Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Photo Shoot

My friend, VH, is hoping to sell her pony, and asked if I'd take some sale photos and video.  I said sure, so she hauled over to my barn for the supposedly better scenery (we didn't know about the backhoe), and took video of him being groomed, tacked, ridden, and loaded in the trailer, plus some stills:

Saturday, June 23, 2012


I went out to the barn tonight to bring Trigger in from turnout, and when he heard my car, he put his head up in the air to listen and confirm it was me.  I slowed down, rolled my window down, and hollered to him.  He trotted over to the gate.   How awesome is that?  Yeah, I do love this horse.

I parked the car and walked back to get him.  He was waiting patiently for me:

He had clearly enjoyed at least one good roll while he was out there.

I had just been cleaning the house, and was planning to shower as soon as I got home, so I went to the barn in what I'd been wearing--stretch pants and a tank top.  I opened the gate, put his halter on, and right then, a couple of fat raindrops fell.  Great...  Oh well.  Oops, those aren't raindrops--they're big giant hailstones!  Trigger didn't like them hitting the roof of the hangar near the gate, and was kind of spazzing out, plus neither of us was enjoying them hitting US.  So I took him back through the still-open gate, released the lead rope, and he trotted over between two trees and just huddled there.  I was standing at the gate, with hail hitting me harder an harder every second, and decided to join Trigger.  It probably helped a little, but I was still being pelted with hail, and now also juniper "crap" (the dead material on the tree that falls out in a strong wind or, you know, hail).  So I got exfoliated on all my bare skin, I guess.

It didn't let up for a while, but Trigger left the cover and went out into the worst of it, with his tail to the wind and his head down in grazing position, but he wasn't actually eating.  He drooped his ears to protect them from hail getting in, I assume, and just stood there miserably.

I asked him if he wanted to go in now, and he looked agreeable, so I clipped the rope back on and we headed out of the pasture.  The hail was still pelting down, and now there was rain mixed in.  It was pretty miserable, so I started jogging, and Trigger happily trotted along exactly in time and at the same pace.  He did not love all the puddles, plus all the heavy machinery near the arena, but cooperated just fine.  He got to his pen, and resumed the position, until I jiggled his grain (an hail pellets) at him.  He started scarfing it down.  His pen doesn't have any trees or other shelter, so I asked the barn manager if she would please move him at least to the pen next door which does have trees, or possibly even into a stall (there's an empty one) overnight.  Wonder if it'll happen...

Friday, June 22, 2012


I started this post Wednesday night, finished it Thursday, and am editing it Friday.  I'm a lot calmer and more rational now, but figured I'd keep the majority of what I originally wrote, to document my feelings at the time.

SweetPea and VH and I were going to ride on the trails tonight (Wednesday).  VH was kind enough to trailer two of her horses out (one for SweetPea to ride, since Flash is off after the endurance ride).  I got there a little before they did, got Trigger out, took him to the arena but he didn't feel like running or rolling, so I took him down to the tree, groomed him, and tacked him up.  The gals showed up and got their horses ready.  I took Trigger to the mounting block and got on.  He felt fine, and I actually felt fairly good, too.  A few butterflies, but I was ready to DO this thing.  I walked him toward the barn to meet the gals and their horses, and as we approached the barn, he sped up a little.  I went to turn him so we'd be perpendicular to the barn instead of headed right INTO it, and he got pissy.  At first I figured he was just evading, like the night before when we were trying to get him to go back into the roundpen.  But then there was no mistaking it--he crowhopped.

I was worried about coming off in an unplanned way, plus worried his saddle wasn't fitting right (when we moved it forward before, he didn't buck anymore after), so I hopped off and moved his saddle forward.  SweetPea didn't believe me that he crowhopped, and thought I was just being paranoid.

With the saddle fixed, I took him back down to the mounting block and got on him again.  This time, he hardly waited before he started getting pissy.  I stayed on for a bit, and even had a brief moment of "I can stay on through this" but then the hops got a little bigger and I really panicked.  It didn't help that SweetPea was telling me to get off, and VH was telling me to stay on.  I bailed...if I'm gonna hit the ground, I want it to be feet-first and on purpose.

Of course, now I've taught him that if he acts up enough, I get off.  So VH took him to the round pen and got on and walked and trotted him around in circles without much (if any?) fuss.  I was in tears, and trying to fight them, but just so frustrated with him and the troubles I've been having, with myself for not having the balls to just stay on him and ride it out, with the barn for completely unrelated reasons (more on that later, plus more I haven't really written about in here), and had a ton of thoughts racing through my head.  The tears just kept flooding out.  SweetPea and I chatted and I wept while VH rode.  I suggested they trail ride without me.  VH offered to let me ride one of her horses, but I honestly didn't feel like I should be getting on a horse in the state I was in.  So they left, DW (the horse) went crazy, and I felt overwhelmed all over again.  He seemed like he just might trample me while going insane when his buddy left.  I managed to get him into the roundpen and took the "bit" portion of the bridle off (it's a hackamore, but I undid the "bit hangers" from the convertible halter/bridle), and let him go be crazy.  VH had said it was fine to leave his saddle on and that he wouldn't roll, but I worried.  I settled in to a lawnchair nearby to watch the fireworks.  He paced and called, and even bucked and reared a time or two, but then seemed to settle in. 

I needed to pick up the poop DW had deposited on the lawn, so I got out the poop rake and a wheelbarrow, and took care of it, then decided a little physical labor might do me some good, and if nothing else, I could cry while I scooped poop just as well as I could cry sitting in a chair, so I went to clean Trigger's paddock.  I don't know how long it had been since it had last been cleaned, but this is how it looked when I started:

This is how many wheelbarrows full of poop I removed (luckily it was sun-baked and lightweight, but unfortunately, it didn't provide the physical labor aspect I was kind of hoping for):

Yes, FIVE wheelbarrows full.  Well, not SUPER full, because the poop was so light it would have bounced out if I'd heaped it really high.  The final load was way too full, but then I piled wet gross hay on top of it, so it mostly stayed put while I wheeled it down the bumpy trail to the manure pile.  Here's the paddock when it was done:

And this is the pile of crappy hay that was in front of his feeding tub.  It's quite a ways from his water, so I don't think he got it wet on his own, or that it got wet when they dumped the water (though I guess it's possible, if it was FULL when they dumped it and it traveled that far before soaking in).  I haven't had him long, but I know Trigger well enough to know he wouldn't pee in his food.  The other option is the hay was already like that and they tried to feed it to him but he wouldn't touch it.

You can't really tell in these photos that it was completely soggy, and much yellower than the fresh clean hay in his bucket.

But it was BLACK under it--I don't know how long it had been there.  I hadn't noticed it the night before, but might have just assumed it was with his good hay (or it might have been under good hay, and he picked the good stuff off and/or the good stuff got ruined by the bad stuff).
Anyway, my mind is racing with anxiety, frustration, sadness, and anger (the anger is directed solely at the barn manager, don't worry).

My mind is reeling with thoughts and options.  The way I see it, I have a few options:

  • Sell him and turn around and buy a plodder of a horse I can build my confidence with.  Does this just delay the inevitable, since I do want to do endurance, and will eventually want an Arab, which will likely come with "issues" that will need confidence?  I don't WANT to sell Trigger--I really like his personality, and he's great on the ground, I'm just afraid to ride him at this point.
  • Sell him and focus on losing weight and taking lessons.  This is a tempting option.  Not that I want to sell Trigger--I'm not one to back out of a commitment, and as I mention above, I love HIM, I'm just too afraid of hitting the ground.  But if I spent board money on a gym membership and lessons, I would be better prepared to buy a horse in the fall, when everyone's trying to sell so they don't have to feed a horse through the winter.  I can still help my friends at their endurance rides to get my "fix," and would probably be able to ride their dead-broke horses once in a while.  Or maybe even join up with that riding program again to get occasional riding in on dead-heads.
  • Keep him, and get lessons and/or training.  I'm thinking a combination of a trainer who is willing to get on him and teach him what's what (and maybe even start him in a bit and refine his bending and lateral cues, etc.) and an instructor who will teach me how to work with Trigger (first on the ground, then riding) as well as improving my riding on one of their own horses, if such qualities exist all in one person in this area.  This is likely an expensive proposition, doesn't solve my boarding problems, but means I get to keep working with a horse I like, and don't have to go back to the drawing board on searching for a horse.
I'm honestly concerned I'm too big for him, hence leaning toward the middle of those three options--losing weight before getting back into horses.  CAN a horse carry my weight?  Yes.  Should it have to?  Not really.  And I'll feel better and be a better rider if I drop 50 pounds or so.

Well, now it's Friday, and I'm leaning toward keeping him, and working with a trainer.  Yep, the most expensive option.  Ugh.  But I do love HIM, just need to build MY confidence and ride through it.  AND lose weight.  Hmm...

Anyone recommend a trainer/instructor who works with human and and horse and has good school horses I can regain confidence on?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Sunriver - Post-Ride

When I left off, horses and riders had just crossed the finish line, and vetted in safe and sound.  They weren't first, but they also weren't last.

Hutch was exhausted, so I offered to let her drive my car while I walked her horse back to camp.  Actually, I offered to walk BOTH horses back so SweetPea could ride, too, but she opted to walk.  We were parked at the FAR end of camp from the vet check, so it was a bit of a hike.  When we got back, I was glad I'd had the forethought to pick up poop and fill their feed and water before leaving, 'cause I was pretty tuckered out, too, plus the horses got to dive right in.

Don't even think about bothering me while I'm eating!
Once their bellies were full, the horses rested their tired bodies, including their feet and legs.

Once they were safe and sound, the people got some snacks, drinks, and sleep.  SweetPea hit the hay (har!) around 7 or 7:30.  Hutch wasn't TOO far behind her, and even I was ready for bed by 8:30 or so.  I read for a few minutes, and fell asleep before 9:00.  SweetPea got up to go to the bathroom at some point, and I noticed it was a bit light out, and honestly had no clue if it was dawn or dusk, but it was 9:45 or so.  We actually ended up chatting for a while, then we both went to sleep and I don't think either of us was aware of the world at ALL until 6:30 or 7:00 a.m.

The awards meeting was at 8:00, so we got up, got dressed, fed the horses, and moseyed on down to the front of camp.  The completion award was a "jar of cookies" (all the dry ingredients, plus instructions to make the cookies), which was cool.  Their time was 9 hours 24 minutes, and there were two riders who finished after them and completed, plus a few pulls.  That was about what they were aiming for, since it was a first 50 for all of them--no need to break the horses trying to come in first!  The fact that they all finished happy and healthy is the important thing!

I think Hutch's daughter (in hot pink) was more excited than her mom about getting cookies as a prize.

SweetPea's friend from southern Oregon camped next to us and volunteered during the ride.  They said goodbye, but not for long--both will be going to the Pacific Crest ride in a couple months.

So, as SweetPea said, her (and Hutch's) first 50 is "in the books."  Read about the ride from her perspective on her blog.

Parting thoughts:
  • It really doesn't matter what you look like in endurance--there are people of all shapes and sizes (though the more miles and faster times they ride, they ARE typically skinnier and skinnier), all types and colors of outfits, all types and colors of tack.
  • Ride Managers are absolutely INSANE, but also absolutely THE BEST.  I can't imagine all the logistics to put a ride on, and bless them for doing it!
  • Volunteers are what make the actual ride run--the Ride Manager puts it all together, but can't actually run the entire ride.  I enjoyed volunteering last time, and enjoyed crewing this time, but wouldn't be able to crew for "my" riders without enough volunteers manning the vet checks and marking trails and on and on and on...
  • Next time, more people water and ice, both at camp and out at the vet checks.
  • I don't think there's another type of event where you will see this many men in tight pants.  It takes a brave soul to wear jeans in endurance, but a whole different type of bravery to wear riding tights or breeches.
  • Horses, and nearly everything to do with them, are awesome.  That is all.

See you at the next ride--I'll most likely be crewing, at least at the finish line!

Wild Green Yonder

I hope to finish up the photos and blogging the rest of the weekend (it's not over just because you reach the finish line!), but first...

I went out to see Trigger last night, and SweetPea was headed out from her house with one of her horses, Storm, who's going to spend the rest of the summer on a nice pasture in a different part of town, and I texted her to see if she was coming over, and she said she would just bring Storm by on her way, so that's what happened.  We decided not to bother getting Storm out of the trailer, and just ride Trigger right there on the property.  We got him tacked up, I lunged him a bit, and SweetPea got on first for me.  She's so nice that way.  (Don't pay any attention to her form--the stirrups were way too long for her, and we didn't bother adjusting them.)

Then I got on, and rode him both directions, walk and trot, and halted and backed a time or two.  No antics, just a plodding horse.  He was probably bored out of his mind, frankly.  I had butterflies in my tummy, but was a lot less nervous than the last time.

Once I felt pretty comfortable, I asked SweetPea to open the gate and let us out into the big wide world.  There is a wooden "bridge" at the entrance to the roundpen, but Trigger's been over it a ton of times and doesn't care, so I wasn't worried about that.  My only concern was him trying to eat the grass, since hand-grazing in that patch of grass is a pretty common reward for him.  :-)  He did lower his head a few times, but was a pretty good boy.  I even trotted him a bit on the grass.  Honestly, I was more comfortable out there, because it's probably a little better to land on the ground there than in the round pen.  :-)

And we're off...into the wild green yonder!

After 10 minutes of happy experiences, I was ready to dismount and call it a day, but SweetPea, in her infinite wisdom, said I should take him BACK into the roundpen.  So we headed that direction.  I saw a rubber ball there that wasn't one Trigger had played with before and wondered aloud whether he would be curious and/or bothered by it.  I don't know whether he sensed that, would have been curious about it anyway, or if it wasn't even the ball but was just entering the roundpen again that he didn't like (probably the latter), but he didn't want to go in.  If it had been prior to the bucking incident, I would have swatted him and made him go on into the roundpen, but any anomaly in his gait or how his back feels under me has me nervous, so I didn't like him dancing and prancing around to avoid going into the gate.  I'd circle him around and come back, and he'd still prance a bit.  Finally SweetPea got sick of it and just grabbed the halter and he walked right in.  Sheesh!

We did a couple of circles in the roundpen, including going toward the gate and away from it, then I got off (mighty ungracefully--I really need to work out!).

After that, I followed SweetPea out to the pasture where she was taking Storm.  Another horse of hers (plus a third horse belonging to a friend of hers) were already out there, and she's been telling me how much Trigger looks like Goodwin.  Goodwin also has Arab and Saddlebred in his lines, though I think he's also got some Thoroughbred--I forget the exact propotions.  When we arrived and I saw two chestnut horses in the field, of course I had no way ot knowing which was Goodwin.  But as soon as I saw the two horses trotting, I knew instantly.  The other one is a breeding stock (i.e. solid-colored) Paint, and has a typical QH/Paint gait.  But Goodwin had a lovely floaty trot just like Trigger.  Sure enough, closer inspection shows the same face, same curious personality, and same build (narrow!).  If you painted Trigger orange, they would be twins.  (Goodwin is the one with the cute tiny star, Dusty is the Paint and has a big, equally cute, blaze.)

So, that was yesterday.  Today, we hit the trails!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Sunriver - The Ride

So, I left off with the riders leaving from the starting "gate."  There isn't really an official starting line.  There is an official start time for each distance, and at or after that time, the riders just give their number to the start timer, who marks down the time on the official log, and they can leave.  The more competitive riders arrive at the start area in advance, and leave at the official ride time all in a pack, at a brisk pace.  Others wait a little longer, go in pairs or alone, and might leave at a more controlled pace.  Each distance has a time limit (counted from the start time of that distance, not the time a given rider leaves), which for the 50s is 12 hours, so there is incentive to leave earlier rather than later, but a few extra minutes might mean the difference between an out-of-control horse in a pack of racers and a much calmer ride with the fast riders already out of sight.

I watched "my" riders take off, then as I was turning to head back to camp, saw a different rider and probably her crew person trying to convince a horse that the race would be FUN.  It seemed to me (and a couple other spectators) that the horse was in pain, not just pissy or anxious, but the rider insisted she'd be fine once they got going.  (I did see her later, and the horse did seem normal, and she assured me she'd been right and the horse did settle in just fine once they started.)

As I was walking back to camp, I saw an acquaintance I met at Grizzly who had just hauled in for the day to ride in the 30-mile ride, and chatted with her for a bit.  Alas, I didn't get any pictures.  I did hear that she and her (recently spayed) mare did complete the 30, though.  Yay!

At camp, I scooped the poop from the pens, put away the horse blankets, filled the hay feeders, cleaned and filled the water buckets, and made sure I had everything I needed to bring to all the vet checks:  both riders' gear and feed, cooler full of water, Gatorade, and snacks for humans, directions to the vet checks, stethoscope (to help with pulsing if I had time), camera, sunscreen, etc. etc. etc.  My entire back seat was full with the four gear bags/bins they had, my trunk was full with my cooler and clothes basket of stuff, and my front seat held my camera, stethoscope, and directions to the vet checks.

I headed off, following a combination of the directions to the first and second vet checks, and arrived at the second vet check before the vets did.  I took my time setting out the gear, adding apple juice to the horse feed, and making sure I had my stethoscope and camera at the ready.  I wandered over to the vet check area and chit chatted with the other volunteers and eventually the vet, until finally someone hollered "horse!" and it all seemed very exciting until we realized there were like four of us to pulse one horse.  :-)  I did eventually pulse a couple of horses, and did just fine at it, in my completely unbiased opinion, while waiting to hear from SweetPea and Hutch that they were on their way to the vet check.

VC2, looking upstream.  The horses, unfortunately, weren't allowed to be in or near the river, so this was the only time I got to enjoy the view.


From the river, looking at the water troughs, mid-meadow rocks, porta-potty, and vet tent.
The rider currently in 1st place on the 50 mile ride as of the 2nd vet check.  She did win it, too, I believe.

Trot out for the vet

 We didn't know what their cell coverage would be like, but the plan was for them to call or text when they thought they were about 30 minutes from the vet check.  That gave me time to finish up anything I might be in the middle of, then start walking up the trail to meet them and take some photos before they hopped off the horses to walk the last little bit into the vet check. 

I got a text at around 10:00 a.m. that they were about 4 miles away.  Hmm...four miles at a walk (i.e. an hour or so) or four miles at a fast trot (20 minutes or so)?  She didn't respond to that question, so I waited a while, then took off down the trail.  I should have used bug spray first, but other than that, it was pleasant.

The mantra of the riders in the 50:  blue and pink; blue and pink; blue and pink

I met a couple of riders and took their photos and talked nice to their horses (but still startled one when I spoke after being silent for like 30 seconds), and waited for SweetPea and Hutch.

The horse in the back is the one that was bucking at the start.  She seems calm enough here, though.

They took longer than I expected--I guess they were walking, but arrived nonetheless.

Could it be?

It looks like Hutch is singin' a song.  All four were in good spirits.

SweetPea and her boy, Flash
I took their photos as they approached, then walked with them to the vet check, pointed them where to go, and fetched horse food and people water.  The hay was a bit away from the vet check area, and the water was further still.  We camped out near the water troughs, and brought a small amount of hay over for the boys to eat.  And EAT they did.  I don't think either of them stopped eating during the entire hour hold, between the mush made from grain and apple juice, the hay (both grass and alfalfa), and the grass growing right there under their feet.  I fetched more water for the humans as necessary, held the horses while they used the facilities and fetched hot dogs (there were some guys there grilling hot dogs for the riders, crew, and volunteers--how awesome is that?), refilled the water bottles they were carrying, and tried to make myself useful.  An hour flew by, so I literally shoved SweetPea into the saddle (we'd joked about me having to so many times, I had to do it, even though she didn't really need me to).

I don't think Leo ever raised his head from grazing position the entire on hour hold.

Somewhere along the line, Leo had been taught that it's not polite to paw.  That didn't rid him of the instinct, though, so while eating (and sometimes when he wasn't, though I didn't see Leo without food in his face very often), he would raise his knee and sometimes swing his foot around in mid-air, without ever actually pawing at the ground.

I raced down the trail to get ahead of them and take some more photos.

After they were off down the trail, I cleaned up all the mess we'd made and started off toward VC3.  They only had 11 miles to ride, and I had to drive at least that many miles, so I was in a bit of a rush to make sure to beat them there and have everything ready again.  Most of the miles were on lovely wide smooth gravel road, then paved road, but the last 3 miles or so were on a hellish dirt road with GIANT holes and ruts.  But I love a challenge, so I tore down the road as fast as I felt I could.

Trust me when I say they looked worse in person.  I heard an SUV lost a headlight because they bonked into the far side of a hole with the front end of their rig!

Right up until I found myself behind a 4x4 going about half the speed I had been going in my Camry.  They did NOT take a hint to let me pass, so I got to watch them attempting to navigate this road.  I've been driving dirt and gravel roads since I had my license (and passengering them long before that), and was dating a guy who was REALLY into off-roading (built a couple of rigs pretty much from scratch), so I'd learned a few things over the years.  Things like judging whether I can clear a rock or need to go around it.  Things like if you can't clear a rock and can't go around it, the best choice is to put your tire(s) right on it so you don't have to clear it with the underside of your vehicle.  Things like when there's a giant rut in the road that you can straddle, and it parallels your path of travel, you don't need to worry about it--you're straddling it and driving as if you didn't have a rut between your tires will work just fine.  Things like which rocks and ruts to slow down for, but that you don't have to hit your brakes for EVERY anomaly in the road.  The people in front of me knew NONE of these things, and I was worried about making it in time, and stuck behind them.

Well, it turns out I did beat the girls to the vet check.  I got the cold water out and set it in the shade near the horse water trough.  I got the feed out, added apple juice, and set it near the hay that was provided.  I got my stethoscope and camera out and brought them with me to sit in the shade.  And I got to sit in the shade for quite a long while.  It turns out they walked nearly all of the 11 miles.  In fact, it was so long that the ride volunteers thought the food and water I'd brought belonged to someone that had come and gone (it was only a 15 minute hold, and my stuff was probably sitting there for an hour or more), and loaded it up into the gear truck, and I had to get it back out.  :-)  The cell service must have been spotty, because I got a text that they were 1/4 mile out, and got up to walk down the trail a bit, and they were arriving.  So I didn't get very good on-trail photos of them arriving.

I think Flash is the only one still rarin' to go at this point.

Flash (SweetPea's horse) vetted through without a hitch, but Leo (Hutch's horse) didn't have any gut sounds.  This CAN be cause for alarm, but is also common in a horse (or human or whatever) that's expending a lot of energy--the digestive system shuts down while you're working.

 So we sponged the horses with cold water and gave them lots of food to eat and digest.  By the end of the 15 minute hold, Leo's gut sounds weren't QUITE there, plus the humans were still hot and weary, so they waited a little extra time.  Leo's gut sounds improved, he passed the vet check, and the ladies doused themselves with cold spring water once more before hitting the trail.

The ride manager had said at the ride meeting that crew would not be able to beat the riders back to camp from VC3, but I was determined to try (plus knew they'd be going relatively slow, since they were so tired), so I BOOKED it down that bumpy road, and got into camp, asked the timer if they'd come in, and they hadn't.  In fact, it was about 20 minutes longer before they showed up.

Could these two girls BE any happier? 

SweetPea trotting Flash out for the final vet check

Hutch was running with VIGOR to get this thing over with!

Tired Leo

Tired Flash, apparently protesting this vintage of water or something

Hmm...is there a beer named after horse drool yet?  If not, there totally should be.

And that brings us through the end of the actual race.  Next, more tired horsie photos in their pens, and the Sunday wrap-up with awards and breaking camp.