Ain't nuthin like ridin' a fine horse in a new country - Augustus McCrae – Lonesome Dove

Friday, September 28, 2012

Having a Fine Time~

Riding the north end of Victoria~
(The black is our route today.  Overlaid on part of the red from Monday's ride.)  I woke to rain...  it wasn't much - but it was enough to freshen the air.  It was overcast, but I ran out of the rain on the drive north.  We headed out - both horses with brand new shoes!  We decided to meander - it was one of those mornings.  Tired of the poor quality of my smartphone camera in the woods, I brought the Nikon Coolpix.
As we head out ~

Onto the trails~
Beavers created a spectacular wetland, but lots of trees are dying~
We climb up the ridge~
To the top~
Back into the woods~
Bears recently debarked this tree~
With the wind shift, the smoke rolled in~

Haze over Lake McMurray~

Linda & Count patiently wait :-)
 We did enjoy some INCREDIBLE trotting through the trees!  Count in the lead, Farah determined to keep on him...  missed the trees by the narrowest of margins!   I started yelling yippee as we cleared each one! :-)   Farah started flying up one hill - hitting 14 mph & then slipping so smoothly into a run that we were both sorry that the hill ended.

Both horses are running much better now with angles back up where they should be - another reminder that regardless of what the Farrier tries to schedule - when those angles start dropping & we're putting on these miles & hours on the trail - he needs to keep up!  :-) 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Stupid People~

South side of the road
Today I met with a representative from our Public Utility company to discuss trimming the trees along the power line.  I've been know as a "sensitive customer" for over twenty-years now.  I love it!  As it's become more "politically correct" to prune with the approval of property owners & not just show up to chop & hack - I've actually developed a working relationship with the foreman.  We get together to walk/talk & see exactly what needs to be done - then he schedules the crew for a day I'm home.

As we walked up the road, we smelled smoke, Randy turned around to see the burn barrel directly south from the woods burning & smoking.  He looked at me & said;  "There's a BURN BAN in effect!"  Disbelief in his voice.  I took the photo then called 911.  This "neighbor" has been trying to "rule" his little corner of the world for all the years we've had the displeasure of living across the road from him.  His dogs run at-large, he drives as fast as he wants on the road, he hits our fence, mailbox, etc.  He operates some sort of "industrial manufacturing shop" in what is supposed to be a "Rural Zone" of Snohomish County - with the accompanying truck traffic etc.   I'm the "witch with a B" according to him.  Good is what I say!  
North side of the road - our woods~
This burning thing has gone on for years now, I've tried to get a photo, but he usually does it at night or late in the day.  It's not that he's burning wood, oh no - it's something with an acrid smell.  I've found pieces of ash deep in the woods.  This year - it's more than scary - it's downright frightening!  The Fire Dept. was quick to respond - they told him to put it out, get rid of the burn barrel & to not burn anything besides yard debris.  They also told him to move any fire further back on his property - away from our forest.  

Yes, I've had the sprinkler out for several days now, watering as far as I can along the road inside our woods - just enough to try to keep things a little moist...  Rain, RAIN would be WELCOME!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Exploring Lost Trail~

GPS stats
We weren't feeling too inspired, just ready for saddle time.  The "East side" trails keep calling our name.  Our favorite running hill was there, as was another, the "blue bucket" trail.  Today we found both!   We spent the morning mostly walking & just enjoying the woods.   With the beautiful day & scenery - who cared?
Morning trail~
It took a while to reach the far side.  The temperature was perfect, mid-60's & we had all day.  It was after 1 p.m. by the time we'd crossed over - time for Linda to check out the accuracy of her memory & as usual - it was top notch.  The problem came when we found clear-cut where forest had stood.  Then, in the incredible stands of huge trees, where a beautiful trail had been - but the blackberry & salmonberry growing along the old logging roads had closed off the "entrance".  We were so far out it was eerily quiet.  We found our "hill"!  Overgrown to the point where we hardly recognized it.  Another clear cut too.
Clear cut view
It definitely felt like riding back in "time".  It had been at least 15-years since I'd been on those trails & almost as long for Linda.  What had been wide paths, were now totally overgrown.  About the time we thought we might have to backtrack & return on pavement, we found a trail!  A couple riders on that side have actually done some work to try to re-establish at least a couple of the old CT trails.  It was rough going & Linda took a blackberry across her face...
Linda & Count lead on the old "trail~
 We found both the bridges that had been put in back in the 90's still solid!
One of the bridges~
 Since it was getting late in the day & we'd been out for over four-hours, it was time to head back.  We reminisced on the days we could clear trail for hours at a time, then ride fast & far & think nothing of it!  I remember a day that we marked 25-mi. of trail - then I turned around & rode it in reverse to see if Alexi was ready for her first 50-mile ride!  Linda went home for dinner.  As I was riding back out of the woods, I saw car lights coming - Linda, checking to be sure that I'd made the miles & was safely out of the woods :-)

Our saddle time was over six-hours, only one small drink for the horses out of a rapidly disappearing water puddle, but they both stretched out that Walk on the way back!  

What's badly needed now?  A couple of younger "Trail Masters" preferably with teenage kids -  to take on the task of re-opening some of these trails!  They have changed so much, are so beautiful now & would probably double the length of the trails that are currently used.   Any takers?  :-)

Friday, September 21, 2012

What we Wished For!

Two GPS tracks of two rides!
Don't ask me how I did it, but this time I managed to overlay our ride route today onto the top of the route from the 17th!  As you can tell, we got MUCH farther!  When we woke up to gray skies, mist & fresher air it was a hallelujah moment!  A perfect riding day & we were riding! 
A "where are we moment"  :-)
When we came out of a large stand of trees to this clear-cut, we had an idea that Hwy 9 was below us.  We pushed on & entered another large stand of timber, it was like riding through Narnia!  Moss hanging from the trees & so quiet.
Gray green in the timber~
 Some of these trails were heavily overgrown, so we had to pick our way - but we never did get stopped!  Linda recognized where we were, I did too eventually :-)  By the time we looked to see how long we'd been riding - we'd been out over three hours!  We circled back & onto the "fun" trails through the trees!  Yippee!  
Same picture, different day & With Lynn!
 We worked our way back & up the ridge - to find ourselves back in the clouds, it was still misting & by the time we reached the overlook to the lake, it was actually RAIN!  Not much, but we'll take anything we can get!  That fresh, clean air was a true gift!
Linda, Dawn & Lynn
 I had to lighten this up, but you get the idea.  :-)  This time Farah "rubbed" my right 1/2 chap on a couple trees - so this tells me that she is trying to make adjustments!  We did have to go back & do a section where she let her need for speed get ahead of her brain - but the second time through it was perfect.  We did have one very large spook at a rock...  it seems that Farah heard somewhere that rocks have eaten horses...  When we came to the last rock she had spooked at, we went right by.

By the time we got back, we'd been out almost five hours & it didn't feel like enough~  More exploring to do too!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

My First LD ~

Connie On Jasrada, Butch on Khaz
It was Aug. 31, 1996 - our second year of endurance.  I'd had a pull on Jas in her second 50 - so decided to drop back in distance & see how she did.  Khaz was old enough finally - so Butch was riding too!   Did we ever have fun!  The Bully Wully was one tough sucker of a ride.  Even the Canadians would complain that it was too tough to finish in time.

Finally, last week - here came my Limited Distance patch from the AERC with my first 250-mile chevron!  It took Jas, Khaz, Khari & now Farah to earn those miles for me... & sixteen years!  :-)  The only time I usually rode LD's was to see if Jas's feet would hold together, to get Khaz out for Butch, or in Khari's case - just to see if she was ready for more.  Farah, on the other hand, I knew was ready!  With good weather to burn & the luxury of not working - I had plenty of time to put in the miles.  Friends asked me yesterday - "Aren't you going to ride Farah in Endurance?!  She could do it easy?!"  (They don't read my blog :-)  Yes, she could - but with my increasing maturity has also come - I like to think anyway - a bit of wisdom.   Good horses are few & far between, most horseman are lucky to be blessed with one in a lifetime - that special one of mine is pictured above.

I've had a couple of rides lately - when I think - then knock-on-wood - that I just might be that lucky person who will have another.  If so - the last thing I want to do is ride her hard & fast both - at least not too often :-)

The ride routes have changed over the years, with the loss of available open space.  It's easier too - to flag a ride with a ATV & stick to the logging roads, with a stretch of nice trail thrown in here & there.  I don't think many ride managers now, actually ride their routes on horseback to do the flagging, but there are notable exceptions :-)  Those are the rides I may still attend from time to time & enjoy some nice Limited Distance riding!  (Maybe a 50 thrown in here & there :-)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Khari has Arrived in Saudi Arabia!

My first ride on Khari, Sept. 25, 2005
I was relieved & disappointed both - to receive an email from Mohammed this morning; informing me that Khari had arrived in Saudi Arabia!  Relieved that she is safely in his hands & disappointed that the agents hadn't notified me that she was shipping earlier than I'd been told.  I'd hoped for some photos of her last days in the US, loading into the shipping container etc.  I've asked Mohammed to send me pictures & stay in touch - as I know nothing about the ride season there or what training they do, etc.  I feel like a Mom who has just sent her child off to their first summer camp!

I'd been thinking about Khari a lot the last couple weeks, must still be some esp between the gray mare & me :-)  So - looking back to our first year - it was during this same week that I rode her for the first time.  After all Dean's work to get me over my fear & his training Khari - it still took until after the first of the following year for us to become a team.  Dean said that someday I would look back fondly on that time & he was right.

Monday, September 17, 2012

"Swishing through the Trees~

Another 15-mil of trails!
Yes, we're riding & riding a lot.  The weather is making it easy to remember that at least according to the calendar it's still Summer!  The sunshine is actually starting to get on the "nerves" of true Western Washington residents who are looking forward to & expecting some of those cool, crisp, beautiful days of early fall with some rain thrown in.  Linda & I both like to ride in that kind of weather & are missing it a little - still holding out hope for that perfect fall.

Christa & Dawn rode with us today - we took it easier than we have - since Christa had been on a couple weeks of vacation & Dawn was riding her husbands very nice big gelding.  It was amazing to see how this huge horse fit through the trees!  :-)  Wish I'd taken a photo!
Linda, Christa & Dawn
 With the roads rock hard, at least the trails are still soft & nice under the canopy of the trees.   On a steep up-hill, Farah - in the lead - dug in & flew up!  She has the "bottom" now to keep going even when she realized that her first burst had to be followed by a second!  :-)  I gave her a big Yippee when we crested the top & she loved it!

We did go way to the south on the old trails there;
View from the clear-cut
 Checking it out on Google Earth - I'm pretty sure we were looking east toward Mt. Washington.  There have to be old trails somewhere in-between, but it would take some dedicated trail volunteers to open then up.  Another fine ride & I never thought I'd say it;  but I'm looking forward to riding on a gray, misty day~

Friday, September 14, 2012

Heart Lake to Cranberry Lake ~

Heart Lake to Cranberry Lake
This is one of my very favorite places to ride.  Sadly though - we drove into the parking area & found signage warning of Toxic Algae.  To see what can be such a beautiful lake, in the Summer with children playing - looking so awful was not good...
Heart Lake
One of the very few areas where you can actually ride in a forest that hasn't been logged over & over.  You can admire the huge Douglas Firs, native ground covers & even large rock formations.  Never in the years since Diane introduced me to the area have I see it so dry.  The trails that are all dirt, were so hard that the mares were slipping on the downhills.
Typical section of shady trail
Thankfully Lynn remembered her maps & we spent late morning into early afternoon in the cool shade taking whatever trail we came upon that headed to Cranberry Lake.  Some are very technical - no doubt about it.  Large boulders in the trail surface & short steep downhills & switchbacks.  We reached our goal & stopped for a snack & to let the mares drink & graze.
Cranberry Lake
Cranberry Lake was beautifully clear & fresh.  No boating allowed has probably been what has save it from a fate similar to Heart Lake.   The sun was getting low on the horizon by the time we headed back, reaching the trailers 5-1/2 hours later.  Diane will be LOL when she reads this - but I actually didn't do too bad as guide :-)  We ran into several people on bikes - the heavy bike use has probably contributed to the compacted hard surfaces on the trails.  Better to share than not to have them at all.
Farah gets her drink
I know that Diane had lead me to at least three view spots over the years we rode these trails, all with incredible views, but this day we only found one.  An "urban" view - but still beautiful.
View from what the map said was a "view point"
 We rode almost 15-mi. with a maximum elevation of 663 ft.  Here's my Garmin's Stats ~  Farah was near perfect the entire ride, until about 1/2-mile from the parking - when she again slammed my left knee into a tree!  I saw it coming this time & managed to make it a more glancing blow - BUT!  I turned her around & we did it again!  I am going to go ahead & put those English spurs on my boots!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Riding Taylor Mountain~

Taylor Mountain Ride
It was fun to head out on another of our unusual, incredible late Summer days to ride in a new area for me - Taylor Mountain.  It was a two-hour drive from home, I met-up with everyone in Monroe & followed them from there.  We were saddled & on the trail by late morning.  My Garmin Player recorded our ride:  Garmin - Taylor Mountain.

Jennifer led the way, she was the most familiar with the area.  Lynn & Arlene came with - Susan met us there.  The day warmed up quickly & Jennifer started us climbing!  There was a lot of climbing - as usual I wanted to go "up" - especially when I heard about the view!  At one point on the way up, I let Farah out for a little gallop.  She loved it & so did I :-)
View from the top~
 Sadly, we were all somewhat dissapointed - the smoke from the fires in eastern, WA hid Mt. Rainier & the other Cascade Peaks...  Our air seemed fresh - but obviously was not.
Looking at the Sammamish Plateau from 2,518 ft.
 The layer of smoke was thick in all directions.  We had a snack & took a short break up here - then continued on a really nice "loop" that Jennifer had planned.  What goes up, of course comes down, so we had a lot of downhill.  Part way back we came to a beautiful Beaver Pond, so the horses had a chance to cool off & get a good drink.  Farah - though - had taken advantage of every spot on the trail - no matter how small to drink, one of the things I really like about her.  Another mare smart enough to take care of herself.
Beautiful Wetland~
 During the morning hours, Farah had behaved really well, staying back of the horse in front & soft on the bit.  I lost that later in the afternoon, when the speed picked up & I asked her to slow down.  The road surfaces were hard & many had loose rock.  I never like to book on that kind of footing - so we fought.  At one point she snapped my lower back so hard that I actually felt each & every lower vertebra snap :-(  Wish Jack could have seen her...  I'm sure he would have figured something out.  I finally just stopped her & let everyone go on.   We moved out in a super nice walk, even practicing our slow jog at a very consistent speed!  Farah naturally has the ability to do a very consistent pace at whatever gait we may do - always best to end on a good note.

By the time we were all back at the trail head, we'd covered almost 20-miles in just under four hours.  What a Great way to spend a day!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Passing On The Torch ~

Rascal & Annika
I've spent the best part of two days now making up a photo book for Kittaka.  It's been a tough go.  Only a few months since her passing - looking back over the years of her life with us was a trip down memory lane.  Fourteen-years is a long time in anyone's life - including mine.  As I had to go back to photo albums - YES - real photo books, Butch came in, saw them on the table & I would hear exclamations as he too realized the changes that time has wrought.

Amazing how the trees grow, the girls mature, grand-kids appear & then they too start to grow!   Where has the time gone, well - it's right there in those pictures!  With Abby the first dog our family owned - the one that made the move with us to the Homestead in 1990, she was the beginning of the direct line of dogs who have followed.  Abby was with us the night we brought Kittaka home in Nov. 1997.  When Abby left us after a long (14-year) life full of adventure, we brought Rowdy home.   Even though Kitt was six-years old, he was the one she  loved the most, the one who bonded to me & learned the ropes from her!  She treated him as her pup, schooling, scolding & teaching him the routines that she'd learned from Abby. 
Rowdy with Kittaka - April 18, 2009
When he died so young & unexpectedly - she & I both found it hard to move on...  But moving on is what life is about;  so next was Rascal.  He has been a different kind of Beagle - independent to a fault, not necessarily in need of much attention, but again - at age eleven - Kitt decided that it was up to her, to make a dog out of him.  She didn't give him the love or attention that she had Rowdy - but she made darn sure that he figured things out or paid the price!  :-) 
Kitt with Rascal - November 1, 2009
 Eventually, as Kitt continued to age - Rascal became more important to her.  Her ears, her eyes, her companion & help mate.  Rascal stepped up to the task too - if not with her, he would be close by.  With her loss, then the loss of Mischief so closely following - Rascal had an unwelcome taste of what it felt like to be lonely - the only Beagle, the only dog...  We all had some very tough times.

But then... along came Annika.  A different kind of dog & yet - there was something about her, something that we recognized?   An independence, a happy outlook on life, a way of smiling when she sees us.  Without any way of knowing - she somehow seemed to sense what was missingRascal has been training her of course, in his way - but there are some things...  The way she seems to like the same special spots in the yard, a little of the look - when she runs to greet us, just to see that flash of gold again when I'm walking the woods.

This afternoon though - when I looked out to see, then grabbed the camera to capture the moment - it's a picture of life here on the Homestead making a full-circle.  A good day, a fresh, sweet breeze from the cleansing, welcome rain of last night~

Friday, September 7, 2012

Hot as Summer!

Another 10-miles at Victoria
It was 85 degrees in Arlington on my way home late afternoon.  We didn't start out until about 11:30 a.m. & rode for 3-1/2 hours.  I worked at keeping my upper body back - No leaning forward!  It helped, Farah seemed to understand what I wanted & kept further back off the horse in front of her - until the little buck she tossed in that did not help my lower back!  Big horsy trouble for that!

I worked on some of the things I learned.  At every whoa - two steps back.  This engages the rear end - after a while it will become a automatic response.  Light hands!  Using my seat - putting my legs forward - the cue for a stop - to eventually teach her to stop without a pull on the reins.  I'd love that.  Paying attention to what foot is leaving under me - timing the cue as the foot leaves the ground - not after it's hit.  Making sure that when we go around those trees, that my off leg is off her side!  After all - she needs a place to move to!  Hard habit to break - because when I ride fast I tend to grip with my legs.  I also tend to lean forward.  Using stirrups that are a 4" wide platform is great for trotting over long distances, but not so great when you don't want to constantly be cuing your horse to go fast!  
Warm Sunshine afternoon
 There were more riders coming up to the Monument during the few minutes we were there than I'd ever seen at one time.   Tying their horses off to the trees, blocking the trail - etc.  When we arrived at the trailer parking, it was full too.  Guess anyone with a horse is trying to get in all the riding they can with weather like we've been having! 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Great Horsemen~

Jack Brainard, Connie & Farah
Cowboys - the men who lived by a code, said what they meant & treated people with respect.  You never had to worry where you stood with them - they never minced words, but spoke true &  from the heart.  These men are disappearing -  the last of what many call;  the greatest generation.

As a kid in the late 50's & early 60's, Cowboys were King!  Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, The Lone Ranger...  On Sat. mornings the Watts Hardy Dairy hosted movies a the Boulder Theater.  You brought your empty milk cartons to for a free admission.  The Westerns were my favorite!  Horses, lots of horses, shoot-em up plots, fast riding - plenty to keep a horse crazed kid entertained :-)

In my early teens, I worked a few weekends at the local drive-in restaurant;  Twin Burger - to pay for riding lessons at Green Meadows Riding Stable.  Then - lived for the summers on my Grandparents farm in IA - where my mare Topsy waited.  The minute we arrived, I was out of the car, begging for a pickup ride out to the pasture.  Once we spotted her, I'd jump out & call her name.  Even Grandpa had to admit that she remembered me - she would lift her head at the sound of my voice & trot right up to me!
Connie is Concentrating!
To learn from Jack Brainard - who would be just an hours drive from home, at the Northwest Natural Horsemanship Center in Fall City; was an opportunity more like a dream come true.  Saturday, I spent the day auditing to absorb all I could.  Jack's style was soft spoken, direct & to the point.  What I appreciated the most was the way he made every rider feel special.  When a horse made a correct move - he would say;  "Look!  That's it!"   His words timed so perfectly that as a rider, you felt your horses response.  

If you have an interest in riding a better horse - this book is for you!   If I Were To Train A Horse.  It's hard to put down & will have that well-worn look in no time.  

My private lesson today, was a personal revelation - trusting Jack enough to give myself up to the ride - I felt that by the end of our too short time with him - I'd gained a huge amount of trust in my mount & she in me.  Our communication had taken a huge stride forward in mutual understanding.  After all - that's the beauty of the true relationship we strive for with our equine partners~
(Thanks for coming with me Dave, photos & support!)

Sunday, September 2, 2012

More of the Same!

More Trail, more fun~!
Another stellar day!  We left Linda's at 1 p.m.  Charlotte came to ride as did Suzanne.  Suzanne's big Standard-bred set a pace that's normal for his breed & it kept the rest of us moving!   What fun!  We took some of the trails that I hadn't been on for a while & went up the draw where the downed tree had stopped me a week ago.  This time, with Tim's easy step-over & Count making it look easy - I dismounted & Farah followed my direction - getting over :-)  It wasn't pretty but she did it with no fuss :-)  Chainsaw next time!  
Count & Farah take advantage of the grass!
 The afternoon was so beautiful, clear & mild that we rode for four hours.  Stopping a couple times for a break or snack - but doing some fast & fun trotting through the trees!  When we took the ridge trail - the views were again clear.
Looking Southeast toward Pilchuck
 Did we have fun?  Oh yea...  the main topic of conversation was how to make the time for more of the same for as long as this weather lasts!