Despite diesel prices refusing to drop below $6 per gallon, I managed to sneak in two trips over the past few weeks. I ate Lunchables, cut out logs, had some discussions with Tarma, and learned a few things. I will state here, once again, I adore my trailer and I’m this close to having it set up perfectly for me, with Benny and Kade along occasionally. She did several hours of hauling with zero stress, self loading each and every time I asked, munching away whether with a buddy or solo. Tarma’s galls have healed (thanks to switching out girths and Bickmore’s Girth Salve), Benny was a good camp dog and a friend was an awesome trip partner. She did chip her back hooves a tad (WHY) but the farrier says it’s cosmetic and she’s sound so ah well.
Last weekend found us hauling solo (Cody unfortunately got some rubs on his heels from his boots, boo!) to another magical place, Quinn Meadows just southwest of Mount Bachelor. This weekend wasn’t quite as fun, as I was trying to herd cats…er, OET members for my first work party (and the first State Work party focused on trails versus cleaning up the camp itself!). I tried to be organized about it all, but at some point you’ve just got to let folks run with it. The work did get done, so go ride there, the bugs aren’t bad and the grass and the creek are high! Tarma vehemently disagreed on walking calmly out of camp the first day, she was fully convinced the race had started without her and she was going to catch up, with or without me. However, she stood tied perfectly calmly each time I dismounted to cut out logs, and followed behind me nice as could be on foot. But mounted was a whole other ball game, which led to the first day being no fun. Thankfully the second day I hooked up with the lovely Kim McCarrel and we busted out 15 or so logs on the Elks Devil trail, so we had a buddy and Tarma had finally clued in to the name of the game. Namely, stand tied, look pretty.
Kim’s also of the opinion that Tarma might be gaited, with a single foot movement, so that’s something to play around with. She also witnessed one of our discussions about speed and asked why I ride in a bitless bridle. I have two main reasons, one being we can have discussions without any chance of me hurting her (I mainly ride in a squeeze bosal or this side pull bridle from American Trail Gear with a fleece noseband), as she’s never really been a bolty horse. Yes she gets race brain but even as unfit as I am, I’ve never been dumped or unsettled because of it, I just ask her to turn and take a few steps backwards if she gets too forward, which she really dislikes so she comes back down after doing that once or twice. Also, as most endurance riders know, it’s far easier for them to eat without a bit, though most horses manage just fine either way.
Instead of staying another night and heading straight home, since I’d already paid for the fuel to get over the mountains, I tossed Tarma back into the trailer and headed over to Sisters, to judge for an ETS (Equine Trail Sports) event a couple of friends put on at Blue Sky Ranch. This is a lovely facility, and a more welcoming, supportive environment you couldn’t find. I love judging these events, they are low stress and geared towards helping rider/handler pairs succeed, as you get to ask the judge of each obstacle questions and decide which level of difficulty you’d like to try on each obstacle (unlike Mountain Trail, where you have to memorize the whole course and do it all at once, just so). If your horse rocks at stepping one things, try level 3, but if you’re still working the kinks out of carrying scary things, try a level one at that obstacle.
In the morning before the event, I rode Tarma around and we tried our hands at the obstacles solo, and I’m so freaking proud of how far we’ve come. We only tried the obstacles in hand last fall here, and nothing quite clicked. This time, we were much more in sync, and I could tell when she needed a nudge (“You can do the thing, yes please”) versus a moment or five to breathe and think. I kept my seat as relaxed as I could, watching her lick and chew before we moved on. Her favorite obstacles are the deer and buffalo hide, which she spent a good five minutes huffing, the weirdo. Surprisingly, she marched right into the covered wagon several times, including when she wanted a shade break. I did push her a bit on the pool noodles, she refused to take more than two steps into them, so I asked her to back into them, then turned her around and she walked through, clearly saying “How DARE you make me BACK up, I’ll go through but YOU’RE UNREASONABLE.” But ask her to climb or step on anything and away she goes, no matter how weird sounding or steep. She wasn’t sure about the PVC pipe following us around, so we worked on being relaxed about that. With a tad more practice, I think we wouldn’t make total fools of ourselves, so at the next event in August I’ll judge the in hand portion and ride in the afternoon.
In the afternoon before heading home, I couldn’t resist a quick off road trail ride. One of the things I love about riding on the dry side is the ability to just explore, wandering around, trying to get lost, not always possible in the valley. I didn’t boot her, as I wanted to see where her feet were, and aside from a few bobbles over the bigger rocks, she moved out quickly as normal…until she was convinced I had gotten us lost. She’d take one step forward, then stop and look behind us. I’d ask nicely for her to move out, she’d take a step sideways, I’d correct, she’d stop and look behind us. We went roughly 20 feet in five minutes this way, me giggling like a loon, Tarma telling me that once again, I was wrong and unreasonable about it. Eventually we made it a bit farther…but did she tell me I was right when she finally saw the ranch and moved out at her normal speed again?
In other news, I’m in the process of joining a local gym and a group class with a personal trainer, so now all my body parts are equally sore, except for my arms, which are more sore. I can tell that just a few days a week at this place will solve the 50% of our saddle fit issues that are caused by my current lack of strength and balance, which will hopefully get us through until I can afford a new saddle. Unfortunately due to being away the last two weekends, I’m afraid my husband will expect some help out around the house this weekend…