Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day Weekend

My sister came to visit me for Memorial Day weekend.  My birthday falls around then, and it's a nice time to visit, and she hadn't been down this way since last Memorial Day.  She brought two dogs with her, her own dog Dylan plus a dog she's fostering, Leo.  Both are pit bulls (or mixes, or whatever), and both are sweet dogs with people but probably not cats, and I have three cats, so we worked all weekend to keep them separated.

She arrived Friday, but we just had dinner and hung out at home, playing games.

Saturday, I wanted to introduce her to one of my favorite hiking/wogging/dog-friendly spots--Shevlin Park.  She took Dylan, and I took Leo.  That boy is STRONG, and started out VERY gung-ho for our hike, pulling and pulling at the leash.  We let them play in the water a little bit right at the beginning of our hike, where we crossed the creek, but then we set off on the Tumalo Loop Trail, that circles the park further away from the creek and higher up on a ridge, so we weren't going to have water access again until nearly the halfway point.  The dogs pulled up the hill, but were very polite when we met people on the trail.  We'd step off the trail and hold the dogs on a short leash so they wouldn't bother anyone.  We got to a spot where I knew there was a geocache, so Jen and Nathan set off to find it while I held onto the dogs.  They didn't love it when Jen walked away from us, but they soon realized she wasn't going far, I guess, so it went fine.

When we got to the bridge at the far end of the trail, we stopped and let the dogs play for quite a while.  Jen even put Dylan on the 30-foot leash she has for him (so I swiped his shorter leash to add length to Leo's), but couldn't let him fetch the floating toy she has for him, as it would get swept downstream in the current.  The dogs played for a little while, but soon we headed downstream in the trail that runs right alongside the creek most of the way.  We stopped at a few spots to let the dogs play in the water (and drink), including a spot that was protected enough by some logs that Jen COULD throw the toy for Dylan, which of course, he loved.

I tried to get some photos of Leo, but he wasn't cooperating.  He was too interested in what Dylan was doing.

Sunday, my uncle called.  He was in town (he lives in Boise, but my aunt has family here in Bend) and knew it was near my birthday, so wanted to take me out for a little treat.  I told him Jen was here, too, and all three of us met up at a Starbucks for a tasty drink.  We told him we were headed out to do some geocaching and let the dogs play in a pond, and he was welcome to join us.  He did just that.

We went to the Hatfield "Lakes," reclamation ponds for the water department.  The boys got to play in the water, though the shoreline was muddy and the water was full of algae, so it was a pretty messy proposition.  After the boys had had their fun, we found a couple geocaches, my uncle left to meet up with his wife, and Jen and I found another cache or two then jogged back to the car (me, with the help of Leo pulling to propel me!).  We had just gotten back to the car and were about to give the dogs some water when we spotted another dog.  It had a collar, but not a leash, but there were no other humans in sight.  It was clearly a loved pet, though, and came right up to us.  So Jen read the tags and called the numbers.  The first one went to voicemail but the second one got through to the guy half of the couple that owned him.  He was in the same area, out jogging, and the dog had ran off back to the car and wouldn't come when he called him.  So Jen and I hung out with Peluche (the dog) and waited for his owner(s) to come back.  In the meantime, we realized he was incredibly thirsty and had some sore paw pads (cut/torn from the rocks), so we rested with him in the shade where he could stay off his feet and just hang out and wait for his people.  Jen's dogs waited in the car (AC running and windows cracked) and were NOT happy at this turn of events, but they survived.  :-)

Once the owner came, we set off looking for access to the next further "lake" by car rather than hiking there, and Jen did some rugged off-roading in her Camry, but there was a barbed wire fence with "No Tresspassing" signs, which even if we wanted to disobey them (since we knew we were allowed on the other side), would be a pain to get two humans and two impatient dogs through.  So we headed home without getting out of the car.

Here's what Leo looks like after two days of fun in the sun, "sand" (Central Oregon grit), and water:

Monday, the plan was for a horseback ride before Jen headed home.  A few weeks ago, I put out a request to the universe (well, a couple Facebook groups) for a spare horse--someone to ride their own horse plus bring an extra for either me or Jen to ride while the other rode Arya.  Linda volunteered--yay!  So Jen and I went to Shar's house, got Arya out, put the dogs into a stall in the barn (so they wouldn't get too hot in the car when the shade inevitably moved), and groomed Arya.  We were in the middle of tacking her up (figuring we could do a little warm-up ride there in the arena if we got to that point before Linda showed up), when Linda arrived.  I had asked if she had room and minded hauling Arya to a nearby trailhead area so we could ride trails that were familiar to me, but cut out the part where you have to ride on dirt roads to get there.  That was fine with her, so after finishing up with Arya, I took her over to the trailer.  There were two mules in the trailer, a gelding further back, and a mare/jenny closer to the door of the trailer.  I led Arya in far enough that the two horses could "introduce" themselves, and waited for the expected squeal that always seems to happen when two mares meet each other.  Sure enough, they did, and Arya backed out.  That was fine, I expected that and was ready.  Then I loaded her in again.  She was a little more unsure this time, but hopped right in.  The mule twitched a little or something, and Arya went flying back out, so I loaded her a third time, with more authority, and she hopped right into place and I clipped the trailer tie and off we went (after loading the rest of my tack into the tack room of the trailer).  Linda had room for all of us in her cab (sort of), so we all squeezed together for a short but cozy ride.

At the trailhead, I asked Linda what she was thinking, as far as who should ride which equine.  I'd filled her in on the fact that my sister was a rank newbie (been on a horse a few times, but always years apart), and I was green but with a bit more experience than that.  She told me that the worst the mule was likely to do was spook sideways three feet, as he has a cloudy eye that probably affects his vision.  He'd also probably want to check things on that side out really well, and preferred to follow other horses, for the same reason.  Hmm...I wasn't sure I could sit a three foot levitation spook, but didn't want to subject Jen to that, either.  Plus she'd kind of fallen in love with the idea of riding Arya, and even more so when she saw the cushy saddle setup I've got going.  Plus we were both wearing tennies, and I have caged stirrups on Arya's saddle, but the mule had regular western stirrups.  So the decision was made--Jen would ride Arya, and I'd ride Nabob the 22-year-old mule gelding.  Linda was riding the jenny mule (shoot--I forget her name!) that belonged to someone else and she didn't know much about, so there was never a question of either Jen or me riding that particular equine.

The horses had all been saddled for the brief trailer ride, so we just had to bridle them, tighten the cinches, and decide on helmets for everyone, and we were off.  We hadn't grabbed a mounting block, but there are some big rocks nearby that work almost as well.  I did a little "check-in" lunging with Arya, just a circle each direction at the walk, but she was really good and dialed in.  Yay!  So I led her over to the rocks, and helped Jen on.  Checked the stirrups and the cinch one more time, then mounted my own steed.  I'd had to guess on the stirrup length and it worked out perfectly.  It was weird to be on another horse for the first time in a while, and he was quite a bit narrower than Arya so that too a brief second to get used to, then my hips thanked me.  :-)  Linda mounted up too, and we hit the trail.

Somehow, I ended up in the lead on the mule that doesn't like to lead, but he did fine.  We changed positions a few times throughout the ride, and it was all good.  I even rode side-by-side with both Jen on Arya and Linda on her mule a couple times throughout the ride.  No biggie.

It was fun to get to see Arya from a different angle, and I took a few pictures:

Fairly early in the ride, we saw a coyote up ahead.  I don't know that Arya's ever seen a coyote (and of course I have no idea about the mules).  They saw it too, but didn't seem fazed in the least.  Not sure if they just thought it was another dog (they've all ridden with dogs alongside) or what.  But it was a non-event, other than being cool for us humans to see.  Then about midway through the ride, we saw another coyote.  How cool!  Sorry--I didn't get photos, though.  I was in the back of the pack, and wanted to keep two hands on the reins in case any of the horses spooked.  In think Linda got some, though...

My biggest worry with Jen riding Arya was her stopping to eat or rub her face, and Jen not being able to get her going if she didn't want to go.  I usually ride with a dressage whip for those occasions, but didn't want Jen to have to hassle with it (and after the switch to an endurance saddle, don't even have a horn to hang it from by its makeshift rubber band wrist strap).  Arya did GREAT in this regard throughout most of the ride.  But at one point, we stopped and opted to LET the equines eat, and Arya kind of started wandering around looking for the best treat, and Jen was just a passenger along for the ride.  But when we set off down the trail again, Jen was in full control and it was fine.

At our snack (for the equines) break

As we reached the far point of our ride and headed back to the trailer, at one point Jen asked Arya to go faster, and she started trotting.  She was in the lead and headed for the trailer, and didn't want to slow down when Jen tried asking her to.  Linda gave her some pointers (pull on just one rein), and she got her under control.  Whew!  We maintained a calm walk back toward the trailer.

We'd had some freak rainstorms in the past few days, so the puddles that had long ago dried up were back.  I told Jen that Arya didn't love crossing water, and I didn't need her (Jen) trying to train her (Arya), so she should just give the puddles a wide berth.  We did that throughout most of the ride (me, too, on a new-to-me critter), but then Linda led the way through a puddle that was on a road with deep enough ruts that the berm in the middle extended quite a ways into the puddle, so before Arya knew it, she had nowhere to go but through.  I worried she'd try to jump out to the side, but she just plodded right through like it was the most natural thing in the world.  Maybe the big river crossings at Smith Rock taught her there are worse things than little mud puddles.  I was so proud of Jen and Arya!!

We were nearly back to the trailer, and debating heading up a steep hill to a plateau that provides some good views.  You have to kind of scramble up a non-trail with some boulders and such.  All the equines were sure-footed enough I was sure we'd get up just fine.  However, I've never ridden Arya on steep terrain in the new saddle, and didn't have either a breastcollar or a crupper or anything on it (the mules were fully kitted out with breastcollars and breeching/britchen/whatever you call it that goes around their butts), plus Jen being inexperienced, I wasn't sure it was the best idea.  But I figured we'd probably make it up okay, and all of us, or maybe just Jen, could get off and lead down the hill.  We were debating this option when we spotted a deer out ahead of us.  All the horses have seen plenty of deer, and last time I saw them while riding Arya, it was solo and she barely batted an eyelash.  So we just kind of followed along behind the deer.

All of a sudden, the mule I was on wheeled around 180 degrees and started galloping off through the brush.  I had to duck an overhead branch at one point, and he headed for a branch on the ground I was afraid he'd jump at another point, but he just went over it right in stride.  He put his head down like he was going to buck, and I was really worried because my foot had started going through the stirrup and it doesn't have cages (it wasn't all the way through, though, luckily!), when he came to a stop near Arya, who was riderless.  Oh shit.  I hollered behind me to ask if Jen was okay.  I'd been at the tail end of our group, and when all the horses turned around while spooking, I became the lead horse of our little stampede.  So I didn't see what happened at all.  But apparently the deer bounded off, so one or more of the horses figured if the deer was "spooking," they needed to too, and the rest followed suit.  When Arya spun, Jen lost her balance, and when she started running, she lost her seat, and came off.  Luckily, she fell in a "soft" spot free of rocks and sticks, so she wasn't seriously hurt, but did have the wind knocked out of her, and of course will not feel good for the next few days.  Linda and I both managed to stay on (me by pure dumb luck, not through any riding skill!).  Once Arya stopped, she just stood there and I easily caught her and led both her and "my" mule back to Jen.  She checked out okay and stood back up.  I said it wasn't far back to the trailer, and we could just walk back if she wanted, but she knew the adage of getting back on the horse, and determined that she would do just that.

It was kind of tricky leading both equines to a decent mounting spot (we led them past the spot where they spooked, too, just to be safe) and arrange Arya while still holding Nabob.  I stood on the "off" side and put counterweight in that stirrup, and Jen got on at least as gracefully as you can expect for someone who'd just taken a tumble.  Deep breath.  :-)  I got back on Nabob, and Linda got back on her mount, and we headed back to the trailer at a sedate walk.  We really weren't far, and within a couple minutes it was in sight.  Apparently Arya didn't recognize this strange trailer (which she had loaded into hours before), and kind of snorted at it as we approached, but didn't full on spook.  Jen asked how to go about dismounting, and we kind of laughed at the fact that though she'd now mounted twice, she hadn't yet had to dismount.  :-)  I talked her through it, and she managed to get off safely and not fall down when she hit the ground, which is more than I can probably say for how I would've been.

We loaded the horses back up (Arya got in hesitantly, but in one try), hauled back to Shar's, put Arya away, got the dogs out of their prison, and I invited Linda to join us at the Pump House in Terrebonne for some lunch.  She saw someone she recognized there (small town!), and we had a nice lunch chatting about all sorts of things, and of course rehashing the spook/fall incident.  Jen doesn't blame Arya or me--"it just happens."  I asked if she didn't live so far away, and was around when the soreness wore off, if she'd be willing to ride her again, and she said she would.  So all's well that ends as well as it can, and we all live to ride another day.  Hope Jen doesn't stiffen up TOO much on her drive home, and isn't TOO sore tomorrow.  And that she's willing to ride again in the future if we can put together another borrowed horse or whatever next time.

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