Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Two rides, week of 7/27/15

I never posted about the ride Shar and I did...I wanna say Sunday?  There was another rider with us, too--a friend/boarder of hers named James, and his horse, Jag.  Shar was riding Dalai Lama, a horse she's borrowing from a friend of ours.  Flash is laid up, and Dalai needs riding and a dry lot (she is FAT), so Shar sent a couple horses to greener pasture's at K's house, and Dalai came to live with Shar for a while so Shar has a horse to ride.

So.  Shar and Dalai, James and Jag, and me and Arya set off on a little ride out from Shar's house.  Arya actually did great leaving the property--didn't pull any of her shenanigans that she does when we're alone.  The other two horses were both barefoot, so they were walking off the gravel road in the soft dirt whenever possible, but I was just keeping Arya on the gravel (we skipped the pads that protect the soles of her feet this last time, but she still has steel shoes all the way around that keep her up off the gravel, so should be fine).  So she gravitated toward the other horses a bit when they got very far from her, but not nearly as much as she gravitates toward home when we're riding solo.

The dogs barked and chased each other more than the horses (and their humans were out in the yard also), but none of the horses (two are new to this route) were bothered.  Jag has an old injury, though, that causes him to step really high with a hind leg, like he's trying to work a ligament into place or something, and James was hoping he'd "walk it off," though he never really did.  Poor guy doesn't seem to be in pain, but clearly something is wrong with it.  Shar's ridden Dalai before, but not for a long time, plus she was in a new-to-her saddle that wasn't the most comfortable, too, so between those two issues, we just stuck to a walk for the whole ride and just went around the block, plus a little spur off on a road for a bit.

Everything was going great until we met another rider (an acquaintance, actually) on the spur road.  We were headed away from home, and met the oncoming horse.  Arya's ears were up and she got really "excited" (not necessarily in a good way) to see the new horse.  I didn't want to do under-saddle introductions, so was trying to keep plenty of space, but also trying not to let her eat, and she did well at first, but eventually got antsy.  She kind of plowed into Dalai a bit (she doesn't have the most sensitive steering on a good day, and especially not when she has other things on her mind), so I told everyone that I needed to get her moving, and the group kinda broke up and we all continued on our way.  Oops, sorry!

Then things went fine for a bit until we turned around toward home.  We were very close to home, and Arya knew it.  She started hollering for her buddy/ies back home, and dancing and prancing.  After the first minute or so of jigging, I got her back to a sensible walk and we did some serpentines using the "hitchhiker thumb" we learned with Celena.  She was actually doing really well with that, and even Shar commented how good she was being.  Then something set her off again, and this time she would NOT come back to a walk.  She wasn't trotting FAST, but she also wasn't listening to me at all.  I tried the one-rein stop, I tried squeezing the other rein, nothing worked--her body stayed pointed toward home no matter what her head and neck were doing, and her feet kept trotting.  So when I got her to slow/stop enough for me to feel safe hopping off, I did.  I wanted to work her HARD, but didn't want to be on top if she got pissed off enough to buck or spin or whatever.  My foot almost got hung up in the stirrup, but luckily I got off safely, and I proceeded to make her work.  First we backed up a LOT.  Then we halted and just stood still.  I made her do a few circles (walking--did NOT need to amp up the energy at all).  When we finally went from "working" mode to "okay, let's head home" mode, the working didn't stop completely.  I'd halt every few steps to make sure she was paying attention to me, and back her up a step or two if she didn't stop immediately.  If she hollered for her buddies at ALL, we immediately stopped and backed up 15 steps or so.  Enough so that it hopefully reinforced that not only would she not get to go home right now, she was going to get FARTHER from home, and it wouldn't be much fun to do so (backing up is harder work than turning around and walking that direction would be).

She did eventually turn from kite-pony at the end of my string into a horse that was calmly walking beside me, and the hollering became further and further apart, though she never stopped hollering completely (and she bellowed to announce her arrival as we went in the driveway).  So.  I actually messaged Celena to ask if we can have a lesson AT Shar's place, so she can help give me some more/better tools for handling issues like this when they come up.  I mean, I don't think I handled it BADLY, but I'd sure like to cure her of her barn/buddy sourness, rather than just dealing with each incident as it happens.

Then last night, Shar and I went riding again.  Shar tried a couple other saddle/pad combos on Dalai Lama, and ended up riding in my cheap synthetic western saddle with my western saddle pad (it's thick in the front, to help keep the saddle off her withers even though her back is wide and pretty flat).  It has a nylon latigo strap, and could only go around through the ring on the cinch once, and could only tie, not buckle, so it wasn't the most secure setup, though I helped tighten it after Shar mounted up.  So I told her that if she only felt comfortable walking today, that was fine--a switch from when I'VE been the one limiting our pace.  :-)  But after a few minutes of walking, she felt comfortable trotting, so we threw in a few trot sessions throughout our ride, though with Dalai being barefoot (though she got shoes on today!) and lots of sections of trail being rocky (short sections, but it breaks up the stretches you can trot on), we didn't trot a whole lot.  Just as well, though--it was a nice evening to just be out there with our ponies.

We ended up at the far end of the trails we usually explore from a different trailhead, so that was funny when we recognized them, but we found our way back to the trailer no problem.  We heard what sounded like a whole pack of beagles, but may have just been two, howling and baying and making a god-awful ruckus.  The horses weren't thrilled.  Dalai was in the lead and was irritated but kept her ears forward, but Arya, being in the back, kept her ears and attention pointed backward to where the noise was coming from.  I'm glad we didn't trot on that section--Arya might've been in a big hurry to get away from the crazy noise and probably would've tripped even more than she did already.  And oh yeah, she tripped quite a few times.  Scary for me, but she never went fully down.  She stumbled slightly a few times.  Once, a hind foot felt like it sank, but I didn't turn around to see if it really did or just felt like it.  Another time, she kind of bumbled her way down a little rocky downhill section.  Sheesh.

We also saw a bunch of deer.  Shar pointed them out, but Arya hadn't seen them yet.  When she did, she startled a bit, but she's quite familiar with deer (Shar's neighbor FEEDS them!) so she wasn't worried.

We made it back to the trailer without incident, and without Shar's tack failing, so that's a win.  :-)  It was a beautiful evening for a ride.  Here are some photos:

Trying to take a selfie that included Shar.  Completely missed getting her in the photo.

There she is!  Even got Noelle!

Blurry, but she's there...

Shar's better at the selfie thing than I am...  (photo by Shar)

And she got a pic of me in front, too (photo by Shar)

When we got back, I tried to take a photo of Arya, but she kept walking toward me instead of posing...  Sigh.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Tales from the Workplace, Part XXII

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 require customers to pre-pay for their first load from us, then if they fill out a credit app and have good references, their second and subsequent orders can be paid for after they arrive (whether by credit card or check--up to them).

We have a new customer who prefers to communicate by text instead of e-mail or phone, so the sales guy has been using his personal cell phone to communicate with her by text.  He said we would need her credit card information before we could ship this order, so to please call the office to provide it.

Apparently she really really REALLY prefers text, as she just texted him a photo of the front and back of the card.

UPDATE:  I'm glad I delay posts, because oddly enough, just this morning (a couple months after I first typed this up), her payment was due for her second order, and she still hadn't filled out a credit app, so I ran her card, but it didn't go through, so I e-mailed her to let her know that it didn't go through and ask if she could call me with updated card into.  She asked if she could text us pictures of the card again, since it worked so well last time.  I said it didn't seem very secure to me, but if she wanted to go for it, it was fine by me. 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Trying the Pandora Saddle

Ever since I heard of Pandora saddles, I've been intrigued.  They're made of carbon fiber and weigh four pounds (before girth and stirrups, but still!).  They're nearly indestructible.  And they can be painted any virtually any color or pattern (seriously, their online gallery shows diamond checkerboard, racing stripes, glow in the dark, ombre, and many more options!), so that's an extra bonus over the boring colors of leather that are available (at least on most endurance saddles--there are some incredibly colorful saddles out there in the world).

So, since I board at Shar's house and we could therefore split the cost of the trial saddle (currently just the cost of shipping one or both ways, depending on whether they can set up a chain of people or not, but they may be changing to requiring an additional deposit soon), it seemed like it'd be worth it to check it out.  And it arrived!

Of course Shar got to try it out first, as I was stuck at work and in fact had other obligations so couldn't make it out there even after work on the day it arrived, so had to wait an extra day.  But Shar tried it on Flash, and even rode him around the block in it (even though he should be resting due to his shoulder, but she couldn't pass up a chance to take it on a real ride).  It took a little bit of fiddling for her to adjust the pads (there are pads made of memory-foam-like material that velcro to the saddle, and in addition to being able to shape the shims on a saddle you own if you want a perfect fit, they can be moved around (front to back, or farther apart or closer together) on the velcro to help change the fit from horse to horse.  After Shar rode Flash in it, her other boarder Holly showed up, so they tried it on the two horses she owns, including her endurance horse.  They didn't even bother with a girth on Ace--she mounted and rode without a girth at all!  They had to adjust the pads a bit between the various horses due to their different builds, but between the two of them, they felt like the saddle fit all three horses pretty darn well.

When I got there, I figured the TRUE test would be to see if it fit Arya.  She's been really hard to fit a traditional saddle to, because in addition to her being big all over (part draft), she's got wide shoulders.  Some horses' shoulder blades slide back and forth really close to their body, other horses (including Arya) have shoulder blades that kind of "wing out" when moving forward and back.  Plus they're just wide even when she's standing still.  So even though her back itself isn't SUPER wide (not as wide as a full draft anyway), her shoulders require a very wide tree in order not to pinch.

So when I got to Shar's I practically made a beeline for the saddle.  I knew they were light, but it was still lighter than I expected.  Wow!  I put it on Arya's back without any sort of saddle pad.  Not quite right, so I adjusted the pads a bit.  It still seemed to have a tiny bit more rock (curve like the base of a rocking chair, front to back along her spine) than her back does, but it was still amazing how well it fit.  Plus the pads are memory foam, so will compress a bit in the places it needs to to help the fit.  Shar came out and we played with the fit a little bit more, then she loaned me a thin felt pad (you're not supposed to use anything very thick under these saddles, since the pads that are velcroed to the saddle are cushy enough to act as a saddle pad as well, so you just need something to help with sweat and provide a barrier between the foam and the horse's back.  So we put the pad on, then the saddle, then the girth, and bridle, then I had to put on my gear, and then it was time to mount up.

Shar asked if I wanted her to take video of me mounting.  Uh, no.  Me mounting up is awkward on a good day, even in my own saddle.  This one has much less substance in the front for me to brace my hand on, so it was, indeed, rather un-graceful.  And at first, it felt kind of awkward--the stirrups are hanging from English-style leathers, so they're VERY moveable, and not nearly as stable as the fenders (WIDE leather) on my current saddle.  Plus the saddle is small in front (though the pommel is high) and it doesn't have any saddle bags on it like my saddle does, so it really felt insubstantial at first.  So the first few steps at the walk, I was a bit nervous, but I quickly felt how secure the seat of the saddle is (it's really high in front and in back), so knew I wasn't going anywhere front to back, and even sideways wasn't as insecure as I initially felt once I got used to it.

We went around the arena a couple times one direction, then a couple times the other.  One problem was that my protective vest is long in the back for protection, and the saddle has a high cantle in the back, so the vest kept catching on the saddle, which was annoying, but ultimately not an actual PROBLEM, per se.  However, it doesn't really do that in my current saddle.  The other big negative with the current setup was that the stirrup leathers are only an inch wide, plus they have zip ties on them to keep the end of the strap under control, so they were HIGHLY uncomfortable.  They'd need fleece covers, or I'd have to wear leg protection to ride very far in the saddle as it's currently set up, or if I bought one I'd probably want fenders instead of the thin stirrup leathers.

But the seat itself, even though it's hard (carbon fiber, painted, no padding at all, though you can add after-market padding in the form of sheepskin or even memory foam if you wanted) is actually quite comfortable.  Of course, I didn't ride far, but people who HAVE ridden far report that they're comfortable, and after my brief ride, I don't find that too hard to believe.  It has a big hole in the front of the seat, which is probably more comfortable for men, but also provides airflow.  It's funny, though, Shar asked how much space there was for Arya's spine under the saddle (you don't want the center of the saddle sitting directly on the horse's spine, but rather the side panels sitting on the muscles, with clearance for the spine in between), and so I reached under the front of the saddle toward the back to feel for space, and was like, "whoa--that's my crotch!"  I'm not use to there not being saddle there!  But I didn't actually notice the hole while riding, so either it's of neutral or positive comfort.

One thing, that's probably specific to ME, is that I tend to suck my legs backward while riding.  It's something Celena noticed when I asked for her help with my hip pain, and she had me not only move the attachment point of my stirrups forward on my saddle, but also work on keeping me FEET forward toward the horse's shoulder.  What feels like a "chair seat" to me is actually a correct seat, and when I feel correct, my feet are too far back.  Shar said she actually noticed when riding in the Pandora that she had to work at first to keep her feet in the correct position, and she warned me that I'd likely have the same trouble if not more so.  Sure enough, I had to consciously push my feet forward in order to have them in the proper position.  But due to the thinner stirrup leathers, it was much easier to put them there and even keep them there with this saddle than with mine.

After a few times around the arena at the walk, I was brave enough to trot, and while Shar said it took her a bit at the trot to find the proper position, I instantly felt comfortable, so that's good.  Of course, we didn't trot much, and it wasn't a very big trot (I stayed in the arena, but Shar took Flash out and around the block).  I didn't try cantering at all--it takes a very specific set of circumstances for me to be okay with cantering on the road/trail, and we're not ready at all to canter in the arena, especially a smallish one.

So then it was time to dismount.  My saddle has "bucking rolls" to the sides of the pommel, and that's where I put my hand to push off to stand in the stirrups and throw my right leg up and over.  This saddle has a high pommel (i.e. "oh sh__ handle), but absolutely nothing next to it.  It just drops off and disappears.  Heh.  So it took me a few minutes to find a way to brace myself and swing my leg over.  Sheesh, I'm so awkward.

Neither Shar nor I are expect saddle fitters, but it sure seemed to fit a variety of horses she has on her property.  It probably wouldn't fit an uber-wide horse like a full-blooded draft, or a mule with no rock to their back at all, but especially if one were able to add or carve a little from their own pads instead of leaving the existing pads as is, they'd probably be able to fit just about any horse.  And if one had multiple horses with fairly normal-ish backs, they'd be able to fit multiple horses with just one saddle simply by moving the pads around on the velcro.

So.  Shar was pretty enamored with the Pandora, and will likely be ordering one for herself.  I liked it plenty, but not enough to run out and buy one right now:


  • Light weight.  Switching saddles would be instantly dropping 20 pounds or so from the weight my horse has to carry.  However, in my case, I already weigh enough that 20 pounds is a tiny percentage of the weight I'm already carrying, so while it would help her a bit, probably not enough to deal with selling my current saddle to afford the new saddle.
  • Comfort.  The saddle seems pretty comfortable, though of course I'd need to try it out for longer and with a better stirrup setup to judge for sure.  It definitely allows the rider to ride in the correct position.
  • Versatility.  If one owned multiple horses but only wanted to invest in one saddle, this (or similarly-built saddles) would be a great solution.  I only have one horse and the saddle I currently have fits her, or I'd probably be a lot more excited to buy a Pandora.
  • Looks.  Endurance people LOVE to color coordinate, but usually have to settle for a boring brown or black saddle, whether leather or synthetic material.  But these are made of carbon fiber and can be clear-coated for a cool look, or finished with just about any paint job imaginable.  So you could go basic black, wildly garish, or anywhere in between.  You could theoretically even re-paint it later on to give it a new look.  People have put decals on.  People have used glow-in-the-dark paint.  The possibilities are literally endless.

  • Cost.  It costs $1300-ish.  That includes shipping from Australia, and various options but it's a lot of dollars.  It's actually about how much I'm into my current saddle for, so the dollar amount itself isn't a turnoff, but the fact that I'd either have to sell my current saddle before ordering and be saddle-less while this one gets built and shipped, or have $2600 tied up in saddles before receiving the new one and being able to sell the current one makes me pause before just jumping to buy this saddle right away.
  • Footprint.  The main reason it can fit such a variety of horses is that the rigid part of the saddle is so small.  It fits behind Arya's wide shoulders, for example.  However, that means that the weight distribution of the saddle isn't as much as a western saddle for sure, and probably not as large as some endurance saddles.  The pads are larger than the saddle, which does help, and they're wider than many saddles' panels (from spine channel to lateral edge), but of course anywhere there's pad without saddle above it, that part of the pad isn't necessarily bearing weight, which is good and bad, depending.  For someone of my weight, it may not be distributing the weight over a large enough area.  My current saddle has a pretty large weight distribution area for an endurance saddle, plus I use a saddle pad that has memory foam inserts that help spread the weight out more (and make up for any minor fit issues, though my saddle seems to fit her well).  Because the memory foam pads are built into the Pandora, your not supposed to use additional thick pads, though I guess you could experiment to see what works.  If I lose some weight, though, I think it'd be just fine.
So, if I end up needing a new saddle and lose some weight, Pandora will be high on my list.  If I get a second horse shaped differently from Arya (not likely anytime soon, though), Pandora will be one of the first saddles I think of.  But for now, I'll stick with my SR because I'm really happy with it and it fits Arya great.  But I was really glad to have the chance to try out the Pandora, and may just try it for a longer ride while we still have it if I get the opportunity.

Getting on.  Awkward.

Listing a little to the left.

Pretty good leg position, but probably a bit further back than it should be.

Bit of a chair seat, but probably not too bad.  In my case (defaulting to hunching forward when I freak out), it's probably more stable than the prior picture).

Really pushing my feet forward here.

Look at my using my hitchiker's thumb.  :-)  And look at Arya totally bored with this whole arena thing.  :-)

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Solo Ride 7/15/15

Well, since I didn't get much riding in at Bandit, I really needed to RIDE my horse.  It seems like the weeknights fill up with other stuff, but Wednesday I got out there and did, indeed, ride.

I dawdled for a while, including trying a new app out.  It's called Road ID (I think by the same people that make the bracelets and stuff).  Besides the main purpose, you can also use it to create a wallpaper photo that has any medical information and emergency contacts on it.  But the main reason I downloaded it and wanted to try it was that you can use it to have your contacts track your ride, and they don't even have to have the app.  You specify a time that you plan to be gone (I'm guessing if you're gone longer, it'll set off alarms) and who you want it to contact about your ride, and how.  The contact(s) get either an e-mail or a text saying that you're going for a ride (or run or whatever--you can customize the message), and a link to click to see your dot move on a map in real time.  So as long as they're at a computer or have a smart phone, they can see where you're at.  Then, if you stop moving for more than five minutes, it first warns you (the rider) with an alarm, and if you don't respond, it sends out a notice to your contact(s).  Pretty spiffy for someone who rides (or runs or whatever) alone.

So first I just turned on the app as if I was going for a ride, then proceeded to set my phone on the fender of the trailer while I tacked Arya up.  So I got to hear the audible alarm to ME that I wasn't moving, then Shar got a notification that I'd stopped moving.  So that part worked, at least.  I stopped that "ride" and finished tacking up.  Then when I was ready to get on, the app wasn't working and I had to restart my phone.  Oops.  So I let Shar know my planned route (one we've ridden together many times) just in case the app didn't work as well as planned, and warned her that I was just going to rely on the app and not message her with updates every 20 minutes or so like I normally do.

So we set off.  Arya used to be fairly fine about leaving the house.  She'd try to turn around and return home, sure.  And she's rather obnoxious about it.  She'll try to be subtle, turning ever-so-slightly toward the left (the direction of the pasture).  If I didn't stop her, she'd turn more and more.  But I do stop her--I steer her a bit to the right to get her back in the middle of the road (literally--it's a seldom-traveled dirt road, so I just ride right down the middle of it).  Then she figures, "Fine--you want to go to the right?  Let's just go ALL the way to the right, into a U-turn."  So we go down the road like a drunken sailor, her trying to exaggerate every turn into a turn for home.

However, now that she and Emma have fallen in looooove, it's a bit worse.  She still pulls the drunken sailor tricks, maybe even a little more than usual, PLUS she hollers for Emma the whole way down that first stretch.  And then down the second stretch, though quieter.  And finally when we turn away from home at the next intersection, she started to calm down with the hooting and hollering as well as the swerving.  She STILL doesn't have a whole lot of get-up-and-go when heading away from home solo, but she finally started GOING at least.

She shied mildly at a few things, but was actually really good about not spooking, especially for being solo.  She didn't even balk at the former mud puddles that had slight discoloration from the rest of the road, but just plowed right through!  At the llamas (or alpacas), she slowed WAY down and had VERY sticky feet, but did keep forward progress, and never spooked at them at all.

When we turned the corner and headed for home, of course she sped up, but not wildly so.  :-)  She's still her, after all.  :-)  When we went up the hill that I've tried cantering on in the past (to no avail--she just trots fast until she peters out), she actually gave me a canter for a couple strides, then slowed back to a trot.  I asked again, and she cantered again for a couple more strides.  And I didn't panic.  Woo hoo!

When we turned down the "final" homestretch (there are a couple more turns RIGHT when we're almost back, but it's what I consider the homestretch, and Arya, too, apparently), Arya got antsy to go.  I have her ONE try to trot, but when she took off at a fast clip and wouldn't slow when I asked her to (it probably took 30 seconds to get her back down to a walk), she lost the chance.  In fact, when I got close to the road that we'd left on (getting back to the "stick" of the lollipop basically), I turned her that way as if we were going for a second loop.  She was NOT amused.  In fact, she started hollering for Emma.  Oh NO you didn't.

So now she got to walk away from home until she could do so calmly.  It took a few hundred yards, but when she was finally walking nicely on a loose rein without hollering for Emma, we turned around.  Then turned down a different road for a minute or two.  Then turned back around toward home again.  I was ready to make a "wrong" turn at every intersection we came to, but when we got to the next one, she was actually walking nicely on a loose rein and I wanted to reward that, so we turned toward home.  Next intersection, same thing so we again turned toward home (I did steer her AROUND the corners instead of cutting them completely, but we did go toward home without any deviation).  Good girl!  We were walking nicely on a loose rein all along the true home stretch when a truck backing out of their driveway spooked her--the biggest spook of the night, and I actually lost a stirrup.  But I didn't fall completely off, so that's good.

We arrived home safe and sound, and hadn't had to stop to text (or text while riding, which is dangerous if only because if my phone falls on the ground and then gets stepped on by giant feet wearing steel shoes, it would NOT survive).  Woo hoo!

Bandit Springs

Bandit Springs Endurance Ride and Trail Weekend...there was a two-day (Saturday and Sunday) endurance ride, offering varying distances from 10 to 100 miles, and a few other events throughout the weekend such as a ride & tie (two people, one horse, leapfrogging on foot and riding), a trail challenge, and a "ride and stride" (like a poker ride, but with trivia instead of cards, from what I understand, plus they allow people to do it on foot, hence the "stride" part of the name).

Shar had a friend in from out of town along with her teenage daughter, so the three of them headed up mid-day on Friday, and I joined them later in the the afternoon after I got off work.  The plan was to just relax on Saturday, then both Shar and I would ride on Sunday.

Friday, we hung out for a while waiting for the ride meeting, then we went to the meeting to announce our green bean (i.e. new to the sport folks) party at Shar's campsite, and we hosted that and got to put some faces to names from Facebook.

I had decided to stay at home Friday night, so I drove home.  I was afraid it was going to be over an hour and a half drive, but it was just an hour and ten minutes.  Not too bad!  I went straight to bed, with my alarm set for pretty early the next morning.

I arrived at camp Saturday morning and joined Shar and the gang for breakfast.  Then we each got ready for our separate days--Brenda and her daughter to go drive around the area enjoying the scenery, and Shar and me to tack up our horses to enjoy the trail challenge.  We rode down to the vet check area, Arya checking out all the "scary" sights along the way, like porta-potties and trucks and trailers and horses and stumps and rocks--oh my!  Flash, of course, was as steady as always, so that helped.  The ladies running the trail challenge had stepped away but would be back in 20 minutes or so, so Shar and I rode out of camp a bit and back again.  Arya did pretty well, considering it was a new environment.

We got back to camp and the ladies were there to sign us up for the ride.  We stayed on horseback so didn't sign the waivers yet (ha!), but they handed us a guide to the four different levels so we could choose which level to ride at.  It was all the same obstacles either way, but what you had to DO with them would be different.  For example, if there was a log to step over, level 1 might be just to walk over the log, level 2 might be to step over the log with the front feet, stop for a few seconds, and continue on, level 3 might be to step over with the front feet, back off so all four feet are back on the same side, then walk across, and level 4 might be to step over the log with the front feet, sidepass along it for a few feet, step over with the hind feet, then back over it with all four feet.  Or whatever.

Mentally, I was thinking I should just do level 1, as this is all new to Arya.  She's done some obstacles, of course, especially at Celena's either in our lessons or in the weekend clinic we did, but doing them in a new environment would add a little pressure.  And I figured Shar would be doing level 3 or 4 with her talented pony.  But when she said she'd do level 2, I figured why not--let's do level 2, too, so we'd have an example doing the exact same thing we'd be doing.  We made a friendly bet that whoever lost would have to scoop the poo from the paddock.  Since either of us would have likely been doing it solo while the other held the bag the poo had to go into (has to be hauled out of the area instead of left there), and neither of us particularly minds doing it, this was VERY low stakes.  :-)

We walked (riding) on up to the trail course area, which was actually right next to our campsite.  One of the ladies started explaining the first obstacle:  "See those two trees over there?"  [Points to two trees that are about two feet apart.]  "Ride your horse around this way, then between the trees..."  Um, WHAT?  My horse wouldn't fit between those two trees naked and lubed up, let alone with the saddle and my LEGS!  "No, just their head and neck.  Ha ha ha!  Then back out."  Oh, okay.  I can try that, at least.  Shar and Flash did it first, and there were a bunch of low-hanging branches that were in the way.  Uh oh.  I'm taller than Shar, and Arya's taller than Flash, putting my head at least 8 inches higher than Shar's, where the branches got even denser.  When she was done, I approached the obstacle, and tried to avoid as many branches as I could.  Arya took a wrong turn or mis-step (counted as a refusal, and deducted from my score) a time or two, but eventually did put her head into the gap and we got counted as completing it.

The next obstacle was also two trees, but spaced further apart.  We had to do a figure eight--go between the trees, loop to the left, between the trees, loop to the right, then just as the horse's shoulders got between the trees for the third time, stop and back up.  Arya actually did really well at that one--I think that was one of our perfect scores.

Next was a BIG log that we were supposed to get right beside, then dismount, then remount while the horse stood still.  Shar did it with Flash, no problem.  Then they stood off to the side for us to have our turn.  And all of a sudden, even though she'd been fine with it on the first two obstacles, apparently Arya decided she'd rather be near Flash than near the big log.  So we got one refusal, then two, three, and four, and got a zero on that obstacle without even giving it a very good try (every time she took a step away from the log, basically, counted as a refusal).

Next, we had to go into the woods (through a curtain of tree branches), step the front feet over a log, stop and wait for a few seconds, then proceed across the log and out of the forest through an even denser curtain of branches (I really wish they'd trimmed the branches for this course, though at least they were relatively soft pine branches and not stiff and stabby juniper branches!).  Flash and Shar went first, and did just fine.  Meanwhile, Arya and I are outside the curtain of branches, and she's kind of freaking out that her buddy left.  He emerged from a different area, and then I made her go into the deep dark woods.  She did great at this obstacle, too, though, even though she was distracted by her buddy being behind the forested curtain.  We plunged through the branches back to the daylight again, though, and she was fine.

The next obstacle was to pick up a 6- or 8-foot bamboo pole, sidestep away from where we picked it up, and carry it around in a wide circle around the tree, then back to where we got it from to replace it.  Flash neck-reins, so Shar was able to carry it one-handed with the reins in her other hand, like she was jousting, and it went just fine.  We sidled up to the pole, and Arya didn't mind me picking it up at all.  However, since she does NOT neck rein, I had to hold the reins in both hands and hold the pole more like one holds a whip or crop, except it's MUCH longer, so one end was going across her withers and up toward her head while the other went back across my thigh and toward her rump.  Fun times.  I got some semblance of a side pass, though it wasn't graceful at all, then moseyed around the tree and put the pole back.  Ta da!

That concluded the forest portion of the trail challenge, and now we moved into the meadow.  Uh oh.  Arya's favorite thing to do it EAT.  And a meadow is fully of tasty, tasty grass.  And of course she can't spent all her time under saddle eating said grass, so if I were to let her eat, I'd have to stop her eventually, and that is her LEAST favorite thing to do--stop eating tasty, tasty grass.  So yeah.  I don't love riding her in food to begin with, and if we must cross through, I like to keep her moving and prevent her from eating to begin with.  As pissy as she gets at me NOT letting her eat, she gets WAY pissier if I stop her from eating after she's started (plus sometimes she bites off more than she can chew, literally, with the bit in her mouth, which frustrates her, too).  So yeah, as soon as they said we were heading to the meadow, I knew our scores were about to get WAY worse.

The first obstacle we were supposed to tackle was a ditch.  We were supposed to enter the ditch at an angle, stop calmly in the bottom, pause a bit, then proceed back up the other side of the ditch, still at an angle and still calm.  Flash and Shar did it first while I got to wrestle Arya and attempt to keep her from eating all the lovely grass that was not only at her feet, but coming up to tickle her nostrils.  Flash and Shar did great and stopped on the other side of the ditch for us to take our turn.  Well, now Flash was on the other side of the ditch, of course, so Arya thought it made WAY more sense to just plow right across it, disregarding the "diagonal," "pause," and "calmly" part of the instructions, and of course my cues to that effect.  Ugh.  I think we flunked that obstacle completely.

Then there was a piece of carpet on the ground, and we were supposed to stop with the horse's front feet standing on it.  It was a long narrow rug like you'd use in a hallway, and it was dark brown, and it was nestled down in the grass.  Flash, who's usually pretty easy-going about stuff like this, wasn't a fan.  I forget what score they got on it, but they eventually got his front feet on the rug, but maybe didn't pause as long as they were supposed to or something.  But he DID it.

Arya wanted NOTHING to do with this strange-looking patch of ground in the middle of the meadow full of FOOD.  Maybe if it had been in the middle of a boring arena, she might have taken a few good sniffs at it, stepped across it (without stepping on it) a couple times, and then maybe given in and stepped on it.  But it was in a meadow, so I'm sure she thought it involved (*GASP!!*) water, and of course it was surrounded by food, so why should she bother?  So yeah, we flunked that one, too.

Next was a challenge that was done on foot, so we both dismounted.  I attempted to get Arya to cross the carpet while Flash and Shar did the next obstacle.  Yeah, still not so much, though she did get closer with me controlling her from the ground than from the saddle.  Anyway, for the next obstacle, you had to put a big pannier bag over the saddle, then trot the horse in a big circle (still on foot), with the bag flapping around. I believe Arya and I got a perfect score on that one.  She was easier to control and keep from eating, plus she didn't care at all about the bag flapping around on the saddle.

Next, they had a folded-up camping chair tied to the end of a lasso.  The chair was on the ground and the loop of rope was hanging from a tree branch.  You had to sidle up to the rope, grab it, and walk around the tree, dragging the chair behind.  I actually thought Arya might do okay at this one--she's dragged stuff before, but just never with me in the saddle.  But Shar and Flash went first.  Shar hasn't dragged anything from Flash in FOREVER, so she was worried how it would go.  Flash was a trooper, but was very concerned about this thing following him through the grass.  He kept his neck bent and his eye on the chair the entire time, but they went around the tree and hung the rope back up, no problem.  However, by this point Arya was being a total BRAT, and no longer obeying me at all.  So we got a zero on that one, and I hopped off in order to get better control of her and try to keep her from eating and get her brain back on me.

So the final obstacle was a hula hoop hanging in a tree about 20 feet away from a parcel hanging in the tree.  The parcel was to be used at the higher levels, so was just a landmark for level 2 riders.  Shar had to ride up to the parcel, then BACK up to the hula hoop and grab it.  Then toss it onto the ground, attempting to do a ring toss over a bucket on the ground.  She was worried Flash would freak out when she tossed the hoop, so she spent some time playing with the hoop, getting him used to the idea of it moving around near his head.  When she tossed it, though, he didn't move a muscle.  Not bothered in the slightest.  I decided to at least try that obstacle from the ground, which of course decreased the difficulty level quite a bit (and the danger to my person as well).  I flipped the hula hoop around near Arya's head, and even on top of her head like a halo, and she barely cared.  Well, she wanted to EAT, but she didn't care about the hoop.  So I tossed it, and that was that.

We spent a bit more time in the meadow, talking to the ladies running the trail challenge about what the harder levels would have entailed for each obstacle, and Arya quit fighting to get a bite to eat, and eventually just stood still and even dozed off.  Aargh!!!  So frustrating that she was SUCH a brat while I was riding, then a perfect angel once I was standing next to her head.  Ugh.

Shar decided to go for a little ride, but I was frustrated with Arya and just wanted to take a bit of a break, so she went alone.  I put Arya into the pen and started to clean some poop up, since I knew I'd lost the "bet," but Arya was tearing around inside the small area hollering for Flash, so it didn't feel safe to be in there with her.  Somewhere around this time, Brenda and her daughter came back from their adventures, so we hung out in the camper together chatting and watching Arya go crazy in her pen.  She quickly worked the manure into the mud she was creating by pacing, prancing, and dancing, so I guess I didn't need to worry about picking any up right now anyway.

Apparently Flash acted up a bit too, at leaving Arya, but Shar whipped him into shape (not literally) and got his mind back on their ride and they did okay.  Though the rain started up while they were gone, so they got a bit wet.  :-)  However, Flash did his "shoulder thing" again during their ride and walk back to the camper, so Shar was debating whether to downgrade from the LD (25 miles) to a 10-mile "intro" ride, or not ride at all.  Of course selfishly I would have voted for her to ride 10 miles with me, but with the slippery trails, it was probably best if she didn't ride at all.  At first she left the option open, but as the afternoon and evening wore on, it sounded more and more like she decided not to ride at all.  :-(

Brenda decided to leave--kind of pointless to hang out in a tiny camper hiding from the rain when she could pack up and head home via the scenic route and enjoy scenery while also avoiding the rain.  So when Shar got back, they said their goodbyes.  Holly arrived soon after that, and we invited her and Graham to hang out in the camper with us and wait out the rain.  We got to hear about Holly's ride, which between the vets showing up late to the vet check (extra long hold for the riders!) and the torrential rains making the trails a slick muddy mess, was pretty interesting.

At some point, Shar and I each went to the trail challenge booth to pay for our rides (we'd forgotten to bring our checkbooks or cash when we went to actually DO it, and they were nice enough to take an IOU) and find out how we did.  I got a score of 48%, which didn't shock me, especially as they went through each of the obstacles and gave me my score for each.  :-)  Shar got 98%!!!  Go Shar and Flash!

Eventually, we wandered down to the vet area where we got to see friends completing the 50-mile ride, and attend the meeting for the awards from Saturday's ride and the ride meeting for Sunday's ride, and brought the car with its goodies for a continuation of the green bean party.  During the meeting, riders for the 100-mile ride were coming and going--man, that must suck.  To see everyone hanging out and eating (there was a potluck including a hot pot of homemade jambalaya) and drinking and huddling under canopies and such, and be heading back out on your horse in the rain and heading onto muddy trails.  But you know what?  They wouldn't be doing it if they didn't love it, so maybe they thought they were the lucky ones and WE were the suckers.  :-)  After the meetings were over, I headed home--it was chilly and I wanted to get to bed.

Here's a photo I actually took Sunday, but represents what the afternoon/evening of all three days looked like.  It's a gorgeous area, and the dark clouds actually make it look even better.  The resulting rain, however, is less pleasant, especially to those trying to ride their horses out on the trails.

Sunday morning, I slept a little later and also stopped by to visit Phig.  A teammate of mine and Shar's on the green bean team lives so far north that we hadn't actually met her yet, but she brought her horse down for training with Celena, and was at ride camp and came to our green bean party on Friday, so it was nice to finally meet her, and I wanted to meet her  pony, too.  So since Celena's place is on my way to ride camp, I stopped by and said hi to her.  She wasn't interested in saying hello so much as getting her withers scratched.  In fact, she wanted ONLY her withers scratched.  I tried to pet her head and/or neck, and she moved forward to put her withers in scratching range.  I tried to scratch her rump and she moved forward to put her withers back in scratching range.  AND, just to show me how much she enjoyed it, she returned the favor with a little mutual grooming, except that it was the round pen panels that were in HER scratching range, so they're the ones that got the lovin', which is fine by me.  :-)

When I got to ride camp, Shar had definitely decided not to ride.  Bummer for me, but she's definitely got to put her horse first.  With the trails as slick as they were, and the meadows as lush as they were, I decided riding on singletrack trails was NOT for me.  I'd stick to the dirt roads in the area if I got out there at all.  I tacked Arya up and led her down toward the vet check area, where Shar already was.  Plus, if she was going to get all prancy or spooky when heading away from Flash, I wanted to be on the ground instead of in the saddle.

Well.  We took the first few steps away from the trailer, and she was fine.  Super well-behaved even.  Woo!  We took a few more steps, and Flash started nickering, like "wait, are you leaving me?"  Arya didn't respond, just kept marching along next to me, though her ears flicked back to him.  Flash neighed a little louder, and Arya may have turned her head a bit, though she still kept toodling along with me.  But as we got farther and farther away, Flash got louder and more insistent and Arya got more and more worried about leaving him.  Probably if he'd been calm and quiet, she would have been too, but she must have read his whinnying as panic or something, and started worrying about what was wrong.  By the time we got to camp, she was a MESS and not paying any attention to me whatsoever.  So I found a big open space and worked on circling her around me.  She was already rather sassy, and seemed ready to kick out at me in pissy-ness, and was cantering in circles when all I wanted her to do was walk calmly, and then one of the water bottles fell out of the saddle bag and she completely lost it.  She was bucking and cantering at the end of the line.  Sheesh.  So I decided I would NOT be riding today, and dumped her bridle and my vest and helmet over near Shar and really started putting her to work.

We did circles, with lots of changing directions.  We backed up.  Then we hit the road out of camp, with me still on foot.  We sniffed at scary looking (and sounding) things.  We backed up.  We walked calmly across a pole, then backed over that pole.  We lunged up and down a steep but short hill (fail, since she literally LUNGED up it rather than walking calmly), and lunged up a down a much less steep but still hard-working hill, and that went much better.  We stopped and stood.  We backed up.  We backed up a LOT.  We trotted, we walked.  We backed up some MORE.  We sniffed at the scary manure trailer.  We stopped and stood.  We backed up.  We went less than a mile (and unfortunately could still hear some horses, but probably not Flash, hollering), but her feet and BRAIN got a workout just the same.  I brought her back to the vet check area, then the camp area, without many shenanigans.

Shar got some bodywork done on Flash, and it definitely doesn't seem to be a huge issue, so hopefully with a few months of time off, whatever is going wrong inside the tissues of his shoulder will restore itself and he'll be able to get back into work.  Meanwhile, Shar is looking for another horse to borrow or buy since Goodwin didn't work out and the baby is much too young.  But in the meantime, I guess I'll be riding solo.  Hope it goes better from Shar's place than it did at ride camp.

Total saddle miles and saddle time for the weekend:  Under a mile in a little over an hour on the trail course.  I didn't use a tracker for our little "hike" on Sunday, but I'm guessing my phone went a half mile or so, though Arya's feet did a little more mileage than that.  But it was a great weekend spent with great people, and other than the rain making the trails so slick, it's a gorgeous location.  Hopefully we'll be able to ride there much more successfully next year.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Tumalo Reservoir Ride

Originally, Shar was going to have to work on Sunday, but sometime Saturday she messaged me to say she was free after all, and did I want to go riding?  Um, duh!  She said she was thinking Smith Rock.  That ride has a couple water crossings, and the last few miles have frequent access for the horses to drink out of the river as well, but it also has quite a few miles of road/trail that have ZERO shade and no water access and would just be hot, hot, hot on a day like we've been having lately.  So when I got to her house, she said she was re-thinking that plan, and I said that wasn't a bad idea.  She had her book out of local horse trails, and we discussed going back to Paulina.  That sounded like a good plan.  Almost entirely forested, and lots of opportunities for the horses to drink (and for us to cool of if we chose).  So we settled on that.

In the meantime, my son reminded me I still had the bike helmet we'd just bought him in the trunk of my car (which was with me at Shar's house), and he'd been planning to ride to a friend's house.  So since we were now planning to go back that direction, I asked Shar if she minded picking me up halfway to Paulina.  I'd swing by my house to drop the helmet off, and meet her in a large parking lot where I'd leave my car for the day and ride the rest of the way with her.  That was fine, so the plan was settled.  We loaded the horses and set off in our separate cars.

However, by the time I we met up in the parking lot, she had another idea.  The Tumalo Reservoir area had shade and canals/ponds, too, and was MUCH closer.  In fact, it was like five minutes from where we were.  Works for me!  We got there, unloaded, and tacked up fairly quickly.

We set off down the gravel road to seek out the shade (instead of riding alongside the reservoir itself which of course doesn't have shade).  Right away, we encountered a wooden bridge.  Arya was tucked right behind Flash, and he actually balked at crossing it a little bit, but once he tromped across, Arya followed right on his heels.  She was a little weird about first going in between the "tracks" meant for tires, then up onto them, but whatever.  She was on high alert mode, but didn't freak out.  Good girl!

We hit the trail that parallels the road, and soon turned left to head toward the canals and pond and such.  Both of us have ridden those trails a bunch, though never together, and neither of us had been there in years.  What neither of us knew is that in the intervening years (well, actually rather recently apparently), they'd been logging the area.  So what we remembered as being somewhat forested turning into even more forested was now clearcut with a few standing junipers.  We hoped the more forested area right near the canals still was!

We traipsed through the area on newly-created (and probably prior-existing as well) roads, past stacks of logs and piles of brush, and the horses were a little more alert than usual, but not overly so.  Well, Flash spooked at a butterfly or two, but that's Flash.  :-)  I was less nervous than last time, which helped, too.  :-)

Luckily, when we got near the pond, the forest did, indeed, remain intact, so we finally had SHADE.  We crossed one of the shallower water crossings in the area, but it's still deeper than the ones at the Metolius.  Arya's getting much better about crossings--she still takes a sniff or two (and sometimes a sip) at the water before stepping into it, but does so willingly once given the chance.  Yay!

Next on the agenda--another bridge.  This one was smaller (both width and length) than the other one, and concrete/dirt instead of hollow-sounding wood, but it was scarier to Arya because it had water RUSHING under it!  Flash traipsed right across it in front of her.  She paused a second to consider her options, decided to follow Flash, but wanted to really hurry across (and away!) from it.  I held her back, but she was definitely worried about that rushing water sound.

We followed along the canal.  We'd come to a spot for crossing it, and debate which side was shadier, and cross when it was to our advantage.  Those crossings are quite a bit deeper than the first one, and Shar's feet and saddle got really wet.  I'm not sure the water even touched Arya's belly, and my feet only got a bit wet.  I'm not sure she knew what hit her, having to wade through water that deep.

I asked Shar if she wanted to rely on my memory to try to get to some pretty trails that go through a little gully then come back out near the pond again, and she said sure.  We started down one, and just as I warned that there was a creek so narrow Arya might try to jump it, we came to the creek, but there was also a tree laying across the trail.  Too high to step over, to low to go under, and too boggy around it to go around.  So we went back to the canal trail and wound around some more.  The area started looking entirely UNfamiliar to me, but we both knew where we were in relation to the pond and (more importantly) the trailer, so no worries.  We just meandered around, sometimes off trail, sometimes on a trail.  Eventually we found our way to where I knew where we were again.  We'd missed the prettiest section of trail, but got onto the trail eventual.  But not before Arya jumped over a pipe laying in a ditch that she could've easily stepped over.  Sigh.

We did still get to ride a pretty section of trail, and Arya led the whole way.  Completely new-to-her trail, and she marched out (pretty forward-like since we were headed toward the trailer) with bravery, though her eyes and ears were on high alert for any danger.  Like stumps or logs.

We arrived back at the pond area, and had to cross over the same dirt bridge.  Arya once again would have rather bolted in the opposite direction from the rushing water than approach it, but once ON the bridge, was more than happy to step off the other side and get away from that noisy water.

We decided to pull their tack off and let them drink and wade and play in the water for a bit, like we'd done at the Metolius a couple days prior.  This time, though, we'd planned ahead and both brought sandals to wear for wading so our tennies didn't get wet and soggy and we didn't have to wade in barefoot.

So we walked the horses on in and took a seat on a rock at the edge of the water.  Arya was pawing at the water occasionally, which she'd done under saddle and which worried me that she might try to roll.  But now that she was "naked," I wouldn't have minded (much!) if she flopped right over in the water, so I just let her paw and paw, curious if she would roll or not.  She never did, so I'll have a LITTLE more confidence when riding her in water that pawing won't necessarily mean I'll end up pinned under her and underwater.

We hung out there for about half an hour again, I suppose.  Shar even got on Flash bareback for a couple steps before remembering why she doesn't ride him bareback--he's BONY!  We tacked our horses back up, and mounted back up (but stayed in our sandals rather than trying to jam wet and/or dirty feet back into socks and shoes--we mounted from the river so we could rinse off just prior).  We set off for the clearcut back toward the trailer.  This time the lack of shade wasn't QUITE as bad, though my water supply was running low (I was NOT willing to drink the canal water like I'd drank the Metolius water!).

We did some trotting, and right after we first started trotting, I heard a whooshing noise and realized my wide add-on brim had come right off my helmet.  Luckily it didn't spook either of the horses as it flew and landed, so Shar hopped off (Flash is a bit shorter than Arya, so easier to get back on) and handed it back to me.  Oops.

As we approached the wooden bridge, Arya and I were leading our little two-horse parade, so I mentioned to Shar that I was curious whether she'd stay in the lead across the bridge or stop dead and "ask" Flash to lead.  I was fine either way, but curious to see her reaction.  We got right up to the bridge, and her ears were on alert to the fact that this wasn't a normal roadway, but she willingly stepped right on without even changing her cadence.  One, two footfalls on the bridge.  Then the funny hollow sound registered to her little walnut brain and she FREAKED.  She started to shoot forward, but between the surprise change in momentum and kneejerk reaction, I yanked on the reins.  So she planted her feet.  So now she had just heard "clomp clomp [first couple steps] clatterclatter [starting to spook] THUNK [stopping dead in her tracks]," and she thought that was a pretty weird sequence of sounds, and almost spooked/bolted again, but thought better of it.  Shar had been gazing off at the lovely views elsewhere so only heard the same sequence of sounds and hadn't seen what happened (even though we were in front of her), but I assured her we were fine.  I took a deep breath, urged Arya on, and she continued across the bridge wary but calm-ish, still in the lead.  GOOD girl!  She got lots of praise and pats for that!  (I'd forgotten to bring any food-related treats.)

We continued toward the trailer and then, to the horse's consternation, I'm sure, continued right on past it.  Always good to reinforce that trailer doesn't always mean we're done for the day.  We rode across the paved one-lane bridge, stopping in the middle for photos.  This one doesn't make a funky sound (no different than the roadway, anyway), but it's a lot longer and higher off the ground.  Arya wasn't too sure what to think, but with her buddy right there, she's pretty brave.  Flash was kind of acting up a bit, though, so Shar borrowed my whip to remind him that when she says "go," she means it.

She took a few photos from the bridge.  Once again, all photos courtesy of Shar.  My phone got an update that canceled on "feature" from the last update I hated, so I'll have to try taking photos while tracking again soon to see if it doesn't disable the tracking.

Ack!  This one makes me dizzy just looking at it!

Beautiful views!

Good pony!

We did head back to the trailer after that, much to the ponies' delight, I'm sure.  We untacked and loaded them up, then headed to Kirstin's house, since she lives nearby and said she didn't mind.  We sat around chatting with her and her kids.  We mentioned that Shar and I were thinking of getting sushi, and Kirstin said that sounded good, then right then got a text from her relatives that were in town but staying elsewhere that THEY were thinking of sushi, so we made a reservation for 13 (!!) and unloaded the horses into a spare paddock area and gave them some water.  The frolicked for a little bit, which was fun to see.  I've seen Arya cantering along after the other horses in her pasture, but never really seen her bucking and playing like she did at Kirstin's.  Aww...

I actually swung by my house to pick Nathan up since he loves sushi and this was actually a kids-invited outing (I've lately just been picking some up to go when I go with friends and Nathan's at home, rather than bringing him to a boring night of girl and horse talk).  We all had a lovely time, capped off by frozen yogurt.  And the best part (for me) was that Shar was willing to haul the horses home and put them away, so I only had a mile or so to drive home.  Sweet!

Next up, Bandit Springs ride weekend.  Gonna ride at least 10 miles, maybe more...

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Metolius-Windigo Trail

Shar and I wanted to go riding, but it was gonna be HOT, so we picked a trail that has river and creek crossings and shade--the Metolius-Windigo trail outside of Sisters.

When I arrived, Shar had already gotten our horses out of their respective pastures, and they were grazing on the front lawn.  I had to transfer my tack from my car, where it hadn't been touched since it was loaded into the car after the Sunriver ride.  It had been nearly two weeks since I'd ridden Arya, so I planned on doing a little groundwork with her to "touch base," but it was too hot so I didn't end up doing it.  Bad horse owner.

Shar was on her own for navigating us to the parking area, since I've never been there, but after only one wrong turn (and turning the trailer around), we found a great parking spot and got the horses unloaded and tacked up.  At some point, I realized that my reins were sitting back at Shar's house in my car, but luckily she had a spare set that I could borrow.  They were YELLOW and black biothane, so they totally clashed with my purple and black, but we managed to survive somehow.

It took me WAY longer than it took her to get ready, since I had to unpack some of the stuff I'd had at Sunriver and re-organize my gear, plus wet some stuff down with the water that was currently in my water bottles before refilling them with ice water I'd brought, but we finally got on our way.

I was SO nervous, since this was my first ride after getting dumped two weeks earlier (not Arya's fault, per se--she tripped on the trail).  But I took a few deep breaths and got on.  Arya was a perfect angel.  Shar got on, and we set off down the trail.  Arya was a perfect angel.  We got to the Metolius river, a wide but pretty shallow water crossing, with shallow banks into the water.  Arya was a perfect angel, and after a quick sniff at the water, marched right in.  At the far side, we let them drink and even eat a bit.  Then we hit the trail in earnest...

Here's me in my getup for the ride:

(All photos by Shar, since my phone has begun stopping the tracker when I use the camera)

Helmet with "DaBrim" for extra shade; Frog Togs (I think?) cooling towel, wetted down, under the helmet, draped down the back of my neck (the back part got stiff when it dried out, which was weird when I turned my head); bandana (also wetted down) around my neck, protective vest to hopefully cushion any falls I have while wearing it (I was worried it would make me really hot, and while I didn't take it off to compare, I don't feel like it made me MUCH hotter than otherwise), waist pack for my phone, and three hydroflasks of water in my saddle bags.  I left the sponge on from Sunriver, but didn't end up using it.  Haven't yet done it from the saddle...a little nervous to try.  :-)

When we'd walked sufficiently far that it would normally be time to bust out a trot, I told Shar I was still really nervous, but game to try.  She, ever the voice of reason, said no need to push it and we could just walk until I did feel ready.  Awesome.

We arrived at a creek crossing, MUCH smaller than the river.  Flash took his time getting a drink out of it, and Arya was very distracted and wanted to graze.  But I kept her pointed at the creek, ready to follow Flash as soon as he crossed it.  However, when her turn came, she sniffed at the water, looked at the mud, and said "no thank you!"  I had to bust out the dressage whip, and it took a few tries, but she finally got both front feet in the water and took a few sips.  Then I encouraged her to continue onto the other side, and she didn't like the mud, so she kind of lunge-hopped a few steps, plowed into Flash, stopped, and breathed a huge sigh of relieve that THAT was over.  Heh.

 But it wasn't over--there were a few more creek crossings.  The next one was pretty straightforward, though also had a bit of mud, and she actually plowed right across that one like a champ.

The next one, though, had a log or beam-type thing across the entrance to the water, so I was kind of worried about her stepping ON it or tripping over it, but she did okay.  But then she tried to veer off to the side and plowed me into some bushes.  Not fun.  But finally she headed across the water.  On the other side, there was a LOT of mud--a few steps worth--but on the side of the muddy path was an "alternate route" of many many little logs all criss-crossed.  a disaster for a horse, so not really an option.  She kept trying to point out the alternate route, but I made her stick to the mud.  Once again she kinda plowed in Flash, but made it across alive.  ;-)

At one point, I did suggest trotting, but the trail was tight with lots of bushes (with thorns!) and branches encroaching, so it didn't really work out.  Of course doing a few strides of trotting amped both horses up a bit, but I think it was hot enough they were much more okay with the aborted trotting than they would have been on some other day.  :-)

The trail opened out onto a dirt road, a nice place to go for that trot.  Besides, my nerves were much more under control.  We had a nice trot for a couple minutes, but when we slowed to a walk, my mouth was DRY, plus we'd lost the yellow diamonds that indicated the trail.  They must've shot off on a side trail at some point and we missed it.  Oh well.  We stopped in a shady grassy spot to look at the maps on our phones, and decided to try taking roads back to the trailer, and maybe stopping at the Camp Sherman store along the way.  What we didn't realize was the the store wasn't really ON the way, but oh well.  We meandered along dirt and then paved roads (most of the way, there was a trail parallelling the paved road, a bit off the roadway itself), then met up with the trail again.  We decided to head to the river so the horses could drink up and cool off, then check the maps again to see whether we wanted to ride the store, or just head back to the trailer (1/4 mile away or so) and either drive there or to a different place to get our human treats.

Me, checking the maps on my phone.  At one point, the phone dropped, but I miraculously managed to catch it against her shoulder and NOT drop it in the water.  And yes, that's a really long stem of grass hanging out of Arya's mouth...

We decided that rather than cooling off internally with ice cream, we'd just hang out at the river, pull tack off the horses, and let them stand in the cool water while we cooled our feet too.

So we crossed the river on our horses, dismounted and untacked, took our shoes off, and led the horses into the river barefoot.  BRRRR!!!  The Metolius is COLD!  (48 degrees F)  My feet instantly "burned" from the cold.  Shar didn't seem to have as much trouble with the cold water.  But the horses REALLY seemed to enjoy it!  They drank and drank, and eventually just stood there, even dozing off a bit.  We splashed water up onto their upper legs, bellies, backs, shoulders, and rumps with our feet as best as we could.  We stayed there probably a half hour or so.

Meanwhile, I'd finished the last of my water I'd brought, and had my empty water bottle there on the log we were sitting on, getting thirstier and thirstier.  The water was SO cold, and SO clear.  And SO tempting.  I thought about it.  The headwaters were probably a half mile or so away, and there weren't that many people or horse crossings upstream between the headwaters (springs) and here...  So once the horses moved away from where the water I'd be dipping into would have come from around their legs, I went for it.  I dunked the bottle, filled it up, and drank.  Shar took a sip or two, but I actually ended up drinking a bottle and a half of river water, I think.  I'm at about 20 hours post-river-water-ingestion right now, and no effects yet...

When we'd all had enough relaxing in the cold water, we led the horses back up onto the bank, Shar and I took turns putting shoes on, and she held Arya while I put mine back on (Flash is pretty good at standing where she puts him--Arya is easily distracted by more and better food, and it's much easier to put shoes on when you don't have a 1200 pound beast tugging on a rope in your hand).  When I finished with my shoes, I took advantage of the horse-free situation to go soak my shirt in the river and put it back on wet.  Aaaah!  That felt SO good, so I took both horses and suggested Shar do the same.  She actually had a long-sleeve hooded (but well-ventilated) shirt she was wearing over a tank top, so once she managed to get her limbs into it all the way, she had even more surface area being cooled.

I led both ponies over to where their saddles were, and all of a sudden, heard a funny noise that sounds just like the groans Arya makes when she hits the ground and rolls.  Sure enough, she'd stopped, dropped, and rolled.  She's never done that while still on the lead line before, but it sure didn't inhibit her much just now.  Flash just kind of rolled his eyes at her, and I indulged her, giving her plenty of slack.  She only rolled on one side, though.  Luckily, since she wasn't soaking wet, she didn't absorb a TON of dirt, so hopefully when I tacked her up, her pad didn't get TOO filthy.  So yeah, put the saddle on, girthed it up loosely, buckled the helmet and bridle to the pommel, piled the vest and now-stiff towel on top and flopped the breastcollar over them to weight them down, and we set off for the trailer on foot.

The trailer was in sight when the vest and towel hit the ground and spooked Arya.  Oops.  I gathered them up, she gathered her wits about her again, and we managed to make it back to the trailer without further incident.  We relieved the horses of their burdens, I poured out the baggie of carrots I'd forgotten to dole out during the ride into their hay for the ride home, and we set off.  We originally planned to stop in Sisters for a little treat, but decided to just get the horses home and get ourselves a treat after they were settled in.

When we got back, I hosed Arya off till she was soaking wet, then turned her loose in the pasture.  She kept trying to get free while I untied the halter, even though she's usually very patient.  Of course, she beelined for a nice dusty spot and rolled and rolled, letting the dirt soak up all that offensive water.  :-)  Then she headed for the water trough, got a good drink, and went and rolled AGAIN.  Poor pony, being covered with that offensive water (which she loved, by the way, and even drank from the hose while I was hosing her down).

So, it was a HOT day, but worked out to be a very nice ride with a nice relaxing cool-down with our horses at the end.  Always nice to spend quality non-riding time with them.  Thanks, Shar, for introducing me to this wonderful summertime riding spot!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Tales from the Workplace, Trucking Edition, Part XXI

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.

Well, it's a day for the record books!  For once, this is a rave, not a rant.

We've had three truck drivers grace our presence this morning.  All three understood spoken English, spoke intelligible English themselves, and were polite.  One, a woman driver, wins our best-dressed award, too.  She had a nice blouse on, and had hair that had been recently combed (I'm guessing she had recently showered, too, which if you've been around many truck drivers, even female drivers, is NOT a given!).

One of them even showed himself capable of critical thinking.  His dispatcher had told him he was running late, showed up on their GPS tracking as not having arrived at our location yet, and told him we'd complained that he was late.  He asked us about it, because he'd thought he was supposed to be here at 9:00 and he got here a few minutes before that.  We told him that not only was his appointment for 9:00 as he thought, we did NOT call complaining that he was late.  So the company was lying to him.  Then, on his way out the door, he crossed paths with another driver from the same company, so he asked the other guy if he was having issues with his radio/GPS/communication system, as the company had told him it was company-wide, and the other driver said no, his was working fine.  So the poor driver now knows the company lied to him about TWO different issues.  Wish I could be a fly on the wall in his cab (well, not really, but...).

Wow.  Anyway, three nice, polite, well-spoken drivers.  Amazing.  Wonder what the rest of the week will bring...

[Update from the day after I originally wrote this post.  Not only have we had a couple more drivers who belong in the record books, the SAME trucking company trying to pull the wool over the drivers' eyes did it again--they sent a driver here to pick up empty trailers from our lot.  Except we always have two empty trailers on hand, because we send out one to two loaded trailers with their company each day, and need to pre-load them in order to be more efficient.  If they take the empties away from us, we can't even start loading the trailers until the drivers show up.  Ugh.  The driver, of course, was just doing what he was told, but we did NOT ask them to pick up our empties, and would have been really ticked if he'd just taken them without checking with us.]