Thursday, April 14, 2016

Catching Up's been a while since I posted!  So let's's what my March looked like, riding-wise:






(Shar was gone to Hawaii the first couple weeks of March, and I was sure I'd finally be able to have a month of getting more miles of riding in than her, between riding solo now that Arya was doing better about that, and also riding with other buddies, but the weather sucked, so I never rode while she was gone.)

When Shar got back from Hawaii, we talked about doing a quick ride together, but she was beat, so I went to her place anyway, and saddled up to ride solo.  We headed out down the road, all was well at first, but then Arya dove for home.  I pulled her into a circle, but she just kept her feet headed toward home while her head was turned to my foot.  Um...  I tried whapping her with the whip, but that didn't work very well, since we were trying out the rump rug I'd bought, so it just made a bit of noise, but she couldn't feel it at all.  Whoops.  I was trying to nudge her around with my feet, but between my panicked brain and her determined feet, was not successful.  I decided to hop off and school her from the ground rather than let her gain ground toward home with me panicking.

I got off, made her CANTER circles around me, both directions, for quite a while, until she seemed contrite and focused on me instead of her buddies at home.  Then we continued on down the road AWAY from home.  We'd proceed down the road for a while, do more circles, etc.  A couple of times, we did loop-de-loops where I walked away from home in a straight line while she did circles around me.  When she seemed to have learned that this was not going to result in us turning for home any time soon, I tried mounting up.  She wouldn't stand still, and the second I put my foot in the stirrup (she normal stands still for mounting very well), she headed for home.  Oh no you di-int!  I worked her in more circles.  Circles, circles, circles.  Canter, trot, and walk.  Then walking both directions on a slack lead, mirroring my pace whether I was trotting, walking or halting.  Working on some lateral stuff, too.  Tried mounting again.  Same thing.  Well, poop.  Can't head home yet, so kept heading away (very slowly, while doing circles and etc. the entire time).  It was starting to get darker, and I hadn't planned to be out past dark so I wasn't wearing any reflective stuff, so I needed to start heading back.  But we were DEFINITELY not going directly back.  Headed that way, doing more loop-de-loops.  Stopped, walked, stopped, backed up.  Went the wrong way at the intersection for a bit.  More circles.  Etc. and so on.  When we got to the last turn (on roads, before turning into the driveway) for home, we kept going straight.  She only tipped her head as if to ask "but isn't home that way?" but wasn't insistent about it.  Good girl!  We walked that way for a bit, then turned, circled, headed toward home, circled, etc.  There was a puddle at the intersection, so I asked her to walk through it.  She avoided it the first try, then plopped both front feet straight into the puddle.  "See mom, I can be a good girl!"  Passed the driveway a couple of times before turning in, then tied her up at the trailer (no treats) while I went in the house to hear about how their Hawaii trip was for a while so arriving home wasn't a reward.  Ugh.  Apparently trying a solo ride after not riding a few weeks, at dusk, wasn't the best idea.  Who knew?  So we'll ride with buddies again for a bit, then try again in less trying circumstances, I guess...  (And without a rump rug)

Then another week or so went by, and we finally rode with Kirstin out at Maston, which was nice.  We scoped out the trails for our event we were holding there, did a little geocaching, got some sun.  It was a great ride, and at 12 1/2 miles, a nice long one for us.

The following weekend was our mock endurance ride at Maston.  With Shar having been out of town, I took care of most of the organizational details, and a couple things fell through the cracks, but it went pretty well.  It was COLD, but we all survived.  :-)  Hopefully we converted a few previously-non-endurance riders to the sport, and gave even experienced endurance riders a pre-season opportunity to work out some kinks.

Then the next night is when I noticed my oldest old lady kitty was not herself, and I ended up making the heartbreaking decision to have her euthanized Tuesday, so that week was taken up with dealing with the before and then the after of such things, and there was no riding.  :-(

Finally last week I rode again for the first time in a few weeks once again, a couple of miles one evening, mostly walking.  But it was nice to get back out there.  (Shar also hadn't ridden Dalai in quite a long time, which is partly why we went slow.  The distance was mainly due to the fact I wore sunglasses and left my regular glasses back at the house, and it was nearing dusk.)

Then, finally, last night we had another nice ride.  Took the ponies down the long steady hill, then back up it.  Did a couple of trots on the flats before we got to the hill, walked down the hill, let them eat a bit at the turnaround point as well as along the way back (Shar is reinforcing to Dalai that home isn't always the best place to be, and being out on a ride can be pretty darn awesome), and then trotted most of the way up the hill.  And I once again took a deep breath and asked Arya to go ahead and canter.  She did, broke back into a trot after only a couple strides, then I squeezed her back into a canter again.  Both those sessions had been on the right lead, so I tried asking for a left lead after she slowed down.  Nope, right lead again.  So we'll have to find out if she HAS a left lead, or whether I'm just not asking right at some point.  But yeah.  That was nice, to be feeling confident enough to canter after the rough patch of that horrible solo "ride" and just a ton of time off from riding lately.  She got winded and tired out pretty fast, though, so it was probably only a total of 15 strides or so in the three brief sessions.  I let her walk for a bit to catch her breath, then we trotted the rest of the way up the hill.  GOOD girl!  Both mares were very good on last night's ride, and we made a couple of "wrong" turns in directions other than home, and they were pretty good about that too.  (I was sure Arya would be fine in that regard--she's really only barn sour any more when she's out solo and ALL her buddies are at home.  With a buddy along, she's almost as happy to be out as she is to be home, though she definitely knows which way is home.)  We actually took them around a country block neither of us had been on before, and they were fine.  Woo!

We may ride tomorrow, weather permitting, for a little bit, probably in an arena for Shar to work on saddle fit issues and use the impression pad, and then the next big goal is Grizzly.  We're going to ride Arya and Dalai on the 10-mile "intro" ride loop.  It's the loop I did last year (Shar's done it lots of times, as it's also the final loop to the LD ride), so it'll be nice to be on a fairly new-to-us trail, yet have it be somewhat familiar.  It's supposed to be HOT, so that'll bring its own challenges for all the horses and riders.  Then two weeks later is the Still Memorial ride, and it's clear that neither Arya nor I are fit enough to try an LD, let alone one with as much elevation change as that one has, so we'll have to see how many intro rides we feel up to attempting.  And hopefully Flash will be back in commission (he got a sore back after his first LD of the season, which was VERY hilly) so Nathan can ride (either Flash or Dalai, depending on Shar's priorities etc.) with us then.  We'll see...

Monday, February 29, 2016

Most interesting ride to date

Yeah, this was an interesting day.  Lots of stuff happened.

Let's start at the beginning.  When I showed up to Shar's house, this was the view from the living room window:

Um, Shar?  When did you get a BISON?

She lifted her head up and looked a little more like herself, but she always looks so HUGE laying down.

It was a lazy morning.  As you can see, Jag is also laying down, behind Arya.  Dalai was standing, but only so she could reach the hay.  Flash was laying down, too, and I think that Aschere had just gotten up.  So we took our time getting ready to go pull them out of their naps to go ride.

We tacked up, mounted up, and headed out the driveway and down the road.  We'd barely gotten past the property line when I realized I wasn't wearing my helmet.  I'd brought my helmet and bridle out together, since I hang them from the same hook, and put the helmet down to put on after the bridle, then completely spaced it.  I ALWAYS wear my helmet.  It doesn't annoy me to wear it, and much better to wear it hundreds of times without needing it than to be without it the one time you do need it.

Since we were so close to home, I told Shar I needed to turn around to go get it.  I felt bad, as she was riding Dalai, who has a bit of a barn sourness problem, though she's been getting better lately.  And really, so does Arya, though she's gotten a LOT better lately.  I told Shar if she wanted to either stop there or keep going without me, I could go back alone and meet her when I got back, but she decided it'd be better to bring Dalai back with Arya than add the stress of her buddy leaving her to the stress of leaving home.

So we turned around and headed back.  I figured Arya would be eager to return home, but she actually got MORE sluggish.  Go figure!  I had to urge her forward to even maintain 1 mph, it felt like.  We finally got back to the barn and I dismounted to grab my helmet.  Amazing how much easier and less awkward it is to dismount after less than 1/4 mile of riding instead of 5, 10, or 15.  :-)  I put my helmet on and mounted back up.  Arya was an angel for all of this.  We headed back out, and yeah, Arya was actually MORE eager to head out on our ride than she had been to head back to the barn.  Wow.  Maybe she's starting to like our rides!  Dalai was pretty good, too.

We proceeded on, picked up a trot, and Arya was lagging behind.  My GPS started beeping in my pack, so I was fumbling around to get it rather than trying to get Arya to catch up to Dalai.  Then apparently Dalai started balking at the intersection, attempting to head home, and Shar hollered that she wanted to trot in order to get Dalai moving, and I misunderstood her, and it was kind of an awkward mess for a second, but I caught up, we trotted, and Dalai gave in.  :-)

We made our way to the singletrack that heads down the hill to Rainbow.  Arya was kind of lagging and slogging along, and even stumbled over her own feet a couple times while we were on the smooth road, so I was beginning to worry that she was really going to trip and stumble her way down the hill, but she did fine.  Slowly (Shar and Dalai had to wait for us), but fine.  Weird.

At the bottom of the hill, we rode past the cage full of rocks standing in as a fencepost without issue for the first time, like, EVER.  (Arya always gives it a wide berth), rode along the rode a bit, then headed into the singletrack that parallels the road.  We were on a mission to hide some geocaches today.  The intention would be that these would all be easier to find/retrieve/re-stash from horseback, and much more difficult on foot.  Just something fun to do.  Maybe we'll do some all over Central Oregon as we ride this summer.  So we rode along, looking for a good place to stash a cache.  We spotted a cool snag that just happened to have a surface that would hopefully hold the cache.  Unless there's a deluge...  We'll have to check on it periodically to make sure, but it should work.  So I sidled Arya up to the snag, and she had to stand still on a bit of a slope while I placed the cache and took a bunch of GPS readings I could average to make sure the listing is as accurate as possible.  Good practice for her, and likely wouldn't have been possible a few months ago!  Good girl!

Can you spot the cache?

How about now?

We rode along some more, then spotted another good hiding spot.  This one was in a tree, so involved getting Arya to walk under a branch, but not so far she decapitated me.  It took a little lateral maneuvering, too, something we're only just learning together. Then she had to stand still under the branch, then finally back out.  She did great!

We motored along, trotting when we could, walking when we needed to.  We passed a tall rock wall at someone's house, and wished we could stash a cache there, as we could just plop it right on top and non-horse-riders wouldn't be able to see it.  :-)

We trotted a lot of the length of the next road, mostly one long trot stretch.  I went ahead and pushed Arya up into the canter, and we cantered probably ten or so strides.  It felt so good to do it and not get any bad feedback from her and not be afraid.  I brought her back to a trot, and she assumed we'd go all the way down to a walk, as we usually do after we canter even a couple of strides, but I kept her trotting.  Then pushed her into the canter again a bit later, this time I made the effort to cue for a right lead, but then forgot to notice whether she picked up that lead or not.  Whoops.  Need to start paying attention now, instead of just being thrilled we're doing it at all.  :-)  This time we did come back down to a walk shortly after, as she had done a GREAT job and was breathing pretty hard (as was I!).

This ride was going SO great so far!  We headed down, down, down the long hill toward the river, and Arya felt like she was moving out pretty well for some of it (she's normally very slow when going downhill, picking her way along slowly, and really swaying her hips; but a couple of sessions this ride, she felt much smoother and moved a bit faster, like she was really getting the hang of going downhill; I have no idea, of course, if she was actually using herself effectively or what, not being able to see her, but it FELT nice!).  We got to where we'd turn off if we were going to the river, and decided that other than checking for a metal sign we might be able to place a magnetic cache on (there wasn't, they're all backed with wood), we didn't need to go to the river.  It wasn't a hot day and the horses weren't working very hard, so the horses didn't need the drink, and it was just going to add a mile or two to our already long-enough ride, some of which was a steepish and rocky hill, so we just kept going in order to make it a loop ride.

We took a little break shortly beyond there, though, to let the horses graze a minute and for us to have a "rest stop" ourselves.  Then we mounted back up and headed out again.

Soon, we spotted a little cliff looming over the trail, and we had the idea to hide a cache somewhere along there where a horse would be able to sidle up to it.  We spotted a good place, and it took a minute to get Arya to sidle up to it when Dalai got to eat instead, but eventually I lodged a cache up behind the base of a bush growing out of the cliff.  Perfect!

We moseyed on down the trail, trotting occasionally.  Shar knew we needed to take a small dirt road that went off to the right, and we headed down one but it didn't look quite right so we turned around and proceeded down the main road again.  Then we turned onto the next one, and it seemed more promising so we went a little further.  Soon, she realized this wasn't the right road, either, but we spotted a good spot for a cache, so took a few minutes to hide another and take its coordinates.  We turned around and headed back to the main road, when I notice Dalai spooked out of the corner of my eye.  Then (and we're talking split seconds, not enough time to actually DO anything, and only separated in time in retrospect) Arya spooked--she spun sideways enough to get me off balance.  I'm not sure, but I THINK if she had then stopped or even gotten back under me by stepping the opposite direction from her initial spook, I might've been able to save it.  But Dalai started running from something that scared her (only a few steps, but still...) so Arya ran a couple steps, too, still going in the same direction she'd spooked, so getting me further off balance, and down I went.  Luckily, the step or two that she took before I came off brought us into softer dirt off the side of the hard packed road.  And REALLY luckily, those steps brought us to a clear area in soft dirt, without any rocks or branches.  It knocked the wind out of me a bit, and I gasped like a fish out of water a few times, but it just took a couple seconds until I was breathing normally and could sit up.  I'm not sure how much was due to the softer dirt, how much due to the crash vest I always wear, and how much due to the way I landed, but I really wasn't hurt.  I sat up, and saw that Shar had also hit the dirt.  Whoa!  First time I've actually SEEN her fall, actually--all her "unplanned dismounts" since we've been friends have been when I wasn't with her.  She was not so lucky, and fell RIGHT in the hard-packed road.  And landed phone-side down (where it was in her thigh pocket).  Luckily, the case protected the phone.  Not so luckily, she has a giant and very colorful bruise where the phone was.  But we were all safe and mobile, so as pilots say about airplane landings, "any landing you walk away from is a good landing," so we were alright.

I'd been assuming they'd spooked at a deer or something, and realize in piecing it together in retrospect that I'm pretty sure Arya spooked at Dalai spooking, and not from seeing anything first-hand, but who knows.  But when we stood up and dusted ourselves off, it became clear what Dalai had spooked at, at least.  After we'd reached the spot we hid the geocache at, someone had come along behind us and parked in an even smaller off-shoot of the road we were on, mostly out of sight.  As we were riding back that way, the guy essentially came out of the bushes right ahead of us.  At least, we assume that's what Dalai spooked at.  And as we were walking it off, leading the horses back out toward the main road, he kept walking toward us.  Shar was both pissed off at having come off the horse in general, and creeped out by this guy in particular and told him to back off, but he either didn't hear or pretended not to.  I wanted to NOT piss him off, since he could have a gun or be insane or both.  And he did have a dog with him.  So when he asked if the river was right there (just beyond where we had been) I answered him that yeah, it was.  And could you get to it?  I doubt it, since there's a cliff down to it.  He wouldn't take that for an answer, though, and kept kind of insisting that there was a trail, yet asking if there was a trail.  Dude, we don't know, check it out yourself, but leave us alone.  I guess he thought we'd come from the river and were lying to him about being able to get there?  But we'd just been a few yards further down the road than him then turned around.  Whatever.  Creepy guy was creepy in at LEAST a clueless-he-was-making-us-uncomfortable way, if not more, so we hurried past him and his dog and got to the main road and started looking for a spot to mount back up again.

We found a suitable rock for mounting up shortly after, and did so.  I think we both had a FEW nerves, but were surprisingly okay getting back on.  We made it about 20 feet down the road when I spotted a pair of alpacas dead ahead (well, they were on the side of the road, but the road curved, so yeah, dead ahead).  Awesome.  Arya's seen them before, at a different property, and always gets REALLY slow and "sticky feet," but willingly goes past them eventually.  But we didn't know how Dalai would do.  She quickly showed us that she would much prefer to spin and head home, probably at a fast pace.  Shar stuck the spin, which prompted a bit of a turn from Arya which luckily didn't unseat me, either.  Long-term, in an ideal world, and especially if we hadn't JUST come off, we would have stuck with it, put Arya (as the slightly more experienced with Alapacas and visibly more okay in the moment) in front, and taken the time it takes to make our way past them.  But I told Shar I was calling it, and getting off the horse.  She agreed that discretion was the better part of valor in this case, and bailed too.  Better to climb off voluntarily than get dislodged involuntarily a few seconds later.  I took Arya in front and walked her up to the alpacas.  She was in high alert mode, but barely hesitated in her actual steps once I was on the ground and we were ahead of Dalai and less subject to her influence.  I think Dalai got a little braver, too, with Shar on the ground and Arya in the lead, though I don't think she was ever thrilled to be there.  :-)  We walked toward, then stood near the alpacas for a bit.  Arya got ALMOST close enough to sniff noses, and I figured that was good enough.  We led them for a bit longer, until we were far enough past that Dalai wouldn't try to bolt AND we could find another rock to use to mount up.

We mounted back up, and I can't speak for Shar, but my nerves were okay in the moment, but on edge in general.  Like if Arya made even the tiniest bobble, my nerves assumed it was a spook and reacted accordingly (and inappropriately, by hunching forward), but I wasn't actually nervous when things were proceeding along nicely, if that makes any sense.  We walked for quite a while, finally finding the correct road and going from very rural neighborhood to actual boonies.  We were following tracks of both a horse and a person on foot, so I was a little on edge that we might meet either of them out there, by having them "pop out" from behind a tree or bush from one or both horse's perspective, and set us all off again.  Then we noticed that the human tracks, anyway, went both directions, so hopefully they came from the same direction we did and were long gone.

We were walking only at this point, because I was a bit nervous about trotting again quite yet, but then Arya spotted a person with a baby stroller.  Great.  Something neither horse has probably seen before.  So we trotted.  Heh.  It went fine, of course.  The horses had probably long since forgotten the spook, but it's a little harder for us humans.  I didn't do any more cantering, but we did trot a bit off and on.

We found our way to a region we were both a little more familiar with (I'd never been to the portion of trail between the river turn-off and where we were now, and Shar hadn't been in ages except for one time a few weeks prior), but by now my left foot was going numb.  My toes were numb in their entirety, and the ball of my foot was getting there.  It was rather annoying, and I worried could get painful if and when the feeling ever came back.  Oddly, my left foot was the one going numb, even though my right hip was feeling more nerve pain than the left.  Whatever.  I asked if Shar minded if I got off and hiked for a bit, and she did as well.  She was starting to stiffen up a bit after falling, so a bit of a walk helped loosen things up.  But of course it meant a bit slower pace than when only the horses were walking, especially when we hit an uphill stretch.  We'd been making sure to keep to the left so we'd be close to civilization when we got to where we were heading, rather than too far out in the boonies and having to backtrack more mileage to get to the road, but turns out we'd stayed a little too far left and ended up in someone's yard.  Oops!  Sorry!  They waved at us from their back deck, so it didn't look like they minded much.  We consulted a map on our phone real quick to make sure we went the most efficient way with the least exposure to fast traffic, and then found a spot to mount up again, for the what...fourth time?  Fifth for me because of my helmet.  Oh, and fifth for Shar, too, because she got off to adjust stirrups at one of the geocache stops.  Wow.  Yeah, interesting ride.

Anyway, we found our way to the paved road.  Rode on the shoulder of it for more distance than I really like doing, though at least we were fairly visible for most of it.  We got passed by a couple of cars and one motorcycle.  I worried when I heard the motorcycle coming because they look and sound a lot different and might get a reaction from the horses, but it was fine.  I think they were both more than happy to get home as soon as possible, no matter what might go past us on the road.

We finally got back to trail again, trotted a bit more, then looked for the trail that goes up a rather steep rocky hillside but then lets out onto a flat straight stretch home without backtracking quite as much as the other option.  The trail, such as it has been even in the past, had pretty much grown over and become invisible, so we just kind of headed up the hillside until we spotted the "trail" right near the top.  Yay for horses that aren't afraid to bushwhack cross country up and over some rocks.  :-)

We moseyed on home at a pretty leisurely pace.  Shar trotted Dalai a couple times to catch up to us, but I kept Arya at a walk (though a very determined one), both to give her a chance to cool a bit (she sweated most of the ride, though Dalai was actually sweatier!) and to reinforce good manners as far as barn-sour-ness goes.  A mile or less from home, Shar decided to hop off and walk the rest of the way to stretch her sore muscles out again.  I thought that sounded like a good idea, but decided to wait until we were a little closer to home in my case.  :-)  When we got more like a quarter mile from home, I joined her.

So, we did have one unfortunate incident (hitting the ground), and a potential training moment we theoretically could have handled better in an ideal situation, but I think we handled as we should have for the situation we DID have (the alpacas), but amidst all of that, I was actually really proud of Arya.  We cantered.  We did some lateral and backing up stuff.  We stood still while placing geocaches.  We had the rider get off and on and off and on SO many times.  We hand-walked quite a bit overall, and she had EXCELLENT ground manners the entire time (except the last turn for home, she crowded me a little bit.  But seriously, the rest of the time, she respected my bubble without any reminders at all!).  It was overall a VERY good day, that would have been quite a bit better if not for the one incident, but if you ignore those five minutes, it was a great ride overall.  Hopefully my nerves won't be too shot for the next few rides, as those will either be solo, on our own with just Nathan and Dalai, or possibly (hopefully!) with Shawn or anyone else willing to haul to Shar's to ride with me.  Because Shar's going to HAWAII, and I'm not.  :-)

Monday, February 22, 2016

Another Horse-Filled Weekend

Shar and I had the plan to, once again, ride both weekend days.  It had been cold and windy all week, so we hadn't done any mid-week riding at all.  Nathan was with me for the weekend, so I told him the tentative plan for both days and asked if he wanted to come with me Saturday, and he did.  We arrived to find almost all of the horses laying flat-out, basking in the sun.  Arya's a behemoth, but seems even bigger when she's laying down and you can really see how wide her barrel is!

We were originally thinking of riding down to the river, either on the same route I took on my solo ride the prior week, or possibly lengthening one leg of it to make a longer loop.  We headed out the driveway to the left.  Then Shar proposed that we actually head down the road we'd done in the dark a few weeks prior.  Coming back up would be good cardio for the horses, especially if we trotted some of it, and we could explore in the daylight to see if there was any way to hook up to the trails on the other side of the golf course.

To get to that road with the least amount of travel on busier roads, we needed to backtrack.  We decided rather than retracing our steps and then passing the house, especially with Dalai who has some naughty behavior when it comes to trying to return home (Arya too, but Dalai actually hops and spins a little more animated-ly than Arya), we'd just keep going, then go all the way around the block to where we wanted to be.  So we got to the first intersection and turned left, as everyone expected.  Then we got to the next intersection, where we almost always turn right, and we turned left.  This takes us toward home, so the horses were fine with this decision.  Next corner of the block, there's not really an intersection there, so we have no choice but to turn left, which turns us toward home again, so happy ponies.  Then it's a quick right onto the road we wanted to take, and the first turn that takes us in a not-so-pleasant (according to the bitchy mares) direction.  We were careful (well, Shar was--I often kept forgetting my role) to flank Dalai closely to prevent her getting much steam in the wrong direction.  She actually didn't try very hard, so it was pretty good.  And since Arya was pulling up the rear, she didn't mind following her buddies as much as she would have minded the turn if we were leading or solo.  So it went well.

Then we decided to trot, and Dalai thought maybe a combo of cantering and/or turning for home would get the better of Nathan, but he stuck with her, brought her back to a trot and got her back on track without too much trouble.  We turned at the next corner and walked and trotted that road without too much incident, though Arya (and I'm sure Dalai) were trying to inform us which direction home was from there.

We crossed the busy road without incident (and approaching it, there was a ton of traffic going both directions, but right as we got there, we had a nice big gap in which to cross--yay!), and proceeded along it a bit, then were back onto a quiet dirt road again.  We did a bit more trotting, including "pass and be passed."  We walked down the hill, Dalai and a pretty good pace, and Arya and Flash following a little more slowly.  At the bottom, we continued on the road past where Shar and I had turned around in the dark.  From the satellite view, it looked possible that the road petered out into a trail, and then it was hard to tell whether it went around the golf course or just kind of ended there, so that's what we wanted to check out.  We came to a gate, but since it only said "controlled access" and not "no tresspassing," and had a nice wide area for horses or people on foot to get around it, it definitely seemed they only cared about keeping vehicular traffic out, so we proceeded.  After the rough gravel leading up to the gate, it was nice footing after it, and I think we trotted a little bit more.  Then the horses spied the golfers and went on high alert, and we walked, watching for the best trail to follow without getting too close to the golf course.  The trail took a right, but then it got to the golf cart path and said No Tresspassing, so we were stuck.  I'm pretty sure the only other option would have been to cut through private property of individuals, so we turned around and retraced our steps again.  No biggie.  We'd extend the ride another way, since this had been a very short out-and-back so far.

As we got onto the uphill section, we took up a trot.  Arya wanted to go faster, possibly canter, but I wanted to hold her back to a slow trot as we had a LONG uphill slog, and I was hoping to trot at least most of it, if it didn't tire her out too much.  I'd just been telling Shar how annoying it is when she tosses her head in the trot (partially because of my nervousness issues, but also because I'm pretty sure she's not watching her feet at all when she does it, so while it's not so scary on a nice flat road, it can be pretty dangerous on singletrack with hazards like rocks and roots and holes), and Shar had suggested I let one rein go loose while keeping the other one taut when she does that, so she doesn't have the satisfaction of feeling like she might be able to get the reins out of my hands, but neither does she get the satisfaction of zero rein pressure, either.  When I tried to contain her at the bottom of the hill, sure enough, she started her head tossing, and after a couple back-and-forths, tried the one rein trick, and sure enough--she quit pretty quickly.  Ha!  Gotta remember that trick!  We trotted up the hill at a slowish but still hard-working pace, and then I decided to give it one good gusto and go for a canter when it flattened out a bit and the spacing between horses seemed right (we were getting a bit behind Flash, but not so much so she'd try to race to catch up, either).  I tried to get my weight a little further back in preparation, urged her on, and she did it!  At first, she seemed ready to break back to a trot after only a couple strides, but I squeezed her on, and we even passed flash a bit, probably doing only five or six strides of canter.  But I stayed calm, wasn't worried, and didn't bounce out of the saddle too much.  Yay!  When we came back to a trot, I let out a huge WOO HOO, as did Shar.  Nathan wondered what all the commotion was about.  :-)  But it's huge for me to canter these days, so it was a good moment to not only canter successfully, but without fear.  We walked the rest of the way up the hill, as Arya was breathing pretty hard by this point, and deserved a bit of a reward for her good behavior, too.

We retraced our steps a ways, crossing the busy road without incident again, and I was getting warm, so I removed my jacket (while still wearing my safety vest, though unzipped--basically like removing a bra while still wearing a shirt).  I needed to tie it to the saddle, but while I can't really steer Arya one-handed, I REALLY can't steer her zero-handed, and needed both hands to do the ties, of course.  Just after we turned left (away from home), I finally decided to just stop her rather than letting her get way off course while I tried to tie, then steering her back on track and having to start all over again.  Problem was, since we had JUST turned the "wrong" direction, this was really just about the worst time to actually stop rather than keep going and trying to do it later, either while moving, or stopping much further from the problem intersection.  Oops.  Bad trail buddy.  Luckily, I got the jacket tied on right about when Shar was miffed enough to just get going without us, so we all proceeded along together.  Another couple trot sessions, including one in which Arya spooked pretty hard at nothing I could identify, and kind of went it the ditch, but I managed to stay seated.

Then we came to where the road dead ends, and we all dismounted.  I re-adjusted my jacket a little more securely, and also removed Arya's bridle so she could graze while we moseyed around.  Shar thought she remembered there being a safe-ish trail to proceed down off what is, in most places along there, a sheer cliff, but has occasional places where it's more of a bouldering expedition instead.  She found such a spot, though I think "safe-ish" is even a little optimistic.  She and Flash led the way, and watching him stumble a bit and nearly get his foot caught between two large rocks (though he didn't), I was more than a bit concerned, as Arya's not the most graceful under normal conditions.  This could end up being a disaster.  I tried to stay a bit out ahead of her, so if she had to lunge a bit, she wouldn't have to choose between trampling me and crashing straight down the hill or something, and she actually did REALLY well.  She chose her foot placement carefully, and while a bit hesitant (and constantly stopping to eat), she willingly followed me down the not-trail over some pretty big rocks.  Good girl!  Then Nathan and Dalai followed in our steps, and did as well as we had done.  So yay for us!

Once down on the flat, we were back on familiar territory (for me and Shar, anyway--Nathan hadn't been there before).  We all took a potty break before mounting back up, but just as we were about to climb back on, a ranger (BLM) appeared, and asked if we'd seen any transient camps.  We hadn't, but he gave us his card and we told him we'd report them if we saw them.  And with that, we finally mounted back up and headed for home.  Nathan led the way on Dalai, with a few instructions from the peanut gallery who had actually ridden the trail before.  :-)  One more road crossing (where a hot pink trailer waited for us, holding back traffic, which was nice, though it's traffic from the OTHER direction, with a blind curve, that we really needed to worry about), and we were done with those for the ride.

Shar asked if we wanted to pick up a trot again.  This was a stretch where Arya has gotten pretty nasty about me holding her back in the past, especially on solo rides, though we weren't solo today.  We also haven't ridden it in probably close to six months, so maybe it was worth a shot.  Though I was behind Dalai but in front of Flash, which is the worst position for controlling her.  Dalai has a fast trot, especially when starting off (and with Nathan aboard--Shar can control it), and Arya wants to keep up, of course.  If Flash were in front of us (in either position), Shar would control the speed.  If Arya was in the very front, she wouldn't be too likely to trot very fast, and I could probably just ride it out until she naturally slowed down a bit anyway.  But I steeled myself mentally and physically, and agreed to trot.  Gotta work on stuff like this.  Sure enough, Dalai took off like a rocket, and I clenched the reins, and Arya put her head down and broke into a canter to catch up.  The first few strides felt VERY up and down, and the old me might have even called it a buck, but I had been prepared, both mentally and physically (leaning back), so I stuck with it, looked ahead not down, and reminded myself I can ride a canter.  After the initial "bucky" strides, she wasn't as adamant about having her head down, and it smoothed out into a more normal canter, and I was able to use my weight and reins to bring her back to a trot (plus we'd pretty much caught up to Dalai).  Shar was hollering for Nathan to slow Dalai down, but either he doesn't know how to effectively, or she figures he doesn't and therefore doesn't listen, as he was having a heck of a time getting her to slow down.  I mean, it wasn't a SUPER fast trot, by any stretch.  Just fast enough that Arya felt a canter would help her catch up and keep up, especially on that stretch of trail where she feels like she ought to be able to run for home.

But...I stuck with it, stayed calm, and while it wasn't what I wanted her to do, we all lived through the experience.  We trotted a little longer in that same session, then came back to a walk for pretty much the rest of the ride, I think.  We made it up the hill where Arya and Noelle and I had all been spooked by a flock of birds in both directions on our solo ride without incident.  On a couple of the last stretches before home, Shar warned Nathan and me first, then did a couple of canter sessions with Flash, both toward and away from home (he doesn't have the issues the girls do, so they can do that sort of thing--we need to reinforce walking CALMLY home with the mares, plus they're both in worse shape and sweated more than him, so benefited from walking home in that way, too).  The girls were apparently tired enough, or well-behaved enough, anyway, that that wasn't a problem, and they did some nice cantering, away from us out ahead, then back past us going the opposite way, then past us again.  Good ponies all the way around on that!

We got back, and Aschere (the baby) was very excited to see his buddies come home, and it was fun to watch him running along side us in his pasture.  I think it was while we were untacking and relaxing a bit after the ride that I remembered Aarene's recent post about whorls on horses faces, and checked Arya to see what she had going on.  She has double whorls (swirling the opposite directions RIGHT next to each other) at what is apparently considered a "low" point.  A bit of googling tells me that the personality associated with the placement of the whorls is probably fairly accurate--the higher they are, the higher-strung the horse, and the lower, the more laid-back.  She's definitely laid back.  However, double whorls are supposed to indicate a double personality, or two sides to her in some respect, and I just can't think of anything about which that applies.  Not that I believe in that kind of stuff anyway, but it's just interesting to read and consider, and in her case, it doesn't really match up (just like my horoscope often doesn't on a day-to-day basis, but I do usually see both sides of any given issue, as a Gemini probably ought to).  Anyway, so that was interesting but pointless.  :-)

After our ride, we gave all the horses who got ridden a little "mash."  Except the alfalfa pellets don't really dissolve, so Arya once again made a huge mess with hers, trying to get the pellets off the bottom without actually ingesting any of the water.  Ugh.  We went inside, watched a bit of TV while waiting for Richard to get home, then all four of us went to the Pump House for dinner.  We asked Nathan whether he'd be likely to ride with us on Sunday, and while apparently the only soreness he experienced afterward was on his seat bones from sitting in the saddle, and not really muscle soreness or chafing or anything, he said he'd stick with just the one day per weekend of riding.

Sunday, I arrived at Shar's house pretty early so we'd have time to load up and get to Henderson by 10:00, which is the time we'd planned to ride.  It was hovering right around freezing, maybe a little above, so while Arya was blanket-free out in the pasture, I figured that being confined in a very breezy box whizzing down the highway at 65 mph, she might prefer a little protection.  I threw the fleece cooler on her (for simplicity and because she probably didn't really need the heavy winter blanket).  She was NOT amused.  I'm pretty sure her train of thought was somewhere along the lines of "I'm a MUSTANG.  I should be running wild and free, not wearing these dumb purple jammies."

We also fetched Flash and he got a blankie for the ride.  And guess who else got to go!  After his awesome outing to the trail course last weekend, Shar was inspired (actually, she'd been talking about doing this for a while), and she decided to bring Aschere along!  If the group had been very large, she wouldn't have brought him at all, and if the group was large-ish, she'd probably have kept him on the lead line the whole time, but since it ended up being just Lianne who came, she figured maybe he'd get to roam free.  He'd come along with us (both free, and then eventually tethered when Arya started getting pissy with him) on a VERY short "trail ride" on the "poop trail" at Julie's place (a few loops of trail where they spread their shavings and manure to make some pretty good footing, and he'd done the trail obstacles at the event the prior week, but this would be his first real trail ride, and definitely his longest.  Woo hoo!

Julie had told me the night before that she wouldn't be able to go, and we messaged the other people we'd invited, and none of them were able to make it, so it was just going to be Lianne.  And Shar realized, after texting her that we were running a little late, that she might've actually told her 11:00.  She checked back through her messages, and sure enough.  Oops!  So now Lianne probably felt rushed to leave the house when she saw our messages, even though since she was the only other person coming, it really didn't matter.  Oops!  Oh well.  We arrived before her, since even though we were running late, we were much closer to the location than her (and had planned to be there a full hour before her), so we took our time tacking up, and goofed around doing other stuff.  I listened to heart rates and gut sounds on all the horses, Shar trimmed bridle paths on her boys...  But we didn't have to wait too long, and especially didn't have to wait long once Lianne arrived, since she had trailered with the saddle on.  Soon enough, we were mounted up and ready to go.

Lianne and Rascal (and Noelle and Arya's ears) at the trailhead

Shar, Flash, and Aschere at the trailhead, plus Noelle and a tiny piece of Arya's year

Setting off--Lianne and Rascal leading the way (that boy walks FAST!), then Shar, Flash, and Aschere, then me and Arya.
 Apparently Arya had rubbed her head on the trailer and some of the white paint rubbed off on her ears, as she had white-tipped ears the entire ride.  Heh.

Shar kept Aschere on the lead for a little bit, to make sure he was with the program, then after checking that Lianne and I were okay with it, she let him off the "leash."  He stayed close for a few seconds, then quickly realized he was free and began scampering around a little further afield from the group, but never wandering too far.

We headed out on the main road that leaves the trailhead we parked at, and passed the staging area for the OHVs.  Noted that they have a restroom there, though we didn't hop off to see if it's unlocked.  It's a bit far from where we park to be useful, but I suppose if it is unlocked, it might be something to keep in mind during the wanderings...

The road slogged up a LONG uphill section.  Steep-ish at first, then flattening out a bit while still being a bit of a hike.  The horses were not amused, and Arya was breathing hard by the end of the steeper portion.  Even the baby was getting tired and breathing kind of hard.  He was so funny!  He'd trit-trot along side us for a bit, but then he'd go scampering off to one side or the other, maybe tripping over some bushes, then he'd come galloping and crashing through the bushes to get back to us again, before taking off some other direction.  The bigger horses weren't super amused with his antics, but they took it pretty well.  Arya's been pastured with him on and off, so she's used to his baby-like antics, and he's used to reading her "back off" body language.  :-)  Rascal was less amused, but still did really well with it.  Luckily, while Aschere did threaten to bite the rump of a couple horses a couple times, he never really got up to any truly naughty behavior.  And it was impressive the stuff that DIDN'T trip him up while he was galavanting out there.  If Shar keeps up with these trails rides for him, he'll be really sure-footed. not to mention well conditioned, when he starts packing a human around.

When we got to the top of the hill, we saw a cattle guard so Shar put a rope on the baby, but we figured there was a way to go around it with the horses (you do NOT let a horse go over a cattle guard, as their foot will likely be trapped and they'll break one or more legs; cattle guards in horse-friendly areas will often have a gate, or even a gap in the fence with appropriate cattle-proofing to let riders go around the cattle guard), but there didn't appear to be.  It had fencing on both sides, and no gates within sight.  Hmm...Shar knows the area and Lianne and I do not, so we followed her lead and we all turned left.  There was a wide trail (the OHV area is for both dirt bikes, which have some narrower trails dedicated to them, and quads, so a lot of the trails are about a horse-and-a-half wide.  Not quite suitable for riding two abreast, but nice and wide.

However, soon the trail we were one, which had been pretty level up to this point, dropped off down a STEEP hillside.  Shar warned us it was steep and suggested we all dismount and walk down it.  We did so, and when we got to the bottom, the trail headed UP and equally steep hill, so we stayed on foot and hiked up it.  Poor Lianne was getting over a bad cold and probably didn't envision her horseback riding outing going like this.  But she passed me up when I took a break during the uphill hike, and I had the idea of trying to "tail" Arya.  Long-distance riders use this technique to save their horse's back, and strength and energy, from having to haul them up hills while mounted, but also to save their own human strength and energy a bit by using the horse to essentially tow them up the hill. While there can be a bit more technique to it, the basic idea is you just hang onto the tail and use your own feet plus a bit of a boost from the horse to go up the hill.  I'd tried it before with Arya, but on a downhill section, just to see how she'd do with having me behind her, hanging onto her tail.  She didn't mind then.  I tried it once some other time, on level ground, solo, and she didn't get the concept and wouldn't go forward.  But this time she had the other horses in front of her for motivation, so I gave it a shot.  I held onto the end of the rope, let her go on past me, and grabbed her tail.  She barely noticed, so I hitched a ride the rest of the way up the hill.  Nice!

We went down one more hill, then Shar (in the lead) got to a junction that indicated we'd been on a "most difficult" trail, but were now intersecting with an "easiest" trail.  Whew!  So after a brief potty break for me, we mounted back up and headed out.  Except while it seemed a bit easier, it still had a couple steep hills.  Luckily the steepest ones were uphill for us, so we stayed mounted.  One was bare crunchy rock.  Oops.  I just kind of grabbed mane and the wither strap of the breastcollar and hung on, letting her trot if she felt that was best, and letting her have enough rein to use her head to balance and lunge her way up the hill.  Poor thing, lugging my weight around.  But we made it.

Luckily, there were just the one or two more mounted uphills before we finally found our way to much flatter ground with much more normal hills.  But hey, both the riding horses AND the baby were definitely getting their workouts this ride!  Once on the flatter, less tree-sheltered land, we started getting hit with a bit of rain/snow mix.  I decided to put my rain shell on before it started coming down in earnest, since I was wearing a cotton sweatshirt that would be miserable when wet.  The shell was tied to the back of the saddle, and I got it untied without much issue, but between Achere running up behind Arya and the jacket unfurling and flapping in the breeze a bit, she got a bit jumpy.  So I just draped it over the front of the saddle for a couple minutes, until she got used to it and the baby was off in front of us (in sight), then tried again.  Managed to put it on (over the vest, not under this time!) without her minding much at all.  Good girl.

We found our way to the water trough we'd found on the ride when Shar and Nathan and I were out there, but none of the horses wanted to drink from it, even though they'd probably worked up a bit of a thirst.  The "trough" is actually an old truck or tractor tire turned inside out, so you kinda can't blame them for not wanting to drink from it.  Oh well.  We weren't going to be out for long enough, or working hard enough, that it was imperative that they drink.

From there, we wound around taking the same route back to the trailer that we'd taken with Nathan two weeks earlier, with one detour to avoid a truck parked out there that definitely had dogs and may or may not have been shooting from it, so that none of us disturbed the other.  We did a couple more trot sessions, then walked the last mile or so back.  At one point, Aschere was getting braver and braver about wandering farther away from the group, and Arya would make sure to keep an eye on him so he wouldn't surprise her when he came back.  :-)  And another interesting point was at a junction in the trail.  We were last in line (except Aschere was still behind us, I think), and the other two horses both turned right and headed back toward the trailer.  I was messing with something on the saddle, or drinking water or something, and wasn't steering Arya, and she actually turned left.  Not only away from her buddies, but away from the trailer!  Weird!  In retrospect, I probably should've let Shar know what I was doing and seen how long she wanted to do that, but I just turned her around and followed the group.  Hopefully it wasn't just a momentary lapse, but an actual sign that maybe she likes riding out and exploring, and will be willing to leave her buddies to do so.  We'll see...

Anyway, the rest of the ride was uneventful, we got back to the trailer, untacked, I put Arya's "jammies" back on her, much to her consternation, and we let the ponies graze on the grass there for a bit before loading up and heading home.  Back home, I decided to give Arya water with electrolytes and plain salt rather than adding any pellets.  She stuck her nose in, rooted around for pellets, found none, jostled the bucket a little with her muzzle, searched again, and dumped the bucket over.  Sheesh.  Gotta get to the feed store and get some Special Blend, since it dissolves to mush nearly instantly.  Then she'll have no choice but to slurp it up, electrolytes and all.

So, two days of riding.  First day 9.5 miles with one big hill and one small one, second day only 5 miles, but I think much more of a workout for Arya.  Both days were GOOD days.

Monday, February 15, 2016

My 1000-Pound Valentine

Shar and I had originally been planning to go to a Trail Course Play Day put on by Mustangs to the Rescue, but when she and her Valentine decided to go out of town at the last minute, she apologized to me profusely and I started finding someone else who could haul me there.  Shawn stepped up to the plate, and we made plans to meet at Shar's house at 10.  She texted me at 9 that she was ready to go and would be there a bit early.  Oops!  I was just leaving Bend, so told her not to rush.  Got to Shar's, bed the dog, fed Flash and Aschere their morning mash, and got all my stuff together.  I headed out to pull Aschere out of the pasture, and realized it might've been a mistake to feed him along with Flash rather than just pulling him out and feeding Flash alone.  Aschere had eaten his small ration, getting green slime all over his muzzle, then tried to steal some of Flash's once his was gone, getting Flash-drool all over his head and neck.  Ugh.  So I pulled him out of the pasture while trying to keep the green slime OFF of me, and went to fetch Arya.  We were all ready by the time Shawn pulled in, so it was quick to load my gear into her truck and tack room, then load Arya first (over the axle) and finally baby Aschere.  Shawn, having just gotten a gelding who was a problem loader, asked me whether it'd be hard to get Aschere in the trailer (since he's a baby and all), but he's actually trailered quite a few times, so I figured it'd be fine.  And it was.  He was hesitant for a few seconds, but I figured it might be because of that big divider right in front of him if/when he hopped in, so I moved him toward the "short wall," but angled into the larger space, and he hopped right in.  Woo hoo!

We found our way to the site (neither of us had been there, but Google helped us out), and parking was TIGHT.  And more rigs arrived after ours, so it was kind of a madhouse.  Maybe next time, we should plan to arrive toward the end of the session, since it's just a free-for-all, not a show or anything.  But whatever.  We opened the trailer door, and I put my hand on the inside to push it open, and right into a wet mess of diarrhea the baby had deposited there.  Ugh.  Horses.  Unloaded both of "my" horses, Shawn unloaded hers, and we proceeded to groom and tack up.

There's a bit of a size difference...

Arya was hollering from the minute we parked the truck, and didn't stop even when she got outside and could see what was going on.  And didn't stop the entire time.  So I'm figuring that she was not happy that of all the horses we could've brought with us, we brought her least favorite, the annoying baby.  And not her buddy Dalai she's currently pastured with, or her buddy Flash who she likes riding with.  Oh well.  She's gonna have to learn to deal.  It was just embarrassing how much noise she was making, though there were other horses acting the same way.  Luckily she wasn't TOO antsy at the trailer, pawing or anything.  Just hollering and shifting around.

Once the horses were groomed, I went to check out the situation, pay for our entries, and use the facilities.  I had envisioned something a bit more organized, with people taking turns on each obstacle at the very least, or possibly taking turns in the arena.  This was basically a free-for-all, though everyone I encountered was very polite about waiting their turn to use an obstacle, or apologetic if they got in someone's way on accident.  Unfortunately, I didn't get many photos of the obstacles themselves, but here's an overview:

I decided to take Aschere through them first, and let Arya stand a while, contemplating her horrific life without her buddies.  :-)  He was an ANGEL!  I led him over some logs he had to step over, up a step-up (which I realized later wasn't much of a challenge, since it wasn't much higher than the trailer is off the ground!), over a bridge, through a ditch with brush on both sides, through a "car wash" (a tarp hung from an archway and cut into strips), all without incident.  What a good boy!

Then I took Arya.  I decided to take her through by hand first, instead of riding, and am glad I made that decision.  I know I'm not the most confident rider, and we haven't ridden in a setting like this before, so I knew even if she didn't have her own nerves, mine would rub off on her.  So yeah, in hand first.  She did pretty well herself.  She's not graceful at stepping over logs (instead of ON them), but she went through them willingly.  The ditch with brush around it didn't phase her.  She tried to rush past me the first time over the bridge, but we crossed it a few times and she got better.  (She's been over real bridges with actual water flowing under them, but whatever.)  She seemed calm enough about all the hubbub, so I decided to tack her up and mount up.  Took her back to the trailer, tacked up, found the mounting block, and climbed on.  She walked calmly through the crowds of vehicles, horses, and people.  I was so proud of her!  We headed toward a simple obstacle of a couple logs to step over, and she did okay.  We headed toward the step-up hill, and she started making it clear to me that she wanted to head back toward the trailer, and quickly.  She would've broken into a trot if I let her.  I circled her and circled her, and of course the circles were longer toward the trailer, so we ended up in the corner of the arena near the trailer.  Which was fine, though I didn't love that it had basically been her decision that put us there.  Shawn and Holly (former boarder at Shar's) were standing there, so we chatted with them a bit, and she kind of stood still for a bit, but then would get antsy and try to move closer to the gate.  I eventually had her walk toward THEN PAST the gate, which she actually did rather well.  Then we turned around and passed the gate again, and once we got just past it, she made it very clear that she would prefer to exit through the gate, not walk farther away from it.

Here's what she looked like when expressing her opinion--besides her feet moving more quickly toward and more slowly away from the gate, she would toss her head like crazy when we weren't doing what SHE wanted.  I tried to stay calm, sit deep, and wait out the head-tossing tantrums then get back to work on the circles I was asking her for.

Opinionated Mare Tantrum (TM)

And some photos of our many circles...

And finally a photo once I was safely back on the ground again.

So yeah, I only rode her for a few minutes, and mostly in one corner of the arena, but I didn't just put her away once I hopped off.  Once that picture was snapped, she and I got back to work, in hand again, working through the obstacles, but I made her work a bit harder this time.  I first lunged her at the walk, then at the trot, over some large-ish logs.  From the trot, she had to actually jump them instead of just being able to step over them.  Then I led her down a row of trot poles with a ~1 foot high jump at the end.  When I jumped it half a stride ahead of her, I flung the folded-up reins in her face, apparently, so she flung her head up in the air and failed the jump.  Oops.  Tried again, and it was still not very graceful on either of our parts.  I should've recruited an agile teenager to do it instead, huh?

Then we tried the teeter-totter.  It's basically a very sturdy wooden bridge, but with a log secured to the middle of the underside.  The horse steps on one end, and it's like an inclined bridge, but once its weight crosses the middle, it tips downward, likely startles the horse, and then it's supposed to walk off the other end, which is now down on the ground.  Yeah, Arya did NOT like the tipping part ONE bit.  She tried hopping off the bridge right where I was standing.  Luckily, I didn't get hurt, but yeah, not cool, horse.  So I got the whip out, ready to smack her shoulder if she did it again.  Well, that teeter totter is scarier than the whip.  Strike two.  I tried a few more times, but never got fully successful.  Celena needs to build a teeter totter at her place!

We also went to the bigger "car wash" obstacle--it is basically a big square gazebo with the strips of tarp hanging from two sides (opposite each other), and the other two sides blocked in with brush and more tarps and stuff.  The idea is that the interior is darker than it is outside, and a bit cave-like.  Much scarier than just walking through the single layer.  Arya wasn't too sure about entering it, and rushed through the first time, but I got her to accept standing both inside, and part in, part out, with the tarp brushing against both her face and her flank.  Good girl!

I got the baby back out for another round.  He was surprised to discover there were logs buried under the tarp I walked him over, and spooked a bit at first at that, but once he figured that out, he walked calmly through it, watching where my feet landed safely to put his own feet there.  I walked him over the teeter totter, and it was a total non-event.  We went through the double car wash, no big deal.  I saw someone BACKING her horse through the single-layer car wash, so I decided to try that with Aschere.  He didn't want to back into the tarp at first, but eventually did.  What a good, brave boy!  He's gonna be a great horse someday, if he ever gets big enough to ride.  ;-)

Here's a video of the highlights of Aschere's second session in the obstacles:

So.  Shawn and I were both pretty much done.  Her horse, by the way, did pretty well at all the obstacles.  Under saddle, even.  Hmph.  I do need to remind myself that Arya IS only 5 (going on 6), and has a very timid rider (working on that), so I can't fault her TOO much for both being a little timmid herself AND trying her best to take advantage of me.

Anyway, we untacked the ponies, loaded the gear back up, put the horses back on the trailer in the same order they were before, and headed out.  Except now a bunch of rigs had been added to the lot kind of haphazardly toward the end, and some rigs had left, leaving weird spots to theoretically drive through.  Shawn pointed her truck at an opening that looked WAY too narrow to me, between a trailer with horses tied to it and a shed structure attached to a barn.  We made it through, amazingly!  I complimented her on her driving, as did the lady manning the gate of the property.  No sooner had the words come out of the lady's mouth, when there was a thud and a bang and a lurch.  The passenger side of the trailer hit the post at the gate opening.  Oops.  Luckily, it seems that the majority of the damage was to Shawn's trailer (the piece of metal that sits at the front of the running board to keep it from being a knife edge came off), and the post seems to have been intact, just displaced from the dirt it was set in.  They set it upright with a tractor, and hopefully will be able to reset it without much trouble, though Shawn provided her insurance info.  Hope they don't end up needing to do anything with it!  So poor Shawn, who had driven so confidently through the small space just second prior, was now gunshy about driving her rig anywhere near anything.  I hope Richard can fix her trailer for her, and that the post is fine.  Ugh.  What a crappy end to what was otherwise a pretty fun day.

We got back to Shar's, unloaded the two horses who live there, and got all my stuff out of her rig, and she headed home.  I put the gear away, was STARVING, so went into town.  It was only 3-ish, so felt like a weird time to go out to eat, so I bought the makings for guacamole, some chips, and some salsa, and had a little Mexican dinner at home (at Shar's) in front of the TV.  I fed the dog at her dinnertime, had a quick sit in the hot tub, and by 8-ish, was feeling pretty beat.  So I went to bed.  Why bother staying up, right?

In the morning, I fed all the critters, ate a little breakfast (cheesecake--breakfast of champions!), then debated whether to ride.  I'd be riding solo, which would be good to practice on, but what if it didn't go well?  I called my mom to ask if she'd be around to virtually keep an eye on me (Road ID app sends a link by either text or e-mail to whoever you designate, then can follow you as you go, and it'll send an alarm if you stop moving for a few minutes, first to the rider, then to their contact person(s)--great app for situations like this).  She'd be around, so it was decided, I'd go for a ride.  Noelle heard me talking to my mom, and her previously ho-hum attitude quickly became "can I go, too?  Please?  Please?  Please?  Please?  Please?  Please?  Please?  Please?  Please?  Please?" and so on...  So I fetched Arya and tacked her up, and set all the apps up (Road ID on and alerting Mom, Endomondo tracking mileage, music playing, and last of all, camera ready to take pics).

We set off.  Arya wanted to turn right out of the driveway, I wanted to turn left.  Arya wanted to turn around and go home.  We'd barely started.  She thinks she's sneaky.  She'll creep closer and closer to one side of the road (usually the side toward home, especially while we were still alongside the pasture), then as I'd start steering her away from it, she says (in an exasperated teenage voice) "FINE!  We'll go the way you want." and try to do a 180, when I was just trying to get her to veer a bit back toward the center of the road.  She thinks she's sneaky.  So yeah, we had a few "discussions" on our way out of the area, and again at a couple of intersections, and then she finally decided it was alright that we were heading out and away from home.  We did a bit of trotting.  Then we came to spot where we take a bit of singletrack downhill between two fences.  It's narrow at first, then widens out.  At the top of the hill, Arya stopped dead in her tracks, neck arched like she was an Arabian (normally it's just her tailset that looks Arab, the rest of her sure doesn't!), ears pointed straight ahead.  I was like "yeah, right, you're just trying to convince me to turn around and go home," but Noelle was on high alert and pointing in the same direction.  I strained my eyes and ears, but saw nothing.  In the foreground was a pasture that I don't think has any animals in it, and then a road with no traffic, and then more property that wasn't fenced, and also didn't seem to have any activity.  I still have no idea what they were alerting to.  I prodded her on, and she took a few steps, then stopped again.  Noelle still seemed on alert, too.  We made our way like that for a minute or so, stop, walk a couple steps, stop, till they both visibly relaxed and walked on.  Just as we got right between two trees, and I thought to myself that it would suck if she spooked there and brushed me into a tree, a flock of birds took flight out of a nearby tree.  I think all three of us jumped out of our skin a bit.  Luckily Arya lurched forward one stride, then stopped dead, so while I got off balance backwards then forwards, she didn't go sideways, so I didn't end up in a tree OR on the ground.  Whew!

After a bit of a shy at the pillar of rocks next to the road (this girl does NOT like rocks, no idea why), we made it to the road.

While there is singletrack that parallels this road pretty much its whole length, we stuck to the road.  First, she's a butthead about trying to eat, so keeping her in the middle (or at least not the very edge) of the road prevents THAT behavior, plus after that trip and spectacular fall last summer, I'm leery of trotting on singletrack, especially alone, and wanted to do some trotting on this ride.  So whenever we had the sane option to ride on a dirt road, we did.

As we rounded a corner from a paved road to a dirt one, there's a shortcut that gets you off the paved road (which is rounding a corner there, so the shortcut is much safer!) and makes the corner a little shorter.  It goes riiiiiight next to a fence made of lava rocks.  Did I mention Arya has an issue with rocks?  She balked and shied at that wall.  I got her to stick next to it for a while, and then she was just DONE.  Would go no further next to the fence.  I'm not sure if she actually sensed movement in it (it's full of nooks and crannies and probably at least had squirrels, if not rockchucks (aka marmots) living in it, and possibly snakes...who knows), or if she was just using it as an excuse, but she willingly proceeded away from home as long as we were also going away from the rock wall, so whatever.

We trotted and walked, walked and trotted.  We started getting near a place where I know there's a giant Great Dane.  Nice enough dog, but like most dogs, gets REALLY excited to see horses.  We've ridden by there enough times that Arya doesn't get too excited about it, but it was our first time riding past the Great Dane solo, so I was had it in my mind to be prepared in case she did get a bit excited or worried.  Well.  First we went past a house (just before the GD) that had a little yappy white toy poodle bouncing down the driveway toward us.  Arya stopped and gave it the evil eye.  Then trip-trotted right past the Great Dane with barely an ear flick in its direction.  Ha!  Good pony knows what dogs to worry about.  :-)

We got to another intersection, and as we were headed straight toward the T, we saw some human-shaped figures through the trees.  Not sure if it was kids or adults, but whatever.  However, Arya figured that'd be a pretty good excuse to stop and ask to turn around.  Nope, don't think so.  Prodded her forward.  She craned her neck and ears to keep them in sight as long as possible as we rounded the corner.  THEN we saw it.  Gasp!  A DEER!  A single, lone, deer.  And Arya once again stopped dead.  Now, maybe a deer WOULD be a frightening sight to behold to some horses.  Like the NYC carriage horses.  Or are there deer in Central Park?  Anyway, deer practically live at Shar's neighbor's house, and venture on to her property probably at least daily, so they should not be a startling sight to Arya.  But yeah, she was clearly pulling my leg at every opportunity, trying to convince me to head home.  Not this time, girlie-o!

We continued along, reached a paved road we had to ride alongside, and did so without incident.  Then back onto dirt roads for a long downhill stretch.  Normally, she picks her way downhill really slowly, but she was actually moving out pretty well on this stretch.  Ha!  Now that I know she CAN, I'll expect it when we're with other horses too.  :-)  When we got to the bottom, I couldn't really remember how to get to where I wanted to be.  I'd only been this way once before, following Shar.  I knew we needed to get over to our right, but just didn't remember when we got off the road and onto trails.  I saw a trail that looked like one we had ridden on, but it had a few signs saying it was private property.  Now, there are signs in a few places around Crooked River Ranch that indicate that, and then proceed to say that it's open for use by people on foot and horseback, just no motorized vehicles (or sometimes bikes).  But I honored the signs and continued down the road.  But it really reminded me a lot of the spot we needed to be, so when I saw another trail head that direction, I took it.  And promptly spotted a barbed wire fence.  And followed it to where it clearly went all the way up a steep hill and blocked the direction I felt we needed to go.  Hmm...back to the road.  Arya willingly went along with the turn in direction while we were still off the road, but once we reached it and I wanted to turn right to continue going the way we had been, she made it VERY clear that her preference was that we turn left and head back the way we'd come.  Ah, no.  We've come this far, and we WILL continue until we figure out how to get to the river.  I promised her it'd be worth it when she got to eat and drink.

So we continued down the road, and sure enough, when we got a little bit past where I'd turned off onto the side trail that went to nowhere, it looked really familiar.  Figures!  We topped a small hill, rounded another corner, and then finally saw the break in the fence we were supposed to go through, complete with sign welcoming you to the trails.  :-)  Luckily, I found the turn to get down to the river without any trial and error, and we reached the top of the last downhill.  It's pretty rocky, with roly-poly round river rocks, so not my favorite section even when following a sure-footed horse.  Plus Arya decided that she didn't like the way we were headed and wanted to make it clear to me that we should be stopping, if not turning around and heading home.  So I decided that between her behavior, my sketchiness at the trail, and my extra weight when she needed to navigate, plus the fact we were almost to the spot where I planned to dismount anyway, I'd just hop off.  So I hopped off.  And started walking her down the hill.  She proceeded without any further fuss, except she kept taking bites of grass as we went.  Which would be fine if she could be "sneaky" about it and just snatch a bite while walking.  But of course she does a full-on stop, and my arm jerks behind me as I'm walking, and then I yank on the lead...ugh.  I pulled her in a little closer and we proceeded down the hill and to our resting spot without incident.  I took a bit of a break to pee, and led her to the water so she could drink.  She mostly ate, but I figured at least eating the wet grass on the shoreline was getting a little water into her, as opposed to the dry grass further ashore.  But she did actually drink a bit, too, so that was good.  Meanwhile, my alarm started going off because we'd stayed in one place for long enough it figured I'd fallen off.  I'd tried to move around enough to prevent that, but apparently just staying in the same general area too long does it.  I got it shut off before it worried my mom (though I'd pre-warned her about that feature and told her to call me before calling 911, in case I was fine, but just stopped, and I'd already told her we'd made it to the river, so I'm sure she wouldn't have called in the authorities quite yet).

Blurry, but unfortunately the only full-body shot I got of Arya at the river.  I'd brought my jacket just in case, but managed to do the entire ride in short sleeves.  It got a little chilly when the wind picked up, but not too bad for February!

Good girl!  Her toes are still on dry-ish land here, but she did actually get the tippy toes wet, voluntarily!

After our brief rest stop, I mounted back up (and she stood for me to get on from a rock--good girl!), left the whip holstered, knowing I wouldn't need it for the ride TOWARD home, and we set off.  She wanted to move out at a pretty good clip, but we quickly hit the long slog back up the rocky trail, and she slowed down a bit.  She tried a couple of time to trot up that hill (horses find it easier to trot, or even canter up hills, rather than slog up them at a walk), but I made her re-think that decision and walk carefully.  When we hit the flats again, it is a NICE trail, wider than typical singletrack, and with nice footing.  Arya wanted to GO, and I let her, and tried really hard not to be too controlling and rein-snatch-y.  I failed, and she tossed her head to show me her opinion on that.  I thought, briefly, about trying a canter, but there were enough tree branches at face and even just leg level that I decided I wanted to maintain a bit more control than that.  But after a few strides at "breakneck" (not really, just to me, used to trotting 4 mph or so) speeds, she settled into a much more manageable (again, to me and my panicky brain) stride we were both happy with.  Then we got to the turnoff for the trail we usually take, which goes along the side of the hill above the parking areas for Steelhead falls.  Eh, the parking lot looked empty, so I just stayed on the dirt road instead.  The first vehicle we came across was a state police pickup truck.  Not sure what he was doing there, but when I tried to wave, he had his nose buried in his computer and didn't see me.  Oh well.  He later passed us on his way back to civilization from there, so whatever.

Then we saw a tent, and Arya did a bit of a startle-stop.  Then we saw a truck that had a bright orange standing grill outside of it.  Startle-stop.  Then we saw people up ahead--a mom with three kids in tow.  She approached them a bit cautiously, but mostly willingly, and we stopped to let the kids pet her.  I think they said they actually have horses at home, but like any good horse person, it's still exciting to see one out and about, and you have to stop and pet it.  :-)  Arya and Noelle both did great with the meet and greet, then we went on our way.  By now we were at the busiest section of the parking lot, but no one was actually coming or going right then, and we moseyed on through just fine.  We got to the trail that parallels the road in a little gulley, and took that rather than the road, since it was pretty curvy and people tend to speed through there.  She was pretty good about not trying to eat.  Now that we were headed home, she was on a MISSION.  In fact, she tried busting out a trot a couple more times, but I reminded her that we were going to WALK on tricky footing.  I'd been tempted to take the same route back, even though it's slightly longer, because it would have meant most of the uphill route was on nice wide roads, and I could've asked her to trot a bit and really gotten a workout.  But she was breathing and sweating hard enough on this uphill walk, that I think it worked out just fine.  :-)

We stayed off the road as much as possible, but there were a couple times that due to lack of trail or low-hanging tree branches, we had to go onto the pavement for a bit.  One time, someone passed us going pretty fast.  We get passed on the dirt roads all the time, and even solo, Arya doesn't mind much.  (Except at night when the moving lights make for really weird shadows dancing all over!).  That proved true for this faster-moving traffic, too.  So I still wouldn't consider her totally traffic-proof, like if someone honked or a big rattling dump truck passed us or something, but it's good to know that she's safe around at least pretty normal traffic (I usually try to tip her nose toward it, too, so she can see it coming and not feel like it's sneaking up on her).

We turned onto the dirt road and finally busted out some more trotting, this time much faster than when headed away from home!  We were trotting along happily when all of a sudden, RRRrrcch! she put the brakes on.  It was the same freakin' deer.  Seriously.  Though this time, headed toward home, it took a little less encouragement to get her past it.  But wow.  You'd think they were total aliens from how she reacted, not critters she sees every day.  Seriously, barking dogs leaping at the fence get less of her attention.  A LOT less.

Speaking of which, the Great Dane was inside this time.  But we encountered a couple out walking their year-old dog.  They were keeping him VERY close, but I said that Noelle would be fine if he was, so they let him loose to go greet her, and everything was fine, including Arya.  We continued on, and were back at the shortcut near the rock wall.  Boy, Arya does NOT like that spot.  Once again, even headed toward home, she stopped dead, and tried to veer away from it.  This time I at least got her to stay NEAR it instead of walking 90 degrees away from it, but she still got off the trail a bit to give it a wide berth, and kept her eye and ear on it at all times.  I hate to think what she would've done if a big old rockchuk, or a rattlesnake, had popped out of it.  Yikes!  Levitation, probably.

We trotted a lot of the length of the last stretch of dirt road before getting back to the last singletrack, from where I planned to walk the rest of the way home (both to let her cool down a bit, and to reinforce that we don't get to rush home), slowing to a walk to let cars go by a couple times, and to give my legs (and probably hers) a break a couple times.  In the last push before the singletrack, I tried to get her to canter, but either she didn't understand the request, or she was just tired, as she didn't really even trot any faster.  Just kept plodding along at the same pace.  Oh well.

We got to where the trail turns off, and where there's a pillar of rocks acting as the corner of the fence, and once again she gave it a wide birth.  Silly girl!  Then we plodded up the hill.  Just a little past where we all spooked at the birds before, a flock of birds alit AGAIN, and we all got another startle.  Less so this time, or at least her spook unseated me less, possibly just because we were headed uphill instead of down.  But we all got our heartrates back to normal and proceeded on.

Here we are, with less than a mile left, and just a few more turns till home...

I tried to get a side shot of Arya, and was semi successful.  Yay for long arms?  You can see the new purple reins I ordered at convention, too.  (Rump rug still being made.)

And I also attempted a selfie + horse from the saddle.  Long arms help, but I have an awkward face.  Oops.  Look how focused Arya is on getting home in all these pics.  :-)

The dogs near Shar's house were silent on our way out, and silent when we first approached them on the way back, then started barking up a storm.  Arya didn't care, just kept plodding toward home.

We got home JUST as the alarm went off on the Road ID that we'd crossed over the amount of time I'd allotted for the ride (three hours).  Good to know--it apparently warns you two minutes prior, then just shuts off.  So if I was actually hurt, I'm not sure whether my mom got warned that the time limit expired or not, but then I'd have been on my own.  So I guess I just need to be extra generous with the expected time, in order for the stopped-moving alarm to work properly.

I dismounted only slightly more awkwardly than the mid-ride dismount, and hoped that meant I wouldn't be too sore after.  :-)  Poor Arya looked pret-ty tired, though.

She was quite sweaty.  It wasn't super warm out, but she's only barely started shedding (losing a few guard hairs, but not losing fur in veritable clumps like you see in a full-on shed), plus she's out of shape, plus she seems to be a sweater even when in fairly decent shape, so yeah.  VERY sweaty pony.  Not sure you can really see it here, but where it started to dry, she was white with salt.  So I figured she was going to roll one way or another, but it might be nice to at least rinse some of that salt off her first.  I untacked her, then went to the feed room and prepared a bit of mash (with plain salt and electrolytes added) to let it soak while she got a bath.  The boys knew what THOSE noises meant, and figured the mash was for them.  Sorry guys, you already had your breakfast!

Twinsies!  (Not related, and obviously different colors and sizes, but their blazes are mirror images, even include a little freckle you can't see in the pic)

No pics of the bath, as that's just asking for a wet phone, but she actually didn't mind it.  I started at her hind hoof, and she picked it up when she felt the water hit it, then it was almost like she said "you know what?  that kinda feels good!" and relaxed into it.  She hunched a bit when the cold water hit her back, but otherwise seemed to actually appreciate it.  Especially when I held the stream in front of her mouth for her to play with.  Didn't see her swallow much of it, but she sure enjoyed playing in it!  I rinsed her off all over (but not a real bath, and didn't even scrub to get the water down to skin level very well, just wanted to get the worst of the salt off, and knew she was going to grind some more dirt in very shortly).  I scraped the majority of the water off, then let her drip-dry the rest of the way while she ate.  (In endurance, you want to scrape all the water off, then keep re-applying, if you're doing it to cool the horse, but since it was cool out, and she was done for the day, I wasn't worried about that, and figured a little heat retention wouldn't hurt since it WAS cool out).  I tried to scoop a little water onto her face with my hand to get the worst of the sweat off her face, too, but as you can see from the photo, it didn't really help much.  But she was very happy to dive into the mash.  :-)

In the past, I've used Special Blend pellets, as they break down into mush really fast.  Shar only had alfalfa pellets, which apparently never break down.  Even after soaking for 10 minutes or so, then Arya digging in, they were still crunchy!  So she would do her best to get the pellets WITHOUT getting water, going so far as to slurp up a mouthful, then hold the pellets in her mouth while letting the water drain out.  Messy process!  She did eventually either ingest or drain most of the water. so I finally called it done.  Sheesh!

And video of the slurping process...

When I put her back in her pasture, I knew she was going to have an epic roll, so I got my phone all ready to take video, then somehow managed to get a snippet of video followed by a still photo, then no video again until I was encouraging her over to the water tank to drink some more.  Ugh--technology!  ;-)  Operator error, clearly.  But yeah, it was an EPIC roll, with much grunting and groaning.  She was very happy to turn that clean-ish water to mud on her coat.  :-)

I topped off the waters for all the horses, packed up my belongings and my kitty, and headed home (well, I stopped for nachos on the way).  I got home at 5-ish, and thought to myself that that allowed me a bit of time for laundry and maybe a load of dishes, too.  I started the laundry, managed to stay up long enough to put it in the dryer, then headed to bed at 7:30.  Wow.  Apparently this weekend was exhausting!  But I got to spend it with my biggest (literally) valentine, so it's all good.