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

Monday, June 29, 2015

Hot, Buggy, Humid & Overgrown!

Farah enjoys ripping the Reed Canary Grass
With any horse, it seems you have those regular rides, those good rides & some special rides.  This day - Farah gave me a really unexpected special ride!  Even though it was difficult, we both got torn up by the blackberry & attacked non-stop by the bugs - she stepped up to the plate & let me know that we're - partners!
Water still flowing out of the big wetland~
It was 89 degrees when we left home, hotter on the paving as we headed up to the trails.  (I'd wanted to attend Renegade this coming weekend, but with the heat - I had to ask myself why?  No fun for me or for my mare - to work as hard as I know she would have - in record breaking, sweltering weather.)   We both were more than ready for some trail time - at least leaving from home, I knew we'd have some shade.  What I forgot, was how overgrown things become by the end of June!
The trail is where?
Just getting out through the first section - took teamwork!  I'd pull back a blackberry vine with my stick, Farah would step over the ones trying to entangle her legs, then drop her head & go under the one I was holding up!  We'd had just enough rain this morning to drop everything down low.  The humidity was high & the bugs were awful!  I'd bought one of the masks that go over a bridle, but did I think to put it on her?  Not!  Between smashing the biting flies, getting snagged on the blackberry & the general miserableness of the weather - we still had an amazing ride.  We worked together!  My girl was on a loose rein, collected up - so strong & forward - her best ever!
Whether sprayed or dying, some of the Scotch Broom is dead & bone dry...
The ugliness of the dead invasive was both good & bad to see.  Good that some of it is dead, bad that it's so tinder dry.
The beauty of the blooming Fireweed offset the dark, nasty brown weeds.  We went up to the top of our short loop & stopped in the shade of the forest for a break before turning back.
This wetland still has plenty of water - good to see~
Since this area is a Narnia for natural water sources & has been forever, it was good to see it holding it's own in this season of drought & record breaking temperatures.
Beaver's newer pond~
The Beaver's latest pond though - is almost empty.  It didn't look like anyone had been up here - so I don't know if this is due to the drought or not.  The little creek is nearby & still has water.

Everywhere she could - Farah would leap up into short bursts of speed & we got in several short gallops!  She was so forward today - walking along at 4.5 to 5 mph.  Fast enough that even walking we had a breeze!  :-)  This alone let me know that the Supracore pad is working for her & her comfort level has improved.
Dry view of Mt. Pilchuck~
Any remaining snow is long gone off the peak.  The neighbor's fields are turning brown, the quarry & logging operations outside town have changed the view.  Butch was home when we returned - I hosed Farah off, sprayed her down & she headed out to her pasture for a good roll.  Feels good to know that things are back to working for us!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Saddle Epilogue~

Kachees Lake
The water level in the reservoir was down - from our last trip over Snoqualmie pass in April~
Kachees on April 12th
This was a mufti-purpose trip - to pick up another load of hay.  First cutting this time & probably the only cutting, Everett's water will be cut-off the first of Aug.  Second cutting isn't usually ready to bail until the first part of Sept.  Farah was with us too, so that Everett could fit her for a saddle tree & proposed new saddle.  I'd also asked him to access the fit & lack of workmanship in the saddle I'm returning to McClintock.
Ben bucking hay!
It was HOT!  104 when we arrived & still going up!  Ben was a great help!  The bales were just a little lighter, they were so dry, enough that a ton was 22 bales rather than 21.  Once the truck was full, we all hurried into the air conditioned saddle shop for a cold pop!  Farah was in the barn, able to roam from stall to stall, where she cleaned up any & all food stuff left by Everett & Carolyn's horses!

We came to several conclusions.  The first - the McClintock saddle is being shipped back today!  Even the tree itself - was not the same kind/type of tree that was in Linda's saddle.  Linda's saddle has stirrup slots, in the bars, which is what gives me the tremendous freedom of movement in the fenders.  We considered the option of new sheepskin on this saddle...  With the age of the saddle, craftsmanship etc., the leather would not hold up & we'd basically end up with a tree.  Regardless - it would be very time consuming & costly to make it look as good as it should.

We pulled out books of trees, trying to find one that would match Linda's saddle.  We couldn't find one, which may be part of the reason I didn't get one!  It seems that they are just not being made by any of the major saddle tree manufactures.  Everett referred me to Rod Nikkel's Saddle Trees, so beautiful that they are works of art & priced accordingly.  After sizing Farah again for a tree, with plenty of wither clearance/pommel height - we were ready to head home.

Yesterday, Butch helped me to re-fit Linda's saddle with all my stuff.  My new Supracore Coolback Endurance sized pad had arrived last week from Riding Warehouse at a really decent price & two-day shipping for $5.  It fits perfectly under the saddle, so - I'll be hitting the trail again soon (hopeful that the heat clears out?) & so happy to be!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Tale of Two Saddles~

Linda's McClintock Saddle
June of 2104, I gave up on my second custom made saddle.  After replacing the tree, there were issues with the rigging.   I'd spent more than enough money on trying to get it right, so put it up for sale.  I was using my old Bighorn, felt insecure in it & Farah knew it.  On one particular ride, not long after - with Linda, she watched as Farah did all her ornery antics & I tried to stay on top.  When we returned to her place, she disappeared into a shed, came back & thrust the saddle above at me!  She said;  "Try this one, it's a great saddle & has a deep seat.
July 22, in Linda's McClintock
After a ride or two, I soon added padding to the rock hard seat!  Otherwise, I was in love with it!  Butch & I were sitting out one hot evening, the saddle was on the stand & we were both admiring it's style.  Butch said;  "Why don't you just order one like this?"  That started the search & I felt so lucky to find Garry McClintock - still in business.  When I called, I explained that I'd been seriously ripped off with my last custom saddle.  Also how much I liked the saddle I was borrowing - one of his!  He was gracious, told the history of how he'd made that particular style & how surprised he was that one had turned up, since he'd only made a few.  Garry said he was just finishing up a saddle & mine would be next. 
Waves on the the withers~
I was riding a lot of miles & the only problem that cropped up was the waves on Farah's withers.  I did some searching & couldn't find a definitive answer as to a cause - but I did notice it on photos of other horses.  She wasn't sore & the only problem I'd had was being pitched a little further forward than I like on the steep downhills.  I decided to pull out some shoulder shims & started using those.  The waves improved, but never went away.  Since the sheepskin was completely worn off the bars of the saddle, I started using my woolback with supracore inserts & the problem almost completely went away.  That is the way we rode a couple LD's & Mt. Adams for two years.  No issues at all.

I tried not to call & harass Garry as the months went by.  When I did reach him, he'd been in an auto accident, in the hospital & was just getting back to work.  Yes, my saddle would be done soon.  Then - he had additional health issues & again - my saddle was being worked on.  Finally, I had to say;  "Either the saddle or my money back!"  At that point I was told it would be in the mail in a week.  The week stretched to two & the new saddle arrived last Sat.  We returned home on Sunday.  Butch sat out the stand & helped me unpack it.  It's hard to express the total disappointment I felt as it came free of the box.
Holes in the leather on the Pommel
Holes in the pommel :-(
off side rigging adjustment strap
The off side rigging strap only had one hole punched!

Near side rigging
On the near side, there were three holes, but of different sizes & different distances apart!  When we pulled both straps under the saddle - none of these holes lined up with the one on the off side!  There was no reinforcement.
Reinforced rigging on Linda's
Garry had sent me bucking rolls for Linda's saddle, Butch had no problem installing them.  When he went to put them on this saddle - big problem...  The screws in front didn't line up!  The one on the near side was so close to the pommel that there was no way to screw in the bucking roll.  When he got out a tape to measure, each side of the saddle was different.  He had to move the screw to get the bucking rolls to fit.
Off side with Bucking roll attached
Now near side~

Uneven screws from side-to-side, we had to move the left, to install the bucking rolls.

Bucking roll now in place~
We'd punched holes in the rigging strap, got the bucking rolls on - I was ready to take it for a test ride.  That's when I discovered that the breast collar fit cockeyed & the rigging was so long that my cinch didn't work.   Then - of course the blisters on Farah's sides...

We took a closer look & realized that the entire saddle is crooked.  The off side seems fine, the near side somehow doesn't match it.  When I picked up Linda's saddle yesterday & we sat them side-by-side last night - the differences were blatantly obvious.
Something crooked this way comes...  You can also see where the rawhide trim is already loose 1/3rd of the way up the off-side.
The leading edge of the front of the bar on the near side, flares in - toward the horse.  The other side flares out - as it should.   No matter how hard you try, the saddle doesn't sit square.
Linda's -Both sides equal & flare out~
Under the seat, where the panels are supposed to be tight - well - see for yourself!
Crooked somewhere in the tree - large gaps, shoddy work~
Uneven~ You can see too, how the leather on the right in the photo flares down, under the D-ring
Even in the photo you can tell that there's an unevenness between the left & right sides of the saddle.  I think it took some jury-rigging to even make it look close to right...  There are many other issues, uneven stitching & just general shoddy workmanship.

Tomorrow, we're heading over to visit Everett, pick up hay & we're taking both saddles with us.  Everett has kindly agreed to build me a saddle just like Linda's - if that's what I want.  It will take a couple months to get a tree & until Fall for completion.  I've asked Linda, she may be willing to sell her saddle.  I'm going to ask Everett for an estimate as to what it would cost to replace the sheepskin & rigging - which is getting old now & showing it's age.  Also - the possibility of adding padding to the seat.  Then his eye as to how the fit for Farah is.  At this point in the game - whatever will work best is what I'll do.

Another story for another day~!  Keep your fingers crossed for me - that Mr. McClintock will refund my money - which he says he doesn't have until he sells this saddle.  Personally - I can't even see it selling...  Since he wasn't as good as his word when it came to ripping me off - I can't imagine that his word is any good when it comes to "making it right" & refunding our hard earned money...  I have to ask myself - which saddle gods I've managed to tick off?

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Hot Fun in the Summertime~

Fireweed in full bloom
 A couple days into our Summer, but no change in the weather - just warmer, longer!  We're past the solstice, so to think that the days are now getting shorter seems strange when the real strangeness is waking to sunshine, day after day, after day!
Linda has been mowing trail!
I was More than ready for a ride!  Waiting a week for the new saddle to arrive was no fun.  Now - it's here & I had to try it out.  The first thing I found... was that the cinch I'd been using on Linda's saddle - made by the same saddle maker - & ordered to be an exact replica - (with very minor changes) - was too long?  Way too long!  Since I had nothing shorter - it was already a 26" - there were no holes left to buckle into.  I ended up with a big knot of latigo under my calf.  The second thing...  The breast collar that again, I had used on Linda's - sat cockeyed?  What the heck?  The front rings were not even.  When Butch tried to add the bucking rolls (again the same ones I'd ordered & used on Linda's saddle - they didn't fit!  On one side, he could get the screw in - on the other - no way - it was set too close to where the pommel attached.  He'd had to move the screw to get them on - that put an extra hole in the leather :-(
New views, long forgotten trails~
The seat was great, but I had lumps from the stirrup straps under my thighs?  Farah seemed to be moving well, leading us along at her 4 to 5 mph walk.  Count loved it, Leigh's beautiful mare had to jog to keep up.  Linda took us the most direct route by trail to areas far to the south, we even rode the trails Butch & I cleared!
Leigh & Linda - "This Way!"
The bug mask Leigh has for her mare is just amazing - a very thin mesh that is almost custom fit to the mares head & all the way down her neck.  Very nice & black goes well with black :-)
At the creek
Since there's now no water anywhere on the trails & we'd been out a couple hours already - we headed down to Pilchuck Creek.  I was shocked at how little water is left - just since my last visit!  Scary stuff after seeing southern, CA earlier this year - with No water in any of their rivers.

I started feeling a little puny - so decided to head back on my own & see how the saddle worked with some faster trotting & a gallop.  Seemed OK, but something was "off".  Once home I was giving Farah a bath when Butch pulled in.  He found blisters on both of Farah's sides, where the rigging had rubbed :-(  Really Not Good.  Tomorrow I plan to go visit Linda, take this saddle & compare it with hers - the one I'd borrowed for over a year now.

I wasn't thrilled with the craftsmanship - it had certainly slipped, but I was willing to bear that - if the saddle worked.  After only 14-miles - blisters are not something that I'd call working...

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Swimming Horses~

Today I watched a friends video - they were riding their horses in a river - where the horses could walk on the river bottom.  Comments were made asking about how horses swim etc.  The above edition of the Virginia Explorer - was published by the Virginia Museum of Natural History, Summer of 1997 & included a story that I'd submitted on that topic.
Virginia Museum of Natural History - Publication
I was thrilled when we received a copy in the mail & my story was included, along with several top riders - Kanavy, Morris & Flemmer.  For several years we made the trek to Ocean Shores & stayed with Patty Seaman at her wonderful Lazy Doctor Ranch.  $10 for a stall & free camping! 
Click on the photo -  Control+ on your computer will enlarge the print.
When I mentioned our experiences to a friend, he shared his story of the drowning death of his Arabian Stallion in a river near the beach.  The horse did Not know how to swim - some just don't have that instinct.  My mare Alexi, the first year we went in, actually let the current lay her on her side, before I started yelling;  "Swim girl!  Swim!"  :-) 
My story starts at the bottom of the first column
Butch's beard & Jas's mane were streaming seaweed!  Not just water!  :-)  He said that she loved it!

What I didn't mention in this article, were the two close calls that we had other years...  We again had the horses in the river, Pat was on one of her mares.  The water got really deep & the current was swift.  The next thing we knew, Pat's mare was going under!  Pat - a strong swimmer - was off & doing everything she could to get a hold of the mares head & pull it up!  The mare's nostrils finally appeared above the water & with Pat's urging she began struggling to reach shore.  With a western saddle & pads, all soaked - the weight alone had to make it difficult to swim.  Once she was on shore - we all breathed a sigh of relief.  (We had always removed our tack, but this time - had thought that the water wasn't as deep...)

Another time, again with a huge amount of water surging around us, I was on Jas, ahead of Butch - who this particular year was riding Khaz - young & totally inexperienced.  Suddenly, I was struck on my shoulder from behind!  Again, the bottom was gone, Khaz got scared & decided that he needed to be closer to Jas - in the process he reared into the air & had struck me with his front foot - knocking me out of the saddle.  I am NOT a strong swimmer!  I managed to grab the breast collar as I was going under.  Her legs were striking me as she swam & I actually thought I was going to die!  My body wanted to float up & I felt her belly against mine.  At least this got me out of the way of her legs.  

She swam & swam, dragging me along with her - until I felt the mud coming up under me & we were almost to shore.  I pulled myself up & out of the water, to find Jas mired to her chest in muck!  Butch & Khaz were out by now.  Jas just looked at us...  The absolute worst feeling imaginable - seeing her so stuck!  Butch & I started yelling at her to; "Get Up & Get Out!"  She made a terrific effort, raised her front legs up & out of the muck & in the next instant, surged up & onto the shore! 
Back at the Ranch - soaked through~  9/95
Swimming with horses is fun, very fun - but carefully consider what you're doing.  Know the water you're entering, have friends with you, don't take it for granted that your horse can swim... & stay safe!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Protected Species & Invasives~

Saying hello :-)
Saturday already!  No way!   Part of the attraction of camping - the three "R's"!  Rest, Relax & Refresh!  Then of course, that most important fourth - Riding!
South out one of the dune trails~
We were used to star studded, cold nights & waking to sunshine mornings.  The winds usually didn't start until mid-day.  We also tried to time our rides to reach the beach with the tide on the way out - to have that width of wet compacted sand.
Snowy Plover Zone~
The Rangers told us of the efforts to protect the Snowy Plover nesting sights.  On this day - the Wrangler of the rental horses took her riders through our camp.  She stopped to talk when I asked the riders if they were having a good time, all responded "Yes"!  Except for the Wrangler - who told us that several of the trails they had used for many years were now closed - due to the Snowy Plover.  She believed that the birds were already gone for the season - yet the trails were still closed.  So sad - when there's so few places for people to rent a horse & ride the beach.
We ride the sandy shore of the inlet~
Since the plover prefers the ocean dunes, we could still ride along the edge of the bay.  The thing I noticed the most - was the proliferation of Scotch Broom...  If the concern is for nesting sights - I think the Scotch Broom is destroying more of that habitat than a few horses in a dude string.  In just the few years we've been visiting this park - we all noticed that the Scotch broom is literally taking over!  
Scotch Broom Everywhere~
It was incredible to see areas that used to be sand - now covered with acres of the blooming weed.  Then - just a short way up this shore line I saw another nasty invasive just starting to root in the sand - Japanese Knotweed...  Here again - this is a plant that can do so much destruction to our Northwest native plant environment. 
Native grasses can't compete with the invasive...
 Looking down the bay towards town, we could just see two riders playing in the water.
Kites & wake boards~
With the tide going out, we had miles of fun trotting, galloping & running into the wind!   I was surprised to see a few kites, which we had to dodge on our gallop.

Later that afternoon, the Ranger came by our camp.  I mentioned the kites & he explained that they were not allowed - the Snowy Plover perceive them as birds-of-prey.  He said they were short staffed, but would go out & ask the kite flyers to take them down.  I actually hope the kites don't come back to this beach...
The Campbell Family~
Later in the afternoon, our friends came by for dinner & a visit!  Bruce was best man at our wedding - so our friendship goes back longer than we've been married!  Jessica has just graduated & will be attending Portland University!  We tried to catch up on all the news - but there's never enough time!  Super way to end a wonderful vacation!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Fire in the Sky~

With the cold wind blowing all week - then the low tides, happening early to mid-afternoon & late sunsets, we didn't get the evening ride time we would have liked.   Janelle invited us along to visit the Mazanita street market!  Vendors booths were so colorful!  Full of fresh cut flowers, food, fruit & yummy baked goods of every description.  Butch & I decided on Crepes stuffed with wild caught salmon, cream cheese & fresh spinach!  Local musicians serenaded as we enjoyed our dinner.  Once back in camp though, we all decided that we just Had to get out there & get in that sunset Ride!
Sandy & I head down~
Staying on wet sand was pretty difficult, since the tide was rolling in!  Butch followed us down, hoping to get those sunset photos that we all love.
Both horses soon let us know that the sand fleas were out in force!
We'd ridden south up the beach for a way, then turned back - waiting for others from our group to appear, when both the horses started stomping & we saw the sand fleas hopping everywhere!  Farah was not in a very good mood, her evening - after dinner snooze had been interrupted.
Farah's Snarky look!
Anyone who's ridden with us has seen this look, but it was the first time it's been captured in a photo!  :-)  It must have been something Ody said!   This was the only time all week that he got this kind of response!
In a Huff~
When he walked away - she was suddenly in a hurry to catch up!  :-)
With our friends~
Soon, more riders appeared & we rode on north - mouths agape at the beauty of the setting sun, sea, sand & mist filled air...
Riding back the way we'd come~
It was a short ride, but so enjoyed by all...  I have to thank my husband yet again - for hiking up the trail & down through the heavy sand to get our photos!
 His photos speak for themselves~
It was so hard to turn our backs on the beauty...  But our fingers were getting numb & the horses were ready to be Done with the on-coming tide!  Later everyone said it was like riding  bombs ready to explode!  Sandy & I were glad we weren't the only one's who thought so!
Our last view from the top of the dunes~
Once we'd crested the dunes & were out of the wind, I could feel Farah deflate.  :-)  We waited at the bottom of the trail for Butch & headed back to our camp.  Butch got a fire going - warm, bright & with a hot tea in my hands - I about went to sleep!