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

Friday, August 31, 2012

OH! Did we Ride!

Connie & Farah
It was just an incredible day to ride!  When the weather keeps going on & on & on like this - it's nirvana to a rider!  Clouds moved in as we were leaving & the temperature was cool.  As we climbed up towards the Monument - we could see a wispy haze hanging over the Sound.  Dawn & Jenna came with us today - both game for whatever riding we wanted to do.   I'd forgotten my GPS - big drag... but we headed over to the east & south by the most direct route.   Both Linda & I were surprised to find that the trails were still mostly passable.  A big hole, a lot of Salmonberry - but all in all, we traveled further than either of us had expected. 
Jenna & Dawn
At one point we were moving along a beautiful trail through the trees when Linda asked me if I remembered the year it had been so dry that the only way we could clear trail for a ride was with hand tools?  Yes I did remember, as well as a lady who came riding by smoking!  That memory suddenly moved be back in time & the trail clicked in my mind.  How the trees had grown, I'd worked in mostly sunshine that day - now the trees are so tall that it's all a shaded   mountainside.
Linda & Count
Finally, we were brought to a stop by a low ravine area where there had been a bridge over a wetland.  With all the Stinging Nettle & unable to see the trail - we turned back.  Making the climb back - we heard voices!  Lots of voices!  Coming around a corner on a single-track trail - we were blocked by at least 20+ bike riders, all off their bikes.  The guys in the rear yelled forward - telling their companions to clear the trail for horses!  They were ignored & all these people were suddenly trying to get on their bikes to move off in front of us.  Farah was in the lead - we were doing a fast trot & I could feel her want to take up the chase ;-)   The poor guy in the rear quickly pulled aside - again yelling at the other riders to make way.

We were actually picking up speed & quickly moved right up to the next riders!  They couldn't get off the trail quickly enough now & the four of us thundered by!  One guy said;  "Wow!  This is the first time this has happened!"  By the time we'd come to where the trail merged with the logging road, there was only one biker in front of Farah & she was bearing down on him! :-)  At the intersection - were more riders pulled aside & talking!   The four of us didn't even break stride, quickly outdistancing them.  Fun - did I say we had Fun?  Oh yes we did!  Nothing like showing those guys just what horses can DO!   (Evil smile :-)

The only sore spot - & boy is it sore is my poor left knee that Farah slammed into a tree!  It was a big tree & the bark scraped the skin right off my knee under my tights!  Luckily it was a glancing blow to the side of the kneecap - or I would have been groaning on the ground.  She felt me hit - she knew she'd made a BIG Mistake!  For the rest of the ride I used my heel to let her know that those sides had better BEND!  

Five hours later, we were back & I'm already looking forward to our next ride!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Riding with Ben ~

Ben survey's the hill
After chopping our way through about 1/2-mile of blackberry overgrown trail - we made it out to the area where the dirt-bikes have taken advantage of dirt piled up from the so-called drainage basin.  Development was planned - but thankfully construction seems to have been delayed.    First time ever that their mess has been used for my entertainment!  :-)  Ben explained to me that there were huge differences in riding style between BMX bikes with the brakes removed & dirt-bikes with engine's & brakes!  More my grandson than I can believe at times, in the next instant after I took this photo - he took off DOWN that hill!  Whipped across the road - up the berm on the far side - tried to make the turn, couldn't get slowed down enough - so slammed into the wall of Salmonberry & Blackberry!  Thankfully - it was a soft stop - at least bushes are softer than hard packed road!  He gave me a thumbs-up & was back on the bike!  
Farah & I watch from the top as Ben plans his next run!
Why does Ben wear the soles off his shoes?
I was amazed at how much riding & jumping he can do with that bike!  Farah was too :-)  We really had fun!  It had been too long since we'd been up here.  (It was where Ben used to ride Jas.)  Next we went over to the drainage basin - to find it empty - but a trail all the way around that Ben whizzed along on.  At the far end is the east side of our Wetland.
Looking "through" to the Wetland - too overgrown to go down to our old trail.
We stopped for a snack of cranberries & corn nuts.  Before the weather turns wet, I'm hoping to get Butch up here with the weed-whacker to clear our old path to the far side.  I think Ben & I would still enjoy our hot choc. & cookie there during a rainy hike this Winter.  On the up hill grades, Farah would flip her tail & pass Ben by!  When we were heading home down the long, steep, paved downhill - Ben flew by us!  Farah was impressed :-)  We was a blast & returned home dirty, tired & happy!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Lounging Around at Rhodes River Ranch~

Butch & Ben
Yippee!  We finally have a couple days with Grandson Ben - before the start of the new school year!  Where has Summer gone???  We picked him up from home & what to do -  but stop by the RRR for lunch!  Ben & I enjoyed a "Rodeo Burger" while Butch had the grilled chicken.  Yum!  Did I say YUM?  A meal for the day - that's for sure!

There was a demonstration rider in the arena showing his prized Nakota horses.  Always nice for restaurant patrons who came not only for the food, but in the hope of seeing horses too.  We toured Ben around, then made reservations for the drill team show in Sept.  On the way home - we all decided that we were too full for dinner.  Instead - we would stop by the store & pick up ice cream, banana's & hot fudge - Banana Splits for dinner! :-)

Tomorrow, Ben & I plan a ride up on the trails.  Me with Farah - doing some trail clearing & Ben with his BMX bike to try the jumps that have been made by the dirt-bike riders who continue to find ways around the locked gates of the property.  Ben is has already scouted a site for his tent tonight - that way he can sleep with Annika & Rascal too :-)  

Friday, August 24, 2012

On a Clear Day~

Left to right - Whitehorse, Three Fingers & far right - Pilchuck
It was a clear day, at least to the east of the ridge.  I didn't get away from the house until after lunch - but had plenty of time to meander wherever I wanted.  Farah was happy to be out on her own, only herself to please.  We did what is for her, an easy 10-mph. trot - most of the way.  Every time we saw a trail, we took it.   Each time we'd loop around & end up back on the logging road - only further along.
Old burned out Cedar snag~
 I saw this snag on a particularly beautiful trail - it lead encouragingly up a draw - but only a short way in - we came upon a down tree - too large for Farah to jump from a standstill.  I noted it on my GPS in the hope that Linda knows a way to get in & we can possibly get it cut out.  Such a nice trial to be out-of-use.  By the time we crested the top & went over to the Monument - a layer of haze had moved in from off the sound.  The humidity was going up, but we still had a breeze.  No one around, no one on any of the trails - nice.

On the way down, I noticed that the roads have become rock-hard.  Since it's been so dry - they're about the consistency of concrete.  I got off & did a little jogging along side Farah to the bottom.  Sure loosened up my knees :-)  We arrived back at the trailer & ours was the only one left.  We'd finished off just over twelve-miles & enjoyed another late Summer afternoon~

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Let the Good Times Roll~

Victoria on trails~
There are days, when you cherish your friends;  Linda B & I have been riding together off/on over more than twenty-years now.  There just isn't a finer or faster trail rider I know.  Even when she lost her #1 huge, fast Morgan Eb - she continued to get the best out of every horse she's ever ridden.  Now with Count - she's brought him along to the point where he can almost keep up with her!
Linda, Christa, Dawn & Cindy
When Linda asked if any of us had a time limitation - I knew we'd be in for a Ride!  The five of us were excited at the prospect of timeless trails on a perfect late summer afternoon.  We covered almost 15-miles - 80% of it on trail!  Whipping through the trees on Count's heels - Farah did manage to keep my knees intact!  :-)  The girls behind us were laughing  & yelling "Yippee"!  A bunch of free spirits - all!  

We followed the time honored tradition of fittest horses first & all the horses had fun - after all - they were busy watching their feet & keeping their riders off those trees - the trees have grown!  There were a couple loud exclamations - but no one wanted to slow down!
Dawn, Linda, Cindy & Connie (Thanks for taking the photo Christy!)
Linda & I have some terrific memories of the old days - when we were 1/2 crazy & rode as fast as our horses would go - before the rock was on the logging roads & before the bikes discovered the area.  As good as it was then - it's still good.  Anytime you find yourself with a smile on your face for an entire ride - you know how Good it was!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Cowboy Dressage

I'd been looking forward to the Cowboy Dressage Clinic at Rhodes River Ranch for several months.  I planned to audit & learn all I could about this sport - a refined version of Western Dressage - fathered by Eitan Beth-Halachmy, owner of Wolf Creek Ranch.  Quoted below;

It is Eitan’s vision that this be a western discipline that is enhanced by dressage, not ruled by it. The tests are very western. Like the early west the rules are simple and the freedom abundant. It is based on release, not contact.  Soft Feel, founded by great horseman of the past is Cowboy Dressage™’s core. It is the goal of Cowboy Dressage™ to promote and teach that in a competition atmosphere, bringing it to light to a public that is in great need of it.

When I had registered for the clinic - Kacey, trainer at RRR,  told me about the tests that were given at the end of the day.  You could chose which test you wanted to ride & Eitan would assess each rider on their level of competency.   I decided to trailer Farah up.  Arriving at 8 a.m. Sat. morning - I spent one of the most interesting days imaginable taking in everything I possibly could - knowing that opportunities to learn from such great horsemen are very rare.  I wasn't disappointed.  

I'd been unsure about the "clinic" environment too, in so many I've seen -  the clinician is in the arena - usually with too many "participants" - who are sitting on their horses bored.  They watch the trainer work with whichever rider is having the most difficulty in understanding whatever concept is being taught.  

This was different!  Each horse/rider team entered the arena alone - the star of Eitan's undivided attention!  :-)  He seemed to be master of finding the perfect middle-ground - between correcting mistakes, improving technique & complimenting each rider on what they did Right!   I studied every move, following on the cheat-sheet showing the lay-out of the new Cowboy Dressage Court & understanding how it's size correlates to the required movements.

Eitan was generous with his time, asking for & answering questions, posing for a photo - even riding a participants horse when he was asked to demonstrate one of his techniques.  Everyone was having a Wonderful time!  Of course the facility itself makes that easy to do!  With lunch included at the restaurant - we had time to discuss what we'd learned ask more questions & enjoy the great food! 

At the end of the afternoon - there was an hour break before dinner.  After taking to people who had been there / done that, I decided that I would go ahead & test.  I saddled Farah & headed to the large outdoor arena to practice what I'd tried so hard to learn.  The test patterns are written clearly with diagrams of the direction of movement - I'd studied them most of the morning.  Once Farah was warmed up, I headed inside the arena to see if I would have any issues with the dressage court.  Farah seems to drop down a gear when she's inside :-)  Her attitude has always been;  "Ok, if it's really what you want to do..."  Once I had a feel for the size of the court vs. the size of her strides - we headed back out to wait our turn.

Butch had been at work, a rare Sat. where he was needed at an Everett job.  I called & told him that I would be the last to test - so to please try to make it to see our debut in an arena!   Just minutes before we were to enter for our warm-up, he walked in!  What a guy!  

One thing about RRR, not only do you have horse-people watching, but all the people having dinner in the overhead restaurant too!   Funny though - how I managed to tune it all out.  Farah & I had NEVER done what I'd call a "jog"!!!  It's a western term for what I think of as a slow trot...  slow trot... Farah!  Not!  Especially after just finishing her first Limited Distance ride top-ten.  :-)  But we did our best :-)  I sat her trot :-)  That gave her a clue that this was NOT to be a speed contest :-)  How I wished I'd bought "real" stirrups rather than ride in my endurance EZ stirrups!  So hard to get my heals down where I needed them!  Only one flub... not a bad flub...  but we made it through the pattern!  Sweet Success!  The relief I felt at having it over was almost as good - as at the finish of a long, hard endurance ride :-0

 It was really challenging & fun to work on the fine points of riding - the Light Hands goal - a partnership built on trust & reward!  First step in that direction - under our saddle pad!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Ride to the River!~

Our Route~
Monday was "one-of-those" days.  I'd originally planned a ride with friends to Heart Lake, but when one had to cancel, it seemed a long trip for the remaining two of us - without our friend, who has yet to go there - so we decided to split the difference in mileage & meet-up at Lords Hill.  I was tired from the road-trip to pick up Annika too - but really wanted to get out before the mid-week warm-up that's predicted.

Lynn again lead us out on a nice jaunt through the mostly wooded paths of the park & then on down to the Snohomish River - this time the water level was so low that there was plenty of room for the horses.  Farah - as I've posted before - has an aversion to water.  In the lead at the time, she didn't even want to go down the short, steep, sandy hill to that Big water... but with urging she did!  Once there - she walked up to the edge, wanting a drink - but jumped back like struck by a snake when the water moved!  :-)
"In" the river ~
Thirst won out & in we went, after some pawing to be sure that yes... it was water!  She did wade in a ways, I was sure she was comfortable with it before we headed back.  Would like to return with a line & shorts to lead her in a ways & see if I could get her comfortable enough to "play" in it.  What would we do with the eight river crossings at Golden Ears?  Maybe one day we'll try it to see :-)

Monday, August 13, 2012

Annika Joins our Family!

A new puppy for us!
Years ago, when we'd taken Kitt over to Dr. Essex for vaccinations - we were looking at his AKC wall chart of dog breeds.  We found the Norwegian Buhund - & all thought they looked the closest to Kitt - in coloring & size.  We'd done some research on the breed, but even with Kitt's passing - had decided that two Beagles were enough.  Then, while I was on my trip to CO - I received a Facebook message from the breeder that I'd been in contact with - he had a litter of puppies available.  I really didn't think I'd be able to talk Butch into a third dog - even though I really missed Kitt's presence as my protector.

Returning home to find that we'd lost Mischief was a shock.  It took a while for us to absorb her loss.  It was just way too quiet with only Rascal.  He looked so lonely - started jumping in the truck when I was leaving - something he'd never done before - he gets carsick...  Next - I woke one morning to hear him attempting a very lonely howl...  Beagles don't normally howl, so when they do - you know that something isn't right...  
Nose up & howling...
Butch & I talked it over & decided to contact the breeder to see if we could make arrangements to meet the puppies.  Sunday - was the day for the long drive.  What fun it was to meet the breed for the first time!   They were all beautiful, well cared for & happy dogs.  We wanted a female, there were three to choose from.  After playing with them all & talking to Jimmy - we decided on the smallest female.  She was bright, alert, outgoing & seemed the best match for us.  
Happy husband with the soon to be christened Annika :-)
Does anyone every go home without a puppy?  I know it seems that we sure don't!  :-)  Rascal had come along with us - we had the kennel cab on the back seat, next to his blanket.  He was in total shock when we put her in the kennel!  "Are you kidding?!"  "You're bringing it home?!"  He came up front & sat in my lap for the return trip - too traumatic to even think of sharing the back seat with THAT!  (We both were remembering the night 15-years ago - when we brought Kitt home & Abby having the same response to the interloper :-)

Solid traffic on Snoqualmie Pass - 2hr's from Ellensburg over the top..
After the very long drive...  we were more than happy to be back home just before dark.  Rascal jumped out - we let the puppy out & I showed her where water was.  She took a big drink - then followed Rascal to the porch where he was expecting his cookie!  She was happy with that!  Dinner followed & that passed inspection too!  We sat out with on the patio to watch & see how things went.  Butch looked up names & we finally settled on Annika - Norwegian - with a slightly different spelling for "Anna".  Nika for short :-)  She started exploring - making wider & wider circles from where we were sitting.  Climbed into both our laps & seemed very content.  Rascal's attitude too changed.  He fluffed out the feathers on his tail, did a bit more of his confident strut & let her know that after all - he thought that she just might be OK :-)
Rascal & Nika - early morning sunshine~
After Butch left this morning - I looked out to see her laying near him as he enjoyed the early morning sunshine :-)  "She's a pain - but I guess she's mine..."  :-)

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Another Beautiful Day!

At one of our favorite overlooks~
It's always fun showing people who haven't been there - some of the views from what I still call "Victoria".  Heather had been wanting to make the drive up, so I offered to act as trail guide.  We left mid-morning & soon found that her super Arab gelding & Farah matched each other well.  Both with a nice moving out walk & fast trots - but Rafik does win the "collected canter" portion of the ride, with a rocking-chair gait that anyone would be envious of :-)  Farah does have a very nice canter too - but as I do - she prefers trot!   Both horses were listening to us - behaving very well & we had so much fun galloping along side by side.  Rafik showing off his beautiful training, Heather deserves to be proud of her work with him.  The golden girl & I are still a work in progress :-)  

The settings on my Garmin sometimes seem to have a mind of their own, so the ride didn't get recorded - but we did my usual 11+ mile loop with a good moving pace, somewhat lowered by our taking several stops for photos!  I managed to loose the lens from my favorite sunglasses, so spent a while looking for it to no avail.  Seems I do something to end up buying at least one new pair a year - no matter how hard I try!  Did pick up another pair with shatterproof lens on the way home.  Nice day, good ride ~

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Old Habits Die Hard!

Farah at the Wetland~
Funny how easy it was to get back into my conditioning routine for Farah's Limited Distance debut.  After all - it's what I've done - for a very long time!  Fighting her for the 25-miles was something that I was not used to.   (Khari was such a professional & knew her job so well, that I would set a pace & away we went.)  Farah hasn't yet had the experience to figure out that there are many more miles out there!  :-)  Actually -  I don't want her to find out - at least not at top-ten endurance speed.

So today, we slowed down, we enjoyed the ride, we worked on the basics.  I worked on some of the techniques that I've been trying so hard to learn - the finesse of Light Hands Horsemanship.   I like the idea of a partnership built on trust & reward.  Lightness was certainly a casualty of Bare Bones!
Beautiful yellows~
Once Farah figured out that we weren't going to be blasting around the woods, she settled in - started listening & we had a really Super ride!  She held her collection on a loose rein - moved into the trot without sacrificing that collection & paid attention to where she put her feet.  A large doe crossed our path on the way home - it was one of those quiet, still, cool afternoons that are my favorite of our Washington "Summer"!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Farah is Awarded High Vet Score

Farah on final trot-out
What great news on a Monday morning!  The ride was so HOT, that Butch had us packed up when I came in off the ride.  He vetted Farah for her completion, but Dick Root, DVM was so impressed with her that when I asked the question;  "Should we bring her back for BC judging?"  He responded with a loud "Yes!"  That meant the prescribed hour wait - which would delay our departure - but how often do you get the opportunity to show for BC on a young horses first ride?  Butch spend the hour grooming her while Farah consumed mass quantities of everything he put in front of her.
 Dr. Root checking CRI
We took her back to Dick & it took all of Butch's skill to keep all four of her feet on the ground long enough for the exam!  I knew we were behind the curve time wise - 7th place doesn't give you those added points on time, when compared to the winner's time.  Then, there's the weight difference between you & the heaviest rider - I knew I was not the heaviest.  Even so, we had fun showing her & she had fun being shown :-)
Tail still swinging!
We left for home right after; I asked Heidi to send me my paperwork.  So - it came as a surprise when I checked Facebook & found where a friend - who'd stayed for awards - posted that we had received high Vet Score!  Yippee!  
Thanks to my husband for his help & support, Farrier - Art Morris (Who came over Thursday evening to replace shoes ahead of schedule.) & Dean Essex, DVM - who's taught me well.  Nice to have Farah receive the recognition.
Post scrip - just heard from the RM that we only missed BC by 1.0 point :-)

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Deed is Done~

Bare Bones 25-mi. Limited Distance
We arrived in ride camp about 1:30 p.m. on Fri., after a long drive through a lot of Sea Fair traffic.  Found a spot next to Amanda to set up & had plenty of time before vet-in.  Good to see & visit with friends old & newFarah showed well for Dick Root DVM, & vetted in with one A- in gut sounds, after the four hour drive down. The distance for this ride had been changed from 25, to 30 - then back to 25-miles.  At registration, there were 50 riders in the 25, 25 & in the 50.
Who is that masked mare?  :-)
At the pre-ride meeting, the start times for the rides were moved up an hour to allow us to try to beat the heat.  Our start time was 6:30 a.m. - almost like doing a 50 :-)  I was up early & we had Farah saddled & moving 30-min. early.  Originally - I'd wanted to start her on her own, but after speaking to Amanda, found out that most of the trail was single track - limiting places to pass.  Farah made it plain that she knew her riding partner was there, so Amanda kindly allowed us to accompany her.  We left just behind the front runners at a nice trot, then pulled aside at the first clearing for riders to pass.  At the far end of the field, those riders were bunched up in a knot - no one's horse wanting to cross the muddy puddle of water that was between the field & the trails. 
Cato leads the way, Farah follows~
Amanda asked for space & Cato crossed with Farah right behind him.  Once on the trail, Cato moved into his big ground covering trot & Farah was not going to be left behind!  We cruised the first loop, but started slowing down before coming in to camp.  I had to remind myself that it was heart-rate, that determined our placement.  Farah was high - but came down to criteria quickly, maintaining our place.

During the 45-min. hold - she ate everything Butch put in front of her & was drinking well.  Again, Amanda & I left together.  Bringing up the rear was no fun, Farah fighting every stride to stay too close.  We were passed by a small group just over mid-way through the loop.  The day was heating up, it seemed a long haul to water - once there Farah tried out all four barrels & took a good drink from each.   We enjoyed every stretch of trail through the woods - trying to absorb the cool.

Coming off the top of the Orange/Yellow loop we arrived at an intersection with many ribbons!  I decided to call Butch & see if I could get some clarification on the correct path back to camp after meeting a couple riders who'd already been lost.  Nice to have the connection when you need it.  Just over a mile further on - we were back!  Farah pulsed down quickly & completed 7th place.  Butch stripped her tack & she vetted through with great scores. 
At the finish - pulsing down - photo compliments of Heather
Dr. Root told us to bring her back for BC judging.  She showed incredibly well - but was so excited & full of herself that her CRI's were relatively high.  Dick just smiled & said that was the trade-off on a mare who was so fit, young & excited :-)  My last 25-mile ride was in 2006, Khari's first ride at Renegade.  Now, all these years later - I've finally earned the AERC 250-mi. Limited Distance patch :-)  
Butch trotting Farah out for her completion
Ride stats rough;  52 riders in the LD, only 24 completed - 13 over time.  The heat made it tough this year, the mud / rain last year :-)  It was a couple days after the ride when I learned that Farah was awarded High Vet Score!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Going it Alone~

Farah at the Monument
I'm still not used to the joy of tree-top flying rides.  For so many years, to have a really good ride, meant having the right riding partner.  Not since Jasrada, have I enjoyed the pure bliss of moving out on an incredible mare - alone.  Those who know me best, know that I don't often brag-up my horse.  It gets old quickly - we all love our horses & of course we think they're the best!  They are too!  For us!  

This time though, Farah deserves honorable mention - at least in my mind :-)  I set out to just see what she would do.  The reins were loose the entire ride.  Leaving at a 13.9 mph trot that lasted until the first of the climbs then settled into 8-9.  She trotted the seven-miles I found for her to the monument - going back to the old "training-loop" that Diane & I used to do.  By the time we got there, we were just under seven-miles with a average speed of 8.9.  Coming to the only water puddle on the mountain, Farah let me know that yes!  She wanted a drink!  She was smart about it, taking a few swallows, waiting a moment, then taking more.  Once done she picked up a trot again on her own!  At the monument, she was hungry & started grazing right away.  
Ride Laps
Lynn had thought she was clicking on our ride Monday & I needed to confirm that she was.  Not wanting to push my luck, we slowed down for the second part of the ride, but even so - finished the 11-mile loop with an average moving speed of 7.0 & moving time of 1:36.  Good thing I've given up Endurance!  Otherwise I'd be sooo tempted :-)   Regardless - I think we're ready for the 30 mi. LD at Bare Bones.