well taken care of so I can send in the BLM paperwork to make her officially MINE.  Woo hoo!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Tales from the Workplace, Part XII

I am posting stories from my job, because I think they're funny.  I've done my best to disguise my company name, even the industry, and to keep the people I write about and even some details of the situation anonymous.  If you know me, and know where I work, please don't include details in your comments.  I'll have to delete your comment and reconsider posting these stories.

We have an employee whose spouse frequently calls here, usually to ask the employee to call home.  To be fair, the employees who work in the production area of our company are welcome to carry cell phones and use them on their break, but can't hear them ring while working due to the noise of the machinery.  So if the spouse needs to reach the employee urgently (and they do have kids, so it's possible an emergency crops up now and then), the only way to do so quickly would be to call the main office.  Fine.

But the spouse ALSO calls in the afternoon/evening to ask when the employee is getting off work.  To give the benefit of the doubt, I could see where every once in a while, someone might REALLY need to know what time to expect their spouse.  But in most cases, they'll be there when they get there, right?  And the spouse calls sometimes multiple times a week.  Seriously.  It's like the employee isn't trusted to come straight home and not get into trouble on the way, and believe me, there's no way the employee is having an affair AT work.  It just rubs me the wrong way as a person, and if the employee's co-workers knew how much the spouse called, the employee would probably take a lot of ribbing here at work.  I try to be discrete when notifying the employee of the call--just radio to come to the office, and only explain why once the employee gets here.  

Well, today the production employees have the day off.  Not enough orders, not enough material to package, so the people who make the material are working, but the people who package and load the trucks have the day off.  The employee in question is in the latter group, so is off work today.  We received a call from the spouse, asking when the employee is due to come to work today. 

Now, if the employee actually worries that maybe they're misremembering and were supposed to come to work at some point, then the EMPLOYEE would call us, right?  So this really seems as if the employee is sitting at home, not getting ready for work, and the spouse asks why.  And the employee says there's no work today.  But the spouse doesn't believe the employee and CALLS in to ask.  Who DOES that?  Does the spouse not think about potential consequences for the employee when undermining the employee to the employer like that?  Ugh, I feel so bad for the employee--clearly they are not trusted at home, and obviously the spouse is rather controlling.  Ugh.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Tales from the Workplace, Trucking Edition, Part XI

I am posting stories from my job, because I think they're funny.  I've done my best to disguise my company name, even the industry, and to keep the people I write about and even some details of the situation anonymous.  If you know me, and know where I work, please don't include details in your comments.  I'll have to delete your comment and reconsider posting these stories.

There's a trucking company we haven't used in a while, and the boss couldn't remember why, so he called them up to see if they'd do a load for us and what they'd charge.  The rate was reasonable, so we confirmed with them that they'd pick the load up at 8:00 Tuesday morning and deliver it to southern California at 8:00 a.m. (hard deadline of noon) on Thursday.  Since we don't already have empty trailers from this company on our lot, it'd be a "live load"--we fill the trailer while the driver waits.  (We normally fill the trailer long before the driver shows up, then he can just "drop and hook"--drop the empty, hook up to the loaded trailer, get weighed, and be on his way in 15 minutes if the weights are legal.)

Well, believe it or not, the truck wasn't here by 8:00 a.m.  In fact, by 2:00 when it hadn't shown up, we called them.  Oh, the truck broke down.  It'll be there tomorrow at 8:00 a.m.  Thanks for telling us!  Oh, and will the load still deliver on time?  They said it would--they were going to relay the trailer (one driver hauls it to the Bay Area, another driver with plenty of time still allowed to drive picks it up and takes it the rest of the way, so the trailer itself keeps moving, even though there are laws keeping any one driver from driving too many hours in a row.)

Wednesday, guess what, no trailer by 8:00 a.m.!  I'm sure you're shocked at this point.  We called at 9:00, and the driver was "about an hour out."  Except not, because he actually arrived at 10:30.  And surprise, surprise, didn't know anything about breaking down.  Heh.  (To give the company the benefit of the doubt, it is possible they sent us a different driver than the one that had broken down the day before--it's not like they're good at communicating what's actually going on, considering they can't even be bothered to communicate that they'll be DAYS, and not just hours, late.)

We got him on his way in less than an hour, so then the wait begins to see if he arrives on time.

Anyone want to make bets?

Thursday morning, the customer calls to ask where their load is, so we check in with the freight company.  They claim the truck broke down (same truck, different truck?  probably doesn't matter, as it's probably not true in any case.  sheesh!).

My boss sent a nastygram to the freight company, but I'm not sure how good an idea that is, since they still have our load in their possession...  They called the customer, then called us back, and said they'd deliver at 4:00.  Considering the customer had originally told us they couldn't take delivery after noon, that's kind of hard to believe, so our sales guy called them to confirm that they had, indeed, said that that time would be okay.

At 5:00, the other two guys in the office were both literally walking out the door when the phone rang.  I was going to be staying late to print some personal documents (with permission), so I went ahead and answered the phone.  It's our customer, saying that the driver not only hasn't shown up, but hasn't called and he's heard NOTHING.  Surprise again.

We called the freight carrier, and based on what I overheard of one side of the conversation, the person answering the phone wasn't a rocket scientist.  They said the driver was 8 miles away (which in southern California could still mean a significant amount of time).  They first said they couldn't give us the driver's phone number, then they did give it but said he wouldn't be able to answer because he was driving.  Sure enough, no answer.  We called our customer back, and he had had to send his crew (who would be able to unload the truck) home, so they're going to turn the truck around if/when it arrives and tell the driver to return at 7:00 a.m.

I got into work at 8:00 and asked my boss whether this load had delivered, and guess what?
It actually did!!!  Can you even believe it?  But I guess we've been reminded why we haven't used this trucking company in forever, and I'm pretty sure we won't be using them EVER again.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

The stupid, it burns

Presented without comment, except to say that this is in a FB group about horseshoeing: