Thursday, August 15, 2019

Damn That Mare!

Earlier this week, I went up the hill for our weekly riding date. I wasn't in any hurry, and for once Mom and Bill didn't have to rush to get back for check-in, so I was feeling pretty Zen. The mountains always do wonders for my mood, and I was starting off in a pretty good mood to begin with. I was looking forward to an amazing ride on my amazing horse.

When I went into the pen to grab her, she and Alloy were down by the creek getting some water. It was so pretty, I just had to take a picture.

Skeeter saw me coming and decided she needed to drink the creek dry before she was caught. No big deal, we weren't under any time crunch and I was in a fantastic mood. I didn't even much care that she walked away when I went up to her, she just went to the top of the hill where I normally catch her. 

She stood at the hitch rail like a pro while I groomed, fly sprayed, and tacked her up. A gentleman wandering by stopped to chat and she was happy to be a perfect Mustang Ambassador. She didn't even give me much trouble putting her boots on. 

It's always fairly easy to get her left boot on, but her right one is always troublesome. No big deal, I was in a fantastic mood, so it didn't bother me to have to put her on a circle for a couple of laps. As soon as we got back to the hitch rail, she gave me her right foot and the boot went on.

I led her across the street and up the hill with Bill leading out and Mom riding drag. At the base of the switchback, she stopped cold, but move up when I drove her forward with the lead rope. I led her up the upper trail, rather than the switchback and she walked right up it without a problem. My thought is that we'll spend the rest of the riding season walking her up the upper trail so that she can build not-traumatic memories of that and hopefully override the bad memories of the switchback.

Alloy was being his normal impatient self, so Bill was riding him out and back, out and back, while Skeeter and I trudged along to a place where I could mount up. I was wearing an old, comfortable pair of jeans that are just a touch too big. Like, barely too big. Unfortunately, when I went to mount up, the bottom of the leg of my pants got caught on the back of my boot and I ripped my pants in the crotch. But, you know what? It was okay, because I was in a fantastic mood.

I got settled in and gave Skeeter a little nudge to move. Huh. She didn't move. So I clicked and kicked again. Nothing. It was at this point that my fantastic mood began to deteriorate, and I knew she and I would be fighting for the entire ride. When she puts her stubborn pants on and plants herself, there's not a lot to be done.

Now, last week, when she got tired and stopped, I dismounted and led her a ways, but that wasn't going to happen this time. I'd just gotten on for freak's sake! Meanwhile, Bill and Alloy are riding out and back, out and back. Once Alloy gets moving, he has to keep moving or he gets all "ants in his pants" and starts thinking about bucking.

A couple of hard kicks and a threat with the end of the reins later, Skeeter sighed and took about ten steps before stopping again. Lather, rinse, repeat, for half a mile. At one point, I asked Mom to move up ahead of us, hoping Skeets would just follow. Washoe was very patient, and Alloy was getting lots of exercise riding out and back, out and back.

I had, about the third time she stopped for no reason, reached my boiling point. I was so angry, my fists were clenched and I was saying not very nice words. I had decided to tell Bill to turn on the upper rubber strip trail so we could just do the short one-hour ride and head back, when he and Alloy made the turn without me saying anything. I breathed a sigh of relief. 

Skeeter made the turn nicely and walked about 25 yards before she came to a dead stop. Again. I picked up my rein and smacked her hard right on the shoulder to get her moving. Since she stepped on my 9' reins a few weeks ago, I've been riding in my 7' ones and they're too short to smack her on the ass without pulling on her mouth, so the shoulder it was.

She must have realized she'd done effed up this time and jumped sideways into a small tree and some dead fall.

She almost looks athletic in this picture. She's not.
Unfortunately, she jumped and crashed right as Bill and Alloy were headed back toward us. Alloy heard the smack and saw Skeeter jump, so bad, bad things had to have been happening. Of course, his first reaction is to buck. The picture is the last one Bill took right before he went ass over tea kettle. 

Bill hit the ground, Skeeter came to a dead stop, and Alloy took about three running strides before sauntering off. I dismounted to check on Bill, who had the wind knocked out of him, while Mom and Washoe went after Alloy.

Once Bill could breathe again, we hiked up the mountain to meet Mom and Washoe with Alloy. Bill remounted to ride out, and Mom encouraged me to remount, but I refused. Alloy's frustration was also at a boiling point because of Skeeter's refusal to move and I didn't want to add any more frustration and cause another wreck.

Yes, it would have been best for me to remount and force Skeeter to carry me out, but it was not in the best interest of Bill and Alloy, so I hiked out. Not the first time it's happened, won't be the last, I'm sure.

I told Mom that once we got back to the lodge, we were going to drop Bill and Alloy off and I was going to mount back up and ride at least around the block. Not the best solution, but a decent compromise, I felt.

Skeeter was Not Pleased when we got back to the lodge and I mounted up. Mom and Washoe rode along with us for support. Skeets and I had a big ole fight about leaving the parking lot and another big ole fight in the neighbor's front yard, but we finally got moving and stayed moving. We only rode about two blocks, and on the way back, we kind of zig-zagged through parking lots and such, taking the indirect way home so she couldn't bolt back to the hitch rail.

For the first time EVER, I considered getting spurs. I don't ride in them, because I've never been trained to and I've ridden horses who have been ruined by people wearing spurs who have no business doing so. But... I seriously considered making an exception. Instead, I'm going to strip the horn bag off my saddle so I can get a good over-under with the rein if necessary. Also, a riding crop may be in her future if she doesn't straighten the eff up.

The next time we go out, it will probably just be me and Mom since Bill's on injured reserve, and we will have all the time in the world for our battle royale. Of course, since we'll have time to fight it out, she won't give me any problems at all.

Gah! Mares.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Copper, the Big Red Dog Update

Just over a year ago, Copper and I started doing Ease Into 5K to train for a couple of virtual races. I wrote about the beginning of our journey and our completion of the X-Files 5K, but never got around to updating about our Greased Lightning race.

Again, I bought socks to commemorate the race. I was hoping to find some cool Grease socks, but when I did an Amazon search, all I could find were bobby socks. Nebalee suggested I get some lightning socks, so I did.

Can't "race" without obnoxious socks
Nebalee also was kind enough to come run with us. For some reason, her GPS and my GPS didn't line up, but since she uses hers to keep track of her mileage, we used hers as the official distance/time. For some reason, we were almost four and a half minutes slower in our second 5K than our first. I have no idea why, but there it is.

Nebalee and Copper always look great in our finish photos

A couple of weeks after I submitted our official race time, Copper's finisher's medal came in the mail. I made him model it. He was not impressed.

We had one more race planned in October, but I got scheduled to travel for work, so we ditched it. I can't say I was terribly disappointed, but I hated losing the entry fee.

Greased Lightning was the last race we ended up "running" in 2018; in no time at all, it was to dark to run when I got home from work, so we hung up our running shoes until spring.

For some stupid reason, I thought it would be fun to sign up for a cumulative race (121.1 miles) and set a goal to complete it by my birthday in July. It was still too cold and gross for Copper and I to run outside, so I joined a gym and spent a whole four or five trips to the gym racking up four or five miles. Since Nebalee was such a good sister and did my virtual races with me last year, I agreed to run the Bolder Boulder 10K with her in May. I figured those six miles would help chip away at the cumulative race. Unfortunately, crazy shit was happening at work and my training went out the window. I did complete the Bolder Boulder with Nebalee, but it sucked big time.

I realized there was no way I was going to complete the cumulative race by my birthday, so I threw that goal out the window and once life settled down, started back up with Copper in July.

July 10, starting all over again with a nice slow walk.
Slowly but surely, Copper and I started chipping away at the miles. Sometimes, Copper and I go out by ourselves and do some run intervals. Other times, L.E. and Pearl join us and there's no running involved (I kinda really like those mornings).

Slowly but surely, with almost daily walks, we're making headway with on our race.

Screenshot taken 8/5
I took a screenshot on 8/5 of our progress, so this is a little outdated. As of today, we've completed 32 workouts, 45.5% of our race, 55.1 miles. I was disappointed that we were not able to walk today because last night's storm turned the farm roads into a muddy, mucky mess. Hopefully, tonight's storms will bypass us and we can be back at it tomorrow.

Last week, Facebook memories was kind enough to show me our first night of Ease Into 5K. The caption still holds true!

Not only does the caption still hold true, but Copper still hasn't gotten past the fact that I literally have to drag him for the first few minutes of our walks. I wish I was kidding, but I'm not. He hates the beginning of the walk, but then loosens up and walks/trots nicely next to me.

Pissy Mare Face on a gelding

"Oh, we're going home? Okay, let's go!"
I tried to officially start Ease Into 5K the other day, after doing a month of my own random walk/run intervals, but it did not go well. Copper was in a mood and it was like we'd regressed a full year. I was Not Pleased. We'll start again on Monday, after we've had a few more walk/runs under our belt. Maybe by then his full moon pissiness will have passed.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Not All Rides Can Be Amazing

Thursday's ride was good. Not spectacular, no big problems, but just kind of "meh". It's completely my fault, I chose a bad route. I thought it would be great to go to the Allenspark Trail head and do a short bit of it. The problem was that I forgot that I hate the road to get there. There's nothing wrong with the road, but it's just a road. It's a long, slow uphill for a mile and a half. There's really nothing to look at, nothing exciting. Just a long dirt road. It didn't take me long to remember why I preferred to trailer up to the trail head.

Long, boring road

We ambled along on this long, slow uphill. Alloy, as usual, was ready to go. Washoe was game. Skeeter, well, she was not enthused and dragged her feet for about a mile.

Alloy: "Let's go, let's go, let's go!"

Washoe: "Dude, okay!"

Skeeter: "Eff you, Alloy!"

Then she decided she was done and came to a stop. I thought we'd gotten past the whole "stop when I don't want to" business, but I guess not. She had boots on, so I know it had nothing to do with her tender feetsies. She just was tired and didn't wanna. I could actually sympathize, because my enthusiasm for the ride quickly waned as well, but she couldn't "win" by just stopping.

So ... I dismounted, circled her a bit, and walked along side her for a quarter of a mile or so. Hill work is good for both of our butts, but that doesn't mean I like it, so once I was winded (easy to do at over 8,000 feet), I mounted back up.

From the ground.

Without a mounting rock.

Just me, from the ground.

Okay, so I maybe mounted from the uphill side, but I still mounted from the ground. Skeeter's a task master, though. Mounting from the ground wasn't quite good enough, she wanted me to do it without a bounce (or two). Sorry to say, she did not get her way. If I have to put my foot halfway to my armpit to mount, I get a couple free bounces.

We rode another quarter mile or so before we turned back home. We never did make it to the Allenspark Trail head, but we did cover about 2.5 miles round trip.

Since we had to pass the Post Office on the way back to the lodge, Bill decided to check the mail. He tied Alloy to the porch railing and then proceeded to go inside while Mom and I waited on our horses outside. The tourists across the street at Distant Harbors gift shop loved it!

Alloy: "Ok, I guess I'l just wait here then."

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

GISH #54

After our busy Monday, I had a few days to plan my next three GISH tasks. There were two I was really looking forward to, but they required significant planning.

For those of you unfamiliar with Supernatural, or this scene, there's a little back story. Dean and Castiel (trench coat) step in the middle of a fight between the archangels Michael and Lucifer. Castiel, being an angel, isn't quite fluent in human vernacular and his insult was a little ... off.

Turns out, there is such a thing as an Assbutt according to GISH lore. An Assbutt is a mix between an African wild ass and a Monarch butterfly. Just like the unicorn and fairy tasks, this one was custom made for me.

I don't have access to an African wild ass, but I do have access to a BLM wild ass. A quick text to my friend Kathy from the U.S. Wild Horse and Burro Association was all it took to set up a time. I spent the night before we went out to do this task making butterfly wings out of cardboard. I am no spray paint artist, but I was pretty happy with the way the wings turned out.

I had picked up a white dress shirt and a trench coat earlier in the week so I could cosplay Castiel. (Cosplay - chalk it up to something I never thought I'd participate in, not to mention gender-bending cosplay. My hippie nerd daughter was very proud of me for this.) The Molotov cocktail I made using an old water bottle and a red/orange handkerchief. Really, the set up was pretty easy.

Lucky for me, Kathy has lots of experience dressing up and tying things to animals, because my initial idea of just running some baling twine around the wings and under the burro's armpit didn't work at all. She grabbed a bareback pad and we secured the wings to it. At first, I tried getting the wings to stand up, but they kept flopping to one side or the other. No problem, our Assbutt was supposed to be moving, not stationary, and the wings would be flapping anyway.

Turbo the Assbutt was a bit of a show off, but the sweetest little ass I've met. He's such a lover. A bit ornery, but he's three, so ornery is what you'd expect. He makes me want to add a donkey to our herd.

I am not an actor, Jay is not a cameraman nor director, and I am terrible at editing video, but I managed to piece together a few seconds for my GISH submission.

Here's the link to the video:

*There were other challenges I completed for GISH, but they don't really fit in with the theme of the Wild Ones, so if you want to see what else we did, head over to Just another perfect day.

(Cross posted to Just another perfect day)

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

GISH #14

We came back from our second task elated, but tired. However, we had one more task to complete before we could call it a day.

Usually, mechanical bulls can be found at rodeos, but we were in between rodeos. Around here it goes: Greeley Stampede, Rooftop Rodeo, Cheyenne Frontier Days, Weld County Fair, then Larimer County Fair. This year, there was a break between the Weld County Fair and the Larimer County Fair that spanned the time frame of GISH. The closest actual mechanical bull during GISH was at Cheyenne Frontier Days, but that ended the day before and I couldn't have driven up there anyway, because I was working the Weld County Fair. I was determined to complete this task, though.

Mom has a mechanical horse thing that she used during the winters before her hip surgeries to keep her core strong and her hips working. I was pretty certain that Mom and Bill had a steer head somewhere, from when Autobot and her ex-boyfriend were playing at roping last summer. Mechanical horse thing + roping steer head = mechanical bull.

Bill put the "bull" together while Mom and I were putzing around after the ride. We were all so tired - who knew that walking a unicorn into the living room, then throwing a surprise fairy party was so exhausting - but I only had to ride the bull for two seconds. I could do that, so I did.

Here's the link to the video:

(Cross posted on Just another perfect day)

Monday, August 5, 2019

GISH #80

Our second challenge gave us an excuse to trailer the horses into Wild Basin, where we'd be guaranteed to run into hikers. It's a rare occasion that we see hikers across the street where we normally ride. As a general rule, we're okay with that, but since we needed to have people to throw a party for, we had to go where the people were.

The ride itself was amazing and we couldn't have asked for better behaved horses. They did a great job as Mustang Ambassadors that day.

Mom had baked cookies for us to give out as party treats and I bagged them up into individual treat bags. I thought that maybe people would be worried about taking home-baked cookies from strangers, so I quickly made up labels that said "Courtesy of Allenspark Lodge B&B", so they'd know the cookies came out of a commercial kitchen. (That came back to bite me in the butt later.)

Thank God Bill was the one driving, because I don't think my nerves would have made it. People coming out of the park were kind of a-holes. We were supposed to be spreading love and kindness, but I really just wanted to spread knuckle sandwiches with the way some of those people were driving.

Finally, a car saw us coming up the one lane road and pulled off to let us pass. I made Bill give them a cookie, which he tossed to them through the window as we yelled "thanks!". We did that for the next few cars. Sometimes you gotta train humans the way you train horses: make the wrong thing difficult and the right thing pleasant. People who insisted on not giving way on the road out had to thread past the truck and trailer; people who pulled over and let us by got cookies. As Ranger Mustang used to say, "Peeples can be VERY HARD to train".

Finally, we were able to get parked, tacked up, and on our way. Along the way, from the trailer parking to the trail head, we ran into some hikers who were thrilled to see horses on the trail. They stepped off to let us pass and guess what? They got cookies. Make the right thing pleasant, right?

We didn't want to risk losing the "unicorn's" horns, so we didn't put them on the "unicorns" until we reached the hitch rail.

Unicorns and fairies ready
All that was left was to set out the party sign and find us some people to surprise.

The hitch rail is off the beaten path a little bit, as you can see, so we had to go trolling for people. The first group wasn't super excited. The kids were, but their mom, not so much. The girls came and rubbed the horses' noses then off they went.

Mom walked down toward the falls, which are on the same path as the hitch rail, just a little beyond it and found a family that wanted to come meet our pet unicorns. In fact, one of the little girls was wearing her unicorn shirt, so it was perfect.

The girls were shy, but excited to pet the unicorns and spent several minutes with them. Their parents had to practically drag them away.

The most surprising reaction came from adults. Remember when I said my decision to label the cookies would come back to bite me in the butt? Yeah, Mom met them where the trail met the turn off to the hitch rail and handed them cookies. They looked at the label and asked if this was some "publicity stunt" for the lodge. Ugh. It was like an arrow through the heart. Once we explained that we thought people would be more comfortable knowing that the cookies came out of a commercial kitchen and that we were doing this for a scavenger hunt, their tunes changed.

I was hoping to see pure surprise and joy on the kids' faces, which we didn't get. However, the look of joy on the previously dubious adults' faces? Priceless!

The reaction from the adults were my favorite and I felt like we'd nailed the task. Shortly after, we packed it in and rode back out. We'd entered Wild Basin with 20 cookies, and had three left. Easy, peasy, we just stopped at the ranger station on the way out and spread the love there too.

*Verbal consent obtained for posting pictures.

(Cross posted on Just Another Perfect Day.)

Sunday, August 4, 2019

GISH #153

During the week of GISH, we are forbidden from posting our challenges on social media (unless directly instructed to do so). That rule is sooooo hard to live by, especially since the challenges are a ton of fun and I wanted to show off my amazing, crazy family.

Jay and I were placed on a random team with people we didn't know, from all over the world, and I was a bit hesitant. I shouldn't have been, everyone on the team was amazing and supportive and we each brought our own special talents to the team. Jay is far more artistic than I, so the tasks he chose played to his strengths. I signed up for the tasks that I could incorporate the animals in, and recruited Mom and Bill to help me out with three of the tasks.

Last Monday (7/29/19), I spent the day at the lodge with them working on my tasks. I'm not sure I've laughed that hard in a long time. Everyone worries about making memories with their children when they're young, but I think we should also spend time as adults making memories with our parents. Turns out, it's a lot more fun, especially when you have parents like mine.

Here's the first task we tackled on Monday:

You can't tell me that this challenge wasn't custom made for us! Puh-leeze! Unicorns in the living room? I couldn't sign up for that one fast enough. I called Mom when the list was released and asked if we could do this. I really only asked out of courtesy, because I knew she's be all in.

The first thing we needed to do was transform Mom into the Fairy Mother and Washoe into the Wonder Unicorn. Mom was easy, I found some fairy wings at a costume shop and put her in them. We also dressed up our hats, as they were going to be used for two challenges.

Washoe's horn took just a bit more work, but not much. A paper towel roll, sliced and diced, then covered with aluminum foil made the perfect horn. A couple of heavy duty bread ties to attach it to his halter, et voila! A unicorn.

Despite his little slip on the hardwood floor, he did great. I initially imagined him in front of the fireplace with the Fairy Mother (aka Bionic Cowgirl), but didn't want to risk more slipping on the floor while getting to the area rug in front of the fireplace.

A friend of Mom's was kind enough to video the whole thing, as I was focused on getting pictures. It always delights people when the horses visit the inside of the people barn, and Mom's friend was no exception.

Our first task went off without a hitch! One down, two to go.

(Cross-posted on Just Another Perfect Day)

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

"My Cup Runneth Over" Ride (7/29/19)

Yesterday's ride was so amazing, I'm not sure I can put it into words.

The day started off with playing "horsey dress-up", but I can't tell that story ... yet. Next week, once we've got the all clear from the folks at GISH, I'll post more stories and the corresponding pictures. Suffice it to say that our day started off with a ton of laughter.

We planned to trailer the horses in to Wild Basin for a short ride up to Copeland Falls for another top secret story that I can't tell you about ... yet. I should have been more nervous about the trip than I was. Two things kept my nerves in check: 1) despite walking half of our "ride" last week, I was completely relaxed when I did ride and I realized I finally trusted Skeeter to take care of me; 2) the excitement of our top secret mission had me focused on that instead of wondering what could go wrong.

Skeeter and I have a somewhat ... contentious ... relationship when it comes to trailers. However, when it was time to load her up, she followed me right on in like she'd been doing it her whole life. I hadn't actually expected her to load up so quickly or easily, so once we were in the trailer I didn't really have a plan. I'm too short to tie her in the trailer, but I didn't want to just leave her loose while I closed the gate, either. She quickly figured out I had no plan and asked to back out. Read that again: she asked to back out. She did not panic and bolt out. She asked.

Well, one of us had to make a decision, so when she asked, I agreed and she backed nicely out of the trailer. Mom came out of the lodge just in time to see us come out of the trailer and gave me an important piece of information that would have been helpful: she and Bill always work together to load Skeeter. Skeets loads in nicely, but then tries to follow the Bill out when he steps back to close the gate, so he threads the lead rope through the window bars to Mom, who ties her up while Bill closes the gate. Since they do most of Skeeter's hauling for me, I hadn't realized they had a whole routine.

Even with that little hiccup, I was feeling pretty good about our upcoming ride. The haul to the trail head was short - only two miles - but it marked the first time Skeets has been trailered to a new trail, one that she'd never seen before. Even if our top secret mission was a bust, we could call the day a win.

It's been years since I've ridden at Wild Basin and I was looking forward to it - I have great memories of riding those trails when we ran the Wild Basin Livery in 2004.

I thought we might have a problem when it was time to put her boots on, but while she wasn't perfect, her fight was only half-hearted. A ranger stopped by to chat us up and once the focus was off of her, she offered up her hoof. We're not dumb, if she's offering, we're taking it. 3 seconds later, she had her second boot on and we were ready to go.

Horse parking is more than a mile away from people parking, so we had to ride in to the actual trail head. Mom and Bill got mounted up easily, but Skeeter and I still have discussions about mounting. She thinks I should be able to do it from the ground anywhere, but my wee legs don't work that way so we always have to find a rock or something to give me a couple of extra inches to reach the stirrup.

Mare face says, "learn to mount from the ground!"
She circled the rock a few times and my frustration got a hold of me for half a second - just long enough for me to practically leap from the rock to her back. I hooked the toe of my left foot in the stirrup as she moved past and threw myself up. Thank goodness for all of Queen Estes' running mount training.

As soon as I was up, we were on our way. Skeeter took the lead for the first half mile or so, walking out confidently, as though we'd been doing this forever. She had one big spook in place; she had been watching a fisherman in chest waders walk along the trail when a car popped up on the road next to us. She shook off her spook and continued on.

After a bit, she decided that she didn't want to lead anymore, so Bill and Alloy hopped out front until we got to the actual trail head. The horse trail to the trail head is better maintained than I remembered, despite its lack of use, so once Bill and Alloy were in the lead, I just sat back and enjoyed.

There is one stretch of trail that always reminds me of Lord of the Rings - the trail is fairly steep, but has steps carved into it, and the trees just tower over us. The only thing missing is fog rolling in. It's one of my favorite stretches of trail.

Pictures just don't do this stretch justice.

The stairs were new to Skeeter and she did pretty well with them.

But there was one ... had she not been riding Alloy's cute little butt so closely, she would have seen that it was a taller than usual step, and not as deep, so she really needed to place her feet well. The LotR stretch of trail is a long, somewhat steep uphill, and she still gets tired on long uphill climbs, so she was rushing up on Alloy. He saw the weird step and hopped up it like a mountain goat. Little Miss My Head Is Buried In Alloy's Butt did not see the weird step until it was almost too late. She got her front feet up, but found the step wasn't deep enough for her to get her back feet on the step as well. There wasn't anything I could do to help, so I just had to sit and let her figure it out, which she did. I'm not quite sure what she did, but it felt like she just hopped all four feet at the same time, then we moved on.

Though it's a very well maintained trail, there are parts that are rocky and tricky and she navigated them all like a pro. Well, except for the weird stair. In order to get to the people trail head, we had to cross a couple of different types of bridges: concrete road bridges and wooden pallet-type bridges. It made me thankful that we have a pallet "bridge" that we use at home for training.

The bridge at the people trail head was different from any she'd seen before and she didn't really want to cross it, but then neither did Alloy or Washoe (and Washoe's done this trail many, many times before). It's a narrow wooden pedestrian bridge with railing on each side. Having people clustered up on each end of the bridge added to the degree of difficulty, but we knew if we could get one horse to cross, the others would follow right along.

I volunteered to lead Skeeter across. Our ride had been so freaking amazing that I didn't want to ruin it by fighting with her over a bridge. I dismounted, grabbed a rein and walked across without an issue. Washoe and Alloy followed along when they realized the bridge trolls weren't going to eat them.

I looked for a place to mount up, and found a rock that would suffice, but Skeeter was not interested in standing while Washoe and Alloy were milling around, so I decided to just walk to the hitch rail. It was only 3/10ths of a mile and I was feeling good. Picking my battles - I'm getting better at it.

Skeets had been so light when I was leading her across the bridge, and was so tuned into me, I thought I'd give liberty work a try. I threw the rein over her neck and walked on. I expected, with so much activity from the hikers and all of the lush green grass growing up on both sides of the trail, plus Washoe and Alloy behind us, that she'd only be "with me" a few steps before I'd have to take her lead rope and physically lead her along the trail.

Once again, she surprised me. She stayed at my shoulder completely at liberty the entire walk up to the hitch rail. There were just a couple of times when I touched the rein to re-direct her, and once I had to lead her across a trickle of water, but otherwise I left her completely alone. She stayed hooked on and with me the entire time.

My new favorite picture of the two of us.

I know I'm completely anthropomorphizing this, but I swear she does better when she feels like we're equal partners instead of me telling her what to do. She stayed with me because she wanted to, not because I was making her. (Though I could have, and would have, made her stay if necessary.)

We made it to the hitch rail and completed our top secret mission. All three horses were amazing throughout our top secret mission and a half hour or so later, we all mounted up for the ride out.

If the horses were great on the way in, they were dang near perfect on the way out. I kept exclaiming to Mom and Bill, "I have a TRAIL horse. And honest-to-God trail horse!". It's one thing to ride across the street in Roosevelt National Forest, but that's basically our back yard. Skeeter's been on those trails quite often - sometimes successfully, sometimes not - but the Wild Basin trail we rode was completely brand new to her and she loved it.

I kind of hate to think of it as a training test, but it was. I expected to have to lead her to our destination by necessity, not by choice. Instead she far surpassed any expectation I had of her. In retrospect, coming off of her three weeks ago did wonders for my confidence as weird as that seems. The fact that she stopped dead when I fell instead of panicking and stepping on me, or going over the edge of the trail again helped me get over any trust issues I had with her. Though I'd been told that she was taking care of me, I didn't quite believe it until then.

And just because the ride was beautiful, here are some gratuitous pictures:

Thursday, July 25, 2019

A Misadventure-free Ride(ish)

I was sure today was going to be one hell of a hot mess. I completely overslept, so I quickly threw on some clothes and jumped into the car. Halfway up the hill, I realized I'd left my cameras and my spare set of reins. I was afraid that didn't bode well for the ride.

When we got to the lodge, Mom told me that Skeeter was on her shit list. Skeeter is super pushy on the ground, which I hate, and it's an ongoing fight with her. I'm thinking that she's so pushy on the ground, because Karma heard me complain that I would never tolerate a pushy horse. You know how a childless adult bitching about misbehaving kids, ends up with feral children and are forced to eat their words? Yeah, it's *exactly* like that.

Ugh. Not a great start and we hadn't even pulled the horses.

Skeets was a rock star while getting all tacked up, though Alloy was being twitchy and a bit of a spaz. He threatened to blow up several times while getting tacked up. At one point, I mentioned that I hoped that oversleeping and forgetting stuff was all of the misadventure we'd have. Then Beel spoke up and said that is was probably his turn for a "misadventure" (read: fall, since Mom and I had each hit the ground). I told him that we don't take turns. I know that's against everything we learned in kindergarten, but when it comes to horse misadventures, we don't take turns!

Mom and I both had passing thoughts of booting Skeeter, but since we were just riding in town, I passed on fighting over the boots. The ride started out better than any we've had this year - even though Alloy was kind of being an idiot during the tacking up phase, as soon as Bill mounted up and started moving his feet, he settled right down.

Because of last week's fiasco, we planned a short, successful ride in town. It was all going well until about half a mile out, when Skeeter just stopped. She just refused to take one more step on the gravely, pokey road. I pointed her to the grassy area along the side of the road and she stepped right up and we moved along nicely until we had to step back down on the road to cross a driveway. She stepped down, took two steps and stopped, which confirmed my suspicion that her feetsies were still tender. I mentally cursed myself for not putting boots on her, then stepped down.

Thanks to my mapmyrun app, I know that when we're riding, we average between 24 and 25 minutes a mile, but I also know that when Copper and I are walking, we average between 19 and 20 minutes a mile. I wasn't going to let her meander along at a 24 minute per mile pace, so I kept her moving along faster than she wanted. She might have gotten out of carrying me, but she wasn't getting out of working. For a mare that is usually very difficult to lead because of her pushiness, I had to do a surprising amount of driving and dragging her along. There's a reason she hasn't graduated from the 15' lead rope to a more manageable length one.

Mom and Bill happily rode along behind us while I dragged Skeeter a long. At one point, after having to drive her to speed her up, I looked back and she had the best eff you and eff this look on her face. I couldn't help but laugh at her. She thought she was going to get to go home once I dismounted, but the joke was on her.

You know the problem with forcing your horse to walk with you at a 19-ish minute mile? You also have to walk at that pace, so maybe the joke was on me. I know exactly how slow my walking pace is, but I figured I was making her move a good bit faster than her riding speed.

Ski Road meets up with Business Hwy 7, which is paved, so I mounted up again there and we rode happily back to the lodge.

We're calling today's ride a huge win. No one came off their horse, and though I walked, I chose to, plus she still had to carry me about half of the ride. Next week, the boots are going back on. I think we'll probably stay in town, just to see how she's doing, but by August we should be back up on the mountain.

You're welcome for the fancy artwork :)

Monday, July 22, 2019

The Birthday Ride That Wasn't

Alternatively titled: Another F*cking Misadventure

Despite last week's misadventures, we had a really great ride and I couldn't wait to get up there for my birthday ride.

Skeeter was easy to catch, and stood at the rail like a broke horse. In fact, I was so proud of her, I had to take a picture.

Look at that broke horse!
The trouble started when I went to put her boots on. She's never been great about putting her boots on, but it's usually not a huge fight. Last week, since she'd lost one of her boots on the previous ride, she went out barefoot. I was actually pretty excited about it, because I hate putting on her boots as much as she does. They're easy to put on, but it's just an extra step and I'm lazy. Unfortunately, she was too sore after our barefoot ride to take her out barefoot again, which meant we had to put her boots on.

I started with her right front, but she kept offering her left front, so I switched up. Getting her boot on her left front was a breeze (relatively), so I was confident that I could go back to the right and it would go on as easy. Silly me. She wanted nothing to do with lifting her hoof, going so far as to lean her right shoulder onto my back. Bill came over and attempted to lift her foot. After a couple of tries, she gave him her foot, but then set back and sat on her ass. Such a mare!

Eventually, between the two of us we were able to get her hoof cleaned out and her boot on. I was starting to get frustrated and wanted to just say "screw it, if she doesn't want to go out, we won't". However, this was my freaking birthday ride and I'd just driven an hour and a half to get to the lodge so we could ride. By God, we were going for a ride.

Last week, I attempted to ride Skeeter up the switchback and it didn't go well, so this week I decided I was going to lead her up it and then mount up. I really hate having to hand walk her from the lodge to the top of the hill, but it seemed like a lot of work to mount up, ride to the switchback, dismount, lead her up the switchback, and then re-mount. Copper and I have been walking a mile or so each day for the last week, and we didn't walk that morning before Jay and I headed up the hill, so I thought I'd just suck it up and walk.

Skeeter was being pretty good as we walked toward the switchback. She only snatched a couple bites on our way up to the road and was walking very nicely behind me. About halfway to our crossing point, I felt her head go up and a pop. I was turning to see what had happened when Mom said that she'd stepped on and broken a rein. As I usually do, I had crossed her reins over her neck and just let them be while I was leading her.

I stood there, along the side of the road, just looking at the broken rein.

For the second time in less than ten minutes, I considered aborting the ride. First her refusal with the boots, then the rein. A smart woman would have thought maybe God was telling her something and listened. But I'm not a smart woman. I mean, clearly, this was a sign that the ride was not to be, but this was my freaking birthday ride and I'd just driven an hour and a half to get to the lodge so we could ride. By God, we were going for a ride.

We use scissor clips on our reins so we can quickly switch them out if necessary. Mom suggested I take one of her reins from Washoe and move her lead rope to her bit. It was a reasonable, and easy, solution to now being down a rein. I didn't want to mess around with it right then and there since Alloy was getting antsy and we needed to get across the street.

At the base of the switchback, while I caught my breath from hauling my own body up the hill, Mom and I made the quick tack switch. Skeeter led up the switchback nicely. We avoided making the sharp turn and opted for going straight up to the upper trail. She hesitated just a moment when I didn't make the turn, but followed me up to the upper trail without a fight.

The fight started when we reached the actual trail at the top of the switchback. Skeeter parked herself. Just stopped and said, "no" *. No, however, was not acceptable to me, so I swung my lead rope and drove her forward until she was moving nicely. After about 50 feet, she stopped again and said, "no". Again, no was not acceptable to me, so I drove her forward. After another 50 feet she stopped and parked herself.

This time, I saw the big flashing neon light from God telling me to abort the ride. A smart woman would have paid attention. I am not a smart woman. This was my freaking birthday ride and I'd just driven an hour and a half to get to the lodge so we could ride. By God, we were going for a ride.

When I was done swearing at Skeeter, I realized that what I was doing wasn't working. Over, and over, horse trainers say not to fight with your horse, and not to work them when you're angry. It's the kinder, gentler method of training**. However, I also knew that she shouldn't be allowed to "win" by being stubborn. I looked up and saw Mom, so I had a brilliant solution: Mom and Washoe could pony Skeeter while I got my anger under control.

Mom agreed and rode up to take Skeeter's lead rope. I stomped walked up the trail ahead of them to give Mom room to get Skeets straightened out and moving. I heard Mom say, "oh", and turned in time to see Washoe broadside to Skeeter and Mom hanging off his side like a slow-motion trick rider. Skeeter had set back and sat down on her ass, head in the air, and Washoe was struggling to keep his footing. Mom made the wise choice to let go and fall. Unfortunately, she fell flat on her back with an "oof", but Washoe was able to get his balance and did not get pulled over on top of her.

As soon as Skeeter felt the pressure give, she stopped and parked herself. Stupid mare.

The fall hurt, but Mom is the Bionic Cowgirl, so she got up and dusted herself off. After I made sure that she wasn't dead, broken, or bleeding, I grabbed Skeeter's lead rope and said, "That's It! We're not freaking riding today!"

I'm pretty certain I heard God's eyes roll and a muttered "about time".

Mom mounted back up and I stomped my way back down the hill to the lodge. Funny thing, as soon as we aborted the ride, things quit going wrong. There were no more "misadventures". Mom took stock of her injuries once we got back to the lodge. She landed on two rocks: one at the back of her head, and one at her tailbone. Currently, the knot on her head is mostly gone and it only hurts when she pushes on it. The tailbone is still pretty painful. She thinks she might have broken it, but there's nothing to do even if she has broken it.

Throughout all of Skeeter's silliness, Alloy was a rock star. He's a pretty impatient horse - when he gets moving, he wants to stay moving - so this is good patience training. It's not maybe the way Bill prefers to teach him patience, but we take the opportunity when we can.

Bill and I have plans to ride again on Thursday, but we will just ride Ski Road instead of trying to go up on the hill. It'll be boring (hopefully), but it's a good "remember your brains" ride.

* Ironically, I just wrote a blog post titled "No Means No. Always". Should have taken my own advice.

** Next time I'm mad at Skeeter, she's going to know it. Kinder, gentler works for a lot of horses, but a stubborn black mare like mine? Sometimes shes need to know when she's in trouble. If I'd gotten after her instead of trying to look for another solution, Mom wouldn't have been pulled off of her horse.