Saturday, November 24, 2012

Last Ride of the Year

I'm really behind on some rides for this year. I think I've even managed to skip over my birthday ride - and that was in July! Maybe getting those posts up will keep me busy this winter when I get to missing my girl.

Today was cold and windy, but the horses are going to winter pasture next week, so today was the only chance I had to ride before Her Highness went on vacation. Mom and Bill's horses might be back in a month or two, but Her Highness will go down to fat pasture in January. She needs it. Even though she's been maintaining her weight for the most part, fat pasture is so good for her, plus it's at a lower elevation. Winters at altitude are kind of tough on the old girl. Down closer to 5,000 feet will be much easier, as it's typically ten to twenty degrees warmer down there, not to mention much less windy.

At her age, I'm getting worried about sending her out to pasture, honestly. I know Ida takes amazing care of her and will keep an eye on her, but I still worry that she won't make it through the winter. That sounds terrible, but she's 25-ish and the fact is, she's geriatric. I know that by sending her down to fat pasture, she'll be much more comfortable, will gain some weight, and Ida will treat her well.

I had hoped for some good weather, but it didn't look like it was going to happen, so we loaded up anyway. Ashinator was c-r-a-n-k-y that I woke her up from her nap to take Ranger out. I actually had to pull rank and tell her she was going to do it, I wasn't asking. Want to know how to piss off a teenager in about 1.5 seconds? Wake them up from a nap and tell them they are going to do something.

Oh, she put on a good show of being pissed off. Well, it wasn't really a show, because she was super pissed and stomped around the lodge like only a nineteen year-old girl can. Beel was actually worried that Ranger was going to dump her because Ranger is really sensitive to moods. Beel was fairly certain that Ranger wasn't going to put up with a certain cranky someone's shit.

Boy, was Beel wrong. Ashinator had never caught Ranger before, and if he don't want caught, it ain't happening. However, Ashinator stomped through the pen with the lead rope in hand and I'll be darned. He put up a token resistance. And I mean token. To just stand there and get caught is against his nature, so he had to shuffle his feet a little bit and go down to the stream to get a drink of water, but he pretty much haltered himself for Ash.

She muttered and cussed me out the whole time, but Ranger just followed along and agreed with her. While she was catching Ranger, Estes kept trying to go to her. I had walked up and haltered Estes and was watching Ash to see if she needed any help with Ranger, but I had to hold Estes back. What is it about horses that just want to "heal" cranky girls? All that negative energy pouring out of Ash and Ranger and Estes couldn't get close enough. WTH?

Ash does a pretty good job of Cowgirl-ing Up. It's been probably three years (yes, she reminded me of that fact) since she's been on a horse and we gave her the Rachel treatment - just threw her up there bareback.

Oooo, she was cranky. 1) I had the audacity to wake her up and *tell* her she was going to ride; 2) I made her ride bareback; and 3) Washoe kicked a rock and caused Ranger to skitter sideways. It was after the skitter that I was reminded - loudly - that she hadn't been on a horse in three years.

You know that old adage, "The outside of a horse is good for the inside of a man"? It's so true.

Look at that cranky girl!
Less than a block later,
Ranger had worked his magic.

Half a mile in,
she was telling Ranger that they should hang out more often.
The gratuitous three generations shot.

Because it was so cold and windy, we only rode around the Ski Road loop, but it was plenty to get Estes warmed up and moving well and enough for Ashinator to shed her cranky pants.

And since it's our last ride of the year, here's an almost-good picture of me with Her Highness.

I rarely allow myself to be seen in my glasses,
but I was too lazy to put my contacts in.
Poor Bill didn't get left behind, thought it might look like it since he's not on his horse. Here's photographic proof we didn't leave him...

See the date stamp?
And Estes' butt?
Proof that I didn't just post a picture from a previous ride.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Woo Hoo!

We went for a ride today.

I cantered.

On the mountain.


With no reins!

Yes, I did.

For a few strides anyway, then I picked up the reins.  I'm always afraid that she's going to trip over them when I've got them just laying on her neck.

But I cantered bareback without reins!

It was a pretty darn good day.
You have to look closely,
I'm up there right in front of Beel and Ranger.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

We're Not Very Nice Sometimes

A couple of weekends ago, Rachel, Mr. Daddy, and Itty Bit came for a visit.  We tried to do something for everyone; Swetsville Zoo for Itty Bit, shooting for Mr. Daddy (post on that coming soon, I promise), and riding for Rachel.

The last time Rachel came riding with us, it was kind of an adventure.  We put her on Baggins from the livery and he was a head-tossing fool.  It wasn't a lot of fun until Momma P switched horses with her, once Rachel was up on Timber, she started to have fun.  Especially when we crossed the water - the girl couldn't stop giggling.

This is a happy, happy Rachel
HCR 2010
This time, we didn't have the livery horses to draw from, just our herd, which isn't a problem.  We put Rachel up on the "wild Mustang" and sort of offered her a saddle.  Mom and I ride bareback, and we know that Rachel rides Kona bareback sometimes, too, so we kind of assumed it would be okay to let her ride Ranger Danger sans saddle.  We ride the trails so often, that it never crossed our minds that maybe Rachel might be a little nervous about riding our trails bareback.

See, Rachel is far too nice and easy going.  I had forgotten how she might have been traumatized by her last ride with us.  It wasn't until we were on our way back that she even mentioned the fact that she had done the entire ride bareback.  Sorry, Rachel.

Riding through the naked aspen

However, it all turned out beautifully.  Not only did she rock the ride, but she's a wildlife magnet!  I haven't seen much in the way of wildlife this summer (other than the moose at the beginning of the season).

She spotted four big horn sheep.

There was some initial confusion as to what we were looking at.  We saw their butts first and thought, "mulies!".  Then we saw the chest on one and thought, "elk?"  It wasn't until one picked its head up to look at us that we said, "SHEEP!"

Look carefully between the trees,
you'll see one was keeping a close eye on us as we rode away.
(You'll probably have to biggerfy the pic)
Rach did mention to me later that Ranger might still have some sore kidneys from her knees digging in, anticipating that he'd jump away from the sheep.  If she was worried, she sure didn't show it.

Rachel wasn't just a sheep magnet, she also managed to scare up some deer for us, too.
Mom scored this picture with her new camera.
Unfortunately, she had the wrong angle to catch both deer.

Rach has a lot of work to do -
she's not even close to embarrassing Ranger with her impression
of Beel stopping traffic.
It was a good day and a good ride and I'm thrilled that Rachel had a good time (or at least lied about it and told us she had a good time).
Rachel: I'm sorry we didn't even give a second thought to throwing you up on Ranger bareback and expecting you to keep up with us.  Next time we do something that isn't so nice, smack us, would you?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Can You Find Them?

Mom, Rachel, and I went out on a girls' only ride on Saturday and we ran across four big horn sheep and two mule deer.  My camera isn't very good, so we'll play a game of "Can You Find Them?".
(You'll probably have to bigger-fy the pictures to even have a chance of seeing them.)

It was a great day for a ride, with great company, and amazing views.  I'm pretty sure that Rachel's a wildlife magnet.  I hadn't seen any of the sheep in a couple of years, and rarely do I see any deer.  She comes in from Washington, and suddenly we're tripping over

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


With special company coming later in the week,
I decided to go through Estes Park.
The mountains are stunning with snow.

By the time I got to the Lodge,
clouds were building.

Luckily, the sun stayed out long enough for a nice ride.

Looking to the east, it's absolutely beautiful.
I tried to forget what was building behind us in the west.

I let Her Highness decide where we were going today.

She chose up.
And off the trail.

But she found a pretty place to stop and look.

Looking west on our way home,
the clouds started moving our way.

Not sure if there's rain or snow in those clouds.
No matter, it meant extra hay for Her Highness tonight - just in case.

Maybe rain.
Maybe snow.
Probably rain.

Estes: Mom, can I come in for a treat?
GunDiva: Not today.  I hooked up your lead rope.  You can come in for a visit
when our special guests are here later this week.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Just Me and My Mare

Her Highness and I went out today for a leisurely ride all by ourselves.  I know you're always supposed to trail ride with a partner, but I have to tell you, there's nothing quite like being out on the mountain alone.

I love riding with Mom and Bill. Love, love, love it. But I also love going out on my own.

Since the season is over, the trails are quiet.  I'm pretty certain that we were the only ones on the mountain today.  I didn't hear or see anyone else, not even hunters.  Which is good, because I forgot to put my orange on.  We just meandered around - it didn't feel like we were gone very long, but we were gong long enough that Autobot and Kyzzer got worried.  They thought we were just going around Ski Road - they were pretty relieved when we wandered back home an hour and a half later.

Besides being so peaceful, it's a great tune-up.  Going out by yourself requires you to communicate with your horse - there is no doubt about who your horse is responding to.  If you have a more dominant horse with you out on the trails, your horse might be responding to the dominant horse instead of you.  If your horse is the dominant one out on the trail, it has more to focus on than just you.

Ida does something with her horses that I don't believe a lot of people do.  When her horses are young, just a couple of years old, she turns them out by themselves for a few months.  When I say by themselves, I mean, alone.  No other herdmates.  They run "wild" with no one to depend on.  I know it sounds horrible, awful and mean.  However, it instills her horses with a sense of independence and confidence that is unmatched.

Mom and Bill took their horses on vacation - Estes was left behind and she didn't care.  She's absolutely relaxed being by herself.  She earned that confidence when she was young - it was an amazing gift that Ida gave her.

In fact, Estes is so relaxed by herself that she could give a damn if I'm there or not.  The only time she looked stressed at all today was when I took her out of the pen and tied her to the rail.  She was pretty certain that the rest of her herd has been magically tied to the hitch rail for the past week, so when we got to the rail and her herd wasn't there, she bitched me out a little bit.  After a couple of good bellows, she calmed down.

The damn livery had our gates and the access trail blocked (again), so we had to ride up through town to get to the highway.  Estes took the change in stride, and marched on out.  Once we hit the switchback, she called for the herd once or twice and then gave up once she realized we were alone.

Then she kicked back and we just meandered.  It was awesome.  I love that she is confident enough to go out by herself and wander with me.  I think we'll need to do it more often next summer, if she's up to it.

Estes is a fairly aloof horse, she doesn't cuddle much, not like some horses I know.  She'll show affection to people she knows, but she's not a cuddle bug.  Because of this, I was pleasantly surprised with the really long, big hug she gave me when we got back from our ride.  She'll tolerate hugs from me.  On ocassion, she'll even relax enough to rest her head on my back.  Even rarer, she'll wrap her neck around my shoulder and give a hug.  Today, I got one of those lovely hugs.

Of course, she might have been looking for treats.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

How To Make Me Happy

Say fabulous, wonderful things like, "Don't worry, Estes is amazing, she does whatever GunDiva asks her to".

Boy, have we got College Boy fooled, but it was a nice compliment anyway and it made me all proud and smiley.

On Sunday, Compass decided to have a photographer/videographer come out and take some promotional shots for her website/facebook page.  Estes and I just tagged along behind everyone else, not really a part of the ride (especially since I was bareback and they don't really offer bareback rides to guests), but helping out where we could.

One of the areas we were able to help was with ponying the photog's horse while he was moving spots and setting up shots.  He had his camera set up and wanted to take some video of the horses' hooves as they crossed what little water we have.  He asked us to take the horses back and forth across the creek a couple of times "if it wasn't any problem".

That's when College Boy piped up and bragged on my horse for me.

Yep.  It still makes me smile that someone else thinks my horse is perfect, too.

Sunday, September 30, 2012


Long, tough ride today.

Estes is just getting over a cold and her stamina is lacking; I bet she's as exhausted as I am today.

Vet comes tomorrow to float her teeth - I'm sure she'll love that.

I'll write more about the ride once I've had time to process it and put it in some semblance of order.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Missing My Mare

Can't ride.

Too many things on my plate.

Yes, I'm pouting.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Oh Boy

Today's ride kind of sucked.  Not sucked-sucked, but not as fun as the last one was.

I braided a neck rein using bailing twine (I love that stuff) and intended to use it for most of the ride, while using the halter/rein as back up.

I totally stole the adustable idea from Julie Goodnight.

On the upside, my favorite wrangler went out with us as far as the switchback.  He was waiting on a four-hour ride to show up, but wandered out with us until he saw his ride pull into the parking lot, then he had to turn back.  College Boy's got a great way with horses and Estes loves him very much - she just buries her head in his chest whenever she sees him.

That's College Boy on Cinchy in the back.
Yes, it's hunting season, time to break out the orange.
Estee was going so well that I seriously considered taking off her halter/rein and stashing it at the top of the switchback.  Good thing I didn't.  We had lots of discussions.

Lots and lots of discussions.

At every trail that headed home.

Estes is pretty light in the mouth, it doesn't take a whole lot of mouth pressure to get her to do anything.  However, she's not so light when it comes to nose pressure.  One of my "steps" to going bridleless was to switch out to Mrs. Mom's halter and Ashee's barrel rein to see how she would do without a bit.  Let's just say I got a total body workout today.  She's starting to get the idea of nose pressure, but she's also figured out it's a whole lot easier to eat without a bit in.  I've got to get that issue figured out.

We stopped for a picnic at the pond again.  Mostly so I could look around to see if I could find my knife that I lost last week.  Ranger Danger really enjoyed the dessert aspect of the picnic.

"Beel!  What is in yer hand?"

"Beel!  Want I should taste that for you?"
"Whoa, that's a wobbly rock.
You're not gonna fall, are you Mom?"
In between the discussions, we did enjoy the views.  The aspen are turning and it's hard to believe that just last week the pond looked like this...

This is what the same area looked like today...

Fall is pretty amazing.

After the picnic, Estes and I continued to have discussions, though they were fewer than on the way out.  I'm guessing that would be because I had come to my senses and we were headed home.

When we got back to the Lodge, Estes very nicely parked herself at the tackroom door for me to dismount.  This time, she didn't go up onto the steps.  I eventually slid off (hey, I was tired and the ground seemed like an awfully long way down) and lead her to the hitchrack, but I didn't bother tying her up.  Once she's "parked" at the rail, she's there until I move her.

Without a second thought, I went into the Lodge through the tackroom door and she followed me right in.  No hesitation like last time.  She just wandered in like she owned the place.

"Last time, there were treats Mom."
Man, I love this mare!

She was showing an interest in all of the people barn this time and headed toward the living room, so Bill hustled out with the video camera.

"Hey Beel, are the treats in there?"

It didn't take much to encourage her to cross the scary rugs once she saw me standing on them, and I'm really glad her little skitter on the hardwood was with her unshod back feet. I'd still be on my hands and knees sanding the floor if she had scuffed up the floor with her shoes.

You'll be happy to know that when she went back to the rail, I actually hooked her up. I might have created a monster.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Ride Home

The first part of the ride is here.

After the horses had finished up their picnic (that's a lie - they would have never been finished)...  After Bill and I decided the horses had finished up their picnic, we tacked them back up.  Let me tell you, that's a real chore when you're barebacking.  I used to be a purist when riding bareback and would refuse to use a bareback pad.  However, her highness is rather bony toward the end of the season and a little extra padding makes both of us more comfortable..

The re-tacking's the easy part,
it's the finding something tall enough to mount from.
*Remember, I'm about the only one on the planet in my family
who can't use *my* Million Dollar Idea.

She's so patient while I throw myself at her,
only one ear twitch

I try to have a goal for each season.  My goal this season is to ride the one-hour trail bridleless.  To that end, I've been practicing dropping the reins when we're out on the trails.  Estes was doing so well on this ride that when we hit the bottom of Pinky's Wash, I decided to try to ride back home entirely without using my reins.

We did okay.  Not spectacular, but okay. I had three times I used the reins.  The first was to reinforce the whoa.  Even that was good.  Estes is a very forward horse and we've been working on her whoa all summer.  I knew there would be no way in hell I could go bridleless without a good whoa.  She and I have had some pretty good battles over whoa this summer.  This whoa wasn't one of those battles.  I gave her the verbal command, sat down hard with my seat and she didn't stop, so I reached forward for the reins and slid them back on her neck toward me.  She stopped.  That's a huge step.  You can see in the picture how relaxed she is and how much play I still have in the reins.  I never even picked them up, just slid them toward me.

Rein touch number one.

I don't have a picture of my second rein touch because Bill and Ranger were trying hard to keep up with us.  I'd moved her into a trot, which was really nice until she realized Ranger and Bill were trotting along, too.  Then the horse race was on.  Before it really got out of hand, I had to rein her in.  With Bill bouncing along on Ranger's crazy lope (he looks like a porpoise), there wasn't an opportunity for a picture.

After we got them back down to a walk, I dropped the reins and away we went.  Into a tree.
I was calling her bad names, pressing like crazy with my left leg,
trying to move her away from the tree, and laughing my butt off.
I think this is payback for stopping the race between her and Ranger.
Since she wasn't able to scrape me off on that tree, she tried a different one.  I figured I could duck under the first set of branches, but then I got a look at the second set of branches and there was my third rein touch.

I feel pretty good about that touch, too, though.  It didn't take any mouth pressure to move her off the tree, simply rein pressure across her neck.  One of the things I'm going to do when I do my bridleless ride is to use a neck rope like the one Julie Goodnight has designed.

Only, I don't own one of Julie's yet, so I'll probably use braided twine until I buy one of hers.  Since I'm planning on using a neck rope, I was happy to see her respond to just neck pressure.  Yes, she's trained to neck rein, but when she gets stubborn (not that that ever happens), I have to go do direct reining.

The rest of the ride was uneventful, which I was really thankful for.  We'd agreed that we'd go to reins to cross the highway, just for safety's sake.  Our "rule" is that the bridleless riding will begin and end at the highway.  Not sure how that will work once I actually leave the headgear behind at the lodge, though.

My plans to continue toward my goal are:
  • switch out to the halter that Mrs Mom made me and attach Ashee's barrel rein
  • make a neck rein and start riding with it in addition to the halter and barrel rein
  • put on my big girl panties and Cowgirl Up, in reality the only reason I haven't done my ride yet is because I'm a big ole chicken shit
I should note that Bill doesn't have enough sense to bridle his horse and has been riding essentially bridleless forever, so while I get all giddy about riding home without the reins, he's been doing it all along. He's just gracious enough not to rub it in my face.

Friday, September 7, 2012

What a Difference! (Warning: media heavy)

Just a week ago, I was contemplating retiring Estes.  I was trying to come to terms with the fact that we may have had our last ride together.

Yes, we'd gotten her on supplements and she was moving better.

Yes, we'd gotten her back fixed and she was moving better.

But she still wasn't right and I was trying to figure out what to do.  I could probably still ride her if I moved her down to the flatlands, but what kind of fun is that when we're both used to riding in the mountains?  She has to have a job or she's destructive.  Ask Mom.  Estes has eaten several of the crossbars of the fence.  I wasn't convinced that moving her down to the flatlands would work for either of us.  But I can't afford to keep a horse I can't use, either, and I promised her other mommy that I'd be her forever home.  I wasn't a very happy person while I was trying to figure out what to do.

And then our farrier suggested shoes.

Oh, my hell.  My mare is back!  She was shod on Monday and on Thursday, Bill and I went out for a long ride - about 2 1/2 hours.  She was feeling so good that we went on some of our favorite trails, starting with the Willow Tree Trail.
And the fun begins...


Those idiots at the ranch down the road have trimmed
back the willows.
I hate them.
No, really, I do.

It's been a while,
"Hey Bill, which way?"
"Just go up and over"

After we lived through going on
"Not the trail"
Doesn't look so bad from this angle.
Bill didn't take pictures as we were picking our way down.
Something about being afraid we'd fall on him.
But he kind of redeemed himself with this video of the last climb out of the trail.

Estes was feeling really good after the Willow Tree Trail, so we decided to head across the Beaver Ponds.  She must have been thirsty after the hike over the Willow Tree Trail, because she did something that I don't recall her doing before.
She almost didn't leave any water for Ranger.

When she was done drinking up Rock Creek, we crossed over and I got the coolest. picture. ever.

Not sure how I managed this,
but I love it!
The Beaver Ponds were gorgeous as always and Her Highness was still feeling good, so on we went to a trail that isn't my favorite, but it's a good test of how her feetsies were doing.  It's a rarely used, steep, ugly trail.  Not ugly as in looks-wise, but ugly as in rocky and steep.  I don't even have a name for that trail.  I've pretty much named most of the ones we ride, but this one has remained name-less.
We decided that since the horses had worked so hard, they deserved a picnic.  Ranger chose a nice place, but was a little too insistent, so Beel said no and we pushed on to the pond.

It was a real horse picnic,
I even took Estes' iron bar out of her mouth.
Look closely...
there's a napping Bill back there.
No singing frogs this time of year,
but it's still pretty.
It was a pretty good picnic.
I'll pick up the last part of the ride in a later's one small step toward our goal of riding bridleless by the end of the season.