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

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Rain Ridin~

15-miles at Victoria
I'd made plans to ride with Charlotte...  but it was raining...  Hard to get up the motivation to go out in it, with a hot latte in front of me & my husband home...  I called - Charlotte said;  "I've invited others - be there or be known as a wimp!"  Well...  OK then!  Cards were on the table & I did really need to get Farah out.
Does it look wet?  We get out to Hwy 9
About four weeks ago we brought in a new ton of hay from eastern, WA.  It was supposed to be an alfalfa blend, which we don't normally feed, but it was nice & the price was right.  The last week, I noticed that Farah was getting "hot".  Not at all like her.  What had changed?  Feed...  When I had to get off her last week, to keep from getting bucked off, the thought had entered by head.   So on Fri., we put her back on the expensive Timothy with just a small amount of alfalfa.  It seemed today that it's going to be a week or two before I see improvement - since we started out with Farah puffed up like a toad, bouncing down the trail, grunting & snorting at the same time.  No one could get near us that she didn't threaten.  At least for the first few miles.
Charlotte & Aliento
Finally, after setting an incredible pace, she settled in.  It was good for her mind to be with a group of competitive, experienced horses.  Kathy is another that likes to gallop, so we did a LOT of galloping & Farah loved it.  She & Cinnamon went side-by-side, nose to nose :-)  My Garmin recorded 35 mph - I don't know what Kathy's recorded, but do know we did some fast work.  The horses all loved it, they blew out their lungs, worked up a full sweat & by the time I dismounted to walk back to the trailers, Farah had her head long & low, walking with her swinging stride, looking relaxed & happy.  Garmin Stats~

Back to some arena time tomorrow~

Thursday, January 24, 2013

After the Thaw / Before the Rain~

Farah cracks the ice~
The day darkened from the beautiful sunshine of this morning to gray, heavy skies & the smell of rain was in the air.  Finally the ground has gone from rock hard, frozen & slippery - to muddy, wet & slippery.  I was amazed at how muddy it was & how quickly things had thawed. 
South down the Power Lines
Even though it seemed almost dusk, the sky was clear enough that the mountains were visible on the horizon under the clouds.  It seemed cold, though it was mid-30's. 
Ice melting on the wetland
Farah was again full of herself, wanting to gallop more than I wanted to, with the mud & still plenty of ice on the trails.
One of the pretty wooded trails~
I tried a couple of the old trails, knowing they were closed, but curious as to how much work I'd have to do to cut them back through.  Doubt it would be worth it,  a couple of the gates have been closed again - so someone has been checking things out.

Sure felt good to get back in the saddle, but I did quite a bit of walking too.  Very quiet, not even birds today.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Camping, Hiking Fun! - Day 2

Route to the Coast - 5.3 miles
Sunday we woke to sunshine!  That & a light breeze motivated us to hit the trails again - this time with the goal of reaching the coast.  After checking out the maps, we decided on the short way out from camp to give us more time to get out to the point.
John Tursi's hand-hewn underpass
This time we crossed under Hwy 20 further south & were rewarded with a beautiful walk through very large Douglas Fir on the west side, before the trail reached the coast.
Looking at the Deception Pass Bridge
At the point above, we were already well beyond the beach where we'd stopped on Sat.  We were on the North Beach trail to West point.  This was a really nice trail, with several spots where you could access the beach areas.  We were moving at a pretty good pace when Rascal had to make one of his many stops to shake.  As he did, the clip on his lead came free.  In the next millisecond...  he was Gone!  Butch called for him, but we knew it was pointless.  Nika was unconcerned - we decided there was nothing to be done but continue on down the trail.  A few minutes later a runner coming from the direction we were headed said that yes, he had seen a Beagle traveling fast up ahead...  If any of you know Beagles, you know that the one thing they can be counted on to do - is follow their nose...  Visions of all the terrible things that can happen to a loose dog were flying through our heads as we hiked.  It seemed like hours but after what was probably only about five minutes I heard Butch say;  "Hi there Rascal!"  As we'd come around a corner, there he was waiting for us on the side of the trail!  GOOD BOY!  Did I say GOOD BOY?!  You can bet that Rascal got way more attention than he wanted!

What made him decide to wait rather than continue on we do not know...  but I do know that we were very happy that he was safe.  Yes, we'd forgotten the pinch collars...  never again & the leads are going to have those snap ends replaced with a bull clip.
Our reward~
The light was just amazing!  The forest was so beautiful!  It was a perfect day & the perfect place to spend it!
Red of the Madrona
View of the Bridge & Cascades
View from the West Point
We came out near one of the many parking areas along this section of the park.  It seemed strange to come off the quiet forest trail & suddenly find lots of cars, people etc.  We headed back the way we'd come & took a short break.
Beautiful old construction~
On the hike back, both dogs were on their "A" game!  Rascal in the lead, Butch, Nika & me :-)  No more pulling, just setting a nice 3.2 mph pace & having a fine time!
Nika, Butch & Rascal
We returned on the same trails that we'd started out on, the day was growing short & camp was a welcome sight.
Our camp through the trees~
After a hot drink & snack, it was time to pack up & head back home, both of us wishing we'd had another day.  The drive back started out beautiful with incredible views of the Cascades as we were leaving the island.  A few miles south of Mt. Vernon though - we drove right into a heavy, dark cloud of dense fog.  Speeds dropped from 70 to 50 mph. in less than a mile.  The rest of the drive home was slower & it was a relief to see the lights of home!

We're already making reservations for more camping & planning trips with both the girls & their families this summer :-)

Monday, January 21, 2013

Camping, Hiking, Fun! - Day 1

First days hike - 4.8-mi.
It had been years & years since we'd just gone "camping".  When the girls were little & we managed residential multifamily - our only inexpensive escape was camping!  Since we were on-call full time, we had two, three-day weekends a month for our get-a-ways.  Our little Apache camping trailer saw lots & lots of miles over the years until we moved to the Homestead.  The girls were grown, we bought horses & life changed!  Now it seems to be changing again as we transition from our competitive years to enjoying more varied pursuits.
Great Blue Heron
 We were more than ready to get-away from the cold freezing temperatures, fog & gray.  Years ago we discovered that the weather on Whidbey Island can be very different & I'd made reservations at the only camp that is now kept open in the winter.

The dogs accompanied us.  These two have never had formal obedience training, so the first few miles were more about dog training than anything else!  Butch took Rascal's lead - he was the worst!  Nika liked to pull, but finally figured out that only one of us could be in front!  :-)  At Cornet Bay we were thrilled to see this Blue Heron.  The first I've ever managed to get a photo of!  He was quite a distance down the beach from us, but the zoom brought him in close.

Sat. started out cold & hazy, but the sun began burning through & it was much warmer than what we'd left at home!
Rascal & Nika
By the time we had our lunch break, the sun was already getting lower in the sky to the west.
Deception Pass from the South end of the Bridge
We made really good time on the trip back.  One big climb where we felt the burn, then a nice wide forested path on the return.
From the Cornet Bay youth camp
Back at Cornet Bay, we enjoyed the late afternoon sunshine.   The day was starting to cool down, Butch built a fire & we had somemores after dinner!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Ice Chunks~

Frozen & rock hard~
The water wasn't flowing over the trail anymore, but things had frozen up even more so than they were two-days ago.  It was worse than I'd expected - a slippy slide.
Farah loves this bunch grass~
 We had no choice but to go much easier.  I decided to use the Mylar Combo bit again & what a difference!  I had her attention, the battle stopped & I was back in full control.  You know, we've all heard it - "the bit for the job".   
Out on the power lines~
 It was a beautiful afternoon!  The sun actually felt warm on my back!  The ice on the ponds was gaining in thickness!
Back in the Woods~
 It looked like Winter in some places!  Here again is where we usually go fast, but not this day!
Ice Chunks!
 Ice chunks had fallen from the trees.  In the short time each day that it "warms-up" - the frozen snow/sleet falls off the branches, then stays frozen on the ground!  Little crystals reflecting the light~
Along our trail~
 It looked beautiful, sounded crunchy - but was no fun riding on, with Farah slipping almost every step.  
Mt. Pilchuck
 By the time we were back out, I was glad to call it a day's ride.  Doubt I'll go out again until it actually does warm-up.  With all the hours of cold that the ground has to continue to freeze, I can't see it getting any better - for at least a few days.  Farah was extremely disappointed that I didn't let her do our usual gallops!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Cold, Clear, Blue & Treacherous~

7-mi. loop
First, another Thank You is due to Dean Essex, DVM - for teaching me about saddles!  It was so cold & so crisp & Farah was So full of herself!  We got past the Utility crew cutting on our trees, snort, snort.  Then across Pat's & up the road...
Farah is very animated!
Next we go through the neighbors yard & up onto the trail.
Snow frozen on the ground & bushes~
 Good I say to myself, now she will settle down!  Not!  AT the end of this short trail it opens up & there were several spots of frozen water.  As we went past one, Farah's fast feet set a rock flying that landed & slid across the ice at her rear end.  In the next second she bucked & I was above my saddle looking down.  I came down - right back into the seat with my feet back in the stirrups!  YES!  I love my saddle!  My horse got the stick!  No more shenanigans! 
Rock hard frozen ground~
 At the end of this trail is a sharp downhill where the base of the Beaver Dam blocks the end of the big wetland.  The water was pouring over the trail.
No, not a river, just a full creek flowing over the trail~
I love this part, the part where Ms. Farah just goes trudging right through the water!  What an improvement over our first months together almost two-years ago now.  We actually did a little gallop on the way up to the power lines.
North - It looked & was COLD!
We turned South~
Going past one of the Beaver Ponds,, the water had a layer of ice.  Farah had been breaking through the ice on the trails.  She figured out how to break through with a foot - then drink as it gurgled under the remaining ice.
Beaver Pond
This time we rode over to see if the gate was still in place on 130th, & it was~
Closed gate on our map~
Another adrenalin rush... as we rounded the corner & went into the shade, Farah slipped!  The road was covered with a layer of black ice.  I moved her over onto the shoulder.
Looking back the way we'd come~
As you can see in the photo above & a close-up on the one below, this area hosts probably the most "protected" area signs anywhere in the state.  
Before the logging, before the paving, before the fencing - yes - it was the most spectacular area - a forgotten gem of a place with fresh flowing creeks, full of salmon, wetlands with fish, birds & beaver - but now?  Houses in rows, yards, pollutants, yard debris?  Really?  There's the matter of the funding to actually protect the area?  Where does that come from?  If they'd just stayed out - it took pretty good care of itself.  Somewhere under this land is supposed to be the largest fresh water aquifer left on this side of the state.  The large wetland is the recharge area for the aquifer, I've been told.
Mt. Pilchuck
We come back over to our side of the ridge & are welcomed by one of the best views in this part of the county~  My fingers were getting numb from taking the pictures, but it was our ride & I'm sticking to it!  :-)


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Snow Day~

It's cold, about 32 degrees, wet & again we have large, wet flakes of snow falling through the air...  The dogs & I huddled on the swing while I sipped my tea & watched them fall.  It seems like the last few years we haven't made it through January without at least one or two snowfalls.  
Last year it held off until mid-month~
January 15, 2012
 2011, on the same day, you see below that we were white~
January 9, 2011 Dogwood Gulch
 We did get enough snow yesterday to cover the grass & it's still covered today.  At least as far as my photographic record goes, we didn't have snow on the ground in January of 2010, but the mountains were white!
January 6, 2010 - Three Fingers
 In 2009 though - it was  different story~
January 2, 2009
That year we had plenty of snow coming into the New Year & sunshine too.  It was such a "nice" January that I did a lot of riding & my friends did too :-)
January 17, 2009 - Khari, Joyce, Annie, Elation, Diane, Kendall, Jesse, Charlotte & Fancy
January 19, 2012  How it looked heading for home from Arlington
There you have it, a little history of the weather for this time of year!  Let's hope we don't continue to get slammed with huge snow storms, downed trees, power outages & all the interesting days of last January! 

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Tribute to Jasrada~

 I've found the video of Jasrada.  (Dean had the camera & she knew better than to run over Him! :-)  (She must have been about 18 when this was taken.)  We found her one rainy day in 1992 - at a herd dispersal sale in Puyallup.  We were looking for an interim ride for Butch while his young colt Khaz was growing up.  Instead, what we found was a mare that changed our lives forever.

We started with Competitive Trail, where Jas & Butch collected many first place blue ribbons in 25-mile rides & two-day 50's.  By 1995 I was looking for an endurance horse & decided to try Jas.  She was so game & so savvy, too smart for her own good & Very competitive!  Her recoveries were awesome & we placed fourth in her first 50 at Bully Wully.  Our second ride, Animal House - we came into the Vet Check to find her back legs splattered with blood - she was bleeding from both front coronary bands, something no one had ever seen.

I could never give her up & she would never give up - so we kept trying different supplements,  different farriers, vets & were open to any & all advice.  By the end of her career, we had over 300-miles in pulls, most at 40-miles, when her feet would give out & she would be grade 1 lame.

Those times when we managed to have it all together, when she had enough hoof to shoe & when she'd been sound enough, long enough, for us to condition -  we could win!   Every ride, she would spook once - I would never know when or at what & had several unplanned dismounts over the years!  We were riding before the Decade Team Award began, then missed getting it - by the one year (2003) I was injured.  With those 300-miles in pulls - Jas also missed receiving a thousand-mile medallion...

Once she finally retired, though - she didn't miss anything!  :-)  Perfect for our newly arriving Grand-kids, she loved Ben as though he were her own & would whinny for him the minute she heard his voice!
10-15-04 Ben walks Jas to the barn after his ride~
 Many was the time I heard Ben say when it came to Jas;  "I can do it myself Grammy!"  He did too!  He had no fear of her at all & would take on any trail as long has he was on her back.

Jas came down with Anterior Entheritis in April of 2003. Dean Essex, DVM took on her treatment rather than putting her down.  She was on fluids for over a week, but he never gave up & neither did she.  With an amazing show of strength & mental toughness - she pulled through.  I was determined that she would end her Endurance career with a 50-mile ride & we accomplished that at Klickitat in 2005.
Jas & Ben May 24, 2005
When we lost her, Ben was as heartbroken as we all were.  He lost his interest in riding & that was the end of that.   Why I started digging for the video I don't know, but I'm glad to have found it & happy to share it with you~